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Green energy works, despite criticisms leveled at it

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Every now and again our media runs articles excoriating governments for pursuing green energy.  A few days ago, for instance, the Globe and Mail feature a piece by Gwyn Morgan (The sorry lessons of green subsidies, here).   Morgan claims that

By the end of 2013, Ontario household power rates will be the second-highest in North America (after PEI), and they will continue to accelerate while they level off in most other jurisdictions. Even more alarming for Ontario’s economic competitiveness, businesses and industrial customers will be hit by almost $12-billion in additional costs over the same period.

And Ontario isn’t alone.  In Europe, following Morgan

Germany has given away $130-billion, mostly to solar-power companies. Yet solar power makes up a minuscule 0.3 per cent of German power supply, while doing almost nothing toward the original objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Spain also poured cash into solar- and wind-power subsidies with little to show for it except a $25-billion increase in its national debt.

Pretty depressing, huh?  Except that Morgan doesn’t quite tell the whole story.  In Ontario, as in Germany, the biggest portion of the fee increase is due to the huge debt servicing costs of nuclear electricity – feebates and other subsidies are not the main driver of the fee increases.   (And Morgan conveniently omits to mention that the percentage of electricity in Germany and Spain generated by wind reaches the double digits, but that’s details.)

Don’t take my word for it (knowledgeable as I may appear…).   Robert Hornung, the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, replied that

Gwyn Morgan makes the basic error of comparing the cost of new wind energy with the cost of existing power generation instead of comparing the cost with alternative forms of electricity generation that could be built today. Wind energy is cost-competitive with almost all forms of new electricity generation (nuclear, hydro, coal with carbon capture).

And Adam Scott of the NDRC, in a well documented article, chimed in that

If you live in Ontario, you know there’s an all-out assault on renewable energy like windmills and solar power. What you might not know is that despite all the nay-saying, clean energy is actually responsible for emissions going down, not for prices going up.

What gives?  Morgan has years of experience in the oil industry, notably as former CEO of EnCana, while Scott and Hornung are experts in green energy.  Both can’t be right.

Your head goes for a bit of a spin when, in the same business pages, you go from Morgan’s article to Jerry Rubin’s on the risks of unaffordable oil.  Rubin talks about the globalization of the economy grinding to halt because of the high cost of oil.  If nothing else, it would appear that putting all our energy eggs in the oil basket is risky – and exploring green energy should provide a bit of resilience against these risks.   Rubin, a former economist, asks

With national economies around the world once again forced to pay more than $100 (U.S.) for every barrel of oil consumed, …what happens when the world’s most important source of energy becomes unaffordable?

When the price of oil goes up, something has to give. Right now, the European Monetary Union looks to be the most imminent casualty. How much longer will Greece slavishly heed the demands of its creditors and impose punishing austerity measures with the only result being the continuing implosion of its economy?

Talk about whiplash.  Then flip open today’s business pages and read that a Canadian company has found a way to export wind energy systems to Greece.  Yes, to Greece.  Is that an aberration?

I don’t think so.  I’d rather listen to a visiting Spanish energy scholar, Laura Fernandez.  Baffled by the attitude of Canadians towards green energy, she states in her article that

The Spanish renewable energy sector is actually one of the few sectors that is helping employment during the EU economic crisis.

Please, all media and pundits, stop demonizing the green energy sector.  It’s one of the rays of hope in our current predicament.  Let’s not self-sabotage.

Written by enviropaul

May 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

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