Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ontarians getting the worst value on earth from its wind energy contracts

Some fresh material provides an opportunity to revisit the reasons wind energy is bad for my province

Bjorn Lomborg has an interesting post up on Facebook today.

Chart from Facebook post
Here is an overview of the total support paid in US cents per kWh for wind. On average, the cost is ¢12.6.
For comparison, you can see the current cost of producing a kWh in the US with coal (¢3.2/kWh) and gas (¢3.0/kWh). Of course, both the energy from coal and wind is worth more, because you can produce it on demand, and not only when the wind blows.
Yet, wind saves CO₂ emissions. Depending on the composition of energy sources and especially marginal sources, a kWh of wind will avoid between 400-900 grams of CO₂.
To illustrate, in Texas a kWh of wind will likely avoid 600 grams of CO₂. Given that Texas pays ¢3.3 above the cost of coal (and even more above gas), it is in effect paying about $55 per ton of CO₂ avoided.
Lomborg's post continues to demonstrate in areas where fossil fuel prices are much higher (such as Japan), wind may provide a much better value.  It's worth a read.
Lomborg's statements aren't revolutionary; in September the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) explained that wind is a displacement source here; the value of wind energy is simply the cost of fuel displaced, and not infrastructure.

Then there's valuing carbon pollution.
For Ontario, the average emissions is not 600 grams of CO₂ - according to Canadian Energy Issues' Stephen Aplin, the number (which he refers to as CIPK - for CO₂ intensity per kilowatt-hour) is "around 82 grams"; OSPE said in September 85.

So if we treat the price of wind and natural gas as if they were equal to Texas, the cost per ton of CO₂ must be around $400 per ton of CO2 avoided ( $55 times 600/82).

6 months ago, in The Real High Price of Low-Value Electricity, I wrote:
Over the most recent 12-month period the carbon cost required to justify the in-service industrial wind production is ~$325/ton CO2e...
Not far off the shortcut check utilizing Lomborg's method with Aplin's CIPK figure.

Looking quickly at Lomborg's chart, all the jurisdictions paying more per unit of generation from wind turbines have far, far higher CPIK figures - none are likely to be getting as poor a value as Ontario in reducing emissions.

James Conca's latest contribution at Forbes demonstrates how other low/no emissions sources are shunted aside for wind turbine production.
Wind Energy Of No Use In The Pacific Northwest | Forbes
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) administers most of the electricity generation in the Pacific Northwest region...
Because the region has so much renewable hydroelectric energy, the State had to step in and declare hydro to be not a renewable in order to use renewable mandates and credits to force more wind development (Wire)...
Over the last several years in the Pacific Northwest, we have spent about $5 billion and impacted over 50,000 acres of pristine public land for the privilege of throwing away 9 billion kWhrs of carbon-free energy every year (NREL). Just so we can meet an arbitrary state mandate, claim we’re green, and make a few folks lots of money
Conca also discusses American financial incentives pushing out competition from other low/no carbon sources:
... business is allowed to deduct the capital costs of these fixed assets from their annual revenues. So the tax burden is greatly lowered for that particular year.
However, the business can’t take all that deduction in a single year but has to stretch it out over what is the useful life of that asset. Since the tax code has been tweaked to encourage what lawmakers think is best, and allows something called accelerated depreciation, a business can recover the capital costs earlier in the asset’s life rather than later, an extremely valuable ability in building anything big, be it the Golden Gate Bridge or a power plant.
Wind farms are allowed to take their write-offs over about 3 years, a real boon for investors in wind farms, and is usually the deciding factor in securing financing.
On the other hand, nuclear power plants are forced to take their write-offs over 20 years, resulting in a significant financial disadvantage. One which is totally arbitrary.
Different rules for different jurisdictions, but the impact on incumbent low/no emissions baseload sources is the same.

In 2007 Ontario planned for 14,000MW of nuclear capacity; in 2010 12,000MW, and in 2013 it's down to 10,000MW.

Paying the highest price in the world for the alleged carbon reduction strategy that is wind energy looks likely to lead to increased emissions.

1 comment:

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