Policy Reform: Reform Renewable Energy Mandates

Laws maneating that a certain portion of our energy must be derived from renewable sources actually force households and businesses to pay higher energy costs, creating another drag on our already failing state economy. These laws are based on false assumptions. The cronyism and rate-payer funding of related special-interest projects are examples of corruption that are needlessly encouraged by such laws.

Rhode Island’s energy prices are among the highest in the nation. During these difficult economic times, we must do everything we can, no matter how small, to enhance our business climate and to reduce the cost of living for everyone. To this end, renewable energy mandates must be repealed or reformed.

Further, there is a new energy reality in America, with less of the perceived green benefit that inspired these laws in the first place. Most of these mandates were ushered into law during a period when many original assumptions, which have since proven to be false, were the mainstream thinking. Almost a decade later, there is a new energy reality that we must consider.

FALSE ENERGY ASSUMPTIONS that were a basis of RI’s renewable energy mandate laws:
  • Global warming would be great danger to our Earth: Whether global warming exists or whether the contribution of human beings to climate change and the ability of tolerable behavioral changes to make a decisive difference are now in open dispute, with conflicting data recently surfacing and increasing questions about original data.
  • Fossil fuel sources would become scarce in the near future: New natural gas, shale, and crude discoveries throughout the world have debunked this concern for the foreseeable future.
  • Fossil fuels would become increasingly expensive: Coal and natural gas continue to be the least expensive sources of electricity and will continue to be the most cost-efficient sources of energy in the coming decades.
  • Renewable energy would be abundantly plentiful: The inconsistency of wind and solar sources means that additional fossil-fuel plants must often be built as a “backup” systems.
  • Renewable energy would be more cost-efficient: Renewable energy costs remain significantly higher than conventional sources, and there are few near-term expectations that this will change.
  • Renewable energy would spur a boom in green jobs: There has been no such boom; many once-promising green companies have gone out of business because of low market demand. Some European countries that invested heavily in the green revolution suffered through more job losses than gains.
  • Renewable energy is better for the environment: Maybe not. The need for backup power plants decreases environmental efficiency. Better air quality can be achieved via natural gas, which is significantly cleaner than coal.  “Energy sprawl” is a popular term among environmentalists to describe the massive amount of land or sea area required for wind or solar farms, considered eye-pollution, and the miles of transmission lines required that often cut through pristine landscapes. Further, windmills are a danger to birds and bats.

 

 Reform or repeal of these mandates would save money for every family and business and would no longer be a drag on our state’s economy.

Specific Recommendations:

In light of the new energy reality, our state must enact reforms that would allow utilities, and thereby consumers, to better adapt to next-generation energy technologies:

  1. Review all renewable energy mandate laws to determine their viability
  2. Repeal the most unreasonable mandates
  3. Broaden the standards in some laws to include all next-generation energy technologies including nuclear, combined cycle natural gas, geothermal, etc.
  4. Adjust the compliance schedule to provide greater flexibility through altering deadlines or percentage targets
  5. Make the program voluntary and waive all noncompliance penalties

Policy Brief by the Center to be posted in the near future …

Related Studies:

Manhattan Institute study demonstrates that Renewable Power Mandates Drives Up Electricity Prices

New survey disputes “consensus” claims about man-made climate changes

RI energy policy questioned in three national articles

Two recent articles from nationally recognized sources – the Washington Examiner and Town Hall – referenced the Deepwater project and Rhode Island’s energy landscape and strongly hinted that we are harming our citizens and businesses via our costly state energy policies and bypassing the traditional approval process.

In the article, four important points were made that RI citizens and public officials should consider:

  1. State energy policies that dictate that RI take a part in the floundering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and mandating the we comply with a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring cuts in carbon emissions and increases in renewable energy … both serve to raise energy costs to consumers.
  2. Robbing Peter to pay Peter: citing the Toray Plastics example, the folly and unfairness is pointed out of the government causing energy rates to rise (taking from Toray), then implementing a special deal to subsidize a solar farm at Toray’s plant (paying to Toray) to keep them in RI; our government forced to get in the business of picking winners and losers because of its own failed policies in the first-place.
  3. Eating from the public trough: the disturbing image of vendors “securing a place in the supply chain of Northeastern Offshore Wind projects”. That’s right, there was actually a kind of ‘trade-show’ where businesses were openly invited to line-up to grab some of our money, whether taxpayer or ratepayer, that subsidized some of these wind projects.
  4. The original premises of renewable energy as a near-term panacea are under increasing question. A) The entire man-made climate change debate has lost much of its credibility; B) An immediate jobs boon was never realized for the renewable energy industry; C) Consumer demand for renewable energy is much lower than projected, because renewable energy costs are currently higher – not lower – than fossil fuels; D) There is no immediate shortage of fossil fuels.

In the Ocean State, our public policies, have raised the cost for energy for households and businesses … and we based those policies on what many now consider as false premises.

Reality is not negotiable: during these difficult economic times, should we be dealing with reality … or should we continue taking risks on politically-correct theory?

To read the first Town Hall article by Marita Noon, click here …

To read the Washington Examiner article by Ron Arnold, click here …

To read the most recent Deepwater related article by Martia Noon, click one of the links below:

http://www.globalwarming.org/2011/10/25/why-resort-to-shenanigans-to-make-green-energy-a-reality/

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/maritanoon/2011/10/23/going_green_with_shady_deals

In the coming months, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will recommend changes to our state energy policies, as part of larger, more comprehensive set of economic and educational reform items.