March 11, 2009

Well, Duh

original article

Today’s News & Observer of Raleigh (one of McClatchy’s tanking newspapers) reports that one of North Carolina’s two investor-owned utilities, Progress Energy (Duke Energy is the other major one), has announced that it will not be able to meet renewable portfolio standard mandates enacted by the state a couple of years ago:

The Raleigh power company has reviewed more than 100 proposals to generate electricity from renewable resources such as solar energy, wind power and agricultural waste. The costs proposed so far are four times as high as Progress had expected, officials said in a meeting with News & Observer editors and writers.

The company will use all of the money it is allowed to spend and hit up against cost caps included in the 2007 state law that requires that more of North Carolina’s electricity come from renewables.

State lawmakers included the cost cap because renewables typically cost more than conventional power plants, and the extra costs would be charged to customers in monthly bills.

The report says state regulators concurred that it is impossible for Progress Energy to meet its targets. As usual environmentalists are in denial about costs for renewables while they reject options that would help produce energy that is cleaner and more affordable:

Customers would pay even more if Congress passed federal renewable mandates that are stricter than North Carolina’s, which are being debated now, (Progress CEO Bill) Johnson said.

Progress would have to pay penalties for noncompliance, passing on the costs to customers. The company estimates that bills in Congress could cost Progress’ residential customers as much as $6 a month, much of it in penalties.

Environmentalists have long contended that utility companies in this state overestimate the cost and downplay the availability of renewable resources. But since the cost proposals submitted to Progress and Duke are confidential, few have seen the numbers.

Progress executives said they have a better way to cut greenhouse gases: by building new nuclear plants. Johnson said new nuclear plants, which don’t burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, will do more to advance the nation’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases than renewables.
Johnson also noted a reality most people understand if they took an Economics 101 course:

Johnson said that biomass — agricultural waste, wood chips and animal droppings — are the state’s biggest renewable fuel resources, but the price is still too high.

“If renewables were easy, effective and plentiful, we’d be doing them,” he said.

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