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Reblogged:Firewood Is 'Cheaper,' Too

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Advocates of unreliable wind and solar energy frequently make the claim that these two energy sources are "cheaper" than fossil fuels -- as if countless individuals with power bills would fail to notice. (They do, but not because they are stupid. Read on.)

A recent such claim popped up on a tech news aggregator I frequent, and drew a pretty decent comment in reply.

The reply is, in part:

homework.jpg
Image by Annie Spratt, via Unsplash, license.
These comparisons solely account for the production costs and not for the system costs of solar energy and are therefore completely useless.

Solar panels will always require a backup power plant as the Sun isn't shining 24/7 and storing large amounts of electric energy isn't trivial.

I'm really disappointed that this kind of non-sense gets posted on [Hacker News] over and over again.

I'm from Germany, we have 50% renewables in our electricity mix and our electricity prices are the highest worldwide.

France has 70% nuclear and their consumer electricity prices are half of the German ones.

Additionally, France emits only 50 grams of CO2 per kWh while Germany emits 400 grams on average per kWh. [bold added]
The German electricity customer is getting screwed by all this "cheap" energy and in the name of a goal -- a goal which is being missed and is of debatable merit, anyway.

And while, yes, it is disappointing to see the same misleading claim repeated ad nauseam, such repetition means multiple opportunities to spread the correct word.

Indeed, although our German commenter has done a good job summarizing the situation in Germany, plenty of Americans might justifiably believe such claims when they are made about such prices here.

We're a freer country, they might think. They might even recall that American utilities bid for electricity from different producers, and have doubtless heard how well solar and wind do in these markets -- markets which are very unfree as it turns out.

Fortunately for the truth and its power to avert calamity, energy advocate Alex Epstein recently interviewed electricity consultant Tom Stacy on this very subject. Here, briefly, is what you can expect, from the blog at the Center for Industrial Progress:
Tom has been able to explain better than anyone else how electricity markets are "rigged against reliables," so I brought him on this week's Power Hour to break down the issue.

Bottom line: the value of reliability is not priced into today's electricity "markets" -- and it needs to be. [bold added]
The interview is aptly titled, "Rigged Against Reliables," and is worth a full listening. For anyone interested in more detail, Stacy is the author of a study at the Institute for Energy Research concluding that, "Wind [and] solar [are] up to five times more costly than existing coal and nuclear."

The whole way this comparison is usually put also reminds me that I could go out into the woods near my house and gather pieces of wood for my cooking. That's free, but I don't do this.

Why?

For very good reasons: Prices are meaningless outside a context. Here, I can see that the price of my free firewood is based on an incomplete accounting for such things as: (a) the ease of obtaining the propane, natural gas, or electricity, I use, instead; (b) the ease of use of any of these over wood; and (c) the amount of time I would lose at first and any other time I chose to cook with a wood fire. This is exactly what the "solar and wind are cheaper" crowd is asking you to do, only they hope you won't do this homework, or realize that they have skipped it themselves.

-- CAV

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Advocates of renewables may also ignore subsidies. This article says:  “Renewables are muscling in on natural gas as the preferred choice for new electricity generation. In fact, according to RMI, what happened to coal is now happening to gas. What is needed, the organization argues, is a move away from the monopoly markets that have been the norm in the utility industry for more than 100 years and toward more open competition. Because when renewables compete head to head with thermal generation, they win hands down 95% of the time.”

However, there isn’t one word about subsidies. “Subsidies for renewable energy totaled $6.682 billion, while those for fossil energy totaled a mere $489 million” (link).

I don’t know enough to say how big the effect of the subsidies is. Anyway, I smell bias.

Edited by merjet
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