Ms. Olivia Campbell-Andersen is the executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, an organization of more than a hundred businesses, law firms and lobbyists peddling subsidies for wind and solar electricity. It should come as no surprise that she is quick to try to dispel the idea California’s reliance on intermittent wind and solar electricity had something to do with its recent power grid blackouts.
By contrast, no interest group is paying me to analyze and write on public issues, certainly not utilities and fossil fuel interests. I try to give readers responsible, independent and informed analysis of issues.
The California electric blackouts are very useful warnings to us to avoid the policies that caused them. Ms. Campbell-Andersen cites the president of CAISO, the California grid operator, who denies that reliance on wind and solar electricity has anything to do with the blackouts. Of course, he does. If he didn’t, the governor and the renewable energy politicians would have his head.
He was, however, quoted more candidly in a trade publication (E&E News) saying “The situation we are in could have been avoided. … For many years we have pointed out to the procurement authorizing authorities that there was inadequate power available.” meaning, during the hours after sunset when solar energy disappears.
Before I published, I discussed my commentary with one of the most respected independent power grid experts in New England, Meredith Angwin, who lives in Wilder. I quoted her prediction that “New England will probably have rolling blackouts by 2025, due to reliance on intermittent renewables and just-in-time deliveries of natural gas.”
On her energy blog, Meredith went on to say “The problems that have caused the rolling blackouts are not unique to California. One issue is that California is moving aggressively toward more and more use of renewables, particularly solar. However, when the sun goes down, solar can be a problem. In fact, solar often acts like a single megaplant, which switches off in the early evening.”
Ms. Campbell-Andersen’s solution to the coming threat of blackouts is — wait for it — more renewables! More (inefficient and costly) storage (that will keep the lights on in Barre for maybe four hours into a blackout). It’s the same message we’ve heard for years from the subsidy mongers at Renewable Energy Vermont. She’s saying what she’s paid to say, but readers need to go well beyond her self-serving message to get a grip on New England’s likely grid power crunch.
Ms. Campbell-Andersen trots out, with no evidence, the charge that I favor “burning more fossil fuels.” Not true. I support conservation, efficiency and phasing out coal as soon as possible. The solution is reliable, dispatchable Generation IV modular nuclear plants that keep on generating when the wind dies down and the sky goes dark. I do not favor more subsidies, mandates and taxes to feed the owners of the renewable industries she represents, whose response to what they promote as the “climate emergency” will do little more than make them richer.
John McClaughry is the vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Kirby.