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A View from the Altar / Former Secretary of Energy on renewables
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Former Secretary of Energy on renewables

From Progress Energy’s internal company news today:

James R. Schlesinger, the first secretary of energy, and Robert L. Hirsch, a senior energy adviser at Management Information Services Inc. who previously managed the federal renewables program at the Energy Research & Development Administration, a predecessor to DOE, wrote a joint op-ed in today’s Washington Post on the issues associated with wind and solar energy. Wrote Schlesinger and Hirsch: “Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn’t always shine and that the wind doesn’t always blow. That means that solar cells and wind energy systems don’t always provide electric power. Nevertheless, solar and wind energy seem to have captured the public’s support as potentially being the primary or total answer to our electric power needs.”

The authors say that because there is still a need for full fossil fuel back-up systems, “the public will pay a large premium for solar and wind, paying once for the solar and wind system (made financially feasible through substantial subsidies) and again for the fossil fuel system, which must be kept running at a low level at all times to be able to quickly ramp up in cases of sudden declines in sunshine and wind. Thus, the total cost of such a system includes the cost of the solar and wind machines, their subsidies, and the cost of the full backup power system running in ‘spinning reserve’.”

Schlesinger and Hirsch say the U.S. needs a full array of electric power production options “to meet its needs in the years ahead. Solar and wind will have their places, as will other renewables. Realistically, however, solar and wind will probably only provide a modest percentage of future U.S. power. Some serious realism in energy planning is needed, preferably from analysts who are not backing one horse or another.”

As I have written here previously, adding green-gadget energy doodads to the nation’s electric power mix drives cost up and reliability down.  Wind and solar have limited usefulness as peaking sources for high load conditions or specialty applications in extremely remote locations but are worthless as sources intended to replace baseload generation.  As a professional economist and former Secretary of Energy, Schlesinger adds an authoritative voice to energy industry professionals trying to dissuade the Obama administration from wrecking America’s energy future.

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