Change can be one step at a time

Published 11:13 am Thursday, August 22, 2013

It appears that the “powers that be” in Washington, DC have all intentions of taking the American people down a dead-end road by shoving unreliable, high-cost, unproven renewable energy down our throats.

The global warming alarmists have already had to change their rhetorical spiel from global warming to global climate change; because global temperatures have been declining for more than 10 years and are projected to continue that trend for at least the next couple of decades.

When I speak of global warming alarmists, I am talking about the self-interested political zealots we hear espousing their blather whenever they find an unoccupied soap box.

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Government-funded alarmists seeking to justify wildly expanded regulatory and taxation powers for government bodies. With tactics like the secret science currently being used by the EPA (Energy Production Assassins) to justify costly regulation changes, the ‘powers that be’ have shown they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

In previous letters I’ve discussed some problems that can occur when using an energy source that is not continuously available due to some factor outside direct control. Unlike other commodities, electricity cannot be stored economically, so generation must match consumption on a real-time basis.

Turbines only work when the wind blows, and solar panels only work when the sun shines.

Within the energy grid there must be a balance between the load and generation, but because of the varying levels of electricity produced by intermittent renewable sources this balance is hard to maintain, and poses one of the biggest challenges to the power sector.

Renewable energy (wind and solar) provides 3.5 perfect of America’s electricity. Denmark currently gets 30 perfect of its energy from wind and hopes to get 50 perfect by 2020. Europe’s largest economy, Germany, produces 12 perfect of its electricity from wind and solar and would like 35 perfect of its electricity generation to come from renewables by 2020.

The Europeans are learning the practical challenges of depending on renewable energy to supply electricity.

The first challenge is cost:

• Germany has invested $250 billion in renewable energy development, and its households pay the highest power costs in Europe

• Germans and Danes on average, pay 300 perfect more for residential electricity than Americans do

Another major challenge is far more serious:

• Potential loss of reliable electrical supply

• It’s one thing to ask consumers to pay more for a cleaner supply; it’s another to force them to endure blackouts

Electricity must be generated and dispatched to meet a constantly changing demand for power. Supply must match demand to make sure the correct amount of electricity is moving across the wires to avoid brownouts, power failures and other problems.

Historically, coal and nuclear plants are used to meet base-load demand while gas and hydro-electric have been used to meet shifting demand. The intermittent and variable supply of renewable energy, which is determined by nature, is often not available when needed.

There are increasing reports of frequency fluctuations, volt support issues and inadvertent power flows being experienced by European electricity suppliers.

So far, we have not experienced these problems in the United States. Unlike Europe, we have excess generating capacity. The small amount of electricity being supplied by renewable sources does not create a significant problem in most markets.

However, as nuclear plants are decommissioned and regulations shut down coal-fired plants, states that are increasing renewable energy will start to look more like Europe.

The attraction to renewable energy is universal. It is not surprising that, worldwide, citizens are passionate about the possibility of clean and free energy forever. However, careful reform of our policies, balanced by lessons learned from Europe, might help renewables become a link in the energy chain.


Joseph P. Smith is the owner of Pyro-Chem Corporation in South Point and has worked in the energy industry for more than three decades. He can be reached by email at