In his Dec. 27 letter (“Federal fossil-fuel subsidies hurt renewables, drive up our electric bills”) the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel accuses the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of making a “shameful giveaway” to oil, coal and gas interests to the detriment of all others.
FERC is obligated to assure primarily a reliable electric power grid. Low costs are important, but “cheap” electricity becomes extremely costly when the grid blacks out. And grid collapse is assured under the “100% renewables by 2035” fantasy proposal.
At today’s 8% contribution by wind and solar, damage to grid reliability is hardly noticeable. These unreliable supplies survive by getting a free ride on a grid bridged by fossil and nuclear. They “lean on the wires.”
As that percentage grows, however, grid damage can no longer be ignored and fixing it becomes very costly, both to customers and the generators that have to carry it. Some grid damage could be overcome with massive and very costly battery installations. But that quickly overwhelms any benefits from future cost reductions in wind turbine and solar panel manufacturing.
Cost estimates show that a 24-hour battery backup would cost 10 times as much as a wind farm that it would back up. (Several consecutive cloudy or low-wind days are common).
Sadly, the Sierra Club is no longer the noble organization of John Muir. It has morphed into a group based on extremist ideology, not physical and economic realities. As such, it’s not a credible source of guidance for managing a reliable power grid.
James M. Policelli
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