Fraser In­sti­tute: Wind and so­lar en­ergy cre­ates ex­tra, higher costs, pro­duces fewer en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits than pro­po­nents claim

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - OPINION -

De­spite rhetoric that re­new­able en­ergy is cheap, wind and so­lar power gen­er­a­tion comes with large—yet of­ten ig­nored—costs that in­crease elec­tric­ity prices for res­i­dents and busi­nesses, finds a new study re­leased to­day by the Fraser In­sti­tute, an in­de­pen­dent, non-partisan Cana­dian pub­lic pol­icy think-tank.

“Elec­tric­ity sys­tems are com­plex, and too of­ten pol­i­cy­mak­ers pur­sue re­new­able en­ergy sources such as wind and so­lar with­out un­der­stand­ing their true costs,” said Pierre Des­rochers, Fraser In­sti­tute se­nior fel­low, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Toronto Mis­sis­sauga and co-au­thor of Gen­er­at­ing Elec­tric­ity in Canada from Wind and Sun­light: Is Get­ting Less for More Bet­ter than Get­ting More for Less?

The study finds that while wind tur­bines and so­lar pan­els are rel­a­tively cheap to op­er­ate—given their fuel source is free—they’re costly to build and con­nect to the power grid.

And cru­cially, be­cause the wind won’t al­ways blow and the sun won’t al­ways shine, they re­quire con­stant backup sources of power in­clud­ing nat­u­ral gas-fired elec­tric­ity plants, which must be kept idling—while consuming fuel and emit­ting green­house gases—so they can start pro­duc­ing power quickly if nec­es­sary.

These ex­tra costs in­crease elec­tric­ity prices for con­sumers.

For ex­am­ple, as a re­sult of On­tario’s Green En­ergy Act, which was de­signed to in­crease wind and so­lar power gen­er­a­tion, res­i­den­tial elec­tric­ity rates in­creased from 5.2 cents per kilo­watt hour (kWh) to 11.55 cents at the end of 2017. That’s an in­crease of 122 per cent in nine years.

The study also notes that wind and so­lar power only ben­e­fit the en­vi­ron­ment when they dis­place emis­sion-pro­duc­ing forms of gen­er­a­tion, but in many Cana­dian prov­inces where elec­tric­ity is gen­er­ated by hy­dro­elec­tric dams or nu­clear plants, there is no cor­re­spond­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit.

“De­spite what some politi­cians and pro­po­nents claim, there are large costs—and con­se­quences—to adding wind and so­lar power gen­er­a­tion to any elec­tric­ity sys­tem, which lead to higher elec­tric­ity bills for res­i­dents,” Des­rochers said.

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