Renewables are not the solution – unfortunately
The vision is highly appealing; energy that is free of charge, supplied courtesy of the sun and wind, and without producing any pollution at all! The many jobs required to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines are an added bonus. Admittedly some capital investment is required up front… but if it helps save the planet who has legitimate grounds to object?
Environmental advocates tell us that the cost of wind and solar are competitive with traditional sources of power, and becoming cheaper all the time.
What they don’t take into account is that virtually no wind and solar manufacturing takes place in Canada and job numbers in the sector have actually decreased over the last five years. Nor do they take into account of the costs of transmission lines and back-up electrical power. Nor do they take into account the environmental burden of mining, refining and manufacturing the units themselves – in other countries. Nor do they take into account the costs, both environmental and operational, to decommission and dispose of the units at the end of their useful lives.
When you consider the entire lifecycle costs of solar panel for our high latitudes you find the net energy balance is negative. In total, they take more power than they deliver.
Because wind and solar power is low density and intermittent they need either massive energy storage or backup generators whose power output can be adjusted quickly when the wind does not blow or the Sun does not shine. Those backup generators run on fossil fuels.
With current technologies a maximum of 40% of power can be provided by solar and wind before the electricity grid becomes unstable.
Renewable power costs 9 times more
It is virtually impossible to calculate the total cost of wind and solar power since no one has totalled all the subsidies, rebates and tax breaks enjoyed by the renewables industries. However, the amount consumers pay reveals some of the costs and, at least in Europe, the picture is clearer; countries with the highest per capita use of wind and solar power have, by far, the highest cost of electricity.
In a paper titled “Why Is Wind Power so Expensive?“ Dr. Gordon Hughes, a professor of economics at the University of Edinburgh, U.K., reported that the cost of electricity from wind turbines with backup is 9.2 times the cost of power from gas-fired plants alone.
A nine-fold increase would crush even the most robust economy.
Climate Realists advocate for realism and innovation
None of us are anti-renewables. There are applications where renewables already make sense, particularly those that are in remote off-grid locations. However, total economic and environmental costs need to be taken into account when evaluating energy sources.
It makes no sense to shut down our resource industries and spend money on renewables that are of marginal utility and costly, putting up the price of everything and forcing our manufacturing offshore to jurisdictions that have lax environmental controls.
Government should encourage businesses and educational institutions to invest in developing and commercializing technologies that will help Canada become a leader in efficient use of energy and responsible resource development.
Philanthropist and consummate logical thinker, Bill Gates, says the term “clean energy screws up people’s minds.”