Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy: The Promise That Never Pans Out

MARCH 13, 2015

Green jobs and the broken window fallacy

One third of the $675 million in new corporate welfare under Governor's Wolf budget proposal is reserved for alternative energy programs. In this week's House budget hearings Community & Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin defended the new borrowing saying,“We think when you look at those opportunities as a whole ... Pennsylvania will do much better.”

But history indicates otherwise.

A common target of Gov. Rendell's "economic development" schemes was alternative energy companies, who enjoyed $1 billion in renewable energy grants, tax breaks and loans, but only created 8,300 "green" jobs, costing taxpayers over $120,000 per job. In other words, using tax dollars to subsidize green jobs resulted in a net loss.

Worse yet, taxpayers don't have the funds for this program. The Governor wants to borrow the money and pay it back with natural gas severance tax revenues.

Even if placing more debt on Pennsylvania families created jobs, it is still wrong to ask the natural gas industry to subsidize their competitors. Kevin Sunday with the PA Chamber put it well, "It's very ironic that Gov. Wolf expects one industry to subsidize its competitors," he said. "We certainly shouldn't be picking winners and losers."

At the end of the day, Pennsylvania has given more than a billion dollars to alternative energy companies with nothing to show for it: from 1991 to 2014, our state ranked a dismal 45th in job growth. Handing out tax dollars based on political calculations is stifling economic progress. Common sense tells us it's time to try a different approach—letting Pennsylvanians keep more of their money.

posted by ELIZABETH STELLE | 02:00 PM | Comments

EPA Rule Would Increase PA Energy Bills by $1,000

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

The war on coal will be a catastrophe for consumers, according to a new analysis of energy prices under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

According to an Energy Ventures Analysis report, combined annual gas and electricity bills in Pennsylvania will increase by more than $1,000, or 46 percent by 2020 compared to 2012.  Industrial power rates alone will increase by 62 percent.

The November report—"Energy Market Impacts of Recent Federal Regulations on the Electric Power Sector"—says that Pennsylvania is among five states that "would bear the greatest increases in annual residential power bills." The others are Texas, Mississippi, Maryland and Rhode Island.

Commissioned by Peabody Energy, a St. Louis-based coal company, the report calculates state-by-state effects of a number of EPA regulations, including the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Nationally, gas and electricity costs for all customers will increase by $284 billion, or 60 percent, says Energy Ventures.

The increase will result "in large part due to an almost 135 percent increase in the wholesale price of natural gas" as EPA regulations force coal out of use and drive up the demand for gas, says the report.

Numerous business groups and politicians are objecting to the Clean Power Plan, including Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator, Bob Casey, who says that the proposed rule for CO2 emissions, "imposes a disproportionate and unfair burden on Pennsylvania." And the Supreme Court recently announced it will review the regulations in the spring.

Energy Ventures also takes into account the economic effect of rules recently implemented to regulate ozone and particulate matter, the interstate transport of air pollution, mercury, and haze in public parks.

"Our analysis is the first to fully examine the combined economic impacts of the EPA's long list of proposed and finalized regulations on the electric power industry," says Seth Schwartz, Energy Ventures president. The Clean Power Plan is based on flawed assumptions, he says.

From skyrocketing energy bills to killing green jobs to raising manufacturers' cost, the EPA’s actions are harming all Pennsylvanians.

posted by GORDON TOMB | 00:13 PM | Comments

Warning to PA: Alternative Energy Subsidies Damage Europe

FEBRUARY 12, 2014

Energy Policy

State legislators who advocate for an expansion of government incentives for alternative energy sources need to pay attention to the events happening across the pond where the European Commission is abandoning country-by-country targets for greenhouse-gas emissions after 2020.

Mounting debt and surging rates from an over-reliance on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind prompted the commission’s action, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall):

Take Spain, where financial incentives for renewable energy have driven renewables to as much as 25% of electricity generation. They have also left the country with a $41 billion gap between what energy costs to produce and what utilities can charge for power. Mariano Rajoy's government has been scrambling to scale back the subsidies and close the gap. These efforts have left in the lurch those who installed wind and solar on the promise of high fixed payments for their power.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is also seeking to push through cuts in wind and solar subsidies and to cap new installations of renewable capacity going forward. Germany's feed-in tariffs—which guarantee renewable-energy suppliers above-market prices for their power—have helped drive up retail power prices by 17% in the past four years while costing utilities and small businesses billions. Many of Germany's largest energy users are exempt from the green surcharges, a fact that the European Commission is currently investigating as a possible illegal subsidy.

Moreover, the Journal says, European companies are moving production to the U.S. where the shale gas boom is producing an advantage in energy costs—not to mention a reduction in carbon emissions as natural gas picks up more of the share of electricity generation.

As the Journal said in a separate piece:

“The innovation of the private oil and gas industry in extracting natural gas from shale has done more to reduce CO2 emissions than have all of the Obama Administration's subsidies, mandates and crony-capitalist schemes for renewable energy.”

Another benefit of the gas boom has been lower heating bills, which have remained moderate even during recent cold snaps.

All of which suggests that state Rep. Tommy Sankey (R-Clearfield) is on the right track with his bill to repeal Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.

The standards—adopted in 2004—require the state’s electric companies to obtain 15 percent of their energy from alternative sources by 2023. Europe’s experience is crystal clear evidence it’s time for government to stop picking energy winners and losers.

posted by GORDON TOMB | 10:45 AM | Comments

Free-market Gas Outshines Subsidized Solar

APRIL 9, 2013

One news story highlights hundreds of jobs lost and millions of taxpayer dollars down the drain via corporate welfare. Another celebrates millions of new state revenue and free market job creation. This contrast offers a lesson for lawmakers.

The closure of Pittsburgh-based Flaberg Solar, a manufacturer of mirrors for the solar energy industry, is a tragic story of job loss and taxpayer abuse. Flaberg was awarded $10.2 million in stimulus funds and received an additional $10 million in state grants, putting taxpayers on the hook for up to $20 million.

(T)he current order and market situation in the North American solar market does not offer any prospect of profitably justifying to continue [the plant's operation], said Flaberg Solar's parent company in a statement.

Flaberg Solar, which once employed 200 people, says it cannot afford to pay former workers severances owed them. Vendors stand by with uncollected receivables as the company projects a debt of as much as $7 million.

A second article reported that the commonwealth expects to collect $400 million from the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee in the first two years of the tax's existence.

Although the tax was an unnecessary money grab, its success in generating revenue demonstrates the ability of private ventures to produce thousands of jobs, economical energy and billions of dollars in wealth without government aid.

The entrepreneurial spirit exemplified in the development of Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale is key to the higher standard of living Americans enjoy. In contrast, corporate welfare schemes like subsidies for Flaberg Solar squander capital and destroy jobs.

posted by GORDON TOMB | 09:57 AM | Comments

Taking Wind out of the Subsidy Sail

APRIL 4, 2013

Energy Policy

For years, you’ve heard conservatives say the wind power industry would be better off without government subsidies. But now even wind industry advocate and Tang Energy CEO Patrick Jenevin is joining the chorus via the Wall Street Journal.

Without subsidies, the wind industry would be forced to take a fresh look at its product, says Jenevin. And if there is truly a need for wind energy, entrepreneurs who improve the business's fundamentals will find a way to compete.

Jenevin, a developer of "clean energy" projects, including wind farms, makes the following points:

  • Subsidies make wind power developers focus less on efficiency and more on securing government grants.
  • While receiving $8.4 billion in cash grants or tax credits under the 2009 federal stimulus program, wind farms were increasingly built in less-windy locations.
  • Wind power prices have increased nearly 46 percent since 2005.
  • Wind power will make marginal-not revolutionary-contributions to the energy mix.

What is the cost of over-priced wind power to Pennsylvanians?

According to The Beacon Hill Institute of Suffolk University, the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, which require a percentage of electricity sold to retail customers be derived from sources such as wind power, will raise consumers' costs by as much as $3 billion in 2021.

To read more about the cost of renewable energy mandates see our Bleeding Green poligraph.

posted by GORDON TOMB | 10:43 AM | Comments

Pennsylvanians Bleeding Green with Energy Mandates

FEBRUARY 22, 2013

Green jobs destroy 051110Pennsylvania's alternative energy mandates will result in higher energy costs, leading to lower incomes and less investment, and costing the state thousands of jobs, according to a new study from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University.

The commonwealth's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requires a set percentage of electricity generation to come from solar, wind and other specific "alternative energy" sources, phased in through 2021. The Beacon Hill analysis projects that this will increase electric bills by 12 to 15 percent, cost residents and businesses $16.3 billion more than conventional power (approximately $130 per resident), and result in in 17,380 lost jobs by 2021.

Our new Poli-Graph, "Bleeding Green: How Much Money will Pennsylvanians Waste on Alternative Energy Mandates?" highlights the costs of these mandates, which benefit a few politically-selected corporations at the expense of taxpayers, residents, and businesses.

posted by NATHAN BENEFIELD | 02:50 PM | Comments

No More Solyndras in Pa.'s Future?

AUGUST 9, 2012

Pennsylvania Independent's Melissa Daniels writes that corporate welfare programs to benefit solar companies are on their way out in Pennsylvania, saving consumers more than $100 million.  Two major state programs offering taxpayer subsidies for solar projects have expired:

Pennsylvania spent millions on pushing solar as the SREC [Solar Renewable Energy Credits] market developed. The $100 million Sunshine Solar Rebate Program offered rebates to consumers and small businesses who installed solar projects. The Commonwealth Financing Authority gave more than $57.6 million in grants and $7.3 million in loans for 79 solar-related projects; CFA no longer accepts applications for solar energy grants.

"Green" corporate welfare programs have been under fire for several years, most nobably following the fiasco when Solyndra, a company taking millions in federal loans, went bankrupt.

However, Pennsylvania continues to mandate that utilities get more electricity from specific alternative energy sources, including solar.  These mandates drive up prices, and while celebrated for "creating green jobs," actually destroy jobs and undermine economic growth.

Thankfully, legislation to escalate these mandates-which would cost consumers an estimated $139 million annually in higher electric prices-has stalled out, PA Indy reports.  Testimony from the Pennsylvania Utility Commission sums up why Pennsylvania lawmakers are more hesitant to subsidize more Solyndras:

Robert Powelson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, testified his opposition before the House Consumer Affairs Committee in January.

"By advancing the current solar carve-out, which acts as a subsidy for the solar industry, HB 1580 would increase the price of solar renewable energy credits, therefore, increasing consumers' bills," Powelson wrote. "This is simple supply and demand economics."

posted by NATHAN BENEFIELD | 11:05 AM | Comments

How Low Can Frackaphobes Go?

JULY 30, 2012

Winston Churchill once quipped that, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." If so, then natural gas drilling myths have been doing full-speed planetary orbits while the facts are still crawling to the dresser drawer.Natural Gas Community Impact

But pants and facts fans rejoice, half a trouser leg of truth was put on last week by an Associated Press article that found some outspoken frackaphobes are nothing short of propagandists.

According to the article, "Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little - or nothing- to back them."

How far down do the lies go?  How about manufacturing claims of high breast cancer rates that spike where intensive drilling has taken place?  That stoops well below the accuracy aquifer and it's why experts are finally speaking out.

Researchers and experts flat-out haven't seen the spike proliferated by environmental groups with one professor declaring the campaign, "a classic case of the ecological fallacy."

But surely when presented with the facts, the groups would retract, right? Sadly, no, they pressed on with the likes of Gasland's Josh Fox doing his best Baghdad Bob impersonation, claiming there was "more than enough evidence to warrant much deeper study."

Perhaps enough evidence to warrant deeper study for journalists and sociologists, indeed.  But you keep manufacturing those boogeymen, Mr. Fox, we'll keep drilling for the truth, one pant leg at a time.

posted at 11:12 AM | Comments

EPA Wants to Scare Jobs Out of Pennsylvania

JULY 6, 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency's derailing of American's economy is frightening enough to scare even the Ghostbusters (and they ain't afraid of no ghost).

Pennsylvania will be the 7th hardest hit state by the EPA's regulatory nightmare, costing the commonwealth more than 23,000 jobs while raising electricity rates by nearly 11 percent, according to American Legislative Exchange Council.

According to Count on Coal, an organization that educates citizens on how coal keeps electricity affordable, Pennsylvania gets 49 percent of its electricity from coal and the industry generates tens of thousands of jobs. That is, until the EPA forces 10 Pennsylvania coal power plants to shut down by 2015.

The EPA's powers are being challenged by many, including Pennsylvania's governor. A coalition letter signed by Gov. Tom Corbett opposing the EPA overreach states:

...EPA's actions are adding to already overburdened state resources and are limiting the ability of states to administer their own, effective environmental programs and further slow the nation's economic recovery.

Similarly, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said the EPA's approach "appears to be regulatory overkill and, more importantly, could threaten cost effective and reliable provision of electrical services in our State."

Unfortunately, the EPA has become a regime of regulations without representation. Learn more here.


Who Wants to Pay More for Electricity?

MARCH 6, 2012

solarA new study by the Manhattan Institute confirms that forcing states to purchase renewable energy hurts taxpayers.

Pennsylvania is one of the 29 states (as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that has a renewable energy standard -- Pennsylvania calls it an "Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard." These mandates force utility companies to produce a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

Given that state solar energy is at least 10 times more expensive than electricity from natural gas, it is not surprising that forcing companies to use it drives up costs.

Comparing states with and without these mandates, the study finds:

  • In 2010, residents in states with renewable energy mandates on average experienced electricity prices 31.9 percent higher than in non-mandated states. Similarly, commercial rates were 27.4 percent higher, and industrial rates were 30.7 percent higher.
  • Of the ten states with the highest electricity prices, eight have RPS mandates: Hawaii, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, and California.
  • Of the 10 states with the lowest electricity prices, only two have RPS mandates. They are Washington and Oregon.

This is more evidence that should lead state lawmakers to oppose increasing state solar mandates bill, which would force Pennsylvanian families to pay millions more for electricity.

posted by KATRINA ANDERSON | 03:51 PM | Comments

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