Warning to PA: Alternative Energy Subsidies Damage Europe

FEBRUARY 12, 2014 | by GORDON TOMB

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.



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