Recent controlled blackouts in Houston were reportedly caused by the inability of older fossil fuel power plants to operate in unusually cold temperatures. Now proponents of green energy are using the unfortunate event to justify even more subsidies and mandates promoting renewable power, which will further compromise the reliability of the electricity grid.
The reality is, 53% of Pennsylvania’s electricity is generated from coal, 35% from nuclear and about 8% from natural gas, despite the billions of dollars in aid to boost solar, wind, biomass, and other renewables over the past decade.
Issuing new mandates, like the EPA’s Clear Air regulations, or increasing old ones, like Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, prevents current plant owners from making the improvements or modernizations needed to keep the lights on. Additionally, owners have to contend with a public relations and legal nightmare every time they propose a new plant.
All five proposed coal projects in Pennsylvania are facing significant opposition. In Texas, nine recent coal and gas projects have been canceled. All this means fewer dollars for investment in new technology. Gene Barr put it well in Gordon Tomb’s Patriot-News op-ed:
“When you mandate technologies, the best you get is today’s technology and the worst you get is yesterday’s technology,” says Gene Barr of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “And you run the risk of shutting out tomorrow’s technology.”
Today, few are willing to invest the billions of dollars needed to construct new gas, nuclear or coal plants with so much regulatory uncertainty, and with all the taxpayer support being directed to other types of energy. As a result, several Pennsylvania power plants are over 50 years old, making maintenence outages more likely and compromising the electricity grid’s ability to meet demand.