What Virginians (And Biden) Can Learn From Europe’s Energy Catastrophe

offshore wind

There were two bits of news last week from the energy world that gave us a peek into the dangerous delusions about energy and how they have led to death and are likely to lead to economic ruin — and quite possibly more death — in Europe.

The less bad news is that here in the states, the same delusions will only lead to ratepayers in the commonwealth of Virginia paying a lot more for their electricity than they need to. [bold, links added]

Let’s start with the really bad news.

Last week the Russians announced that they were going to cut off the flow of natural gas from Russia to Germany (and from there to the rest of Europe) while they conduct maintenance on the Nord Stream I natural gas pipeline.

Germany responded to the news by rationing hot showers and announcing that they would not seek to extend the life of their three remaining nuclear power plants. If that last one seems irrational, it is.

Starting last year and going through this week, wind speeds have been down all over Europe. Additionally, this summer has been very warm.

Due to the attendant reduction in wind power, the Europeans have had to burn more natural gas to generate electricity than anticipated.

Natural gas is an excellent fuel that, in addition to being used to generate electricity, is also used to heat homes and water and dry clothes. It is also used in many modern manufacturing processes.

Despite this, the Europeans have resisted developing their own supplies of natural gas, preferring to remain dependent on Russia, while at the same time closing coal-fired power plants and nuclear power plants because, of course, of climate change.

It is no accident that the Russians waited until February to invade Ukraine. There was no way the Europeans could wean themselves from Russian natural gas in the middle of winter and in the wake of the failure of wind power all across the continent.

So, they didn’t.

Instead, the European Union has kept buying Russian natural gas, thereby propping up the Russian war effort and helping Russians kill Ukrainians.

Consequently, it should not surprise anyone that the United States has given more aid to Ukraine than all of the nations of the EU combined.

This whole mess is simply because the Europeans proceeded as if a generation source that humans cannot turn on and off as needed — in this case, wind power — is a legitimate substitute for nuclear, coal, and natural gas-based generation.

For their punishment, Europeans are now paying five times what we pay (on average) for electricity and seven times what we pay for natural gas.

This has probably already driven them into recession. Winter in Europe will no doubt be difficult as nations scrounge for natural gas to keep their citizens warm.

Back here at home, we are beginning to hear the overture of this very same play, as people who should know better are acting as if generation sources that we don’t control can be the backbone of an electricity system.

Occasionally, though, someone slips off message and tells the truth, which happened recently in Virginia, when Dominion Energy, which is trying to saddle ratepayers with a $10 billion offshore wind project, objected to a condition imposed on the project.

The condition was simply that ratepayers would not have to pay for the electricity unless the wind project delivers electricity equal to 42% of its overall capacity.

In other words, if the wind project is supposed to produce 100 megawatts of electricity (just as an example), the State Corporation Commission of Virginia, which regulates Dominion, has insisted that ratepayers pay only if the project produces an average of 42 megawatts over a three-year period.

This “capacity factor” is a reflection of how efficient a power generation source is compared to its expected performance.

For example, nuclear power plants are, for a variety of reasons, the most efficient power plants, usually with capacity factors above 90%.

Natural gas and coal-fired power plants usually have capacity factors ranging from 60-80%, depending on how they are used.

A capacity factor of 42% indicates a power source that is unable to generate power very often, and even when it is going, is not producing as much energy as it is supposed to produce.

Dominion dutifully and without any self-awareness at all objected to the provision, arguing that the company should not be held responsible for whether the wind blows or not. Let that sink in for a moment.

Dominion CEO Bob Blue — who was careless enough to give a bunch of money to suppress Republican turnout in last year’s gubernatorial election — said: “Effectively, such a guarantee would require [Dominion] to financially guarantee the weather, among other factors beyond its control, for the life of the project.”

Not surprisingly, Dominion did not offer to abandon the project as an inefficient waste of ratepayer cash.

They simply want ratepayers — rather than executive bonuses or returns to stockholders — to be subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

Dominion knows what the Europeans now know in a much more pointed way — if you can’t turn a generation source on or off, that source can’t be the backbone and basis of a reliable electricity system.

In the case of Europe, that mistake will cost them enormous economic losses and probably deaths from cold this winter. It has already left them responsible for the war casualties in Ukraine.

In the case of Virginia, it will leave its citizens poorer and more exposed to the vagaries of the weather.

Read rest at Washington Times

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