So, renewables are already saving Nevadans money, right?

In today’s Elko Daily Free Press a lady from something called the Interwest Energy Alliance takes issue with conclusions I reached in a recent column in which I questioned the need to raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) — the percent of renewable energy that NV Energy must sell each year by law.

Sarah Propst — executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, which is an industry trade association that represents renewable energy companies in the West, including Nevada — claims “experience has demonstrated that renewable standards save consumers money and create jobs and economic growth opportunities in rural areas,” without, as Harry Reid did in a similar response to another column of mine, so much as a single fact or figure to back up this specious claim.

She points out that fossil fuel-fired power plants are subject to price volatility, while renewables have a steady cost over the life of the plant. She is correct. But right now the price volatility in natural gas in down and the long-term price of renewables is several times higher and will not go any lower.

Then Propst claims renewables are already saving Nevadans money. “Despite its flaws, the numbers show that the RPS is already working,” she writes. “Nevada money spent to purchase out-of-state fossil fuel energy sources decreased from $1.7 billion in 2008, to $1.5 billion in 2010 and 2011 combined.”

That is a 12 percent decline in cost.

During that timeframe, the price of natural gas delivered by pipeline declined from nearly $12 per thousand cubic feet in July 2008 to just over $4 in July 2010 and July 2011. The price of coal delivered for electric utilities increased 9 percent. NV Energy produces about 1,000 megawatts with coal and 5,100 from natural gas.

I think the savings was due to that volatility she mentioned earlier, not renewables.

27 comments on “So, renewables are already saving Nevadans money, right?

  1. Steve says:

    When spinning, one rule is use anything in an attempt to show your point is correct. Other people call this lying.

    Of course the price went down for NVE. My bill didn’t cause we have to cover the costs of the stable energy source. Heaven forbid we benefit from volatility for a change.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    She was probably spouting talking points provided by Harry Reid’s office and the firm probably operates on federal grants. Can anyone imagine renewables will ever provide sufficient power to keep the lights on here? What am I saying, renewables have no more to do with providing energy than Obamacare has to do with actual health care.

  3. Wendy Ellis says:

    Consider the source: “Sarah Propst of Santa Fe, N.M., is executive director of the Interwest Energy Alliance, an industry trade association that represents renewable energy companies in the West, including Nevada.”

    Her opinion reads more like an advertisement. Because she has something to sell, and wants to convince people to buy it!

  4. Boyd says:

    Note that when you go to the IEA website the top Table is used to illustrate the need for more energy supply to Nevada due to our #1 (!!!!) ranked population growth. Remember those days? While you’re noting things note that the Table is from 2007 – the height of the pre-2008 crash. Nevada growth has dropped like a rock since then from 3.5% a year during the first decade to 1% a year now.

    I just don’t see how they could have missed this. You don’t suppose it was intentional do you?

  5. Rincon says:

    From Lazard Investment. Seems to show wind being slightly less costly than coal on a nonsubsidized basis. Am I missing something or is that the case? Chart on p. 81 is a good visual

    Click to access 0145.pdf

  6. I can’t find page 81


  7. Steve says:

    If I am reading that chart correctly. They claim “levelized” cost for wind is currently lower than coal per megawatt. IF “levelized” actually means zero subsidy support for anything and IF we can trust the source (American Wind Energy Association) Then WHY does wind need any subsidy support today?

    I mean,,, they claim current equal costs show their stuff is actually cheaper than coal? C’mon it just doesn’t add up. I think they have redefined the word “Levelized”. Then neglected to tell us.

    The trouble with that word is the complete lack of definition in that report.

    “Typically LECs are calculated over 20 to 40 year lifetimes, and are given in the units of currency per kilowatt-hour, for example AUD/kWh or EUR/kWh or per megawatt-hour, for example AUD/MWh (as tabulated below).[7] However, care should be taken in comparing different LCOE studies and the sources of the information as the LCOE for a given energy source is highly dependent on the assumptions, financing terms and technological deployment analyzed.[7] In particular, assumption of Capacity factor has significant impact on the calculation of LCOE. For example, Solar PV may have a Capacity Factor as low as 10% depending on location. Thus, a key requirement for the analysis is a clear statement of the applicability of the analysis based on justified assumptions.[8]”

    Look under “CALCULATIONS”

    In other words they grade on a curve.

  8. Steve says:

    Tom, don’t take this wrong. Download the PDF to your hard drive and open it with adobe reader. Enter 81 in the page space. It should take you directly to figure 5-9 on that PDF page. The actual page as numbered in the doc is 5-18.

    Instructions were only to be thorough, you probably already dl’d it.

  9. Rincon says:

    The Wikipedia article in your link seems to agree with the Lazard Investment numbers, Steve, putting wind and coal as having approximately equal costs. Lazard Investment appears to be quite legitimate also according to its writeup in Wikipedisa. The reason wind energy needs subsidies is simple: Since coal is heavily subsidized, the only way to a level playing field is for wind to also be subsidized or (only in our dreams) for the subsidies on coal to be removed.

    The end result is as I stated previously: It’s extremely difficult to compare costs when both industries enjoy a plethora of subsidies. Remove the subsidies and then we could tell, but the people with the power and money don’t want that.

  10. Steve says:

    Or, as Tom has said about statistics. Lies, damned lies then statistics. (To which I add) In that order.

    As you say, Rincon, the only true level field is one that has no outside influence.

  11. Steve says:

    Oops, should remind all readers I picked the bit about disclaimers for a reason. Wiki article headed it “Calculations”

  12. Rincon says:

    We agree about no subsidies for anyone. I would point out though, that Lazard and Wikipedia appear to have no ax to grind. The same cannot be said for the Cato and Heartland Institutes and the like. I’ll put my trust in neutral parties.

    We can avoid putting in many new power plants by means of increased efficiency. That’s the cheapest and preferred way. In light of this information plus the high external costs of coal detailed by the Harvard Medical study, I guess wind has to be preferred for now and only up to a point in my book.

  13. Steve says:

    There it is! “External costs” Total BS.
    If not for coal, life expectancy would not be what it is today! Quality of life would not be what it is. Coal got us here. We are now working on cleaner energies but I am sick from hearing about those “external costs” cause they did not prevent the incredible improvement in life we have obtained with the use of coal.

    I will accept “external costs” as a portion of price once those “external costs” can be coined and used to buy food.

  14. Rincon says:

    Looks like they added a 3% penalty for greenhouse gases. That puts wind higher than coal or gas. If one assumes that there is no future cost of global warming and that the Harvard study claiming $300-500 billion in annual external costs for coal is 100% inaccurate, then the price of coal and gas is indeed less than that of wind.

    Thank you for taking the trouble to help sort this out. Sounds like these numbers are the most accurate that we will find.

  15. Steve says:

    Again, if “external costs” are included then we MUST include all the benefits we have obtained from coal, from its first use to this day.

    With out coal we would not have the life we have achieved today. If we have to consider the lives lost due to coal we MUST consider all the lives saved by using coal to power all the technologies we have today.

    This is why I call the green efforts to factor in their definition of “external costs” total BS. They simply refuse to acknowledge any of the benefits derived over the centuries from coal.

    If they did, their external costs shrink to an amazing min.

  16. Rincon says:

    What coal has done in the past does not influence what it can do in the future. Steam locomotives reformed our nation, but they were moved aside when diesels came along. It’s called creative destruction. Utilizing present coal plants is necessary; the wisdom of building more new ones is questionable.

  17. Steve says:

    That does nothing to support the “external costs” being pushed today, because they are still only considering the state of things today and dropping out of the equation all the things it took to get here.
    With out Steam, Coal, Diesel and Gas I guarantee the loss of life over those same years would be far higher and suffering while alive would be far worse even today. Technologies those energy sources enabled would not exist.

    External costs (as defined by the greens today) are BS.

  18. Rincon says:

    Sorry Steve. I can’t feel a debt of gratitude to a black rock. All I care about is it’s ability to perform.

    I do agree that external costs are a slippery slope in both directions. They can easily be exaggerated, as I suspect is the case with the Harvard study. But we ignore them at our peril. Although I can’t place a dollar figure on a child’s brain damage (major or minor), I would never put it at zero. How many children are affected? No one knows, since a safe level of mercury is impossible to establish – and there may not be one. It is somewhat likely that all children are affected to an unmeasurable extent, which would mean our national IQ may be affected as well.

    “The consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans and animals…”
    “Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory)”.

    Would it be acceptable to us if coal diminished our national IQ by even one point? Maybe so if the cost to prevent it was too great, but to call the cost of mercury poisoning zero is insane. Also remember that mercury is only one of many external costs of coal.

    Remember how violent crime dropped and abortion was given credit by some? Is it possible that taking the lead out of gasoline and paint is responsible as well or instead? The truth is that no one can tell. As with smoking, diet, global warming, air and water pollution, etc. we humans often refuse to recognize risks that we can’t see.

  19. Steve says:

    Ah, but without those energy sources I have made the point those children would likely not even be alive. In fact the worlds population would be much smaller and probably nomadic. Now we can get to the reality of the made up definition. Its only an attempt to make the preferred technology appear to be better than the existing ones.

    You see once we look at the old technologies and what encouraged people to adopt new ones we find it was efficiency and cost that prompted the change. In every case. Had it not been for the Model T NYC would have kept right on swimming in horse poop and watching horses keel over from over work, only to be left in the street dead where they fell and THAT was VERY visible (not to mention smelly). AND the Baker Electric was available along with charging stations! But it failed for numerous reasons, internal combustion won mainly for economic reasons and it was only a side effect that horse poop disappeared from the streets of NYC

    No, Rincon, its a scam in an attempt to force preferred energies over a next logical and cleaner step in the process. Natural gas fired electric generation is going in even when faced with all the efforts to force PV and Wind on us. Government forcing is not strong enough to pick the winners, what it should be doing (like it is with Fracking) is watching and stepping in when things are identified that are bad for the public. Otherwise let the market show the direction.

  20. Rincon says:

    I agree to a point. Government should not actively pick winners and losers, but pure capitalism fails in several areas and external costs are one of them. Relying on the market,is generally fine, but if we had followed that path in the ’70’s, the Cuyahoga River would still be catching fire on a regular basis and Lake Erie would still be dead.

  21. Steve says:

    I don’t call for pure capitalism. Those examples were from yesterday’s liberal movement. Today’s liberal establishment is power hungry and lying to its loyal followers.

  22. And pure central control gives the citizens of Beijing air too thick to breathe.


  23. Rincon says:

    “Today’s liberal establishment is power hungry and lying to its loyal followers”. Unfortunately, it has become an American tradition. The Conservatives do the same. They’re doing everything in their power to deny the will of the majority by using the filibuster at an unconscionable rate. As for lying to their loyal followers, I have pointed out various conservative groups disseminating misinformation many times on this site.

    Although I agree that central control gives the Chinese their polluted air, it seems to me that we have numerous examples of capitalism doing the same in historic America. The economy under central control has been absolutely booming though – something the Conservatives thought was impossible. Nevertheless, I’ll take capitalism over communism any day.

  24. Thanks for that small concession.


  25. Steve says:

    Except the liberal movement was going to be different, remember “hope and change”?

    The liberal establishment has become no better than their opponent.

    That is supposed to make it OK?

    I may not agree with many of the liberal ideals but I could easily support them for holding true to their roots. I find many reasons to not support this establishment as I found to not support the old one.

    I have stated on numerous occasions the liberals left me, not the other way round.

  26. Rincon says:

    “The liberal establishment has become no better than their opponent” Very true. Unfortunately, it’s all about power and money.

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