An Open Letter to Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director, New Energy Economy, Santa Fe. New Mexico by Peter Burrows 2/18/19 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Ms. Nanasi,
Senate Bill 489 would require New Mexico’s investor owned electric utilities to be 100 percent carbon free by 2045, a goal to be achieved with renewable sources of electricity, especially wind and solar. As I understand it, one hundred percent carbon free has long been NEE’s goal, both for environmental reasons and, to quote from your recent emailing, “because renewables are the most cost-effective option.” With that in mind, I have some questions for you.
1) Our new secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Sarah Probst, was quoted in a January 11 article in New Mexico In Depth saying that going to an 80 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard would require a careful approach so that, “we don’t do anything that jeopardizes reliability or increases costs too quickly.“
Why would she say INCREASES COSTS if renewables are cheaper?
2) Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and life-long environmentalist, said in a 2015 interview with The Financial Times that the cost of going 100 percent renewable would be “beyond astronomical.”
Was Gates wrong? Have there been advances in energy technologies that enable us today to have renewable energy that is affordable, not “beyond astronomical” in cost?
3) Is there any place in the world where adding renewables to the power mix has lowered the average electricity bill? An article by The Institute for Energy Research dated 2/8/19, claims that electricity rates increase as renewables are added to the mix, In Germany, Denmark, the U.S., anywhere.
California, for example, in 2017 generated 23% of its electricity from wind and solar and its residential electricity rates were 18.24 cents per kilowatt-hour, “at least 40 percent higher than any other western state,” and 22 percent higher than I paid last month using my cost of14.98 cents after taxes, fees etc. Using the before fees/taxes cost of 12.65 cents, California was 44 percent higher.
https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/the-100-percent-renewable-energy-myth/ or Google: The 100 Percent Renewable Energy Myth BY IER (Inst for Energy Research) 2/8/19
(I went to the Dept. Of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) site and was unable to verify IER’s numbers. The EIA site is difficult to navigate, to say the least.)
4) I see that my electricity bills are increased by a “Renewable Energy Rider,” not decreased by a “Renewable Energy Credit.” Why are renewables increasing my bill if renewables are so cost effective?
5) If renewables are the least cost option, why are so many new coal-fueled electricity generating plants being built outside of the U.S.?
From coalswarm.org, 2/16/19: “Since 2007 planning and construction of new coal-fired power plants in India has accelerated, and hundreds of new plants are in currently in the pipeline, as shown in CoalSwarm’s India coal plant tracker.”
HUNDREDS of new coal-fired plants? How can that be if renewables are so much cheaper than coal?
6) Totally eliminating the use of fossil fuels in New Mexico would eventually mean the elimination of natural gas to heat our homes. Is this a long-term goal of NEE? Would this mean using electric heat, and would that increase Bill Gates’s estimate from “beyond astronomical” to “beyond astronomical squared?”
7) Are you using the Energy Information Administration’s Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) calculations when you compare the costs of different sources of electricity, e.g. solar vs. coal? You have to read the EIA’s accompanying notes carefully to learn that they caution that comparing LCOEs between power sources can be “misleading.”
“Misleading,” indeed. Intermittent sources of electricity such as solar and wind are not comparable to constant sources, such as coal or nuclear. Intermittent sources need to be buffered, i.e. smoothed for clouds and lulls, and stored for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
The cost of storage is the driver behind Gates’s “beyond astronomical” estimate, and here is where NEE can get some answers from Public Service of New Mexico (PNM). PNM has been operating an electric storage facility since 2012. The PNM Prosperity Energy Storage was heralded as “the nation’s first solar storage facility fully integrated into a utility’s power grid.” (Renewable Energy World, 3/2/15)
By now, PNM should have a good handle on how much the storage costs would be at various RPS requirements, at least with the technology they are using. When PNM held a meeting in Silver City in May of 2017, I cited Prosperity Storage and said: “I assume you have lots of cost data from that project and can provide us with an estimate of what our utility bills would be if PNM was 100 percent renewables-with-storage.”
Six months later, I made the same request in a column for The Grant County Beat. Still no answer and I don’t expect to ever get one. However, I’m confident that New Energy Economy could get an answer. YOU they fear. Me, I’m just a nobody home owner/rate payer.
In conclusion, I share your desire for cheap, reliable, renewable energy. I’m just not convinced that “cheap” and “reliable” are possible with today’s technology.
If you are ever in Silver City, I know a great place to get a cup of coffee, my treat.
Peter V. Burrows email@example.com