by Robert Maynard
I have argued many times that renewable energy cannot survive in a competitive market without significant government subsidies. One big problem is that the low energy density of most renewable sources makes converting the potential energy stored in the fuel to usable energy very inefficient and expensive. There has been talk among some scientists that this problem could be cured for solar energy by collecting solar rays outside the earth’s atmosphere and then beaming them down to earth in the form of a compact laser beam. Whether this will make solar energy cost effective is another matter. The point is that, absent such technological breakthroughs, the low energy density of most popular renewable fuels makes their energy conversion process prohibitively inefficient and expensive.
This minor detail has not stopped New England’s Governors from trying to create a regionnal market for renewable energy sources. Supposedly, the bulk purchases of wind and solar energy was going to knock down the price, as related by a recent WCAX-TV article. Creating a market for a fuel source that is inherently inefficient when it comes to coverting from potential energy stored in that fuel to useful energy would be a challenge under any circumstances. It becomes doubly so when those trying to create that market clearly have no understanding of markets. Here are a few other problems they are running into:
But putting together details about what types of renewable energy count in the groundbreaking deal is snared in a patchwork of rules, state laws and disagreements over how even to define alternative energy.
Vermont’s public services commissioner says, “I don’t think we know how to do it.”
I don’t think we know how to do it.” That is as big of an understatement as I have ever heard! Forget for a moment the “disagreements over how even to define alternative energy,” it is no secret that the New England market for energy in general is “snared in a patchwork of rules and state laws.” Now the very same market destroying “rules and state laws” that make business difficult for private businesses, is gumming up the works for the Governors’ plans to create a renewable energy market. How on earth they could not foresee the obvious obstacles that their plan would run into is mind boggling. These politicians really have no idea how a market works. As pointed out in a Truth North Reports article on December 1 2012, it should have come as no surprise to Vermont political figures that market destroying regulations would mess up their alternative energy schemes:
You know that Vermont state policy is entering the realm of the twilight zone when it mandates an outcome that its regulations serve to prevent from happening. True North has commented before on how Vermont’s energy policy not only mandates a certain percent of energy purchases to be from “renewable” sources, but that it also mandates that those purchases be from a state approved company. Here we have a clear case of the state providing guaranteed customers to favored companies. What could possible go wrong for such politically connected companies? Well, they could run into the byzantine permitting process that is a result of the same social engineering mindset that produced an energy policy, which guarantees there customers. This “catch 22″ situation was chronicled in an article posted in yesterday’s edition of the Burlington Free Press:
Those involved in building renewable energy projects detailed a long, thorough, expensive process they have to go through for state approval, which they said mostly works well, though it involves too many people and is too unpredictable.
Residents who’ve opposed some of those projects detailed a frustrating, rushed process in which they are behind from the start, out-monied, out-lawyered and usually ignored.
Even with state government support, renewable energy companies appear to be finding Vermont’s permitting process daunting. It looks like the irony of the state mandating the use of renewable energy on the one hand, and then having a permitting process that serves to prevent favored companies from taking advantage of those mandates, is not lost on those in the renewable energy industry:
The state Legislature has made it clear that state policy calls for building renewable energy, as it set aggressive goals for increasing the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources, said Don Rendall, vice president of Green Mountain Power Corp., which is completing a controversial wind project in Lowell.
“We can’t achieve those goals without aggressive renewable deployment,” Rendall told the commission Friday, warning against changes to open the process further. “As we expand public participation, we make it more difficult to achieve our goal of developing renewable power.”
Politicians and their bureaucratic supporters trying to create markets in the midst of a sea of regulations and red tape; it would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic.