By Amy Cooke, CEO, John Locke Foundation
Winter is coming. I know that’s hard to fathom in the middle of a hot, humid North Carolina summer, but it is. In front of our beautiful beaches, The Economist predicts “the winter of discontent in Europe”.
Disastrous public policies that increase dependence on unreliable energy sources and hostile foreign regimes have placed the free world, including all of us here in North Carolina, in a perilous position. The Wall Street Journal warns: “People, even in wealthy countries, are learning that they can no longer take reliable power for granted.” If you live in Texas or California, you’ve seen it first hand.
Not too long ago I worked in energy policy in Colorado, ground zero for some of the most absurd public energy policy. Weather alarmism has been a fashionable accessory on the wealthy Aspen-Boulder-Telluride après-ski circuit for decades. Their money and influence changed the pragmatic political climate from purple to progressive green. In North Carolina, that would be equivalent to Asheville and Chapel Hill running the state.
Change in Colorado spawned Democrats like State Rep. Max Tyler, who successfully championed doubling and tripling the state’s original 10% renewable energy mandate. Tyler’s response to critics: “The sun will always shine for free, the winds will always blow for free, and our energy production will be cleaner. Renewable energy, green jobs and a cleaner future – what’s not to love? »
Colorado abandoned its 30% mandate some time ago in favor of 100% renewable energy by 2040. As a result, electricity rates have skyrocketed. It’s an effective way to keep the peasants away.
What Tyler and other renewable energy fanatics don’t tell you is that converting these sources into electricity is extremely expensive. In terms of reliability, the cost is even higher. It also places us in a subordinate position to China, which controls around 90% of the world market for rare earth elements needed to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines. To answer Max Tyler’s question – “what’s not to like?” A lot.
Governor Roy Cooper and the environmental left want a similar path for North Carolina. They want zero carbon dioxide emissions from power generation, and they want to use industrial wind, solar, and batteries on a large scale to achieve that goal. Meanwhile, most ratepayers want affordable, reliable, and plentiful electricity to power their homes, businesses, hospitals, schools — their whole way of life.
These lenses are not compatible. Anyone who tells you they are is lying.
In the words energy analyst Mitch Rolling, “You can’t have a clean grid without hydro and nuclear. It has never been done. You can have a clean grid without wind or solar.
In its recently released scenarios for achieving zero carbon dioxide emissions, Duke Energy attempts the impossible. All four different scenarios are heavy on wind, including offshore, as well as solar, batteries and possibly hydrogen.
Our latest report from the Center for Food, Power, and Life analyzed each scenario and found the cost would be $140 billion to $160 billion, or more than $1,000 per year for residential customers. That’s the decision the Cooper-appointed North Carolina Utilities Commission will soon make on behalf of millions of Tar Heel taxpayers.
Since Duke is a regulated monopoly utility, the people of North Carolina will bear all the risk by paying hundreds of billions of dollars to develop unproven and unreliable technology. The NCUC sets a rate of return, usually around 9-10%, and Duke is allowed to privatize all profits. Cooper will be out of office in 2024, long before the pain is fully felt.
Consider yourself savvy; Winter is coming. We won’t be able to warm up in January unless we urge the NCUC and Duke to rely on nuclear to meet the General Assembly’s political goal of zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
Between North Carolina and reliable nuclear power are organizations like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the megachurches of left-wing environmentalism. They intentionally confuse clean, reliable nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. They filed their own heavy plan on unreliable wind and solar.
There is good news. Taxpayers have state law on their side. Last year’s HB 951 directed Duke to adhere to the least-cost principle and maintain or improve existing grid reliability when developing the utility’s zero-carbon generation plans. Our analysis shows that none of the four regulated monopoly regimes respects the spirit of the law.
It’s likely that the same lawmakers who enacted HB 951 will have to get involved again to make sure the NCUC and Duke honor their wishes so taxpayers can expect reliable power at an affordable price.
No one can afford a bad winter.
Amy Cooke is editor of the Carolina Journal and executive director of the John Locke Foundation.