Thursday, April 28, 2011

Renewable Energy Industry Distributes Intentional Misinformation (Revised)

 At last Saturday’s, Earth Day celebration at Grandin Village, I greeted a director of the local Sierra Club and long-time acquaintance who was manning their booth adjacent to the Blue Ridge Mountain Defenders’ booth. In our conversation, I mentioned that we shared a common goal that day, which was to celebrate and protect our natural environment. I explained that as residents of Bent Mountain, we were committed to good stewardship of the earth. We have been described as self-interested NIMBY’s due to our skepticism of the viability of industrial scale wind turbines in the Appalachian Mountains.

My friend acknowledged that members of our community have been inappropriately described. However, with regard to industrial scale wind turbines, he said, "We need to start somewhere to wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependence, because we are fast running out of fossil fuel."

We agreed. I told him that we should pursue such a goal with a well developed strategic plan of action.

“How long will it be before we run out of fossil fuel?” I asked.

“About twenty years,” he replied, “according to my understanding.”

“If our government calls for only 20% of all energy to come from renewable resources by 2030, what will we do if we have no fossil fuels to supply the remaining 80%?”, I asked. My friend shrugged his shoulders.

My friend's understanding of the challenge has been largely influenced by information provided to him by fellow Sierra Club directors and Invenergy, LLC.

Diana Christopulos, a financially supported advocate for renewable energy developers and also a director of the local chapter of the Sierra Club for almost five years, stated in a recent Roanoke Times commentary that, “coal-fired power plants,..... deliver only about one-third of the total energy they produce. Most of the energy is lost in transmission….”

The same drawback applies to all sources of electricity produced for distribution over the grid, not only coal.

Christopulos’ statement is an extremely exaggerated condemnation of coal use, however, the point of losses through  transmission and distribution is very germane to discussion of energy conservation.
A more accurate understanding of the loss problem is provided annually by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. In the United States we lose between 25-30% 6.5-11% (edit) of all electricity generated through transmission and distribution losses, each year .

In 2008, Architecture 2030, an organization founded by Edward Mazria, issued The 2030 Challenge for Planning asking the global architecture and planning community to adopt the following targets:

• All new and renovated developments / neighborhoods / towns / cities / regions immediately adopt and implement a 60% reduction standard below the regional average for fossil-fuel operating energy consumption for new and renovated buildings and infrastructure and a 50% fossil-fuel reduction standard for the embodied energy consumption of materials.

The fossil-fuel reduction standard for all new buildings, major renovations, and embodied energy consumption of materials shall be increased to:

         o 70% in 2015

         o 80% in 2020

         o 90% in 2025

         o Carbon-neutral in 2030 (using no fossil fuel GreenHouseGas emitting energy to operate or construct).

These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design strategies, generating on-site renewable power and/or purchasing renewable energy (20% maximum).

• All new and renovated developments / neighborhoods / towns / cities / regions immediately adopt and implement a 50% reduction standard below the regional average for:

         o Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for auto and freight and

         o water consumption.

The part of the strategy being missed or glossed over by local advocates of the proposed Poor Mountain industrial scale wind turbine project is "on-site renewable power," because through this implementation, we'll save most, if not all, of the 25-30% loss through transmission.

So, why are advocates of industrial scale wind overlooking the benefits of on-site generation?

Sadly, because it will reduce dependence on the energy grid and eliminate excessive profits based upon federal capital outlay subsidies, federal loan guarantees, and a system of false market demand for renewable energy based upon renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in 31 states. All of which has been lobbied heavily for by renewable energy developers over the past two decades.

In the energy industry, all corporate players profit handsomely from renewable energy developed for distribution across the “grid.” The renewable energy producers profit through federal and state subsidies and fabricated demand for their product. Power companies and grid distribution managers profit by higher energy rates forced by renewable portfolio standards. And even fossil fuel companies profit by exacerbated inefficiency created by a requirement for base load backup.

And our politicians profit from the “green, feel-good syndrome” produced for their constituency.

The intentional distribution of misinformation is a management consulting strategy for large corporations to achieve enhanced profits and is designed to cloud our empirical thought process.