You Can’t Power the Grid from Wind and Solar

By Cascade Policy Institute

Over the past decade, state legislators have begun forcing electric utilities to stop using coal and natural gas by 2040. Legislators have convinced themselves that the power grid can be run entirely by wind, solar, hydro, and batteries.

This is a dangerous delusion. Although we have relied for decades on the regional hydropower system, it can’t grow significantly. Future demand for power cannot be met by wind or solar because those sources are unreliable.

Last month, the Oregon Department of Energy reassured Oregon legislative committees that the goal of “decarbonizing” the grid is possible. That was dangerous speculation. There are no examples anywhere in the world demonstrating the viability of such a vision. To the contrary, in recent years two of the nation’s biggest producers of solar and wind power – California and Texas – have suffered peak-hour electricity shortages.

The costs to ratepayers have also gone up. For just one utility – PGE – the cost to meet decarbonization requirements has been $327 million since 2013 and will likely double by 2027.

Last week, Cascade Policy Institute President John Charles sent a five-page letter to legislative leaders, urging them to make grid reliability the top energy priority this session. Charles pointed out that since 2012, fossil fuel use for the Oregon grid has actually increased, despite state policy. This is largely due to the need to back up unreliable wind farms with natural gas turbines.

Read the letter by John Charles to the Senate Committee on Environment and Energy here.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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