Renewables Just a Hood Ornament on Fossil Fuel Power System

You can't have renewable energy without fossil fuels backing it up

General Electric Co. and the Environmental Protection Agency know better than most that renewable energy sources — which are the recipients of billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse in many forms — are in the end dependent on fossil fuels. In a document submitted to the EPA on June 25, 2012, GE urged the agency to keep this fossil fuel dependency in mind when considering emissions standards:

"However, if flexible generation assets, such as gas turbines, are not available, these renewable technologies will not be deployed. In other words, gas turbines are an essential component of renewable energy sources’ ability to penetrate the market.”

Nevertheless, the public remains mostly unaware of the degree to which the heavily subsidized or mandated renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, rely on fossil fuels. More than half the electric generation nominally credited to wind power is actually produced by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas. And on the rare occasions when renewable energy advocates are forced to admit the fossil fuel dependency, they refer to it as only “backing up” the renewable source.

GE, the huge multinational corporation, has been described as President Barack Obama’s “favorite corporation.” It has contributed heavily to Obama’s political campaigns. And like all other large corporations it is vulnerable to the administration’s regulatory arms. So it is not a company one would expect to state so unambiguously facts that the administration would prefer to downplay, such as descriptions of why renewables are dependent on fossil fuels.

Nevertheless, here’s another example from the GE document:

“Renewable power, especially from wind and solar, will be expected to fluctuate hourly and even minute-to-minute with changes in wind speed, cloud cover, and other environmental factors. With this generation mix, electric supply must be available to quickly compensate for the combined variability of demand and fluctuation in the renewable supply."

The GE document is titled: “Comments of the General Electric Company: Proposed standards of performance for greenhouse gas emissions for new stationary sources: Electric utility generating units.” The document includes a great deal of technical information and is available for public viewing. However, as is typical of such documents, it omits the percentage of electricity attributed to the “renewables” that is actually generated by the fossil fuel component. When this information is repeatedly denied to the public it is fair to ask: “What are they trying to hide?”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.