Energy Grid Report Clouded By Misleading Data

by Anthony Ward on August 15, 2013

in Blog

The White House Council of Economic Advisers and Department of Energy have released a report titled, Economic Benefits Of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages. The report calls for increased public and private spending on infrastructure aimed at hardening power lines from wind damage. In addition, the report argues in favor of increased funding towards the expansion of the nation’s energy storage capacity, and recommends the construction of sensors to monitor power fluctuations.

While some of the suggestions mentioned in the report are positive such as the hardening of existing power lines to protect from storm damage, many of the recommendations raise serious concerns. The Obama Administration claims to want to improve grid resiliency, but their anti-energy agenda and support for renewable subsidies show otherwise.

Last year, CEI Policy Analyst William Yeatman described the problems that would arise should renewable energy be incorporated into the grid:

There is no economy of scale for renewable energy. The electricity grid is a humongous, complex engineering project. At any given time, the electricity flowing into the grid must equal that consumed from the grid. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, and when these unreliable energy sources crap out, it sends grid operators scrambling to purchase backup power from reliable sources of power like coal and gas

What is the report’s solution? Energy storage.

If this were possible it might indeed solve the problem. However, there is a significant obstacle in the way. Energy storage technology of utility-scale energy does not exist. In addition, the report offers no suggestions as to how it might be developed demonstrating that the proposed solution is merely wishful thinking of government bureaucrats.

The report also claims:

“Since 1980, the United States has sustained 144 weather disasters whose damage cost reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 144 events exceeds $1 trillion. Moreover, seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012. These “billion dollar storms” have rendered a devastating toll on the U.S. economy and the lives of millions of Americans.”

However, this is misleading. According to Dr. Roger Pielke Jr,  Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, there has been no indication storm frequency or intensity has increased as a result of GHG emissions between 2004 and 2012, nor is there evidence to indicate the presence of a trend towards more severe and costlier storms.  In his July 2013 testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Pielke declared:

It is misleading, and just plain incorrect, to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally.  It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.

By their own admission, the authors of the report also note the inherent difficulties of assessing the total costs of weather related damages:

“Annual costs fluctuate significantly and are greatest in the years of major storms.”

Using the clever guise of climate change, this is nothing more than the Obama Administration’s attempt to divert taxpayer money to fund projects that will only undermine the grid with inefficient and unreliable renewable energy.

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