Billboards bearing the phrase “Wind Energy is NOT the Answer,” are springing up along major highways in southern Minnesota highlighting the abysmal failure wind energy has been in our state.
The billboards were inspired by a recent report entitled “Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure,” published by Center of the American Experiment. The report details how state laws mandating the use of renewable energy have increased electricity prices, hurt the state’s economy, and produced zero meaningful environmental benefits.
Proponents of renewable energy like to argue we should increase our reliance on wind power in Minnesota because renewable energy is more affordable than coal, nuclear, and natural gas because the wind is “free.” This logic is flawed because increasing quantities of wind energy increases electricity costs for everyone.
Industrial wind turbines and solar panels increase the cost of electricity for three main reasons; 1) electricity demand in Minnesota has been essentially flat since 2006, which means new sources of electricity aren’t needed to meet our electricity needs 2) wind and solar have high up-front costs for installation, and 3) wind and solar are intermittent because they can only generate electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.
The hit-or-miss natural of wind power in Minnesota means other sources of electricity, mainly coal or natural gas fired power plants, must be running on standby to ensure we all have reliable access to electricity, even when the wind dies down. This scenario means Minnesotans must pay twice for their electricity, once for the wind turbines themselves, and again to have coal or natural gas plants running, just in case. This has resulted in increasing prices.
Minnesota once had electricity prices about 18.2 percent below the national average, but this competitive advantage is now completely gone. In fact, electricity prices in Minnesota rose faster than the national average between 2001 and 2016, with electricity prices rising dramatically after 2007, when then-Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the first law mandating the use of renewable energy in the state.
Higher electricity prices place an additional burden on Minnesota families and businesses, especially energy-intensive industries like manufacturing. Minnesota has spent approximately $15 billion to build wind turbines and additional transmission lines to transport the electricity to major population centers. This amounts to approximately $7,024 per household in the state. This is an enormous cost for zero meaningful environmental benefits.
Despite increases in the amount of electricity generated from wind power, carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota have remained essentially flat since 2009. But even if Minnesota stopped all emissions of carbon dioxide, it would have zero meaningful impact on global temperatures.
The Obama Administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to estimate temperature impacts of the Clean Power Plan using climate models. These models found the Clean Power Plan, which would have reduced carbon dioxide emission by 870 million metric tons, would only avert 0.019 degrees C by 2100, an amount too small to be measured with the most sophisticated scientific equipment.
Minnesota emits approximately 95 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which includes fuel used to generate electricity, transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential. The truth is, even if we completely eliminated carbon dioxide emissions, it would have no impact on global temperatures.
And that is why energy policy in Minnesota can only be classified as an incredibly expensive failure.
Isaac Orr (Isaac.firstname.lastname@example.org) is a policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment in Golden Valley, Minnesota.