Fact check: WSJ editorial obscures truth about renewable energy success

The Wall Street Journal today carried a wildly overblown editorial titled “The New Dark Continent,” attacking Europe’s strong push to develop renewable energy sources.

First, the Journal is dead wrong about Europe’s successful transition to renewables. Second, even if its criticisms had merit, they would not apply to the completely different policy framework and vastly superior renewable energy resources that exist in the United States.

It should not come as a surprise that owners of other forms of energy don’t like renewable energy providing competition and cutting into their profit margins. However, that does not excuse them or the Journal from making false claims about renewable energy’s cost, reliability, and environmental benefits.

As has been explained here, here, and here, thanks to renewable energy, European electric reliability is very high and improving, pollution is drastically declining, and the cost for consumers has been negligible.

Attempts to claim renewable energy is increasing energy costs in Europe often misleadingly only look at the costs and not the savings provided by renewable energy. It is also important to understand that other factors in Europe such as increasing natural gas prices, Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power, and declining coal prices have had larger impacts on costs and market dynamics.

Large amounts of wind energy are being reliably integrated in the U.S. and Europe, and with minor tweaks to existing market structures, far larger amounts can be added reliably. In the U.S., AWEA has consistently supported market-based solutions that pay resources, including wind, for providing the services needed to keep the grid reliable.

Parts or all of 20 U.S. states operate under centralized energy markets that include capacity markets to pay power plants for the service of being there to produce power when needed. Germany is reportedly looking into establishing a similar market, and either that or other grid reforms should address any concerns about reliability going forward.

Regardless, there are three major problems with the WSJ’s attempt to draw lessons from the European experience for the U.S.: 1) the U.S. does not use feed-in tariffs or “must take” requirements for renewable energy, 2) in the U.S., wind power’s price is set on the open market with all other forms of energy, and 3) U.S. wind and solar resources are typically 50-100 percent more productive than those in Germany.

The U.S. uses market-based incentives, so developers of wind and solar energy are left to negotiate prices with utilities or sell on the open market. And wind power has succeeded within those parameters, as utility leaders regularly report on how affordable wind power’s prices are.

In announcing a recent large purchase of wind power, Xcel CEO David Sparby stated, “Wind prices are extremely competitive right now, offering lower costs than other possible [energy] resources.” And when the Midwest utility system operator recently obtained more than 25 percent of its electricity from wind (Nov. 23, 2012) it noted, “Wind [is] one of the fuel choices that helps us manage congestion on the system and ultimately helps keep prices low for our customers and the end-use consumer.”

It’s time for the WSJ editorial board and others to stop making false claims about wind power’s affordability and recognize wind power has a strong future, both here at home in the U.S. and across the ocean in Europe.

Photo credit: Iberdrola Renewables

Related articles:

Fact check: Fossil-funded think tank strikes out on cost of wind, October 15, 2013
WSJ's six myths about renewables: More good news, September 26, 2013
Boosting renewable energy to 25% of electricity supply in Western U.S. would cut pollution, save consumers billions, September 24, 2013
Fact check: Wind power benefits consumers and environment, in Germany and U.S., September 20, 2013
Correcting fossil fuel industry misinformation about Germany's success with renewable energy, September 10, 2013
Fact check: Correcting math errors leads back to original finding: Wind power is affordable, reliable, August 20, 2013
Citing low costs, Xcel Energy plans 'significant increase' in wind purchases, July 11, 2013
Fact check: Exelon's faulty math (and logic) on wind's consumer benefits, June 11, 2013
Mid-American Energy announces $1.9-billion investment in additional wind generation capacity, May 8, 2013
Georgia Power to acquire 250 MW of wind; utility underscores strategy of portfolio diversity, April 29, 2013
New study answers columnist's questions, confirms wind energy's environmental benefits, April 19, 2013
Fact check: Sen. Alexander's claims about wind energy unfounded, March 27, 2013
Fact check: WSJ goes astray on California's integration of wind, February 28, 2013
Fact check: Pacific Research Institute report by Benjamin Zycher filled with inaccuracies, January 28, 2013
Despite flaws, DOE collaborative report shows more wind and transmission saves ratepayers money, January 23, 2013
Fact check: LA Times has faulty analysis on costs of integrating renewables, December 13, 2012
Lesser misstates facts at Heritage-Exelon anti-wind briefing, November 30, 2012
Fact check: Exelon-funded report inflates wind integration costs, November 2, 2012
Alabama Power 'doubles down' on wind, October 9, 2012
Facts about negative wholesale electricity prices and the Production Tax Credit, September 10, 2012
WINDPOWER 2012 Update: Transmission for wind in western U.S.: Lower cost, lower variability, June 5, 2012
Fact check: Elliott off target on wind and cost savings, June 4, 2012
New study: Wind power can save Midwestern consumers between $3 billion and $9.5 billion annually by 2020, May 23, 2012
Fact check: Lomborg lacking on wind's economics, emissions reductions, March 23, 2012
Fact check: Pavlak errs on wind integration, February 14, 2012
More savings for ratepayers in Southeast as Louisiana utility ups wind purchases, January 26, 2012
Fact check: Trzupek Washington Times op-ed off base on wind's cost, utility integration, January 25, 2012
Fact check: CIEP report on wind integration fatally flawed, January 25, 2012
Wind research generates savings for large utility, November 14, 2011
Xcel Energy: More wind, less cost, October 31, 2011
Fact check: Utility spokesperson errs on wind integration, July 5, 2011
Mythbusting fact: Wind power is valuable even if the wind doesn't blow all the time, April 20, 2011
Fact check: Bryce whiffs on wind power and Texas heat wave, August 12, 2011
War against a cost-saving super grid, May 1, 2010
EWEA study: Wind energy cuts carbon emissions, electricity prices, April 23, 2010
Inexpensive and predictable, January 26, 2010

Stay informed

Take Action

Subscribe to the American Clean Power blog and receive the latest renewable energy news, policy updates, and opportunities to get involved.