Rick Whitbeck: Red states should run far, far away from Renewable Portfolio Standards

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DNR rangers by the UAF sign in Fairbanks. Photo credit: Alaska State Parks

By RICK WHITBECK | REAL CLEAR ENERGY

Think of something politicians could impose that is blatantly anti-free-market, would nearly guarantee increased rates for consumers and decrease reliability.

Now, do it in a state that sees snow and below-zero temps for months on end. It’s a recipe for disaster, yet my home state of Alaska is considering legislation that would implement a program called “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) on four electric utilities that cover the state’s largest business and residential areas.

RPS, to put it simply, is a mandate pushed by environmentalists to make sure electricity is generated only from the sources they want, no matter the impact to family budgets. Alaska’s RPS would be mandated in a vast area from Fairbanks in the north to the Kenai Peninsula in the south. Utilities covering these areas provide power to nearly 75% of the state’s population.

Alaska is far from the first northern state to consider RPS. In fact, a number of New England-area states have enacted RPS goals, as have New York, Minnesota and Wisconsin. With the exception of Republican-led New Hampshire, which has a RPS goal of 25% of its power coming from renewables by 2025, the formula used to pass RPS in those states is the same: legislatures with a majority of elected Democrats vote on the bill, and a Democrat Governor signs for final approval. Those states’ RPS are as partisan as it gets.

Alaska is different – and much like New Hampshire – with Republicans in the numerical majority in both legislative bodies and a second-term Republican Governor in office.  While one would hope the free-market principle of markets over mandates would lead to RPS legislation failing miserably, that’s not what has happened to date.  If the eco-left organizations pushing for RPS in Alaska can succeed here, other red states should take notice and prepare for their own RPS battles.

Unlike New Hampshire’s 25% renewable percentage, our legislation would create an aggressive timeline to move on from the Railbelt’s legacy energy sources of coal and natural gas. The bill would mandate 80% renewable power by 2040, which would increase the total renewable production by more than 500% from today’s wind, solar and hydro output.

Alaska’s proposed RPS also will impose significant penalties on the utilities if they fail to meet RPS objectives. Of course, the utilities won’t ultimately pay any of those directly; they’ll just pass them onto ratepayers. Keep in mind, Alaska’s families already struggle with per-Kilowatt-hour costs higher than the national average. That number is kept low because of the tremendous amounts of coal and natural gas responsibly developed for decades and brought to market at reasonable prices. 

Today, however, producers in Cook Inlet – who are responsible for most of Southcentral Alaska’s supplies of reliable energy – have sounded alarms about running out of economic-to-extract gas supplies. Utilities are looking at importing natural gas as a short-term fix, which could double ratepayers’ bills until other firm (always-on) sources are brought to market.

Backers of RPS legislation have touted their wind and solar solutions as the ultimate fix, but a quick glance at wind and solar reliability factors paint a different picture.  Because of a lack of sunlight during the winter months and long periods of low-wind, high-pressure weather patterns, the largest solar arrays in the Railbelt produce power less than 25% of the time, and wind solutions come in even worse, at less than 15% output-versus-capacity. 

The fact that RPS backers refuse to consider hydro and micro-nuclear solutions – and, in fact, want a current hydro project removed because of its supposed impacts to a minor fishery – shows their true intent, which is to drive less-reliable, higher-cost power onto the Railbelt’s grid under any means possible.

So, red state consumers, here’s a warning. Unless you want to pay more for power than you do today, with less reliable power potentially available when you need it most, fight against any attempts by your state’s governmental leaders to impose RPS mandates on you.

We’ll keep fighting it here in Alaska. Our economic future – and potentially, our very lives and ongoing health – depend on us doing so.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @PTFAlaska.

This column fist appeared in Real Clear Energy.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone who has an electric bill needs to speak with their local elected officials and tell them what they think about this issue, that includes your local elected representative of your electric provider and your state representatives. If you do not ask them how wind and solar are going to reliably provide power during the coldest months of the year then a few years from now only people who have wood stoves and their own generators will be warm and have lights on demand.

    Enacting the renewable portfolio standards pushed by extreme environmental activists for electric utilities would be like having oil companies demand that by law electric utilities burn a certain percentage of crude oil to generate electricity instead of letting your local elected utility board make the best decisions that are environmentally friendly, economically feasible, and reliability based.

    • The rate payers IE us need to vote when the board has an election but it’s to much trouble for people to get involved.
      The rates will and are going up because we have a liberal board at chugach.

  2. Tell your elected officials to vote NO on any RPS!

    The REAP/Chugach Board is in favor of an RPS that includes penalties for not being able to bend the laws of physics. Not only rates will go up, but reliable electricity will go way down.

    • Just in this last year since “work” was done on the substation that serves my area, the power fluctuates. I wonder if the control mechanisms have already been installed on our substation to force us to go along with the narrative or else…..?

  3. Power up! I’m one of those who lives in the here and now. So the climate is changing: it’s not as if change is a phenomenon peculiar to Earth.

    We’re all going to die: is that breaking news? If you are the worrying type, maybe you ought to peruse the Holy Bible to better grasp what all the mumbling will be about during the services that will follow the departure of your “God given soul!” As for myself, I’ll go on living life dodging the Fates as well as I can. For those growing up in the mess that I help create, I say, “Good luck–life’s a bitch! Don’t take any crap from anybody!”

  4. Renewable Portfolio Standards are based on an enormous fallacy: That people and the legislators that they elect TODAY, know what is BEST for folks in the future. What a joke. Very serious questions are already being asked about the actual environmental benefits of electric cars – they may actually be very harmful to the environment on a net basis. How many birds can we reasonably kill with windmills? Does the Alaska Center for the Environment support solar panels made with slave labor in China or elsewhere? Where do the raw materials and metals come from for any fashionable renewable energy source? Is it all clean and wonderful? What role should nuclear power play?

    The point is that a RPS assumes that we can now make the “correct” choices about the future mix of energy sources – INCLUDING GETTING THE ECONOMICS RIGHT – today. This is a conceit beyond explanation or quantification.

    A RPS would be the ultimate manifestation of the problems with central planning. It failed in the Soviet Union. It will fail here as it should.

    Environmental regulation should focus on keeping bad stuff – mainly toxins – out of the environment. Trying to control the world’s energy supplies and human behavior is foolish and childish.

  5. Rick, I attended one of your presentations and was in total agreement with all of the information that you shared. We know that McCabe knows, but he’s pretending that he doesn’t know what he has been pushing is dangerous for all of us. Dunleavy appears to be paid off to go along with the narrative. Any other topics that McCabe and Dunleavy and their fellow sell-outs push and make sense on won’t matter if we are all shut down, thrown in FEMA camps because we “cannot survive” due to our power and heat being shut off and the slow removal of our food sources. Thank you for continuing this fight for Alaskans!

  6. RPS would provide more predictability which would drive investor interest. Nobody is lining up to invest in Dunleavy’s royalty free gas wells

    • Frank – I normally read your comments and chuckle to myself. In this case, I have to respond, because you’re absolutely wrong on your first point, and guessing – at best – on the second.

      Tell me how “predictable” wind and solar are, given that they MIGHT provide 20% production versus capacity factor throughout the Railbelt. Now, tell me how predictable coal, gas and hydro are relative to wind and solar, please.

      Quick answers, in order: Not at all and completely.

      You know this. I know this. REAP and the AK Center know this. Heck, EVERYONE knows this.

      Yet, the Climate Cult won’t stop trying to push inane policies designed to weaken America. And you’re parroting their horrible talking points.

    • By providing more predictability and investor interest do you mean that we can predictably say RPS will lead to blackouts and/or brownouts leading to deaths and the destruction of our economy and that it will drive investor interest to get us back to what we already have in a reliable, environmentally friendly, robust, and economically driven electric supply?

      The royalty free issue is an entirely different issue and has to do with the State reneging on their promises, we are an unstable environment for oil and gas development…even more unstable than third world countries. But that is by design thanks to the environmental terrorism we allow for some reason.

    • If RPS goes into affect, then i guess i will run down and invest in an oil fired generator that would power my home. At the rates they will have to charge for this RPS crud, it will likely be feasible economically as a viable option. Heck, that’s what GVEA is doing now with our electrical demands. Either that or move out and leave the state to freeze up and wither away.

  7. I am still trying to figure out what is “renewable” about unrecycleable (and environmentally toxic) fiberglass wind turbine blades and equally unrecycleable (and even more environmentally toxic) photovoltaic panels. Not to mention the vast amounts of fossil fuels needed to mine, refine, produce, install, maintain and decommission those things.

  8. They just want the State emptied out. so it can be their “wilderness”
    I met one of these genius’s recently, VERY smart.
    He made his fortune as a tech engineer at Air B&B
    Then, lucky us, he moved here.
    Unmarried, he lives in Spenard , and despite his wealth, doesn’t own a car.
    We had to pick him up & drop him off w/ our truck.
    Save the Earth ….. F the people …. animals are more important to them.

  9. Coal is Alaskas best solution and cheapest for generation of electricity
    Especially when the railway runs from the coal field right through the electric rail belt
    Why sell coal to china
    But utilities here are all woke
    ‘https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-coal-used

  10. The RPS is one-size-fits-all, where Alaska stands outside the size chart. Furthermore, the RPS is a political protocol where ideology is ahead of the technology. If implemented, Alaska will be left out in the cold.

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