The Hidden Cost of Wind Energy

In December 2012, E&E Legal (under its old name), released a report, The Hidden Cost of Wind Energy, authored by Tanton and E&E Legal Senior Energy Fellow George Taylor.  The report found that the full cost of wind electricity is nearly twice what has typically been reported, once hidden costs and subsidies are taken into account.

“Because wind is an intermittent source of electricity, it needs appropriate amounts of fossil-fueled capacity ready at all times to balance its large and rapid variations,” said Tanton at the time of report’s release. “Those primary fossil plants then operate less efficiently than if they were running full-time without wind, meaning that any savings of gas and coal or any reductions in emissions are much less than simple calculations would indicate.”

The unreliability of wind power is a key component of E&E Legal’s suit against the Colorado renewable energy standard mandate, and Tanton is an expert witness in the case.

True Cost of Renewable Portfolio Standards

E&E Legal worked with researchers at the Beacon Hill Institute and several state-based free market think tanks to uncover the costs to the public of so-called renewable portfolio standards, which require that a specific amount of electricity be generated from sources such as wind, solar, geo-thermal, and other renewable sources.

The first study, released in early 2011, showed that a national standard for renewable energy would impose annual costs between $42 billion and $190 billion in 2021, depending on whether the target was set at 15 percent or 30 percent. Additional state-specific studies were released throughout the year, as a result of a partnership with local think tanks in Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio. These state-specific reports documented the expected rise in electricity costs, lost jobs, lower income, and other meaningful measurements. The studies inspired legislation in five of the seven states to either roll back or repeal their renewable energy mandates.

State-Specifc Reports:

Results from the Colorado RPS Study were used as a significant piece of evidence in E&E Legal’s current suit against the State of Colorado regarding it’s renewable energy standard mandates.