While climate alarmists seek to hurtle into renewable energy use by advancing their agenda through unwise regulatory reform – fought by Louisiana Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry – even if the federal government gained power over siting power transmission lines the expansion turns out to be an exercise in impracticality, keenly felt by Louisiana-based power providers if not an object of fakery by them.
As the Democrat Congress raced towards producing even a stopgap budget for next year due at the end of last month, the party’s least-liberal member, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, tried to attach an energy-related bill to the effort. Its most controversial part would have given the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to force states to accept transmission lines.
At present, states, who can delegate this authority to their local governments, have sole authority to permit such lines. Advocates of solar and wind energy consider this an impediment to expanding these sources’ footprint, as lower-cost generation of this kind of power tends to concentrate regionally, and in recent years hundreds of state and local actions have denied this access.
When the bill’s information came out, Landry brought together a coalition of 17 other state chief legal officers to condemn that portion of it. They noted the consequences of handing such unprecedented authority to private concerns and five unelected bureaucrats, including the authorizing of private companies to use eminent domain against state land, of FERC to command utilities to construct entirely new transmission facilities whenever and wherever FERC deems necessary, and of companies to spread costs of constructing new transmission facilities onto residents of other states, requiring citizens of one state to subsidize the agenda of citizens in other states.
Fortunately, far leftist members of Manchin’s own party scuttled his effort, believing it too favorable for fossil fuels, in refusing to link it to the budget resolution although they continue to harbor the goal of taking electricity transmission regulation away from states. Yet even if a magic wand could be waved to eliminate state and local opposition by legal changes or otherwise, it wouldn’t come near to jumpstarting greater solar and wind provision.
That’s because of the physical impossibilities involved. As a recent study by a university pro-green energy research project pointed out, to reach greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 near levels wanted by climate alarmists would require electricity transmission, which historically has increased by one percent a year, to double and more by then from current levels. There’s just no way that could happen, even assuming all the renewable facilities could be built and up and running by then to produce that capacity.
And the most significant constraint on that happening is the enormous amount of land area required to produce so much wind and solar power. This wind and solar expansion would require up to 590,000 square kilometers of land. That amount of land is larger than New England plus Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. It won’t happen.
Which creates a tremendous propaganda problem for energy producers. They want to appease the alarmist crowd publicly while privately understanding the impossibility of that agenda (which includes the fact that state regulatory commissions would have to accept astronomical rate increases they would have to request). This enhances the Kabuki-like quality of a recent report put out by the pro-alarmist Sierra Club.
This scored how major utilities have progressed to alarmist goals of retiring coal-generated facilities, not building new gas-generated facilities, and expanding renewable-generated sources for the 77 largest operators. It complains too little progress has been made and most companies either have no plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or, if they do, fall well short in achieving what alarmists feel is necessary.
It includes four from Louisiana: Entergy Louisiana, which received a score low enough to be defined as ‘F;’ Cleco which received a ‘D;’ and Entergy New Orleans and SWEPCO which received a ‘B.’ The former pair were faulted for saying they’ll do too little to get away from coal – half of the score – while the latter pair were lauded for planning to get rid of most or all coal generation, even if renewable sources didn’t replace it all.
Keep in mind that the former pair, largely confined to Louisiana, have to rely more on generation outside the state from other utilities – meaning much greater need of transmission capacity and obeisance to regulatory actions elsewhere – than does SWEPCO which can draw upon American Electric Power (its parent) assets and the very geographically-confined ENO that has to import most of its capacity anyway so it can pick and choose (with a very restrictive city government whipping it along and willing to let it pass on the costs to fulfill its alarmist ideology, excepting its reliance on nuclear that helps to suppress these costs) from where to grab it. Regardless, none of the four can find renewable source capacity to approach vast reductions in carbon emissions.
Regardless of the level of honesty displayed by the four large electricity providers about their fuel portfolios for the next several years, reality is there won’t be anything more than a relatively small increase in Louisiana power emanating from renewable sources despite their efforts to increase that input by new in-state siting and conversions at exist sites. As long as state and national politicians stand firm with exiting permits law, that’s good news for ratepayers/taxpayers.