Minnesota Mischief

To offer a benign variation on one of Scott’s themes, this morning two “Minnesota men” and a California man released a new study showing what total bosh Minnesota’s state energy policy is. The “Minnesota men” were John and his colleague Peter Nelson, and I was the “California man.” The study, “Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure,” now up on the Center of the American Experiment’s website.

Minnesota, like most “good government” states, has an ambitious renewable energy policy that, for all intents and purposes, really reduces to a pro-wind power policy. And it’s a miserable failure on its own terms. The state has succeeded, to be sure, in installing a lot of wind power generation capacity, but at a time when electricity demand has been fairly flat, which means the state was building new generation capacity it didn’t much need. Minnesota’s electricity prices for most of the last 20 years have been about 20 percent below the national average price, but over the last five years this price advantage has disappeared, and in just the last few months the lines have crossed and Minnesota electricity prices are above the national average. The cost to consumers has been $4 billion, and counting.

The real failure, however, is that the policy is not achieving the greenhouse gas emission reductions that are the main object of the state’s policy. In fact, while greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 6.6 percent in Minnesota over the last 10 years, this actually lags the nation, where GHG emissions have fallen by about 10 percent.

These two charts tell an amazing tale. The first one, Figure 7 from the report, shows that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector have actually risen slightly the last couple years even as the installed amount of wind power has soared:

Why is all this new wind power failing to have much effect on CO2 emissions? Because wind power falls when the wind doesn’t blow (duh), and wind output especially falls in the summer months just when electricity demand increases sharply. So wind power has to be backed up by some other conventional source. And incredibly the wind falloff in Minnesota is being backstopped by . . . coal!

Heh. Lots more to be said about this, but this is enough for now.

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