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Fact check: Politico op-ed gets it wrong on wind costs

Fact check: Politico op-ed gets it wrong on wind costs
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The Washington, DC, publication Politico carried an opinion article today questioning the cost of wind power. The following was posted as a comment.

This story needs a price check. As far as wind power is concerned, prices are falling quicker than a blue light special on December 26th.

Years of technological innovations and an influx of American-based manufacturing have driven down the cost of wind energy. Including incentives, which all forms of energy get, wind is now close to cost-competitive with all other energy sources.

Two recent examples illustrate this point:

Alabama Power Co. recently decided to purchase wind-generated electricity from Tradewind's Chisholm View wind farm in Oklahoma.  The Alabama Public Service Commission reviewed this purchase and commented, “Specifically, the delivered price of energy from the wind facility is expected to be lower than the cost the Company would incur to produce that energy from its own resource (i.e. below the Company’s avoided costs), with the resulting energy savings flowing directly to the Company’s customers.”  The full Commission report is here.

Xcel Energy, a large utility which operates many coal-fired power plants, recently issued a press release announcing a new wind energy purchase.  Entitled “Xcel Energy seeks more low-cost wind energy,” it says in part, “'This proposed purchase contains the lowest-cost wind energy we’ve seen, making it competitive with other energy sources,' said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company. 'Even though Xcel Energy is ahead of schedule to meet Colorado’s 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020, we can take advantage of historically low wind prices to give our customers more choice in the energy powering their home and businesses.'”  So, here is an investor-owned utility that operates coal plants saying (1) wind energy is competitive and (2) it is able to meet a 30 percent renewable energy standard and still buy even more wind.

As far as state Renewable Energy Standards go, this article is also off the mark. Electricitypolicy.com recently found that the states with the largest amount of renewables, actually saw LESS of a price increase than the states with the least renewables.  

This piece also serves as a good reminder that wind power generates electricity with no mining or drilling for fuel, no air pollution, no water pollution, no greenhouse gases, virtually no water use, and no hazardous waste. Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences found in a 2009 study that the “hidden costs” of energy (primarily health costs related to air and water pollution by fossil fuels) are $120 billion a year. A healthy and robust debate over energy costs should include these types of costs that are not accounted for in market prices and are ultimately passed along to others.

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