Examining the Sierra Club claim that renewable energy is “least cost”

My newsletter yesterday examines a quotation in the Asheville Citizen-Times from a Sierra Club representative unhappy with the Utilities Commission giving approval to Duke Energy’s plan for converting one of its coal plants to natural gas:

Emma Greenbaum, North Carolina organizing representative for Sierra Club, said she is pleased the commission turned down the third turbine but  “disheartened that the approved plan allows for this oversized natural gas project to go forward.

It is unfortunate that we’re being forced to continue on a climate-polluting path when energy efficiency and renewables continue to be the best, least cost solution for consumers and the environment. We will continue to advocate for the expansion of clean energy in our region and across the state as a transition to clean energy is the only responsible long-term solution to our energy needs,” she said.

My review found a few things incorrect about the “least cost” assertion. Summarizing here (read the newsletter for details):

  • It’s not least-cost now.
  • It certainly can’t be least-cost if you shutter working coal plants to start up replacement renewable plants.
  • It’s definitely not least cost when you fully account for the realities of nondispatchable renewable energy.
  • It can’t even be cost-competitive in the near future, let alone least-cost.
  • It is far from least-cost even when you try to factor in the environment.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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