The January Climate Follies

In my last several weeks out of the country, I have not been keeping up with the ridiculous “climate” follies. What has been going on? Let’s check a few data points.

You will not be surprised to learn that the state of Minnesota aspires to be a green energy leader. After a big push since 2000, Minnesota has gotten its percent of electricity generation from wind on an annual basis up to almost 19%. Sounds great! Then, yesterday and today, the temperature in much of the state plunged to -20 deg F and below. Yesterday in St. Paul, the wind was completely calm for much of the day, and very light the rest of the time. Isaac Orr at the Center of the American Experiment took the occasion to write a piece headlined “It’s Negative 24 Degrees and the Wind Isn’t Blowing.”

[W]ind is  producing only four percent of electricity in the MISO region, of which Minnesota is a part. . . . Coal, on the other hand, is churning out 45 percent of our power, nuclear is providing 13 percent, and natural gas is providing 26 percent of our electricity. This is exactly why the renewable energy lobby’s dream of shutting down coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants and “replacing” them with wind and solar is a fairy tale.

Today, Orr follows up with another piece reporting that there are also natural gas supply constraints in Minnesota (undoubtedly artificially imposed), with the following results:

Xcel Energy [advised its customers] to dial down their thermostats to 60 degrees until further notice because the utility is “experiencing a significant strain” on its natural gas system due to the extreme cold, a statement from the service provider read. The request covers Xcel customers in Becker, Big Lake, Chisago City, Lindstrom, Princeton and Isanti. People in those communities are also being urged to idle other natural gas appliances and skip using hot water. “Your cooperation is critical to try to prevent widespread natural gas outages,” the statement continued. “To try to keep your home warm, you may want to use electric space heaters.”

Nothing like your heat going out when the temperature is negative 24!

Meanwhile down in Australia, it’s the peak of summer. The Australian states of Victoria and South Australia have been leading the charge on closing their reliable coal-fired power plants and supposedly replacing them with “renewables.” Then this past week, temperatures in the two states have soared to some 42+ deg C (which is about 108 F — high, but not unusual in these places at the peak of summer). Of course, the wind again took just this critical moment to konk out. Result: rolling blackouts in Melbourne (capital of Victoria) and incredible price spikes for electricity in both Victoria and South Australia. From Joanne Nova on January 26:

[In] Melbourne, 200,000 houses blacked out, 10 companies curtailed, as 1-in-3 year hot day hits.

Nova points out that there have been some 50 days exceeding 42 deg C in Melbourne since the 1850s, so the heat was nothing out of line. Meanwhile, in both Victoria and South Australia, electricity prices had a huge spike on January 24. This is due to the combination of the heat plus a government-imposed “market” for electricity that gives priority to supposedly “free” wind and solar and thus leads to sudden extreme shortages when those sources go dead. From Nova on January 27:

The Electro-pyre conflagration escalates. The cost of electricity on Thursday in two states of Australia reached a tally of $932 million dollars for a single day of electricity. . . . In Victoria, per capita, that means it cost $110 for one day’s electricity.  For South Australians, Thursday’s electricity bill was $140 per person. (So each household of four just effectively lost $565.) . . . This is what happens when an electricity grid is run by kindergarten arts graduates who struggle with numbers bigger than two.

Can anybody learn from these obvious mistakes? Well, take the case of Germany. That’s the country where they adopted the famous Energiewende in 2010, and set upon a massive building program of wind turbines and solar panels — only to find that their CO2 emissions did not go down at all from 2009 to 2017. But Germany is in the process of doubling down. In 2018, coal provided about 35% of Germany’s electricity. On Monday Germany adopted a 336 page coal phase-out plan, with a goal of getting rid of all of it by 2038. And what about when the wind and sun go completely dead at the same time — as they regularly do in Germany, particularly on gloomy winter days. Certainly, batteries are not a remotely possible option. From Watts Up With That, Angela Merkel is quoted as having said the following last week at Davos:

We have a very difficult problem, namely that almost the only sources of energy that will be able to provide baseload power are coal and lignite.

You don’t say! But they do have another possible solution: build a pipeline to bring in natural gas from Russia. No problems there!