Renewable Energy Goals Could Force Blackouts In Britain

Posted on Wed 09/02/2009 by

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nick_loris_smBy Nick Loris

From the UK’s Telegraph:

“Demand for power from homes and businesses will exceed supply from the national grid within eight years, according to official figures. The shortage of supplies will hit the equivalent of many as 16 million families for at least one hour during the year, it is forecast.

Not since the early 1970s when the three-day week was introduced to preserve coal has Britain faced the prospect of rationing energy use. The gap between Britain’s energy needs and demand throws fresh doubt on the Government’s assertion that renewable energy can make up for dwindling nuclear and coal capabilities.

Over the next 10 years, one third of Britain’s power-generating capacity needs to be replaced with cleaner fuels. But last night the Conservatives said that Labour had refused to face up to the problem.

The admission that Britain will face power-cuts is contained in a document that accompanied the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, which was launched in July.”

Renewable energy may have a role to play in energy markets, but not at the expense of rolling brownouts or blackouts. Reliable electricity is a basic need that should not be sacrificed to meet an artificial renewable energy mandate. By creating a federal renewable portfolio standard, governments are essentially forcing costlier, less reliable energy on the people. The central criteria for any country’s energy policy should be that it is cost-effective and able to compete without any subsidies, mandates or special tax breaks from the government.

Windmills and solar panels are being built all over the world, but both typically only supply a small fraction of a nation’s electricity supply. In the United States, for instance, renewable energy provided 8.4 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in 2007. Of that 8.4 percent, only 9 percent came from wind and 0.2 percent came from solar. And this is after years of government subsidies and tax breaks. Most (71 percent) came from hydroelectric power.

Any subsidy, whatever the source of energy or product, distorts normal market forces, drives prices higher, and encourages government dependence.

Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their lights will turn on but if the government starts rationing energy as a result of bad energy policies like renewable energy mandates that Congress is considering, , that will be the direction we’re headed.

Contributing Author Nick Loris writes at The Heritage Foundation and he is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

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