EIA data shows wind & solar met 3% of U.S. energy after $50 billion in subsidizes

Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

The EIA AEO 2019 report shows that in year 2018 wind and solar energy resources provide about 3% of U.S. total energy consumption while fossil fuel energy resources provide about 81% of total energy use.

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The dominate use of fossil fuels in meeting U.S. energy needs remains little changed from a decade ago before use of renewable energy resources became mandated and supported by lucrative government subsidizes.

Using additional EIA data the total wind and solar provided energy going back to year 2000 is available which allows an assessment of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) payments to be made.

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These PTC’s are defined through Federal Law and amount to $0.023 per Kwh for solar and wind projects that qualify as renewables which started construction before January 1, 2018 and are available for a period of ten years.

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PTC subsidizes for renewable solar and wind projects in the U.S. have now reached about $50 billion dollars in cumulative payments through year 2018 with these resources providing about 3% of our countries total energy consumption in that year.

Additionally these annual wind and solar subsidizes now total more than $8 billion dollars per year.

Without government driven mandates to use renewables and without generous federal PTC subsidizes which provide for most if not all of the capital cost recovery for these projects few of these plants would be built.

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Even in the Alice in Wonderland energy world of California fossil fuels dominate our states total energy consumption accounting for 82% of energy use with that figure also little changed in the last decade.

The fossil fuel energy resources include petroleum, natural gas and coal which are the dominate energy providers for all energy sectors including electricity, transportation, industrial, commercial and residential.

The electricity sector represents the largest single energy use area representing about 38% of total energy use. When addressing the other energy use sectors which are industrial, commercial, residential and transpiration the electricity sector components are appropriately divided between these sectors. 

Renewables have made little headway in meeting the energy needs associated with other than the electricity sector with all forms of renewables (includes geothermal, wood and wood waste, biogenic municipal waste, other biomass, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal sources, excludes conventional large hydro) accounting for only about 6% (with half of that being wind and solar) of total U.S. energy use with the great majority of that total related to the electricity sector.

About 98% of the combined industrial, commercial, residential and transportation sectors energy needs are supplied by non-renewable energy resources.

Conventional large hydro is not included as a renewable in this data as preferred by “renewable purists” because of the large dam reservoirs involved with these resources that provide reliability but offend renewable energy activists. Conventional large hydro projects are not classified as renewable resources eligible for PTC subsidizes.

Despite more than a decade of government mandated renewable energy use with lucrative and generous renewable subsidizes required these politically driven energy resources have made little progress in defining useful patterns of meeting energy needs largely because of their unreliable and highly limited performance capabilities.

Absent government mandated use and provisions requiring lucrative PTC subsidizes renewables would fall flat on their face in the energy markets.

Additionally given that one of the primary political justifications for renewables was their supposedly helpful emissions reduction performance with this claim now completely negated because of the total irrelevance of U.S. and EU emissions levels and growth relative to global emissions outcomes which are driven solely by the world’s developing nations and given the meaningless impact of emissions reductions targets on global temperatures the politically contrived push mandating renewable energy use while hugely subsidizing their high costs and unreliable performance needs to end.

48 thoughts on “EIA data shows wind & solar met 3% of U.S. energy after $50 billion in subsidizes

  1. and it just doesn’t matter to the flock. The true believers don’t care. It was never about the money.. it’s about fields and vistas full of glimmering panels… and large windmills… Well… they can’t see them.. but they read about them. In 40 years all these projects will be trashy scrap, baking in the sun.

    • CA says 34% in one article and the country as a whole is 3%. there is serious disconnect here.

  2. As far as Automotive goes, there are only 10 cars (I could find) that can deliver 200+ miles on a charge.
    Audi E-tron … 248 miles … $75,000
    Nissan Leaf E+ … 226 miles … >$45,000
    Hyundai Kona E … 258 miles … >$40,000
    Jaguar I Pace … 234 miles … $69-85,000
    Chevy Bolt EV … 238 miles … >$36,000
    Tesla S … 335 miles … >$100,000
    Tesla 3 (E) … 310 miles … >$45,000 (they arent building the $35,000 version (YET))
    Tesla X … 295 … >$120,000
    Teals Y … ??? … ??????
    Tesla Roadster … 600+ miles … >$250,000

    So if you want travel distance and have the capacity to dump volts into them at home, there are only 2 that are less than $45,000 (twice an ICE) and the remainder are more like 4-6 times the ICE

    If they want to gather the transportation sector, they need to drop their prices dramatically

    • The sad thing is that those generally high-priced vehicles were subsidized with taxes in the form of tax credits.

    • Sad comment on EV’s. I have driven from Denver to Cedar City, Ut on one take of gas. 595 miles. No EV can do that, and refill in <10 minutes. I wish them luck in that race. And this is in a V8 6sp manual transmission 4400 lb car. And right now, in San Antonio, TX, gas is $2.21/gal.

    • And keep in mind those are optimal ranges. For those of us north of the frost line, we can expect up to a 50% reduction in that range on cold winter days. In really hot climates, you can expect some loss of range due to running the aircon and overheating of the batteries, but it’s not as bad, probably a 20% hit at most. So the picture is hardly rosy. I love the idea of EVs and think they have a lot going for them, but right now battery technology is holding them back. And I don’t see that changing radically anytime soon. Though I really hope I’m wrong about that.

    • They can’t provide a battery EV to most people, the resources don’t last that long. So the whole craze will die eventually

  3. The Green Blob is funding, building, and owning the operators of wind turbine farms, and not to harvest wind for electricity, but to harvest publicly funded subsidies, and hidden costs in electric bills to flow back to investors in green schemes.

    The truth in that statement is evidenced by the fact many wind farms can and do get paid by utilities sometimes NOT to produce unwanted/unneeded electricity into the grid. And the wind farm owners are guaranteed a minimum price when they do produce. All that extra-cost flows back to electricity consumers in higher charges on their monthly electric bill statements.

    The higher cost of renewable energy wind and solar is not a flaw, but a intentionally designed feature to send money from the middle-class and small businesses to the Green Blob.
    This is money beyond the federal government PTC’s discussed in this article, which comes out of the Federal budget spending.

    The Green Blob has been promoting this energy re-structuring using crony capitalism and with allied bought-and-paid-for Democrats as a way to guarantee outsize returns (ROI) with little risk for public union retirement funds and sophisticated Big Green investors.

    From a 2014 Pew Foundation analysis:

    “Overview:
    As of 2012, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are publicly available, state and local public workers had earned more than $4 trillion in expected benefit payouts, and public pension plans had approximately $3 trillion in assets to make those payouts—leaving a gap of more than $1 trillion between the two.1 Although governments and employees make contributions to public pensions, investment earnings on the plans’ assets are expected to fund about 60 percent of promised pension benefits. Recent investment performance for public pension funds has been strong: for example, large funds posted returns of over 12 percent in the fiscal year ending June 2013. Future investment returns, however, are inherently uncertain, and a significant funding gap remains. The way these investments are managed by policymakers and pension plan administrators has significant influence on both the cost and the health of our nation’s public pension systems.

    In a bid to boost investment returns, public pension plans in the past several decades have shifted funds away from fixed-income investments such as government and high-quality corporate bonds. During the 1980s and 1990s, plans significantly increased their reliance on stocks, also known as equities. And during the past decade, funds have increasingly turned to alternative investments such as private equity, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities to achieve their target investment returns.

    It is understandable that public pension plans have implemented these changes in asset allocation in order to maximize long-term returns and diversify their investment portfolios. But these changes in investment practice have coincided with an increase in fees as well as uncertainty about future realized returns, both of which may have significant implications for public pension funds’ costs and long-term sustainability. In short, increased investments in equities and alternatives could result in greater financial returns but also increased volatility and the possibility of losses on these assets. Even relatively small differences in returns resulting from investment performance or fees can have a major effect on the asset values of pension funds. A difference of just one percentage point in returns in a single year on $3 trillion equates to $30 billion.

    These trends underscore the need for additional public information on plan performance, insight on best practices in fund governance, and attention to the effect of investment fees on plan health. With $3 trillion in assets and the retirement security of 14.5 million state and local employees at stake, sound investment strategy is critical.”
    ….
    Public pension plans are relying more heavily on risky assets to deliver higher long-term returns in order to keep funding costs low, just as they are simultaneously betting on a much larger risk premium than in the past. Maintaining high expected rates of return reduces the size of annual payments into the plan from governments’ budgets but also increases the risk of missing the assumed rate of return. And when investment returns fall short of the plan’s target, then the state or local government sponsors of public pensions must increase annual budgetary payments to make up for the shortfall. Unfortunately, these increases typically coincide with broader economic problems, meaning that governments are called to put more into the system when they can least afford to do so.
    source: https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2014/06/state_public_pension_investments_shift_over_past_30_years.pdf

    So the Green Blob and Democrats in many “Blue states” where most of the worst retirement fund shortfalls exist have teamed up to provide crony capitalism as a method of bilking the middle class to provide a low-risk, but fat returns to the Green investors and hidden in monthly electric bills as a tax on the middle class via Renewable mandates that could never be done directly.
    And they view Trump and Republicans who are pushing back on the Climate Scam with fossil fuel Energy Dominance as a major threat to their investment strategy of fat ROI’s on the backs of middle class electricity rate payers. Cheap natural gas is the main culprit to them in dis-incentivizing grid and utility operators from participating in more wind and solar when natural gas is the far better option.

    So, Climate Change has never been about Climate as is obvious to anyone who bothers to study what is going on. It is about soaking the middle class to help repair deep holes in public union retirement funds and to put more money in billionaire’s pockets like the Rockefeller’s and Tom Steyer.

  4. Yet Rocky Mountain Power is spending $3.1 BILLION dollars to kill eagles and get Warren Buffet tax breaks and the morons in Wyoming are too stupid to even object. The news teleprompter reader smiling female cheerfully reported “These will help rural Wyoming”. She probably calls Sherman’s March through Georgia a rural and urban renewal project.

  5. People aren’t just concerned with cost per GW, but cost per ton of CO2 mitigated.
    By that measure, wind power is even greater a colossal failure.

    • People are concerned by “cost per ton of CO2 mitigated,” only because they’ve been brainwashed with years of climate propaganda.
      It has been a concerted and sophisticated Disinformation Campaign from the GreenSlime and supported with fraudulent renewable studies like those from Stanford’s Mark Jacobsen that people think Climate Change is 1) a problem, and that 2) it can be largely solved with renewable wind and solar.

  6. The largest uncertainty about renewable energy is the two kinds of technology risk. Like with all new technologies, renewables have a productive life of uncertain length. This is especially problematic when renewables are replacing proven electricity asses with 30, 40, or 50 year lifespans. Not unimportantly, the transition to renewables creates billions and billions of dollars of stranded costs

    In addition, I know of many early adopters, businesses, and offshore wind farms, which are no longer being the provider of the renewable electricity that was expected from them, either from product failure or expensive maintenance problems.

    Then, there is the other side of technogical risk, which is the risk of newer renewable technology making the old technology obsolete prematurely, which creates its own billions and billions of stranded costs. You also will notice there is no discussion of transmission.

  7. Joe Biden wants to spend TRILLION”S of dollars to remove all fossil fuels from the energy mix by 2050. His GREEN new deal is a pipe dream for the left and bankrupting the democratic nations to bring this about seems to be the play book for the future. From AOC mindlessly mooing about the 12 years to total destruction of the planet and the 26 democratic presidential candidates trying to one up each other on this stupidity of getting off fossil fuels it is becoming a life and death situation for the rest of us if these lefties gain power. Just look at the oil rich nation of Venezuela for what is going to become of ANY nation that supports these left leaning ideals. The Venezuelan government is sitting on the second largest oil reserves in the world and drinking water and bread to feed the unwashed masses is non-existent.

    In Canada we are heading for a federal election in October. Our Left leaning corrupt Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has destroyed the resource industry with punitive and heavy handed regulations over the last four years. Carbon taxes and Carbon levies along with more levels of government approvals for energy projects have driven all foreign investment from Canada. The losses in investment have been tallied at over 150 Billion dollars and the energy economy is in ruins in just four short years of Trudeau’s rein of error. One thing that stands out is that while Justin is spouting off about CO2 causing climate change he and our Environmental minister Climate Barbie are racing each other to see who will have the LARGEST carbon footprint each year. I can honestly tell you that the amount of flying around each of those two do each year has a larger carbon footprint than most small countries. Do as I say NOT as I do.

  8. Many people also believe that once solar or wind is installed it continues producing energy in perpetuity, without maintenance. In 10 to twenty years (if lucky) all that have been installed to date will have to be replaced just to get back that 3%……. which I think is a very optimistic number.

  9. Let’s be clear here: these are true subsidies — taxpayer money given away to the companies directly, and not just tax breaks and depreciation on hardware.

    The left loves to point at these things and call them “taxpayer giveaways,” and I just want to be clear that in the case of “renewables,” they really are direct dollar grants.

  10. Two corporations with zero or very low federal income taxes; Berkshire Hathaway – Warren Buffett and Amazon – Bezos. Both have invested heavily in [$Billions] renewable energy and it has been extremely profitable for them.
    Meanwhile, Omaha Public Power District shuts down a 550 MW ZERO CO2 producing Nuclear power plant and now has about 1,000 MW [nameplate] wind and solar and there CO2 emissions have gone up. But they get to tell the Big Green Tech Corporations that they will have 100% renewable energy to get them to move here.
    That NPP produced 550 MW ever hour of every day for an average of over 90% of the time. 1,000 MW, nameplate, of wind and solar will rarely average even 250 MW per hour over 90% of the year. They will need more than twice that amount to replace the lost CO2 emissions from the Fort Calhoun shutdown.
    The numbers in the EIA report should wake people up but that will not happen till it is to late.

  11. re: large hydro
    Most of the existing large hydro capacity has already been heavily subsidized when built. See the construction of Bonneville Hydro system in the mid 1900s and the Tennessee Valley Authority Dams in the 1930s. Most of these also include large chunks of transmission capacity also so comparing apples and apples gets tricky. But they both supply large chunks of energy where they are located [and they provided the aluminum to build airplanes to win WW II].

  12. Solar and Wind will be 3.5-4% of primary energy use around 2029. There is no way these two can make a dent in our real energy mix on the planet. Nuclear is a low-density fuel. We need explosive clean energy – explosions power your car don’t they?

    The Solution is here. Hydrino energy. Indeed there has been resistance to it. In 1990, when scientist Randell Mills first proposed a new way of extracting energy from hydrogen few imagined it could be real. Now, Mills and his company Brilliant Light Power (BLP) are in the final stages.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz2RoVUOqU0&feature=youtu.be

    Happy to talk to Impact investors or true advocates of clean energy.

    • Dr. Mills’ inability to produce retail available … -something- makes BlackLight i mean BrilliantLight power after all these years and millions of investment a very very poor excuse for engineering.

      Its still interesting science though, and i wish him the best of luck. However he hasnt been honest about his progress over the decades, and thats just plain unethical.

      If only that were the last word. The scientific response to er Millsian theoretical physics has been disgusting, the typical “my pet theory trumps any observation go away and die” unprofessional crap of the same ilk we see reported on at this site. Seeing physicists act this way makes me weep inside a little for civilization.

      • I won’t blast you for the inaccuracies and opinioning about this subject. We worked in that laboratory and wrote a book to make sure the world understands. https://endofpetroleum.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Brett-Book-Reviews-v5.jpg

        The time from theoretical insight to world changing tech is normally a lot longer. Maxwell’s equations came out in 1861 and the first radio broadcast was 1906. The internal combustion engine was even longer. Oil took about 40 years to go from 0% to 8% of use.

        Dr. Mills has been transparent about most of what he has been doing. Did you read his first published book in 1990 when he told the world what he was doing in exact theoretical terms? Nope. 100 articles on the subject in journals? Nope. http://www.brettholverstott.com/annoucements/2016/7/21/accountability

        Respecting he has a private company and patents / tradesecrets and is under no obligation to teach the world how to do what he’s trying to do (the argument could only be his disclosure has been too high not the opposite) Major chemical companies were invited to review his work in their analytical labs but they refused to sign NDAs. Again, Jane there is a lot you don’t know and I don’t want to overwhelm you with facts but the record from now on must be set straight otherwise there is an echo chamber of misinformation (go look at Wikipedia on this subject).

        Dr. Mills has been optimistic – sure, but most software projects go over by 50%. 50% is a huge number for something that is not world changing discovery in chemistry and engineering. If you note the people that change the world – Steve Jobs – are usually optimistic to push everyone along. For Steve they called it the “Reality Distortion Field.”

        Hang on, it’s coming.

      • Hydrinos are a down-converted smaller form of hydrogen, predicted in 1989ish timeframe, reproduced by national labs in the early 90’s, proved by NMR spectroscopy and a litany of other methods to exist, and now creating explosive power in a NJ lab (and various other labs in fact).

        If any chemist in the world wants to understand it get in touch with endofpetroleum.com – there is nothing subtle about this. It is like a dinosaur knocking at your door and you denying they exist.

        • RE: endofpetroleum.com — what a joke. The website is nothing but a “contact us” page. And the “Once upon a time there was an energy impoverished world” lead-in gives the game away in my opinion. The world is NOT energy impoverished. We only have people who wish to make us believe it is so. And you want me to buy a book on the theory to be convinced?

          RE: “Major chemical companies were invited to review his work in their analytical labs but they refused to sign NDAs.” I’m not saying this isn’t true, but how many times over the decades have we heard some variation on “the oil companies bought the rights to prevent it from coming to market” or similar nonsense? I will get interested when there is a working prototype of something, anything that stands up to critical scientific scrutiny.

          And finally: “Happy to talk to Impact investors or true advocates of clean energy.” Given the two items I’ve mentioned, I hope you can understand that this statement makes it sound like a con.

          • Perhaps you should do your homework (as referenced above there are 100 journal articles in the sciences, many by independent authors and tests – did you read them in the last 10minutes?).

            The US Military and contractors have PROVED this in independent lab tests (video footage of them saying that is in the public domain). So Kerry, on what basis are your claims of lack of scientific scrutiny founded? You have nothing. I would be more mindful of your commentary.

            We are serious people who know serious science, and your banging out statements “you expect me to buy a book on the theory to be convinced” makes you sound like a petulant child who didn’t get his candy. If you know extremely advanced electromagnetic theory (Maxwells’ equations) you can get the theory for free https://brilliantlightpower.com/theory/

            The book was written because this is a complex subject that even professors in physics aren’t aware. Gasp, there is new knowledge in the world? How can it be? Wasn’t everything to be discovered already discovered.

            We are not here to teach and debate science anyway, we are here to inform about a new energy source.

    • Navid,
      Thread-jacking won’t make you any friend here. Neither will unproven theories and hype. Come back when you have demonstrated the ability to produce commercial levels of power over useful time frames.

      • Nobody hijacked the thread. I responded with a comment at the beginning which was inline with the topic – 3.5% solar+ wind —- cant push the needle in energy. However, the litany of negativity cannot stand.

        Your ascerbic and frankly not very nice comment tells me you feel ownership of this forum. If you do own the forum I’ll leave. Let me know. Otherwise, the administrator should do the “policing.”

  13. And the figures for renewable electricity as a share of electricity demand?

    And those figures in Texas and California?

    • Dream on. “March winds” is a saying for a reason. So one month a year wind will outperform coal (which has been massively shrinking since natgas began being fracced). Lame win for your side.

  14. This does not mean that if we spend a mere $1.666 trillion we will reach 100%. It means we have reached peak wind for the subsidy dollar.

  15. In April of 2016 here in Iowa, Mid American Energy here in Iowa announced a $3.6B “investment” in a large, 2000MW wind energy project. We all thought then-governor Terry Branstad was going to hold a ticker tape parade through downtown Des Moines. The very next day on live radio, in response to a direct question, the CEO of Mid American admitted that every dime of that “investment” was taxpayer money. It’s easy to play with other people’s money.

    The other beauty, of course, is that the on-going support and maintenance costs add to the utility’s expenses and, being a regulated utility and guaranteed a certain level of profit, actually adds to their bottom line. It’s a sweet deal if you can work it like that.

    • Warren Buffett himself said that the only reason to be on wind is for the subsidies!

  16. What is interesting about this article is that tax credits for the wind/solar plants are considered “subsidies” but when there is any mention of the subsidies for the coal, oil and gas industries, the argument is that a tax credit is not a subsidy. Something about not giving cash directly to the benefactor in the case of a tax credit.

  17. Never heard of hydrinos, looked it up.
    Seems to be hydrogen atoms in a lower energy state than the ground state.
    According to the solution of time-independent Schrödinger equation, that is not possible.
    Every attempt to disprove the validity of quantum mechanics has been, up to now, unsuccessful.
    I don’t expect hypothetical hydrinos will change that.

      • Some considerations.
        -The universe consists of predominantly hydrogen. If there exists a lower state than the ground state, astronomy would have discovered it.
        -You need to add energy to bring the electron in the ground state closer to the proton. Ultimately, a neutron can be formed.

  18. hint: A very tightly bound hydrogen doesn’t want to interact with light (emit or absorb). It is DARK. Is that a big enough hint? How about this one — most of the mass of the known universe 75%+ is hydrogen. What do you think the mass of the unknown universe is most likely to be?

    a light bulb works on the principle that an electron excites, and when the electron comes back to the ground state it emits light. moving the electron to a stable level beneath the ground state will do the same. it doesnt do this naturally, just like waterbottles don’t just fall off tables randomly even though they want to move to a more stable energy level (closer to the earth).

    i suggest you read our book – my friend Brett spent 4 years – at times in the Princeton archives studying every paper on quantum mechanics – to tell you this story. you get to learn about the most important science in history for the price of a big mac combo. https://endofpetroleum.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Brett-Book-Reviews-v5.jpg

  19. Light bulbs work on the principle that electrons (electricity) is being forced through a RESISTOR (the Tungsten coiled-coil filament) at sufficient pressure and rate of flow to ensure that the Filament HEATS UP to a point at which is begins to GLOW from the heat produced by the RESISTANCE to energy flow. Heat ANYTHING hot enough and it will glow; this is the principle upon which Optical Pyrometers function and old-fashioned Blacksmiths gauge the temperature of metal which they are heat-treating.

    Original Maxim-type light bulbs used a CARBON filament and were marketed as an Edison invention. Maxim himself was working with inert fillings and Platinum filaments in the 1870s…. and he UNDERSTOOD what he was doing!

  20. Just like the Green Deal renewable s would cost trillions . That is trillions the USA does not have to pretend and set a Goldilocks temperature . AOC was apparently “joking ” when she claimed the earth was doomed in 12 years so it’s fair to say the Green Deal was a joke too .
    The people of NY must hope she quits joking so much . Amazon didn’t get her wicked sense of humor .

  21. Just like the Green Deal renewable s would cost trillions . That is trillions the USA does not have to pretend and set a Goldilocks temperature . AOC was apparently “joking ” when she claimed the earth was doomed in 12 years so it’s fair to say the Green Deal was a joke too .
    The people of NY must hope she quits joking so much . Amazon didn’t get her wicked sense of humor .
    Ahh….. life in the twilight zone .

  22. Using the published EIA numbers, I get less then the stated 3%. One reason – EIA is printing what the utilities report to it. But those numbers are not adjusted for the Site Factor (SF). For those unfamiliar – it is a ratio akin to the Capacity Factor, but whereas CF is the ratio of the plant’s actual output averaged over the life of the plant to the name plate power rating, SF is the ratio of the plant input energy from all external source to the net output of the site in its life.
    On sites with below average producing up to one tenth of the power output is drawn from those external energy sources. As an example, a CSP in Mojave desert drew about 9 % of its output from the grid and from burning natural gas, diesel fuel, propane, gasoline, aviation fuel (helicopters) and the like. Such draw is rare with nuclear and other thermal plants and insignificant on the scale of the incomparably higher output per site. Adjusted accordingly, the net DOE percentage would be closer to 2%.

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