Are Renewable Energy Credits a modern day snake oil?

Letter to Editor at Cumberland (Maryland) Times-News awaiting publication – “Renewable Energy Credits” – Jon Boone

Letter begins:

Submitted December 14, 2009

An organization known as Clean Currents, run by Washington DC wind salesman Gary Skulnik, is selling snake oil to Marylanders in the form of Renewable Energy Credits—hoping that electricity consumers will purchase them in the expectation they will be saving the planet by allowing wind generation to reduce their consumption of carbon dioxide, a surfeit of which some think is precipitously warming the globe. The logic is that if a wind turbine spins in skittering ways that ultimately produces 1000 kWh of electricity (Maryland households use about 13,000 kWh of electricity annually), an REC is created, allowing those who purchase it, in this case the duped consumer, to believe he or she is offsetting “1350 pounds of CO2” that ostensibly is emitted by a coal unit not operating because it is displaced by the wind energy.

There is, however, no actual measurement that validates such a proposition.

Simply because a wind turbine spins does not mean it is saving any CO2. Or that it is even displacing fossil fuel. It could be displacing hydro–or even nuclear–which emit no carbon dioxide. More likely, it’s displacing natural gas units that produce half the CO2 coal does. Even if it does displace natural gas–or coal– the volatile wind energy must be followed and balanced by fossil-fired units that are themselves emitting CO2 in a highly inefficient manner; the consequent heat rate penalties produce a lot of CO2. The REC does not account for these emissions.

Clean Currents also states: “The more clean renewable energy from sources like wind power or solar, the less power generated from fossil fuels like coal or natural gas. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) represent the environmental attributes from 1000 kilowatt hours of clean energy!”

Unless Skulnik’s organization provides realtime chronological load dispatch analyses at 15-minute intervals showing how all the thermal variables perform in any wind integration scheme, it cannot substantiate its claims about how wind is offsetting carbon emissions in electricity production. The burden of proof is also on Clean Currents to demonstrate that less power is generated by fossil fuels specifically because of the presence of wind energy. Such proof does not exist. Skulnik’s RECs are the contemporary equivalent of the church indulgences once sold to hasten the exit of souls from Purgatory.

When salesmen, using tax laws and interstate commerce, cannot substantiate their claims for service, law enforcement should be compelled to prosecute for fraud.

Jon Boone, Oakland Maryland

Letter ends.

Jon Boone is an Environmentalist, Artist, Author, Documentary Producer, Former University Administrator and Formal Intervenor in Wind Installation Hearings.

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