Is Amazon ‘spinning’ the truth for BigWind in Ohio?

“Amazon believes the substitute version of H.B. 190 strikes a balance that will allow wind development in areas of Ohio where it makes the most economic and operational sense and will help bring into Ohio more high-tech operations that increasingly depend on renewable energy,” Stephenson said. This is a quote from The Columbus Dispatch article 5/19/16  by Dan Gearino.

Before our legislators get too caught up in this statement by the all powerful, Amazon, let us consider 2 details. One is, how many ‘high-tech’ operations actually depend on renewable energy? Two is how many actual American jobs are created by the renewable energy industry?

The first is easy- zero. Show me an energy intensive business, like a tech giant, that can exist ‘off’ our grid? It doesn’t exist, so there are zero high-tech operations that depend on renewable energy. All of them consume energy that is produced by our coal, nuclear, gas and hydro plants.  If they relied on renewables, they would be on/off/on/off and not working for much of the day. The current wind energy produced is funneled onto our grid and shipped to who knows where… It is not specifically consumed by any of the high tech giants.  And that is a good thing for them. Out West, last year, for instance, the winds were significantly less prevalent; hence, significantly less wind energy was produced. The second question is best left to the expert opinion below…

The American Wind Energy Association (‘AWEA’) claims big wind had a spectacular 2015, but we looked past the slick advertising and found the same AWEA rhetoric with extra pixie dust applied. According to the American Wind Energy Association (“AWEA”) big wind had a spectacular 2015.

Jobs were up 20%, emissions down, more wind megawatts were installed than any other fuel source, and happy landowners pocketed a cool $222 million for their trouble. The media dutifully sang America’s good fortune. Imagine: a last Congressional vote in December mandating $15.8 billion in wind PTC payouts and everything is now right as rain. That is, until you look past the slick advertising and realize the boasted gains are nothing more than AWEA rhetoric with extra pixie dust applied.

The “Jobs Game”

The industry touted 15,000 jobs added in 2015, bringing the total to 88,000, including 1,800 new manufacturing positions.[1] Impressed? Don’t be.

For one, AWEA continues to be the primary source of wind-related employment statistics, so it’s impossible to validate the claims. Second, the figure represents modeled, not actual jobs, and, typical for AWEA, it bundles all types of jobs into the one number–including direct, indirect, and induced. The “induced” wind job belongs to the guy who landed part-time work serving coffee at the local diner to transient wind workers at a nearby construction site.

Induced jobs are more abstract and inherently unreliable but a convenient way to inflate the numbers. If Navigant’s 2011 wind study is any indication, induced jobs likely represent up to 26% of AWEA’s 2015 job number.

The table below shows how AWEA’s total and manufacturing job numbers have expanded and contracted since 2007.

year jobs: total jobs: mfr & supply MW installed
2015 88,000 21,000 8,598
2014 73,000 19,200 4,854
2013 50,500 17,400 1,084
2012 80,700 25,500 13,131
2011 75,000 30,000 6,810
2010 75,000 20,000 5,212
2009 85,000 18,500 9,997
2008 85,000 20,000 8,363
2007 50,000 10,000 5,258
Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and AWEA annual wind market reports

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has started tracking some wind-related jobs, which helps add context. For example, AWEA pitched that wind turbine service technicians now represent the fastest growing occupation in the U.S. BLS data concurs, but also states (and AWEA ignores) that “few people are employed as wind turbine service technicians, and even with the fast projected growth rate (108%), the occupation is only projected to add 4,800 new jobs” by 2024. Wind service technicians numbered 4,400 in 2014. “In contrast,” BLS adds, “maintenance and repair workers, general, is projected to increase 6.1 percent but add 83,500 new jobs.”

In terms of employment in the electric-power generation sector, wind represents just 2% of all jobs; fossil and nuclear dominate at 91%. On a per megawatt basis, wind offers just 0.05 full-time positions.[2]

Finally, if AWEA publicly released its breakdown of direct and indirect jobs, we’re likely to find the 15,000 new positions did not translate into net job creation for 2015.

Meaningless Megawatts

AWEA reveled in the fact that wind was the largest source of new electric generating capacity in 2015, representing 41% percent of all new electric power placed in service for the year. The last time wind could make that claim was 2012 (see chart). But when considering the larger power market, the boast is not meaningful.

Demand for electricity in the US has declined in 5 out of the last 8 years and, overall, has dropped 4.4% since 2008. If economic market signals mean anything, no one should be building new generation except to replace retiring capacity units. Since wind is an energy, not a capacity resource, it’s not the right fit for replacing retirements, no matter what AWEA hopes the public will believe.

But for big wind, the economics don’t matter. Thanks to federal subsidies, RPS mandates, and long-term power purchase agreements, developers are paid to construct turbines regardless of power market signals. In this scenario, the only economic concern is whether there’s a buyer for a project’s power long-term. As long as the 30% federal investment tax credit is an option, finding the best wind resource with adequate transmission capacity isn’t even that important….

 

Source: Big Wind’s Big Spin – Master Resource

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