Building out renewable energy generation without providing adequate support for the grid as a whole is a dangerous course of action. Even though the goal is laudable and necessary the price to be paid may turn out to be unpalatable for the average consumer.
In Germany, a country with perhaps the “greenest” of intentions, there is a growing backlash against ever increasing costs of subsidized renewable generation.
In Texas, the risk is that the grid may fail altogether on some hot, calm day. A press release issued by the state regulator (ERCOT) warns that durring the summer in 2013 “There is a significant chance that ERCOT will need to issue Energy Emergency Alerts and appeal to consumers to reduce their energy use on some of those days.”
In North Carolina a State Legislative Committee narrowly endorsed rollbacks to support for renewable electrical generation.
Public support for renewables exists but not at any cost either in terms of electricity rates or availability of power.
More attention needs to be paid to measures that can significantly reduce demand overall in very short order and at a reasonable cost. This would include building codes that mandate the use of geoexchange systems which require half of the electricity of traditional HVAC systems. It would also implement effective residential and commercial demand response programs like the one in Oklahoma.
Major expansions of the inter-connections between regional grids must be undertaken throughout North America with a coordinated strategy designed to move power from areas where the wind is blowing to areas where the wind is calm. This will be complex, expensive, and will take years to complete. Texas is embarking on just such a program at a cost of more than $4.5 billion.
More resources have also got to be directed at utility scale energy storage.
Continued focus on renewable rollout supported by tax-payer and rate-payer subsidies without these support activities runs a very real risk of eroding support for renewables. That, in turn, could delay our transition to a truly sustainable energy environment by many years.