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Many proponents of wind energy, including our current president, point to Europe as an example of how successful the wind industry can be if only given a chance in America. But how well is the wind industry really doing in Europe?
Germany leads Europe as the number one wind energy country with 27,214 MW of installed capacity. Wind energy in Germany generated 37.3 TWh of electricity in 2010, which accounted for 6.2% of the country’s power consumption. These numbers would indicate success for the wind industry in Germany, but at what cost? The main subsidy for wind in Germany is known as the German feed-in tariff. It has provided the win industry with protective tariffs and priority grid access in order to stimulate and maintain its prominence in Germany. According to the Institute for Energy Research, German government support for the wind industry between 2000 and 2010 cost a heavy $28.1 billion.
In 2010, Great Britain was home to more than 270 wind farms with 2,775 turbines in operation and plans for the construction of 10,000 more. But according to Ofgem, the energy regulator in Great Britain, annual subsidies for green energy have rising from £278 million in 2002-3 to £1.04 billion, or over $1.56 billion. The main subsidy given to green energy, with wind receiving the greatest benefits, is known as the Renewables Obligation (RO). RO requires a fixed percentage of power be produced using renewable energy. Many U.S. states have similar requirements known as renewable portfolio standards.
Dr. John Constable, director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a green energy think tank, has admitted to The Telegraph that “The Government's plans for wind are wildly unrealistic. Wind power is going to be very expensive, very difficult and ultimately very costly.” Prof Ian Fells, emeritus professor of energy conversion at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, agrees: “Subsidizing wind farms is far too expensive, and the money could be better spent by investing in other forms of power.”
Spain is experiencing similar backlash as a result of wind subsidies. In 2008, wind energy provided 10.2 percent of the country’s electric consumption, but demand for electricity has significantly fallen since the global financial crisis. Spain’s electricity system deficit is now over €24 Billion, or almost $30 billion because of the government subsidies.
RenewableEnergyWorld.com has this to say about the Spanish subsidies:
For over a decade, the Spanish government has prevented utilities from charging consumers the true costs of electricity. In other words, the final price paid by both large and small electricity buyers has been kept artificially low, in an arguably misguided attempt to contain inflation, protect consumers, and maintain the competitiveness of Spanish industry. This put the entire Spanish electricity system on a collision course with economic reality, and made a growing tariff deficit all-but-inevitable.
The cost of wind subsidies are hurting not only taxpayers, but businesses and consumers as well. In many European countries such as Spain and England, energy suppliers must purchase a certain amount of electricity produced by green energy per megawatt hour which happens to be more expensive than traditional fossil-fuel based energy. This requirement is similar to the one discussed above known as renewable portfolio standards in the United States. Energy suppliers pass this added cost onto businesses, driving up prices for consumers and making it more difficult for companies to stay in business. This entire cycle has the effect of slowly suffocating the local economy.
The government funded wind energy programs throughout Europe are even more costly when job loss due to the expansion of the wind industry is added on. A study completed in Spain by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos concluded that for each megawatt of wind energy installed, 4.27 jobs were lost elsewhere in the Spanish economy.
Government subsidies for the wind industry are not only bad for America, but bad on a global scale. In addition to costing taxpayers across the world billions upon billions of dollars, they hurt local economies by destroying jobs and driving up the cost of doing business. The government -- supported wind industry is failing the people of Europe and failing the people of America. It’s time to let the wind industry survive without government help. Let’s allow its fate to be determined by individual consumers who know their own needs better than any government could.