@June 14, 2021 Friends of Science Society
Part A: Pembina’s Evaluation of Solar Energy is Wrong
Join the live stream on June 22, 2021 at 7pm.
This is the Live Stream Link:
Below is the PowerPoint that accompanies the live stream presentation. Note that two slides were added for clarity – Slide 18 shows the original hand drawn Pembina Institute maps for wind and solar, which are then discussed with the actual solar potential maps in the following slides. Please refer to this slide when Michelle mentions the hand drawn map. Slides 19 and 20 of this Power Point show scientific maps of solar potential. Also added is Slide 26 – a screenshot of the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) current demand and supply, taken just before the live stream began. This is provided for comparison to Miami, Florida’s source of power generation.
In August 2020, the Pembina Institute published a report titled Renewable energy—what you need to know. The report opens with the claim that “There are significant opportunities to supply the majority of Alberta households and industries with reliable, cheap, and clean electricity,” and it goes on to say that, “With the falling costs of solar and wind energy, our electricity sector has entered a new reality where renewable generation is the most economical source of new electricity generation for the province.” Pembina’s “new reality” is pure fiction and its false promise of reliable, cheap, and clean electricity has potentially devastating consequences for Alberta and its citizens.
The authors of Pembina’s report prove the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Most of their statements contain a modicum of truth, so many Pembina readers may have become convinced that the authors fully understand the physical and market operations of Alberta’s electric power system. Based on their paper, they do not: they provided incomplete analyses that ignore critical details, they cherry-picked data, they failed to acknowledge the massive and ever-increasing implicit subsidies that Albertans are providing to wind and solar generators, and they ignored the crucial role played by fossil-fueled (“FF”) generators—the very generators that many green-energy advocates love to hate—in allowing wind and solar generators to operate in the first place.
There are so many errors in Pembina’s report that this rebuttal won’t fit into a single document of reasonable length, so we have split it into several parts. This Part A rebuts Pembina’s evaluation of solar energy: it explains why the number of Alberta homes that can be reliably served by solar energy alone is zero, it shows that southern Alberta solar resources are not equivalent to those in Miami or Rio de Janeiro by any useful measure, and it shows that paying for the energy storage needed to turn solar generation into a reliable electricity source using today’s technology would put the purchase of electricity beyond the financial reach of most Alberta families. In future parts we will address the authors’ numerous other errors regarding the price, market, transmission, and reliability impacts of renewable generation.
The Nature of this Response
Before we discuss Pembina’s flawed analysis of solar power, we should point out that both this and later parts of our response make extensive use of quantitative analysis. We are well aware that math was not everyone’s favourite subject in school, but real-world data and sometimes-complex quantitative analyses are essential elements in the design, construction, and operation of modern energy systems. They are also critical inputs to public policy discussions, at least if we want those policies to be rational and to serve the public interest.
Here are two questions that highlight the importance of quantitative analysis. The first is, how many environmental organizations are you aware of that claim that our future energy systems must make extensive use of wind generation? The second is, how many of those organizations point out that meeting North America’s existing energy needs with wind generation would require that we cover every city, town, lake, river, canyon, forest, and desert in over three quarters of the contiguous United States with wind farms? It is not overly difficult to integrate some wind and solar generation into an electric power system; it is, however, several orders of magnitude more difficult (and expensive) to scale up renewables to replace fossil fuels in all sectors of the economy and to do so without decimating the social and economic well-being of Albertans. Pembina’s report, like many other green-energy advocacy papers, is long on hand-waving but short on understanding and correct quantitative analyses, as will become more and more obvious as you read this and later parts of this document.
As a final introductory point, our rebuttal will be far longer than Pembina’s document. The reason is simple: a complete and credible explanation of why a statement is false is inevitably longer than the statement itself.
Read the full report: