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Is the Renewable Portfolio Standard Hurting New Mexico? No. No, it’s not. (Part 1)

considine-timOnce in a blue moon, something magical comes along that gives us here at AMENERGY limitless material. It’s like Christmas and, since YouTube Ads are reminding me the holidays are around the corner, we would like to share this one with all of you.

It all started last week. You see, during our excitement for the possibility of a 100% Renewable Energy Data Center via Facebook, we ran smack into a pixelated, potentially pony-tailed (need citation), opponent of the preferable, practical, and plainly possible, positively picturesque future, who has decided to rain on the renewable energy parade. He also has a tiny picture that seems to be the only picture my colleagues and I could find for him.

Since the picture is rather tiny and we strive for an HD world, we had our office artist remake the image (see below).

New Photo

Artistic rendering by Ariel Gray, age 6

This is Dr. Timothy J. Considine, a professor at the University of Wyoming who teaches “Oil: Business, Culture, and Power; Energy Economics and Public Policy” so, he’s obviously just as biased on Renewable Energy as we are at AMENERGY. He wrote a report called “The Cost of the Renewable Energy Standard in New Mexico” which appeared  KRWG’s website last week. It should also be mentioned that Dr. Timothy J. Considine is NOT the actor Tim Considine, best known as Mike Douglas on My Three Sons from 1960-1965.

His report was published and sponsored by the Rio Grande Foundation. Oh, don’t act like you’ve never read RGF’s blog, Errors of Enchantment, you know the one, with blogs like “Can Art get Worse? Yes. Yes, it Can.” not to mention our favorite, especially if you’ve read our blog post on Solar Puns, “Solar Subsidy Slated to Sunset.”* Despite those fantastic titles, no one can forget their one blog post that is obviously pinned to everyone’s homepage, “Any Idiot with a Blog…” whose title may inadvertently sum up everything I’m about to say. (Foreshadowing.. oooh…)

That being said, this article isn’t about how RGF may or may not have been getting money to pay for fake reports or how for a non-partisan economic think tank, they seem to be quite partisan or even that for a Foundation, they don’t seem to have a physical one. This foundationless foundation (unfoundationception?) does not state it’s physical location anywhere. We looked. (which is a sure sign that your business is totes legit, brah) No, this article is about the content of a study the RGF merely funded. Let’s look at the article that introduced us to Dr. Tim’s very REAL concern that AMENERGY and others who, like us, promote clean renewable energy technology solutions like solar power generation, in one of the sunniest places in the country, are actually hurting the future.

The first thing we noticed while reading this piece was that while it states the results of his study, there are no sources cited, not even a link to the full text of the study. As my own commentary on his commentary (commentaryception?) I would most likely fail his class if I didn’t cite my sources in a paper.

Despite not having a source linked, the article does state “Already, residential electricity prices are 29 percent higher in states with mandatory RPS than in states without them, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.” (Formatting added for emphasis) So I did what any logical person would do and reached out to the EIA about this specific claim, and they responded that this claim was not true.

EIA Response

Full response from EIA.

I know, I know, end of story, right? Well, after doing some digging, I found Considne’s report that the article by Considne (Considneception?) so eloquently self referenced. It had been published in the very official, surely-peer-reviewed source known as researchgate.net. Seems at least one, potentially scandalous propaganda outlet has finally realized that by simply adding the word “gate” to the end of their business name, they effectively render the mainstream media unable to cover any of their future scandals, without helping their search engine rankings and name recognition. (Bullet proof branding, achieved!)

 

Dr. Tim’s study is a gold mine for those of us who like numbers, reports, laughing and have always dreamed of combining those interests into one activity.  Just take the first paragraph, which states “Moreover, to the extent that these policies drive up electricity prices, output and employment could be adversely affected.” If you actually look at the data (obviously we did because we’re in way too deep at this point) you’ll find that only 36.67% of states with Renewable Portfolio Standards had rising costs.

That means, out of the 29 states (and District of Columbia) with an RPS; California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wisconsin ALL have seen AT LEAST residential electricity costs decrease in April 2016 when compared to April 2015 according to the EIA. (Full word capitalization added to illustrate annoyance at intellectual dishonestly in general.) Moreover, out of the 5 states with the highest cost of electricity (Hawaii, Connecticut, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) the only one of them WITHOUT an RPS in place is the only one who saw ALL electricity costs GO UP over the same period of time (Alaska for the record).

Comparison between the 5 states with the most expensive electricity

Speaking of Alaska, can you guess which state currently has the highest level of unemployment out of those 5?

In fact, 38.46% of the states that DON’T have an RPS in place have seen their electricity costs GO UP. In case you’re confused because you hate numbers or something, I even made a handy-dandy chart for you to use in your next study!

Fun Chart

This chart was super hard, it took me nearly 2 minutes to make.

Full Disclosure, I’m only counting states with RPS, not states with “Voluntary Renewable Energy Standard or Target” since “Renewable Portfolio Standard” means it’s regulated and “Voluntary” means it’s not. Since Dr. T’s report is titled “Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards” and since including “Voluntary” statistics when the report implies the standards are regulated and enforced, would be misleading, I chose not to include the misleading data. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s Dr. Timothy J. Considine, oh, and misleading too I guess.

As for employment dropping, what’s the best way to lower unemployment? More job availability, (Um, Dr T? Duh!) According to SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) in 2014, “the (solar) industry continues to exceed growth expectations, adding workers at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the overall economy and accounting for 1.3% of all jobs created in the U.S. over the past year.” In fact, in November of 2014, “the solar industry employs 173,807 solar workers, representing a growth rate of 21.8% since November 2013.”

And I can already hear someone crying ‘But that was 2014!’ I do realize that. I just wanted a lead in for following year.  In 2015, the industry saw a growth of 20.2% and over 208,859 solar workers added, according to The Solar Foundation. Solar Energy’s economic impact and job growth far exceed fossil fuel industry big shots,  Coal, Electric, as well as Oil and Gas. As we can clearly illustrate, using one of Dr. T’s favorite techniques, (Oh yeah, the self referencing validation!) It is estimated that for every $1 put in to solar tax credits, New Mexico gets $30 back in economic benefit.  Why would anyone want to end an incentive program that benefits the economy like that? Maybe because he teaches a class called “Oil: Business, Culture, and Power.”

In Wyoming, where Considine resides, the unemployment rate went up to 5.6% in May 2016 from 4.2% in May 2015 and can you guess if that state has an RPS? That’s right, it doesn’t. Oh, and also, Wyoming’s electricity costs rose across the board in the past year.

Just Wyoming

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Dr Tim, arguing that the RPS would be bad, from a state that doesn’t have one enacted yet is experiencing the worst case scenario he claims would be the effect of his state adopting one, while states with an RPS are experiencing the exact opposite of his predictions, would seem delusional, wrong and somewhat hypocritical, right? You don’t criticize my grass for not being green enough when your back yard is dirt, do you? Apparently Dr. Tim does.

And that was just us correcting one sentence from the first paragraph. The study relies on projection based on “models of electricity supply and demand for each state. These models are projected using forecasts for coal and natural gas prices out to 2040 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.” Notice how it’s basing Solar on the forecasts of “coal and natural gas prices” instead of, you know, Renewable Energy. Honestly, sometimes you gotta do that, I mean, unless the EIA has a report that covers forecasts for clean energy between 2016 through 2040 or something…

Annual Energy Output

Second Issue in Focus was sadly not “We have an illiteracy problem”

Unfortunately, the first Issue in Focus in the report we found dated 6/20/2016 is devoted to Clean Energy projections. That report also states that even if there wasn’t a Clean Power Plan in place (or CPP), “renewable electricity generation increases from 2015 to 2030 in all regions, with the largest increases in the Southeast, California, and the Northern Plains regions.”

That’s followed by Strong renewable electricity generation growth occurs as a result of the combination of extended tax credits, renewable portfolio standards in many regions, and declining construction costs.

This isn’t the Twilight Zone, right? When the FIRST ISSUE DISCUSSED in a report from the agency you’re basing your findings on contradicts the findings of your study, how is that acceptable? Did he just go straight to the oil and natural gas section like a kid throwing the black and white sections of the Sunday newspaper away, in a child like obsession to get to the colorful funnies? I would seriously like to know because if this is Dr. T’s level of attention to detail, he should probably not be teaching any subject outside of proper safety hat usage in the peace corp.

I could go on and on about the article, but I’ll end this introduction by pointing out that it’s very important to actually check into something before posting it. Failure to validate or vet data presented by supposed experts, is how news sites get tricked into posting false news quoting men in dolphin suits.

We’re already over 1400 words, so we’re going to have to cut it off here for this post, but next week we’ll start looking at the actual 109-page study, so consider it like our weird “Solar Book Club” or something. Oh, and don’t worry, we’ll be sending our findings to KRWG along with a homemade pecan pie, just because it feels like they got stuck in the crossfire (and no, I never joke about pecan pie).

*the person presently proofreading this paper panicked and penned a point upon the RGF’s previously posted pathetic pun and the persons who planned/pirated it. The precise and primary points and problem? At this abomination of ad hoc alliteration, all of us at AMENERGY are absolutely aghast and angry, as we are always against the asinine annexation of alliteration as an academic author’s absentminded attachment to artistic accentuation. Additionally the proximity to poorly planned puns is an approximation of pretty much all the problems and pains that we have painstakingly plotted to pass the buck on.

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