In 2010, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) completed a two-and-a-half year study that was updated in 2011 of the technical, operational, and economic requirements for integrating 20 to 30 percent wind power into the electrical grid. The portion of the United States covered in the study is the Eastern Interconnection, extending from the Western borders of the Plains States to the Atlantic Coast, but excluding most of Texas.  Much of the wind capacity that would be built in this interconnection would be in the Great Plains area because of the higher quality winds there, which would produce capacity factors about 7 to 9 percent higher than onshore wind resources near urban centers in the east. The study found that this level of wind power is possible, but more transmission lines would have to be constructed and the cost would need to be borne by consumers or taxpayers, even though cheaper alternatives for electricity generation were available to the American public. The study received a great deal of media coverage and has been referenced on Capitol Hill repeatedly by proponents of “green energy.”

Source: NERC

Has that much wind materialized? In the entire United States, including Texas, which has its own electrical grid, wind energy represented 12 percent of total generation. Texas, however, has the most wind capacity of any state, producing 27 percent of the wind generation in the country during the first quarter of 2024. Excluding Texas wind generation from the U.S. total wind generation results in the rest of the country’s wind facilities producing 9 percent of the country’s total generation–far less than the 20 to 30 percent that NREL claimed was possible in the Eastern Interconnection. Of course, the laboratory will claim that the necessary transmission lines were not constructed to reach the levels it felt were feasible. For the transmission capacity to become a reality, permitting reform is needed, but the Biden administration has only supported reform for its politically accepted technologies, and is having a hard time to get such limited approval through Congress.

In fact, wind and solar power are having a hard time replacing fossil fuels in the U.S. generation sector. In 2023, fossil fuels generated 60 percent of U.S. electricity, despite massive investment and tax subsidies in wind and solar generation that were increased by Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

The Current Global Situation

The Energy Institute just released data for 2023 that indicated record levels of fossil fuel use worldwide along with record additions of renewable energy. Global primary energy use increased by 2 percent in 2023, even as renewable electricity generation increased strongly. Renewable electricity generation (excluding hydro) rose 13 percent from 2022 levels to reach a record 4,748 terawatt hours.  Globally, almost $2 trillion were spent in 2023 to try to force an energy transition away from fossil fuels, pushed by governments. Over the past decade, solar and wind energy use has soared, but it has not reduced fossil-fuel use, which increased even more over the same period.

Fossil fuels’ share of the global energy mix dropped by 0.4 percentage points to 81.5 percent. Despite the slight drop in share, carbon dioxide emissions rose because consumption of more carbon-intensive oil and coal increased while natural gas use was almost flat. China, for example, continues to increase its consumption of fossil fuels despite its massive increases in renewable energy capacity. China, which accounts for 28 percent of global energy consumption, increased its consumption of fossil fuels by 6 percent to a new high of 139 exajoules in 2023, despite accounting for 55 percent of renewable generation additions and 63 percent of new global wind and solar capacity. Fossil fuels in China’s primary energy mix still represent 81.6 percent of its total energy consumption in 2023, led by its coal use in generation. India, too, has increased its consumption greatly attempting to lift people from poverty, and now consumes more coal than the United States and E.U. combined.

Studies show that when countries add more renewable energy, it does little to replace coal, gas or oil. Instead, it adds to energy consumption. Recent research shows that for every six units of green energy, less than one unit displaces fossil-fuel energy. Biden’s Department of Energy finds that while renewable energy sources worldwide will dramatically increase up to 2050, it will not be enough to begin replacing fossil fuels—oil, gas and coal will all keep increasing.

In the past 50 years, oil and coal energy use has doubled, hydro power has tripled and gas has quadrupled. The global use of nuclear, solar and wind power has also surged. The plan underpinning the green-energy transition, including that of the Biden administration, is that forcing heavily subsidized renewables into the energy mix will make fossil fuels disappear. But for that change to occur, the alternate source must be better or cheaper, which is not the case for solar or wind because they can only produce energy when the weather allows them to do so and only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing at just the right speed. The rest of time they are expensive and mostly useless unless backed up by very expensive batteries. When battery storage is factored in, wind and solar energy are uncompetitive with fossil fuels. Achieving a sustainable transition to solar or wind would require orders of magnitude more storage, making these options unaffordable.

Further, solar and wind are almost entirely deployed in the electricity sector, which makes up just one-fifth of all global energy use. The energy transition needs viable green solutions in the transportation, heating, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. The hardest and most crucial sectors like steel, cement, plastics and fertilizers will be even harder to tackle.

An energy transition that works would require far greater subsidies for solar, wind, storage batteries and hydrogen, and politicians would have to impose massive taxes on fossil fuels to make them less desirable. McKinsey & Co. estimates that achieving a real energy transition would cost more than $5 trillion annually, which would slow economic growth, making the real cost five times as high. The annual cost could be more than $13,000 a person.


Politicians like to say that the green transition is here because they want voters to support more subsidization of those technologies. But clearly that is not the answer. Forecasts of wide deployment of wind are not occurring, nor is renewable energy displacement of fossil fuels. Globally, fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy are all growing. And clearly the world needs all the affordable and reliable energy that it can get to support economic growth and better lifestyles for the world’s population.

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