My take: Energy transition hits some big potholes

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In the words of the theme song from the TV series “Friends,” solar and offshore wind power seem to “stuck in second gear.” (You can tell those lyrics date back to when it was easy to buy a vehicle with a manual transmission).

Some of this turmoil can be blamed on politicians and public policy groups that have made headway in convincing people offshore wind and even more economical onshore wind and solar power are dangerous. 

The sketchiest claim comes from claims of offshore wind threatening aquatic life, with allegations of  whales dying from early engineering activity. Other subsets are claims of wind and solar being unreliable. The opposite is true and there are indications that more wind and solar power would have eased the impact on our grid from the 2022 Christmas blast of cold weather

The hostile environment has even made its way to onshore wind and solar, farmers using part of their land for wind and solar getting threats.

Economic realities also enter the picture

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Higher interest rates and soaring construction costs helped to shelve Ørted’s massive New Jersey project and led to a $4 billion loss. The Garden State stopped short of throwing too many subsidies at the project. Wind projects off the Delaware and Maryland coasts, remain on track, at least for now.

Closer to home, grid operator PJM is struggling with a backlog of solar applications, although it has worked to separate the real-deal projects from “blue sky” efforts. Valid concerns about the loss of land have led to restrictions, although critics fail to note that income from solar and wind will keep farms away from developers.

On the electric vehicle front, myths abound, compounded by proposed 2035 mandates that would require the bulk of all vehicles sold to be all-electrics. The proposed mandate that remains on the desk of the Delaware DNREC secretary, mobilized opponents, some of whom believe that technology will not advance – an absurd argument.

At present, EVs have reached a point where most early adopters bought their vehicles. Many are on sidelines waiting for prices to trend downward and battery ranges on to move past 300 miles. 

Automakers have responded by cutting their losses, although plenty of battery capacity will come on line in the next couple of years as improvements on the cost and efficiency side will slowly reduce the price gap. As is the case with home solar roofs, word of mouth will make a difference and cut through the political grandstanding.

On the nuclear power side, where we see the same knee jerk opposition from the left as wind power gets from the far right, one promising start-up scrapped a project that promised to bring smaller nukes with safe standardized designs.

All of this is bad news for a Biden Administration that is working on multiple fronts perhaps overpromising and underdelivering while faced with the sad condition of the nation’s electrical grid.

In this landscape, any transition this massive is certain to have its bumpy periods with the marketplace ultimately determining winners and losers. 

But if you are in the vast majority of Delawareans and Americans who believe that global warming is a threat, the path forward is clear, even when potholes pop up. And if you are still a skeptic, an overview from Axios, offers some food for thought. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer. 

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