When the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 123, everyone was so thrilled about shutting down all those dirty coal-fired power plants and building millions

Thomas Mitchell

When the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 123, everyone was so thrilled about shutting down all those dirty coal-fired power plants and building millions of dollars worth of bright new clean energy solar and wind farms.

NV Energy basically wrote the bill and lobbied for it, saying power bills would only increase 4 percent more than they otherwise would over the next two decades — 36 percent higher instead of 32 percent higher. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid campaigned for it. It passed with the support of 53 of 63 lawmakers. The governor gladly signed it, even though the Public Utilities Commission and a handful of lawmakers warned that the law amounted to a blank check to the power company written by its ratepayers.

The cost to implement SB123 has since been estimated at $1 billion.

Perhaps, they should’ve asked German electricity customers how saving the planet from global warming by going “green” is working out for them.

According to a recent article in Der Spiegel, Germans this year will pay $26 billion for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just more than $4 billion.

And about that saving the planet, the magazine notes: “On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.”

Soon the average three-person household in Germany will be paying about $120 a month for electricity, twice the price in 2000 and with two-thirds of the increase due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. “But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted,” Der Spiegel says. “As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.”

More than 300,000 German households a year are having their power shut off because of unpaid bills.

And if the solar and wind policy continues in place, the story says, electricity in 2020 will cost more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, up 40 percent from today’s price. Nevada residential customers currently pay less than 12 cents per kWh, but with SB123 in place don’t expect that to last long.

And while the Germans are paying increasingly higher power bills, the British are worrying about having enough power to avoid blackouts — because the power company is closing down coal-fire power plants to meet European Union environmental laws.

Recent articles in the British media report that currently Britain has 13 coal plants, but nearly half are scheduled to close in two years and possibly all them in the next decade.

Alistair Buchanan, the chief executive of Ofgem, Britain’s industry regulator, is warning of an impending “near-crisis” of energy supply, calling the situation “horrendous.”

“If you imagine a ride on a rollercoaster at a fairground, then this winter, we are at the top of the circuit and we head downhill — fast,” Buchanan said.

An official Ofgem report noted that wind generation, onshore and offshore, is expected to grow from around 9 gigawatts of installed capacity now to more than 20 gigawatts by 2018 or 2019. But it said, due to the variability of wind speeds, Ofgem estimates that only 17 percent of this capacity can be counted as firm — always available — for determining the security of the power supply.

As if availability and pricing weren’t enough to fret about, a recent study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates nearly 70 bald and golden eagles have been killed by wind turbines in the past four years. And, the study states, that probably substantially underestimates the carnage due to a lack of rigorous monitoring and reporting of eagle deaths. Additionally, that figure doesn’t even include the eagles killed at Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in California, which is said to be about 75 a year.

In March, a golden eagle was killed at the Spring Valley Wind farm near Ely. According to Bureau of Land Management data, in addition to the eagle, nearly 100 rare bats have been killed at the wind farm as well as a rough-legged hawk and an American kestrel, since Oct. 1, 2012, and that’s with only a third of the 66 wind turbines being regularly monitored.

A 2009 study by Fish and Wildlife estimated wind turbines kill 440,000 birds annually.

Going “green” costs.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may share your views with him by emailing thomasmnv@yahoo.com. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.