Environmental Organizations and Air Quality and Letters and Energy Efficiency and Opinion and Energy & Environment and Environment

Let's invest in wind, instead of coal

November 3, 2008

Kudos to IBJ for a well-balanced [Oct. 20] article on renewable energy in Indiana. However, I am compelled to correct the misinformation and inaccuracies [from] Ed Simcox of the Indiana Energy Association.

Simcox and those he represents talk about the "cost disadvantages inherent in wind power," but his facts and arguments are flawed and misleading, comparing the costs of a fully depreciated, old coal-fired power plant with the costs of a new wind farm.

It is only fair that we talk about new generation, as their claim is we need 5,500 megawatts of new generation by 2015 to maintain current reserve levels and reliable electric service for our state. The cost for Duke Energy's coal gasification plant in Edwardsport is at $2.35 billion for a 630-megawatt facility. That is a cost of $3,730 per kilowatt.

Duke Energy's science project is completely paid for with federal, state and local tax dollars, and the pocketbooks of Duke Energy Indiana rate payers. It is disingenuous to complain about subsidies for wind, when, for decades now, we have been socializing the risk and privatizing the profits of the fossil-fuel industry.

The best-case scenario for Edwardsport going online and producing power would be 2012, and if the current trend of increasing construction costs for Edwardsport continues, the final cost for the plant will come in over $4 billion. In comparison, wind farms are going online quickly, construction frequently taking less than one year.

The coal and utility lobby love to point out how cheap coal is, frequently using outdated prices. John Clark, senior adviser to Governor Daniels, used coal prices from 2005 at the Indiana Energy Conference last month. The cost of Illinois Basin and Appalachian coal has more than doubled over the last 12 months.

I am also growing weary of the claim that Brandon Seitz and others from the Daniels administration use about concerns for the rate impact of a renewable energy standard. Rate impacts in other states have been negligible, while Duke residential rate payers will be hit with at least a 25-percent increase to pay for Edwardsport.

We can continue down this destructive, business-as-usual path of building coal plants, at the expense of our environment, our health and our economy. Or we can adopt policies that will encourage renewable energy investments, thereby reducing the cost of energy, creating thousands of sustainable jobs, and vastly improving the quality of our environment and public health; making Indiana a leader in the green economy of the future.

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Kerwin Olson
Program director
Citizens Action Coalition

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