A recent op-ed by noted academic Bjorn Lomborg questions the idea that renewable energy – wind, in particular – is up to the task of mitigating climate change. Renewables are not cost-competitive with traditional energy sources, he argues; and because renewables are intermittent and must be backed-up by base-load or peaker power plants, their true costs per kWh is often understated and their CO2 reduction potential overstated.
Much of Lomborg’s argument focuses on the UK’s plan for a 20% reduction in CO2 by 2020 that, according to the op-ed, would require that wind account for 31% of the country’s electricity mix. Due in part to rising costs of wind energy (as outlined in a recent IPCC report on renewable energy), “the cheapest way to reduce CO2 by 20% in 2020 would be to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas… [if] the goal is not just to cut CO2 emissions, but also to use renewables to do it, the models show that the [costs balloon].”
Lomborg concludes the op-ed by saying that “for any country, [wind] is a very poor choice.”
Is renewable energy overvalued as a climate change mitigation tool? Are the true costs of renewables hidden in per kWh comparisons? Are climate change goals and renewable energy goals being conflated? Is what’s true for the UK true for the U.S.?