Subsidies for wind and solar energy should be supported

Dear Editor:

Randy Poulton’s commentary (Aug. 25, “Where does your electricity come from?”) makes several claims about electric generation technologies that are inaccurate.

There once was a hope that the electricity of the late 20th century would be generated by nuclear power, but that didn’t materialize. Not because of Jane Fonda, but because of capitalism; nuclear is more expensive than alternatives, it requires significant government support, and it is risky.

Three Mile Island was more than a “minor” incident; it was a partial core meltdown. Since then the world has seen even worse with Chernobyl and Fukushima. Adding to the risk is the fact that a nuclear waste disposal site stable enough to last for the required hundreds of thousands of years still does not exist.

And government mandates didn’t kill the coal industry. Technology took away many coal jobs (as well as several mountaintops), but lately coal’s downward trend has accelerated with the emergence of cheaper and cleaner alternatives such as wind and natural gas.

While solar and wind don’t generate electricity constantly 24 hours a day, the demand for energy isn’t constant over a day, either. Demand typically peaks in the late afternoon when solar is producing the most power, and drops by a third at night. Renewables have a lot of room to grow before intermittency is an issue.

And they are growing! In 2015, about two-thirds of new capacity investment in the United States was in solar and wind power, with most of the rest in natural gas. Wind and solar power are currently a small part of the embedded base simply because energy investments over the past century have mostly been in nonrenewables. The economics of future electricity are against coal and nuclear, while the cost of wind and solar continues to drop. This is a great time to invest in solar for your home or business.

We shouldn’t oppose government help for fledgling clean energy industries with a lot of growth potential such as wind and solar. All energy technologies, including fossil fuels and nuclear, have required that. If we want to end energy subsidies, let’s start with those supporting the mature fossil fuel industries.

John Fehlauer

Mount Desert

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