April 28, 2011

Green Energy vs. Dirty Energy Costs

I'm waiting in the lobby of a hotel this school vacation week - watching a FOX News show do a segment on green energy. 

Their headline - 

"New Green Energy will drive up electricity costs" 

The FOX News folks make it through the entire segment without mentioning that new natural gas plants, new coal plants or new nuclear plants would also drive up electricity costs. 

If you compare the costs to produce electricity from a 50 year old, fully-depreciated coal power plant against the cost of electricity from any newly constructed power plant - whether it is powered by gas, coal, nuclear, solar or wind - you will find that the cost of electricity from the new plant are higher than the old plant. 

A fair comparison between renewable and non-renewable electricity costs would also take into account the externalities (the cost to our health) of building a new coal power plant. A recent study by Paul Epstein at Harvard Medical School found that the health care costs of burning coal are 17.8 cents per kWh. Taking that cost into account would more than double our total cost of electricity as delivered by NSTAR. 

So a fair comparison would show that new renewable energy costs us less than either new or old coal powered electricity. 

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