A Challenge to Greens: Prove that solar/wind replaces coal!
Or stop repeating that misleading phrase.
See also my other posts on Energy:
Whenever I read articles written by Greens that support solar and wind, they very often either imply or outright state (it is usually the latter) that increased electricity production by solar and wind replaces fossil fuel usage.
Here is just a random example. You can easily find dozens more.
This claim is extremely deceptive, if not completely false.
I believe that in almost all cases solar and wind are generating electricity that is in addition to fossil fuels. Worse, solar and wind can only generate significant amounts of electricity in very specific geographical regions. This is significant because, if I am correct, this shows that solar and wind cannot possibly achieve the stated Green goal of global Net Zero by 2050 (or even close to it).
I will write more about this in future posts, but for now, I would like to issue a challenge.
I ask supporters of solar and wind to give me one concrete example anywhere in the world of a single coal power plant (yes, you have to name the actual name of the plant and include a link) that:
Has been decommissioned within the last 10 years
Whose electricity has been fully replaced by only solar or wind power within the same grid.
By “fully,” I mean that solar and wind in that same grid produce as much electricity as the coal power plant did 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year (excluding temporary shutdowns for maintenance). And don’t forget variations between each year!
By “within the same grid” I mean that you must exclude electricity imports and exports required to load balance.
I want to make it clear that the evidence requires a significant amount of research on your part to provide proof. Do not expect to just post a quick comment and run.
This graphic displays electricity production in New England for one week in early December 2023. I think that it depicts just how difficult it is for an intermittent energy source to fully replace coal 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. And this is just for one week. Adding in seasonal variations and variations between years makes it even more difficult.
As an aside New England is a great example of the Third Energy Transition working. It has natural gas, nuclear, and hydro for base load and natural gas and hydro for load balancing.
Getting back to my challenge, I am fairly confident that an unambiguous case either does not exist or is a tiny percentage of the 13,800 coal plants in the world, but I am happy to be proven wrong.
Just to be clear, let me list what does not count as evidence:
A graph showing increased electrical generation from solar and wind. This proves nothing. My explanation that solar and wind are in addition to fossil fuels is equally valid.
A coal power plant that runs less often because of solar and wind. Unfortunately, the plant still needs to keep its turbines spinning to stay at running temperature. This emits carbon dioxide, even when no electricity is entering the grid. It also wears down the equipment and drives up costs per energy unit.
A graph showing decreased electrical generation from coal, oil, or natural gas in a nation or grid. This can potentially be explained by many factors including:
high energy prices due to market forces
high taxes or fees on electricity
a stagnant economy
a decline in non-electrical energy usage (such as industry or transportation)
Nations or regions that export their excess electricity to other nations during periods of excessive production (for example Denmark). This makes it likely that a substantial portion of the electricity is not actually replacing domestic coal plants.
This is an interesting case, but it only reinforces the geographical constraints on solar and wind. This exception to the rule does not give evidence that solar and wind can replace fossil fuels at scale.
Nations or regions that import electricity from other nations or regions when solar and wind are not generating enough electricity (for example, California).
This is another interesting case, but for the same reasons as listed above, it does not give evidence that solar and wind can replace fossil fuels at scale.
A hypothetical example of how the electricity produced from solar and wind could be stored for later use in the future. I know that batteries have the potential to do so in the future, but the scale of increased utility-scale battery production needed to do so is far beyond current production.
I am not claiming that it can never be done in the future, but that it has not yet been done at scale and across many geographies.
Claim that solar and wind reduce the need for increased fossil fuel usage. While this true, the Green goal is to radically reduce fossil fuels, not slow its increase.
Discuss other renewable energy sources. I am well aware of hydro, geothermal, and biomass, but those energy sources are not what Greens really love and governments subsidize. I will write more about them in later articles.
An explanation as to why the lack of a single example does not matter. It matters a lot. And you know it does.
To help you get started in your research, here is a list of coal-powered power stations that have been decommissioned in the United States since 2010. A quick scan of the list shows few states with significant amounts of solar or wind.
I am also interested in any examples of natural gas or oil-fired power plants being phased out under the same conditions, but coal is my real interest and what Greens should be most focused on to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
So consider this a challenge served!
See also my other posts on Energy: