Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis

Posted on December 22, 2009. Filed under: Climate change, Energy Policy |

December 22, 2009

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Madison, WI (December 22, 2009) In response to a recent report from the Wisconsin Public Research Institute (WPRI) concluding that policies to increase renewable energy production would be prohibitively expensive, RENEW Wisconsin, a leading sustainable energy advocacy organization, today issued a critique documenting the faulty assumptions and methodological errors that undermine the credibility of that finding.

WPRI’s report, titled “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” reviewed the proposal in the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force to increase the state’s renewable energy requirements on electric utilities to 25% by 2025, and estimated a total cost in excess $16 billion. RENEW’s analysis, which is available at, uncovered a disturbing pattern of “methodological sleight-of-hand, assumptions from outer space, and selective ignoring of facts” that render WPRI’s cost estimate to be completely unreliable.

“It appears that WPRI’s $16 billion number was pulled out of thin air, and that its analysis is nothing more than a tortured effort at reverse-engineering the numbers to fit the preordained conclusion,” said Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin executive director.

Specifically, RENEW identified four significant errors in WPRI’s analytical approach. The critique says:

 It relies on a grossly inflated electricity sales forecast that is completely detached from current realities.
 The final cost estimate includes all the generation built to comply with the current renewable energy standard, a clear-cut case of double-counting.
 The authors fail to account for existing renewable generation capacity that is not currently being applied to a state renewable energy standard.
 There is a high likelihood that the savings from the renewable energy standard are undervalued, because the authors fail to model plant retirements in their analysis.

“In the final analysis, it would be too generous to describe the analytical approach taken here as incompetent or slipshod,” Vickerman said. “What we have here instead is disinformation, pure and simple, and it should be called out as such, especially as the Legislature begins consideration of arguably the most important economic development and environmental protection initiative in many years.”


RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.


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One Response to “Think Tank Flunks Renewable Energy Analysis”

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The report from the Wisconsin Public Research Institute is accurate. If WPRI has made an error it would be underestimating the true cost of renewable energy for Wisconsin rate and tax payers.

There is no cheaper way to produce electricity than the way we are doing it now with good old coal. Anything that is done to eliminate coal will be very expensive.

I am all in for renewable energy and cleaning up the environment, and I am willing to pay my share, but I now want to see the how we have done so far. Energy usage is down in Wisconsin yet we are building a huge coal plant at Oak Creek, WHY. Wind farms are popping up all over Wisconsin but not one coal plant has been shut down, and none are scheduled for retirement, WHY. What have we gained so far, nothing. How much have we spent, plenty.

If something isn’t done soon to clean up a few coal plants you can expect the environmental groups to start jumping off the band wagon, and rightfully so.

Why is Clean Wisconsin the only true environmental organization to recognize that the promise of a cleaner air can only be realized if coal plants are shut down? RENEW should be demanding to see a schedule of the coal plants that will be shut down in 2010.

If there has been any sleight of hand, selective ignoring of facts, numbers pulled out of thin air, a torture effort at reverse engineering of numbers, incompetent or slipshod approach, or disinformation it has come from renewable energy developers and organizations that refuse to accept and the facts and disclose the true cost of being green.

If RENEW is really an independent organization interested in the advancement of sustainable renewable energy then stop wining about your critics and do something.

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