How’s That Renewable Energy Mandate Working Our for You?

David Freddoso over on the Beltway Confidential blog wrote about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s plan to scale back the Garden State’s renewable portfolio standard from 30 percent renewables by 2021 to a “still ludicrous” 22.5 percent.

The New York Times dutifully records the subsidy sucklers’ complaints. But we should be learning from recent experience in Europe that massive government subsidies for “green” energy only create asset bubbles and waste good investment money on stupid stuff no one wants.

One thing the article does not mention is the current share of renewable electricity generated in New Jersey. As of 2009, the federal Energy Information Agency reports, wind, solar, and all other renewables (not including nuclear or hydro) made up 1.2 percent of electric generation in 2009 — up from 1.1. percent a decade earlier. At least it’s headed in the right direction!

Maryland’s RPS law requires state utilities meet a similarly ludicrous mandate of 20 percent renewables by 2022. EIA data (Tables 4 and 5) shows that from 1999-2009, net renewable power generation (not including nuclear and hydroelectric) decreased. Over that time period, renewable energy accounted for a whopping 1.1 percent of Maryland’s energy capacity. Maryland does count some small hydroelectric generation toward the RPS but overall hydroelectric accounts for less than five percent of total capacity.

Despite this poor performance, the Free State’s subsidy sucklers—some with extremely close ties to Governor Martin O’Malley (D)—have nothing to fear. O’Malley has made several enhancements (depending on your point of view) to this green boondoggle, allowing the subsidy chase to continue apace while allowing utilities satisfy this ostensibly green mandate with dirty energy.

Correction: Maryland’s RPS goal is 20 percent renewables by 2022.

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