"It's fairly easy with coal and gas generators. You just fire one up when you need electricity. But solar and wind are far less reliable."This turned out to be a major underlying message repeated throughout the week.
Christopher Joyce with:
"The grid can't handle all the new solar and wind power the president wants to build to create a greener energy economy."And
"Despite the promise that these are needed to get more green energy from solar and wind generators, the proposal faces a host of obstacles."And
"Does everyone really want renewable energy brought in from distant producers over power lines subsidized by the federal government?"And
"Making the grid smarter and greener will cost a huge amount of money."And Elizabeth Shogren with:
"There aren't enough transmission lines to carry the electricity from rural areas like his to the big cities where the electricity is needed."Certainly the modernization of our country's energy infrastructure is a tremendous challenge, but why is NPR so down on the prospect? Part of the problem might be the fact that the reporters overwhelmingly spent their time interviewing representatives of the electric power industry, who just might favor the status quo.
To his credit, Richard Harris on Wednesday pointed out that power companies will profit regardless of whether new transmission lines carry renewable energy or electricity from coal-fired power plants.
"The big push to expand the electric grid into areas rich in renewable energy doesn't guarantee that the new, improved grid will be more climate-friendly."However, even this misses the point that the nation's electric power supply is dominated by corporations that find the current system extremely profitable, corporations that might value profits over benefits to ratepayers, society, and environment. Although the costs of updating the electricity system would ultimately be borne by the public through rate hikes and taxes, that doesn't mean the changes wouldn't threaten the profits of the industry. In fact, many of these corporations have vast investments in coal-fired power plants that would be financially at risk from any move toward energy conservation and renewable power.
To be certain, it is nice to see NPR reporters show some healthy skepticism. But why does it seem such skepticism is most pronounced (and repeated) at precisely those times that it dovetails with the interests of the status quo?