Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Know the Numbers on Renewable Energy

In preparation for tonight's talk on climate change at the UUFN, I have been thinking about the economics of energy.
When I was just a kid, I remember standing on a corner of Rodney Square passing out fliers in support of the Coastal Zone Act. A man came up to me and asked what we would all do for a living if the CZA were passed. I didn't have an answer for him, but I have been pondering the question of environmental economics ever since.
A budget analyst I once worked with had a slogan pinned to his bulletin board: "If you don't know the numbers, you don't know the business." I am convinced that the only way to make progress on renewable energy is to know the numbers.
We learned this during the fight over Bluewater Wind. Opponents of offshore wind tossed around all sorts of spurious numbers of what it would cost. We needed to be able to refute those bogus numbers and offer compelling reasons why it made economic sense to lock in a supply of electricity at a set rate for 25 years. We won the fight because we won the argument over the economics.
Decisions about energy are asset allocation decisions, which is what I was taught in business school. As proponents of renewable energy, we need to master, or at least understand how to approach these decisions.

By pointing out the economic benefits of renewable energy and energy conservation, we make it less scary. Environmentalism should not be about personal virtue or deprivation. I’m not interested in telling anyone they have to live in caves or tepees to protect the planet.


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