Monday, September 20, 2010

Wind Power: "small" and "incremental"

Financial Times interviews John Rowe,
CEO of utility giant Exelon
[ten minutes]

Rowe explains that natural gas will be "the dominant fuel on the margin" for the next 10-20 years because supplies are abundant, gas-fired generation has a low capital cost, and gas emits half the carbon of coal per kilowatt-hour generated. With the overall demand for power growing at less than 1% annually in the U.S., the nuclear-power industry is basically "stagnant." Wind and solar are even "more uneconomic" than nuclear. Whatever incremental investment goes to wind and solar will be driven more by public policy than by market forces. As older coal plants are decommissioned, gas-fired generation will be Exelon's "first response" to replace lost capacity.

The price of natural gas remains a tad under $4 per million BTUs and has not advanced since Angus King of Independence Wind LLC announced almost a year ago a delay in construction of Roxbury's Record Hill wind farm. King said at the time that it was tough to compete with four-dollar gas. It is no easier today. If Rowe is correct, it will be no easier for at least another ten years.

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