NM must avoid Germany’s disastrous energy errors

New Mexico lawmakers are gearing up for another busy interim session, with several energy-related initiatives already signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. While these are great bills for New Mexicans, there has been proposed legislation in the past, which could resurface, likely resulting in increased costs for families and businesses across the state.

One particularly concerning trend is a push by some state officials to emulate proposals similar to Germany’s as their energy transition strategy. “Energywiende” as the Germans call it, is the inspiration behind many initiatives being rolled out in several states, which has been dubbed by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page as “the world’s dumbest energy policy.”

If New Mexico families and businesses want ineffective energy policies that don’t reduce emissions as promised and spectacularly raise energy costs, with the added potential of rolling blackouts as a bonus, then Germany is the model to follow.

But if they want affordable prices, reliable energy and lower emissions, then they need to contemplate a more sensible transition that learns from the mistakes Germany made in its rush to change its energy mix.

Here’s a short primer on how Germany failed: It shut down its emissions-free, baseload nuclear power plants in an overreaction to Japan’s tragic earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Germany sought to increase the use of natural gas, relying heavily on Russia for import.

It then tried to abandon natural gas in an effort to ramp up renewable power output without regard to technological feasibility. After all this, the country was then forced to increase coal imports when it couldn’t maintain the reliability of its electricity grid because of the lost nuclear generation.

The upshot: German electricity prices are 45% above the European average, with Germans paying the equivalent of about 33 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity. For comparison, New Mexico’s current residential electric rate is 10.31 cents, or 31% of Germany’s.

Meanwhile, carbon emissions are not declining as promised in Germany, but they are happening right here in the United States.

Last June, Germany came close to experiencing rolling blackouts due to the lack of backup generation for renewables when capacity decreased each day. Despite Germany’s massive public spending and mandates renewables are only meeting 35 percent of the country’s power needs. How had the country expected to meet the other 65 percent?

Top it all off with the fact that upgrades to Germany’s transmission system have ballooned to $59 billion, more than 50 percent higher than originally forecast and budgeted, and much of the progress on building new power lines has been delayed and new installations of wind are slowing down.

This kind of bad policy harms renewable energy growth and fails consumers because it doesn’t provide the kind of uninterrupted, affordable energy that only a balanced mix of power supplies can create right now. Any new policies should reflect the fact that energy demand will only keep growing, and that we need all energy resources – renewables as well as traditional fuels – to meet our needs in a sustainable, environmentally responsible way.

New Mexico must avoid the rushed, reckless transition that many across the country are offering, with the German model as inspiration. The German model should be a cautionary tale of what happens when good intentions – greater renewable deployment – go wrong.

Let’s opt for a more sensible shift toward greater renewable energy use, which will protect our economy and environmental stewardship. That means developing renewables, traditional fuels and the accompanying infrastructure in a complementary manner to meet the additional capacity needs of our grid, and the energy demanded by our families and businesses.

We encourage New Mexicans to give their input to lawmakers and persuade them to avoid the German model while opting for a common-sense approach to developing an energy framework that protects the environment, economic growth and family expenses at the same time.

The Consumer Energy Alliance is a U.S. consumer advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.

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