Study vs. Advocacy – Wind Generation

Study vs. Advocacy – Wind Generation

I recently came across this “study” – The Net Benefits of Increased Wind Power in PJM – done by Synapse Energy Economics for Americans for a Clean Energy Grid.  Based on the information on the website from their website they seem to be a very credible organization.   However I think the “study” shows that they are smart enough to manipulate the setup and presentation to create a document to their client’s desire.  The study became an advocacy piece and those calling it a study better review it first.

The first alarm bell from any study requiring a model, particularly the power markets, there needs to be back test of the model.  They should show the back cast results and prove the model is ready for future applications. The main mechanism to show the impact of increasing wind actually was beneficial was to start the analysis with a draconian setup and to guise the result under a delta impact of 2026.  By pushing the analysis to 2026 they were able to state a capacity setup which does not exist and will likely not exist, thereby making a delta analysis potentially more positive.   Below table shows the current PJM resource mix ( vs. the proposed 2026 setup by Synapse.

Installed Capacity GW

Synapse 2026 PJM Current 2012






















I will agree to the direction of the reduction of coal, but the extent is far from reality.   First, there are 37 GW of coal assets with scrubber installed in the last 5 years.   Do you think utilities spend a billion dollar not to recover their assets over a longer time period?  In addition in the planning queue for scrubber installation I see 12GW of coal.  I suspect not all of those will install, but compared to the 18GW Synapse is assuming to be left in 2026 because it doesn’t pass the sanity check.

By starting at the reference point at a system that is already expensive, makes it very easy to conclude wind generation is better.   Another advocacy maneuver was to have wind generation at such high levels 36+% compared to NREL own assessment for many of the PJM states in the upper 20%.  Besides the output, I would be curious to see the wind shapes they used to and whether they are close to industry standards or biased.

I could go on and do more analysis, but I think my concerns thatI have addressed are sufficient to make the conclusion the report is more advocacy than study.  It is ashame they went that direction.  I believe the assessment done by NREL that wind costs are coming down is real and will have an impact for more wind.   I also believe solar impacts will be larger than stated in this study, but this would likely not support the initiatives set forth by the Americans for Clean Energy Grid as most of the members are wind centric.

I don’t think I would be a good advocate.   The numbers drive me.  However I am open to latitudes of probabilities, but those probabilities must sit inside some reality.   I suspect over time people would want to deal with people who don’t just color the picture how you want them to, but actually consult with you to make better decisions.   At All Energy Consulting we promise to offer you real consulting minus the advocacy.   

Your Energy Analyst who paints it like he sees it,

David K. Bellman


“What is the hardest thing in the world – To think” Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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