Carbon, Cost, Change
Charles Bayless recently retired as President and Provost of the West Virginia University Institute of Technology. Previously he was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Illinova Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary, Illinois Power Company. Prior to joining Illinova Corporation, he was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Tucson Electric Power Company.
"At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear."
— Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It.
At the midpoint of our journey to renewables, the driving force, the moral imperative to combat climate change and ocean acidification, is being increasingly reinforced by economics. We see that when the externality costs of fossil fuels are considered, then renewables and nuclear power are our only rational choices. But real-life economic decisions have a way of neglecting externalities and focusing on short-term economics. Dimming our vision of the path forward is the lack of certainty as to the ultimate system configuration and the increased need for ancillary services.
Proponents on each side claim to be cheaper than the other side by excluding large externality costs. Renewable proponents proudly proclaim grid parity by focusing on generating cost and neglecting the significant externality costs of transforming large variable and intermittent sources into grid quality electric service. Fossil fuel proponents claim the least-cost title only by neglecting the massive externality costs of climate change and ocean acidification.