The Energy Information Administration has delayed a comprehensive analysis comparing per-MW subsidies between renewable and fossil resources. Climate Progress has learned the delay may stem from internal concerns that the findings were far too narrow and did not give a “full picture” of the subsidy landscape.
The report, which was commissioned by three Republican House members, has come under heavy criticism for being politically driven because the requested set of data inherently inflate subsidies for renewable energy and deflate subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels.
According to one source familiar with the EIA’s handling of the report, the study was delayed this morning during a meeting because of “quality assurance” and that the agency was re-visiting the report to ensure it gave a “full picture” and did not come to a conclusion based upon the desired results of members of Congress.
A previous EIA study looking at 2007 per-unit subsidies showed renewables getting far more government support than fossil resources: The report was requested by Senator Lamar Alexander, who has called for an end to subsidies for “big wind.” It showed that renewables received between 0.6 cents and 3.5 cents of subsidies per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, while nuclear and fossil energies received between .02 cents and 2.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Opponents of clean energy pounced on the numbers, saying that they proved renewables are over-subsidized and that government funding for the industry should be significantly scaled back. But in its own analysis, the EIA cautioned about the limitations of the study:
It is important to recognize that the subsidies-per-megawatt hour calculations are a snapshot taken at a particular point in time. Some electricity sources, such as nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas, have received varying levels of subsidies and support in the past which may have aided them in reaching their current role in electricity production. The impacts of prior subsidies, some of which may no longer be in effect, are not measured in the current analysis.
The EIA analysis simply showed that because the mature nuclear and fossil energy industries generate more units of energy, they get fewer subsidies per MWh in a given year. But by only taking a “snapshot” of a particular year, the analysis completely ignores the life-cycle subsidies for a particular technology, thus inflating the subsidy count for new renewables.