Dutch Disillusioned With Windmills
When the Netherlands built its first sea-based wind turbines in 2006, they were seen as symbols of a greener future.U.S. liberals and leftists like Europe for all the wrong reasons, seeing it as the home of secular views, the welfare state and (although they won’t admit this) the dominance of people who think like them.
Towering over the waves of the North Sea like an army of giants, blades whipping through the wind, the turbines were the country’s best hope to curb carbon emissions and meet growing demand for electricity.
The 36 turbines — each one the height of a 30-storey building — produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 100,000 households each year.
But five years later the green future looks a long way off. Faced with the need to cut its budget deficit, the Dutch government says offshore wind power is too expensive and that it cannot afford to subsidize the entire cost of 18 cents per kilowatt hour — some 4.5 billion euros last year.
The government now plans to transfer the financial burden to households and industrial consumers in order to secure the funds for wind power and try to attract private sector investment.
It will start billing consumers and companies in January 2013 and simultaneously launch a system under which investors will be able to apply to participate in renewable energy projects.
But the new billing system will reap only a third of what was previously available to the industry in subsidies — the government forecasts 1.5 billion euros every year — while the pricing scale of the investment plan makes it more likely that interested parties will choose less expensive technologies than wind.
The outlook for Dutch wind projects seems bleak.
But of course there are some policy lessons to be learned from Europe. Their system of tort liability is much more rational than ours — which is maintained by liberals and Democrats because it benefits a key element of the Democratic coalition, the trial lawyers.
And Sweden has the most extensive system of school choice in the industrialized world.
But if liberals don’t want to learn these lessons from Europe, they probably won’t learn anything from the failure of wind power either.