Nebraska, Indiana, New Mexico, and Wisconsin have all delayed the planned closing of coal plants, the latest sign the green energy transition ambitions aren’t quite ready for prime time. One Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner, Ellen Nowak, is calling for a pause and a reassessment of the national strategy as, she says, more people are starting to awaken to reality.
Sharyl: It seems impossible to predict what is doable far down the road when it comes to green energy. Things are changing so quickly. Are we setting goals and then just trying to meet them regardless of whether we can? Or are we looking realistically at what the goal can be?
Ellen Nowak : It's more of the former. It's easy for a politician to set a goal that needs to be met 30 years after they're out of office. There's no accountability there. You need to work with the people that actually run the grid and them tell you what is achievable, and be flexible along the way, versus having hard and fast rules.
Sharyl: Do you have any thoughts about the idealistic goals we have versus the reality of — is this really reducing the carbon footprint?
Ellen Nowak: So, it's clean-emitting, but it's not necessarily clean to produce the energy, the green energy that we want. So the production of the solar panels themselves require an extraordinary amount of environmental impact. There's mining involved. You know, that is not an emission-free source. Same as with the electric vehicles. The production of the electric vehicle itself, that’s not a carbon-free process. So we're also focused on, "Well, it's a carbon-free— there's no emissions from the car." Okay, but what did it take to get there, and as you look at the holistic picture, did we come out ahead?
Sharyl: If you could talk about a framework you would like to see, you know, just a general outline in the next 10, 20 years. You talked about a pause. What would you like to see happen?
Ellen Nowak: So, I think we still need to have an all-of-the-above energy policy. It wasn't that long ago that, as a country, we talked about that. I am absolutely supportive of moving towards more renewables. We all breathe the same air. We all want clean air. We have made tremendous strides in reductions of carbon over the last two decades, especially here in Wisconsin. But, I think we need, just like your financial portfolio, it needs to be balanced, and you cannot put all your eggs in one basket.
I don't like to talk about, "We should eliminate a certain type of fuel source," because you never know what the future is going to hold. And I think, right now, we are too focused on the pros of some resources and not the cons, and vice versa, with the fossil base that is reliable. And we definitely need to move towards a more nuclear future. Whether it's maybe more the small nuclear facilities — larger are very expensive to build and difficult. So, I think we need to keep moving all of the above, optimize the resources. Let's not eliminate resources. That's short-sighted.
Sharyl (on-camera): The United Nations meanwhile continues to put the gas on green energy. It recently said that supplies from low-carbon-emitting sources need to double by 2030 if the world is going to reach the goal of being net-zero.