Keynote speaker

Mark Mills

Professional forecaster Mark Mills was the keynote speaker at Basin Electric's 2018 Annual Meeting.

Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science was the keynote speaker at Basin Electric’s 2018 Annual Meeting. Mills is a regular contributor to and has been published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and has appeared as a guest on CNN, Fox, NBC, and PBS, and on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Mills served in the White House Science Office under President Ronald Reagan.

Mills, who described himself as “essentially a professional forecaster,” said for the last five to 10 years there has been a theory running rampant that the world is entering into a new energy economy, and changes in energy infrastructure and technology are so profound, they are considered revolutionary – that there has been a structural, fundamental change in our energy economy because of wind and solar.

Mills said he does not agree with this theory, and said facts back up his views. He explained that in the last decade, America’s energy supply from oil and gas is 400 percent more than what wind and solar has supplied. “It [the energy supplied by wind and solar] is a very significant increase, it’s not nothing, but it’s not a revolution,” Mills said.   

Mills also explained that there is a finite amount of energy that can be extracted from any energy source. While the technology of wind and solar will continue to get better, 10-fold, five-fold, and even two-fold gains are behind us. He said we can make wind and solar technology better, and while there is room for improvement, because of the limits of physics, technology can’t make it profoundly better.

Quick facts:

  • The increase in oil and gas production in America in the last 10 years is the largest increase in energy production in terms of velocity and scale that the world has ever seen from any form of energy. It’s a similar phenomenon in the rest of the world, too.
  • Without subsidies, $1 million worth of utility-grade solar panels will yield the energy equivalent of about 50,000 barrels of oil over 30 years. The same $1 million put into a wind turbine will produce about three times that – almost a 150,000 barrel equivalent. That same $1 million put into a shale rig will yield 400,000 barrels of actual oil or natural gas equivalent.
  • It would take 400 years’ worth of the entire world’s production of lithium batteries to store one day’s worth of America’s electric demand.
  • As seen in Europe, increasing the amount of wind and solar-generated electricity per capita by four to five fold will roughly double the cost of electricity.
  • The world’s cell towers consume more electricity than the country of Italy, and are on track to consume the amount of electricity Japan needs for all uses.

“I hope you don’t take away from this [presentation] a sense that I think the wind and solar are irrelevant … of course they have relevance. It’s a good thing that we have all-the-above supplying the energy we need,” Mills said. “Over the next 20 years, the quantity of energy consumed by the world will increase 300 percent more than it did in the 20 years from 1952 to 1972. That’s a revolution, and for that, you need everything.”