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On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Tom, I'm referring to the "small portion of the distribution grid" which you apparently believe you're entitled to use for free.

There are millions of those connections, and every one of them has to be maintained. Or were you going to  string your own lines to your neighbor and provide him with balanced, three-phase AC? What about your other neighbors, who must take up the slack when Neighbor A isn't home?

August 1, 2015    View Comment    

On Hillary Clinton's Climate Change Plan Includes Massive Growth in Solar

Eric, it’s even easier to lead in renewable energy policy when most renewables advocates don’t fully understand energy.

Clinton's "massive growth in solar" has not only been been able to fool most of her Democratic supporters most of the time, it keeps her fossil fuel critics at bay by leaving the door to continued fossil fuel extraction wide open. In fact, it guarantees a continuing market for natural gas for all of those inconvenient times when the sun doesn't shine, decades into the future. As Aya Elizabeth points out below:

"What she doesn’t talk about

Offshore drilling.

Arctic drilling.

Regulating fossil fuels.

Keystone XL.

Moving away from fossil fuels would mean no more drilling, rejecting Keystone XL, and putting restrictions on pollution. To mention any of these things would risk an uproar, in the form of claims that she’s trying to take away jobs and criticizing an industry that has transformed our nation and our economy in a way that many would argue is for the better."

America's 20GW of solar "capacity" has proven capable of generating one-half of one percent of America's electricity. The math isn't difficult - 140GW would deliver three and one-half percent of America's electricity. Where will she get the missing 13.5%, Eric? "Efficiency", "storage", or some other meaningless renewables catchphrase?


July 31, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Tom, so you believe solar array owners should be entitled to use any part of the distribution grid for free? Based on what?

July 31, 2015    View Comment    

On Level the Playing Field for Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

Morry, if I use the internal combustion engine in my car to power an onboard electric generator, can I call my car an "internal combustion electric vehicle" and jump on the EV bandwagon too?

Apparently "hydrogen" has become a dirty word. But there's good reason for that - it's a horribly inefficient fuel, and well-to-wheels dirtier than even gasoline. It's created by steam reforming natural gas, then it must be trucked into special filling stations while keeping it very very cold, very very pressurized, or both. Waste all around, and more carbon to destroy the climate.

I understand the oil industry's quandary with 50,000 service stations in the U.S. and fewer and fewer customers, but hydrogen vehicles are the antithesis of "zero-emission". Falsely representing them that way is a cynical attempt to retain profitability for fossil fuel.

The Hype About Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate (Joseph Romm)

July 30, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Jonathan, it's always curious to me when an industry sector with 5% market share sees fit to lecture the other 95% on what they're doing wrong. Be that as it may:

  • There's absolutely no reduced CAPEX or OPEX expenditures for utilities which is provided by residential solar array owners, unless you expected them to buy your panels for you. They still have to be able to provide all of the lines, maintenance, and generation on cloudy days and at night when solar array owners are helpless.
  • I don't know of any business which can afford to keep an ongoing, billed account open even if only customer service, accounting, and postage are involved for $5/month - much less a huge infrastructure to maintain and fuel costs. Do you?
  • You must live in a very sunny part of the country, because even with a giant array of both panels and batteries there is no area which would support what the average household uses per day (~20kWh) at the "two nines" (99.99%) standard of utility reliability without both.

The utility business is changing, for the better, but the idea they face some existential threat is imaginary. Most solar panel owners are aware of the benefit utilities provide, and won't even mind when they receive a bill for realistic infrastructure charges and see their generous net metering subsidy disappear. Others will have to go "off the grid" before they appreciate the value of this asset they've been taking for granted.

July 30, 2015    View Comment    

On Can U.S. Canadian Oil Sands Imports be Nearly Carbon Neutral?

John, I have to agree with Keith.

I've spent considerable time experimenting with the GREET model, and in my opinion it's about as good as any energy lifecycle model gets. Meaning, the farther we dig into any model the more arcane and arbitrary the factors get, until eventually we can deliver any result we like by by making favorable assumptions for one, or several, of the input's impact.

We probably agree on the uselessness of "carbon credits"  - but they're useless for the exact reasons you make in your argument for tar sands oil. Experts can be found who will argue any point to their advantage to death. The more money that's at stake, the more experts sprout like trees, until we're left with not a jury of the most sound reasoning but one with the deepest pockets.

No matter where fossil fuel comes from the oil industry will argue that the most environmentally-friendly fuel is where they can make the most money. That's exactly what happened with Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Occidental, and Shell in Canada - but it didn't work. Like your pitch for carbon neutrality, we have another poster today who has seen fit to rename hydrogen-fueled vehicles "EVs", and claim they qualify as "zero emission vehicles" (of course, that's not going to work either).

Where we get our fossil fuel from doesn't matter nearly as much as working as hard as we can to leave it in the ground. Any which is extracted will get burned - no matter how much sulfur it has in it - and in the long term, that's a prescription for disaster.

July 29, 2015    View Comment    

On SunEdison Makes a ($2.2 Billion) Deal, Offshore Wind Breaks Water

Lexie, the more excited you and your brethren over at GreenTechMedia get about "SunEdison" and other trendy renewables startups, the worse their stock seems to perform.

SunEdison is down over 20% since June, probably because they've been investing a boatload of money in other companies but are yet to turn a profit themselves.

How can SunEdison become "one of the world’s leading energy companies" while losing money?

July 29, 2015    View Comment    

On Nuclear Agency: Nuclear Power Will Play Only A Modest Role In Stopping Climate Change

Paxus, that's an inaccurate account of what happened at Fort Calhoun. As an example of excellent planning on the part of a nuclear utility, Omaha Public Power District intentionally shut the reactor down nine days in advance in anticipation of flooding:

It was reported on June 17, 2011 that the plant was in "safe cold shutdown" mode for refueling and the anticipation of flooding,and that four weeks' worth of additional fuel had been brought in to power backup generators, should they be needed.

Not as scary and ominous as your version, but the truth seldom supports the antinuclear script.

July 28, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Wind, when Customer B is compensated at retail rates for the 3200 kwh/yr she pushes onto the grid, it is recognized by the utility as an expense. Rates are raised on both customers to compensate, as permitted by law; Customer A receives no added value for these higher rates.

July 28, 2015    View Comment    

On Around the World, Nuclear Can't Compete With Growing Renewables


See anything linear or predictable here? If you don't, it's not because there's any "wild conjecture" involved, it's because you don't want to.

July 27, 2015    View Comment    

On Regional Coordination and Markets: Key to a Renewable Energy Future

Carl, you claim

For California these goals [Jerry Brown's renewable energy goals] are needed to maintain progress on a trajectory to a much bigger target [80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2050].

Not true. You nor anyone else "knows" that renewable energy saves money or makes a system more reliable - this renewables mantra contradicts everything learned from the only large scale deployment of renewable energy in history, Germany's Energiewende. Recommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and adding three more 2.1GW carbon-free nuclear plants to California's in-state generation would accomplish the same thing far less expensively, far more reliably, and would not rely on existing fossil fuel plants for backup.

Of course, NRDC has to somehow justify their assistance in closing the plant and adding 8 million tons of carbon emissions to California's air. Good luck with that one.

July 27, 2015    View Comment    

On LEDs Pose Same Threat As Solar and Net Metering For Utility Ratemaking

Dennis, I have thought it through, and you're wrong.

Net metering compensates owners of solar panels at retail rates for the energy they contribute to the grid - more than utilities pay any other provider. That results in more than unsold energy: it's an actual cost to the utility, and money they can't use to maintain infrastructure and keep the lights on for everyone. Who makes up the difference? Customers without solar panels (yes, you are a "customer" - like everyone else, you're not entitled to free energy).

In my opinion, Dominion should charge an "entitlement" fee, like what's happening in Spain, for the convenience of connecting to the grid without contributing one's fair share (as well as the convenience of whining about it).

July 27, 2015    View Comment