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Save The Grid

July 18, 2014

There is a cancer eating away at the grid, and it goes by the name, PV rooftop solar.

The spread of this disease is facilitated by renewable portfolio standards (RPS), where states require utilities to increase their sale of electricity from renewable sources.

Net-metering accelerates the spread of the disease by forcing utilities to pay owners of PV rooftop solar systems more for electricity than it’s worth.

There is a cure, but poorly informed legislatures are avoiding it.

It’s also a very simple cure, analogous to penicillin in the fight against bacterial diseases: It’s called, eliminating subsidies.

Without subsidies, the disease will die out, by cutting off the life blood of new PV rooftop solar installations.

PV Rooftop Solar Installation Photo by D. Dears

PV Rooftop Solar Installation Photo by D. Dears

Germany has shown how the disease can cause the death of electric utilities and the grid. While German utilities are still alive, they are in intensive care.

The CEO’s of German utilities have called for measures that would put them on life support, a demand charge added to customer’s bills to cover the cost of maintaing the power generation facilities needed to supply electricity when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

This near death condition has been caused by highly destructive feed-in tariffs, i.e., net-metering on steroids, resulting in the rapid spread of PV solar cancer cells.

Thirty-three states in the United States have enacted RPS laws requiring each utility to sell an increasingly large proportion of electricity from renewable sources. The disease, except in California, is still in its infancy stages, since RPS requirements in most states are still only around 2%.

But, the states’ RPS requirements will increase rapidly by 2025, only ten years from now, when RPS laws will require that 25% to 33% of electricity come from renewables.

Net metering requires utilities to pay homeowners with PV solar systems an inflated price for any excess electricity their rooftop systems produce. Typically the utility must pay homeowners between 11 and 16 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) for the electricity the utility could generate for 5 cents per kWh.

Utilities must make up this increased cost by raising prices to customers that don’t have PV solar installations. The utility must be able to pay for maintaining transmission and distribution systems, for which most PV solar homeowners get a free ride.

In addition, the utility is deprived of the revenue from these homeowners. While this lost revenue is still a relatively small amount, it will increase as the cancer spreads and more people install subsidized PV solar systems.

This lack of revenue will hollow out the utility system until utilities are unprofitable, and unable to continue generating electricity for those who don’t have PV solar systems.

Saving the grid is important, for several reasons.

People who live in cities are unable, for the most part, to install PV solar systems, and must get electricity from the grid.

Wind farms need the grid to bring electricity to where it can be used: Without the grid, energy from wind is impossible.

Industries need the grid for low-cost electricity. Without the grid they must install far more costly generation equipment.

Even those with PV solar systems need the grid to get electricity when the sun doesn’t shine, at night or on cloudy days.

In short, the grid is indispensable.

As is true with all cancers, catching it at an early stage improves the possibility of killing it.

The PV rooftop solar cancer can be killed by eliminating subsidies for PV solar installations, eliminating RPS that fosters the disease, and net metering that sustains it.

Now is the time to save the grid.

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Electric Vehicle Update

July 15, 2014

At the end of the first half of 2014, the sales figures for PHEVs and EVs are available, and they aren’t particularly good.

The sale of PHEVs for the first 6 months of 2014, versus the same period for 2013, increased from 18,355 to 29,122 vehicles, a 59% increase.

The sale of EVs increased from 22,712 to 25,844 vehicles, a 14% increase.

2014 6-Month Sales

  PHEVs (Includes Extended Range Vehicles)

Battery Powered EVs

Monthly Totals

January

2,934

2,971

5,905

February 

3,721

3,324

7,045

March 

4,594

4,578

9,172

April 

4,718

4,187

8,905

May

6,651

5,802

12,453

June

6,511

4,982

11,493

TOTAL

29,129

25,844

54,973

Total sales of PHEVs and EVs in the first half, were only 54,973 in 2014 versus 41,047 in 2013.

At this pace, PHEV and EV sales will never reach Obama’s 2011 target of one million by 2015.

Volt and Leaf

Volt and Leaf

What may be the most interesting conclusion from this data, comes from comparing PHEV and EV sales:

Total PHEV sales, 2011 through the first half of 2014, were 124,392 vehicles.

Total EV sales, for the same period, were 97,153.

The fact that EV sales approach those of PHEVs, when PHEVs were to be the most customer friendly, i.e., lower price and no range anxiety, seems remarkable.

What conclusions can be drawn from this observation?

I suspect that this sales data reflects the market segment of people who are intent on buying electric vehicles.

This group includes:

  • First adopters
  • Radical environmentalists, especially those who believe that CO2 causes global warming
  • Status seekers

These types would be sufficiently affluent, or environmentally motivated, to buy the more expensive EV rather than the PHEV.

The apparent fact that ordinary people aren’t attracted to PHEVs could indicate that the total market for PHEVs and EVs is rather small, and limited to the market segment identified above.

If this is true, it bodes poorly for the future of electric vehicles, in general.

Further reinforcing this possible conclusion, is that the sale of Hybrid vehicles, that have the cachet of being environmentally friendly, with a price tag that most people can afford, and a reasonable pay-back period from gasoline savings, are doing very well.

Annual sales of Hybrids are approaching 500,000 vehicles per year.

The billions being spent by governments on tax-payer funded rebates, may also be affecting buying decisions, so that without them, sales of PHEVs and EVs would be even lower.

There was movie a few years ago, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

It may turn out it wasn’t GM, but the market place that killed the electric car … and will kill it again if government stops supporting it.

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CHP Creates More Energy Confusion

July 11, 2014

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is mentioned in the EPA’s proposal to cut CO2 emissions 30%, as a possible approach for achieving improved energy efficiency.

But how does CHP improve energy efficiency, and if so by how much.

Some radical environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, claim that CHP has en efficiency of over 90%. Greenpeace makes this claim in its plan, the Energy [R]evolution, which is riddled with hype and misinformation.

Greenpeace, and other radical environmentalists, claim that using exhaust steam from turbines, to heat homes and businesses, will dramatically improve thermal efficiency.

The use of CHP is prevalent in Europe where people live in close proximity to power plants, and the steam can be piped to their homes and businesses. For example, in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, CHP accounts for over 30% of total generating capacity. The EU’s 2004 Cogeneration Directive required member states to promote CHP.

Conditions favorable to CHP are seldom present in the United States, though some cities, such as New York, have used CHP.

A claim of 90% efficiency is important, since traditional coal-fired power plants have a thermal efficiency of around 33%, a simple cycle gas turbine around 45%, and a natural gas combined cycle power plants around 65%.

Large steam turbine and generator

Large steam turbine and generator

Achieving a 90% thermal efficiency would, obviously, be highly beneficial.

The claim that CHP achieves an efficiency of over 90% is, however, bogus.

The mistake arises when people assign the same value to the heat, extracted in exhaust steam from a turbine, with the electricity produced by the power plant. The exhaust steam has low heat content and therefore less value than the electricity produced by the power plant.

Under the second law of thermodynamics, the exhaust steam can do less work.

The EPA also made the same mistake on its web site by arriving at an efficiency of 75% for a hypothetical plant, valuing electricity and low temperature steam equally.

The best analogy is one suggested by the former editor of Power Magazine:

An automobile’s engine using gasoline has considerable horsepower and also heats water in the engine’s cooling system. The hot water is then used to heat passengers during the winter. While this takes advantage of the heat in the water, the water doesn’t have the power to drive the automobile. Gasoline has high energy density, while hot water has a low energy density. Using the hot water for heating the car does not increase the engines efficiency.

Low temperature steam has some value, but not a value that is equal to electricity.

CHP was in vogue in the United States during the first part of the twentieth century, before the grid supplied low-cost electricity to manufacturing plants. These plants installed CHP to generate electricity for the plant and to supply steam for the plant’s various processes, including heating the plant. After the grid was in place and cheap electricity was available from the grid, these CHP plants fell out of favor.

CHP is still used where there is a need for large amounts of steam, such as in chemical plants and refineries.

The use of centralized power generation in the United States remains the most efficient method for generating and distributing electricity at the lowest cost. Distributed generation, such as with PV solar and CHP, is more costly.

However, Greenpeace and other radical environmental organizations promote CHP.

The Obama administration has established a target of adding 40,000 MW of CHP generation by 2020, and states are likely to adopt CHP as part of their plans to comply with the EPA’s proposed regulations for cutting CO2 30%, under the mistaken idea that it significantly improves energy efficiency.

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InternationalConference on Climate Change

July 8, 2014

An interesting and vital conference is taking place this week in Las Vegas.

It is the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, where scientists will discuss the issues surrounding climate change.

At the core of the conference will be the question of whether CO2 in the atmosphere is the primary cause of global warming, which is now referred to as climate change.

No Global Warming for 17 Years

No Global Warming for 17 Years

A few of the speakers include: Joe Bastardi, metrologist; Dr. Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace; Dr. Kininmonth, Australian meteorologist; Walter Cunningham, Apollo Astronaut, NASA, (retired); Dr. Sebastian Luning, German co-author of Die kalte Sonne (The Cold Sun); Dr. Madhav Khandekar, Environment Canada (retired); Kenneth Haapala, Science and Environmental Policy Project; Dr. Roy Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Biographies of these and other speakers are at http://climateconference.heartland.org/speakers

Some of the topics to be discussed at the conference include:

  • Solar Science and Climate
  • Combating Climate Myths with Science Facts
  • Carbon Taxes and the Social Cost of Carbon
  • Climate Change and the Hydrosphere
  • The Right Climate Stuff

Each topic is accompanied by a summary, such as this for The Right Climate Stuff:
“A team of scientists and engineers who worked with NASA to put men on the moon have looked carefully at the science of climate change. They will discuss what they found.”

The Heartland Institute has held these International Conferences on Climate Change in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Sydney, Munich and now Las Vegas.

The conferences have been attended by hundreds of scientists from around the world.

With worldwide temperatures having not increased over the past 17+ years, there can be little doubt that the computer programs, on which much of the media bases its claims, are inaccurate and misleading.

An important question the alarmists won’t answer:

“Why were temperatures higher in 1100 AD, 1,000 years ago, than they are today, when there weren’t any coal-fired power plants or other industrial plants with CO2 emissions?”

Contrary to the mantra of the media that the science is settled, these conferences clearly demonstrate that the science is not settled.

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Energy Efficiency Mirage

July 4, 2014

It’s fair to say that it’s possible to improve energy efficiency, but it’s also fair to say that improved energy efficiency usually comes at a cost.

It’s the costs that organizations promoting energy efficiency like to ignore.

Automobiles have improved their energy efficiency, but at the cost of higher prices and smaller cars … and some will say, safety.

This article will deal with savings on the use of electricity, as this is a major component of the EPA’s proposed regulations for cutting CO2 emissions(1).

At the outset, it’s important to distinguish between improving efficiency, and not using electricity.

Organizations, such as the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), promote setting thermostats higher, e.g., 78 degrees, in the summer, and lower, e.g., 68 degrees in the winter.

This does not improve efficiency, it reduces the use of electricity … and imposes a lower standard of living on people.

The ACEEE is one of the most egregious proponents of energy efficiency.

My article, Calling For Government Mandates, describes in detail why the ACEEE’s reports are so misguided, and misleading. The ACEEE, for example, ranked China’s residential segment as being among the most efficient in the world, with the United States ranked near the bottom. See Calling for Government Mandates

Having been to China, I know from first hand experience that China’s residential sector is not only less efficient, but also provides a much lower standard of living.

Clearly the ACEEE has a distorted view of America, yet the EPA adopted the ACEEE’s views to justify one aspect of its proposed regulations for cutting CO2 emissions.

Improving energy efficiency is a worthwhile goal, providing it’s done while keeping costs and living standards in mind.

LEDs for lighting use less electricity, while providing the same amount of light as the incandescent bulbs it replaces.

LEDs improve efficiency.

But even LEDs come at a cost. It costs around $12 for a 60-watt LED lamp as opposed to 60 cents for a comparable 60-watt incandescent bulb. The 100-watt LED lamp costs even more.

If a 100-watt LED cost $18 and a 100-watt incandescent cost 70 cents, and the LED replaces an incandescent bulb that burns 4 hours per day, it would only require about 14 months to recover the higher cost.

A 14-month payback is reasonable, but if the incandescent bulb only burns 15 minutes each day, such as in a closet, the payback would be 19 years, which is an unreasonable payback, and a bad use of financial resources.

 

Replica of 1879 Edison bulb used by GE at its 100th anniversary, alongside a modern LED lamp.

Replica of 1879 Edison bulb used by GE at its 100th anniversary, alongside a modern LED lamp.
Pat Hingle played Edison at commemorative dinners around the country.

Many other so-called proposals for improving energy efficiency also cost a great deal and are bad investments.

As mentioned in an earlier article, replacing all the windows in a moderately sized home will cost around $25,000 while only saving small amounts of electricity and heat.

Here’s what DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) says about triple pane windows it has used in its studies:

“It would take 23 to 55 years to save enough on a utility bill to cover the higher cost of the windows, based on national electricity costs.”

Obviously, replacing windows in an existing home with energy efficient windows is a bad idea, but is one of the alternatives for lowering CO2 emissions.

Improving energy efficiency can be worthwhile, but not if the costs are exorbitant.

Not only can the costs for improved efficiency be exorbitant, but the aim of demand response, as proposed by the EPA, is to force people to change their behavior.

Changing people’s behavior is when Big Government becomes intrusive.

Here is how one utility is approaching the issue of cutting CO2 emissions.

Their spokesman said, “Seattle City Light is committed to remaining a carbon neutral utility(2).”
“[ The plan is to] Capture savings through residential customer behavior change, and drive participation in our new whole home weatherization rebate program(3).”

It’s worth noting that the weatherization rebate program will result in higher electric rates, since the utility must recover the costs of subsidizing the program. The program cannot be justified on purely economic grounds since the return on investment is pitiful.

An advocate on Fox News said people can take cold showers to lower their electric bills.

Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator, said that the proposed new regulations will save people money. If the program forces people to use less electricity with resulting lower living standards, she may be right.

But the chances are that higher electricity rates from the proposed regulations will result in higher electric bills, as well as lower living standards(4).

Forcing people to use less electricity does not result in improved energy efficiency, while forcing people to spend money to achieve improvements in efficiency without a fair return on their investment, deprives people of having an opportunity to invest where they want, e.g., on education, or medical bills, or food.

That’s something to think about on this Independence Day.

And, that’s not good for America.

 

Notes:

  1. Building Block # 4: “Reducing emissions from affected EGUs in the amount that results from the use of demand-side energy efficiency that reduces the amount of generation required”.
  2. From IntelligentUtility, Utility2Utility series.
  3. Ibid
  4. Replacing low cost electricity with high cost electricity from wind and solar will increase electric bills for consumers and industry.

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Fracking Benefits America

July 1, 2014

The media continues to publish stories denigrating fracking. My local paper has published three anti-fracking AP articles in the past few days.

While a few people have been disturbed by drilling near their homes, fracking has not caused any important environmental damage.

On the contrary, fracking has resulted in many benefits for Americans.

The two primary benefits have been:

  1. A resurgence in domestic oil production that has reduced oil imports, with concomitant benefits, such as improved balance of payments, less exposure to interruptions of oil supplies and new royalty and tax income for the states and federal government.
Chart from Wall Street Journal. Data from EIA

Chart from Wall Street Journal. Data from EIA

2. An abundance of natural gas has lowered costs to consumers and industry, which, has in turn, resulted in a revival of manufacturing, especially in the chemical industry.

Wellhead Natural Gas Prices $/Million Cubic Ft, From EIA

Wellhead Natural Gas Prices $/Million Cubic Ft, From EIA

It was only a few years ago that there was great consternation over ever increasing oil imports, and the fear that the United States would have to import natural gas due to dwindling supplies. Communities and environmentalists were up in arms over building natural gas import terminals.

Fracking has changed all that, in what can only be described as a technological revolution.

Natural gas prices were skyrocketing between 2002 and 2008, but plummeted to around $2 before easing back to around $3.50 per mcf, or million BTUs, where it’s likely to stay for the foreseeable future.

Fracking also promises to alter the natural gas supply worldwide, as countries, such as Argentina and China, begin to use fracking to increase domestic supplies of natural gas.

Europe, because of environmental pressure from Greens, has refused to use fracking to develop its natural gas supplies. It now appears as though Russia has been plotting with environmental groups to prevent fracking.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO General Secretary, said Russia is secretly working with environmental groups to prevent fracking so as to maintain its natural gas exports to Europe.

There are no proven instances where fracking has caused environmental damage … it hasn’t caused water to be contaminated with chemicals, and it hasn’t caused wells to be contaminated with natural gas.

Pavilion, Wyoming was the only location where the EPA had, what it considered, proof of well contamination, but its tests were flawed, and after retesting the EPA gave up. See EPA Strikes Out on Anti-Fracking Campaign, and Fracking Indictment.

Earthquakes have also been attributed to fracking, but, nearly all are temblors barely large enough to be felt.

The few quakes that have actually caused damage were the result of waste water injection … not fracking. All of the 109 earthquakes greater than 3.0 on the Richter scale in Oklahoma, during 2013, were from the disposal of waste water … not fracking.

Fracking uses large quantities of water, but the industry is developing ways to recycle water and possibly use alternatives to mitigate this problem, especially in areas where water isn’t plentiful.

Drilling multiple wells from the same pad has reduced the number of roads being built and the area being disturbed by drilling.

Some people have been disturbed by the drilling process, including truck traffic, and some communities have been inundated with large numbers of workers, but these are usually short term issues, frequently associated with rapid growth, rather than fracking.

Radical environmentalists have been trying to create fear among the public in an effort to stop fracking. Fear mongering has been behind many of the stories about fracking, where the story invariably asks: but what if wells aren’t inspected by the government? Or what if well casings break down? Or what if there are gas leaks in pipelines?

A typical example was a headline that ominously said: “Feds aren’t inspecting 4 in 10 higher risk wells.”

A more accurate headline would read: “Feds Inspect 60% of higher risk wells.”

And, of course, the article made no mention of whether any defects were found. I’m certain, if there had been defects, they would have been highlighted. Besides, a professionally done sampling program would achieve better results at lower cost.

Fracking’s record may not be spotless, but very few serious problems have been associated with the drilling process required for fracking, from building roads to waste water disposal … And none have actually been caused by fracking.

Fracking has been a blessing for America.

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Higher Costs Built Into EPA Proposal

June 27, 2014

The EPA fully recognizes that its proposal to cut CO2 emissions 30% will increase the cost of electricity to consumers and industry.

There are several places within the EPA regulations that recognize that costs will increase (1).

There can be no question that the EPA regulations will increase the cost of electricity for consumers and industry.

Several places in the proposed regulations, the EPA says: “We view these estimated costs as reasonable.” In fact, the EPA proposal includes the word “reasonable” over 90 times.

These “reasonable cost increases” are a hidden tax.

The EPA claims that electricity costs will decline and save consumers and industry money, because energy savings will lower electricity usage. What the EPA didn’t say was that many of the methods for reducing the use of electricity require a large upfront investment.

For example, replacing all the windows in a moderately sized home will cost around $25,000 and only save small amounts of electricity annually.

Here’s what DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) says about triple pane windows it has used in its studies.

“It would take 23 to 55 years to save enough on a utility bill to cover the higher cost of the windows, based on national electricity costs.”

Adding insulation may or may not be economically worthwhile. Forcing people to adjust their thermostats may save electricity, but at the detriment to comfort and enjoyable living … and possibly the health of the elderly and sick.

These are a few of the possible effects of demand reductions

The EPA overlooks the investment and cost to living standards when it claims that consumers and industry will save money because of these proposed new regulations.

The EPA and this administration try to overlook the negative aspects of these regulations because they are intent on cutting CO2 emissions. But as shown in other articles, these regulations won’t cut CO2 emissions worldwide, and will therefore, have no effect on global warming. See The Camels Nose.

This raises the question, why should the United States suffer the consequences of trying to cut CO2 emissions when it will cost Americans money to do so? … While achieving nothing.

The EPA, in its proposal, says, that electricity costs, on average, will only increase by 6% … and that the costs are reasonable.

But why should the government impose this hidden tax on Americans? Why is any increase in costs reasonable?

Any tax is bound to hurt the economy, and cost jobs, while hurting American’s standard of living.

The EPA quotes the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in its proposed regulations, to justify its demand side and energy efficiency proposals.

But the ACEEE has extreme views on this subject.

For example, an ACEEE report determined the United States lagged behind China for energy efficiencies in buildings.

In its report, the residential sector of the United States scored a 1 (nearly the worst possible rating), while China scored a 5 (best possible rating). See Energy Efficiency Common Sense for more information about the ACEEE.

Air-conditioning units and clothes hanging to dry. Photo by Dears

Air-conditioning units and clothes hanging to dry. Photo by Dears

How can any legitimate organization declare that the residential sector in China is more energy efficient than in the United States?

It’s ludicrous, yet the EPA uses the ACEEE as an example when it talks about demand side savings and energy efficiency.

The EPA’s proposed regulations are all pain and no gain … and harms Americans.

Note:

  1. The EPA’s proposed regulations for cutting CO2 emissions 30% by 2030 can be seen at http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/20140602proposal-cleanpowerplan.pdf

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