Call or complete the form to contact us for details and to book directly with us
435-425-3414
435-691-4384
888-854-5871 (Toll-free USA)

 

Contact Owner

*Name
*Email
Phone
Comment
 
Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Primary Content Skip to Footer Navigation
▽ Explore More ▽ Hide

US Energy Policy

US Energy Policy

Energy Policy

The incandescent lightbulb is now outlawed.[1]  This fact is a perfect metaphor for “energy policy.”  Should it be illegal in the United States to manufacture, sell, buy, and use a traditional incandescent light bulb?  Your informed answer to that question will provide deep insight into your views on hundreds of other energy policy questions.   (BTW, my answer is no, but I bet you guessed that.)

Energy is the lifeblood of our economy; it touches your life in a hundred ways each day.  Yet energy policy--the set of government rules and regulations that prescribe how energy is produced, delivered, and consumed--is a complex and even a chaotic subject.

Energy was an uninteresting subject for the average person prior to the OPEC Oil Embargo in 1973.  Oil prices had been stable at about $20 a barrel in real terms for nearly a century and electricity prices had declined from about 22 cents per kilowatt to about 13 cents from 1960 to 1973, even as consumption of electricity quadrupled from 1950 to 1973, as more and more homes and appliances used electricity and utilities became better at building large coal and nuclear plants.

But the OPEC Embargo changed everything about energy and energy policy.  Four points will illustrate this importance. 

  • President Jimmy Carter’s presidency (1976 to 1980) was dominated by energy issues which he characterized as the “moral equivalent of war.” 
  • A little more than two decades later a California governor was recalled because he botched an electricity crisis in California and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor. 
  • There is a widespread perception that the US has gone to war in the Middle East over oil issues.
  • The Pope of all people has recently declared war on climate change, most of which is laid at the feet of fossil energy.

Part of the complication in energy policy is that it must be addressed on many fronts; international, national, State, and local governments all have a role in stirring the pot. 

Many books and articles are written on very specific aspects of energy policy but most are written for other experts.  Surprisingly, few are written that cover the broad landscape of energy policy.  Even fewer of these writings take a strong market-oriented perspective; the vast majority take an interventionist approach largely for environmental and oil import reasons.  And none that I have found are addressed to the pro-market political activist who has a real job during the day and then tries to save the country in his or her spare time.  This discussion is for that heroic citizen, The Forgotten Man.

So what’s the bottom line on energy policy? 

  • First, we make energy policy much more difficult than it has to be.  Energy is a commodity just like wheat or cars or hamburgers.  Mostly, we rely on competitive markets in each of these other commodity industries to make sure that we have an adequate supply to meet the consumers’ needs at reasonable prices.  But we treat energy differently.  I venture to guess that there are only a few industries more affected by government intervention than energy.  Why is that?  Does that mean we benefit from that intervention?  Is there a better way?  The article explores these questions.
  • Second, right now energy policy is being driven by climate change.  Even if one is sympathetic to some of the claims made about climate change, many stupid actions are being taken in its name that has profoundly negative effects on energy markets. 
  • Third, oil issues get the most attention but we do not face any real danger in oil markets.  Oil trades in global markets and while there may be price fluctuations (as I write, oil is about $35 a barrel, having been over $100 in the recent past), we will never face a situation where we run out of oil.  Most countries with plentiful oil have built their economies on oil revenue and the recent drop in oil prices has created serious political problems for these countries.  They simply can’t afford not to produce oil.  But problems in oil markets can result in unnecessarily higher prices and thus we need to pay some attention to them in order to promote prosperity. 
  • Fourth and most important, electricity faces real problems that could result in catastrophic failure of the system, thus threatening not only prosperity but human life.  The major framework for electric policy was set in 1935.  That framework worked fine up to the OPEC Embargo.  Electricity can compete against oil and natural gas in many applications.  Thus adjustments were necessary to the historical framework after the Embargo.  But policymakers have only nibbled at the edges of electricity policy and have not fundamentally changed the 1935 framework.  Yet little more than additional tinkering is being done to promote an electricity industry for the 21st Century.  Many special interests are pushing and pulling on the antiquated framework for personal gain but few are fundamentally committed to a complete rethinking of the role of the electric system of the future, especially given the increasing digitalization of our economy.  And as noted above, unsound policies on climate change make electric issues even more difficult.


[1] This is a good place to make a point.  Some pointy headed academics will disagree with even this first sentence.  Technically, Congress did not “ban” incandescent bulbs in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  Rather, they set a standard that most, if not all, traditional incandescent bulbs could not achieve and established a schedule for light bulbs of different wattages to meet this standard.  So it is fair to say that Congress outlawed incandescent bulbs.  But since the accompanying Article is a synthesis of the broad topic of “energy policy” it would needlessly clutter and complicate the text to be “technically” accurate in every instance.  The size of the document would need to double and the reader would understand less of the essence of energy policy if I did not make some broad generalizations.  Nonetheless, I am sure I will receive some criticism that many of my statements are not “technically correct.”  I hope that making this point early in the article will allow for a better understanding of the content of the Article.

 

“Rare Earths,” Electrification Mandates, and Energy Security (Part I) - Highlighted Article

  • 2/2/23 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Master Resource

By: Mark Krebs

Date: January 11, 2023

 

“Rare Earths,” Electrification Mandates, and Energy Security (Part I)

“My major argument: any planned transition to an all-electric renewable energy monoculture is likely to fail, at least in America. That is mainly because peak winter heating requirements can greatly exceed peak summer cooling requirements by as much as 400 to 500 percent in cold climates and because the required minerals are severely limited.”

On August 27, 1997, the Cato Institute published “Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’,” written by Robert L. Bradley Jr. (A 58-page PDF of the study is available here and a 25th anniversary review here.)  Bradley’s piece focused on the many stark ecological tradeoffs of politically favored renewables, as well as the high cost/low value associated of dilute, intermittent sourcing. This post extends that thinking to the deep decarbonization/all-electrification government program.

Rare earth minerals, on which the forced transition to “clean energy” depends, are critically constrained by many of the same factors as fossil fuels. Supplies of these minerals are dominated by regimes with intent to cultivate and exploit our growing dependency on them. As these raw materials are extracted and the strategic dominance of China increases, prices will have a premium that will impact consumers. Finding and developing supply chain alternatives will also bring increased energy expenditures necessary to secure and process these rare earth minerals. This will decrease ostensible environmental benefits from “green energy.” (continue reading)

 

“Rare Earths,” Electrification Mandates, and Energy Security (Part I)

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

A New Paradigm - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Electric grids have demonstrated the ability to adapt to some fraction of intermittent renewable generation, as long as there is sufficient dispatchable generation available to meet contemporaneous grid demand when the intermittent renewables are not producing power or are producing power at less than rated capacity. The dispatchable generating capacity is currently predominantly fossil fueled, since existing nuclear generating capacity is largely base loaded.

However, as grid demand grows as the result of population growth and a move to “all-electric everything” and the quantity of intermittent renewable generation increases, there will be a growing need for additional dispatchable generating capacity. However, the parallel pressure to close both coal and natural gas generating facilities will lead to decreased, rather than increased, dispatchable fossil-fueled generation capacity in both absolute and percentage terms. This would lead to reduced grid reliability and resiliency, and probably to managed blackouts to avoid grid collapse.

The current industry paradigm is for the utility industry to accept connection to unsmoothed and non-dispatchable intermittent renewable generation and to accept all power produced by those generators on a priority basis. That paradigm is sustainable as long as dispatchable generation capacity exceeds intermittent renewable generating capacity. However, current federal climate change efforts to promote intermittent renewables and force closure of dispatchable fossil-fueled generation presage the end to that paradigm.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is currently raising concerns about grid reliability and resilience. NERC should work with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to assure that the transition to a grid based on intermittent renewable generators continues to provide economical, reliable power. Two essential aspects of such a transition are dispatchable generation and economic dispatch.

The federal and state regulators should encourage and support a utility requirement that all new intermittent renewable generation sources connected to their grids include sufficient storage to render them dispatchable and sufficient excess generating capacity to recharge storage after use. The storage necessary to meet this requirement would depend on the maximum number of consecutive hours or days during which the generators were unable to operate because of low solar insolation or inadequate or excessive wind conditions and the frequency of such occurrences. The generators could be required to be dispatchable 85% of the year, which is the common dispatchability percentage for coal generating stations.

The resulting dispatchable renewable generators would be capable of replacing conventional coal and natural gas generators, rather than merely displacing the output of conventional generation when the intermittent generators were operating. Their ownership and operating costs would be directly comparable to the ownership and operating costs of conventional generators, particularly if current federal and state incentives were terminated. A return to economic dispatch would maximize power supplied by the lowest cost generators, eliminating the current preferences for renewable generation and minimizing wholesale power costs.

The storage required to render intermittent renewable generators dispatchable is currently very expensive and is not capable of delivering stored power for the expected duration of renewable generation unavailability. This is a critical impediment.

 

Tags: Electric Power Generation, Electric Power Reliability, Electric Power Dispatchable

Future Grid - ORIGINAL CONTENT

 

"The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots."    Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

It currently appears that the Administration’s vision of the future US electric grid, supplied predominantly by intermittent renewables and supported by electricity storage, is a master fantasy designed by politicians for execution by geniuses with the unique talent of Rumpelstiltskin. There appears to be no plan to assure that the required number of geniuses will be available timely.

Wind and solar generation operate intermittently, and their output fluctuates continuously when they are operating. The grid is currently required to accept this intermittent, fluctuating output on a priority basis and to smooth the output and dispatch alternative sources of generation when the intermittent generator output declines or ceases as the result of time of day or weather conditions. This requirement imposes predictable but uncontrollable costs on the grid and on the conventional generation capacity which supplies the grid during periods of low/no intermittent generation.

As the grid expands in line with the Administration’s “all-electric everything” goal and the capacity of fossil-fueled conventional generation declines as the result of federal mandates and the unfavorable economics of reduced operating hours, there will be a growing need for increased electricity storage capacity and for “Dispatchable Emissions-Free Resources”(DEFR). Unfortunately, the long-duration storage which would be required to support the grid through multi-day renewable energy “droughts” is not currently available and the DEFR remain undefined.

One approach to long-duration storage is pumped hydroelectric facilities. These facilities require paired reservoirs separated by significant elevation differences. There are approximately 23 GW of pumped storage capacity  in the US. This compares with a total US generating capacity of approximately 1,200 GW, of which approximately 140 GW is wind and 65 GW is solar renewable generating capacity. The move to “all-electric everything” over the next 28 years would require a rough tripling of US generating capacity, to approximately 3,600 GW, assuming no demand growth.

The conventional generating capacity which would be replaced by renewable generation plus storage consists of coal (~85% availability), Natural gas (~90% availability) and Nuclear (~95% availability). The renewable generation would consist of wind (~35% capacity factor times ~85% availability) and solar (~25% capacity factor times ~ 90% availability). Therefore, the rating plate capacity of the renewable generation required would be approximately four times the rating plate capacity of conventional generation capacity to serve the same grid demand, or approximately 14,000 GW.

The storage capacity required to support renewable generators during periods when they are not available to generate is the capacity of the generator times the maximum number of consecutive hours over which the renewable generation might be unavailable. The current US electricity storage capacity of 23 GW would be capable of replacing only one third of the current solar generating capacity. Assuming that storage capacity is all 8-hour storage (8 hr * 23 GW = 184 GWh), that storage capacity is the equivalent of replacing current US solar generating capacity for approximately 3 hours.

The ”all-electric everything” grid would require approximately 70 times current US renewable generating capacity and approximately 5,000 times current US electricity storage capacity.

 

Tags: Power Grid, Electric Power Generation, Electric Power Reliability, Energy Storage / Batteries

Level Playing Field - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Wind and solar generation are intermittent forms of renewable generation. Wind generation functions only when wind velocity is above a minimum threshold and below a maximum threshold. Solar functions only during the daytime, and then only when the sun shines. This wind velocity intermittency is reasonably predictable over the short term. The nighttime unavailability of solar is totally predictable and the sunshine intermittency is reasonably predictable over the short term.
However, these are not the only intermittency issues with wind and solar. There are also second-by-second volatility events which affect the output of wind and solar generators. The graphs below are taken from papers authored by Thunder Said Energy.
The graph below displays the short-term volatility of wind output from a 25 MW wind facility over a one-month period. During this month there were an average of 75 short-term volatility events per day during which power output dropped by more than 10% and as much as 100% for at least 1 second and fewer than 100,000 seconds (~28 hours). While every day and every month are unique, this monthly record displays a type of wind variability which is rarely discussed. This volatile wind facility output is fed to an electric grid which must match supply and demand for 60 cycles every second.

 

2250 volatility events

 

The next graph shows the variation of wind power output from the 25 MW wind facility over the course of a single day, during which maximum output was approximately 6.5 MW, or approximately 25% of rating plate capacity, and the average output was 2.3 MW, or approximately 10% of rating plate capacity.

 

Average Output 27 August

 

The next graph shows the output of the 25 MW wind facility over a period of a single day during which maximum output was approximately 2.3 MW and the average output was 0.1 MW.

 

Average Output 10 August

 

The graph below displays the short-term volatility of solar output over a period of 1 year. During this year there were an average of 96 volatility events per day during which power output dropped by more than 10% and as much as 95% for at least 1 second and fewer than approximately 13,000 seconds (~3.6 hours).

 

35000 volatility events

 

The final graph shows the variation in solar insolation on a single day. This is the type of intermittency which is generally discussed regarding solar energy. The times of day when measurable insolation becomes available and ceases to be available would change with latitude and with the seasons, as would the maximum daily insolation.

 

variation in solar insolation on a single day

 

Currently, it is the responsibility of the grid operator to compensate for the volatility of wind and solar generation output. Typically, the grid operator is dealing with input to the grid from numerous wind facilities and/or solar fields, each of which is experiencing volatility to some degree. The volatility might be either synchronous or asynchronous at any given time. Smoothing this volatility imposes costs on the grid which result in increased electricity prices.
To level the playing field for the various sources of electric generation, the volatility of wind and solar output should be smoothed prior to output delivery to the grid. Smoothing could be accomplished with capacitors or batteries, or a combination of both. This will become increasingly important as the fraction of intermittent generation on the grid increases and the availability of dispatchable conventional generation to compensate for wind and solar volatility decreases. Of course, the maximum output of the wind and solar generation facilities would be reduced somewhat by the need to recharge capacitors or storage used to smooth the output volatility.

 

Tags:

Policy Implications Of The Energy Storage Conundrum - Highlighted Article

  • 1/12/23 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Manhattan Contrarian

By: Francis Menton

Date: December 13, 2022

 

Policy Implications Of The Energy Storage Conundrum


It occurs to me that before moving on from my obsession with energy storage and and its manifest limitations, I should address the policy implications of this situation.  I apologize if these implications may seem terribly obvious to regular readers, or for that matter to people who have just thought about these issues for, say, five minutes.  Unfortunately, our powers-that-be don’t seem to have those five minutes to figure out the obvious, so we’ll just have to bash them over the head with it.

Here are the three most obvious policy implications that nobody in power seems to have figured out:

(1) More and more wind turbines and solar panels are essentially useless because they can never fully supply an electrical grid or provide energy security without full dispatchable backup.

Here in the U.S. the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” of 2022 provides some hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies and tax credits to build more wind turbines and solar panels.  Simultaneously, the Biden Administration, directed by a series of Executive Orders from the President, proceeds with an all-of-government effort to suppress the dispatchable backup known as fossil fuels.  Does somebody think this can actually work?  It can’t.  

And then there’s the December 6 press release from the UN’s International Energy Agency, touting how renewable energy sources (wind and solar) are being “turbocharged” to provide countries with “energy security.”  The headline is: “Renewable power’s growth is being turbocharged as countries seek to strengthen energy security.”   Excerpt: (continue reading)

 

Policy Implications Of The Energy Storage Conundrum

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

The Impossibility Of Bridging The "Last 10%" On The Way To "100% Clean Electricity" - Highlighted Article

  • 1/5/23 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Manhattan Contrarian

By: Francis Menton

Date: December 10, 2022

 

The Impossibility Of Bridging The "Last 10%" On The Way To "100% Clean Electricity"

 

As my last post reported, the Official Party Line from our government holds that we have this “100% Clean Electricity” thing about 90% solved.  As the government-funded NREL put it in their August 30, 2022 press release, “[a] growing body of research has demonstrated that cost-effective high-renewable power systems are possible.”  But then they admit that that statement does not cover what they call the "last 10% challenge” — providing for the worst seasonal droughts of sun and wind, that result in periods when there is no renewable power to meet around 10% of annual electricity demand.  That last 10%, says NREL, will require one or more “technologies that have not yet been deployed at scale.”  

But hey, we’ve got 90% of this renewable transition thing solved.  How hard could figuring out that last 10% really be?

And on that basis the government has embarked upon forcing the closure of large numbers of power plants that use fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, as well as on suppressing exploration for fossil fuels and other things like pipelines and refineries.  After all, if we’re transitioning at least 90% to renewables, we won’t need 90% of the fossil fuel infrastructure any more, will we?

Actually, that’s completely wrong.  Until the full solution to the so-called “last 10% challenge” is in place, we need 100% of our fossil fuel backup infrastructure to remain in place, fully maintained, and ready to step in when the wind and sun fail.  

Let’s take a brief look at what bridging the last piece of the renewable transition actually looks like.

NREL’s August 2022 Report titled “Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035” lays out several scenarios for supposedly achieving that goal.  For all the scenarios, the most important piece is the same:  building and deploying lots more wind turbines and solar panels.  (The scenarios differ in the degree of deployment of other elements like transmission lines, battery storage, carbon capture technology, and additional nuclear.). As foreseen by NREL, by 2035, total electricity generation capacity in the U.S. has more than tripled, with the large majority of the additions being wind and solar.  There is substantial overbuilding of the wind and solar facilities, presumably to provide enough electricity on days of light wind or some clouds, while having large surpluses to discard on days of full wind and sun.  Some storage has been provided, but mostly “diurnal” (intra-day) and not seasonal. (continue reading)

 

The Impossibility Of Bridging The "Last 10%" On The Way To "100% Clean Electricity"

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Looking For The Official Party Line On Energy Storage - Highlighted Article

  • 12/29/22 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Manhattan Contrarian

By: Francis Menton

Date: December 8, 2022


Looking For The Official Party Line On Energy Storage


If you’ve read my energy storage report, or just the summaries of parts of it that have appeared on this blog, you have probably thought:  this stuff is kind of obvious.  Surely the powers that be must have thought of at least some of these issues, and there must be some kind of official position on the responses out there somewhere.

So I thought to look around for the closest thing I could find to the Official Party Line on how the U.S. is supposedly going to get to Net Zero emissions from the electricity sector by some early date.  The most authoritative thing I have found is a big Report out in August 2022 from something called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, titled “Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035.”  An accompanying press release with a date of August 30 has the headline “NREL Study Identifies the Opportunities and Challenges of Achieving the U.S. Transformational Goal of 100% Clean Electricity by 2035.”  

What is NREL?  The Report identifies it as a private lab “operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract.”  In other words, it’s an explicit advocacy group for “renewable” energy that gets infinite oodles of taxpayer money to put out advocacy pieces making it seem like the organization’s preferred schemes will work.

Make no mistake, this Report is a big piece of work.  The Report identifies some 5 “lead authors,” 6 “contributing authors,” and 56 editors, contributors, commenters and others.  Undoubtedly millions of your taxpayer dollars were spent producing the Report and the underlying models (which compares to the zero dollars and zero cents that the Manhattan Contrarian was paid for his energy storage report).  The end product is an excellent illustration of why central planning does not work and can never work.

So now that our President has supposedly committed the country to this “100% clean electricity” thing by 2035, surely these geniuses are going to tell us exactly how that is going to be done and how much it will cost.  Good luck finding that in here.  From the press release: (continue reading)


Looking For The Official Party Line On Energy Storage

 

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

My Energy Storage Report: Hydrogen As An Alternative To Batteries - Highlighted Article

  • 12/22/22 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Manhattan Contrarian

By: Francis Menton

Date: December 4, 2022

 

My Energy Storage Report: Hydrogen As An Alternative To Batteries

 

As mentioned in the last post, my new energy storage report, The Energy Storage Conundrum, mostly deals with issues that have previously been discussed on this blog; but the Report goes into considerable further detail on some of them.

One issue where the Report contains much additional detail is the issue of hydrogen as an alternative to batteries as the medium of energy storage.  For examples of previous discussion on this blog of hydrogen as the medium of storage to back up an electrical grid see, for example, “The Idiot’s Answer To Global Warming: Hydrogen” from August 12, 2021, and “Hydrogen Is Unlikely Ever To Be A Viable Solution To The Energy Storage Conundrum” from June 13, 2022.

At first blush, hydrogen may seem to offer the obvious solution to the most difficult issues of energy storage for backing up intermittent renewable generation.  In particular, the seasonal patterns of generation from wind and sun require a storage solution that can receive excess power production gradually for months in a row, and then discharge the stored energy over the course of as long as a year.  No existing battery technology can do anything like that, largely because most of the stored energy will simply dissipate if it is left in a battery for a year before being called upon.  But if you can make hydrogen from some source, you can store it somewhere for a year or even longer without significant loss.  Problem solved!

Well, there must be some problem with hydrogen, or otherwise people would already be using it extensively.  And indeed, the problems with hydrogen, while different from those of battery storage, are nevertheless equivalently huge.  Mostly, to produce large amounts of hydrogen without generating the very greenhouse gas emissions you are seeking to avoid, turns out to be enormously costly.  And then, once you have the hydrogen, distributing it and handling it are very challenging.

Unlike, say, oxygen or nitrogen, which are ubiquitous as free gases in the atmosphere, there is almost no free hydrogen available for the taking.  It is all bound up either in hydrocarbons (aka fossil fuels — coal, oil and natural gas), carbohydrates (aka plants and animals), or water.  To obtain free hydrogen, it must be separated from one or another of these substances by the input of energy.  The easiest and cheapest way to get free hydrogen is to separate it from the carbon in natural gas.  This is commonly done by a process called “steam reformation,” which leads to the carbon from the natural gas getting emitted into the atmosphere in the form of CO2.  In other words, obtaining hydrogen from natural gas by the inexpensive process of steam reformation offers no benefits in terms of carbon emissions over just burning the natural gas.  So, if you insist on getting free hydrogen without carbon emissions, you are going to have to get it from water by a process of electrolysis.  Hydrogen obtained from water by electrolysis is known by environmental cognoscenti as “green hydrogen,” because of the avoidance of carbon emissions.  Unfortunately, the electrolysis process requires a very large input of energy. (continue reading)

 

My Energy Storage Report: Hydrogen As An Alternative To Batteries

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

The Energy Storage Conundrum - Highlighted Article

  • 12/15/22 at 07:00 AM

 

From: The Global Warming Policy Foundation

By: Francis Menton

Date: December, 2022

 

THE ENERGY STORAGE CONUNDRUM


Introduction and Executive Summary

Advanced economies – including most of Europe, much of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others – have embarked upon a quest to ‘decarbonise’ their economies and achieve ‘Net Zero’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Net Zero plans turn almost entirely on building large numbers of wind turbines and solar panels to replace generation facilities that use fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) to produce electricity. The idea is that, as enough wind turbines and solar panels are built, the former coal, oil, and gas-burning central stations can gradually be closed, leaving an emissions-free electricity system.

But wind and solar facilities provide only intermittent power, which must be fully backed up by something – fossil fuel generators, nuclear plants, batteries, or some other form of energy storage – so that customer demand can be matched at times of low wind and sun, thus keeping the grid from failing. The governments in question have then mostly or entirely ruled out fossil fuels and nuclear as the backup, leaving some form of storage as the main or only remaining option. They have then simply assumed that storage in some form will become available. Their consideration of how much storage will be needed, how it will work, and how much it will cost has been entirely inadequate.

Energy storage to back up a predominantly wind/solar generation system to achieve Net Zero is an enormous problem, and very likely an unsolvable one. At this time, there is no proven and costed energy storage solution that can take a wind/solar electricity generation system all the way to Net Zero emissions, or anything close to it. Governments are simply setting forth blindly, without any real idea of how or whether the system they mandate might ultimately work or how much it will cost. The truth is that, barring some sort of miracle, there is no possibility that any suitable storage technology will be feasible, let alone at affordable cost, in any timeframe relevant to the announced plans of the politicians, if ever.

This report seeks to shine a light on the critical aspects of the energy storage problem that governments have been willfully ignoring.

Section 1 shows that full backup is indispensable in an electricity grid powered mainly by intermittent generation. Without it, there would be frequent blackouts, if not grid collapse. It doesn’t matter if one builds wind and/or solar facilities with capacity of ten or one hundred or even one thousand times peak electricity usage. On a calm night, or during days or weeks of deep wind/sun drought, those facilities will produce nothing, or close to it, and only full backup of some sort – that is, backup sufficient to supply all of peak demand for as long as it takes – will keep the grid from failing. (continue reading)

 

THE ENERGY STORAGE CONUNDRUM

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Utility Regrets (Small) - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Electric utilities find themselves positioned between the renewable generation industries (wind and solar) and electricity end users. Their relationships with these groups are controlled or influenced by legislation and regulation at the federal, state and local levels. Utilities are coming to regret some decisions they have made in this highly politically charged environment as the percentage of renewable energy generation increases.

Several electric utilities agreed to serve residential and small commercial customers with on-site solar generation capacity using simple net metering, in which the customers’ electric meters run backwards when customer generation exceeds on-site energy demand. This was viewed as a trivial issue when on-site solar installations were  less common, but has become a significant issue as on-site solar generation has proliferated.

Residential and small commercial electric rates typically consist of a fixed monthly service charge and a variable consumption charge. These charges are set in rate cases filed with state utility commissions. It is common for the fixed monthly service charge to recover only a fraction of the utilities’ fixed costs (25-50%). The remainder of the fixed costs are recovered in the variable portion of the rate, based on the quantity of electricity sold to each customer class during a “test year”.

Simple net metering allows the on-site generating customers to be compensated not only for the current wholesale cost of avoided incremental electricity generated or purchased by the utilities, but also for the portion of the utilities’ fixed costs included in the variable portion of the rate. This causes the utilities to under-recover their fixed costs until the next rate case, when that portion of the fixed costs could be reallocated, increasing the variable rate paid by all customers in the class.

Simple net metering results in a subsidy from non-generating customers to on-site generating customers. Several electric utilities have approached their regulatory commissions to switch from simple net metering to an arrangement which compensates the on-site generating customers for only the utilities’ avoided wholesale cost of power. These efforts have been aggressively resisted by the solar energy industry and by on-site generation consumer groups and climate advocacy groups, because this compensation approach significantly reduces the on-site generation customers’ annual electricity cost savings.

Many customers’ solar purchase decisions were and are based on the assumption of continued simple net metering. Compensation at a reduced rate decreases the attractiveness on on-site solar for both existing and potential future solar generation customers. Existing on-site generation customers believe they are entitled to continue to benefit from the cost shifting to non-generating customers, since their purchase decisions were based on this compensation approach. Solar contractors see their future business volumes threatened by the reduced customer compensation per kilowatt hour returned to the grid.

Several state utility commissions have attempted to take the Solomonic approach to resolving the issue, suggesting customer compensation somewhere between the wholesale and retail cost of electricity. However, such an approach only reduces, but does not eliminate, the cross subsidy from non-generating to on-site generating customers. It remains unfair to the utilities and their non-generating customers.

 

Tags: Electric Power Generation, Electric Utilities

Exploiters Versus Experts - Highlighted Article

  • 12/8/22 at 07:00 AM

 

From: Climate Etc.

By: Planning Engineer (Russell Schussler)

Date: November 28, 2022

 

Exploiters Versus Experts

The unfolding saga around FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange currently in bankruptcy, appears to share some similarities with factors which led to the demise of Enron. Enron and FTX both initially achieved success because they were able to exploit some of the inefficiencies present in a complex system.

While it is a great thing to identify and correct inefficiency, the abilities of those who do so may be greatly overestimated at times.  As with Enron, it may have taken a special brilliance for Sam Bankman-Fried to capitalize on some shortcomings in crypto markets. But is the influence he received, the many speaking engagements and the adoring press commensurate with accomplishments and abilities?

You don’t have to be an overall expert in regards to a complex system in order to discover and tinker with particular inefficiencies and shortcomings within that system. In fact, successful exploiters may be grossly ignorant or worse, misinformed about major factors of the complex system. The ability to exploit a system does not mean that the exploiter is capable of redesigning the system, building a system ground up or even maintaining their edge. This post examines the initial success and ultimate failure of Enron’s attempt to transform the energy market before concluding with some thoughts around exploiters and experts.

Before Enron

In the period prior to the emergence of Enron and other power marketers, utilities operated in a more isolated fashion when developing, operating and scheduling their power supply. While there were power sales between utilities which might be triggered by supply and demand imbalances, the concept of short-term sales of energy based on incremental cost differentials was not even on the radar of many within the power industry. (continue reading)

 

Exploiters Versus Experts

 

Tags: Highlighted Article

Mitigation / Adaptation - ORIGINAL CONTENT

The principal thrust of the UNFCCC and the IPCC has been on climate change mitigation through reductions in global annual emissions of CO2 and other ‘Green House Gases’ (GHGs). The focal point of their efforts has been keeping the increase in the global average temperature anomaly to 2°C (later 1.5°C), primarily through reductions in global annual CO2 emissions. Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations are believed to be driving the global average temperature anomaly increase and to be exacerbating the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events.

The EU nations, the US, Canada and Australia have adopted goals to reduce annual CO2 emissions and to achieve net zero annual CO2 emissions by 2050. The path to achieving these emissions reductions involves closing coal and natural gas generating units, and in some cases nuclear generating units, and replacing them with intermittent renewable wind and solar generation, supported by electricity storage and “Dispatchable Emission-Free Resources” (DEFRs).

The UN has determined that these nations are not achieving the emissions reduction pledges they have made and is calling for “greater ambition” on their part. These efforts are being bolstered by declaration of a “red alert” and repeated cries of “climate crisis”, “existential threat" and “climate emergency”. The response of these nations, in the face of a global energy crisis, has been “lip service”, delays in planned nuclear and fossil generating plant closures and an increase in fossil generation.

The increased CO2 emissions resulting from the developed nations response to the energy crisis are being swamped by rapid increases in developing nation CO2 emissions, primarily from increases in coal-fired generation, but also from increases in natural gas generation. The result has been an unabated rate of increase of global annual CO2 emissions, rather than the reduction perceived to be necessary to reduce or eliminate climate change.

This situation is focusing increased attention on efforts to adapt to climate change by adapting to the impact of severe weather events which might be affected by climate change. Severe weather events, such as droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and tornadoes are not new occurrences and any affect of climate change on the frequency, severity and duration of those events is questionable at best. Wildfires are not severe weather events but are often triggered by weather events such as lightning storms.

Adaptation efforts can include construction of reservoirs to retain flood waters to prevent or lessen downstream damage and provide additional supplies of water for irrigation and residential, commercial and industrial consumption. Adaptation can also include avoiding placement of infrastructure on shorelines and in flood plains. Structures can be hardened to resist the effects of tropical cyclones and tornadoes. Forests can be cleared of underbrush and debris to reduce the availability of combustibles in the path of fires.

Mitigation efforts will not end climate change, which has been occurring for the entire history we have been able to study, though they might reduce or eliminate any anthropogenic component of future climate change. Adaptation efforts will not eliminate losses from severe weather events, though they reduce the resulting loss of life and property damage.

 

Tags: CO2 Emissions, CO2 Concentrations, Net Zero Emissions, Climate Policy, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Adaptation, Severe Weather

Climate Change Fascism - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Fascism
1: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
2 : a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

Elements of fascism have reared their ugly heads in the US response to climate change including autocratic government, economic regimentation and forceable suppression of opposition.

Examples of autocratic federal government actions include: ordering an end to coal-fired electric generation by 2030; ordering an end to natural gas-fired generation by 2035; ordering an end to fossil fuel combustion by 2050; terminating oil and gas leasing and revoking oil and gas production permits; ordering half of vehicles sold to be EVs by 2030; and, ordering all new vehicles sold to be EVs by 2035.

Ending coal and natural gas generation will shutter numerous generators which have not yet reached the ends of their useful lives, destroy the primary market for bituminous coal and a major market for natural gas, terminate the employment of numerous powerplant workers, coal miners and oil and gas field workers and strand $ trillions of coal and natural gas reserves. The federal government is effectively expropriating the property of the power plant and coal mine owners, likely with no compensation for their losses. Shuttering the coal and natural gas generating stations will also remove the primary sources of the power required to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar generation.

Terminating oil and gas leasing and operating permits will cause oil and gas availability to decline as existing producing wells are depleted. The federal government has made no obvious provisions to assure that oil and gas supplies will remain sufficient to meet demand as supplies are depleted.

The federal government and several state governments have mandated a transition from ICE vehicles to EVs. Manufacturers are being forced to transition their product lines to EVs until all new vehicles sold must be EVs. Purchasers will face declining vehicle choices, higher vehicle prices, reduced vehicle utility and expensive battery replacement. This transition is being forced in the face of unresolved issues with spontaneous battery fires in personal vehicles, light duty trucks and transit buses. Owners retaining ICE vehicles will be faced with challenges regarding fuel and maintenance availability.

The federal government is also coordinating with the broadcast and print media and with internet social media organizations to suppress skepticism regarding the government’s climate change initiatives. The various media organizations are employing “fact checkers” to suggest that information from skeptical sources is labeled as disinformation or misinformation. The federal government has also acted against numerous climate scientists who question the government’s narrative regarding the future dangers of climate change. These scientists’ employers have been periodically harassed by senators and congressmen. Some scientists have been removed from state and federal government positions for refusing to support the government narrative.

 

Tags: Climate Policy

EV (Electric Vehicle) Precautions - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Precautionary Principle: An expression of a need by decision-makers to anticipate harm before it occurs. Within this element lies an implicit reversal of the onus of proof: under the precautionary principle it is the responsibility of an activity-proponent to establish that the proposed activity will not (or is very unlikely to) result in significant harm.

Murphy's Law: An observation: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Environmental activists have frequently asserted the Precautionary Principle as the basis for immediate and aggressive actions to limit climate change despite the manifold uncertainties in climate science’s projections of future climate conditions. Their approach frequently appears to be based in part on Murphy’s Law.

While environmental activists have been very vocal regarding the uncertain, projected future dangers of climate change based on the outputs of unverified climate models, they have been far less vocal regarding the clear and present dangers of Lithium battery fires, both in EVs and in grid-scale storage installations.

Fortunately, there appear not to have been any fatalities in EV fires, except when the vehicle was involved in a crash. However, there have been numerous instances of spontaneous vehicle fires, some during charging and others when the vehicle was parked. There also appear to have been no fatalities in EV transit bus fires, which have occurred both when the buses were being charged and when they were parked waiting to begin a scheduled route. (here, here and here) There have been no reported battery fires in transit buses while carrying passengers. There have so far been no reported incidents of battery fires in EV school buses.

A fire aboard the trans-Atlantic vehicle ship Felicity Ace, which was carrying approximately 4,000 vehicles including numerous EVs, destroyed the ship and its cargo. The cause of the fire is uncertain, though it appears likely that a spontaneous EV battery fire was the cause. EV batteries were certainly a major contributor to the fire, which the ship’s crew were not able to control.

There have also been Lithium battery fires in grid-scale storage batteries. (here, here) In both cases, these incidents appear to have been triggered by malfunctions of the battery cooling systems.

Numerous owners and operators are considering banning parking and charging of EVs in parking structures, including the basements of apartment complexes and shopping centers because of the fire risk and the extreme difficulty of extinguishing Lithium battery fires.

It would seem that environmental activists promoting the application of the Precautionary Principle regarding potential future climate change should be at least as concerned regarding the clear and present danger of EV battery fires. There is no urgent need to adopt EVs for a variety of uses until the issue of spontaneous battery fires has been addressed and resolved. These fires are a particular concern in school buses and transit buses because the fires are so intense and spread so quickly that evacuation might be hindered or even prevented. This is also the case for parking and charging EVs under apartment buildings.

 

Tags: Electric Vehicles
Search Older Blog Posts