April 23, 2014
The Right Wing war on solar power is running up against stiff headwinds, from within their own ranks. Turns out there are still some republicans who believe in personal initiative, competition, free choice,
It’s a strange campaign not least because it seemed at first like the electric utility’s proposal would be a lay-up. Arguing that customers were not paying enough to cover the cost of maintaining the grid infrastructure they use whenever the sun is not shining, the electricity provider—Arizona Public Service, or APS—only needed approval from the state’s utility commission, which is 100 percent Republican. And the company generally enjoys strong support among Arizona Republicans. It donated $25,000 to the Republican Victory Fund in 2012, according to Arizona campaign filings. Four of Arizona’s five state utilities commissioners are former members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has staunchly opposed renewable energy mandates and incentives. On top of that, APS has spent $3.7 million to wage a lobbying and P.R. campaign against net metering, according to a recent disclosure filed with state regulators. “As more customers install solar on their homes, it becomes even more important that everyone who uses the grid shares in the cost of keeping it operating reliably for the future,” APS CEO Don Brandt said in the company’s filing with the state regulatory commission.
And yet the utility faced surprisingly fierce resistance from Arizona conservative activists, including former state GOP chairman Tom Morrissey, former Tempe Mayor and Republican candidate for State Treasurer Hugh Hallman, and an assortment of current and former Republican state lawmakers. “I can’t tell you that six months ago we would have seen the success with Republicans that we have seen here now,” said Jason Rose, a Republican public relations consultant whose firm is behind the TUSK campaign. “Republicans who oppose solar in the next election, they are going to be wiped out across the board.”
“Solar power is philosophically consistent with the Republican Party,” Rose added. “If you’re going to be for healthcare choice and school choice, how can you not be for energy choice? Conservatives, overwhelmingly, get that. If the Republican Party stops standing for the empowerment of the individual, what does it stand for?”
April 23, 2014
The graph above is not a realistic prediction of what the cost of climate change will be to the global economy. It is not meant to be. What it is meant to do is illustrate the relatively slight cost of actually dealing with climate change proactively, transforming to a renewable based economy. According to a model by Germany’s Potsdam Institute, an aggressive program to keep the planet under 2 degrees C warming in this century would mean reaching a level of prosperity 8 times above today’s, about a year and a half later than if we did nothing.
It is understood that doing nothing would bring untold damages to the real economy – those damages are deliberately left out of the graph – so as to show the relative small cost we need pay for survival of human civilization as we know it.
Other things equal, more G.D.P. tends to mean more pollution. What transformed China into the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases? Explosive economic growth. But other things don’t have to be equal. There’s no necessary one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.
People on both the left and the right often fail to understand this point. (I hate it when pundits try to make every issue into a case of “both sides are wrong,” but, in this case, it happens to be true.) On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth. But there’s no reason we can’t become richer while reducing our impact on the environment.
Let me add that free-market advocates seem to experience a peculiar loss of faith whenever the subject of the environment comes up. They normally trumpet their belief that the magic of the market can surmount all obstacles — that the private sector’s flexibility and talent for innovation can easily cope with limiting factors like scarcity of land or minerals. But suggest the possibility of market-friendly environmental measures, like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and they suddenly assert that the private sector would be unable to cope, that the costs would be immense. Funny how that works.
April 22, 2014
Bill may raise utility fees
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Monday that would allow regulated electric utilities to establish a new customer class for users of rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines.
In signing Senate Bill 1456, Fallin also took the rare step of issuing an executive order directing its implementation.
SB 1456 would allow electric utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to establish a higher base customer charge for users of rooftop solar or small wind turbines. The higher fixed charge would be used to recover some of the infrastructure costs to safely send excess electricity back to the grid.
Fallin’s executive order emphasized the importance of renewable energy in her Oklahoma First Energy Plan, which was released in 2011.
“A proper and required examination of these and other rate reforms will ensure that Oklahoma appropriately implements the Oklahoma First Energy Plan while protecting future distributed generation customers,” Fallin wrote in the executive order.
SB 1456 drew opposition from solar advocates, environmentalists and some conservative groups opposed to what they saw as an unnecessary roadblock to solar development by regulated utilities. The bill goes into effect Nov. 1, and any new tariffs covering distributed generation users would have to be finalized before the end of 2015
April 22, 2014
Combination of no action on climate change, plus no action on rebuilding a rapidly crumbling, vulnerable grid. Same forces behind both.
A new report from Climate Central has found that major power outages have increased ten times over since the early 1980s — and extreme weather is by far the biggest culprit.
The analysis defined a “major power outage” as a loss of electrical power for at least 50,000 people for at least an hour, or where the power supply interruption reached at least 300 megawatts, or where demand exceeded supply by at least 100 megawatts. It found the big upswing in such events occurred in the 2000s. Weather drove 80 percent of all outages between 2003 and 2012, and only three years in that time period saw non-weather related events account for more than 10 percent of all outages.
Furthermore, the average number of weather-related outages doubled over the 2003-2012 period. More specifically, 59 percent of the weather-related outages covered by the analysis were due to storms and extreme weather; 19 percent were due to severe cold and ice storms; 18 percent were due to hurricanes and tropical storms; 3 percent were due to tornadoes; and 2 percent were caused by extreme heat and wildfires.
April 21, 2014
It’s a big question.
As disruptive technologies of energy production and efficiency take greater shares of the energy service business, can traditional electrical utilities survive? Should they survive?
The most desirable outcome may be that they change to accommodate and facilitate the new world. Whether they will or not is anyone’s guess – some look ready to make the leap, others drag their feet.
Suggest following links to help get the whole scope of this issue.
Laments for Europe’s money-losing electric utilities were featured in an October 2013 cover story in theEconomist. It said Europe’s top 20 energy utilities have lost over half their 2008 value, or a half-trillion Euros—more than Europe’s banks lost. Many utilities therefore want renewable competition slowed or stopped. Indeed, some European giants, like Germany’s E.ON and RWE, are in real trouble, and five of Europe’s top ten utilities have suffered credit downgrades. So have some U.S. utilities—most recently Jersey Central Power & Light and Potomac Electric Power Co.—from the likes of Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Credit Suisse, and others.
Should old, long- and often still-subsidized oligopolies be bailed out or shielded from competition when they bet against innovation and lose? Those big European utilities were supposed, but failed, to prepare for renewables by reinvesting their hundreds of billions of Euros’ windfall from billing customers for the first decade’s tradable carbon emission credits they’d been given for free. Now they’re griping that disruptive technologies are upending their old models—just as innovators had warned them for the past few decades.
Disruptive technologies are meant to upset the status quo to bring worthwhile change. Should we have rejected mobile phones because they threatened to displace landline phones? Didn’t digital cameras make film cameras largely obsolete? Shouldn’t print newspapers have to invent new business models to confront the rise of the Internet?
Ken Munson, CEO of Stockton, Calif.-based startup Sunverge Energy, doesn’t want you to think of his company’s product as a “battery in a box,” backing up a roof full of solar panels — even if that’s one very accurate way to describe what it packages up into a closet-sized, UL-certified form.
Instead, he’d like you to consider the Solar Integration System as an energy manager for the modern, solar-PV-equipped home — and, importantly, one that utilities see as an asset, not a threat.
“We’re very utility-centric,” Munson said in a March interview. “We believe that, inherently, a utility focus, utility ownership, even utility rate-basing [of] our devices as an asset, is where the industry is moving.” That’s a view that doesn’t align with the ‘customer-owned solar+storage=utility existential threat’ views we’ve seen expressed lately. It’s also a departure from the way thatcompetitors like SolarCity or Stem have targeted building owners as their storage customers.
But with 2 megawatts of its systems deployed from Sacramento, Calif. to Auckland, New Zealand, Sunverge is on its way to getting a pretty broad set of test utilities for its behind-the-meter storage platform. In fact, Sunverge ranks third behind SolarCity and Stem in terms of total megawatts of advanced battery projects planned in California, according to the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program records. With California regulators moving to break a year-long impasse between utilities and customers over how to connect battery-backed solar systems to the grid, those projects could accelerate in the months to come.
Now Sunverge is turning to the next phase of its plans: networking those distributed solar-storage systems into a virtual power plant that is able to store, shift and balance electricity at grid scale. “Stuffing lithium-ion or flow or any kind of battery in a box and putting it in as a simple backup device is not that exciting,” Munson said. “But putting a cloud layer with real-time energy services on top, and being able to aggregate and control a fleet of devices on the grid in near-real time — that’s something special.”
April 21, 2014
Hat tip to reader todaysguestis for pointing this out in a comment thread. I thought it was good enough to make a post of its own. Dr. Jason Box is interviewed at length on the Greenland ice by Vice Media, part of HBO.
This is one more indication that the Dark Snow Project has been more than meeting its communication goals. More news coming on some very compelling scientific results, as well. I’ll be making some more detailed announcements soon, but by all means, go check out the Dark Snow site, and if you can, support this work.
April 21, 2014
The Silicon Valley company won’t look overseas for the graphite, cobalt and other materials needed for its so-called Gigafactory, said Liz Jarvis-Shean, a spokeswoman.
“It will enable us to establish a supply chain that is local and focused on minimizing environmental impact while significantly reducing battery cost,” she said in an e-mail.
The move comes amid heightened interest in curbing graphite pollution and a widespread corporate sensitivity about avoiding the use of industrial minerals from global trouble spots such as central Africa. China’s government, for example, has begun to shutter mines producing graphite, a major ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, over air-quality issues,Bloomberg News reported March 14.
Tesla “is a high-profile company that is entering an age of supply-chain transparency,” said Simon Moores, an analyst at Industrial Minerals Data in London.