I posted part one of this very valuable discussion yesterday.

Dave Roberts in Grist:

Yesterday I wrote that solar PV and other distributed-energy technologies pose a radical threat to U.S. power utilities and the centralized business model they’ve operated under for the last century. This is, I hasten to add, according to the utilities themselves.

So what should be done about it?

It’s complicated. On one hand, more distributed renewable energy is a good thing. It reduces carbon emissions, increases resilience, stimulates the growth of new industries with new jobs, and gives Americans a taste of energy democracy.

On the other hand, it just won’t do to have utilities view the spread of rooftop solar PV as an existential threat. Whatever you think of them, utilities still have tons of political power. If they want to slow the spread of distributed energy, they can. A lot.

So let’s look at their complaint. But one key thing to keep in mind as we do is that the utilities’ primary objective, the impetus behind the recent report from their trade group, Edison Electric Institute, is toprotect their business model and their profits. That’s what business groups do.

Which is fine. EEI’s concern is what it should be: how the industry and regulators can act quickly in the short term to protect utilities, to give them room to develop a long-term strategy for grappling with the rapid spread of distributed energy. However, it’s not clear why protecting utility shareholders ought to outrank other social goals. EEI’s recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s the problem, as EEI sees it: Utility customers are being subsidized in various ways to install solar panels — tax credits, state renewable energy standards, feed-in tariffsnet metering, what have you. Those are the explicit subsidies. But there’s also an implicit subsidy. As solar customers pay less to the utility, they contribute less to the maintenance of the electric grid and other utility “fixed” assets. The utility’s fixed costs (as opposed to the variable costs of fuel and electricity) must be recovered from the other ratepayers. “This type of lost revenue recovery drives up the prices of those non-participating customers,” EEI writes, “and creates the environment for ongoing loss of additional customers as the system cost is transferred to a smaller and smaller base of remaining customers.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Organizing for America lobbying group has produced a video of congressional republicans saying stupid things about climate. (fish, meet barrel) Then he tweets it.

Tipping a hand on Keystone? Sop to Climate Hawks before he approves the pipeline? or sign that he’s done the polling math and will shoot the project down and wade into the climate debate?  I can hardly play two dimensional chess, so this 3 dimensional stuff is beyond me.


solarroof1This is a point I’ve been hammering in my talks, and in recent postings. We are heading for a policy train wreck if we do  not find a way to smoothly transition to the new energy technologies that are inexorably ramping up across the planet.

If you are making photographic film in a world that is going digital, or typewriter ribbons for laptop users – it doesn’t matter how big and powerful you are – you are going away.  Our utility industry has been playing “lah lah lah I can’t hear you” with the burgeoning renewable revolution for too long – they can slow down the transition, but they can’t stop it.  That could mean a bumpy passage when the inevitable occurs. Renewable advocates need to understand this as well, the roadmap does not yet give us a smooth transition from where we are to where the technology is leading us.

Dave Roberts or Grist has been writing on this, and I’ll present the first of his important series here today, more tomorrow.

Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.

That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves.

Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute — the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities — released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That’s a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I’ve ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence.

I’ve been thinking about how to convey to you, normal people with healthy social lives and no time to ponder the byzantine nature of the power industry, just what a big deal the coming changes are. They are nothing short of revolutionary … but rather difficult to explain without jargon.

Read the rest of this entry »


Despite the well funded and well organized campaign among the dittohead windbagger set to hold the 21st century at bay, pesky renewable energy technology continues to prove attractive to people who, like, get technology.

Midwest Energy News:

After 18 months of courtship and competition, Iowa officials announced Tuesday that Facebook has selected a Des Moines suburb as the site for its next data center.

The social media giant plans to break ground this summer in Altoona, Iowa, on a $300 million data center that could be the first of three facilities there.

Much of the news coverage has focused on the $18 million in tax credits awarded by the state, but Facebook had another reason to “like” Iowa: wind power.

Committed to green power

Technology companies that operate large data centers have been under increasing pressure in recent years to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints.

As part of a December 2011 truce with Greenpeace, Facebook adopted a policy that gives preference to building data center in places with access to clean and renewable energy.

A company spokesperson confirmed in an email to Midwest Energy News that access to wind power was a factor in its decision to locate in Iowa.

“We are committed to powering more of our operations with renewables — we’ve set a goal of reaching 25% renewables in our mix by 2015 — and are exploring opportunities in all of the regions we operate data centers,” Alex Hollander wrote.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fox News celebrates Earth day by re-plumbing the depths of stupid  – rehashing the “they used to call it global warming now they call it climate change so therefore it another liberal plot” meme.

Media Matters does a quick body slam above. I covered the topic a couple years ago – below.

A friend writes: “Saw Bidder 70 tonight. DeChristopher’s simulcast afterward was one of the most amazing thigs I’ve ever seen. I imagine watching him is like what it was to watch MLK Jr speak. Truly  incredible.”

The first post I ever wrote about Tim DeChristopher and his struggle is still the most popular post ever on this blog, by an order of magnitude.  After 21 months of prison for creatively monkey-wrenching an illegal sale of public land, DeChristopher is now free.


Climate activist Tim DeChristopher is set to be released from prison on Earth Day, this Sunday April 21st, since being incarcerated on July 26, 2011.

Tim DeChristopher created quite a ripple in the activist community when he tried to buy millions of dollars of land in December of 2008 in order to stop the oil and gas industry from snatching it up at an illegitimate auction put on by the outgoing Bush administration. While the incoming Obama administration cancelled the auction, Tim was caught in the fallout, while the rest of the auctioneers presumably roam free.

He was slapped with two federal felony charges – one for making false statements and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

Tim’s trial was pushed back 6 times over two years and was fraught with maddening plot twists. The judge refused to let Tim use the Necessity Defense or let the jury know crucial facts, including that the auction was illegal. Tim was also prohibited from testifying on how he acted on moral convictions relating to climate change.

His prison term was no less eventful. During March of last year, Tim was thrown inisolated confinement for two and a half weeks after writing correspondence that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) deemed potentially harmful because it contained the word “threat.” It turned out he was only “threatening” to return a potential legal fund donation from a company whose ethics weren’t aligned with his own.

Rumors went around that an unnamed Congressman had put in the order, but investigations never figured out if it was true.


One of the most persistent myths I have to constantly break down the impression a lot of folks still have  that the science of global climate change was invented by Al Gore in 2006.

In fact, the basic physics were outlined almost 2 centuries ago, and firmly nailed down shortly after World War 2.

The pioneers include some names that have been forgotten.

The Guardian:

Seventy-five years ago this month an amateur weather-watcher from West Sussex published a landmark paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society directly linking the burning of fossil fuels to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Guy Callendar was a successful steam engineer by trade, but in his spare time he was a keen meteorologist. In April 1938, his paper, “The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature” (pdf), which built on the earlier work of John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius, was published with little fanfare or impact. It was only in the proceeding decades that the true significance of his conclusions would be heralded.

To mark the anniversary, two modern-day climatologists have published a co-authored paper (pdf) in the same journal celebrating not just his legacy, but also illustrating with modern techniques and data just how accurate Callendar’s calculations proved to be.

Dr Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who co-authored the paper with Prof Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia, describes why Callendar is so significant to the development of climate science:

Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Lee Robinson is at it again with ice visualization magic.  These visuals are powerful and give individuals a vivid and visceral handle on what is happening on the roof of the world.


Leo Hickman of the Guardian Tweeted on this the other day.

Of course, Climate Deniers, . are nothing if not consistent. This is largely because, much like the tobacco, Ozone layer, Acid rain, and Asbestos denial campaigns that they built on, and which some of the very same people enthusiastically participated, (Singer, Happer, Seitz, Heartland, the usual suspects), they are all products of the same group of silk stocking PR firms and “think” tanks whose job it has been to push back against pesky scientists with inconvenient findings.


Hickman noted in another tweet, that the letter came from Fred Palmer, a senior official at Peabody Coal that Hickman has since interviewed.

But Palmer was known to environmentalists long before he joined Peabody in 2001. During the 1990s, Palmer was a central figure in the coal industry’s funding of climate sceptic scientists through a now-defunct organisation called the Greening Earth Society. As the-then president of a coal advocacy group called Western Fuel Association, which funded the Greening Earth Society, he claimed in a 1997 documentary that whenever you “burn fossil fuels, and you put CO2 in the air, you are doing God’s work”.

On whether Peabody is planning on diversifying its investment portfolio to include other energy sources, such as renewables:

We’re 100% coal. More coal. Everywhere. All the time.