Bloomberg: Green Tea Party Breaks Mold

November 13, 2013

BloombergBusinessWeek:

Georgia splinter group known as the Green Tea Coalition, which is part of the broader anti-big-government movement, is reviving the Republican link with the Sierra Club that dates back more than a century to President Theodore Roosevelt’s work to protect the environment. Its influence is being felt in other states, from Arizona in the West to North Carolina on the East Coast.

“Some people have called this an unholy alliance,” said Debbie Dooley, founder of the coalition and a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots. She’s working with the Sierra Club to fight for solar and against nuclear power in Georgia. “We agree on the need to develop clean energy, but not much else.”

The alliance is a danger for utilities such as Southern Co. (SO)’s Georgia Power unit and Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (PNW)’s Arizona Public Service, which are resisting the spread of solar energy as a threat to their business model. It may help solar developers such as SolarCity Corp. (SCTY) and panel manufacturers including SunPower Corp. (SPWR) of San Jose,California.

What’s uniting the environmental and Republican groups is the view that plunging prices for solar panels may mean consumers don’t need to buy all their electricity from utilities and their giant centralized generation plants.

“The free market approach works well in Republican circles, so I can understand how these strange bedfellows come together,” said Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at the Washington law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. “It becomes an economic argument.”

Solar panel prices have fallen 57 percent since the start of 2011 to about 86 cents a watt as of Nov. 4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That means solar power costs an average $143 a megawatt-hour worldwide now, down from $236 in the first quarter of 2011, according Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Nuclear costs about $101 and natural gas $70, by comparison.

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The next big test is in Arizona, where the son of Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican presidential candidate, is campaigning against the local utility in favor of solar energy.

On Nov. 13, regulators at the Arizona Corporation Commission in Phoenix are expected to consider a request by Arizona Public Service to charge customers as much as $100 a month to feed solar power onto the distribution grid.

Arizona is one of 43 states that requires utilities to buy electricity from household solar systems, potentially cutting into revenue for the company known locally as APS. The regulator’s staff recommended Oct. 1 that the utility’s request be rejected and the issue taken up again at a regularly scheduled hearing in 2015 for rates that would take effect the following year. Some conservatives are siding with the solar industry.

Utilities “don’t like the competition,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the late senator and presidential candidate. “I’m a conservative Republican and I think people should have a choice.”

International Business Times:

In September, Dooley explained to the Daily Beast that she supports solar energy in part because of her opposition to government subsidies for big energy and nuclear and coal power. Instead, Dooley insists, the government should end all subsidies to energy corporations and let the market choose. As solar prices continue to decrease year after year, she believes that solar is on track to become the most affordable option for consumers.

“People are hypocritical when they say, ‘Ooooh, Solyndra. Look at the subsidies solar receives!’” Dooley told the Daily Beast. “But they’re silent on the subsidies coal and nuclear have received since the 1940s.”

Despite her pro-consumer, anti-government ideology, Dooley and the Green Tea Coalition have repeatedly clashed with fellow tea party organizations. When campaigning for Georgia Power to increase its purchases of solar power, the Green Tea Coalition found itself at odds with Americans for Prosperity, the powerful conservative group largely funded by petroleum billionaires the Koch brothers.

Dooley says that the group immediately began a misinformation campaign claiming the measure would drastically increase

its purchases of solar power, the Green Tea Coalition found itself at odds with Americans for Prosperity, the powerful conservative group largely funded by petroleum billionaires the Koch brothers.

Dooley says that the group immediately began a misinformation campaign claiming the measure would drastically increase consumers’ energy costs. Despite the campaign, the Green Tea Coalition still prevailed.

10 Responses to “Bloomberg: Green Tea Party Breaks Mold”

  1. Wes Says:

    As an AZ resident, I’m watching this play out with great interest. It’s good to see real conservatives align with environmentalists on this issue. APS is the quintessential lumbering old utility with a sense of entitlement and no idea of how to adjust to the new reality. Their plan to charge $100/mo for the privilege of giving power back to APS is a measure of their ignorance. There’s no doubt that they’re entitled to some fee for maintaining the grid but the new reality has them completely baffled for the present.
    Dave Roberts over at Grist has written some great articles about this transition for the electrical utility industry.


    • 100 dollars a month buys a lot of storage. The old line utilities are pricing themselves out of the market. More importantly, a highly capital intensive and fuel cost sensitive market is vulnerable to a decline in demand. Utilities have to learn to deal with declining demand.


  2. That means solar power costs an average $143 a megawatt-hour worldwide now

    That’s what instantaneous PV output costs.  Converting it to dispatchable 24/7 power requires storage and/or backup, which elevates the price tag considerably.  Only off-grid users provide all of that themselves.

    The relative price of PV looks low because all of the other services supplied by the grid rolled into the per-kWh price.  If consumers paid for all that ala carte, such as a tiered set of fees for peak demand at various times plus a much smaller per-kWH charge for actual “fuel consumed”, they’d see how little PV is actually worth.  They’d also see how much load-levelling is worth, which suggests another set of adaptations to go with PV instead of a straight grid tie.

    Utilities “don’t like the competition,” said Barry Goldwater Jr., son of the late senator and presidential candidate.

    Things you’re mandated to buy at non-market rates aren’t competition, they’re parasitism.  If there was a real market in power, PV generators would get paid the wholesale price instead of the retail price (with grid services added) or a feed-in tariff.  Power consumers could take advantage of low wholesale prices to run ice-storage systems, dealing with the peak-generation problem naturally.  But laws usually mandate that utilities eat the cost of variability, not the people creating it.  Without market prices for buyers, they can’t use arbitrage either.

    If you take this far enough, utilities go bankrupt and the grid collapses for the lack of the uncompensated services they used to provide.  One response in Germany is to pay gas plants a daily rate to remain available.  This is starting to look like the tiered peak-consumption rate scale plus per-kWh fuel which is the natural outcome of unbundling the various services provided by the grid.

    Commenter Kieth Pickering at Atomic Insights calculates that a recent solar install in MA costs 3 times as much per kWh as the 4 new AP-1000 builds down the coast a ways.


  3. As usual, the renewable bashers fail to find any authentic sources and continue to recycle old tropes and myths despite continued debunking.
    In the PJM (Midwest) grid at 30% penetration, the need for storage would be only 4%.
    “The need for reserves to manage the variability of the combined wind and solar (spread over 13 states and the District of Columbia) is 4 percent of the 100,000 megawatts of added wind and solar,” Jacobs said.”
    http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2013/10/31/study-30-renewables-in-pjm-would-cut-costs-emissions/
    NREL produced 4 huge volumes debunking the myth of the size and cost of grid storage necessary to get 80% renewables by 2050 in the US. Deniers keep coming back with tripe from opinion blogs, of course.
    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re_futures/
    Of note, yet another study proves that high variability renewables like wind and solar reduce reduce CO2 and are a net improvement on costs. Featured in IEEE power and energy.

    Click to access Lew-WWSISIICostofCycling.pdf


    This and more like it, have been brought to you right here at climatecrocks.com.

    July 16, 2013 – “Wind prices are extremely competitive right now, offering lower costs than other possible resources, like natural gas plants.” – David Sparby, president & CEO of Xcel Energy’s Northern States Power, announcing 600 MW of new wind power contracts.
    Solar costs continue to decline. Even a cursory look at these papers will show that renewables are a blend of biomass, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, etc. Looking at solar in isolation from other renewables is artificial and erroneous. Solar supports are also decreasing. Solar costs are becoming increasingly competitive. Grid parity depends on location and other factors, but some markets have already achieved it.
    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/08/analyst-grid-parity-era-now-underway-for-global-solar-markets
    Here is a first for you – the worlds first distributed solar utility:
    http://www.principalsolar.com/home.html


    • “The need for reserves to manage the variability of the combined wind and solar (spread over 13 states and the District of Columbia) is 4 percent of the 100,000 megawatts of added wind and solar,” Jacobs said.”

      You omit the caveats of that article:
      “the PJM system can handle the additional renewable integration with sufficient reserves and transmission build out

      So a bunch of money gets spent (and winds up in somebody’s pockets… hmmm).  What are the objectives?

      “minimal curtailment of renewable energy”

      This is an odd goal, when you think about it.  “Free” fuel also means no cost to spill it… except in foregone FITs and PTCs.  Should the grid be re-designed to maximize such transfer payments?  Is that its real purpose?

      But the “minimal curtailment” has a deeper agenda:  the elimination of base-load generators.  Currently, Michigan gets about 30% of its generation from 4 nuclear powerplants.  This generation is almost completely carbon-free, and involves far less carbon-emitting steel and concrete than the same energy production from wind.  The requirement for “minimal curtailment” of wind means baseload must be eliminated and replaced with some combination of carbon-spewing gas-fired turbines and dispatchable hydro (of which there isn’t much).  The net result:  a pile of money spent, a bunch of politically-connected developers and drilling/fraccing companies enriched, and the state right back at the 30% carbon-free grid where it is now.

      In other words, from a climate perspective:  a complete waste of scarce money and precious time.

      So what’s the REAL goal here?


  4. Duh. Reduce carbon and electric rates, get it? Are you looking for a sinister plot? Denial is amazing. You just got multiple papers proving renewables lower CO2 and come right back with, no the don’t. Inane. Not a word about the papers or countering them in any way. Just denial. You never read one sentence of the 4 volume set from NREL or the two sources showing lowered CO2. Clue. Not reading does not qualify one as an expert. Reading opinion blogs doesn’t either. Research does.


    • Duh. Reduce carbon and electric rates, get it?

      1.  You expect to reduce carbon by… replacing an existing set of zero-carbon generators with roughly the same fraction of zero-carbon generators.  (Which fraction you cannot increase easily without a whole lot of new infrastructure for storage, or spilling lots of generation to avoid over-supplying the load and driving $/kWh up.)
      2.  You expect to reduce rates by… taking on a pile of debt for new generators and infrastructure, retiring capacity which has already had its construction bonds paid off.

      Are you looking for a sinister plot?

      In the absence of anything resembling an intelligent justification for the above, that looks likely, yes.

      You just got multiple papers proving renewables lower CO2 and come right back with, no the don’t.

      You have papers with analyses, I have World Bank numbers on carbon emissions showing “green” Denmark and Germany far, far behind “glowing in the dark” France.

      Not a word about the papers or countering them in any way. Just denial.

      Because I don’t have the time to pick apart these papers to see what sort of methodological flaws they’ve got (I’ve done that before, and found more than a few), I’m focused on results.  Notice tropical (no need for heating), newly wind-farmed (the Vander Piet project had just gone on-line in 2009) Aruba’s emissions still far above those of even the USA, as well as France’s position so far below Denmark.

      If you can’t explain that massive disparity in actual outcomes, your analyses are worthless.  That goes double if you can’t show a way to zero that can be accomplished with existing technology (no deus ex machina allowed).


      • Energy per capita or CO2 per capita is not a measure of domestic energy or CO2. Since virtually all transport and heating is fossil fueled, those activities dominate co2 emissions in those categories. In the commercial and industrial sectors, process heat is dominated by fossil fuels. There is the biggest difference between Germany and France. Germany has more than double the industrial output of France. By that measure, industrial output vs co2 Germany is much better. The subject can hardly be accurately portrayed by a baseball card trading scenario of little boys comparing stats. It is much more complicated and deserves better thought. For example, BASF does chemical operations that requires gas as a feedstock, not for energy. Clearly, the density of industrial operations drastically affects co2 output. A more refined understanding and analysis is required. The end goal needs to be viewed in light of the other societal interests. For example,why does Sweden and Austria have less per capita CO2? This not a blog exercise for comment. It is a real research question. But if you don’t have the time to read, you cannot do the research required to find a real answer. That’s one reason we have NREL and other organizations and professionals to sort it out. They have the time.


        • Energy per capita or CO2 per capita is not a measure of domestic energy or CO2. Since virtually all transport and heating is fossil fueled, those activities dominate co2 emissions in those categories. In the commercial and industrial sectors, process heat is dominated by fossil fuels. There is the biggest difference between Germany and France. Germany has more than double the industrial output of France.

          Okay, if industrial output is the difference between Germany at 9.1 t/cap/y and France’s 5.6 t/cap/yr, the total industrial output of Germany would account for approximately 2*(9.1-5.6)=2*3.5=7t/cap/yr.

          This simply does not pass the smell test, but it’s worth looking further.  Here’s a first pass at it, from Energy Information Agency data:  France generated 531 TWH in 2011 (consuming only 444 TWH of it; much of the difference was probably exported).  If this was generated from natural gas at 550 gCO2/kWh, that 531 TWH would create 292 million tCO2.  Divided by France’s population of roughly 64 million, that is about 4.6 t/cap/yr.  So yes, the difference in generation on the French vs. German grids is completely adequate to explain the difference in per-capita emissions.  If you want to dig deeper into the numbers to rule conclusively on the hypothesis, I’m game.

          if you don’t have the time to read, you cannot do the research required to find a real answer. That’s one reason we have NREL and other organizations and professionals to sort it out. They have the time.

          And NREL’s name shows exactly what its answer is required to be, by Congressional edict.  Do you think that any NREL employee declaring that nuclear was the best for for any application would still have a job the next month?

          If we had an actual Department of Energy that was concerned with clean energy rather than creating some green’s vision of utopia, this wouldn’t be an issue.  Had we stuck with the AEC we’d be utterly unconcerned about the climate, having dealt with that problem 20 years ago.


  5. […] posted about the awakening of a renewable energy movement among Republicans and Tea Party conservatives.  Even the New York Times is now recognizing this new […]


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