Tag Archives: energy efficiency

New York Just Proved Why Bailing Out Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea

billiondollars

New York approved a $7.6-$10 billion subsidy to prop up uncompetitive nuclear power plants–twice as much money as it will take for the state to achieve a goal to generate 50% of its electricity with renewables by 2030.

Yesterday, New York became the first state to adopt a policy to subsidize aging, uncompetitive nuclear reactors. The state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies, passed a Clean Energy Standard that combines a 50% renewable energy standard by 2030 with massive subsidies to prop up uneconomical reactors. (You can download the whole PSC order here.)

Prepare yourself for loud celebrations from the nuclear industry, heaping praise on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and calling for other states to emulate the Empire State with lucrative incentives to insulate the nuclear industry from competition and to postpone closures of uneconomical reactors.

We hate to throw water on the parade, but the move actually proves what a bad idea it is to provide subsidies like this to prop up nuclear power. Let’s jump to the punch line, then we can fill in the blanks: New York just committed to spending twice as much money propping up old nuclear reactors than on new renewable energy, to get 2-3 times less energy from nuclear as renewables in the end.

Spend more, get less electricity, get more carbon emissions–and get a lot of radioactive waste. Continue reading

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Too cheap to meter? Not nuclear–solar!

Chinese_solar_roofsThe nuclear power industry certainly rues the day the concept that atomic electricity would be “too cheap to meter” entered the public’s mind. The phrase has become inextricably linked with nuclear power, but not in the way its creators envisioned: instead of as a success story, it has become a symbol of nuclear power’s economic failure.

“Too cheap to meter” too quickly became “too expensive to use” and “too costly to build.”

So the headline above is offered with some trepidation and a grain of salt; over-promising on solar power will prove no more beneficial than it was for nuclear. Continue reading

The utility pushback against clean energy accelerates

A wind farm in south-central Kansas. Wind has brought enormous benefits to the state over the past decade. Is the state ready to throw that away for ideological reasons?

A wind farm in south-central Kansas. Wind has brought enormous benefits to the state over the past decade. Is the state ready to throw that away for ideological reasons?

We have been saying for months that the nuclear and coal industries are on the ropes–that’s true and grows more evident daily. But on the ropes doesn’t mean dead, and, as we have been warning for months, large, wealthy industries like these don’t go down easily.

NIRS’ Tim Judson laid out the industry’s plans in his September paper, Killing the Competition, and the industry is following the script he predicted. Now, in the lull between the comment period of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and its final revision, followed by each state having to develop a State Implementation Plan, the nuclear and fossil fuel industry’s pushback against the clean energy future that threatens to make them extinct is accelerating across the country. Continue reading

Utilities attack energy efficiency, renewable energy programs, but they can’t stop the inevitable

Florida Power & Light wants to slash it energy efficiency commitments, but spend $18 Billion on two new reactors at is hideous Turkey Point site near Miami.

Florida Power & Light wants to slash its energy efficiency commitments, but still spend $18 Billion on two new reactors at its hideous Turkey Point site near Miami.

It’s not just from the nuclear giants Exelon and Entergy–energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are under attack from nuclear and fossil fuel-dominated utilities across the country.

In Florida, Tampa Bay Times reporter Ivan Penn, who last month won the prestigious Loeb award for business reporting for his work examining the Levy County and Crystal River nuclear power reactors, is back with an excellent new article on new efforts from Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light and Tampa Electric to slash energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the state.

The entire article is worth reprinting, but we’ll limit ourselves to a few excerpts.

Penn begins:

“Florida’s big public utilities spend very little on energy conservation. On Monday, they will ask state regulators for permission to spend even less.”

After noting that the public will not be able to testify at today’s Public Service Commission hearing on the issue (although 100 people protested outside), Penn succinctly explains what’s at stake:

“For both utilities and their customers, the arithmetic is pretty simple.

“Customers know that if they use less electricity, their power bills go down. If collectively they use a lot less electricity, utilities won’t have to build as many new power plants. If utilities don’t build new plants, consumers don’t have to pay for them.

“Use less power, spend less money.

“For Florida’s public utilities, though, that kind of thinking doesn’t add up. Utilities make money by building more plants and selling more power.”

Penn notes that over the past decade, per capita energy use in Florida has dropped by 12%, adding,

“More than ever, consumers and companies squeeze every penny. Example: Tampa-based First Housing Development Corp. of Florida installed an air-conditioning monitoring system, highly efficient LED lighting and a 150 kilowatt solar array. It expects to cut its electric bill from $36,000 a year to $6,000.

“That’s good news for First Housing. Bad news for Tampa Electric.”

Here’s what the utilities want:

“The state’s utilities will ask the PSC for permission to slash their already meager energy conservation programs.

“Duke Energy once planned to conserve 333 gigawatt hours in 2019. On Monday, it will ask to lower that to 21.

“Tampa Electric’s proposal: 39 gigawatt hours to 17.

“Florida Power & Light: 229 to 4.”

Unlike far too many journalists, Penn doesn’t just take utility pronouncements at their word:

“Utilities argue that with historically low natural gas prices, it is cheaper to generate electricity than to subsidize efforts to save it. The Tampa Bay Times asked all three utilities for evidence to support their position. The utilities said they do not have that type of comparison.

“Also, the utilities themselves often argue in other contexts that, natural gas prices are unlikely to stay so low….

“….The utilities also emphasize that while demand has been flat lately, they predict it will rise dramatically over the next decade. Duke, which forecasts a 25 percent increase, plans to build $1.7 billion in new plants. FPL hopes to build an $18 billion nuclear plant.”

And Penn delves deeper into the issue, contrasting the success of Vermont’s energy efficiency measures with the stance of the Florida utilities.

He cites Martin Kushler of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), who points out:

“…such programs cost 2.8 cents to save a kilowatt hour, compared to a new natural gas plant that will cost 7 to 8 cents to generate a kilowatt hour.

“Those figures are comparable to separate reports from the U.S. Department of Energy that list the cost of energy efficiency at 2 to 3 cents a kilowatt hour and new natural gas generation at 6 to 7 cents.”

Note that Penn didn’t just take ACEEE’s word for it either–he checked with official DOE reports as well. The mark of a good reporter.

Just read the whole article. And if you’re in Florida, the end of the article includes this:

“If you would like to comment on the energy conservation issue, reference Docket 130199 and address the correspondence to:

The Florida Public Service Commission

Office of Commission Clerk

2540 Shumard Oak Blvd.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850”

The reality is that if the Florida PSC approves the utilities’ request, the outcome will be higher electricity prices, which will have the effect of encouraging more people to take their own energy efficiency measures and installing their own rooftop solar, which will further eat into utility sales and profits. These utilities are trying to postpone the inevitable–in actuality, they may simply hasten it.

graphic from ACEEE

graphic from ACEEE

That Florida utilities think energy efficiency programs in the state are too aggressive would be laughable if they weren’t likely to get away with it. But they are. Meanwhile, for perspective, ACEEE last week issued a new report that finds the U.S. ranks 13th out of 16 leading world economies on energy efficiency, ahead of only Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Germany ranked first, followed by Italy. The European Union as a whole and China tied for fourth.

In other words, the U.S. should be increasing its energy efficiency goals (and its economic competitiveness with other nations)–not bowing to pressure from utilities whose obsolete business model is based on building more power plants and sucking up more money from ratepayers based on how much money the utility has invested rather than how well the utility provides electrical service.

Meanwhile, in a different survey, the U.S. electrical grid system ranked dead last among the top nine Western industrialized countries in length of time of outages–which, in a sign of just how bad the grid has become, have risen 285% since 1984. It’s time for serious investment into the smart grid of the 21st century.

It’s not just in Florida that utilities are trying to turn back progress, however.

In Iowa, the state turned down a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy to boost solar power in the state after utilities there lobbied Governor Terry Branstad’s administration to change the grant’s purpose. The utilities there were afraid the grant could make the state a national leader in solar power, and wanted the grant to be used to show the “limitations” of solar power as well as its benefits.

But Iowa may become that solar leader in spite of Gov. Branstad’s efforts on behalf of polluting utilities. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled recently that rooftop solar power companies can install solar systems within a utility’s service area (to the consternation of Iowa’s Alliant Energy, which brought the lawsuit). The ruling applies only to Iowa, of course, but could well serve as a precedent in other states where utilities are fighting small rooftop solar companies.

A community solar farm in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

A community solar farm in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Now that we’re on the good news, let’s stay there. Not all utilities are fighting solar–some, like the publicly-owned Austin Energy in Texas, embrace it. Austin Energy wants to build a new community solar farm on a 26-acre patch of scrub brush and waist-high grass in East Austin large enough to power 500 homes. Community solar farms–especially useful for renters and those homeowners whose houses are unsuitable for rooftop solar–are a fast-growing concept across the country, with 52 such projects in 17 states underway.

And the city of Chicago, in partnership with Vote Solar, the World Wildlife Fund and the Environmental Law and Policy Center, is promoting rooftop solar in the city by offering 25% below-market rates on rooftop solar installations throughout the summer. In Chicago. Home of legendary winters and snowstorms. Solar works everywhere.

Chicago and Austin clearly don’t need the help, but maybe NBA basketball legend, Deadhead, and ESPN analyst Bill Walton can sell solar power to the rest of the country. At least NRG Energy thinks so: it has hired Walton to be its national spokesperson for its NRG Home Solar company. NRG believes rooftop solar is the future of electricity generation so it shouldn’t be surprising it’s the first company, that we know of anyway, to hire a celebrity spokesperson to promote solar power.

On the wind power side of the renewables issue, the Department of Interior plans to lease 344,000 acres of off the coast of New Jersey for offshore wind power development, following on similar, but smaller, leasing programs throughout the mid-Atlantic states. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the site could produce 3.4 Gigawatts of offshore wind power when developed.  That’s the good news. In the other states the Interior Department has opened for offshore wind development, its releases announcing the projects have included warm words from the Governors involved. Not so in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie had nothing to say about the offer. Seems that Gov. Christie doesn’t like wind power, nor the thousand of jobs new offshore wind projects in his state would create.

Michael Mariotte

July 21, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/07/21/utilities-attack-energy-efficiency/

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EPA’s proposed carbon rules provide subsidies to uneconomic, aging, dangerous nuclear reactors

The fastest and cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions is more renewables and energy efficiency. This city in Japan shows what can be done....

The fastest and cheapest ways to reduce carbon emissions are more renewables and energy efficiency. This city in Japan shows points the path….

The Environmental Protection Agency’s long-awaited proposed rules to attain carbon emission reductions from existing power plants was released today.

We’ve noticed some environmental groups already have sent out mass e-mails urging their members to support the proposal. Not so fast. Very few government rule proposals deserve unqualified support and this proposal is no exception.

Indeed, its 645-page text includes some–although oddly worded and wholly unnecessary–support for nuclear power. The support is not only unnecessary, it would be counterproductive to building a clean, carbon-free energy system.   Continue reading

Nuclear industry wins short-term victories, but losing long-term battle

Three major decisions, in three different venues, made last week a good week for polluting utilities and thus a bad one for actual people. But the longer-term trends stayed on track,  with the nuclear/fossil fuel industry still in growing trouble and facing decline as the transition to a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy future continues on.

The bad news first:

*Under utility pressure, the EPA caved and “watered down” its proposed rule to prevent massive fish kills and other damage to marine life from power plants using once-through cooling systems. Environmentalists had wanted the proposed rule strengthened to require such power plants to close or at least build cooling towers but nuclear and coal plant owners successfully lobbied the agency and won weaker regulations.   Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, May 16, 2014

Entergy's Fukushima-clone GE Mark I FitzPatrick reactor is in trouble.

Entergy’s Fukushima-clone GE Mark I FitzPatrick reactor is in trouble.

Nuclear Power

Entergy’s FitzPatrick reactor on the shores of Lake Ontario has had so many leaks in its cooling system that it had to reduce power 11 separate times just in the first three months of 2014. The leaks are in the Fukushima-clone reactor’s condenser system and are the result of years of neglect by Entergy. The condenser system, which has a lifespan of 15 years, was last replaced in 1995–meaning it should have been replaced four years ago. But FitzPatrick has been a marginal reactor for Entergy, and is high on many lists of the most endangered reactors. So Entergy just hasn’t been putting the money in for repairs that it should have. The leaks themselves do not pose a radiological hazard, but the condenser would be a problem if accident conditions developed. Continue reading