Why Green Power Won’t Replace Nukes

Last year Southern California Edison mothballed its 2.3 gigawatt San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. As CalWatchdog.com reported at the time, the actual reason probably was mechanical defects caused from retrofitting the plant to ramp up and down rapidly to back up erratic green power.

The Environmental Defense Fund and other green advocates now are celebrating that California is replacing the loss of that nuclear power with solar and wind power, electricity storage, energy efficiency and peak-load curtailments.  The California Independent System Operator, which runs the grid, proposed to procure 50 percent of that lost power from “preferred resources,” meaning anything but fossil fuels.

However, the reality is San Onofre generated 2.2 gigawatts of clean energy, while Edison is only looking to replace that with 46 megawatts of green power — about 1/40th of San Onofre’s prior generating capacity. The rest of the load will shift to natural-gas power.

The reason: All electrons do the same work, but don’t arrive at the same time. San Onofre’s power was constant, 24/7. Wind and solar are unpredictable.

Here is the breakdown of Edison’s procurement to replace San Onofre’s power for the West Los Angeles area:

          Southern California Edison Energy Procurement to Replace San Onofre

Source Megawatts Percent Total
New gas-fired generation 1,698 76.7%
Behind-the-meter storage 160.6 7.2%
Energy Efficiency 135.2 6.1%
In Front of the Meter Storage 101.0 4.5%
Demand-Response 75.0 3.4%
Behind-the-Meter Solar Renewable 46.0 2.1%
Total 2,216 megawatts (2 gigawatts) 100%
Source: Southern California Edison, Local Capacity Requirement Request for Offers for West Los Angeles-Moorpark Sub-Areas.

Fossil fuels

So 76.7 percent of the power to replace San Onofre is coming from new fossil-fuel natural gas-fired electric generating plants.

Ironically, according to The Carbon Brief, studies from Europe show “gas power costs twice as much if it only runs half the time.” That’s because it costs money to just ramp up and ramp down power plants.

Not all of Edison’s procurement is to replace lost power from San Onofre. Edison also must replace 17,500 megawatts of power lost from the retirement of six other coastal power plants. The retirement is needed to comply with requirements to shift from using ocean water to cool steam plants to air-cooled systems in order to protect fish larvae.

The plants to be retired are: Humboldt Bay 1 and 2, Potrero, South Bay, Morro Bay 2 and 4 and Contra Costa 6 and 7. 

Why new power must be sited in Orange County and L.A.

According to AES California:

“AES Southland is currently developing plans to replace its existing natural gas power plants in Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Redondo Beach with modern, more attractive and far more efficient facilities, which will take up less space at the sites. Modern and more flexible natural gas plants are critical to integrate renewable energy into the electric grid and help California meet its important clean energy goals. 

“Our plans to redevelop our power plants will increase the local taxes we pay, and allow us to continue providing jobs, doing business with local merchants, and supporting these communities through our charitable giving.” 

Why must the new power plants be located close to customer bases in Orange and Los Angeles counties? For several reasons:

Firstvoltage is like water pressure in a hose. San Onofre created enough voltage to “pressurize” the power grid so that electrons would flow smoothly.

By contrast, green power cannot provide much, if any, voltage because it is not consistently available to the power grid 24/7. It’s like taking a shower where the water cycles on for 1 minute, then off for 3 minutes.

Second, to prevent any future big transmission line outages, called an “N-1-1 event.”  N-1-1 means the number of transmission lines (N) that are lost in a catastrophic event is 1 and 1, or 2.  Edison must plan for two transmission lines going down simultaneously.

The problem with two lines being out of commission at once is overload that could create a cascade of shutdowns throughout the entire state grid.

Third, the Duck Chart Problem, which CalWatchdog.com detailed last month. Basically, the Duck Chart shows there is a demand in California to ramp up 13,500 megawatts of conventional power in a narrow two-hour window of time at sunset each day to replace solar power going offline. That would be enough power for about 6,750,000 homes per hour.

The imported electrons are the problem because they must be transmitted on transmission lines that may be out of service in a catastrophic N-1-1 event. So local power sources are preferred.

Fourth, the old Encina Power Plant in Carlsbad has been shut down and is being retrofitted for an ocean water desalination plant and new co-generation natural gas power plant.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Solar Energy Will Produce Less Than One Percent Of US Power In 2015

Despite millions in subsidies and government loans, solar power is projected to remain a tiny portion of overall electricity generation in the U.S., according to Energy Department figures.

Utility-scale solar power generation is projected to increase in 2015, but it will still make up only 0.6 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. Utility-scale solar has more than doubled in 2013 and EIA expects solar capacity will nearly double again in 2015.

Federal, state and local subsidy regimes and green energy mandates have helped the solar industry grow in the last few years. In the third quarter of 2014 alone 1,354 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) solar power capacity was installed, a 41 percent leap over the same time period in 2013.

There is now 16 gigawatts of operating PV solar capacity in the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The group says that 36 percent of the new generating capacity that came online in 2014 has come from solar.

Most of the growth in solar comes from the PV market, SEIA reports. But concentrated solar generation saw huge growth earlier this year when the Ivanpah solar facility in Southern California finally came online.

Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrated solar plant, uses 173,500 heliostat mirrors to reflect sunlight onto centralized towers. The sunlight heats up water in the towers which turns into steam to generate electricity.

The project is co-owned by Google, NRG Energy and BrightSource Energy and was given a $1.6 billion loan by the Obama administration in an effort to incentivize more utility-scale solar projects.

“It’s going to put about 1,000 people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes,” President Obama said.

But Ivanpah has not lived up to its expectations. Not even a year after it began operations, the project’s owners have asked the federal government for a $539 million grant to help pay back its federal loan.

Apparently, Ivanpah has only been generating about one-quarter of the energy it was said it could produce. Why? Because the sun hasn’t been shining as much as studies predicted it would.

Because of the lack of sun, the plant has had to increase its use of natural gas to heat up its water towers. Natural gas is used to prime the steam boilers before the panels come online so the plant can quickly generate power. Gas is also used to keep power going during times of intermittent sunshine.

“This is an attempt by very large cash generating companies that have billions on their balance sheet to get a federal bailout, i.e. a bailout from us – the taxpayer for their pet project,” Reason Foundation vice president Julian Morris told Fox News. “It’s actually rather obscene.”

Despite Ivanpah’s problems it has still been named the “2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year” by Renewable Energy World – a green energy news publication.

This piece was originally published at the Daily Caller News Foundation.

San Onofre Nuke Shutdown Shocks Consumers

“This is very good news for the people of Southern California.” So said Erich Pica, president of the outspoken environmental group Friends of the Earth, celebrating in June 2013 the announced closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

A year and a half later, the people of Southern California are to be forgiven for thinking the decommissioning of San Onofre anything but very good news. That’s because it will cost them $3.3 billion in higher electricity rates under a settlement approved recently by the California Public Utilities Commission.

And here’s what most business and residential customers of Southern California Edison, San Onofre’s majority owner, and San Diego Gas & Electric, the nuclear plant’s minority owner, don’t know. Friends of the Earth in April this year joined the settlement with Edison and SDG&E that will saddle the utilities’ ratepayers with 75 percent of the total $4.4 billion cost of mothballing San Onofre, with Edison and SDGE shareholders footing the other 25 percent.

That’s not the result Friends of the Earth suggested to Edison and SDG&E ratepayers when they began their campaign in 2012 to Mau-Mau the utilities into decommissioning the nuclear plant.

Indeed, in Jan. 2012, a small radiation leak in one of San Onofre’s twin reactors prompted a temporary shutdown of the plant, during which it was discovered there had been certain wear and tear on tubing within the newly installed steam generators made by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Alarmist

Edison eventually repaired the problems and sought the permission of federal regulators to restart the nuclear plant. But Friends of the Earth insisted San Onofre was inherently unsafe, that it posed “a unique threat to 8 million Californians living within 50 miles” of the nuclear plant just south of San Clemente, and that it should be permanently shut down.

Friends of the Earth’s alarmist campaign ultimately succeeded. San Onofre sat idle for 16 month, costing Edison more than $550 million in repairs and loss of plant revenue.

In October 2012, the anti-nuke activist group argued that “continued operation of San Onofre is not cost effective.”

Edison agreed, with continued uncertainty as to if and when federal regulators would allow San Onofre to start producing electricity again, the utility decided to decommission the plant.

‘Victory!’

Friends of the Earth declared “Victory!” on its Facebook page, hailing Edison’s capitulation.

FOE suggested that the 2,200 megawatts San Onofre generated when fully operational – which accounted for roughly 20 percent of Edison’s total electricity production – could easily be replaced by a solar power and wind energy. It linked to a statement from Pica:

“We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind.”

But that hasn’t happened yet.

More, as CalWatchdog.com has reported, there often is a delay between when daytime solar power ramps down and evening wind power ramps up. That delay forces the electricity companies to buy costly natural-gas generated electricity on the spot market – another shock to ratepayers. That problem didn’t occur with San Onofre’s electricity because generation was continuous.

FOE also suggested the cost of San Onofre’s permanent shutdown wouldn’t be felt by customers of Edison and SDG&E.

The people of Southern California now know the shocking truth: They were misled to the tune of $3.3 billion in higher electricity rates, plus higher rates during the solar-wind power transition.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Report: EPA Regulations To Raise Power Costs 37 Percent By 2020

Electricity prices are already increasing at record levels and Environmental Protection Agency rules will only force power prices up even higher as the agency finalizes a slew of regulations aimed at the power sector.

A report by Energy Ventures Analysis found that the EPA underestimates how much its power plant regulatory regime will raise electricity and natural gas prices by imposing new regulations on power plants, most recently being the agency’s rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants.

These new rules to tackle global warming, combined with other rules to reduce more traditional air pollutants, will dramatically increase Americans’ utility bills by 2020, according to EVA’s report which was sponsored by the coal company Peabody Energy.

“Annual power and gas costs for residential, commercial and industrial customers in America would be $284 billion higher ($173 billion in real terms) in 2020 compared to 2012—a 60% (37%) increase,” the EVA report found.

The EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from existing power plants aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA says its plan will result in “approximately 46 to 49 GW of additional coal-fired generation” being “removed from operation by 2020.”

On top of this the “decrease in coal-fired power will also cause natural gas prices to rise up to 11.5 percent as an additional 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is used to make up for the lack of coal power in 2020,” EPA said. “Average retail electricity prices are projected to increase in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020.”

The Energy Information Administration estimates that 50 gigawatts of coal-fired power are slated to shutdown by 2020, mainly because of an EPA rule targeting mercury emissions. This means that the Clean Power Plan could nearly double the amount of coal-fired capacity being retired by 2020.

Retiring coal-fired generators and using more natural gas-fired power and green energy comes at a cost, however, as new energy infrastructure must be built to accommodate the shift and gas prices rise as demand increases.

“The cost of electricity and natural gas will be impacted in large part due to an almost 135% increase in the wholesale price of natural gas (100% in real dollars), from $2.82/mmbtu in 2012 to approximately $6.60/mmbtu ($5.63) in 2020,” EVa reports. “These increases are due to baseline market and policy impacts between 2012 and 2020 as well as significantly increased pressure on gas prices resulting from recent EPA regulations on the power sector and the proposed [Clean Power Plan].”

U.S. industry would be hit the hardest, seeing their electricity and gas costs soar 64 percent by 2020 over 2012 costs. EVA notes that skyrocketing “operational costs in the industrial sector are of particular concern for energy intensive industries in the U.S. such as aluminum, steel and chemicals manufacturing, which require low energy prices to compete.”

“Industrial power consumers would be expected to pass energy cost increases on to their customers, affecting the costs of goods purchased by American consumers over and above increased monthly utility bills,” EVA reports.

“The EPA’s collection of regulations will force American families, businesses and manufacturers to shoulder the burden it stands to create,” said Chad Kolton, spokesman for the Partnership for a Better Energy Future — which opposes the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

“Today’s report from EVA is consistent with what industry has been saying for months — the EPA’s regulatory agenda will do significant damage to the American economy,” Kolton said.

Environmental groups, however, have said the Clean Power Plan — and pretty much all major EPA rules in the last six years — are necessary to protecting public health and the environment. Activists have spent a large amount of energy, in particular, protecting the Clean Power Plan which they see as the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate agenda.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently published a report saying the Clean Power Plan will actually save Americans money while fighting global warming. NRDC argues, in contrast to EVA, that EPA’s plan overestimates the compliance costs of cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

“It’s clear that EPA has ample room to significantly strengthen the Clean Power Plan, making deeper cuts to dangerous carbon pollution from power plants at a reasonable cost,” said Starla Yeh, the report’s co-author and NRDC policy analyst.

“It can do so relying more on energy efficiency and clean energy—such as wind and solar energy—which can help slash America’s biggest source of heat-trapping pollution.,” Yeh said.

NRDC’s report argues that EPA overestimated the cost of increasing energy efficiency in the power sector by double what current projections are and overestimated the cost of green energy use by 50 percent.

Taking these factors into account, NRDC argues the Clean Power Plan will save Americans between $6.4 billion and $9.4 billion from energy efficiency by 2030 — well above EPA projected savings of up to $8.8 billion by that year.

“In 2030, energy efficiency savings could total 140 terawatt-hours more than what EPA projected,”NRDC reports. “Renewable generation could be 171 terawatt-hours higher than EPA’s projections.  Collectively, that’s equivalent to the electricity used by 29 million homes in one year—roughly the population of the New York and Chicago metropolitan areas together.”

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Biggest solar farm eclipsed

 

 

Solar_eclipse_1999_4_NR wikimediaSolar was supposed to be the key “renewable energy” powering California away from dirty old fossil fuels and into the Radiant Future. A 2011 law Gov. Jerry Brown signed mandated 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, now just a little over five years way. He actually said when signing the law, “I didn’t get my name, Gov. Moonbeam, for nothing. I earned it!”

It’s not turning out that way.

The latest:

“LOS ANGELES (AP) — The largest solar power plant of its type in the world – once promoted as a turning point in green energy – isn’t producing as much energy as planned.

One of the reasons is as basic as it gets: The sun isn’t shining as much as expected.

Sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal desert near the California-Nevada border, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System opened in February, with operators saying it would produce enough electricity to power a city of 140,000 homes.

So far, however, the plant is producing about half of its expected annual output for 2014, according to calculations by the California Energy Commission.

It had been projected to produce its full capacity for 8 hours a day, on average.

The commission cited reasons for the low generation: “Factors such as clouds, jet contrails and weather have had a greater impact on the plant than the owners anticipated.”

That reminded me how the Soviet Union, during its 74 years of existence, every year suffered crop failures for which it blamed “bad weather.” Yet its farms in pre-socialist times, especially the rich earth of Ukraine, had been “the breadbasket of Europe.”

As Wayne Lusvardi has reported on our site, the failure of renewables to generate up to expectations has forced the state to rely on out-of-state fossil fuel power (natural gas and coal) and Warren Buffett’s hydropower.

Shocking costs

All of that, plus a dysfunctional distribution left over from the 2000 Electricity Crisis, means shockingly record high costs for ratepayers. The San Diego Reader reported:

California residential electricity rates are the highest in the nation — by far. A major reason is that the California Public Utilities Commission, the so-called regulator, schmoozes Wall Street, promising to keep the profits of the state’s publicly held utilities — Sempra Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison — higher than utility profits elsewhere. Those profits come out of ratepayers’ pockets.

So Californians have the worst of both capitalism and socialism: crony capitalist (not free market) price structures and socialist generation mandates.

This post was originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Voters affirm CA fracking

 

 

Monterey ShaleAfter a lot of spending and acrimony, little has changed from California’s high-profile ballot measures to ban hydraulic fracturing, which injects a mix of substances into shale rock to free up oil for extraction.

In two counties with little to no oil drilling — San Benito and Mendocino — anti-fracking measures prevailed. San Benito’s Measure J passed with almost 57 percent of the vote. Mendocino’s Measure S prevailed with 67 percent voting in favor.

In Santa Barbara county, however, where drilling has been well established for over a century, fracking was protected. There, Measure P was defeated by 63 to 37 percent.

Santa Barbara, host to the oil industry since the late 19th century, had the most at stake. In 1969, the county suffered a dramatic offshore oil well disaster that triggered environmental legislation and galvanized the environmentalist movement. Although oil production held on, the industry had to invest substantial sums to fend off the fracking ban.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Chevron (headquartered in San Ramon) ponied up $2.6 million to sink the three measures, with Aera Energy adding $2.1 million and Occidental Petroleum another $2 million.

Supporters of the ban raised only a fraction of that.

Political geography

Geography dictated the focus of the fracking debate. The three counties lie on and around the Monterey Shale formation, which winds and twists its way through much of California. The Chronicle reported that “the federal government this year slashed its estimate of the amount of oil that can be squeezed from the shale using current technology,” although “drillers continue probing the formation, saying it could one day yield an economic bonanza for the state.”

As David Quast, California director of the pro-fracking organization Energy in Depth, indicated to Platts, “The U.S. Geological Survey in 1995 estimated that the Bakken Shale in North Dakota contained just 151 million barrels of recoverable oil, only to significantly boost that projection in 2008 to 3-4 billion barrels, and then again doubling it last year.”

Yet, as Platts reported, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced in May that the Monterey Shale formation was very unlikely to yield a bonanza. Its estimate of “technically recoverable resources” plunged by 96 percent, “from 13.7 billion barrels in a 2012 study to 600 million barrels in a study” released in June.

California at a crossroads

With the split decision by voters in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Mendocino, the legal landscape surrounding fracking has become even more fractured. In Sacramento, as The Huffington Post reported, the state Senate “narrowly voted against a statewide fracking moratorium earlier this year,” while “Santa Cruz County and the city of Los Angeles already have similar bans in place.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown rankled environmentalists last year by supporting legislation that “would allow fracking to continue while lawmakers implemented a specific set of regulations and experts studied its potentially hazardous effects.”

In a further twist, California’s weather has clashed with changing consumer tastes to add a layer of complexity to the fracking debate. Since fracking requires the use of substantial amounts of water, the Golden State’s current drought has intensified the trade-offs associated with its use.

But energy exploration and development have not turned out to be the only culprit in the competition for scarce resources. The burgeoning market for almond milk has pushed the market for California-grown, water-intensive almonds so high the nuts now generate $4 billion a year in revenue, according to the Guardian. Monterey County, where water is also scarce, grows 44 percent of the world’s lettuce.

Kern County, meanwhile, has faced direct competition between Californians’ energy needs and dietary tastes. California’s oil-producing regions have been struggling to make do with current water supplies.

While half of America’s carrot crop and 40 percent of its pistachio crop come from Kern, the Guardian observed, the county’s oil fields are the sixth largest in the United States.

Water vs. oil: It’s an old California battle that will continue.

This article was originally published on CalWatchdog.com