Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Those crazy smartmeters and ComEd...Finally an Explanation Worth Reading!

Finally an explanation of the ComEd battle to install smartmeters without the bias, propaganda or baloney.


If anyone is interested in the story and has time to read it, this is the most reliable version of the saga, drama, or soap opera that Illinois has turned ComEd's quest for smartmeters  I've found.  It's good to have it explained without the talking points, public relations spin and baloney that is so often printed about this issue.

Nice job Vermont Law School!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scary News for the Energy Transmission Industry & Clean Line Energy

There is some positive news out there for consumers and pretty darn scary news for the energy industry.  Bill at the Calhoun Powerline has been writing some incredible stuff about what is going under the radar of the mainstream press and their "agenda news".  The U.S. Energy Information Agency put out a report in March.   There are two relevant points here.  First, energy demand is not directly related to the nations GDP like it once was.  In the past as GDP rose, energy consumption and demand paralleled it and also increased.  This is not the case anymore.  GDP projections are no longer a guaranteed increase in energy demand. 

Clean Line Energy had better sharpen its pencil and hire some new “experts” that give rosy projections of outlandish increases in wind energy.   It is now a myth that there is a relationship between GDP and energy demand.

The EIA report also shows future projects for energy demand and demand is basically flat.  Demand is not projected to increase in the next several years.  Again, Clean Line Energy had better go back to the “experts” and create some new figures about projected demand and energy prices.  Demand is not increasing dramatically.  At best, the EIA projects a .9% growth in energy demand into 2040. 

Why?  Energy efficiency is working.  Ratepayers are consuming less energy.  This is confirmed by when PJM Interconnection released the results of this year’s Base Residual Auction.  Demand increases are not there.  Demand is flat.  Supply is not decreasing with coal plant closures.  Energy supply is actually increasing as the portfolio changes.

Bill at Calhoun Powerline had another interesting report that is not good news for big transmission companies like Clean Line Energy.  As much as I hate to admit it, Bill found this information first in a blog by David Roberts at Grist.  Roberts wrote a puff piece for the wind industry on how to “fix” the Illinois RPS.

Bill describes how Distributed Generation is working.  Consumers are installing more and more solar panels.  The prices of solar panels are dropping and technology improves.  This could have a devastating effect on the energy industry with their models of big wind farms and big transmission lines.

The Edison Electric Institute recently put out a report called “Disruptive Challenges” about how solar panels are becoming economically competitive.  This report reads like a horror novel for the energy companies.  It is very graphic and likely would give people like Michael Skelly some nightmares.

When enough consumers start taking advantage of solar, demand from big utility companies will not grow and very possibly demand will fall.   EEI is a trade organization for energy companies.  EEI is not a rosy clean-green renewable organization, but represents the industry including coal, nuclear, and natural gas. 

If EEI says demand for energy from big energy companies is about to fall as consumers take control of their own energy needs, we all should take notice.  In this report, EEI tells energy companies they had better get their house in order because the industry is about to get lean and competitive.  In my opinion, there are two parts of the industry that will be affected the hardest as consumers take control of their energy needs with solar.  First, Big Corporate Wind (AWEA members) is going to be affected.  Consumer owned solar will be in direct competition with other forms of “renewable” energy.  Wind energy is going to have to become competitive or die.  It’s kind of ironic.  The wind industry has become so addicted to the Production Tax Credit and government subsidies, they haven’t seen solar efficiency and pricing becoming more competitive. 

The second part of the industry that should be taking this report seriously is the energy transmission industry.  When consumers start installing more and more solar panels, the need for large scale transmission projects will become more and more irrelevant.  With a little solar generation here and there, the need for large transmission isn’t there.  The utility companies’ distribution lines can be used but large transmission lines will become unneeded aerial sewers.

Fantasy?  Dream of a guy opposed to wasteful transmission projects?  Read the EEI report for yourself.  Solar Distributed Generation is about to change the industry.  Impossible? 

Is the VCR now irrelevant?

What about the landline telephone?  How many people see the old phone irrelevant and replaced it with cell phone technology?

What about Kodak?


Industries can change overnight.  We have waited 30 years for the wind energy industry to mature and be able to stand without the Production Tax Credit.  Ironic the industry could become irrelevant before it matured.  After 30 years, the wind industry had plenty of opportunities to mature.   In the meantime, the solar industry is being forced to mature without the large government subsidies. 

Still think this is a crazy dream of a guy who opposes large scale transmission projects for wind energy?  Bill at the Calhoun Powerline has another interesting blog today.  Wal-Mart is planning to be operating completely free of utility company electricity in 7 years.  Actually the original article came from SMARTGRIDNEWS  with “Utilities: What Wal-Mart’s power plan says about your future (it’s scary!)”.  Maybe we should call this “Scary Energy News 2” with the EEI report as the original.
Ask yourself, with those big flat roofs, is Wal-Mart going to buy wind energy or install solar panels?  Wal-Mart plans on installing solar panels on 1,000 rooftops by 2020.   IKEA is already going down this road and ahead of Wal-Mart.  These are the penny pinching least coast industry leaders moving away from centralized power and taking control of it themselves.  It’s only a matter of time for the consumers to catch on.

Now is not the time to plan out more grandiose powerline schemes.  Like the Edison Electric Institute encourages, now is the time for MISO, PJM, and energy transmission companies to get their house in order.  The future could be very rough for them. 

Now is not the time for politician to look for a “fix” to a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.  Now is not the time to approve high voltage transmission projects for a dying wind industry.  The time for the Rock Island Clean Line passed away before it ever arrived. 

More on the Illinois RPS, the Illinois Power Agency and Stupid Decisions

Lee County, Illinois has approved to seek lower prices through aggregation!  Lee County was the first county in Illinois to develop “wind farms”.  The relevance here is no one, even Lee County, wants to pay too much for energy and Lee County becomes another municipality to abandon the Illinois Power Agency with the deal Governor Quinn forced on the ComEd ratepayers.  Thank goodness Illinois lawmakers gave consumers a choice with aggregation. 

I love this part of the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Illinois) article;
Member Bob Gibler, R-Dixon, who opposes Dixon's efforts for aggregation, stayed silent during the voice vote. He later said aggregation isn't working.  "The county is not going to save that much," Gibler said in a telephone interview. "Even if they say you'll save 50 percent over a year's time, I want to make my own decision. If I make a stupid decision, that's my fault."

Who elected this guy?  He opposes seeking lower priced energy with a quote “If I make a stupid decision, that’s my fault”.  These people are elected to lead and make the best decisions for the county.  Sticking your head in the sand is a rather “stupid decision” and poor leadership.

Also in the news lately, there is the article in Midwest Energy News about the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard.  It’s fascinating to read some to the Twitter tweets.

Bill to fix Illinois renewable law expected to save ratepayers millions, but faces opposition from Exelon http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2013/05/20/fix-for-illinois-renewable-energy-law-faces-opposition-from-utilities/ …

The article fails to mention how Illinois residents will save millions when we are already saving by leaving the RPS with wind energy’s high price.  Where is the “savings” coming from?  The article merely infers because ComEd opposes this “fix”, consumers are getting screwed.  Customers are leaving ComEd with the wind industry as they move to Alternate Retail Energy Suppliers. 

CUB Illinois also added a tweet.
Fixing Illinois' renewable energy law faces utility opposition, @MWenergynews reports http://ow.ly/lcIsA  #Exelon

Cub Illinois did a better job making the inference with merely mentioning “utility opposition”, technically the utility opposes wind energy’s bill to “fix” the RPS in Illinois.  . 

CUB Wisconsin has a twit tweet that is even more naïve.

Utilities oppose #renewables law because lower rates make it hard to sell nuke power. http://ow.ly/lfIEV  HT @MWenergynews

Again CUB shows their ignorance or perhaps the wind industry has just bought its support.  CUB denial and refusal to admit wind energy is the root cause for ComEd failure to be competitive is baffling.  Ratepayers are leaving ComEd because wind energy is too expensive. Why CUB refuses to go after the wind energy and expose the wind insustry’s high pricing is baffling.  Why is CUB singularly focused on making the utility company “evil” when the wind industry’s pricing is the problem? 

Perhaps CUB is more interested in self-perpetuation and blame everything on the utility company, but CUB’s position is squarely against seeking economically priced energy for Illinois consumers.

The Chicago Tribune recently had an article that did a better job explaining the situation with people leaving the Illinois Power Agency.  If Midwest Energy News wanted to be more accurate, they could explain the root cause of the failure for the Renewable Portfolio Standard is consumers preferring economically priced energy.  To “fix” this problem the big wind industry needs to lobby lawmakers for their “fix” and require Illinois ratepayers to buy high priced wind energy through the Illinois Power Agency regardless of who ratepayers chose as energy suppliers.  If the Midwest Energy News wasn't so biased towards the wind industry, they would have gotten ComEd's position on this matter.

Back in February 2013 I wrote my opinions on the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard and the mess at the Illinois Power Agency.  The IPA now has a new acting director.  I wish him the best of luck to clean up this mess and do not envy his position.  Stupid decisions aren't just made by county board members.  Springfield has made it's share since 2007.  I do hope the IPA's new acting director places a high priority on economically priced renewable energy.  Clean ing up a mess like this isn't going to be easy.  Perhaps the best fix for Illinois and the RPS is to just shutdown the IPA and start over.

Illinois Power Agency & Renewable Portfolio Standa...
History of Illinois Power Agency and RPS
The Cost of the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Stand...
A Time to Freeze the Renewable Portfolio Standard ...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Governor Quinn, ComEd, and those Crazy Smart Meters.

Congratulations ComEd! You’re getting your smart meters!  It only took what? 2 years?  I started educating myself last November, so I’m a bit of a novice and sometimes a slow learner.  If you’re following anything about energy policy, Illinois politics, and the ICC, you have heard something about ComEd and their battle with Governor Quinn over smart meters.

It’s been hard to get past the politics of this and understand the true issues here.  I’m not sure I even understand them yet but this is what I know.  A law was written and passed by Springfield authorizing ComEd to start installing smart meters and bill customers to pay for them.  Illinois Citizens Utility Board and Governor Quinn was against the idea.  Governor Quinn vetoed it.  The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto.

From there the battle went to the ICC.  It was argued and as I understand it on a technicality the ICC would not authorize the rate increase for consumers.  Last year legislature passed a resolution, but as I understand it, resolutions are about meaningless. They are not bills and passage does not make it a law. 

To correct the matter, this spring, the legislature passed a new and better written bill to authorize smart meters.  Governor Quinn vetoed it again and this week the General Assembly and Senate both overrode Governor Quinn’s veto again.  ComEd is getting their smart meters.

So what’s the big deal?  Why the grudge with Governor Quinn and smart meters?

What the heck are smart meters?

I do not have ComEd as an electricity supplier.  I have Cornbelt Electric Cooperative.   As a “cooperative” Cornbelt is not regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission like ComEd.  Cornbelt has had smart meters for years. 

There are several advantages to a smart meter for me.  A couple years ago I was looking into energy consumption.  My cousin was leaving a diesel truck plugged in 24/7.  He wasn’t paying the bill.  I called Cornbelt hoping they could help me review the bills and see how much of an increase was attributed to December, January and February to the truck block heater being plugged in.  I was amazed Cornbelt could tell me to the hour when the truck was plugged in and when it was unplugged.  They emailed the information to me instantly. 

Just this last month I learned I can now view my energy consumption online.  Cornbelt shows my consumption with a 24 hour lag time.  I can now track my usage, see my conservation in dang near real time.   The only thing better would be for me to see my consumption from my smart meter to my smart phone.  When I get an app for that, I’ll be happy.

Smart meters also allows the electric company to see consumption in real time.  There is a clear advantage to this information.  ComEd wouldn’t have to over buy and match supply with demand.   The potential benefit here for the ratepayer is huge.  Like the old saying goes, “Corporations don’t pay taxes.  People do.”   ComEd doesn’t pay for excess supply purchases.  In the end, ratepayers pay for excesses.  Wastage at the electric companies are paid by the consumers.  Corporations don’t just eat these costs.  It is eventually figured into the cost of doing business.   The closer ComEd can keep its energy purchases to the consumption, the more efficient and competitive the company will be. 

Smart meters also promote Distributed Generation and Demand Response.  Distributed Generation is basically consumers having their own solar panels and excess energy produced can be sold back to ComEd.  Again, with dumb meters, it’s much harder for energy companies to guess production by consumers.  Smart meters can give instant real time information therefore the company is more able to plan its energy needs.  Demand Response is allowing consumers to know the current price of energy and manage their own consumption to use more energy when prices are lower (at night) or decide if they really want to run the air conditioner when prices are high.   

Finally, with smart meters there is constant communication.  The company knows much quicker when there is a power outage and the severity.  Response can be faster.  Yes.  Smart meters do give consumers more choice and control over their energy use.

So why is Illinois CUB and Governor Quinn against ratepayers paying for this advanced meter?  Who knows?  Maybe CUB exists for one reason, to oppose ComEd at every issue.  CUB and Governor Quinn have made a nice living opposing ComEd and blaming everything on the company                           .  Chicago is littered with other social organizations, politicians and sons of politicians who have made a living bashing, raising funds and extorting fund to make a living. 
I love this statement from a Crain’s Chicago Business article;

The governor said in a statement that “Today’s unfortunate vote forces electric utility rate hikes on families and businesses all across Illinois. 

“I am disappointed that the General Assembly did not protect consumers from overreaching by utility monopolies like ComEd and Ameren,” his statement continued. 

Governor Quinn lack of logic here is crazy.  He opposes ComEd ratepayers from paying for smart meters but has no problem with Cornbelt Energy customers paying for the same meter.  Governor Quinn claims to be against high energy prices are hollow when he supports high priced wind energy.  Smart meters do promote energy efficiency.  Smart meters do reduce demand. Perhaps Governor Quinn’s objection to smart meters is more rooted in opposition to consumer generation of energy.  Consumer generation or distributed generation of solar energy is becoming the biggest threat to big wind energy and wind industry’s political lobby. 

Again, why does Governor Quinn have no problems with Illinois consumers paying excessive amounts for wind energy at over $55 per megawatt hour when the cash price is between $30-35?  Why did Governor Quinn demand the Illinois Power Agency sign 20 power purchasing Agreements at the high prices for wind energy?  Who protects consumers from Governor Quinn?  Why doesn’t CUB protest these high energy prices for wind energy?    

I'm sure the issue is much more complicated than how I described it, but I haven't found anyone to describe this drama between the Governor and ComEd any better. I guess I really have a hard time believing Governor Quinn is really attempting to protect consumers from high energy prices with smart meters. Sometimes it can be difficult to suspend my ability of disbelief.