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NY Electricity Bills Explained - And What It Means

by nb41 Fri Jan 20th, 2012 at 01:48:48 PM EST

It now can be logically argued that we now have less freedom (= less rights) than even a decade ago - for example, via indefinite detention, "legal" assassination of Americans, (lack of) on-line privacy, the "death" of "habeus corpus" and warrantless wiretapping. And yet one local (to NY State) hard won right is the freedom to vote with the money you spend on your electricity bill as to how you want that electricity made. Do you want it made via polluting or non-polluting means? You get your choice - by a way that maximizes the probability of a Fukushima/Chernobyl event (and we've had some really close calls in NY State), or way with a zero probability of such a horror? Do you want that electricity made in a way that has minimal CO2 pollution, or maximal CO2 pollution. After all CO2 pollution (CO2 made by burning fossil fuels) is the prime driver for Global Climate Change, which will NOT be good for us, by a long shot. About 40% of the CO2 pollution made in our country comes from burning coal and natural gas to make electricity. How about electricity in a way that maximizes NY State job creation, instead of in a way that exports the maximum quantity of money (out of state corporate profits, fossil fuel expenditures/corporate rentier profits)?


Wow, all that via that once a month ritual of paying a (usually) corporate monopoly for the monthly allotment of electricity, and which most people don't associate with freedom at all (it's a money expenditure bill, after all, and who wants to pay that!). So, let's use my electricity bill as an example of a residential bill. There are about 7 million residential customers in NY State, as well as about 1 million "commercial" and 80,000 "industrial" customers, and in 2009 (the last with the readily available data) about $22.4 billion was spent on electricity purchases (15.52 c/kw-hr average delivered price) - see http://205.254.135.7/cneaf/ele... Of that, about one third of that (maybe $8 billion) was actually paid to the people who generated the electricity. And it is in that $8 billion/yr where you as a customer can choose to direct your purchases. Only a very tiny percentage of NY'ers actually do that, unfortunately.

So here is a breakdown of my monthly bill (Dec 2011), total household usage of 247 kw-hr, averaging 332 watts, all for $56.07:

Delivery Services
Connection ................................. $16.21
Delivery ...................................... $12.87    5.268 c/kw-hr
Delivery Adjustment .................. $ 4.30    1.743 c/kw-hr
Incr State Adjustment ............... $  0.76    0.307 c/kw-hr
SBC/RPS .................................... $  1.35    0.5452 c/kw-hr
RDM ........................................ - $  0.75  - 0.305 c/kw-hr
Transmission Adj Rev ............... $  0.36    0.144 c/kw-hr
Tariff Surcharge ......................... $  1.85    5.26316 %
Sales Tax .................................... $  1.76    4.75 %
Subtotal .............................$38.71

Supply Services
Electricity Supply ....................... $  9.46   3.831 c/kw-hr
Merchant Function .................... $  0.43   0.174068 c/kw-hr
Renewable Service ..................... $  6.18    2.5 c/kw-hr
Tariff Surcharge ......................... $  0.50   3.09278 %
Sales Tax ..................................... $  0.79  4.75 %
Subtotal ............................. $17.36

One gripe commonly expressed about electricity bills is the "nickel and diming" those $0 to $2 per item  things, that add up to 12.6% of this bill. Total taxes are about one third of the "nickel and diming" that happens when those fractions of a penny per kw-hr are added up and multiplied by 247 kw-hr. The actual generated electricity could be as low as 19% of the total bill when the "Renewable Service" (Green Tags) is excluded, which would have saved all of $6.18. It is those dollars which go to the wind turbine owners - in this case, ENI, and Italian company that owns the initial Wethersfield NY wind farm (10 x 660 kw units that were installed in 2000), in addition to the "average spot market price" for the month of December 2011, which was 3.206 c/kw-hr. Thus, ENI was raking in 5.706/kw-hr, or $14.09 last month from me, and the rest either went to NY State ($2.55) or National Grid ($39.43), our British owned local distribution monopoly whose abbreviations are, fittingly, NG (beats our natural gas monopoly, National Fuel Gas, abbreviated ever so appropriately as NFG).

In other words, 4.75% goes to NY State, 25.1% goes to the wind turbine owner who, on average, supplies my electricity, and 70.3% goes to the foreign owned monopoly who owns the wires and does the billing. Even if the cost of electricity generation was that of NYPA's Niagara Power Project (0.2 c/kw-hr) - where I would pay 50 c/month for 247 kw-hr/month -  that still leaves over 75% of the (existing) bill for the "other" category unaltered.

Like most WNY residents, most of the bill for December 2011 was in the "Delivery Services" category, and not much was in the "generation" part - and that's where the pollution does or does not come from. Or that nasty radioisotope poisoning potential - Chernobyl did in or 970,000 people via cancer and related nasties, as well as significantly messing with the genetic code and immunity systems or 60 million Ukranians and Belyrusians, where less than 1 in 10 children born has a "normal" health profile. Yum.....

There are very few NY'ers who take advantage of the "electricity choice", and instead use the "default", which, for National Grid/ex-Niagara Mohawk, is heavily nuke oriented (nukes were the prime cause of NiMo's "corporate dead man walking" situation that began in 1988 and ended up in their de-facto bankruptcy/pennies on the dollar sale to National Grid in the early 2000's).  Less than 1% of residential customers, and close to that for commercial (includes NY State governmental units) and industrial entities, use the "vote with your dollars" right. In theory, Gov. Pataki's Exec order 111 (a massive unfunded mandate/wish fullfillment/empty promise), requires at least 10% of all electricity sales to NY government entities are non-pollution based (in effect, wind or landfill gas), and SUNYAB is about the only institution that even bothered to try to meet the EO 111 decree to a significant extent.

The Wrap Up
So what can be concluded from this minute/pathetic participation rate, and also the completely never budgeted (if you want it, try paying for it) E.O. 111? Renewable electricity in NY can be home-grown (recycles money instead of exporting our wealth), once installed is non-polluting, and poses zero threats from fall-out and catastrophic climate change. And for a pretty nominal cost, you can make the world a better place and provide some American's with good jobs, and businesses with a way to exist for the betterment of most of us, as opposed to extracting all available wealth and leaving us as an emptied shell in "the dustbin of human history".

Now, some will say they don't know about the "Green Tags" option (and there are better ways to do this, such as Feed-in Laws, but since we don't have them in NY, "Green Tags" are it for now). Some will just not care about trashing the climate control system with CO2 pollution - as long as today's electricity price is dirt cheap, NOTHING else matters. Some could care less about exporting dollars to import fuels and send off exorbitant profits  to the mothership for NY nuke owners, and just discount the "NY Fukushima Scenario" by invoking the concept of perpetual luck.

But most people get uncomfortable when asked the question of "If your part of salvaging a a viable climate for the next few generations might cost $5 to $20/month, would you do it?" - the idea of trashing the prospects of their children and grandchildren for their own short term gain and/or comfort is unsettling. It's just best to push that question into a dark corner, leave it there undisturbed, and forget about it. After all, given what comes across as news these days, (here is an rare exception - http://UpwithChrisHayes.msnbc.... ) it's not at all difficult to ignore the climate problem/economic problems coming from pollution based electricity. For most people, such questions will never be asked. "Move along now, nothing to see here..."

Now some will pose the "great diversions" - such as, why not tax CO2 pollution for its real cost ($85/ton of CO2 pollution emitted), and why not let nukes pay their full share of catastrophic insurance (if nuke owners had to do this, they would just shut them down ASAP, as there is no commercially viable way to do this - see http://www.wind-works.org/Larg... Either of these actions would raise generated electricity prices from coal by between 8 to 10 c/kw-hr and from gas by 5 c/kw-hr, rendering all more expensive than onshore wind turbines, and shocking the economy something fierce if done all at once. Actually, that's why Feed-In Laws are so attractive - all pollution sources can be replaced via the "renewables get grid access preferentially", and there is no need for cranking up pollution based electricity prices (now the bulk of our supply). In these, the more expensive (until the capital investment is paid off) renewable electricity can get blended into the grid mix in a way that minimizes the speculative rip-offs that are possible in "marginal pricing systems". But, if you can't figure out how to "vote with your money" via Green Tags" - see http://www.buffalowind.org/nod... - even comprehending Feed-In laws is probably going to be a stretch. And as for getting the Federal law change (alter Section 210 of the 1978 PURPA law with a measly 132 words) needed to allow a FIT system in states - well, not good. And even if that does happen (it's zero cost, after all, and not "State's Wrongs" but "State's Rights"), then try getting the NY Governor, NY Senate and NY Assembly to do the right thing. Well those all have to be done, but you can immediately vote with your dollars today, or at least by the end of the month. Besides, a big market share moves politicians, as this is actual money talking - it won't work on all of them, but maybe enough of them. Hey, maybe even the guilt trip about them trashing the world's climate so bad that their descendant's will forever curse them something fierce might change a couple of legislative minds...

In the immortal words of the Floyd dudes:

"Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care ...."

(Dark Side of the Moon - "Speak to Me/Breathe" - try out this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

from http://www.wagengineering.blog...

Nb41

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So is this like United Way - if you pick one option, it just means that more of other people's money goes to the other option (i.e., nothing changes), and are they relying on the fact that few people will make a choice?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Jan 20th, 2012 at 01:55:50 PM EST
Actually, the Green Tag method did help kickstart the wind biz in NY State. But it has sort of tailed off -most environmentally oriented people  - a different kind of "1%" - have signed up, and there are not a lot of new recruits coming in. It would be nice if we could add a zero onto the 1% and make it at least 10%, but that's evidently not in the cards.

There are some naive types who were hoping that the Green Tags would substitute for concerted government action, such as getting NYPA to do large quantities of PPA's, or to work on some legal version of a FIT system. The bottom line is that volunteerism only goes so far. If the desire is to install some serious quantities of wind power and biogas (really appropriate for NY State), volunteerism is not going to cut it. And unfortunately, a lot of well off liberals in NY don't get that it  is the job creation potential that is the most important (for now) aspect of renewables, at least in upstate NY. So, with the impending temporary demise of the wind industry in the U.S. at the end of December, 2012, looks like the "backstop" of Green Tags is not going to produce the recently promised job growth promised by all kinds of local and state wide politicians.

Who'd have guessed...?

Nb41

by nb41 on Fri Jan 20th, 2012 at 08:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the environmentalists can take enough influence in city/local governments, they can make them generate markets for things like wind/solar. But they seem totally uninterested
by rootless2 on Fri Jan 20th, 2012 at 09:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Boulder, Colorado, is trying to do that right now. It's a huge struggle because they have little leverage over Xcel who is their current supplier. They voted to buy the infrastructure so they can run it themselves, but the cost is enormous and the incumbent supplier is fighting every step of the way.
by asdf on Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 at 11:48:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh There is a debate to be had about the sensible ways in which metropoli may be powered, and the financial and corporate structures appropriate towards that end. However, you are basing your arguments and priorities on facts and numbers that are false.

A suggestion; Find the source for the chernobyl deathtoll you just cited - It is not difficult to find on the net. Then read it. Then come back and edit your post.

by Thomas on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 07:43:17 AM EST
Thomas,

The report (4.3 MB) is linked on this site:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl:_Consequences_of_the_Catastrophe_for_People_and_the_Environme nt

I read it about a year ago right after I saw George Monbiot blabber his fool head off and eventually devolve into "male debating technique" -trying to yell over his debating opponent, all time champion troublemaker, Dr. Helen Caldicott. It was interesting to watch her attempt to talk science and logic to this over-puffed journalist who had made up his mind what the facts were without knowing much of anything at all. He totally whored out for the nuke industry, acknowledged but ignored the incestuous relationship between the nuke inductry and nuclear weaponry and its political ramifications, and swallowed the worm on the hook about nukes being a preferable and dominant way to make electricity without CO2 pollution and at lower cost than many types of renewables (solar PV in northern ovcast climates is about the only one, assuming the risk of neclear "oops" events can be converted into monetary terms in an honest way, which is really doubtful).

Maybe George was having a bad day with respect to his brain thinking; but on that morning, a brick wall would have been more intelligent and conversational, too. He was pretty pathetic.

In effect, he was saying "keep pounding out those hypersubsidized nukes -it sure beats using wind turbines, and it is important to keep the unemployment rate higher by not employing people to make wind turbines". And since Monbiot can't quantify Black Swan events like Chernobyl and Fukushima just in terms of the money, well, he just ignores it. But then pile on the question of what is a person's life worth, does it vary by person, and should they be compensated after they ingest internal emitters like Sr90, I131and Cs137?  Or better yet, what cost should be incurred so that hypersubsidized nukes never get built, so that Chernobyls and Fukushimas can never occur.

My country has been incredibly lucky with respect to nukes -such as the Nine Mile 1 event in December 1989, which shut it down for 2 years, and allowed the NRC to find out the the owners/builders of that unit had lied something fierce about how it was consucted (despite signing legal documents as to how it was constructed). You can't pull crap like that ad infinitum before you get massive meltdowns or else boiler explosions that promptly lead to meltdowns in the core and in the swimming pools.

The difference between subsidized nukes and even unsubsidized wind power is surprisingly small, and in effect represents a political judgement made by the wealthy movers and shakers in a given government/region. And so some rural folks (millions of them) get toasted and dusted - they probably don't count for much anyway, supposedly (unless you happen to be one of them). Casulaties in the pursuit of wealth - a sacrifice by some so that a few can get really wealthy, and large numbers of people can shave a couple of cents/kw-hr off the price of the generated electricity that gets consumed en masse. Besides, if the price is low enough, conservation and efficiency increases won't happen much, and sales of electricity can continue to rise year by year, and thus justify new nukes.. After all, you can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs, or in this case, by messing with the genetic code of some cells and even egg cells, too.

Nb41

by nb41 on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 02:56:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup, that is the precise study I knew you were referring to, and all of the critiques of this work are entirely on point. It is flat out pseudoscience on par with global warming denialism, and you are doing neither yourself, nor the broader anti-nuclear movement any favors by attracting attention to it, because it is selfrefuting. Just trying to make sense of this kind of garbage makes me distrust everything put out by the anti-nuclear movement, because the clear and present implication is that it has no compunction whatsoever about simply lying its ass off. That book attributes every premature death in the Ukraine to chernobyl. In the middle of a disastrous socioeconomic collapse ascerbated by decades of reckless disregard for the enviorment on all fronts. All without correlating anything with actual radiation exposure.
by Thomas on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 04:49:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read it about a year ago right after I saw George Monbiot blabber his fool head off and eventually devolve into "male debating technique" -trying to yell over his debating opponent, all time champion troublemaker, Dr. Helen Caldicott. It was interesting to watch her attempt to talk science and logic to this over-puffed journalist who had made up his mind what the facts were without knowing much of anything at all. He totally whored out for the nuke industry, acknowledged but ignored the incestuous relationship between the nuke inductry and nuclear weaponry and its political ramifications, and swallowed the worm on the hook about nukes being a preferable and dominant way to make electricity without CO2 pollution and at lower cost than many types of renewables (solar PV in northern ovcast climates is about the only one, assuming the risk of neclear "oops" events can be converted into monetary terms in an honest way, which is really doubtful).

Maybe George was having a bad day with respect to his brain thinking; but on that morning, a brick wall would have been more intelligent and conversational, too. He was pretty pathetic.

In effect, he was saying "keep pounding out those hypersubsidized nukes -it sure beats using wind turbines, and it is important to keep the unemployment rate higher by not employing people to make wind turbines". And since Monbiot can't quantify Black Swan events like Chernobyl and Fukushima just in terms of the money, well, he just ignores it. But then pile on the question of what is a person's life worth, does it vary by person, and should they be compensated after they ingest internal emitters like Sr90, I131and Cs137?  Or better yet, what cost should be incurred so that hypersubsidized nukes never get built, so that Chernobyls and Fukushimas can never occur.

Are you referring to this debate?

Helen Caldicott: How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation (11 April 2011)

Proponents of nuclear power - including George Monbiot, who has had a mysterious road-to-Damascus conversion to its supposedly benign effects - accuse me and others who call attention to the potential serious medical consequences of the accident of "cherry-picking" data and overstating the health effects of radiation from the radioactive fuel in the destroyed reactors and their cooling pools. Yet by reassuring the public that things aren't too bad, Monbiot and others at best misinform, and at worst misrepresent or distort, the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of radiation exposure - and they play a predictable shoot-the-messenger game in the process.

...

Now let's turn to Chernobyl. Various seemingly reputable groups have issued differing reports on the morbidity and mortalities resulting from the 1986 radiation catastrophe. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2005 issued a report attributing only 43 human deaths directly to the Chernobyl disaster and estimating an additional 4,000 fatal cancers. In contrast, the 2009 report, "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment", published by the New York Academy of Sciences, comes to a very different conclusion. The three scientist authors - Alexey V Yablokov, Vassily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V Nesterenko - provide in its pages a translated synthesis and compilation of hundreds of scientific articles on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster that have appeared in Slavic language publications over the past 20 years. They estimate the number of deaths attributable to the Chernobyl meltdown at about 980,000.

Monbiot dismisses the report as worthless, but to do so - to ignore and denigrate an entire body of literature, collectively hundreds of studies that provide evidence of large and significant impacts on human health and the environment - is arrogant and irresponsible. Scientists can and should argue over such things, for example, as confidence intervals around individual estimates (which signal the reliability of estimates), but to consign out of hand the entire report into a metaphorical dustbin is shameful.

George Monbiot: The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all (5 April 2011)
I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with Helen Caldicott. Dr Caldicott is the world's foremost anti-nuclear campaigner. She has received 21 honorary degrees and scores of awards, and was nominated for a Nobel peace prize. Like other greens, I was in awe of her. In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of radiation. So I did what anyone faced with questionable scientific claims should do: I asked for the sources. Caldicott's response has profoundly shaken me.

First she sent me nine documents: newspaper articles, press releases and an advertisement. None were scientific publications; none contained sources for the claims she had made. But one of the press releases referred to a report by the US National Academy of Sciences, which she urged me to read. I have now done so - all 423 pages. It supports none of the statements I questioned; in fact it strongly contradicts her claims about the health effects of radiation.

I pressed her further and she gave me a series of answers that made my heart sink - in most cases they referred to publications which had little or no scientific standing, which did not support her claims or which contradicted them. (I have posted our correspondence, and my sources, on my website.) I have just read her book Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. The scarcity of references to scientific papers and the abundance of unsourced claims it contains amaze me.

George Monbiot: Nuclear opponents have a moral duty to get their facts straight
At first I asked [Helen Caldicott] for general sources for her claims. She sent me nine documents: press releases, newspapers articles and an advertisement. Only one of them was linked to a scientific publication: the BEIR VII report published by the National Academy of Sciences. She urged me to read it. I did so and discovered that, far from supporting her claims, it starkly contradicts them. ...

...

When I pressed her for better sources, her publishers wrote to me and said she did not have time to find them. Now she has had time - time enough to write an article for the Guardian attacking me - but still hasn't supported the claims I questioned.

...

But perhaps most alarming is her continued reliance on the report by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko, which claims that 980,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl. As its critics have pointed out, this figure cannot possibly be correct, as it arises from the extraordinary assumption that all increased deaths since 1986 from a host of diseases - including many which have no known connection with radiation - were caused by Chernobyl. The report has not been peer-reviewed and the academy which published it has distanced itself from it.

(all links to The Guardian [UK]).


tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 05:03:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, specifically the work of Yablokov, Nesternkov and Nesternkov, which is a highly evocative summary of the severe public health crisis of the FSU, which they then proceed to credit to chernobyl in its entirety.
The ninties did, indeed have much higher mortality rates than the preceeding decades in the FSU, but other things than chernobyl happened at that time and in that place. Some of which, might, conciveably be of some minor relevance.
Ignoring that is a sin against science, against honest public discourse, and against the people whose suffering they are exploiting. I have no idea what the hell they were thinking, because it is just alround appaling.
by Thomas on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 05:45:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, and what explanation do YOU have for the increases in cancer? For increased deaths of newborn babies in parts of Europe that were hit by the fallout?

Thanks to the obfuscation of the nuke lobby we have little data. What data we have point into the same direction, though.

Where did you live when the cloud from Chernobyl came?

by Katrin on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 06:26:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sort of. The one I saw was on Democracy Now. But their debate went on for a bit in many forums.

Nb41

by nb41 on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 08:37:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good luck, nb41!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 05:08:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. On the plus side, the electricity I buy probably does come from a 10 year old wind farm that is paid off, so it actually might be able to break even/make a decent profit at 5 c/kw-hr. And as for most of the people I live around, not too many will object to 3c/kw-hr generated electricty, though they would never notice it becuase they rarely pay attention to the details of their bill, just what the final tally is.

Also on the plus side, new nukes along the North and South Coast of inland America (US and Canada) are no long a happening thing. They cost too damn much even when hyper-subsidized, and the bankers and finance people will just not stand for that. It could be a bit before we get new wind farms around here after the end of 2012, but there will be new wind arrays and biomass plants in preference to nukes, and eventually the old nukes will get shut down. The cross your fingers thing is if these old geezers will get pushed too hard by their corporate owners so that their lust for super-profits is satiated for a bit  and then get ugly, or do they make it to the finsih line and then go into retirement, with this butt-ugly mass of spent fuel rods to deal with, when they have nowhere to go?

Maybe Iran can do something with that nasty toxic waste called pent ful rods, assuming they find a process to isotopically separate enough Pu240 (the hot stuff with a 6563 year half-life) out via the volatile hexafluorides. I'm sure they would only use  the Pu239 for peaceful purposes, and maybe the Pu240 for keeping deep space satelites warm and powered up..... Ya sure you betcha, eh?

Nb41

by nb41 on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 08:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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