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LQD from Rocky Mountain Institute

by paul spencer Wed Feb 12th, 2014 at 01:44:48 AM EST

Most of my experience with these folks finds them to be quite sane and often just enough ahead of conventional wisdom to help to shape it. This article is eurocentric, so I'm very curious as to y'all's critiques.

front-paged by afew


Here's the link:   http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_02_06_celebrate_renewables_disruption_of_electric_utilities  

I think that I commented a few months ago on one of the ET diaries that I had attended a BPA (Bonneville Power Authority) presentation, where three of their engineers reported on current status of wind-power integration. Basically, they said that BPA had solved their problems by improved weather forecasting and one-hour reporting from all operating generating sources and the transmission utilities. (They were going to demand 15-minute reporting cycles, but now seemed to have backed off to 1/2-hour reports. The three almost seemed apologetic about that action due to current performance with the 1-hour reports.)

This is sharp contrast to 2 years ago, when there was nearly a revolt by BPA engineers and technicians at the actual switching and the hydro-generation stations. Apparently, BPA management took a measured, but hard-nosed stance, that they would implement the measures noted above - and it worked.

With the new U.S. federal budget approved, plus the Farm Bill, it appears that renewables are getting a bit more support - though it tends to favor bio-fuels. In the meantime, states with fairly strong (for the U.S.) renewable-energy-derived portion standards appear to be moving toward deployment again. Should be mentioned that conservation is probably number one in both investment and in cost/use reduction.

In any case I'd like to hear from y'all on the RMI article.

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just to make sure that it gets one comment.

Strong rumor from an electric wholesaler to electrical co-ops in the Pacific NW that the California legislature is going to revisit carbon credits this session. Could be a somewhat big deal for start-up clean-energy generating facilities.

Solar has the inside track there without doubt. One of the factors that is currently worrying U.S. utilities is that some big corporate energy users - Google and MS for two - are planning to invest many US dollars in both generation and storage at their main facilities. Again, primarily solar-based on the generating side.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Tue Feb 11th, 2014 at 07:33:22 PM EST
Haven't written my thoughts on the RMI brief yet, because the fight is so great here at the moment. The utilities have beaten back all manner of renewable support, while at the same time importing the dirtiest MTR (Mt. Top Removal) coal.

EU utilities, green groups clash over RET


Leaders of six green energy firms challenged big utilities on Wednesday by advocating a tougher EU renewable goal to save billions in fossil fuel imports and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
....
The companies are among 91 firms and organisations taking on the big utilities, whose business model has been shaken by the uptake in renewable power, spurred by a mandatory 2020 goal to get 20 percent of energy from green sources.
....
"Renewables came into the market in a disruptive manner and there is fight between the two sectors," said Rafael Mateo, CEO of Spain's Acciona Energia, which describes itself as the only utility 100 percent reliant on renewable energy.
....
Hans-Dieter Kettwig, managing director of German wind turbine maker Enercon, said utilities needed to be "more proactive" and "accept a new industry is coming".

Executives from utilities including Germany's E.ON , RWE and GDF Suez, formed what became known as the Magritte Group last year to lobby for an end to subsidies for wind and solar.

I've publicly disagreed with Amory since the late 70's on the role of utilities in the renewable revolution, believing that the evidence showed they were far more an obstacle, with green-washing at best. But Amory seems to be coming around, arguing that it's wrong to keep the dinosaurs propped up, with some strong arguments.

What Amory didn't write about (though he might well understand) is that most governments are currently hostage to the Magritte Group, worst in Spain, Germany and formerly great Britain.

We'll see how far renewables can push when the revised German Energiewende is presented around Easter. I'm predicting serious tension between the States (Bundesrat) and the Coalition, to the degree that there will be disagreement even within the parties, none of which Frau Mutter can control.

On the other hand, most of Germany just wants things cheap, whether it's food, clothes or dirty electricity.

Setting Amory's Ft. Collins utility-business model in Yurp would be a plus, for sure.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Feb 14th, 2014 at 01:04:25 PM EST
It's a very persuasive article.

The author has clearly drunk deep of the unbundling koolaid. And spiked it with some bad acid if he thinks that profit-and-loss statements have any place in the planning of strategic infrastructure like electricity provision. But despite that, it's a good article.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 15th, 2014 at 04:12:10 AM EST
I haven't been looking at the Worldwatch Institute for quite a while because I found that so much of their stuff was behind a paywall (not because I thought it was bad).

This is a good overview and rebuttal of the Economist article. The description of the European scene seems correct. There's just a feeling, though, of time-lag. As CH points out, incumbent utilities in Europe are not just whining, they're organising an onslaught against renewables, and currently making considerable headway.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 15th, 2014 at 05:43:18 AM EST
EU has no love lost for FITs - 100% renewable - Renewables International

On Valentine's Day (Friday), the consultation period closes for an EU paper on future energy policy. Feed-in tariffs will be done away with altogether aside from small projects. State aid could still be provided for CCS.

For years, proponents of renewables have praised feed-in tariffs as a policy mechanism, but too often even they have charged that FITs are some kind of start-up support for fledgling technologies. (This website was partly founded on the principle that that argument is specious.)

Now, that line of thinking is coming back to haunt us; if renewables are mature now, we can do away with FITs, right? An EU document that can be commented on until Friday proposes just that. Here is the main passage about the exceptions where FITs would still be allowed:

Member States may grant aid to installations of first commercial scale and to small installations with an electricity generation capacity of less than [1] MW, except for wind energy, where a threshold of [5 MW or 3 generation units] applies...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 16th, 2014 at 12:44:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's strong utility pushback here, too, but it's falling on its face on the west coast - or perhaps hoist on its own enviro-petard.

It just seems out here on the west coast that we (youth in particular) enjoy the Super Bowl, like the clever ads, and shun their message. As a result, miles driven, electrical power used, traffic accidents (speed-related in particular), and bar fights are all declining. Maybe it's the circles in which I circulate, but I rarely find anyone who does not 'get' renewable energy. And I do maintain rather wide circles. (Recently, I had to congratulate the Republican against whom I ran for state leg in 2010  for being the primary sponsor of an amazingly collaborative water management plan for the Yakima River watershed.)

CH - I too dismissed Lovins for many years, but, as I wrote above, this RMI is taking the kind of leadership role that can actually accomplish things.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sat Feb 15th, 2014 at 10:22:13 PM EST
For those who don't know him, Amory was one of the seminal figures in the push for renewables beginning in the mid-70's. (Of course the technical developments in wind, solar and others go back far longer.)

Trained as a physicist (but without a degree?), Lovins published energy policy for Friends of the Earth. Around 1975, he published a renewable strategy article in Foreign Policy which grew to become Soft Energy Paths. With the spread of that article, coming between the two oil embargoes of the 70's, Lovins became a figurehead of the "soft path."

He spent the next decades consulting for utilities, large corps and the military. If he hadn't already drunk the neo-lib koolaid, these clients didn't help. Still, he remained one of the most globally respected renewable energy advocates.

Amory learned much of his windpower from a childhood friend, and my mentor, Dr. Forrest (Woody) Stoddard. Despite my disagreements with him over the role of utilities, he remains a stalwart advocate.

Most importantly, had we been able to have the global buildout of renewables that we've seen in the past 15 years occur when first proposed, we wouldn't have lost another 15 years to irreversible global warming.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Feb 16th, 2014 at 04:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And...

while i still haven't commented on the meat of the article, one thought crossed my fertile/febrile mind...

A bit late to the party, Amory, no?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Feb 17th, 2014 at 02:48:22 PM EST
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