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Rising Price of Less-Reliable Electricity

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“Americans used to spend little energy worrying about whether the lights would come on at the flick of a switch, or how much that electricity cost. For a growing number of people, those days are over.” Those are the first two sentences of an article published in The Wall Street Journal last week, Get Ready to Pay More for Less-Reliable Electricity. Other nuggets from the article: Customers of the largest 17 utilities in the country are bound to see electricity prices outpace the consumer price index through 2030. Over the ten years ending in 2022, outages increased by 20%. The…
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Portfolio Plateaus, Levitating Golf Balls, and Code Zombies

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This is the third and final edition of the history of energy efficiency and Michaels Energy over the last 40 years. The first edition, covering the Early Years Through Deregulation, spanned 1984 into the Great Depression of Energy Efficiency. The second edition described the resurgence of energy efficiency and the birth of Portfolio Blowouts in the Great Lake States and beyond. This edition covers the efficiency program plateau of the last decade and projects for the future. Lighting Technology Evolutions During the boom and plateau years from 2000 through today, lighting retrofits cycled through every sector – residential, commercial, and…
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Michaels Energy and The Boom Years of Energy Efficiency

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This week, we are continuing with 40 years of Michaels Energy and energy efficiency history, focusing on the years of growth. As alluded to in the last post, The Great Depression of energy efficiency hit in 1999, or to be a bit more precise, 1998. Data from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s most recent state efficiency scorecard confirm my case. While The Great Depression of energy efficiency raged, utilities got caught up in the dot.com stock market bubble. They bought telecom companies, home security, resort properties, and power generation overseas. Those ventures ended poorly, taking some to the…
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Michaels Energy – The Early Years Through Deregulation

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1984 This year is our company's 40th anniversary. Michaels Engineering launched on Friday, March 23, 1984. What else was going on in 1984? Apple launched the Macintosh, the first computer on sale with a mouse and a graphical user interface; sale price: $2500, which has the purchasing power of $7,700 today. I'm surprised Steve Jobs allowed that ugly disk drive slot in the front of the machine. C'mon, Steve. Jobs produced the greatest television ad of all time to promote Macintosh in a one-minute Super Bowl ad. "You'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984." Soviet bloc nations boycotted the…
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Reporting from the Mid-America Regulatory Conference

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I attended the Mid-America Regulator Conference in Minneapolis last week. This post features issues of the day presented by utilities, commissioners, intervenors, technology providers, and sundry stakeholders. Load Growth Back in the day, we canoed the rivers and streams of Northern Virginia, especially after significant rainfall, when the water was high and running fast, which made it interesting. Let's just say my canoeing skills would be the equivalent of graduating from the bunny slope on a ski resort. For the latter, I learned to snowplow to slow down, and for the former, don't take the paddle out of the water…
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A Twofer: Syncing Power Generation With Soaring Loads

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One of many sources of information that fuel my brain to write this blog is the American Energy Society’s Energy Matters newsletter. The newsletter features many items I don’t find elsewhere, and impressively, they seem unbiased – it is what it is. Power Generation According to a linked New York Times article, 200 coal-fired power plants have closed in the last decade, with 200 remaining and 50 slated for shutdown in the next five years. They also linked to this informative, interactive map showing power generation from the Energy Information Administration. The black dots represent the remaining coal-fired power plants,…
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A More Cost-Effective Energy Transition

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A recent Realclearwire.com article noted that since 2021, the cumulative effect of persistent inflation has reduced Americans’ purchasing power by 19%. Since 2021, grocery prices have increased by 21%, gasoline prices have increased by 47%, shelter costs have increased by 20%, and electricity costs have increased by 30%. Wholesale prices rose at the fastest rate in April 2024 since April 2023, signaling persistent pressure on retail prices for months to come. When I read the data, I think of energy prices rolling through everything, adding to consumer prices across the board. For example, diesel fuel prices roll through the food…
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Portfolio Struggling? Paradigm Revolution

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I have detected a pattern unfolding across multiple large energy efficiency portfolios: commercial and industrial prescriptive programs are struggling mightily. Why is this? My hypothesis was that we cycled through two or three rounds of lighting upgrades: From T-12 lamps and magnetic ballasts to T-8 lamps and electronic ballasts From once ubiquitous A19 incandescent bulbs to buzzing and dim compact fluorescent To mainstream and end-of-the-road (or world, if reaching goals is life or death) A19 LED bulbs and linear fluorescent lamps Lighting has endured for thirty-plus years for three reasons. First, it’s visible and a simple technology. How many “How…
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Full Spectrum Virtual Power Plants

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A couple timely articles and posts have dropped since I reintroduced virtual power plants (VPPs) last week. First, I'll share a LinkedIn post from Matt Golden, CEO of Recurve. He wrote:  "VPPs being defined as dispatchable loads only, is just plain wrong. Just like the grid is supplied primarily by load following and base load power plants, with a small but important amount of peak dispatchable emergency power, VPPs are a combination of long-term load modification and dispatch.  The vast majority of the potential to shape load with virtual power plants comes from things like heat pumps that provide better air conditioning and attic insulation…
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Virtual Power Plants Order in Load Management

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Virtual power plants (VPPs) represent a considerable slice of the clean energy race these days, and for a good reason: policy continues to favor intermittent renewable energy supply over baseload nuclear and dispatchable natural gas assets. Load needs to follow supply. Theoretically, we would need a lot of load flexibility for many hours and sometimes days to keep the grid energized with, mmm, 50% renewable energy. As of 2021, the renewables slice of the supply pie was around 13%, so there is a long way to go.  The DOE's Virtual Power Plants Commercial Liftoff report declares the United States needs 80-160 GW…
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