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Utility Stuff

The Case for Energy Efficiency – That Our Mothers Understand

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff 11 Comments
If energy efficiency programs are considered and measured to be a good thing in some states, why are they not good for all, or nearly all, states?  Even the utilities we work with in Minnesota and Iowa with programs since the mid 1980s believe in energy efficiency for their customers and their employing utilities.  I get the same vibe from California utilities, for another example.  However, like national elections, all eyes are presently on Ohio – a battleground state for energy efficiency. But this rant is about what happened in Indiana and how to combat it in Ohio.  In case...
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Utility Death Spiral? The Duck has Your Back

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff 15 Comments
There is weekly, if not daily, chatter about the end of the monopolistic electric utility systems we have today.  They call it the utility death spiral, and it goes like this: Distributed generation, also known as DG, which includes rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will compete directly with utility power. Utilities are stuck with fixed rate base for which they need to be paid through purchased energy from customers. Photovoltaic may produce competitively-priced energy for some customers after the bevy of incentives and tax breaks.  Home-generated electricity drives down the utility’s revenue. Utility raises prices to cover their fixed cost....
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Decoupling – A Love Story

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff 2 Comments
Perhaps I am naïve, but to be more effective it seems interveners would do well to understand motives of profit-driven enterprises and their customers.  Consider, for example, this recent article in Midwest Energy News lamenting CenterPoint Energy’s withdrawal from decoupling.  You may recall a post I made eons ago where I described the perverse impact of decoupling on prices for consumers.  Allow me to recap. Utilities have fixed cost of hardware and labor to deliver energy to customers – poles, wires, pipes, transformers, compressors, trucks, etc.  This stuff makes up the rate base and fixed cost of energy delivery.  They...
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Large Industrials Opting Out of Programs – A Retread Story

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff One Comment
A few years ago, I was reading an article on road-transportation taxes, of which the taxes on fuel are a huge portion.  One trucking company rep whined about the disproportionate taxes they had to pay.  First of all, he’s not paying any taxes anyway.  His customers are.  It’s built into the fuel price across the board for him and all his competitors.  But secondly, a loaded truck exerts about 20,000 pounds of force on the road per axle, while my cars exert about 1500 pounds of force per axle.  So Mr. Trucker, we are paying all your taxes for the...
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Utility Reference RIP – Thank You Litigious Loser

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff No Comments
In case you are new to this blog, or somehow haven't noticed, I tread where no mortals tread, through the valley of the shadow of death.  I discuss the all important bowels of the industry, and this week I have the crown jewel of a very unfortunate reality that is counterproductive and really harmful to the industry.  In fact, it is not only harmful to the industry, it is crippling the entire society.  Whoa!  Ok, what is it?  It is political correctness and our society of hyper-litigious losers.  We can't find or use utility references - people who will give...
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Utilities: A Formula for Contraction

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff 3 Comments
In the Energy Rant, I cover subjects I know well, subjects I don’t know well but can analyze with bookends and say, “that will never fly”, and things I don’t know well.  It takes viscera, and that’s what I’m covering this week – not bowels, but utility rates impacted by energy efficiency. Utilities are in business to make money, like every other business[1].  Let’s establish that making money or being profitable means revenue exceeds costs.  Costs consist of long-term capital-intensive investments in poles, wires, and power plants; and operating costs including pesky employees, coal, natural gas, uranium, U.S. mail, trucks,...
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Bait and Switch

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff No Comments
The day after last week’s election, the headlines included discussions about the “fiscal cliff” coming on January 1, 2013, when the “Bush” tax cuts expire and substantial automatic spending cuts kick in.  I guarantee this will not come and go without high drama.  First thing after the election comes the ceremonial token olive branches, and five minutes later both sides return to sharpening their heals and digging in. I would say energy efficiency has it’s own version of the fiscal cliff coming, and that is the end of the gravy train – lighting retrofits – the so-called low hanging fruit,...
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Talking Heads

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff No Comments
This is not about the excellent 80s band, unfortunately. Companies that provide necessities of life serve as punching bags to the public, media, and politicians.  I’ve said this before.  This week, we have more examples of beating up electricity and other utility providers. First, as I was explaining in my “Energy Efficiency 101” course Friday for new and recent hires at Michaels Energy, power companies are expected to provide power 24/7, every minute of the day, hell or high water, with no emissions, no nukes, out of sight, and with negligible cost.  It would be easier and less controversial to...
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Retro-commissioning Savings

Old School EE

By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Government, Retrocommissioning (RCx), Tax Stuff, Utility Stuff One Comment
Forging on from last week’s Arthur Fonzarelli crash into Arnold’s chicken stand, this week I will posit some challenges and problems presented with state takeovers of energy efficiency programs.  Per last week’s post, Wisconsin has fallen from 8th place in the nation to 17th place since the state essentially took over its energy efficiency programs.  This is according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, ACEEE, a well respected national think tank (my term) and advocacy organization for energy efficiency. One problem is the money moves further away from where it is collected.  The further program spending is...
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By Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Government, Utility Stuff 2 Comments
Being a critic and a manager, I always love it when somebody else does my work for me and I can lay low, because I often feel like a grumpy old man.  For example, some of my guys are tougher and harsher than I am on issues, people, and their work both inside and outside the company. On a related note, there is a big difference between whining and complaining.  I use a more vivid term for the latter, and I’ll leave it to the reader to guess what that is.  How does one define the difference?  The difference is...
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