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Energy Rant

This is a satirical and at times humorous but critical commentary on energy efficiency issues of the day.

“Keep up the good work! I like the variety of topics; never boring. It's like a Box of Energy Chocolates.... you never know what you're gonna get!”

Mike MernickSenior Vice President, ICF

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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Resonating Fugitive Radical Renegades and GHGs

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Think you're a climate change genius? Strap in and prepare for whiplash.  To close out last week's post, I referenced a Forbes article, Green Hydrogen's Hype Hits Some Very Expensive Hurdles, which seeded the roots for this week's Energy Rant. It referenced a Cornell University paper claiming carbon capture from the manufacture of blue hydrogen "is energy intensive and leads to even more climate pollution than if CO2 just wafted into the air."  Whoa, ho, Nellie! Does carbon capture result in more emissions and energy consumption than free release of combustion products? The latter isn't surprising, but more emissions are a headliner. I…
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Theory #2 For Batteries Increasing Emissions

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As a glutton for punishment (I look forward to getting past sciatica so I can run marathons again), I tasked myself with getting to the technical bottom of this article from Utility Dive: Energy storage for grid reliability can increase carbon emissions: University of Michigan study. The article doesn't get into the details, so I dived into the source document sponsored by the University of Michigan – a brutal read – like the last miles of a marathon, maybe Heartbreak Hill or Central Park. I spare readers the pain so they can follow along from their La-Z-Boys.  I know enough about wholesale electricity markets to use terminology and…
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Solar Wars

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A year ago, I introduced the mantle curve to illustrate California's overgeneration of solar power and the resulting need for curtailment. In 2022, California's scoping study set a target for an additional 60 gigawatts (GW) or 60,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generation to be deployed by 2030. Below are the forecast curves from last year's post in May. The system was penetrating the overgeneration region, but the net load was above zero MW. Similar forecast loads from last week are provided below. We see the net load digs below zero MW, into the mantle. Granted, the first chart represents a week in May last year, while the second represents…
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Wildfire Dynamics – Utilities Save Lives

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In this week's rant, we are excited to include an epilogue written by Michaels Energy employee, Andrea Salazar. Read on to hear her story! In 2023, I wrote that Americans are moving into regions susceptible to wildfires, heat, droughts, and floods because housing was less expensive in such locations. Homes in some places are built among fueling forests, while some communities are built with just enough fire spreaders to be dangerous. A recent Wall Street Journal article, The Hidden Costs of Homeownership are Skyrocketing, drove my points home. Home insurance premiums are soaring – by more than 10% in 19 states in 2023—factor: floods,…
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Distributed Energy Threats

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It’s been a little over a year since I reported on grid attacks, mainly of the physical type but also of the cyber attack stripe. Every connected device, including distributed energy resources, adds surface area for an attack. The Wall Street Journal recently provided details targeting “green energy,” warning that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which makes many of our solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and components, is a likely attacker. Indeed, inverter-based resources (IBRs) that regulate frequency and voltage from solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries to match grid needs present reliability and security challenges. Utility Dive recently reported that owners of IBRs connected to the…
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Colors and Costs of Hydrogen vs. Natural Gas

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This post features a lot of refined hydrogen content you can't find online. But before I get to hydrogen, here's an update: I always get a little excited to lead news cycles. After publishing Electricity Shortages and What to Do About It last Tuesday evening, The Wall Street Journal published The Coming Electricity Crisis  on Thursday, including the following common threads: I wrote, "In one year (2023 v 2022), the forecast peak load growth for 2028 doubled…" The WSJ wrote, "Projections for U.S. electricity demand growth over the next five years have doubled from a year ago." I wrote, "Growth projections in Georgia,…
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Electricity Shortages and What to Do About It

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Some folks pin excessive weight on the federal government’s influence over our efficiency and load management industries. Even though billions/trillions of dollars are allocated through the “Inflation Reduction Act” and “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” those funds are fleeting. What’s more enduring? Rising electricity prices and load-balancing authorities are pushing for more baseload generation and transmission-line construction – things that are always met with stiff resistance by state and local governments and stakeholder groups. Utility Dive recently reported that electricity prices outpaced the broader U.S. consumer price index. Well, gee, why would this happen? Have fuel prices increased? No. You’d think electricity prices…
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