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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

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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Four Steps to Energy Code Flatline

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Energy efficiency program administrators can be quite conservative regarding change and innovation. I love hearing, “Bring us new ideas that have been successful in three or four other programs.” There you are! The pinch is on. Energy efficiency codes and standards have raised the bar consistently such that incremental savings from one code change to the next are exceedingly scarce. The gravy-train days of incremental widget-efficiency improvements, including lighting efficacy and heating and cooling equipment efficiencies, are quickly closing. Vehicles A nice parallel to diminishing returns on efficiency is vehicle mileage. The following chart shows fuel energy consumed per thousand…
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Our Adaptable Planet

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For years, I wondered how the national debt would result in Great Depression-level pain and a reset not unlike bankruptcy. The national debt doesn't need to be paid back like we often hear or read in the news. It just needs to be maintained at manageable levels, defined as not letting the borrowing cost get to a prompt supercritical situation that overwhelms everything else. Financing costs are becoming alarmingly high – already more than we spend on national defense – about $1 trillion annually. When tax revenues to finance the debt are insufficient, or if debt markets bomb, the Federal Reserve steps…
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Progressive Outline to Decarbonize Buildings

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Two weeks ago, I described an array of district heating and cooling plants that serve medical, college, industrial, and even city-scale loads. Last week, I explained options to decarbonize district heating and cooling plants. Those options include converting systems from steam to hot water as equipment reaches the end of its useful life, heat recovery chillers, and, most importantly, energy efficiency in facilities and processes served. But before getting started on efficiency, I must add that there are also many barriers to shutting down a district steam plant and transitioning to distributed heating and cooling plants. First, there are loads other than space…
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