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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
Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

Answer: Avoided Cost – What’s the Question?

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“Can I ask a question?” My response to that, in good company, is, “You just did. Would you like another chance?” Now that, my friends, is a paradox. As you ought to know, I’m preparing a mind-blowing three-hour course on decarbonization for AESP’s Spring Training. One conclusion: 100% decarb is going to take decades and it will be expensive and disruptive. A lot of progress has been made, but it has been easy for reasons I will explain next following this chart, which shows how decarb cost will soar as the percent reduction increases. Average CO2 emissions per kWh produced...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

Combined Heat and Power – a Serious Decarb Weapon

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A few weeks ago, we reviewed electricity storage technologies, barriers, and issues. One storage technology is the lowly lead-acid battery, which forms the backbone of uninterruptible power supplies for data centers. They are inexpensive with readily available materials, are 100% recyclable, and therefore, they get no attention. Why? Elon Musk, the ultimate hype provocateur. What happened to the PowerWall, by the way? Disruption of rational thought? A web search of “annual Powerwall sales” results in nothing but distantly tangential content. Similarly, the utility industry, our industry, other companies, and people chase the flashy objects (squirrel!) to obtain decarbonization targets. Flash...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

Net Zero: An Unserious Weapon Against Decarbonization

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You all know people who are always going to do something great but never make it happen. Consider the hapless New Year’s resolution for which someone plans to lose weight. They successfully diet between a cheeseburger and fries for lunch and a mound of pasta with rich sauce for dinner: the “diet” lasted a few hours and accomplished nothing. The empty New Year’s resolution de jure for decarbonization is net zero, where similarly, there is excess at times and shortages at other times. Whether it’s net-zero-energy building design or net-zero-carbon electricity production, the achievement is easy and similarly not helpful....
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

Energy Storage with Doug Houseman

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In this week's Energy Rant, Jeff Ihnen (CEO at Michaels Energy) interviews Doug Houseman (Principal Consultant at Burns & McDonnell) about energy storage. Doug is a leader and visionary in grid and utility modernization. You'll quickly get a sense of his wealth of knowledge as we take you through our interview-style conversation.
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

The Simple Recipe to Fail-Safe, Healthy, and Efficient Building Programs

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Based on my victims' feedback, I am an above-average cook, but my internal modesty says, barely. To achieve such mediocrity, all you must do is follow the instructions and pay little attention. The next step to greatness, I’ve heard, is to weigh rather than measure things (cups, teaspoons, etc.). No. Thanks. Beyond that probably requires the Malcolm-Gladwell 10,000 hours to achieve excellence as a professional. Designing and constructing buildings is a lot like cooking, and I think most “efficient” buildings are in my categorical class of cooks: mediocre-plus. Unlike great amateur cooks, designers and builders need to be paid for...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

The Four Horsemen of the Rebound

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“Hey Honey – our energy costs are down, so let’s have another kid.” This is the absurd logic behind studies linked to a Utility Dive post last week. The subject is the retread canard of the rebound effect, specifically the hoax [sic] that if you use less energy, you use more energy. They even go so far as to claim that consumers drive their cars more when gas prices drop. Why were gas prices in the tank (pun alert) with oil prices bottoming out at minus $37 per barrel in April of 2020? Prices were low-to-negative because people weren’t driving,...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

THE Successful Model for Pay for Performance

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Livin' it Up in Hotel California I’ve written about pay for performance (P4P) programs no less than six times in this blog. I’ll start with a recap of those posts and move the ball forward once again. We’re well within field goal range! In Tooling Pay for Performance, I wrote that energy models and dashboards with regression models showing savings performance or lack thereof provide the following Leatherman-like benefits. It provides leverage with visual evidence, so customer stakeholders do more and climb higher. It’s a vise-grip to maintain what was accomplished. It’s a hammer to “persuade” folks. It’s a screwdriver...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

Years of Dominos Fall in Texas

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Last week when the Rant “went to press,” which is to say, when I wrote it Saturday, the arctic blast was merely a cold shot of weather like I have experienced dozens of times. I didn’t start seeing the chaos in the south until Monday. It was an avoidable tragedy caused by many things over many years. Some places lost water supply and wastewater treatment. A colleague sent me the first picture below from a friend in the Dallas area. Here in the Midwest, we might think that’s an innovative way to keep beer cold at a house party. In...
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Energy Rant, Michaels Energy

STEM Brilliance for You and Your Kids

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It’s been cold here in the Midwest. In ten days in La Crosse, WI, where I am, the average low was -13.7F, average high, 4.3, and the average of averages over the ten days was -4.7F. We smashed one daily record. There have been no all-time lows, but this is a grind. In the middle of this grind,[1] I woke up one morning thinking about greenhouse gases, GHGs. There is very little GHG in this weather because the dominant GHG is water vapor, and below-zero air has almost no capacity to hold water. Then I got to thinking; this is...
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