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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

Residential Efficiency, Operations, and Maintenance

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Last week, I received an email from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy with the headline, Housing, Energy, and Consumer Groups Applaud Senate Opposition to Raising Energy Prices for Americans. “In a bipartisan vote today, the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment to block a federal proposal that will lower household costs by ensuring more new homes are built to up-to-date energy codes.” In other words, the Senate supports a federal proposal to lower household energy costs. This additional quote hooked me, “Brand-new homes that waste energy saddle their residents with high bills for decades, so up-to-date codes are critical.”…
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Micro Rant Harvest

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It’s fall, and that means it’s harvest season. So, this week, we’re providing a cornucopia of micro rants and information. I’m Alexa, and I’m Here to Help This headline caught my eye, ‘Alexa, I’m cold’: Government teams up with Amazon for energy saving campaign. The world’s fifth largest company, dominant retailer, data center behemoth, and tech giant partners with the government to use its in-home listening device. What could possibly go wrong? I recommend 1984, the book. EV Repair Black Market The Wall Street Journal reported, via email, that totaled Teslas from Western nations are being shipped to Ukraine and a…
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Iowa: Case Study in Major Renewable Supply

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It seems like someone coined the line, “what others are saying,” but I can’t find it. So, maybe I’ll coin “what others are saying” with that; here is what others are saying: lawmakers and policymakers should read the Rant. Here is why, starting with this PR Newswire: “Recent studies indicate that as of this year, 99% of all coal plants in the U.S. were more expensive just to operate compared to building new wind and solar. This is especially true for Iowa, where all coal used in power plants must be imported, costing ratepayers both the cost of coal and its transport.…
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Electrified Heating without Breaking the Grid or Bank

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Here are my last words, for now, on artificial intelligence: I do not claim to understand the computations or systems behind AI whatsoever. However, I do understand human behavior very well, so when I saw a headline last week, JPMorgan CEO: AI Will Eventually Lead to 3.5-Day Workweek, my response was, never, not going to happen. I mean, people will not be compensated with 40 hours of pay for 28 hours of work. That is fantasy. I remember dispelling such fiction as a grade schooler because the same concept was floated back in the 1970s. Only the mode of automation…
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Using AI With Caution

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Last week, I presented some findings that artificial intelligence can churn out dozens of product ideas in a fraction of the time humans can deliver. The AI bots provide higher-ranking ideas, so long as the criteria are defined, and the bot stays in the box. I also provided excerpts from a “help” chatbot that delivered no help but successfully raised my heart rate and blood pressure. Use It or Lose It Smartphones and computerized anything can make us dumber, less capable, vulnerable to power or network outages, and even bad directions. Last week, for example, I regretted turning navigation over…
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Mining the Energy Transition

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A few weeks ago, we had a little snafu. A promotional email said the energy transition is failing. That hit a nerve with one state government official. This week, I’ll present some facts, and you can decide. Cobalt First, we have the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the energy transition. The following video from France’s AFP News describes the toil in Congo for cobalt, a key ingredient of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and grid-scale storage. The video states the scene shows “almost biblical toil.” No. It’s biblical. Seventy-two percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic…
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Innovations in Grid Flex

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Last week, I was fortunate to see this article posted on EnergyCentral.com: Demand Flexibility Is No Longer Nice To Have. “ is increasingly becoming a “must have” as networks around the world are moving towards high levels of variable renewable generation resources. The increased variability of renewables, notably wind and solar, results in frequent episodes of feast and famine when supply exceeds demand and vice versa. The result is wide swings in wholesale prices, from near zero and negative to very high levels reflecting the imbalance in supply and demand. Storage and exporting/importing the surplus/deficit are invoked to the extent…
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Electric Ratemaking Basics and Load Flex

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In the last two Rant posts, we explored dated benefit-cost tests for energy efficiency and demand response programs and introduced flaws with dated ratemaking schemes. Both constructs are based on a century-old “cost of service” business model for monopolistic utilities. In a nutshell, the cost of service includes the debt and equity financing of generation, transmission, distribution, and operations and maintenance, which includes employees, fuel, storm damage repair, and arboriculture. Add up all those costs, including competitive investor returns on equity and debt, and then smear those costs as equitably as possible across the customer base. The sum of those…
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Modern Electric Rates from the Slide Rule Era

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Last week, we looked at Total Resource Cost (TRC) tests that were developed decades ago to put a high value on avoided source energy costs. That was right for the time, but not today. I demonstrated that energy costs, mostly dominated by natural gas, are near historic lows, while zero-energy-cost renewables supply more electricity than coal-fired generation. Of course, renewable sources have zero source-energy consumption. Yet, utility commissioners are laser-focused on keeping electricity prices in check and maintaining the reliability of the electric grid. Electric Rate Basics Like the TRC, most utility rates (tariffs) are stuck in the 1970s. I…
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