Sunday, October 8, 2017

Update: FERC Acts to Support Reliability

Secretary Rick Perry
The Energy Study 

In April, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that he was requesting a study about whether today's electricity markets are doing an adequate job in terms of providing grid reliability, reliance and stability. Under most circumstances, an announcement of such a proposed study would cause everyone to fall asleep. Nowadays, though, this proposed study was considered revolutionary and perhaps obscene.

The general weltanschuang (German used quite deliberately) of studies under the last administration did not encourage looking at questions of mere grid reliability.  The only allowable questions seemed to be: "How can we get more renewables (and gas backup) on the grid?"  When Secretary Perry asked for a reliability study, he set the natural gas industry into a state of shock. They had a pretty good idea of what such a study would show. They didn't like it one bit.

If you think people were upset that this study was performed at all, you can imagine the anger when it showed the value of base-load plants. The DOE study showed a need to increase grid reliability by supporting base-load plants that can store fuel on site. Yes, that means coal and nuclear.

The FERC Rule-Making

After a FERC study is completed, if it shows a need for a change in the electricity markets, the next step is FERC making a rule for the change. FERC starts this process by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, (NOPR). FERC recently issued an NOPR for the Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule, based on the DOE study.
Here's the link to the proposed rule: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/09/f37/Notice%20of%20Proposed%20Rulemaking%20.pdf

The bulk of the rule is on page 11: (FERC shall)...issue a final rule requiring its organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our Nation's bulk power system.  The proposed rule allows for recovery of costs of fuel-secure generation units frequently relied upon to make our grid reliable and resilient. 

Update: The easiest way to comment on this rulemaking is to use the Nuclear Matters link Urge Policymakers to Protect Nuclear Energy.  You fill out your contact information and click :Submit. There is a pre-written comment on the form, but you can edit it as you wish.  Click the link and submit your comment today or tomorrow!  Time is short. October 23 is the last day for comments.

Beating Back the Attacks

There are so many things to say about this rule-making!  And so many things have been said!  You would think this is the first NOPR that FERC had ever issued.  It isn't.  Here's a brief run through the proposal and the attacks on the proposed rule.

The DOE study:  
I recommend Rod Adams excellent blog post of August 24, Long awaited DOE report on electricity markets and reliability. The post includes links to the study itself.

Is this rule-making legal?  Is it rushed?  
Yes it is legal. Once again, Rod Adams has a good overview: Rick Perry Directs FERC to Complete Final Action on Resiliency Pricing Rule in 60 Days. In Utility Dive's article Powelson: FERC 'will not destroy the marketplace' in cost recovery rulemaking, Acting FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee explains that the new rule will have a record, docket, and analysis. Just like the rest of the rules. In the same article,  Scott Hempling, a Georgetown law professor, said there is no statutory obligation for any particular period of time for comments.  My own understanding is that 60 day and 90 day comment periods are pretty standard.

Isn't this "rule" kind of vague?
Yes. It is slightly more vague than usual.  According one of the articles in Utility Dive, energy lawyers say that the vagueness of the rule may give more room for industry input on the final product.   But frankly, it is not out of line with other FERC rule-making.  For example, in FERC 1000, one of the most complex and contentious parts of the rule is stated pretty simply: Local and regional transmission planning processes must consider transmission needs driven by public policy requirements established by state or federal laws or regulations.  FERC rarely tells system operators exactly what to do: FERC directs them to "consider this" or "allow for that" etc.  Kind of vague, but then again, they are the system operators and they have their own constraints.

Is FERC Fuel-Neutral, Part 1:
Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said that a proposed rule supporting baseload plants "would blow the market up."  At FERC, according to Wikipedia, Wellinghoff's three priorities were integration of renewables, energy efficiency, and demand-side energy practices, such as real-time pricing.  Wellinghoff didn't mention reliability in his priorities as FERC chairman. I also don't notice that anybody blamed him for supporting the expansion of renewable energy. When some people claim that FERC must be "fuel neutral," they apparently don't mean "treat renewable installations like other power plants."

Is FERC Fuel-Neutral, Part 2:
FERC doesn't like rules that say: Gas plants shall or coal plants shall. For a FERC rule, don't actually name the type of plant.  The new proposed rule doesn't name types of plants.  Any plant that can store 90 days worth of fuel qualifies for recovery of costs of fuel-secure generation units.  FERC and grid operators have many rules for how plants get paid: there's the whole business of ancillary services.  Grid operators pay for ancillary services (reactive power, quick dispatch) even though only certain types of plants can provide these services.  If FERC determines that "fuel security" is important for grid reliability, it can make sure that plants that are able to supply the fuel-security service are paid for that service. This is not revolutionary.

And the final question: Is this going to "blow up the markets"?
There is no market to blow up.  On Friday, Utility Dive quoted Rick Perry saying: There is no free market in electricity. I have been saying this for a while.  I recommend an article by Travis Kavulla, of the Montana Public Service Commission. His article in American Affairs  is titled: There Is No Free Market for Electricity: Can There Ever Be?  It's a good summary of how nobody can "blow up the market" because there really isn't a market.

Finally...

Actually, there is no "finally" because FERC is beginning the rulemaking process, and we won't see the final rule for perhaps 90 days.  That is, 60 days for comments, some more time for putting the final rule together.  But in another way, I can say:

Finally, the government is paying attention to the reliability of the electric grid!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Update! ANS Members discount for "Campaigning for Clean Air"



Update: Everyone can buy Campaigning from the American Nuclear Society!

I am so embarrassed and sorry.  I was not aware that everyone can buy Campaigning for Clean Air from the American Nuclear Society!  However, only ANS members can get the discount.

Whether or not you are an ANS member, please consider buying my book from the American Nuclear Society.  If you are not a ANS member, you will pay full price.  But you will support the society by buying it through them.

I am so sorry for the mistake I made in the earlier version of this post.

Campaigning for Clean Air in the American Nuclear Society catalog

I am happy to report that American Nuclear Society members can order Campaigning for Clean Air through the society.  Here is the ANS catalog page which includes the book: http://www.ans.org/store/browse-special/

Here's the link to the actual page on which you would order the book. Note that you can order either the paperback or ebook version through the ANS. Both are sold with a 10% discount for ANS members.
http://www.ans.org/store/item-690099/

I am very pleased and honored that ANS has chosen to distribute my book. If you wander around the ANS catalog, perhaps starting with the browse special publications page, you will see that most of the publications in the ANS catalog were published by ANS. It is a real honor for a non-ANS published book to be included in the catalog. A heartfelt "thank you" to ANS!

Other ways to buy Campaigning

I encourage people to buy Campaigning from the ANS.  However, you can also buy it on Amazon or Nook or Kobo. You can also order it through many bookstores. Bookstores usually get the book from Ingram Spark distributors.  Most books to date have been bought from these other sources. ANS provides a new way to buy the book. I am delighted  that the book is available through ANS.

Looking up the links (to Kobo, etc.) was fun for me, because I saw positive five star reviews of the book.  Not all my book reviews are on Amazon.  I should try to remember that...

Some quotes from reviews:

If one wants a technical analysis on the technology, or the economics, or the history of nuclear power, this is not the book for you, although the book does have a list of recommendations if one wants to look further into those aspects. But if your question is more on, "but what can I do to help?", this is the book you want.  Tony on the Kobo version

"In a time where nuclear power is facing strong economic challenges and more plants are trying to stay viable, Meredith’s book is a playbook that can help communities around nuclear plants reach out to tout the benefits of keeping the plants operating."  JTwarog on the Nook version.

I found Chapter 17 of the book, "When it Doesn't Feel Like Enough" very comforting... There have been times when faced with massive public opposition to nuclear power I have felt that my efforts amount to nothing, that I am simply spinning wheels.... The book has much to offer to lift one’s spirits in face of demoralizing odds, and shows how you can be effective in “moving the needle.”  RM on Amazon

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I hope you buy my book, from the American Nuclear Society or another source.  Most importantly, I hope you act on the ideas and hints in the book!  Nuclear energy needs advocates, and it needs them now.

Friday, August 25, 2017

ISO-NE Meeting Features Governor Scott: Minor Update

Vermont ISO-NE Meeting on Transmission
Note: this is a screen shot.  The links in the graphic don't work.


Links for registering for the meeting:

Update: Many people were frustrated because the links in the graphic above do not work.  I had working links available, but they were at the bottom of the post.  I am moving them to the top of the post in this update.

Here are links that work.
Woodstock Inn & Resort
CLG Webpage
Register
Mary "Weezie" Nuara

Note: if you have trouble registering,  I suggest you email Weezie Nuara.  Please register in advance because ISO-NE provides a lunch, and they need a headcount.

Now, back to writing about the meeting itself!

Governor Scott will be special guest at ISO-NE meeting in Vermont

The Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) of ISO-NE holds a public meeting every quarter. On September 7, a little less than two weeks from now, the meeting will be in Vermont. (I am on the Coordinating Committee for CLG.)

I hope you can attend. The meeting is free, and includes a lunch. The CLG is the "consumer's voice" for ISO-NE, and this will be a very special meeting.

Governor Scott will speak. He almost certainly will not speak about nuclear power, but I will never forget that he was one of four Vermont senators who voted in favor of continued operation of Vermont Yankee. You can see a short video of his statement at the time of the vote: it's on my blog post Hello Governor Scott, and Goodbye Shumlin.

FERC Order 1000: A public discussion

The main part of this meeting will be a discussion of FERC Order 1000. This order could lead to huge and expensive changes on the grid, and almost nobody knows about it. The basic idea of FERC 1000 is that grid operator (ISO-NE, for example) can order states to pay for transmission lines that are needed for "policy" not just "reliability."

In the past, if a grid operator showed that a new transmission line was needed for grid reliability, the grid operator could spread the payments for that line throughout the states in the grid region. So the line might be only located in one state, but if it was needed for reliability, all the New England states would bear the cost. The grid operator used clear engineering criteria for "the line is needed for reliability."

With FERC 1000, if a transmission line is needed for "policy," the grid operator can also force the states to share the cost of the transmission line. Say that a state has a policy of bringing in wind power from a neighboring state. That state can now commandeer all the states in the grid to pay for the new line. The line is state "policy," after all. Actually, the grid operator would do the commandeering, but the idea is the same.

In Vermont on September 7, many knowledgeable people will be discussing FERC 1000 in public.  This is a rare and important event.

I have more about FERC 1000 in this blog post from earlier this year. That post is somewhat out of date, since New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE)  recently lost their FERC 1000 lawsuit against FERC. A representative from NESCOE will speak at the upcoming meeting.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thorium Energy Alliance Conference this weekend




The Thorium Energy Alliance Conference in St. Louis

The Thorium Energy Alliance will take place in St. Louis starting this weekend.  I signed up to attend long ago, but people are still joining right now.  Here's the link to the website.   I encourage you to attend if you can!

Much of the conference will be about molten salt reactors, of course.  But there will be much more! More than two hours of how-to-do-advocacy workshops, led by leading advocates such as Eric Meyer of Generation Atomic and Heather Matteson of Mothers for Nuclear. (I will be a co-leader in one of the sessions.) There will be great talks by many authors. One of the featured talks is by Victoria Bruce, and people who register for the meeting will get her latest book, free with their registration.  Sellout: How Washington Gave Away America's Technological Soul, and One Man's Fight to Bring it Home.  Mathijs Becker will be a speaker.  He will be here from the Netherlands. He is the author of one of the few books debunking Jacobson's "100% renewables" claims (The Non-Solutions Project) as well as posting an excellent youtube channel, the Nuclear Humanist.

It will be a great conference.  But why should you come?

A Conference that is truly  for the "Rest of Us"

I have been to many pro-nuclear conferences, and I love them all.  Most of the conferences are sponsored by an industry group.

Sometimes, these conferences don't feel very welcoming to people who are not in the industry.  This conference feels very different.  Some of the speakers are from industry (EPRI advanced reactor group), and some are from industry start-ups (ThorCon, Elysium, Terrestrial and others). However, many speakers and attendees are "just" nuclear advocates. They are people who have never worked in the nuclear industry, but have a presence in the world of advocacy, ideas and books engaged with new versions of nuclear power.

The "just advocates" are the most important people at the conference, in my opinion.  They are the group that can reach out to other groups, and to their neighbors.

This is a very welcoming conference. I encourage you to attend.

Note: if you are defending an existing nuclear plant, you will be right at home.  You don't have to be a molten salt maven to get a lot out of this conference. For example, I could annotate the list of speakers, giving examples of the important and brave things various speakers have done in defense of our current fleet of reactors.  Look at the bottom of the conference page for the list of speakers.

Another note: The conference will include a break for Eclipse Viewing.  How many conferences are planned around something like that?

This will be a great conference.  I hope to see some of you there.   Here's the conference link, again:

Thorium Energy Alliance Conference 8


Monday, August 14, 2017

Update: Not WARNing at V.C. Summer

June 9, 2017 photo of Summer construction
SCEG photo
Update:

SCEG withdrew its original petition to abandon the Summer Project, but this was only to facilitate government review of the petition.  After withdrawing the petition,  SCANA held a press conference and re-iterated its plans to abandonn the nuclear project.

Meanwhile, knowledgeable people have emailed me that the construction workers at Summer are probably not covered by WARN, but employees of Westinghouse and Fluor probably are covered.  I am not a lawyer, and I am merely repeating what they said.  It is probably true, however.

None of this is good news for the project or the workers.


The Stop-Work at Summer

At the V.C. Summer construction site in South Carolina, a stop-work order was issued by the plant owners. Within hours, thousands of people had to turn in their badges and leave. There is simply no way to sugar-coat this story.

Actually, there are at least two stories here: the first story is about why V.C. Summer was cancelled. That story has been widely discussed.  The second story is about how the  layoffs happened, and their legality (or not).  This story has not been covered very much. It will be covered here.

At the end of this post, I have an annotated list of resources  about the first topic, why Summer was cancelled.

The Human Cost

On Facebook, one friend wrote about how difficult the Summer closure was for his family.  I will not quote his statements here, but his post made me feel very sad for all the hard-working people at Summer.  I mean I was feeling bad already, but his post made me feel worse. The cancellation of Summer had a huge human cost. You can't lay off 5600 people without immense pain, and immense ripples in the community.

It is too mild to say that the layoffs themselves were not handled well.  In my opinion, the way the layoffs were handled was certainly immoral, and may have been illegal.  In this article, Fired nuclear construction workers crash State House, workers said they had "no warning from superiors before being let go about lunchtime Monday." In a video at WLTX, workers said "We met at our lunch location and they read these letters to us...."

It's impossible to get numbers, but most sources say 5000 people were affected by the equivalent of letters-read-at-the-lunch break.  In the video above, a worker says that he has never heard of so many people being laid off at one time.

My first reaction was that I thought that such a layoff was simply illegal.  A federal law, the WARN act, requires employers to give advance notice of large layoffs. Nolo.com has good article on the WARN act and South Carolina. (Nolo sells consumer-oriented legal books and software.)

WARN and the big boys

WARN covers employers who have at least 100 full-time-equivalent employees.  If 50 or more employees are laid off at one job site, WARN requires sixty days notice. (You can read the fine print at Nolo.com)

On Facebook, I said that I thought the short warning of this layoff was probably illegal. One person commented that I was making unwarranted assumptions.  In his opinion, a big employer would read the laws and obey them. Okay.  Basically, he was right about the biggest of the big boys on the job site: SCEG. According to this video and article from WISTV, SCEG notified the state of 615 layoffs at Summer (layoffs of their own employees), giving the requisite 60 days notice according to the WARN requirements.

However, they gave Westinghouse no such 60 days notice, because Westinghouse is a contractor, not an employee. Westinghouse immediately "furloughed" 870 employees, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  However, these employees have no reason to believe that they will be called back from  this "furlough."  According to Post-Gazette article, a field engineering manager at Westinghouse has sued Westinghouse for violating WARN. He is attempting to achieve class-action status with his lawsuit.

SCEG covered its own employees, but employees of large and small subcontractors seem to be subject to the largest sudden layoff that I have ever heard about.

WARN and the not-so-big-boys

Westinghouse, with hundreds of employees on this project, is one of the big boys. Nevertheless, it seems to have issued as quick a lay-off notice as might have been issued by any local supplier of portapotties. Westinghouse is now being sued.  I suspect that many of the other contractors may also be sued.

Chess Pawn, Wikipedia
Opening Gambit or Closing the Door?

Why did the layoff happen in this sudden way?  It saved some money for SCEG, until they get sued, of course. It devastated towns and businesses and gave locals a pretty grim idea of what their utilities think about their welfare. Looking at a project that is over budget by billions of dollars, I don't think saving two months worth of salaries was the entire motivation. Decades of bad feelings are likely to arise from the sudden layoffs, and two months payroll was saved? To me, it doesn't make sense.

That is just my opinion, of course, but there it is.  Sometimes, dramatic events are the opening moves in fierce negotiations.  "Now that I have  your attention...."

Sometimes, of course, dramatic statements are the closing moves: "Look, I mean it, and nothing you can do will change my mind." However, that sort of statement often comes after a long fruitless negotiation.  Not always, but usually.

Games people play

If this were a chess game, I would say: This is more likely to be an opening gambit than a closing statement.

But wait, V.C. Summer is not a chess game!  In a chess game, the pawns are little pieces of plastic or wood or ivory.

At V.C. Summer, the pawns are more than 5000 real live people.

----------
Addendum:  Why V.C. Summer was cancelled.

I recommend three excellent blog posts on the reasons for the project cancellation.

In 2016, Will Davis wrote at ANS Nuclear Cafe: Nuclear Plant Costs-- A Look Back and Ahead 
This post describes the cascading effects of various types of cost overruns, including changes to the specifications, delays, and incomplete planning.

On July 31, 2017, Dan Yurman at Neutron Bytes wrote Utilities Pull the Plug on AP1000s at V.C. Summer.  He looks at the cost overruns, but also notes that Santee Cooper refused to go along with a plan to complete just one of the reactors.

On August 1, 2017, Rod Adams wrote: Tragic day in South Carolina as 5,000 people lost their jobs at VC Summer. Rod's post concentrates on design changes, specifically the Aircraft Impact Assessment Change.  There are 120 comments on that post.  Many of these comments are from very knowledgeable people.






Thursday, July 13, 2017

Defeating Trolls: Join the Conversation

The Fremont Troll lives under a bridge in Seattle.
He has captured a Volkswagen.
Graphic from Wikipedia
Recognizing and Defeating Anti-Nuclear Trolls

At my nuclear advocacy blog, my recent post Defeating the Trolls has developed an interesting and informative comment stream. People are sharing their anti-troll strategies. I urge you to visit the post and join the conversation!

The marks of a troll

Let me emphasize that not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Trolls have a specific way of interacting.  Within my post, I describe the three marks of a true troll:

  1. Repetitive posting
  2. Repetitive links
  3. Must have the last word in a thread
Many other types of bad behavior are just...bad behavior. For example, not everyone who is insulting is a troll, though some trolls are also insulting. (This actually makes it easier to deal with those trolls.)   

A major strategy for neutralizing trolls is to shift the conversation from a discussion of their claims to a discussion of their behavior.  Read more about dealing with trolls at the post, and also in the blogging and Facebook chapters  of my book, Campaigning for Clean Air

True trolls are difficult to deal with, which is why I am happy to see such a good discussion on my blog post.

Please join the conversation!

I hope you will go the Defeating the Trolls post at my advocacy blog, and join the conversation on anti-troll strategies.  

As I often say, we are not alone in our pro-nuclear advocacy. We can help each other. We can share strategies. Let's do it!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Was Hamilton Pro-Nuclear? Independence Day and Advocacy

Lin-Manuel Miranda in his musical Hamilton
Photo by Steve Jurvetson, Wikimedia

Hanging Together

We all know the quote from Benjamin Franklin.  At the signing of the Declaration of Independence he said,  "We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately."

That's the short version, isn't it?   We must all hang together, so we do all hang together, and then we win.

In my advocacy blog post today,  Was Hamilton Pro-Nuclear? A Post for Independence Day, I look at the more complex version.  The musical Hamilton tells the tale of the American Revolution.  The founding fathers were not all that agreeable with each other:  The musical ends after Burr shoots Hamilton.  That is truly being disagreeable!

Hanging together is hard work.

Real movements are complicated

In my essay, I note that astro-turf has a carefully crafted message, but real movements are complicated.  The Revolution was complicated.  Similarly, the current pro-nuclear movement has factions, disagreements on methods, and even disagreements on goals. Just as the situations described in Hamilton.

I am proud to be part of the widespread, messy, pro-nuclear movement.   It has factions.  It is real.

I hope you will read my post about Hamilton and the Nuclear Movement at my advocacy blog.  Here are the concluding paragraphs:

As Hamilton says, people do not know how we will be remembered. In particular, we don’t know how the pro-nuclear advocates of this generation will be remembered.
But I hope we will be remembered in clean skies and moderate climates and non-acidic seas.
Hail to the pro-nuclear advocates of this generation!