Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Update: Fitzpatrick to close.Ginna Continues Operation, Surcharges in Context, and Fitzpatrick

Ginna Nuclear Power Station
Update: Entergy announces Fitzpatrick closing

Fitzpatrick now scheduled to close in 2016 or 2017.  Announcement was this morning.  Two links:

Entergy press release article

Ginna gets some relief

Ginna Nuclear Generating Station, in upstate New York, was struggling with some of the same issues that are causing Entergy's Fitzpatrick plant to be at risk.

If Ginna closed down, there might be reliability issues on the grid. Therefore,  Ginna was recently given 18 months of financial relief to keep it operating. Ginna is being helped by a surcharge on utility bills: the surcharge lasts from now till March 2017. The surcharge will give Ginna $15.42 million extra per month, in payment for its role in grid reliability.  This charge will cost about $2 per month per customer, in upstate New York.

References: Deal reached on fate of Western New York nuclear facility at Poltico New York (October 23), and Settlement reached in New York to keep the Ginna nuclear plant running at Utility Dive (September 16).

The possibility of this type of positive resolution (for the grid and for the plant) is a good reason to

Sign the petition to keep Fitzpatrick operating! 

If you live in New York, contact your state legislator and your congressman, and urge them to keep Fitzpatrick operating. 

What about the ratepayer?

Maybe this relief is great for the grid and the plant, but what about the ratepayer?  What about that
Fracking equipment
at wellhead
$2.00 per month?

I'm not crazy about more costs to the ratepayer.  If I thought that increasing costs for the ratepayer was a good thing, I would join one of the "environmental" groups that believe electricity should be more expensive--in order to force people to use less electricity.  Instead, I am proud to be on the Coordinating Committee for the Consumer Liaison Group at ISO-NE.  I want to look out for the ratepayer.

With some hesitation, therefore, I share my opinion on the Ginna settlement. I think, in the long run, this settlement is good for the ratepayer, because without it, most of the pricing structure in New York would be held hostage to the fluctuating price of natural gas.

 If the utilities were not "deregulated," any decent utility would want a mix of types of plants on its grid. This mix would be a hedge against sudden jumps in prices for one fuel, sudden jumps in regulatory burden for another type of power plant, etc.

Now that we are "deregulated," the plant that is cheapest today can act as if it were going to be cheapest forever.  Other plants will close down, out-competed---but perhaps only for five years. Then when the once-cheapest fuel type becomes more expensive, the rate-payer is hung out to dry.

It takes many years to site, permit and build a power plant.  Meanwhile, in a single-fuel grid, the grid and the rate-payer have no choices.

Surcharges and Fitzpatrick

I decided to do a quick comparison of some local surcharges on electricity.  I will do this comparison in one-year units..

Ginna: $15.4 million per month, twelve months, $184 million/year, $2 per month per household, $24 a year per household.

Efficiency Vermont.  This utility has a visible surcharge on every Vermont householder's electricity bill.  It charges more than 1 cent per kWh, for all Vermont households.  For an average user (600 kWh/month) the surcharge is be about $7 per month or $84 a year per household.

Households pay this amount, and so do businesses.  IBM (now GlobalFoundries) rebelled, and the legislature enacted SMEEP for large businesses. Large business who make their own efficiency improvements can opt-out of Efficiency Vermont payments, by way of SMEEP. However, only GlobalFoundries qualifies for SMEEP.

Efficiency Vermont helps Vermonters insulate their houses, save energy, etc.  Unfortunately, in practice, this means that Efficiency Vermont collects surcharges from the many, and gives rebates to the few.  (What, me worry? I was one of the few. Efficiency Vermont  helped pay to insulate my house.)

Efficiency Vermont has been controversial, to say the least. Two examples:
Op-ed by Andrew Rudin:  Efficiency Vermont not so efficient.
Vermont Public Radio story: House brings down budget axe on Efficiency Vermont.

Carbon Tax: There is a proposed carbon tax in Vermont, which would start at $10 per ton of carbon dioxide and rise to $100 a ton.  This would eventually lead to a gasoline tax of $0.88 per gallon. This  tax is only proposed, of course.  Still, it gives an idea of what Vermont legislators are thinking nowadays.  (The article about the tax includes 200 comments.)  Meanwhile, an op-ed In Favor of a Carbon Pollution Tax was written by two people who identify themselves with a local anti-nuclear group. They support the carbon tax proposal.

In context

I am going to stop now.  I don't want this to be a treatise on every surcharge on the local grid. However, in context, it is clear that a surcharge for Fitzpatrick nuclear power is likely to be:
  • small (compared to Efficiency Vermont or to carbon taxes)
  • fair (everyone gets the benefit of stable prices on the grid, as opposed to some people get house insulation and some people get only higher electric bills)
  • controversial (no surprise here)


Sign the petition to keep Fitzpatrick operating! 

If you live in New York, contact your state legislator and your congressman, and urge them to keep Fitzpatrick operating. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Public Service Commissioner: Vermont Green Energy Plan Not About Global Warming. Guest post by Bruce Parker

By Bruce Parker  /   October 23, 2015

As Vermont races to become the nation’s first green-energy economy, the head of the Public Service Department says the state’s renewable energy plan is about economic matters, not global warming.

On Wednesday, the Vermont Public Service Department completed the third of five public hearings for the state’s 2015 Comprehensive Energy Plan. The 380-page document, set to be completed and adopted by Jan. 1, charts a course for Vermont to get 90 percent of its energy from renewables by 2050.

While Vermonters are struggling to see the benefit in siting hundreds of utility-scale solar and wind projects in neighborhoods and atop mountain ridgelines, the benefit most commonly associated with embracing green energy — combating global warming — is conspicuously absent from Vermont’s plan.

“I disagree with the characterization that the reason we’re doing this is to try and improve global warming,” Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Public Service Department, told Vermont Watchdog.

“It is certainly a byproduct of it, and a help, but primarily why we’re doing it is to have stable energy pricing and really secure energy resources that are renewable in our state.”

Recchia, appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2013 to lead the department responsible for regulating energy development, said Vermont is too small to make a difference in the nation’s carbon footprint. As result, the commissioner says Vermont needs to embrace an all-renewable-energy future to have a strong economy, a stable energy supply and stable energy pricing.

“If everybody else in the United States and around the world did what we’re doing, it would have a tremendous impact on climate change. The problem is we can only do what we can do,” he said.

Since Shumlin made renewable energy a top priority of the state, towns have found themselves fighting green-energy companies eager to profit from taxpayer subsidies and regulation-free land use policies.

Swanton, which is battling a proposal from Swanton Wind LLC to construct seven 500-foot wind turbines on a local ridgeline, has scheduled a Nov. 17 townwide vote to give residents a say in the matter.

“We’re definitely against it. The Selectboard, we do not support this project. We are for renewable energy if it’s the right thing for our communities, but this is not the right thing for our communities,” Swanton Selectboard Chair Dan Billado told Vermont Watchdog.

“These towers are 100 feet or more taller than any turbines in New England — they’re 499 feet. That equates to 50-story structures on a ridgeline that’s already a 345-foot ridgeline above the lake. Tell me anywhere in Vermont where we have 50-story structures.”

On the year’s windy days, the project will provide power to an estimated 7,800 homes. Despite that benefit, Billado said people in the town are worried about the project’s negative effect on wildlife, public health, water quality, property values and aesthetics.

“We already know that windmills kill birds and bats. It’s devastating on that, not to mention the rest of the wild animals — deer, bear, coon, fox, you name it,” he said. “It drives them away. They say they’ll come back, but nobody can give us an answer when.”

At the town’s Tuesday night Selectboard meeting, more than 50 residents met with Recchia to express concerns about the turbines. According to Billado, when the board asked for a show of hands to see how many people opposed the project, all but five people threw up their hands.

“The five people for it were Mr. Belisle, his wife, his lawyer, and, I believe, his sister and brother-in-law that were there — they’re the developers.”

Billado said the vote could have as big a turnout as the Oct.1 vote in Irasburg, which saw residents fill Town Hall to overflowing to vote 274-9 against 500-foot windmills on the Kidder Hill ridgeline west of the village center. Although non-binding, such townwide votes send a loud message that developers need to go someplace else.

RELATED: Revolt: Vermont town votes 274-9 against giant wind turbines

Vermont Watchdog asked Recchia if towns could be expected to sacrifice their landscapes for a plan
Chris Recchia
that offers negligible environmental benefits and significant environmental damage.

“It is not a huge sacrifice compared to what the people of West Virginia have been dealing with for 100 years in terms of coal mining and mountaintop removal and a variety of other things. It just is not the same scale,” he said.

For environmentally minded Vermonters, Recchia’s perspectives may seem out of touch.

“To say, ‘OK, it’s really about having stable energy prices; it isn’t about having some sort of impact — even local — on global climate change,’ you’re missing the boat with me,” said Michael Keane, a Selectboard member in the Town of Bennington.

“Prices are always going to go up and down. There’s not going to be any absolute control of prices. … If all we’re thinking of is stable prices, we’ve let ourselves be horse-traded in sort of a Wild West situation.”

The “Wild West” in Bennington includes a plan to clear-cut 27 acres of forest for a two-plot solar farm in the Apple Hill residential area along Route 7, within eyeshot of the town’s welcome center.

The project’s developer, New York City-based Allco Renewable Energy, angered residents when the CEO criticized a Bennington woman who decided to intervene against the project due to aesthetic and procedural concerns. In 2010, the CEO himself campaigned to stop an offshore wind farm from being sited in Nantucket Sound near his summer home in Martha’s Vineyard.

In August, the Bennington Selectboard voted against the arrays due to “the inevitable damage to environmental, historical, safety, visual, and aesthetics of the surroundings.” Two weeks ago, board members sent the Public Service Board a letter saying its decisions “appeared to ride roughshod” over the concerns of the people of Bennington.

Recchia may be listening to towns’ complaints. He said he would oppose “random applications being submitted by developers that don’t have any relationship to what towns and communities want.” He also said he would work to help residents “be part of the solution and really engage in the process.”

Going forward, Recchia said the department plans to enlist all regional planning commissions in the state to conduct smart energy planning with communities in the upcoming year.

Swanton needs answers sooner rather than later, according to Billado.

“When they start blasting ridgelines, what’s that do to surrounding wells? You’re fracking the ground (and) breaking up flows of water that feed people’s wells. What’s that going to do to everybody’s drinking water? Nobody knows. They say they have to do studies,” he said.

According to Keane, if the state’s energy plan is about economic issues, Vermonters need to rethink the real benefits of moving forward.

“If we’re doing this for stable energy prices in the year 2020 or 2030, then let people know that. Let’s disabuse them of the goodwill intentions that they have to have a benefit on the environment,” he said.

“If, in fact, we are not having some sort of useful impact on the environment that we can either have bragging rights about or be thought of as a model for other political entities, then what the hell are we doing?”

Bruce Parker
This post by Bruce Parker first appeared in Vermont Watchdog, October 23, and is reprinted here by permission. Parker has frequent guest posts at this blog: his most recent guest post was Vermont town protests renewable energy credits for MA and CT.

You can reach Bruce Parker at

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Carbon taxes and the Fitzpatrick plant: a reason to sign the petition

The petition

There's a petition to save the Fitzpatrick plant.  The petition is addressed to Entergy.  I think it should be addressed to Governor Cuomo, as you can tell by my post on Governor Cuomo, Fitzpatrick and Money.  At any rate, I signed the petition.

I encourage you to sign the petition to show support of Fitzpatrick.  More signatures will be a good thing, wherever the petition is addressed.

Carbon dioxide taxes?

Some of the people who signed the petition also left comments.  I was particularly struck by a comment that noted that many states are considering carbon taxes.  If carbon is taxed, that will increase people's electricity bills. If Fitzpatrick is not running, and most of its power is made by natural gas plants, there will be an increase in people's electricity bills.

I decided to do a quick and dirty calculation of the amount of money Fitzpatrick will save New Yorkers…if there is a carbon tax.  Here's my calculation, and my sources.  I invite comments and corrections.

Fitzpatrick and carbon taxes:

How much energy: 
Fitzpatrick makes 838 MW of dependable capability. Source, Entergy Nuclear.
There are 8760 hours in a year.
I assumed a 90% capacity factor, which is on the low side for the nuclear fleet.
At that point, we have 838 MW x 1000 kW per MW x 8760 hours per year x 0.9 hours operating per year, and we have

Fitzpatrick produces 6,606,792,000 kWh in a year of operation.

Saving how much carbon:
Okay, now, what if that power was produced by a gas-fired plant?

Gas plants make, on average, 1.21 lbs of carbon dioxide per kWh. Source: EIA

This number is an average for gas-fired plants, and no doubt someone will come up with a lower number, with the assumption that only bright shiny new combined cycle plants should be counted.  Since these shiny new plants would still only be part of the local fleet of gas plants, I will stick with my number.
carbon dioxide

So, now we have 7,994,218,000 lbs of carbon dioxide being produced if Fitzpatrick nuclear station is replaced by gas plants.  And now, a brief pause to realize that that Fitzpatrick save 7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

Next, let's look at money.

In terms of carbon taxes:
Carbon taxes. This is where it gets a little tricky. There are plenty of carbon tax bills introduced, often for as much as $40 per ton.  However, that feels a little theoretical for me.  I can't find a place where a carbon tax is really that high.

So I went to a website that compares carbon taxes, world-wide, and came to the conclusion that $20/ton, as in British Columbia, was a number that I was more comfortable with using.

 7,994,218,000 lbs of carbon dioxide x 1 ton/2000 lbs is 3,997,109 tons of carbon dioxide.

At $20/per ton, this would be $79,942,183 dollars paid in carbon taxes, by the citizens of New York, to support the natural gas power that would replace Fitzpatrick.

Call to Action!

Assuming only modest carbon tax is introduced, a tax at half the number ($40/ton) that is often bandied about, continued operation of Fitzpatrick will save the ratepayers of New York, about $80 million a year in carbon taxes. If the big number ($40/ton) is used, Fitzpatrick will save ratepayers $160 million a year in carbon taxes.

In short, if the state of New York is serious about reducing carbon dioxide and saving money for all ratepayers, a modest amount of support to Fitzpatrick is in the interest of everyone in the state.

(And that doesn't even count the well-known volatility of natural gas prices. Natural gas won't be cheap forever.)

So, your action is simple:

Sign the petition! 

And, if you live in New York, contact your state legislator and your congressman.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Governor Cuomo, Fitzpatrick, and Money

Fitzpatrick Plant
James A Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant

 Early this fall, Entergy announced that both the Pilgrim plant and Fitzpatrick plant were losing money, and that Entergy would soon decide whether to continue operating those plants. Entergy said they would make the decision by the end of October.

The Pilgrim plant has been decided: Vice President Bill Mohl of Entergy announced that the Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts would close by 2019.  At the same press conference, Mohl said that Entergy has not yet made a decision about whether it would to continue to operate the James A. Fitzpatrick plant in New York State. (You can read about the press conference here, and even see the video of the whole conference.)

Entergy has not made the decision about Fitzpatrick.  However, on October 16, Entergy took a $965 million charge against earnings, writing down the value of the Fitzpatrick plant by that amount.  (Yes, that's about a billion-dollar write-down.)

The people in the Fitzpatrick area do not want the plant to close. Hundreds  of people in upstate New York rallied in favor the plant. You can see a short video of the rally here; the video includes interviews with local legislators who support the plant. The article that describes the write-down also has more than thirty pictures of the rally.

Negotiating with the Governor

Andrew Cuomo
Entergy is attempting to negotiate a deal with New York State that would keep Fitzpatrick open.  As quoted in the Time-Warner article and video about the rally, State Sen. Patty Ritchie said: "I've been in a number of conversations with the governor's staff and also had an opportunity to talk to the governor, he's engaged in the issue."

However, Governor Cuomo's engagement is something that is rather hard to define.  Despite the fact that Entergy closed Pilgrim and despite the fact that Entergy took almost a billion-dollar write-down on the Fitzpatrick plant, Cuomo is treating the situation as if it is all about….well, all about him.

Cuomo's view is that Entergy is threatening the state with "job losses" and Entergy won't get away with this. Yes, Cuomo himself plans to stand up to Entergy, despite their "threats." What a guy! (sarcasm alert)

A quote from a letter Cuomo sent to Entergy, as reported by Tim Knauss in

I strongly caution Entergy not to use the threat of job losses as a means of prodding economic relief to help their bottom line. This tactic has been attempted by others i‎n the past and has been unsuccessful. In this state, an entity called the Public Service Commission has oversight over services deemed to be in the statewide public's best interests.

Entergy should keep that in mind. Any decisions will be made on the merits 

Entergy didn't write an answer to Cuomo directly. Instead, Vice President Bill Mohl wrote a note to the employees which indirectly referenced the Cuomo's accusations of "threatening job losses."  Once again,  Knauss has the story in  Here's a quote from the Mohl letter to the employees:

While we have been unsuccessful to date, our discussions [with the state] are continuing as we approach a final decision. Quite frankly, our desire has been to engage in meaningful discussions regarding continued operations of Fitzpatrick without first having to provide formal notification of a Fitzpatrick shutdown decision to the State of New York, as some have indicated is necessary. Most recently, we have heard inaccurate claims that we are "holding employees hostage" or "only seeking to improve our bottom line." That is simply not the truth. We are facing substantial financial challenges at Fitzpatrick and have been negotiating in good faith with New York State over the last several months to obtain certainty for this facility.

I am Shocked, Shocked

Governor Cuomo acts as if New York State has never made any kind of concession to attract or keep a business. He is shocked that a business would ask for such a thing, in order to continue to employ people in New York. He is shocked, shocked!

Meanwhile, here in Vermont, we can only envy the deep pockets and major financial concessions that New York gives to businesses.

New York basically outbid Vermont to have a new wafer fabrication plant placed in their state.  New York was able to offer $1.865 billion dollars in concessions to the plant owners, the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Poor little Vermont could offer---a $4.5 million dollar "Enterprise Incentive Fund." (An existing plant in Vermont will continue operating, however.)  It's a long story, and well told in this VTDigger article Global Foundries to Keep IBM Plant in Essex Going. Some quotes:

GlobalFoundries’ footprint in New York vastly outstrips that of Vermont. The company…is wholly owned by the emirate of Abu Dhabi…..

New York state has offered GlobalFoundries about $1.865 billion in financial incentives to establish itself in the state, according to a recent situational analysis of IBM’s plant in Essex Junction by the Greater Burlington Industrial Corp.

In May, the Vermont Legislature budgeted for a $4.5 million Enterprise Incentive Fund, which Gov. Peter Shumlin can tap at his discretion with limited legislative oversight….

Perhaps when Governor Cuomo gets over his advanced state of shock, he can think about agreeing to some small concessions to keep a steady, reliable electricity supplier, with a steady, reliable payroll, operating in his state.  He won't even have to figure out how to explain why he is sending almost $2 billion dollars of New York taxpayer money to Abu Dhabi.  Because he won't be sending any money to Abu Dhabi!

By keeping Fitzpatrick operating, Cuomo will be taking care of his own people.  I think that is what a governor is supposed to do. I urge him to do so.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

SAFSTOR Matters video with Joe Lynch: The Spent Fuel Line of Credit

This is the first video in the SAFSTOR Matters Community TV series.  The monthly series, produced by Entergy as part of its outreach program, recently won the Best Series Award at Brattleboro Community TV.

This video includes Martin Cohn, Senior Communications Specialist at Entergy as the host. He interviews Joe Lynch,  Entergy Government Affairs Manager.  A very important part of this video is the description of Entergy's line-of-credit for spent fuel management.

This  first video was shown on Brattleboro Community TV on April 15, 2015, and includes a general overview of the decommissioning process at Vermont Yankee, including its effects on the community. You can see more videos in the series, and read more information about decommissioning, at Vermont Yankee's decommissioning web page


A loan for spent fuel

In this video, there's a very important point made about spent fuel financing, which starts at about 19 minutes into the video.

Some background: The money that nuclear plants use in dealing with spent fuel can be recaptured from the federal government. The nuclear plants have paid billions of dollars to the federal government for spent fuel handling and storage.  The federal government has done nothing about spent fuel (except build and abandon Yucca Mountain, an activity that has not helped any nuclear plant). The government is basically in a breach-of-contract situation.

So the plants routinely sue the federal government for breach of contract about spent fuel management, and routinely win the suits, and routinely obtain funds from the federal government after the lawsuit.

Plants who are decommissioning usually obtain a waiver from the NRC, to use decommissioning funds for spent fuel management. The plants replace that money into the decommissioning fund when they have collected from the government after a lawsuit.

But as Dickens and others have pointed out, lawsuits take time. Meanwhile, the spent-fuel-management money withdrawn from the decommissioning fund is not accumulating interest.

The line of credit: At the nineteen minute mark in this video, Joe Lynch explains that Entergy has arranged private lines of credit for spent fuel management-- these lines of credit total $145 million. The lines of credit provide the money that will be used for the initial stages of spent fuel management, and that money will be replaced by the money obtained in successful lawsuits against the government.  Meanwhile, the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund itself will not be tapped for spent fuel management.  The fund will accumulate interest and grow without suffering spent-fuel-management withdrawals.

As far as I know, Entergy is the only nuclear owner that has arranged a line of credit for spent fuel management.  Entergy should be given credit for their foresight.

Friday, October 16, 2015

SAFSTOR MATTERS wins Best Series of Year on Brattleboro Community Television

 (l-r) Karen Wilson, show producer, Marty Cohn, show host, Sarah Burnap, show producer, and Deniz Cordell, music composer.
Vermont Yankee’s SAFSTOR MATTERS named 2015 Best Series of Year by Brattleboro Community Television

BRATTLEBORO, VT ---(October 9, 2015) --- At its annual meeting held on October 8, 2015, Brattleboro Community Television awarded Vermont Yankee’s show, SAFSTOR MATTERS, the 2015 Best Series of the Year. The program takes its name from the federal term for an extended period of dormancy that precedes actual decommissioning work.

The monthly cable television show  is not only seen on BCTV but also on the Internet through the station’s YOUTUBE channel.  It is also seen on all the cable television stations in the facility’s emergency planning zone.

“It’s something that we developed to communicate information about what’s going on with the decommissioning at Vermont Yankee to the public,” said Entergy Vermont Yankee company spokesman Marty Cohn, “And, to the best of our knowledge, is a first in the nation for Entergy.”

Cohn said, “Each month a different topic is explored with experts; from spent fuel management to the economic impact of the plant closing to emergency planning. We have repeatedly promised transparency as we shut down Vermont Yankee and work toward eventual decommissioning. The show is aimed at fulfilling that promise, and is also a venue in which Entergy can communicate directly with viewers without the opposition the company encounters in public forums.”

“From the moment the original theme music composed by Deniz Cordell plays to the rolling credits 27 minutes later, the staff at BCTV has been instrumental to the high production value of the show,” Cohn added, “We are very proud and honored to receive this award.”

Episodes of SAFSTOR MATTERS can be seen on Vermont Yankee’s web site,


I plan to post episodes of SAFSTOR MATTERS at this blog in the near future.  For now, you can see the show at the VY site linked above.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Overselling Renewables: The Northwest and Here

Visiting the wind turbines
Lempster NH
Overselling Renewables: Northwest Version

I also blog at Northwest Clean Energy. Many of my posts are in support of Columbia Generating Station, the nuclear plant owned by Energy Northwest.

A professor at Stanford, Mark Z. Jacobson, promulgated an untested vision for using wind, water and solar (not even any biomass) for ALL the energy requirements of the entire country, by 2050. Yes, electricity, transportation, heating, industrial energy…all by wind, water, and solar.

Jacobson's SolutionsProject promotes this untested vision.  The project team is headed by an Executive Director, as most not-for-profits include. The other team members are a Creative Director, a Producer and a State Program director.  Creative Director? Producer? Well, I suppose, if  you haven't got facts, you need showmanship.

Jacobson writes his (basically fictional) report on a state by state basis.  My most recent post at Energy Northwest blog examines his ideas for Washington State: If more wind is the answer, what was the question? There are some nice comments on the post. I hope you will read it.

Overselling Renewables: Local Version

All over the country,  anti-nuclear people adore Jacobson's fictions.  For example, one of the commentators on this Boston Globe article about Pilgrim closing refers to Jacobson's words on renewables-for-Massachusetts as the reason we don't need Pilgrim.  (Alas, I can't find the comment now, but I read it yesterday. There are 98 comments as I write this post.)

Meanwhile, Vermont has a 90% percent renewables-for-everything "plan" that is only slightly less aggressive than Jacobson's ideas. Vermont only goes to 90% renewables, not 100%. Also, Vermont allows biomass. For an up-to-date look at how this plan is being accepted by the people of Vermont (it's pretty much hated), read Bruce Parker at Vermont Watchdog.

Parker went to a review meeting about the Vermont green energy plan. At that meeting, the Vermont Department of Public Service spokesman admitted the Vermont plan would have no effect on global warming, and also said that the Vermont plan was not aimed at setting an example to the world.

The spokesman faced angry Vermonters who don't know why we are covering our ridges with big roads and wind turbines, if it isn't going to do any good anyway.  Read Parker's report Vermont's green energy plan to have no impact on global warming. (The report has 198 comments as I write this post).

Note: Parker has had several guest posts at this blog, for example: Vermont town protests renewable energy credits for MA and CT

Overselling Renewables, National Version

Renewables are being oversold all over.

Meanwhile, nuclear power is demonized. Nuclear is the largest provider of low-carbon electricity in the United States.

Perhaps some day, we will wake up.  I hope so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pilgrim will close by 2019 UPDATE

Pilgrim to close

Entergy announced today that Pilgrim will close by 2019.  Here are two links:

The Entergy announcement includes many subsidiary links

The Boston Globe has a good article on this breaking news.

Entergy is going to have a press conference today at noon Eastern Time.  There will be more information at that time.

Some Thoughts on Pilgrim and on the Grid

There is some question about exactly when Pilgrim will close.  Entergy has "contracted with ISO-NE" to supply power from Pilgrim until 2019 (Boston Globe article).  This means that Pilgrim will refuel again…unless they can cut a deal with another power plant to supply power after 2017.  Pilgrim's latest refueling outage started in April of this year, and it is roughly on a biennial cycle.  So Pilgrim is fairly sure to keep running until 2017, but may or may not refuel at that time, depending on factors such as whether it can find another power plant to take over its obligations to ISO-NE.

Well, all the stories say "supply power" but it is really about the capacity markets, not the power markets.  Plants bid in years ahead to supply "capacity"…that is, to be available to supply power when needed.  Plants are paid two ways: power payments and capacity payments.

  • A plant that supplies power most of the time (base load plants) gets most of its revenue from selling power (MWh sold). This would be the case with Pilgrim.
  • A plant that supplies power only part of the time (a peaker plant) gets a much higher proportion of its revenue from capacity payments (MW available when called upon).   This would be the case with most gas plants.

With so many plants retiring (Vermont Yankee, coal plants), available capacity has fallen and (supply and demand) capacity payments have soared. I encourage you to look at a recent chart on Capacity Payments in the Forward Capacity Market, from James Bride's keynote presentation at an ISO-NE meeting in New Hampshire last week.   The chart, on page 12 of the presentation, shows capacity payments going from $3.21 per kWmonth in 2014/2015 to $9.55 per kWmonth in 2019.

Thoughts on the ISO-NE meeting

I was at the Consumer Liaison Group meeting of ISO-NE last Friday, October 9.  I am  (currently) the only Vermont representative to the Coordinating Committee for that group. (Yeah. I need to do a geeky blog post on this.)

For right now, however, please look through the rest of the Bride presentation, especially the section on "missing money."

Intermittent renewables get much of their money from subsidies of various types, not from the grid. Therefore, they can bid into the grid at artificially low costs for their power, even bid in at negative numbers (we will PAY you to take our power!).   This lowers the power price on the grid, and particularly hurts plants that make a lot of power, like base load plants.  As base load plants retire because they can't make enough money to keep operating, the amount of capacity available diminishes, capacity payments go up, and peaker plants get proportionately more money.  Peaker plants always get a higher percentage of their money from capacity payments, but when base load plants retire, they get even more money from capacity payments.

There were several presentations on the role of intermittents on the grid.  Robert Ethier of ISO-NE was on the panel, and the Ethier presentation struck me as surprisingly cheery about predicting more base load plants will retire.  He claimed that: power prices will go down, capacity prices will go up, but the market will take care of everything.  That is my interpretation of his talk. I didn't ask him a question, but I did ask a question of Anne George of ISO-NE after her presentation. ISO-NE supposedly has some concerns with a one-fuel-source grid (natural gas) but they don't seem to be worried overmuch.

The Closing of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant is a Clear Victory for Fossil Fuels. 

Update: Graphic from Bill Mohl (Entergy) press conference this morning, showing where different types of plants get their revenue. Thank you to Entergy for sharing this graphic.

  • Nuclear gets a small percentage from capacity payments,  and most of their revenue from selling power (energy payments.) 
  • Gas turbines get a large percentage from capacity payments.
  •  Renewables get a big percentage from PTC (production tax credits) and RECs (selling Renewable Energy Certificates) which allows renewables to bid into the grid at a very low price, because those two sources of income remain intact, even with little revenue from power production.
  • I believe A.S. payments are payments as part of the ISO-NE winter reliability program, but I am not sure.  These payments are highest for dual fuel systems in this graph, which is correct for winter reliability payments.  The winter reliability program basically makes payments for keeping fuel on site.  In general, a gas turbine that can  also be fired with oil will keep oil on site, or keep CNG on site, and get the reliability payment.  

  • Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Vermont Yankee closed: the consequences were completely predictable

    Vermont Yankee Closed: The Consequences were 100% Predictable

    Last Monday, American Nuclear Society's blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe, featured my post  Vermont Yankee Closes: the Consequences Were 100% Predictable  The consequences were not only predictable, they were indeed, predicted.

    In this blog post, I give a historical summary of many predictions, over many years. They all calculated that closing Vermont Yankee would have cause huge economic effects on the region.  They predicted the economic losses in the region would be in the multi-hundred-million-dollar per year range.

    Yes. All the economists predicted hundreds of millions in losses for the local area. Nine figures. Their economic-loss predictions range from  $100,000,000 per year to over $400,000,000 per year.  Some of the differences depend on whether the economists were looking at just-Vermont, or at the tri-state region.

    In other words, huge.  And these predictions are coming true.

    I ask the question: why were all these economic predictions ignored?  Why was the state of Vermont so eager to close Vermont Yankee down?

    Please visit my ANS post and write some comments.  Share your thoughts and share the article.

    More Press for Vermont and Vermont Yankee

    Okay.  I am blushing furiously.  But here are some more links….

    Besides writing the article for ANS Nuclear Cafe,  I was on Pat McDonald's TV show, Vote for Vermont: Beyond the Sound Bite.  I link to the video of my interview in this blog post: Vermont Energy with Pat McDonald.

    Rod Adams
    But wait, there's more!  Rod Adams embedded the video on his blog, Atomic Insights.  The blog post is titled: Meredith Angwin with Pat McDonald on Vote for Vermont.  But Adams didn't just embed it: he also summarized the conversation. He especially noted McDonald's shock about the source of New England renewables.

    The morning of the show, I went to the New England grid operator site and took a screen shot of the percentage renewables and the percentage-what-type-of-renewable, and brought the screen shots to the show. They were very typical screen shots, though the low demand on the grid showed a higher percentage of nuclear than might be seen at other times.  But the shocker was the renewables.  McDonald didn't expect to learn that almost half of our vaunted New England "renewable" electricity consists of burning refuse, and most of the rest of our renewable mix consists of burning wood.  (See graphics below.)

    If you don't have time to watch the half-hour video, read the summary at Adams blog.

    But Wait, There's More!

    The ANS Nuclear Cafe blog has a feature called "Friday Matinee."  Most Fridays, they embed a video on the blog.  Yes….this Friday…the video was the Pat McDonald show featuring me.  Video: ANS Member Meredith Angwin on Vote for Vermont.

    You have SO many opportunities to watch the show. You can watch the video at my blog, Adam's blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe blog.  I do hope you will watch it….

    There is still more.  The ANS post about economic predictability was reprinted in the Ethan Allen Institute newsletter (I am director of their Energy Education Project).  I was on Rod Adam's panel in a recent podcast: Atomic Update.  I will be on the Common Sense radio show this coming Tuesday, October 6 on WDEV.  The show is between 11 and noon, and you can listen on line and even call in, toll-free. (The date of the WDEV show is now correct.  An earlier version of this post had an incorrect date.)

    Okay. That's enough for now.  I can't blush any redder, so I will quit writing.

    Monday morning fuel mix on the grid
    Renewables are 7%

    And here are the renewables, the 7% above
     Consists of 48% wood, 45% refuse