Friday, December 30, 2016

Hello Governor Scott, and Goodbye Shumlin!

Governor Shumlin's Christmas Greetings

Governor Shumlin (soon to be ex-Governor Shumlin) has been a fierce and unremitting foe of Vermont Yankee.

Yeah, yeah, we know that.  But I was still surprised to see a story by Mike Faher breaking on Christmas Day this year. Here's the article in VTDigger December 26,  Shumlin: Vermont Better Off Without Nuclear Plant.  Two years after the plant closed, and Shumlin is still crowing about closing it?  This is what Shumlin wants to say, just before he exits from being Governor?

 From the article above, some quotes from Shumlin.
Windham County has an advantage for economic development because "We can do cash." (Cash from the Entergy settlement fund for economic development of Windham County.) 
Furthermore, Vermont is "an example of how to reduce your carbon footprint and do electric generation right." 
Here's my opinion of the real meaning of his statements:
  • First, Shumlin is  the "we" in the first statement. Entergy's $10 million in cash for Windham Country redevelopment will not make up for the loss of Vermont Yankee's payroll of 600 people.  However, Vermont Yankee controlled its payroll, while the Governor of Vermont (Shumlin) makes the final decision on how the Entergy economic development funds will be spent.   Indeed, Shumlin has controlled more cash after Vermont Yankee closed than he controlled when it was operating.  Shumlin could "do cash." That was his version of "we."  
  • Second, Vermont Yankee made 70% of the power made in Vermont.  Now, we import this power from the grid....adding some solar and some wind turbines in-state haven't exactly given us this power back. For Shumlin, "doing electric generation right" means that someone else generates the electricity, and they generate it somewhere else.
A Sad Anniversary

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the day that the plant went off-line forever,  December 29 2014.  My Facebook news feed includes many people sharing unhappy memories of the day. I did not enjoy reading Shumlin's cheerful words on Christmas Day as the anniversary approached.

I also encourage people to read my article about the consequences of the closing: Circles of Pain around Vermont Yankee Closing. 

Photo from the Phil Scott gubernatorial transition website
Goodbye to the Old Year

Some of my friends send me New Year Cards with the old Jewish saying:
Goodbye to the old year with all its curses: hello to the New Year with all its blessings.

A major blessing of the New Year is that Vermont's new Governor will be Governor Phil Scott.  I first heard of Phil Scott in 2010.  When Shumlin led the charge against Vermont Yankee in the Vermont Senate in 2010, then-Senator Scott was one of the four senators that voted to support the plant.  Twenty-six senators voted against, four voted for the plant.  Scott's vote was a profile in courage.  He urged the Senate to gather more information, and not just blindly charge to close the plant.

Here's the video of his remarks.

Governor Scott and A Party

And now, Scott will be Governor of Vermont!  Assuming the roads are clear, my husband and I are going to Governor Scott's inaugural ball next weekend. I don't  go to balls  and galas on a regular basis. However, until yesterday's deadline, anyone could buy a ticket.

In fairness to soon-to-be ex-Governor Shumlin, you could also buy a ticket to Shumlin's inaugural ball at the Sugarbush Ski Resort. Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, was a major fundraiser for that ball.  I believe the ball was rather lavish.  Here's an older article that I wrote about the close ties between Shumlin and Green Mountain Power.  And here's an article in which Shay Totten wonders if it was just coincidence that Mary Powell raised $190,000 for the Governor's ball just before a Vermont agency needed to rule about a proposed Green Mountain Power wind farm. (Again in fairness, Shumlin's ball was a fundraiser for Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation.)

Governor Scott's ball will be at a more modest venue: the Army Aviation Facility at the Burlington Airport.  Scott's ball will be a fundraiser for charities that support those who serve or have served in the military.  I plan to be there.

Vermont is not "better off without Vermont Yankee."  But Vermont will be better off without Peter Shumlin as Governor.  Hello, Governor Scott!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Celebrating and Advocacy

Collage of the Chicago Victory
Courtesy of Generation Atomic

The nuclear advocacy blog

I have a new post at my website blog.  I call that blog the Nuclear Advocacy blog, because my posts are all about advocacy, rather than general news.

My latest post is Joy and Celebration: Part of the Activist Toolkit.  Advocates saved the Illinois nuclear plants. Time to celebrate!


In many circumstances, celebrating a win might  be just, "Of course we celebrate. That just goes without saying." However, I think that nuclear advocates sometimes skip that step.  We tend to look at the work-that-lies-ahead, which is admirable.  But it is also admirable to celebrate, because it is helps us stay motivated.  "YES!  We DID this!"   That's a good feeling, and makes us want to go out and do this again!

My husband used to be a member of the Western Wheelers bicycling club, and he often rode the Sequoia Century (and part-Centuries with the kids, when the kids were younger).  He told me when that when he was bicycling up a hill, he never looked up at the top of the hill.  It always felt discouraging to look at the top.  He said: "I just keep pedaling." Good advice for everyone.

And when you get to the top, celebrate!

And please visit my new blog if you can!  I have a few posts up there already....

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wind Power in Vermont, After the Election: Guy Page Guest Post

Since Election Day,  the future of Vermont wind power is less certain

 Guest post by Guy Page

Election Day, November 8, 2016, was bleak for the future of ridgeline wind power in Vermont. The outcome of local, state and national voting signaled a vote of no confidence in the growth of utility-scale wind power in the Green Mountain State.

Local voting
Iberdrola, developers of the 24 turbine Styles Brook project, promised host towns Grafton and Windham there would be no development without voter approval by referendum. On November 8, Grafton voted 235-158 and Windham 180-101 against construction, and Iberdrola has said it will honor its commitment.

Local Vetoes a Harbinger
The Windham-Grafton vote was the latest in a line of anti-wind development referenda. Unimpressed by the 2016 Vermont Legislature’s conditional gift of slightly more say in the energy siting process, municipalities are now bypassing Montpelier. If this trend of “permission by referendum” continues, towns will have carved out a local veto power for themselves over ridgeline wind development. A new precedent is being set. This is Vermont, after all. One way or another, local people will jealously protect their control of the landscape.

State Results
During the governor’s race, candidate Phil Scott promised a moratorium on ridgeline wind development if elected governor. His opponent, Sue Minter, did not. Voters chose Scott by a nine-point margin. Minter even lost hometown Waterbury, where just 34 percent of residents (Waterbury Town Plan, page 65) support local development of utility-scale wind power. Of course, many others issues stirred voters, but the impact of the unpopularity of ridgeline development cannot be denied.

Statewide Policy
Gov. Scott is expected to keep his promise of a moratorium. He will almost certainly appoint a like-minded commissioner to lead the Department of Public Service, the state’s energy regulator. Most importantly, the term of Vermont Public Service Board Chairman James Volz expires in March 2017. Under his watch, ridgeline wind projects in Lowell, Georgia and Sheffield were approved and constructed. Governor-elect Scott’s choice to chair the PSB is anyone’s guess, but the logical choice would be a fellow ridgeline wind skeptic.

Presidential Election
President-elect Donald Trump has said wind power kills too many eagles and is an inefficient energy source, according to many media outlets. Trump also publicly called global warming a hoax and said he would restore the U.S. coal industry. In December 2015, he lost a lengthy battle to stop a wind turbine project offshore from his Scotland golf course.

National Outlook
The wind industry can be thankful that Congress extended the 2.3 cent/kilowatt-hour Production Tax Credit in 2015, even though it drops 20% every year and expires in 2019. In an impromptu interview with VTEP in Montpelier on November 22, U.S. Congressman Peter Welch said the Republicans who now control both houses of Congress “hate renewables” and that Trump supports fossil fuels. Wind power backers should not expect any new help from Congress or the new administration, he said.

This is especially likely to be true if Trump’s next Secretary of the Energy is his energy advisor, Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm. According to a November 19 Forbes article citing him as a leading DOE Secretary candidate, Hamm is the son of a poor sharecropper who built a trucking empire and then earned another fortune by hydrofracking oil and natural gas. Far from supporting wind subsidies, Hamm says wind should be taxed similarly to oil and gas – two percent on production in the first three years, and seven percent thereafter.

None of these local, state and national developments mean ridgeline wind has no future in Vermont. What government giveth, it taketh away, and may someday giveth back again. Thus, the next two state and federal election cycles may have different results. Still, one must wonder about the long-term sustainability of an industry that must rely not only on the ever-changing winds of nature, but also on the fickle winds of electoral politics.


Guy Page with Great Grandfather
Urban Woodbury
Vermont Governor and
Civil War "empty sleeve"
Guy Page, a Berlin resident, is the Communications Director of the Vermont Energy Partnership, a coalition of Vermont individuals, trade, development and labor organizations, and businesses committed to clean, safe, affordable, reliable power in Vermont.  He is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.  His most recent post described how the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund is supporting local schools.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nuclear vs Gas Economics Part 2: Guest post by Nick Escu

Nuclear Power vs. Natural Gas Power 3 Year Projection (Part 2)
By Nick Escu
LNG unloading arm in Japan

Part 1  of this post basically explained a few facts from historical data:
  • Nuclear plants today are not as economical as natural gas generation plants are today.
  • Natural gas prices have consistently had ups and downs. When natural gas prices are high, nuclear plants become very profitable. When natural gas prices are very low, nuclear plants become unprofitable.
Changing times and LNG

There are new kids on the block. Seventeen  new liquid natural gas export permits granted, and an additional  29 LNG permits partially approved (Energy.Gov-August17, 2016). This has changed the dynamic of the amount and pricing of natural gas leaving the US. There's a huge difference between U.S. prices and worldwide prices.

There is now a very positive indication that natural gas prices are rising, as in the case of the Henry Hub price for MMBtu in February, 2016 moved from $1.71/MMBtu to $2.98/MMBtu in October, 2016. A 75% increase in 8 months.

Will changes like this continue? Will there continue to be a such price changes?

EIA stats (November 14th, 2016) for November and December (Drilling Productivity Report) clearly show an increase production rate of 4% to 5%.

Why is this increase important?

Because as more of those 17 approved permits begin liquefying natural gas and exporting natural gas, the natural gas prices will continue to climb. More LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) produced and sold will increase the base US price for nat gas.

Natural gas producers will want to maintain their huge markups in the world. The world prices for nat gas, begin at the $17.50/MMBtu. Our prices here in the US are at $3.00/MMBtu, or an almost 600% markup value for natural gas. Huge profits from exporting gas from in the US.

LNG export abilities set to grow

A portion of the first LNG permit, licensed to Cheniere in Louisiana, has come on line, February, 2016.
Cheniere, in Louisiana, will produce 2.1 Bcf/day of LNG. But the total for all 17 approved permits, and the 29 partially approved permits will equal 53.8 Bcf/day of LNG for the world.

So now we clearly see why production of new wells and output has increased for the following 2 reasons.
  • First, the need to maintain the profit margin between US nat gas production and world nat gas demand. 
  • Second,  to have sufficient stock available for all 46 LNG exporters.

Nuclear power becomes profitable at about $4.75/MMBtu spot nat gas.

So Cheniere was the first test, with just their first unit out of 6 units.  Their first unit caused a gas price increase of 75% increase in 8 months. Now the market has balanced. But it will not be balanced for long!

The LNG exporters will need over 25 times the amount of nat gas and what we will see are nat gas prices following each new LNG exporter when they come online.

By the end of 2016, Cheniere’s Sabine Pass Trains 1 & 2 will be in operation.  In 2017, another three trains will probably start, some from Cheniere and others from Dominion’s Cove Point. By the end of 2018, five more new trains* may come online from Cameron, Freeport and Corpus Christi. Another four trains are due online in 2019 from Freeport, Corpus Christi and Sabine Pass. US LNG exports have only just begun.

We will see the nat gas prices rising in 2017. By the end of 2017, that $4.75/MMBtu price will be reached and every nuclear plant will again be competitive.

Think about the zero pollution from nuclear power plants versus all the pollution that the new natural gas power plants the world will produce.

Enough for now.


Nick Escu is the pen name of a person with long experience in the power industry.

* A natural gas liquefaction facility consists of separate units, called "trains," each of which is set up to purify and condense natural gas.  So a facility can have one train or several.  Cheniere will have six trains.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nuclear vs. Gas Economics, a Three Year Projection. Guest post by Nick Escu

Nuclear Power vs. Natural Gas Power 
A Three Year Projection
By Nick Escu

The power industry continually looks for a stabilized grid demand to operate profitably, economically and reliably.

There are several key factors the power industry looks at to determine these needs are met.

Profitability is determined by how much generation costs, plus outstanding production and grid costs are entailed. Factors affecting generation are fuel costs, labor costs, parts costs, plus new regulations, plus changes in overall demand.


We’re going to look at current nuclear power costs and three-year projected nuclear power costs, as well as current natural gas power costs and three-year projected natural gas costs.

We are not going to look at the huge increase in air pollution and power production costs caused by natural gas versus nuclear. These facts are readily seen in Germany which eliminated nine of its nuclear plants in favor of natural gas and a little wind and solar.  It has shown a 25% increase in power costs. Similarly,  Japan has at present, shut down all of its nuclear plants, with a huge increase of air pollution and power costs. Similarly in California which shut down two nuclear plants with subsequent air pollution increases and rising power costs. Enough has been written  about these examples, and will continue to be written in the future.

Let’s begin our analysis.

Selling price

We will first look at basic selling price of nuclear power per megawatt hour versus natural gas power per megawatt hour.

The EIA actual selling prices as of January 2013 for Mid-Atlantic generators were $32.00/ megawatt hour, and for the Midwest were $25.00/ megawatt hour.

Nuclear power plants are base load plants. They operate at 100% of their capacity for over 90% of their operating time. So when a nuclear plant is contracted to produce power to maintain the electricity grid in their region, they must operate. For most nuclear plants, the breakeven costs for power production are between $32.00 and $35.00 per megawatt hour. Anything less and that plant is losing money. And most businesses, unlike the federal government, do not operate on a loss revenue basis. They are in business to make money.

Natural gas

Now let’s look at natural gas power production costs.

In February of 2003, according EnergyOnline  the electric production costs were $990 per megawatt hour in Texas and New York City costs were $175 per megawatt hour.

But because of the tremendous fracking, current natural gas electric power production costs have dropped to $28.50 per megawatt hour in November, 2013, according to 4 Traders.

So we can see that if you have a nuclear plant that runs very economically producing power at $32.00 per megawatt hour and you also have a natural plant that generates power at $28.50, the logical choice would be to turn off the nuclear plant and make $3.50 for every megawatt hour.

Let’s put it in simpler terms. A 1000 megawatt power plant should run 8760 hours per year (the total hours in a year 365 X 24 =8760). Normal maintenance is about 10% of that time, so let’s subtract 876 hours for a net total of 7884 operating hours. Now let’s multiply that $3.50 more money the gas plant makes over the nuclear plant, times those hours, and those megawatts.

$3.50 X 7884 X 1000 =$27,594,000. This is the yearly gross profit a natural gas plant has over the nuclear plant.

If that was all we had to determine profitability and future projection, it would be a No Brainer. We’d shut down the nukes today, as long as we had plenty of natural gas plants.

But there another factor we must consider for the bottom line.  Short term versus long term.

Short term and long term

I’m an electrical contractor working in the power industry. A few years ago someone came to me and offered me $100 per hour to work, and the work involved 80 hours per week. Since I was between contracts, I took the assignment for a 2 month period of time, and made a nice chunk of change.

Shortly thereafter I took a 2 year assignment at $65 per hour, for a 60 hour work week. In the middle of that assignment the contracting group I’d previously worked at attempted to get me to go on an assignment to the same place, for a 3 week assignment. If I had known they were going to call me back, I could have let the new group know I’d be away for 3 weeks.

My decision was simple. I stayed with the 2 year assignment. Why? Because for the long haul, it was more profitable.

Sometimes short term profits cloud our judgment over the long haul.

Fuel cost trends

Back to natural gas.  I began this section by stating that in 2003 natural gas production costs were between $175 to $990 per megawatt hour.

So now let’s look at the consistent biggest cost to nuclear plants, the cost of nuclear fuel.

In 2003 nuclear fuel costs averaged $57,000,000 for a 2 year fuel cycle for a 1000 megawatt power plant. 2013 average cost for the same fuel is $60,000,000, or a 5% increase over the past 10 years or an average of 0.5% per year increase for nuclear fuel.

Natural gas prices decreased from $990 to $28.50 or a 97.2% decrease in power production cost.

But is that price of $28.50 per megawatt stable or is it changing?

The World and Us

Let’s look at the world prices. The prices vary from $57.00 per megawatt hour in Europe to $116.00 per megawatt hour in Asia. Why? Because of fracking here in the US, our prices are so low. That guy on TV says “We have enough natural gas for 100 years” remember him?

But a new factor has risen, LNG exporters. The President has signed 17 permits to now export liquid natural gas to all those places willing to pay a little less than what they have now. So what will that do to our US prices of natural gas??? Do you really believe our gas prices will decrease?

No, all of you are realistic. Our prices will increase.

A good example is that gasoline in the Emirates was a few years ago $0.25 per gallon, but today it’s about $0.70 per gallon. Why? Exporting your home product raises your costs locally. In the Emirate’s case, almost 300% increase.

Let’s be conservative and say our natural gas prices will only double here in the US after we start exporting. How long will that be?

The LNG export sites are even as we speak, running new power lines for the 11,000 and 12,000 horsepower compressors that turn the gas into a liquid. Estimates at present are 3 years (or 2020) for the last permit construction completion and production beginning and exporting.

Cheniere began production and first export happened in mid-February, 2016. Natural gas price in late February, 2016, was $1.71/MMbtu (Henry Hub). As of the end of September, 2016, the price for nat gas had risen to $2.99/MMbtu, a 75% increase in less than 9 month.

So do we really want to completely shut down a minimum producer like a nuclear plant today, when in 2 years it will be worth twice its value?  It’s a penny wise pound foolish decision.

Nuclear and Us

The optimum plan would be, pay for, build and use the gas generation now, and temporarily place the minimal nuclear plants in a hold status, much like had been down at Brown’s Ferry and Bellefonte. The stability we’ve seen with nuclear power far outmatches in price fluctuations what we’ve seen in natural gas.

Let’s see how a closed nuclear plant power production has been supplied.

Vermont Yankee closed December, 2014. VY was a 620 MWe plant supplying most of the electricity generated in Vermont (72%). Gets a little tricky here. So what replaced the nuclear baseload power?

Right, natural gas.  The rise of gas on the grid almost exactly replaced the fall of nuclear on the grid.  Green Mountain Power distributes most of the power in Vermont, and they are wholly owned by Gaz Metro of Quebec.  Gaz also distributes nat gas through Vermont Gas Systems.  This is a company that is always happy to see more gas on the grid, and more energy imports from Canada.

Additionally, the Vermont government and Green Mountain continue to purchase power produced by YES, You Guessed It, Seabrook Nuclear Plant.

Now most all of Vermont is dependent on nat gas. And everyone is begging for larger natural gas pipelines, because no nat gas, NO POWER! Great move ecologically minded Vermont. 200,000 Vermont homes using electricity from natural gas instead of nuclear produce the following: 38,000 tons of NOx, 78,000 tons of SO2, 96,000 tons of CO2, and 104,000 tons of particulates. But all those numbers were at or near ZERO tons with Vermont Yankee Nuclear plant????

How about Connecticut? What’s their gas situation like? Legislators were just denied new nat gas lines, because under FERC guidelines, all required consumption must be contracted prior to build out of pipelines. Sorry Connecticut. No contracts, no new nat gas pipelines.

To be continued


Nick Escu is the pen name of a person with long experience in the power industry.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Meeting on Entergy Sale of Vermont Yankee, December 1

Vermont Yankee and NorthStar and Decommissioning

Events are moving fast in the world of decommissioning decisions about Vermont Yankee.

Entergy announced that it hoped to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, which is partnered with Waste Control Specialists for the decommissioning job. Waste Control Specialists already handle all the low-level radioactive waste for Vermont and Vermont Yankee. Waste Control Specialists have also applied to be an interim storage facility for high-level waste.

Dry cask
The sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar is intended to speed up the decomm process by decades.  I discussed the possible sale in a previous blog post.

But wait, there's more!

And then it gets complicated:

But wait, there's less!

Richard Saudek is a Vermont attorney who previously served as Chairman of the Vermont Public Service Board, and as Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.  In other words, he is very knowledgeable  about utility issues in Vermont.  In a recent article that appeared in several local papers, Susan Smallheer reported:  Richard Saudek....said he didn’t think the anti-trust suit would have an effect on the proposed sale.

In other words, unless you own stock in EnergySolutions or Waste Control Specialists, the merger and the Department of Justice lawsuit and so forth.... may well be much ado about nothing.

Meanwhile, there's a meeting

The Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen's Advisory Panel (NDCAP) will meet on the evening of  December 1 in Brattleboro. The main item on the agenda is the possible sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.  Senior executives of Entergy and NorthStar will make presentations.  If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can sign up in advance to attend it as a webinar.

For more information about NorthStar itself, I recommend this well-referenced blog post by Guy Page of VTEP, which describes many of NorthStar's previous decommissioning projects.

It turns out I won't be going to the NDCAP meeting, due to a commitment to be at a ISO-NE Consumer Liaison Group meeting the same day.  I think the NDCAP meeting will be very interesting, and I trust my friends to give me a full report.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Future of Nuclear in RTO Areas

RTO areas in North America.  Based on FERC data
FirstEnergy plans to close or sell its nuclear plants

In a recent post at ANS Nuclear Cafe, Will Davis wrote about some changes that may happen  in the nuclear landscape in the near future.  He reported on statements made by FirstEnergy CEO Charles E. Jones at the Edison Electric Institute financial conference on November 7.

Here's a direct link to Jones' presentation: FirstEnergy: Transforming to a Regulated Company As Davis describes in his article, FirstEnergy is attempting to get out of the competitive electricity markets and become a fully-regulated utility. If it cannot support marginal plants in competitive markets, it will sell or shut down those plants.

Looking at the Earnings Per Share slide (slide 12 of the Jones presentation), you can see why FirstEnergy might get out of the competitive market.

  • At a "basic Earnings per Share" level,  Competitive Services are losing around $2.50 per share.  
  • Adjusted with "special items," Competitive Services are earning around $0.50 per share.  
  • Regulated Distribution and Regulated Transmission are always in the black, with or without "special items."  
  • Regulated Distribution, for example, earns around $1.80 per share, overall.

This is a big deal, because FirstEnergy operates in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Selling its nuclear plants (and coal plants) will be a major change and disruption.  I encourage you to refer to the Davis article for more specifics on this, and for other links.

Is FirstEnergy following the Entergy exit pattern?

In all the excitement about Entergy announcements of Vermont Yankee closing, Pilgrim closing, and the sale of Fitzpatrick to Exelon,  it is easy to overlook the fact that Entergy may be following a similar strategy of exiting the "deregulated" areas.  In December, 2015, Entergy announced the sale of its gas-fired plant in Rhode Island to Carlyle Power Partners.

At this point, except for Indian Point in New York, I think all Entergy power plants in deregulated areas are either slated for closing or slated for sale.  To me, this looks like the same "exit the deregulated areas" strategy that FirstEnergy is now pursuing.  Both companies have extensive regulated operations, as well as operations in deregulated areas.

Oops: I should have said Entergy has been exiting its holdings of plants in the Northeastern RTO areas.  Entergy Wholesale Commodities also owns Palisades in Michigan.

RTO areas

Clearly, there's a lot to say about these exits, and about the implications for our power plants of all kinds. And of course, if you know me, you know my deep and abiding cynicism about the deregulated areas: see The Oddness at the Heart of RTO.  These areas seem to be more about "tweaks R us" than about market forces.

For now, I will reprint my comment on the Davis article. This subject needs far more discussion than is possible in a single blog post.

It's not just about the price per kWh


Thank you for this article. The RTO areas are basically stacked against nuclear and other baseload plants.

People will say: “Yeah, well, those plants just can’t compete with cheap natural gas.” That is not the case. Actually, in RTO areas, many or most natural gas plants get much of their income from selling “capacity” and “ancillary services,” not from selling kWh. Look at this slide from one of my articles: Payments for various types of power plants on the New England grid

As you can see, nuclear gets most of its income from selling kWh (gold bars) while NG/Oil GT (gas turbines) get around 80% of their income from “capacity” and “auxiliary” payments (blue and brown bars). That’s because the gas plants don’t sell as many kWh as nuclear sells, and you can also see that if the price of a kWh goes down but the capacity payments go up…the gas plants are all right. The common description of the “low price of natural gas on the grid” accounts for low-price sales of kWh, which are nuclear energy’s life and breath. It doesn’t account for all the ways the grid supports low kWh prices and makes up the difference…for plants that don’t run very much.

This has also been called the “search for the missing money.” Natural gas plants, without capacity payments, would have to charge more per kWh or go out of business. But…most RTO areas supply the gas plant’s “missing money” in a way that hurts any high-capacity-factor plant on the grid.

(Note: CC is combined cycle, ST is steam turbine, GT is gas turbine.)

- See more at:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Facts and Opinion on Entergy Sale of Vermont Yankee: Update

Dry casks at Maine Yankee
Who What Where When Why etc

In a press release  Tuesday, Entergy announced its intent to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.  NorthStar would then be responsible for decommissioning Vermont Yankee.  The NorthStar website shows that their main businesses include demolition, hazardous material abatement, and clean-up services of various types.  NorthStar will partner with three companies for the Vermont Yankee work: Areva, Burn&McDonell, and Waste Control Specialists.

Significantly, Waste Control Specialists already operates the Texas Compact Facility that accepts Vermont Yankee low-level wastes, and has applied to  be an Interim Storage facility for high-level wastes.  This is mere speculation, but Waste Control might well accept Vermont Yankee high-level wastes, if Waste Control becomes an Interim Storage facility.  In the meantime, Waste Control does accept Vermont Yankee low-level wastes. Waste Control participation in the decommissioning process will probably make the process go more smoothly.

Fast decommissioning

The NorthStar team of decommissioning experts expect to fully decommission the site (with the possible exception of continued dry cask storage) by 2030, while Entergy's timeline stretched to 2068 and beyond.

A more rapidly-completed decommissioning is what the state of Vermont wants, and this transfer should provide that rapidity. The transfer of the plant from Entergy to NorthStar has to be approved by both the NRC and the Vermont Public Service Board.   The sale is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, according to a Mike Faher article in Vermont Digger.

Power companies and decommissioning companies

On WAMC, Pat Bradley interviewed me (and others) about this sale. I said that organizations that
Vermont Yankee
when it was operating
operate nuclear plants don't have expertise in nuclear decommissioning, and vice versa.  Entergy would not be able to do a decomm as fast and as well as a decomm company could do it. I pointed out that the Zion plants had also been transferred to a decommissioning company (in that case, Energy Solutions) for decomm.

Looking again at the Zion plant, the decomm project run by Energy Solutions is ahead of schedule and below budget.  That is the sort of outcome that one can expect from a company that specializes in decomm.  Vermont Yankee can expect a similar performance from NorthStar. I think this is a good move, from Entergy's point of view.

How to Decomm

In an earlier blog post about decommissioning, I noted that industry articles say that two steps are necessary to ensure fast, cost-efficient decommissioning:

  • a quick downsizing  of existing workers
  • a contract decomm workforce that changes as the tasks change 

Decomm is more like building a house (the carpenters doing the framing don't do the electrical work) than running a power plant.  Decomm needs a flexible workforce, but a power plant needs a steady workforce.

(Yes. This is pretty nasty for the economics and stability of the locality. )

How to supervise these contractors?  As I note in the earlier post, power companies have hired contractors to supervise the decomm contractors, but this usually didn't work very well.  Nowadays, (Zion, LaCrosse), the company that owns the power plant transfers the whole NRC license to the decomm company. That company works with the subcontractors.

Finally, my opinion

This transfer was inevitable.  I don't like it, because the new company has no incentive to retain workers from the old company.  That is, my friends who work for Entergy will probably not continue to have local jobs after the plant is transferred to NorthStar.

Quoting Bill Mohl of Entergy in an article in Vermont Digger: "Mohl said he expects that NorthStar would want to retain some of the plant staff’s expertise, and he said those employees who lose their jobs will have opportunities to find positions at other Entergy facilities."

On the other hand, Entergy itself has little incentive to retain workers locally, since the people who ran the power plant at Vermont Yankee are not the people who would be best suited for the tasks of a decommissioning job.

In other words, what I really don't like is the fact that Vermont Yankee is closed and will be decommissioned.   This transfer is just a logical consequence of that sad fact.

Contracts: I think that "selling the plant" (Entergy) and "transferring the license"(Zion, etc)  are not quite the same.  License transfer seems to be temporary (until decomm is finished) while "sale" sounds final. At Zion, the license was transferred to Energy Solutions, and Energy Solutions also has control of the decomm fund.  However, the land and spent fuel remained with Exelon.

Since I have don't have first-hand knowledge of the the terms of either situation, I cannot comment on the contractual implications.  It is clear, however, that in either sale or transfer, the decomm company has full responsibility for the decomm, including the decomm fund.

UPDATE: This article by Dave Gram of AP states that the plan to sell VY is first-of-a-kind. As I noted above, other plants have transferred licenses to decomm companies, not been sold to those companies.

Upcoming meetings Updated: There are an  upcoming meeting of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen's Advisory Panel. The meeting is December 1 in Brattleboro.  It is a special meeting to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar.  More information is at the Vermont  Department of Public Service site, including a link for submitting comments. (Note that the November 17 meeting, announced earlier,  has been cancelled. )

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Nuclear plants, films and trains

Breakers opening at Vermont Yankee when it went offline for the last time 2014
Photo courtesy of Entergy
Film night

Two nights ago, I went to a "sneak preview" of Power Struggle, a new documentary that chronicles the activism to close Vermont Yankee.  Robbie Leppzer, the filmmaker, has been filming this story for about 7 years.  Here's a balanced review in VPR.

Leppzer gives nuclear proponents a voice in the movie.  Howard Shaffer, Mike Hebert and I all appear several times, and we are depicted sympathetically, for the most part. Leppzer wanted us to attend, and he called me and Howard personally to extend his invitation. (He probably called Mike, too.  I just haven't spoken to Mike about it.)

That said, it must also be said that the preponderance of film time was spent following anti-nuclear activists and Arnie Gundersen.  They didn't just appear in the movie: they were the heroes. There was a panel discussion after the movie.  From the discussion and the major content of the movie,  it was clear that Leppzer thinks nuclear power is a very bad idea.

I am not doing a movie review here.  In some ways, it was a hard movie to watch because almost every nuclear opponent that I have ever met was in the audience.  Jeff Potter of The Commons introduced the movie, and he warned the crowd that there were pro-nuclear people in the audience also, and the crowd should not be too exuberantly anti-nuke, but be respectful.   Still, at various points, the joy of the crowd could not be contained.

I may do a movie review at a later time.
Tank car, wikipedia

Coffee shop and fuel trains

Instead of a movie review, I am going to post something I wrote on Facebook almost exactly a year ago today.  I have edited it slightly.   I hope you like it.

I got up in a sort of blue mood. So George and I went over to Tuckerbox for coffee. This sometimes helps: leave home, go somewhere cheery.

Tuckerbox is right by the rail yard, and we saw (as usual) a train which was being made up. So we are sitting in a coffee shop in downtown White River Junction watching tank car after tank car that contains "Liquefied petroleum gas, no odorizer added." First the train traveled in one direction, then in the opposite direction. That is usual, when they are being made up. The cars bumped together and joined, then moved away and then a new car bumped together with the train. As a friend of mine said: "I like to sit in Tuckerbox and watch the trains couple."

We do what we can for voyeurism, here in Vermont. It's not the Riviera.

And I am thinking: some of these people, sitting here in the coffee shop, right next to a fuel-train being made up….are undoubtedly feeling SO much safer because Vermont Yankee is shut down.

So I guess Tuckerbox didn't completely help my mood.

But the coffee is good. If you come to this area, let's go over there and have coffee. The food is good, too!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pro-Nuclear Rally in Chicago

Pro-nuclear activists in front of fossil lobbyist offices, Chicago
Pnoto courtesy of Environmental Progress 
The March

The weekend of October 22, 2016, I joined about 70 pro-nuclear people in Chicago.  We held a planning session and protest march. The march showed visible and effective support for keeping Illinois nuclear plants open.

The marchers gathered in front of ELPC,  an anti-nuclear lobbying organization that proclaims itself as an environmentalist group.  Their offices are at 35 East Wacker Drive. The picture above this post shows our group outside their offices.  (I went on the march, but did not continue as far as the building.)

Why did Clean Power Coalition decide to target this anti-nuclear group?  I was not involved in the decision-making, but I think I know.  At this point, we have to get back to basics.  Who opposes nuclear power, and what can we do about it?

The main thing we can do is:  Encourage pro-nuclear public opinion. 

Nuclear opponents and the fossil lobby

If we are encouraging nuclear energy, who do we consider to be opposing it?  Unfortunately, there are many groups that have claimed the mantle of “environmentalism” while making it their business to oppose the most effective source of clean energy in the world.

I think we have to stop calling these groups “environmental” groups.  They aren’t.  They are in the business of lobbying and campaigning against nuclear energy.  Many of them get well paid for their efforts: by fossil fuel companies.  Not all are paid by fossil fuel companies, of course.  But some are.

For example, let’s look at the Environmental Progress fact page on ELPC.

Here’s a quote from that page:

Earlier this year ELPC raised at least $137,500 from natural gas, renewables or financial companies that would benefit from ELPC’s efforts to kill nuclear plants. ELPC raised it at its dinner where “recognition from the podium” was given by groups like Invenergy, a natural gas and wind company, for investing $10,000 to $25,000 to ELPC.

"Everybody looks with excitement when a new natural gas plant is build," ELPC head, Howard Learner said when justifying his efforts to replace nuclear plants with fossil fuels.

And of course, we cannot forget the Sierra Club finally admitting it took $26 million from natural gas companies.  Time magazine has an excellent article about this.

Encouraging Pro-Nuclear Public Opinion

I stated the goal of the march as encouraging pro-nuclear public opinion.  In my view, this is the ultimate goal of pro-nuclear activism.

It almost doesn’t matter the official description of what is happening: a vote in a legislative body, a public service board hearing, a lawsuit, a referendum.  In all these cases, pro-nuclear public opinion will make a difference.

I remember when I was first starting out in pro-nuclear advocacy.  I wondered why local anti-nuclear groups were holding rallies outside a courthouse where a judge was deciding a legal case about nuclear energy.  A man who was much wiser than me explained: “Judges read the papers, too.” After that, I was quite willing to hold rallies outside of courthouses, right there with the anti-nuclear groups!

Exposing Opponent Ties to Fossil Fuels

One way to build pro-nuclear public opinion is to call the anti-nuclear groups exactly what they are: anti-nuclear groups.  Not “environmental” groups or any other green-washed words.  They are anti-nuclear lobbying groups, plain and simple.

Yes, of course, nuclear advocates have to present our positive vision of a world with abundant clean energy.  But we also need to show that our opponents are not honorable young Boy Scouts.  That’s how the opponents want to be seen.  

They aren’t Boy Scouts.  They are lobbyists.

To sway public opinion, we have to show their motivations, as well as our own.

The organizing group

The Chicago event was organized by Environmental Progress and other groups of the Clean Power Coalition. Here’s a group picture from the meeting.   (I’m in the middle, in a pink turtleneck with a very visible necklace.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists March to Save Illinois Nuclear Plants: Eric Meyer Guest Post

Clinton Power Station

With Time Running Out for Illinois Nuclear Plants, Independent, Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists to March 

WHEN: Monday, October 24th, 2016, 11:00 AM
WHAT: Protest March and Rally at Invenergy and Environmental Law and Policy Center.
WHO: Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists
WHERE: Starts at W. Monroe and S. Wells St., Chicago, ending with a rally and press conference at ELPC at 12:30 (see map)
WHY: To urge passage of legislation to save Illinois nuclear plants

CHICAGO -- On Monday, October 24th at 11:00am, independent pro-nuclear environmentalists will march, rally, and sing in support of provisions in the Next Generation Energy Plan (NGEP) that would allow for continued operation of Clinton and Quad Cities Nuclear Plants.

Illinois legislators could still act in a “veto session” after the November 8 elections to save both plants as part of a package deal that includes generous subsidies for renewables and energy efficiency.

The march is being organized by the Clean Power Coalition, a new pro-nuclear environmental coalition consisting of Environmental Progress, American Nuclear Society - Young Members Group, Mothers for Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and the International Youth Nuclear Congress.

Coalition marchers will march on the headquarters of two organizations they view as hostile towards nuclear power — Invenergy and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC).

“The ELPC has accepted funding from fossil energy companies including Invenergy to lobby against nuclear,” said Alan Medsker, IL Coordinator of Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear environmental organization, “but we won’t let them shut down these two climate change champions, Clinton and Quad Cities.”

“There are only a few regions in the world that have actually been able to stop burning fossil fuel for power — places like France, Sweden, and Ontario — and they did so with nuclear power,” said University of Illinois nuclear engineering student and ANS student president Aries Loumis,   “Illinois could be one of those places.”

If the Next Generation Energy Plan passes with the nuclear component intact, the plants will get the small subsidy necessary to remain competitive in a market flooded with cheap natural gas.  “This is just smart energy policy,” said Lenka Kollar of IYNC, “Keeping these valuable assets online is crucial for mitigating climate change and ensuring energy security for the future.”

“Abandoning these plants would lead to 2 million cars worth of pollution and over 4,000 people losing their jobs,“ added Natalie Wood, President, North American Young Generation in Nuclear.  "If we need to march to ensure fair treatment of nuclear power, we will.”

“It takes guts to defend nuclear power in this hostile political climate,” noted Brett Rampal, President of American Nuclear Society's Young Members Group. “But with all the information, I trust the legislature will do the right thing.”

About the Clean Power Coalition

The Clean Power Coalition is composed of environmental, academic, and industry organizations including Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, the International Youth Nuclear Congress, North American Young Generation of Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and American Nuclear Society Young Members Group.

Click to expand map

About Environmental Progress

Environmental Progress is an environmental research and policy organization building a movement of citizens, scientists and conservationists advocating ethical and practical energy solutions for people and nature.

To learn more visit,
 or email us at

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Vermont Yankee Decomm Fund Supports Local Schools. Guy Page Guest Post

Pellet Boiler Schematic
VY Decommissioning Fund Supports Local Schools

Next summer, money from the 2013 Vermont Yankee decommissioning settlement is scheduled to help pay for the oil-to-wood pellet furnace conversion of a Windham County school.

Flood Brook Elementary School in Londonderry will become the first full-sized public school to receive a new pellet-burning furnace with Windham Wood Heat Initiative (WWHI) assistance, a program overseen by the Windham Regional Commission, WRC planner Marion Major said in an October 7 interview.

WWHI was created with funding from the December 2013 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between Entergy and the State of Vermont that settled most of the parties’ disagreements and cleared the path for Vermont Yankee decommissioning. The MSA provides more than $40 million from Entergy for site restoration and renewable and economic development including $5.2 million for the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund. This excerpt from an April, 2015 WWHI press release summarizes the program:

“The $1.6 million-program, funded by Vermont Yankee decommissioning via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), will help at least 20 municipal and school buildings convert to heating with advanced wood heating systems that use local, sustainable wood while addressing those buildings’ energy efficiency and durability needs. The program also includes public education, training for local building professionals, and fuel supply procurement.”

WWHI will pay 25% of a school’s pellet furnace installation cost and also offers planning assistance. After the oil furnace at the small Esteyville school building in Brattleboro failed in September 2015, WWHI enabled the conversion to pellet heat, thus cutting oil consumption by 1100 gallons per year, according to a March 30, 2016 report on WWHI also has financed control system upgrades to the Academy School in Brattleboro, Bellows Falls Middle School, and Leland & Gray in Townshend. Several others schools have tentative conversion agreements that are contingent on securing voter support. But there has not yet been an oil-to-pellet furnace conversion at a full-size, traditional public school – Flood Brook is scheduled to be the first.

The unexpectedly low cost of heating oil has been a challenge to the speedy acceptance of wood pellet conversion, Ms. Major said. The emergence of the hydro-fracturing mining process that has suppressed natural gas prices – to the detriment of the nuclear power industry – also has suppressed the price of heating oil. However, Major said many school officials remember when heating oil was very expensive and understand that fuel prices are subject to rapid change.

A recent snapshot of price comparisons, however, is hardly encouraging. The February 2016 Vermont Fuel Price Report, published by the Vermont Department of Public Service, shows fuel oil costing $16.85 compared to $22.41 for wood pellets. Until pellet fuel costs as much as or less than oil, school officials will be looking an expensive conversion that – for now – consumes a more expensive fuel, as well.

An October 5 wood boiler incident that forced the evacuation of a Lebanon, NH school is highly unlikely to occur in Vermont, Ms. Major said. According to the October 6 Valley News daily newspaper, stack emissions from the Lebanon Middle School wood pellet furnace were wind-blown into the school’s air intake system, causing smoke to circulate inside the building, the News said. The Vermont systems use standards designed to prevent such incidents, Ms. Major said.

Guy Page is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (  Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog: his most recent post is The Panama Canal and the Renewable Mandate.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Panama Canal and the Renewable Mandate. Guest Post by Guy Page.

Vermont Could Learn Energy Lesson from de Lesseps, Panama Canal Failure

Guest post by Guy Page, Vermont Energy Partnership

Canal Excavation work under de Lesseps, 1886
It may sound odd, but when I think of Vermont’s pursuit of 90% Total Renewable Energy by 2050, I think of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Never heard of him? He was the creator of the Suez Canal who later attempted the digging of the Panama Canal under the French flag.

Inspired by his success at Suez and a transcendent if naïve 19th century belief in the unstoppable power of Modern Progress, de Lesseps led the national effort from 1870-94 to dig a “sea level” canal across Panama. When engineers warned the canal couldn’t be finished, de Lesseps counseled faith in France, progress, and himself. After a quarter century, failure was complete: no canal, a bankrupt nation, and 25,000 dead from accident, malaria and other tropical diseases.

The goal is not the only issue

Like building a trans-isthmus canal, pursuing a future with safe, clean, affordable, reliable energy is an ambitious, worthy goal. Five years after the unveiling of Vermont’s landmark pro-renewable 2011 Clean Energy Plan, there has been much progress in solar and wind development. Yet as with de Lesseps’ canal, some basic, foreseeable problems remain unsolved:

First, overdevelopment. Instate wind and solar development can’t meet our growing megawatt/hour needs without drastically remaking our treasured landscape. To compensate for weaker output compared to nuclear, hydro and natural gas, wind and solar power require vast acreage, premium siting, and proximity to consumers. Vermont is only just starting to realize what a 90% renewable portfolio will really look like. And it is no good to say Vermont can conserve its way out of overdevelopment. The CEP clearly states Vermont will need more electricity than ever to replace the fossil fuels now energizing our cars and home furnaces. Also, more extreme forms of conservation – the virtual exclusion of the private car, air traffic, and single family home ownership – are unacceptable to the average Vermonter and thus are doomed to failure.

Second, wind and solar produce power at nature’s whim, not when we need it. This intermittent power problem makes transmission more unreliable and difficult to manage as the ratio of wind/solar power to total load grows. The purported solution – efficient battery storage – does not exist in applicable, market-ready form. As with the followers of de Lesseps, we are told that technological breakthrough is just around the corner. Skeptics are told to have more faith in progress, and to keep the workers busy and the money flowing.

SS  Ancon, first ship through Panama Canal 1914
Appropriate technology

Perhaps technology will solve these problems. After all, the Panama Canal was eventually built – but not where, when, and how de Lesseps had envisioned. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt learned from France’s mistakes. Twenty years after the French plan failed, the United States completed a redesigned, relocated Panama Canal with sound planning and available technology.

Vermont should imitate TR and rework its energy future with a plan that doesn’t require landscape devastation or non-existent technology. Carbon reduction, the much-stated reason for a 90% renewable portfolio, can be achieved by state and regional policies embracing existing regional hydro and nuclear power with  more deliberate growth in wind and solar. In August, New York State took a bold step by including nuclear power in its clean power portfolio. Vermont and the rest of New England should consider following suit.

When (or if) the Big Energy Breakthrough happens – whether efficient storage of intermittent power, or a totally new form of power generation - we’ll be ready for it. Until then - pardon my skepticism, call me plodding and cautious, but our future is too important to leave to faith in progress.


Guy Page is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership ( This post has appeared or will appear at several newspapers in Vermont.  Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog: his most recent post is Challenges for Instate Hydro.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

New England Grid Operator Meeting September 15

The purpose of the Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) is to be the voice of the electricity consumer in advising the grid operator, ISO-NE.  As the annual report states: The Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) is a forum for sharing information between ISO New England (ISO) and those who ultimately use and pay for electricity in New England.

The next meeting of the Consumer Liaison Group will be next Thursday, September 15,  in Providence RI. The topic is Energy Infrastructure.  (I am on the Coordinating Committee for the CLG.)

CLG meetings are free, but you should register in advance if you want lunch.  Here's the information.  The graphic is merely a screen shot,  I supply the relevant links below the graphic.  I hope to see some of you there.

Providence Marriott Downtown
CLG webpage

The following letter was sent  to those who have attended previous CLG meetings. (The meetings are open to the public.)  I was given permission to include the letter in this announcement.

Good Afternoon,

As a past (and hopefully future!) Consumer Liaison Group (CLG) participant, you may find this information interesting as you consider your attendance at the September 15th CLG meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.  Earlier this week, the six New England Governors joined with five Eastern Canadian Premiers for their 40th Annual Conference.  The Conference, hosted by Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, convened on Sunday and Monday and a variety of regional issues were discussed, including trade, energy diversification, and combating the opioid crisis.  Much of the Governors’ and Premiers’ focus was on energy as the Conference heard from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Norman Bay, a panel on “Emerging and Innovative Technologies,” and a second panel on “The Benefits and Importance of Diverse Energy Generation.”  While the Conference produced no action items or resolutions, participants and media accounts (see below) alike report productive conversations on a variety of regional energy issues.

In September, the CLG will continue these important discussions.  The CLG will hear from Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and a panel on “Energy Infrastructure Projects Progressing in Rhode Island:  Challenges and Consumer Impacts Regionwide.” Panelists from Deepwater Wind, Invenergy, National Grid, and Spectra Energy will discuss a variety of generation, transmission, and pipeline projects.  The CLG meeting will be held at the Providence Marriott Downtown on September 15, 2016, beginning at noon with lunch.  All are invited to continue this discussion of regional energy issues.

To register for the meeting, please click here.

40th Conference of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers: Agenda


The CLG Coordinating Committee

Rebecca Tepper (MA)
Chair, Consumer Liaison Group Coordinating Committee
Chief, Energy & Telecommunications Division
Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office

Meredith Angwin (VT)
Director, Energy Education Project
Ethan Allen Institute

Robert Espindola (MA)
Energy Systems Program Manager
Acushnet Company

August Fromuth (NH)
Managing Director
Freedom Energy Logistics

Douglas Gablinske (RI)
Executive Director
The Energy Council of Rhode Island

Agnes Gormley (ME)
Senior Counsel
Maine Public Advocate

Guy Page (VT)
Communications Director
Vermont Energy Partnership

Robert Rio (MA)
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs
Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Joseph Rosenthal (CT)
Principal Attorney
Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel

Donald Sipe (ME)

Mary Smith (MA)
Associate Director of Energy Supply & Utility Administration, Harvard University

The CLG is governed by a Coordinating Committee of up to 12 members with no more than four members from any one of the New England states.  The Coordinating Committee sets the agenda for four quarterly meetings each year, which the ISO helps facilitate.  Governance of the Consumer Liaison Group is fully explained in the “CLG Purpose and Structure” document available here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

On Pat MacDonald's TV show about Clean Energy Standards, Grid Payment

I was on Pat MacDonald's show, Vote for Vermont.  The motto of her show is "Listening Beyond the Sound Bite."  I appeared on her show last year, also.  The recent topic was "Life After Vermont Yankee, part 2."   We covered a lot of ground, and had a good time!

Our discussion included:

  • The New York Clean Energy Standards and what they mean
  • Payments on the grid, and what types of plants get subsidies
  • Effects of Vermont Yankee closing 
  • Carbon dioxide footprints
  • My upcoming book
A hearty thank-you to Pat for inviting me on her show, and for all the preparatory work she does before a show.  I hope you enjoy watching!

My opinions about payments to gas-fired plants

In  my opinion, gas-fired plants get major subsidies, but they call it "capacity payments." Nuclear plants get these also, but capacity payments are a very small portion of the income for nuclear plants.  Capacity payments are a major portion of the income for gas-fired plants.

 If gas-fired plants had to make their money selling kWh, they couldn't sell kWh as cheaply as they do.  If gas plants didn't get capacity payments, but had to make their money selling kWh, nuclear plants would be very competitive, even with currently-low gas prices.

Some back-up for my statements:
My  post on the New York Clean Energy Standards: Clean Air versus Efficiency Charges. Clean Air Wins.
My article in Nuclear Engineering International magazine, about payments on the grid: Pay for Performance and the US grid. 

Update: This video was chosen to be the Friday Matinee at the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog.  I am very pleased!  Life After Vermont Yankee, Part 2--An Interview with Meredith Angwin

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Challenges for Instate Hydro: Guest Post by Guy Page

Wilder Dam on the Connecticut River
From a 1930s era postcard
New leadership, owners, challenges face instate hydro

Guest post by Guy Page, Vermont Energy Partnership

Congratulations are in order for Ken Nolan, the newly-appointed general manager for Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (VPPSA), the umbrella organization for 12 small town water and light departments.

Mr. Nolan is the former chief operating officer at Burlington Electric Department (BED), majority owner and operator of the McNeil station, Vermont’s largest biomass-fueled power plant. Like VPPSA’s other members, BED owns and oversees significant hydro-electric assets. During a phone discussion with Mr. Nolan several years, ago, he struck us as a candid, informed, hands-on operator of in-state power generators.

Mr. Nolan appears to be an excellent choice to provide leadership for the owners of Vermont’s small hydro generators. This position will keep him busy. Even before the August 22 announcement of Mr. Nolan’s position, August had already been a “big news” month for Vermont’s small hydro production.

Hydro dam purchases, challenges

On August 17, Vermont Digger reported that Green Mountain Power, the state’s largest utility, had purchased 14 hydro dams. They reported that GMP has bought some small-to-middling sized “run of river” dams in eastern Vermont and across New England from an Italian company named Enel. The deal totals 17 megawatts (MW), with about 157,000 MW-hours of generation, or about 3.5% of the utility’s total portfolio, GMP spokesperson Kristin Carlson told VTEP. The Digger story also noted that the purchase was made to “meet statutory requirements on the percentage of its power supplied from sources deemed renewable.”

But lest you think that hydro is suddenly the State of Vermont’s unqualified preference thanks to renewable portfolio demands, consider this lead sentence from the August 18 issue of Lamoille County’s News and Citizen: “Conflicting state policies have Morrisville Water and Light stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

In short, one state policy, with aggressive renewable power goals, is urging the dam to produce maximum power. Yet the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources “has ordered major limitations on how much water is released through the hydro dams” in the interest of water quality.

Confusing and contradictory? Yes, it’s just one more example of how the supposedly straightforward alternatives to, say, nuclear power, really aren’t so simple after all.

Another example of energy imperatives versus environmental requirements occurred in nearby Johnson, when Vermont Electric Co-Operative had to abandon plans for proposed solar projects due to their proximity to wetlands, according to the News & Citizen August 18 issue. And in Grafton and Windham, the tug-of-war between proponents and opponents of the Iberdrola wind turbine project continues, with a non-binding Australian Ballot vote set for November in Windham.

New York has embraced nuclear to meet low-carbon goals –why not VY, NE?

It’s time for Vermont to consider that nuclear power deserves a place in low-carbon energy portfolios. New York took this epic step on August 1, as Meredith Angwin reported in her estimable YesVY blog. Both Vermont and New England should consider ways to support nuclear power and consequently meet their low-carbon goals with a minimum of environmental impact.


Guest post by Guy Page, Communications Director, Vermont Energy Partnership.  This post has or will appear in several newspapers in Vermont.  Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.  His most recent post was Taking the High Road with Yankee Water.

This is the first time Page has called my blog "estimable." 😊

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nuclear Blogger Carnival #324: Here at Yes Vermont Yankee

Once again, we are proud to host the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, right here at Yes Vermont Yankee. The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site, and it is always a pleasure and an honor to host it.

Looking at the Future
(The future looks upbeat for nuclear energy.)

Another WISE Summer
At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus describes how engineering societies have co-sponsored an internship program in Washington, DC. This program  introduces engineering majors to public policy considerations.  Some of the past participants have found that the program profoundly influenced their career directions. This blog post describes some of the topics in this year's program.  The program has been running since 1980, and Marcus has been involved with it, one way or another, since the beginning. Though next summer may seem far away, engineering students might make a note of this internship program as a possibility for next summer.

At Neutron Bytes, Dan Yurman describes an innovative partnership.  Tiny X-Energy, a start-up, has teamed with one of America’s biggest nuclear utilities, Southern Co., to collaborate on the development and commercialization of the design of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor.

Russia's sodium lead cooled fast nuclear reactors
At Next Big Future, Brian Wang describes how Russia has reached two more milestones in its endeavor to close the nuclear fuel cycle. First, Mashinostroitelny Zavod (MSZ) - part of Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL - has completed acceptance tests of components for its ETVS-14 and ETVS-15 experimental fuel assemblies for one type of reactor. In the second milestone, the company has begun work on the "absorbent element" of the core of the another type of reactor.

Until coal, oil and natural gas are eliminated from power and transportation usage any argument about solar versus nuclear is meaningless
At Next Big Future, Brian Wang describes how coal and oil continue to dominate world energy use. Therefore, plans and arguments about replacing nuclear with solar are--not very relevant.

At Yes Vermont Yankee, Meredith Angwin compares the costs of New York State's Clean Energy Standard program with Vermont's Efficiency Vermont program. Clean energy standards are cheaper per capita and more important than efficiency improvements. New York's surcharges are smaller and protect everyone's air.  Vermont's surcharges are bigger, and help only a few.

At Northwest Clean Energy, John Dobken announces that Energy Northwest will receive Washington State funding for an innovative solar project, including a technician training facility in Richland, WA.  
Energy Northwest is home to only clean-energy resources, the largest of which is Columbia Generating Station.  The company also has hydro, wind and solar projects.

Looking at Other Strategies, World-Wide
(Trigger warning.  Some of this is unpleasant.)

At Forbes, James Conca usually writes about energy issues. In this post, he notes that the Obama Administration is thinking about adopting a No First Use policy for nuclear weapons, in which the U.S. would declare that we will never be the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict, under any circumstances. Our current, less restrictive policy, is known as calculated ambiguity.  This has worked for 60 years, and no one knows if changing this would be good or bad. 

At Forbes, Rod Adams writes about recent articles and documentaries from Al Jazeera.  The documentary basically attempts to convince its audience that fear of nuclear energy  is well-justified, and that keeping reactors closed is a proper response to the Japanese events of five years ago. Adams notes that Al Jazeera is a media empire that is owned by the government of Qatar, one of the world’s largest LNG exporters. During the five years since the Fukushima accident, Japan has been the world’s largest and most lucrative market for LNG. Japan has burning LNG to produce electricity, instead of operating the 50 nuclear power plants that were not damaged by the accident.