Utilities Article on Renew Economy

Dr. Sioshansi has a new article about utility policies on the Renew Economy website. It is titled, “Utility business not as usual”. To read it, click here.

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Florida Regulators Take Not One But Two Steps Backwards

Regulators succumb to utility pressure; customers lose – and lose faith in regulators.

This is a sample article from the January 2015 issue of EEnergy Informer.

In a stunning decision in late November 2014, regulators at the Florida’s Public Service Commission (FPSC) voted 3 to 2 to cut the energy efficiency goals of the state’s utility companies by more than 90% and to do away with a solar rebate program in a state that ranks 3rd in the US in solar PV potential. The decision was greeted by a mixture of disbelief and dismay by the environmental and solar community who correctly characterized it as a major setback for Florida consumers.

How did Florida rank on energy efficiency, that is, before the latest decision?

The only ones celebrating were officials at the state’s major power companies, Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light (FP&L) — all clearly intent to maintain their monopoly franchise businesses by investing more in generation infrastructure and by selling more kWhrs, as they always have.

Referring to the FPSC’s ruling, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), an advocacy group that’s been pushing for solar-friendly policies in Florida, said, “Instead of siding with customers, the PSC sided with monopoly utilities,” adding, “The line between the PSC and the monopoly utilities they are charged with regulating has become increasingly blurred.”

Florida spending more on energy

Others had harsher words for the states’ regulators including two politicians who have proposed to reform the FPSC.

Talking to the press, Stephen Smith, executive director of SACE said, “Nobody’s holding these guys (the commissioners) accountable,” adding, “We have had a breakdown in regulatory oversight, and it’s basically because of the money Duke and FP&L are pouring into Tallahassee (Florida state Capital). They’re corrupting the process. And because they’re corrupting the process, customers lose.”

Big solar potential in Florida…

Florida has no renewable portfolio standard (RPS) — which has been adopted by 29 other states — and currently only allows regulated utilities to sell power to customers — which means solar leasing is illegal. These restrictions plus the lack of any support scheme for customer solar generation means that sunny Florida ranked 18th in the US installed solar power capacity in 2013 while it is ranked 3rd in the nation for solar potential, according to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a pro-solar trade group. That speaks volumes.

… but surprisingly few solar roofs in the Sunshine State

As reported on 25 Nov 2014 in Tampa Bay Times, the regulators’ decision to terminate the state’s solar rebate program by the end of 2015 gave the 3 large investor-owned utilities (IOUs) “virtually everything they wanted.” No need to encourage energy efficiency and no need to worry about competition from solar rooftop PVs. According to the paper, the utilities could now focus on building more power plants and sell more kWhrs to the detriment of the consumers and the environment.

The utilities lobbied hard to cut the energy efficiency budget and, even more vehemently to end of the solar rebate programs by claiming that neither was cost-effective.

Using an argument that has consistently proven wrong ever since the energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins coined the term negawatts over 3 decades ago, the IOUs insist that it is cheaper for them to produce a kilowatt of electricity than to save it. In other words, megawatts, they claim, are cheaper than negawatts. Lovins should surely take them up on the challenge, and prove them wrong, as he has succeeded in doing.

Whether negawatts are cheaper than megawatts or not, Florida’s latest ruling seems totally inconsistent with what other states are doing. Tampa Bay Times, for example, reported that the state of Vermont meets 2.12% of its annual energy needs by saving electricity rather than producing it. The corresponding number for Florida is a measly 0.25% — which will drop even further as a result of the FPSC controversial decision.

As Smith sees it, the Commission’s decision was “completely inconsistent” with how other states are dealing with energy efficiency and solar programs,” adding, “It’s a very sad day for the state of Florida.”

The Commissioners, it seems, inadvertently went overboard, not realizing the fury that would follow their decision. Two legislators, John Legg and Chris Sprowls, have already introduced a bill to reform the Commission. They said voters in Florida have lost faith in the PSC and changes are needed to restore it. Stay tuned.

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New in Energy Spectrum – US Oil Prices

Dr. Sioshansi has a new article about US oil prices in the latest issue of Energy Spectrum magazine. It is titled, “Oil prices: how low is too low? And how long will it last?”. To read it, click here (PDF).

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New Review of Energy Efficiency Book

A review of Dr. Sioshansi’s book, Energy Efficiency: Towards The End of Electricity Demand Growth, has been publishing in Energy Technology. The review notes:

Dr. Sioshansi’s vast expertise is well reflected by the selection of topics as well as of contributing authors who offer an insightful view of several topics related to energy demand.


I can recommend this book as a useful reference for the state-of-the-art analysis of energy efficiency at the beginning of the second decade of the XXI century. Dr. Sioshansi and the other authors were able to encompass most thematic areas related to energy efficiency and show their complex interplay.

To read the whole review, click here.

For more information about the book and details of how to purchase a copy, click here.

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January 2015 EEnergy Informer

The January 2015 issue of EEnergy Informer is now available. Here is the contents list:

  • E.ON Drops The Old, Embraces The New
  • Eurelectric Concedes Renewables’ Rise
  • Florida Regulators Take Not One But Two Steps Backwards
  • NextEra Energy To Turn Hawaii Into Solar Proving Ground
  • IEA’s World Energy Outlook: Same Old?
  • New Trend: Solar PVs Standard On New Homes
  • Inundated With PVs Japanese Utilities Revolt
  • Who Supports And Who Despises The EPA
  • FERC: Utilities Must Secure The Grid
  • Oil Prices: How Low Is Too Low And How Long Will It Last?
  • What Uber’s Rise Says About Disruptive Technology
  • Book Review: The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels

You can request a sample issue of EEnergy Informer here.

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New Article on EU Energy Policy

Dr. Sioshansi has a new article up on the EU Energy Policy blog. It is titled, “IEA’s World Energy Outlook: Same Old?”. To read it, click here.

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New Articles on Breaking Energy

Dr. Sioshansi has two new articles on the Breaking Energy website.

The first is titled, “US Emissions Down Even Before Obama’s Pledge”. To read it, click here.

The second is titled, “IEA: Energy Efficiency Global Powerhouse”. To read it, click here.

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New in Energy Spectrum – Denmark

In the latest issue of Energy Spectrum magazine Dr. Sioshansi has an article titled, “Can Denmark’s Remarkable Renewable Feat Be Duplicated?”. To read it, click here (PDF).

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Climate Is Warming. What Is New?

IPCC repeats its message in stronger terms and with less uncertainty

This is a sample article from the November 2014 issue of EEnergy Informer.

Humans are causing irreversible damage to the planet from burning fossil fuels. The evidence is unequivocal; the time for debating the issue and procrastinating is over, now is the time for action. That, more or less, is the message conveyed in the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 5th assessment report released with great fanfare in Copenhagen in early Nov 2014. Those who already believe in the seriousness of climate change are likely to become more convinced; those who deny the scientific evidence are likely to remain skeptical. What is new? Apparently the message is finally sinking in, as illustrated by the joint US-China announcement.

In releasing the IPPC’s latest report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said, “We must act quickly and decisively if we want to avoid increasingly disruptive outcomes,” adding, “If we continue business-as-usual, our opportunity to keep temperature rises below the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, will slip away within the next decades.”

Business-as-usual not sustainable

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a staunch believer in climate change, agreed, stating, “The longer we are stuck in a debate over ideology and politics, the more the costs of inaction grow. Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”

The report is intended for the policymakers from 195 nations working on an international agreement to rein in emissions expected at next year’s Conference of Parties (COP) in Paris in December 2015. Although many now believe that the ultimate outcome may be in the form of a number of unilateral announcements, pledges or declarations such as those already made by US, China and the European Union rather than a globally biding target as envisioned under the ill-fated Kyoto Protocols.

Among the highlights of the 116-page synthesis report is the finding that, “The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen,” while alarming policymakers that warming caused by manmade CO2 emissions “is effectively irreversible.”

“Rising rates and magnitudes of warming and other changes in the climate system, accompanied by ocean acidification, increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible detrimental impacts,” the report states. “Future climate change will amplify existing climate-related risks and create new risks.”

Who is to blame for the accumulated carbon?

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, a controversial figure due to his strong convictions and occasionally sensational statements, said “To avoid the chaos of runaway climate change, we know that we need to dramatically reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases,” adding, “The scientific community has now spoken. But we are passing on the baton to politicians [and] to the decision-making community.” Fair enough.

Professor Jim Skea, a vice-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group 3, described the latest report as “the most important report the IPCC has ever produced.” It reiterates that climate warming is “unequivocal,” points out that atmospheric greenhouse gases are now at their highest levels in 800,000 years, and says human activity is “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of the warming since the mid-20th century.

“I don’t think politicians will have the excuse that they haven’t heard the evidence,” Skea said. The IPCC report says that emissions need to fall by 40-70% by 2050 if the world is to give itself a good chance of staying within the 2C limit. European Union leaders recently pledged to cut emissions by 40% by 2030.

And where will future emissions come from?

More than half of the world’s current emissions are now covered by formal climate policies, according to Skea. “The question is how quickly we get on with the job.”

Bureau of Meteorology researcher Scott Power, a lead author on the IPCC’s Working Group 1, pointed out that the world has already used up around three-quarters of its total carbon budget emphasizing that global emissions are now at their highest ever level and growing by 2.2% per annum.

Total emissions since the Industrial Revolution are around 600 gigatonnes of carbon, he said. If we go past around 800 gigatonnes, it would “lock in” warming of more than 2C. “That would increase the likelihood of severe and pervasive impacts.”

Will any of this make any difference? The fossil fuel lobby and its supporters are likely to stick to the status quo for as long as they can. Despite the mounting evidence, they refuse to acknowledge that business as usual is not likely to be sustainable over the long-run.

Major oil, gas and coal companies are doing their best to buy time. Oil majors including Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc have publicly reiterated their historical positions that they don’t believe their existing assets or their expensive upstream investments are likely to become stranded as a result of a global binding climate regulation. The recent US-China joint announcement to reduce and peak emissions of the world’s two largest emitters, respectively, plus mounting pressure to divest pension fund investments from fossil fuel components suggests that they may have to rethink their stated positions sooner rather than later.

Politicians, by and large, remain skeptical on the costs of the transition to a low carbon future despite recent studies that suggest such a transition, properly implemented, may reduce global annual economic growth by as little as 0.06 percentage points this century compared to a business-as-usual scenario. And that doesn’t even include the likely benefits of addressing climate change. The tide may gradually be turning.

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Energy Spectrum – Climate gain without economic pain

In the latest issue of Energy Spectrum magazine Dr. Sioshansi has an article titled, “Climate gain without economic pain”. To read it, click here (PDF).

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