Nuclear’s Future: Not In The West

Nuclear fleets in the US, France & the UK aging with no renaissance in sight

While Japan vacillates on the future of nuclear energy and Germany proceeds to phase out its nuclear reactors, the US, France and the UK are contemplating the fate of their own aging fleet against a backdrop of stagnant electricity demand and flat or falling wholesale prices due to the flood of renewable generation. Japan, once among the top 10 global nuclear generators, has fallen off the list since the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in 2011 (graph below). Germany will also be off the chart by 2022 when the last one of its operating reactors will be shut down. The specifics vary from one country to the next, yet the prognosis is grim — and does not bode well for nuclear power outside centrally planned economies of China, India, Russia, South Korea and a handful of other countries still keen on atom.
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March 2015 EEnergy Informer

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

  • Centralized Or Distributed Future: It Is Not Either Or
  • Home Not Just Castle But Power Source
  • NRG: Utility Of Future?
  • Half New US Capacity Renewable In 2014
  • Who Should Invest In EV Charging Infrastructure
  • No Future For FutureGen
  • Solar Not Only Green And Plentiful But Cheap
  • Wind: 2,000 GW By 2030?
  • US Nuclear Renaissance Turns Into Retirement Party
  • Germany’s Energiewende Finally Making Turnaround
  • Are EVs As Green As Claimed?
  • US Energy Efficiency On The Rise

You can request a sample issue of EEnergy Informer here.

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Article on Home Generation at Renew Economy

Dr. Sioshansi has a new article about making your home a zero net consumer of energy on the Renew Economy website. It is titled, “Home is not just castle – but a zero net energy power source”. To read it, click here.

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Article on Over-Generation in Energy Spectrum

Dr. Sioshansi has a new article in Energy Spectrum magazine. It is titled, “New headache: over-generation”. To read it (PDF), click here.

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Germany’s Energiewende Finally Making Turnaround

Deutschland appears to be on path to a more renewable and affordable future

A lot has been written about Germany’s energiewende or turnaround since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government’s abrupt decision to phase out the country’s perfectly safe operating reactors by 2022 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. The nuclear gap was to be filled by more renewables and some gas. Germany, like other European countries, is also on course to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while increasing the overall energy efficiency of the economy as required by European Union (EU) guidelines.

German renewables on target

Many pundits criticized the energiewende, frequently ridiculing it as an impractical, expensive and economically ruinous gamble. It was predicted that German consumers will revolt against the rising renewable surcharges to fund the scheme, German industry will become non-competitive and the grid will collapse due to the increased intermittency and/or unpredictability of renewable generation. Indeed, there have been some ominous signs:

  • Retail prices did rise even as wholesale prices were depressed;
  • There were an increasing number of episodes when wholesale prices would go negative when renewable generation exceeded demand on the network;
  • The 4 main grid operators had to intervene more frequently in the market to maintain grid reliability; and
  • Greenhouse gas emissions rose rather than fell due to cheap coal prices.

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February 2015 EEnergy Informer

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

  • Utility Business Not As Usual
  • New York Moves Ahead On Future Vision – Cautiously
  • The New Normal: Flat Electricity Demand
  • New Headache: Over-generation
  • If You Cannot Beat Them, Join Them
  • Exxon’s Energy Outlook: More Of The Same
  • Another US Nuke Shuts Down
  • Service Reliability: How Much Is It Worth?
  • Natural Gas’s Gain Is Coal’s Loss

You can request a sample issue of EEnergy Informer here.

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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.

and

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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