PG&E

Former Secretary Chu Criticizes Clean Energy Plan

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Former Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu came out during a debate at the Silicon Valley Energy Summit criticizing President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan, because of its lack of support for nuclear power. Chu said he didn’t think energy storage could solve the reliability problems of wind and solar quickly enough. Said Chu at the Stanford University event, “We should make a Clean Power Plan that’s based on clean energy, not renewable energy.”

At issue, claimed Chu, is the question of baseload power, the core supply of reliable, round the clock electricity that is there whenever you need it.

Most critics claim that the only way to have renewables carrying a bigger share of the electricity load, is through the use of energy storage. Says Chu, “I don’t see storage coming in for more than maybe peak load shifting, maybe day and night. I don’t see seasonal storage. I don’t see all of those things you need for steady clean power.”

Berkeley professor Dan Kammen, debated back that storage was already economically viable in some areas, something that new nuclear is not. Said Kammen, “The dramatic ramp up in solar resulted in the dramatic realization that a diverse, decentralized system can provide the same critical features that we think about with a baseload highly centralized system. Not tomorrow, but in the time frame that we need it, it’s absolutely there.”

Utilities Move Into EV Charging Game

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Building out an electric vehicle infrastructure is a bit like building an arch. You need both sides, the vehicles and the charging stations, to be there at the same time, to support each other, to keep the whole thing from falling down. It’s been a little slow taking off. Perhaps partly because it’s not clear who is taking the lead.

Report Benchmarks Renewable Energy and Efficiency Progress Among Top Utilities

A recent report jointly produced by Ceres and Clean Edge, Inc., benchmarks the progress of the utility industry in deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency. The study examined data from the 32 largest investor-owned utilities in the US.

Rebuilding Electric Power Business Models: The Cost of Disruptive Technology

The increasing generation of electricity from rooftop solar panels has had an impact on the utility industry, and it’s one they’re not particularly happy about. A recent paper by the Edison Electric Institute, entitled “Disruptive Challenges,” sounds dire warnings about what this could mean for their future. Solar energy burns a hole in the prime time peak power sold during the day, when the air conditioning load is highest. That is when utilities charge the highest rates and when they use the most of their capacity. It’s also when they get best value from their generation assets, when everything is running at full steam.

Not only do they lose sales, but they are also required to buy up any excess power from those self-generators, providing a back-up service for them in the process, swooping in with needed electrons any time the sun goes behind a cloud. That provision is called net metering, which is now mandated in more than 40 states.

There are a lot of people who aren’t too crazy about the power companies, but we can’t afford to see them go away because of the infrastructure that they provide and support. It’s analogous to an issue in the transportation sector where, if you start getting more people into electric vehicles, what happens to the roads? A lot of the road infrastructure, repairs and upgrades, are paid for by gasoline taxes. As more people get into electric cars, how do these things get paid for? Watch for that issue to emerge in the months and years to come.

California has set a great example for a solution for the utility problem, with a compromise that balances the needs of consumers who want to go solar with the needs of the utilities to maintain the infrastructure that delivers electricity. PG&E can bill its solar customers an additional $10 a month to help maintain the grid and backup power, and can apply for a rate hike if more of its customers switch to solar. The solar power companies get an increase in the amount of power that can be sold back to the utility.

The balance is really critical. If the utilities raise their rates too high, that’s going to incent even more people to get off of it and go on to solar—which would be counterproductive. On the other hand, if they add exorbitant fees to the solar customers, that could quash the rapid development of solar. Neither of these are acceptable outcomes. This compromise seems reasonable. Ten dollars a month doesn’t sound like much, but when you add it up from many customers, it’s enough to maintain the grid.

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