Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Let’s eat all of these people!” — Venom

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Crisis Behind Your Power Outlets

The demand for electricity is falling. That hasn't happened since electrification began spreading outside of the cities.

The linked article has a lot of details.

What I wonder about is whether we're going to see a death spiral start forming. Death spirals are when businesses that see a drop in revenue begin raising rates (or prices) to make up for the shortfall. Customers start going elsewhere and that rate accelerates.

For electricity, if the utilities are not selling enough of it, look for them to be coming back to regulators, again and again, seeking rate increases. Businesses that use a lot of power may start rethinking the idea of self-generation of one form or another. Residential customers will look for ways to save electricity. A sign that this is going on will be when the other sources of heat start heavily advertising the lower costs of conversion to another heating method (oil, propane, natural gas). Rate increases will continue to spur conservation and searches for alternative sources. There will be massive consolidation of electrical utilities as they search for efficiencies and close unneeded plants. The death spiral will force them to do it.

Trump's desire to have a renaissance in coal is dead if the utilities don't have the increased demand to justify building new power plants. Even if they do, natural gas is cheap enough and a natural gas-fired plant doesn't need to deal with bottom ash or fly ash or come up with ways to store thousands of tons of ash. Between the need to handle the combustion by-products of coal, the need to maintain a coal yard and to have the machinery and people to move the coal to the inlet conveyors, coal has to be significantly cheaper than anything else in order to make it economical to burn the stuff. Right now, it isn't. The less-efficient power plants that will be the first to close will be the coal-fired ones.



dinthebeast said...

"Unless we can collectively reorient utilities to pursue rather than fear current trends in electricity, they are headed for a grim reckoning."

They have been heading that way for decades, but no-one wanted to admit it was true.
The Republicans still deny that things are changing, and will change whether they get on board and participate or not.
We have allowed China to take the lead in the transformation of energy production, and with our own technology, to a large extent. They are retraining their coal miners to work in the solar industry (which they are subsidizing and expect 13 million new jobs in the next three years) and unlike our coal miners, theirs are thrilled to get out of the mines and work in a less hazardous environment.
Perhaps ours would also, if we guaranteed them equivalent pay, security, and benefits, and didn't propagandize their dying industry for political reasons.
That was my original gripe about Bush taking the presidency in 2000: I felt that we didn't have the time to waste on an oil-centered administration when the rest of the world was jockeying for positions in the coming energy revolution.
Some of those 13 million jobs could still be ours if we were not actively resisting the reality of the changing energy landscape.
Oh, yeah, and we might not be staring down the barrel of 1970s levels of pollution like we are if this administration gets its way.

-Doug in Oakland

Ed Baptist said...

Duke Energy's coal ash is still a problem in NC.