Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gasoline tax giveaway approved Senate

Great, now our state Senate wants to help people burn more gasoline. This is a cheap trick to win over votes and it is completely transparent. How about encouraging people to reduce consumption? That wouldn't cost us $124 million. If we have room in the budget for tax cuts, certainly we can find better places to make those cuts.

Lobbying for power



Lobbyists are working overtime to get a word in for their clients in the energy industry. According to this article in the Hartford Courant, energy companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few months to influence our representatives' decisions on this multi-billion dollar industry. The biggest push seems to be from NU (parent company of CL&P), who is asking for permission to get back into the power-production business. Separating generation services from transmission and distribution was at the heart of CT's 1998 deregulation legislation. This would essentially reverse that, at least to some degree, and put more power back into the hands of the utilities.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Windy Elm City


The city of New Haven is looking into installing some wind turbines, but first will be a CCEF-funded pilot project to gauge feasibility. Mayor Destefano and his policy analyist, Emily Byrne, explain the concept in this article in the New Haven Independent. I think this is a fine idea and an ideal use for the renewable energy fund that we all pitch into from our electric bill.

In the comment section below the article, Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association brings attention to a bill working its way through the US legislature that appears to prove a major stumbling block for small distributed wind turbines. This deserves further attention, but at first glance certainly appears to be an unnecessary disruption in the fastest growing renewable power source in the US.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Look out for blackouts this summer


Southwest CT is apparently one of the top three most likely regions in North America to face blackouts this summer.
The flow there is so constrained that it is the only area in the country where, in essence, there is not enough energy if consumers crank up air conditioning and other appliances at the potential summer peak.
This is not good news but hardly surprising. But don't start getting soft on new plant regulations just yet. The problem is not lack of generation capacity -- it's bottlenecks in the transmission system. We have enough power, we just can't always get it where it needs to be.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Hydro coming to CT



The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund announced that it has approved a loan for a 500kW hydroelectric plant at the Kirby Mill within Mansfield Hollow State Park. Hydroelectric is by far the most widely developed renewable source, providing almost 7% of the nation's electricity. Hydro isn't perfect (nothing is) but when installed responsibly to minimize social and environmental impact, it's hard to beat. It has been shown that hydro plants with large reservoirs actually generate significant greenhouse gas emissions, as large areas of vegetation decompose under the new lake and release methane gas. This plant looks to be a run-of-the-river type, which does not require a large reservoir and will include a fish ladder so as not to...um, bother all the fishies, I guess.

This project sounds to me like an excellent investment -- by the way this is your money they're dishing out, so pay attention. If this is the entire funding (the press release isn't too clear), then the installation comes to about $1000/kW. This is quite a bargain considering they've been funding fuel cell installations like they're going out of style at about $4500/kW. The neat thing this about this project is that the developer of the turbine, Windham Automated Machines, operates from inside the very mill where it will be installed. Compared to their pizza sauce dispenser, this must be a pretty exciting product for their engineers to work on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gas price perspective



This article in the Hartford Courant does a decent job of putting gas prices in perspective.
If it's any consolation, the country has not yet reached an all-time high in the average cost of gasoline. That occurred in 1981, when gas would have cost $3.22 per gallon in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Energy Information Administration..
The graph above shows not the peaks, but the inflation-adjusted annual averages over almost 100 years. Things really don't look so desperate from that perspective, though over the last 5 years we have certainly seen a big jump regardless of how you figure the numbers. I think your average consumer is going to see the sudden jumps but not the long declines -- when gas is relatively stable (nominal dollar amount) but the cost of everything else increases around it. Either way, it's encouraging to hear things like this:
MacDonough, a landscaper, says he changed vehicles when prices rose above $3 a gallon. He has a pickup truck, but now he only uses it for work. The rest of the time he drives a Mercedes he's borrowing from his mother.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

If you don't like it -- don't buy it!!

Sorry if I sound grumpy, but I really get tired of everyone whining about gas prices. Why can't we just stop horsing around with complicated "zoning" prices and wholesale tax caps and just let the whole supply and demand thing balance it out? Keep the taxes high to discourage people from using so much. In your morning commute, count how many cars have more than one occupant and then tell me that there isn't room to conserve more. Why do we "need" relief?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Broadwater Band Aid


In an editorial today, the New Haven Register has come clean with its support for the Broadwater LNG terminal to be built out in the Long Island Sound. Even if you look beyond the concerns about safety, industrialization of the Sound, visual blemishes in the skyline etc., does anyone ever stop to consider that this whole project is a shortsighted band-aid to a much bigger issue? We use too much electricity. Hellooooo. Instead of continually breaking our backs to feed the addiction, how about focusing on reducing demand. It's not difficult or expensive and we don't even have to change our lifestyles.

Europeans use half the energy that Americans use. I'm not talking about backwoods third world countries -- these are industrialized nations that in many respects enjoy a higher quality of life than we do. The hoops we jump through to feed the monkey are mind-boggling. Start with CFLs. Shut off the AC -- this is Connecticut, not Florida. Hang your laundry out to dry in the summer. Turn off your 60" television for a while and play your ukulele. Demand that the legislature tighten efficiency standards in building codes and appliances sold in the state. These are simple, common sense measures that will save us all money in the long run.

Instead of choosing the smart and cheap way out, we consistently choose the expensive and destructive path that leaves us really no better off the long run.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Decisions, decisions


I dozed off for a minute and when I woke up... I found out we now have FOUR choices for energy providers in UI's district! Stamford, CT-based MXenergy joins Levco (subdivision of Northeast Utilities), Conn Ed, and Constellation New Energy in the marketplace...oh yeah, you still have the standard offer if these guys aren't good enough so I guess that really makes 5 choices. I tried to check MXenergy for rates, but it doesn't seem like they're really ready to take on customers. I had to fill out a form and they will let me know when they are servicing my district. I will note once again that until the rates went up residential customers had exactly ZERO alternatives in this district, bolstering my argument that the artificially low standard offer stifled competition against the utility monopolies.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Boycott gas boycotts


Every year I inevitably get an email from someone asking me to participate in a one-day gasoline boycott. Mind you, this is not a solicitation to stop using gas -- just to postpone buying it for one day. The email claims that prices will drop overnight. The only possible harm you could do to the gasoline industry is take a day's pay out of the pocket of your local gas station proprietor. The gas distribution companies drop fuel off every week or so -- they don't care what day you buy it on. The big oil companies that trade millions of barrels care even less. How about not driving for a day, or even better a whole week? Feel free to ignore those boycott solicitations or better yet, when you get one think of riding your bike to work that day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Presentation -- Energy & Environment Markets

This May 9 presentation in Stamford looks well worth the admission price (free). Representatives from the DPUC and the DEP discuss the "increasingly intertwined" topics of energy and the environment. I would say more like "tangled". Presented by SoundWaters.
Topic: Energy & Environmental Markets - Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and CT's Renewable Portfolio Standards
Date:Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Reservations by Thursday, May 3
Time:5:30-6:30 pm
Reception 6:30-7:30 pm
Presentation/Question & AnswerLocation: UBS, 677 Washington Blvd. Stamford
No walk-ins will be permitted.Registration for this event is required.
Please email soundbusiness@soundwaters.org or call 203-406- 3319 by Thursday, May 3, to reserve your place.
I did note that they give directions by train! Last time I went to a DEP presentation I had to find a train map and overlay it with the auto directions they provided. Who drives to Stamford, anyways?