Wednesday, June 25, 2008

States boost efficiency spending

Connecticut has approved a budget increase for energy efficiency programs administered by the former electric utilities -- UI and CL&P. This is intended to allow for continued services like free energy audits and efficiency rebates.

For more info on free energy audits:
click here UI customers
click here CL&P customers

(hooray)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Many eggs, one basket


This op ed piece in the Norwich Bulletin calls on CT to fund only fuel cell-related clean energy projects. The goal, they say, is to support a long-term effort to develop cheaper alternatives to ever-growing fossil fuel costs. They really need to do some research and a little math before expressing their views.

The stated goal is to reduce "demand for electricity from fossil fuel-burning generators — and lower electric costs eventually." The vast majority of fuel cells run on fossil fuels. Others run on hydrogen that has been produced primarily using fossil fuels and nuke power (same grid that you and I use).

Fuel cells are relatively expensive -- even more expensive than the wind project example they use to bolster their point. Fuel cells typically come in at $4500/kw installed cost. The wind project is $200,000/50kW = $4000/kw. With zero fuel costs for the life of the turbine. While there have been many projections that fuel cell costs will come down, this number has not changed in many years.

The editorial derides the wind and solar installations for only providing power to a small facility. Unfortunately for their case, fuel cell installations are not much larger -- on the order of single-digit megawatts, compared to hundreds of megawatts for a traditional fossil fuel plant. Fortunately for us, small-scale distributed generation, like these projects, can go a long way towards reducing costs by stabilizing the regional grid and reducing congestion charges.

"There simply isn’t enough wind in Connecticut to produce enough electricity to make a dent in the state’s electric needs." Who says we need a single solution to supply the state's entire energy needs? That really seems impractical. In the end, we will have a mix of technologies like we do now (nuclear, oil, coal, hydroelectric, etc...).

There is no silver bullet. We should absolutely continue to support fuel cell development, but for large-scale power generation it is way too early to put all our eggs in one basket -- particularly a basket that has been under development for over 100 years and has yet to produce a single commercially viable product.

Shortening the work week to reduce energy costs

Some municipalities are toying with the idea of a four-day work week, reducing building energy costs as well as commuting fuel.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

High electric rates linked to deregulation

Another study, this one from UConn, shows that electric rates in states with "deregulated" markets are higher than those with "regulated" markets.

“Connecticut has not had the best, the most enlightened leadership in terms of electric deregulation,” said Quarterly co-editor Arthur Wright. “Too little attention was paid to the design of the (power) auctions used to establish so-called competitive prices..."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Real estate developer may purchase fuel cell company

I leave my post for a few weeks (yikes, over a month) and look what happens! The parent company of CT's Proton Energy Systems is filing for bankruptcy and selling off to a real estate developer. Proton has had its ups and downs over the last decade or so, but survived the major bubble burst of the fuel cell craze and has been chugging along ever since. They have carved out an interesting niche in the hydrogen market -- let's hope the (potential) new owners can keep things moving.

Sorry I have been absent for so long. Having one of these tends to drain any spare time you thought you had.