Friday, December 21, 2007

Unanimous Approval for New 400 MW Pant in Fresno

Construction was approved on Wednesday for a 400-megawatt peaking natural gas-fired power plant by the California Energy Commission.

The single-cycle plant will be located in western Fresno County and will deliver peak hour power in a 20-year contract to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the plant.

The plant is to begin operations in August 2009 and construction is to start in January 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Political Theater & The Energy Bill

Did they really drive the Energy Bill from Capitol Hill to the White House in a Prius? And did you catch Joe Barton's comments (sour grapes?) about how any car that meets the 35 mpg standard is going to cost an extra $10,000?

Welcome to Congressional Theatrics 101.

When you cut through all of the rhetoric, Bush is going to sign it and-- if you believe the policy wonks/politcal hacks, the bill will reduce energy use by 7% and carbon dioxide emissions by 9% in 2030. We'll see.

One thing is for sure, there was the traditional genuflection at the altar of ethanol: the bill requires a fivefold increase -- to 36 billion gallons -- in the amount of alternative home-grown fuels, such as ethanol, that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply by 2022. I guess this bill isn't so different after all.

Energy bill boosts fuel-economy standards [Los Angeles Times]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Renewables Ballot Initiative Going Forward

The Secretary of State has given the green light to a ballot initiative being pushed by Californians for Solar and Clean Energy that would require all utilities-- not just investor owned utilities-- to meet the 20% renewable mandate by 2010.

Were this to pass (and polling indicates that it should enjoy strong support) the municipal utilities could be the ones feeling the heat.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which serves 1.4 million customers, obtained only 6% of its power from renewables in 2006.

Backers of targets for renewable energy can gather signatures [San Francisco Chronicle]

Monday, December 17, 2007

PG&E Wants More Nuclear Plants

Today's Sac Bee has a Q&A interview with PG&E honcho Peter Darbee. He's shilling for nuclear power and playing the environmental card hard...

The highlight of the interview comes at the end when he gives a virtuouso performance: invoking the marvels of French industrousness and pandering without answering the question or addressing the issue of what to do with spent fuel rods:

Q: Is the uncertainty over nuclear waste and the opening of a repository in Nevada an impediment?

A: I think America should pursue all opportunities with respect to spent fuel reprocessing. The French have done that. I believe in the world we live in today, there is the ability to provide substantial safeguards around the reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

When one considers the risk of fuel getting in the wrong hands from reprocessing in the United States, I think it's relatively small when compared to the chance of nuclear products getting in the hands of inappropriate people from other sources.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Outmaneuvered on the Energy Bill

As reported in teh San Jose Mercury News:

"The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a historic 40 percent increase in fuel economy for cars and light trucks, but fell one vote short of providing long-term tax credits to boost the use of solar, wind and other renewable sources.

The wide-ranging energy bill won final approval, 86-8. But the Senate bill is weaker than what the House wanted because of the removal of the tax credits and another provision that would have required utilities to generate more energy from renewable sources.

"This is a strong bill, but I'm disappointed because it should have been much stronger," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, just before the final vote."

The Merc also notes:

"Senate Democratic leaders came very close to a stronger bill when they mustered 59 votes, including nine Republicans, to close off debate on a version of the bill that included the tax credits for renewables and a rollback of almost $14 billion in tax breaks for oil companies.

But they needed 60 votes, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., quickly removed the tax package from the bill to secure its passage. The Bush administration had announced it would veto any bill that included what it characterized as a major tax increase on the oil industry."

86 votes for a "Republican bill" in a Democrat-controlled Senate. Obviously some solid work by Sen. Boxer and her colleagues in the majority party. I feel well-served.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

PG&E's Not Happy

PG&E has its knickers in a twist over the California Department of Water Resources' decision to renogiate its deal with Calpine.

Under the original deal, struck in 2001 during the market melee, Calpine would provide 1,000 MW, 24-7, to DWR. When Calpine tried to wiggle out of the contract after it went BK, DWR balked, claiming the move would cost consumers as much as $200 million.

Fast forward...

Calpine is about to exit BK and DWR has done a 180 and renogiated the deal which now stipulates that DWR will buy 82% less power from Calpine, saving the agency about $1 billion.

That means PG&E will have to fill in the gaps-- an expensive proposition that PG&E plans to pass on to ratepayers, which it claims would be a crime against humanity.

Just when I thought that we now live in a parallell universe where government agencies actually make prudent fiscal decisions and major utilities act as consumer advocates, DWR restored my faith in the bureaucracy by calling on the PUC to "restore the equity that was in place [in the original Calpine deal]" by offsetting some of PG&E's costs.

PG&E Criticizes Revamped Calpine Power Pact [Los Angeles Times]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

San Francisco's Bright Idea

We all got a chuckle (for different reasons, depending on your political bent) out of George W. Bush's famous line about "fuzzy math." Well the City of San Francisco's new solar incentive plan (announced yesterday) isn't just fuzzy, it's positively hirsute.

The big picture is this: the notoriously cloudy city of San Francisco wants to incentivize residents and businesses to install solar energy arrays. The biggest impediment to doing so is cost-- the average 3KW solar rooftop system runs about $24,000.

So, through this new plan, City brass thinks it can spur the installation of more than 9,000 such arrays over the next decade by offering loans and rebates to property owners and installation contractors.

Where would the cash for this outlay come from? You guessed it: "annual tax assessments" on the affected properties. Now where this scheme goes off the rails and ceases to be just another tax and spend boondoggle is in the guts of the deal.

Property owners still have to pay for the system and then apply for the rebate, which is then paid directly to the installation contractor (after the installation is complete), who is "expected to knock off the amount of the rebate" from the property owner's bill. (That sounds enforcable!)

Businesses would be eligible for up to $10,000 rebates, while residents would be eligible for $3,000-$5,000, depending on whether they use a local contractor or livein an area close to a power plant. Right. Got it.

One has to wonder how much of this is driven by the fact that Berkeley lauchned a similar (albeit less ambitious and less convoluted) program last month. Is this a game of bureacratic one-upmanship or is this just San Francisco being San Francisco?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nuclear Power... you don't say?

The San Diego Union Tribune reports:

"Spurred by concerns about global warming, a state Senate committee launched an inquiry yesterday into the potential of using nuclear power as a clean energy source.

Yesterday's special session in San Diego was the first time in two decades that the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications held hearings on nuclear power, said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, the panel's chairwoman. "

That thumping sound you hear is Assemblyman Chuck Devore beating his head against the wall.

Nuclear power back in spotlight [San Diego Union Tribune]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Another Look at Offshore Wind Energy.

A team of Stanford researchers is scheduled to present this week the conclusions of thier study about the viability of offshore wind farms (similar to the Cape Cod proposal that was essentially killed because it blocked the Kennedys' view) for California.

The researchers studied three sites, Cape Mendocino in Northern California, San Francisco Bay and Southern California. Already it is clear that San Francisco Bay is a no-go because water depth would require floating barges; Southern California is not so good because winds die down in the summer.

Cape Mendocino would be perfect, though-- so perfect that the researchers estimate you could supplant 5% of California's energy production from carbon-emitting sources. The only problem is that most of the transmission lines needed to handle that energy... are in Southern California.

Stop me if you've heard all this before...

For more on this riveting academic exercise, see the write-up in

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Apostle David Freeman

Lifelong energy bureacrat/executive S. David Freeman is taking some time from trying to fix the pollution problems at the Port of Los Angeles to flak his new book, "Winning Our Energy Independence."

On the hustings, Freeman is positively evangelical telling alternative energy retailers that they have an obligation to educate the world about the green energy, saying "It is a matter of will power for retailers to become evangelists on the subject."

It certainly sounds like Freeman channeling fellow Tennesseean Al Gore and is a white board and a cheap video camera away from "An Inconvenient Truth II-- Return of the Boredom."

In the Bee, Dan Weintraub called the book "part memoir, part lecture, part recipe for an oil-free economy ".

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PG&E Offers Conservation Credit

Recognizing the dwindling supplies of Natural Gas in California, Pacific gas & Electric is offering a bonus to customers who cut back.

The utility has a program designed to encourage energy efficiency that gives customers an extra financial incentive to cut the amount of gas they burn in winter. Those who use 10 percent less this winter than they did in the same months last year will get a 20 percent credit on their bills.

"Any opportunity you have for efficiency will not only lower your bill, it's the right thing to do," Eisenhauer said.

Of course, that benefit is on top of a rate increase, so customers thinking their bills might be falling might have another thing coming.