Author Topic: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare  (Read 4005 times)

zolotiyeruki

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #100 on: July 13, 2020, 07:09:11 AM »
we don't hold companies responsible for how their customers use their products.  The oil/gas companies are not the ones creating the pollution through the use of their products (yes, they use some for generating the power they use, but it's a small fraction of what gets produced).  It's the end consumer who burns it and creates the pollutants.
That's the argument the producers and salespeople of illicit drugs use. It doesn't hold much water at their trial.
Uh, that's a bit apples-and-oranges there.
For all the kW and kWH debates - power generation capacity is planned based on peak demand + some margin.

So, in a discussion about how many power plants you need, "X kW" as a unit of measure makes perfect sense.

Nuclear power can be a good "baseload" (i.e. the constant part of the demand), but you need some other forms of generation for the peaks and troughs.
That's a good point, and one that's often overlooked.  Nuclear power takes tens-of-minutes to ramp up and down, so you still need stuff like gas turbines that can supply the peaks.  And that's also a challenge utilities face in places where residential solar has become commonplace--the utilities still have to purchase and maintain enough generating capacity to supply the whole grid (for cloudy, still days), but they get paid less by their customers because of the supply from solar.

What's the end result of this line of argument? That instead of oil and gas companies being taxed for the externalities, the consumer should be taxed at the point of sale because they are the ones who "burns it and creates the pollutants"?

It's one and the same thing, isn't it?
It may seem like it, but there are three things to keep in mind: (just off the top of my head)
1) oil and gas get used for lots of non-burning things, like plastics and fertilizer, as pointed out upthread
2) making the pollutant-producer pay for burning the oil and gas provides transparency, so they know how much they're paying for the actual product, and how much is tax

sherr

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #101 on: July 13, 2020, 07:29:27 AM »
For all the kW and kWH debates - power generation capacity is planned based on peak demand + some margin.

So, in a discussion about how many power plants you need, "X kW" as a unit of measure makes perfect sense.

Nuclear power can be a good "baseload" (i.e. the constant part of the demand), but you need some other forms of generation for the peaks and troughs.
That's a good point, and one that's often overlooked.  Nuclear power takes tens-of-minutes to ramp up and down, so you still need stuff like gas turbines that can supply the peaks.  And that's also a challenge utilities face in places where residential solar has become commonplace--the utilities still have to purchase and maintain enough generating capacity to supply the whole grid (for cloudy, still days), but they get paid less by their customers because of the supply from solar.

Do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Here in NC the power company (Duke Energy) has a pretty large residential solar stimulus program. Because solar produces a lot of power during the day in the hot summer months, which is the same time as people are using peak electricity (because AC), so adding residential solar *reduces* their peak generation needs and saves them money.

I guess that's different in climates that don't need AC as much, but the same argument can apply in general for wind. Days are generally windier than nights, and people generally use more power during the day. There does come a certain point where adding more wind/solar is harder for the grid to absorb because of the unpredictability of it, but I haven't seen any evidence that we're approaching that point in the US, and we haven't really even started deploying grid-scale batteries.

bacchi

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #102 on: July 13, 2020, 10:11:16 AM »
Wind power is sometimes dumped from the Columbia Gorge during snow melt season.

The duck curve, when solar and wind peak, has been studied for years.

Quote
So fear not: the duck curve doesn’t spell doom for variable renewables. In the U.S., PV deployment is approaching the highest levels of solar studied in the 2008 report by Denholm et al.

https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2018/10-years-duck-curve.html

zolotiyeruki

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #103 on: July 13, 2020, 12:41:33 PM »
For all the kW and kWH debates - power generation capacity is planned based on peak demand + some margin.

So, in a discussion about how many power plants you need, "X kW" as a unit of measure makes perfect sense.

Nuclear power can be a good "baseload" (i.e. the constant part of the demand), but you need some other forms of generation for the peaks and troughs.
That's a good point, and one that's often overlooked.  Nuclear power takes tens-of-minutes to ramp up and down, so you still need stuff like gas turbines that can supply the peaks.  And that's also a challenge utilities face in places where residential solar has become commonplace--the utilities still have to purchase and maintain enough generating capacity to supply the whole grid (for cloudy, still days), but they get paid less by their customers because of the supply from solar.
Do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Here in NC the power company (Duke Energy) has a pretty large residential solar stimulus program. Because solar produces a lot of power during the day in the hot summer months, which is the same time as people are using peak electricity (because AC), so adding residential solar *reduces* their peak generation needs and saves them money.
Solar is great when it's sunny and warm.  But it doesn't *always* match up with demand.  For example, on a hot, cloudy day, you lose a lot more solar power than you lose in demand, and people still expect to be able to run everything on demand.  In addition, there are a lot of fixed costs which are separate from simply generating electricity--there's a whole power distribution network that requires building, maintaining/repairing/etc, regardless of how much of your customer base has on-site solar.

ctuser1

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #104 on: July 13, 2020, 12:51:46 PM »
Yupp, solar generation mismatch with the demand curve is a "problem" everywhere.

The way utilities deal with the "problem" is to move the cost on the non-solar customers. They obviously don't do it directly, but money is fungible and that is the indirect result anyway.

The actual mechanism used for this cross-subsidy is complex (utilities make rate cases with the state regulators based on their cost basis -> rates are bumped up for everyone when marginal costs increase due to demand/supply mismatch due to solar).

I happened to have had some interaction with Duke specifically way in the past (what's the chance of that!). Yes, it is a "problem" for them, and yes, they did have people looking at this issue last time when I had a chance to interact with them.

They may still be encouraging solar conversion because they may get incentives from the state and federal authorities to do so, and remember that they don't really lose anything in the end, they just make a rate case with the state regulators for a higher electricity rate that everyone will pay. Utilities are almost guaranteed - by legislation and regulation - to make a certain percentage of profit over their costs.

I personally think Solar is great. I am not so sure that all the market-distorting subsidies are all the great.

sherr

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #105 on: July 13, 2020, 01:02:11 PM »
For all the kW and kWH debates - power generation capacity is planned based on peak demand + some margin.

So, in a discussion about how many power plants you need, "X kW" as a unit of measure makes perfect sense.

Nuclear power can be a good "baseload" (i.e. the constant part of the demand), but you need some other forms of generation for the peaks and troughs.
That's a good point, and one that's often overlooked.  Nuclear power takes tens-of-minutes to ramp up and down, so you still need stuff like gas turbines that can supply the peaks.  And that's also a challenge utilities face in places where residential solar has become commonplace--the utilities still have to purchase and maintain enough generating capacity to supply the whole grid (for cloudy, still days), but they get paid less by their customers because of the supply from solar.
Do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Here in NC the power company (Duke Energy) has a pretty large residential solar stimulus program. Because solar produces a lot of power during the day in the hot summer months, which is the same time as people are using peak electricity (because AC), so adding residential solar *reduces* their peak generation needs and saves them money.
Solar is great when it's sunny and warm.  But it doesn't *always* match up with demand.  For example, on a hot, cloudy day, you lose a lot more solar power than you lose in demand, and people still expect to be able to run everything on demand.  In addition, there are a lot of fixed costs which are separate from simply generating electricity--there's a whole power distribution network that requires building, maintaining/repairing/etc, regardless of how much of your customer base has on-site solar.

Again, do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Cloudy days are not going to require as much AC as non-cloudy days, so while "solar generation might dip further than demand does" on those days, solar production in general might still be a net-positive. Because demand is still dipping on those days, and so we might not be close to what otherwise would have been the peak capacity that they would have had to build out. Not building power plants = saving bucket-loads of money. And the fact that Duke Energy is giving people residential solar stimulus checks indicates to me that it is in fact a net-positive for the power company, at least in NC.

And fixed grid maintenance costs seem to be completely irrelevant to the discussion about peak demand generation. I mean, yes, I'm well aware that Duke and co will use literally any logic they can to attempt to add more fees and jack up rates. They're business in the business of making as much money as they can. But the fact that they themselves are subsidizing solar tells me that it's not really that much of a problem. And in NC they get their fixed-cost money anyway in the form of a $16/month fee, regardless of if you consume 0 electricity.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 01:11:21 PM by sherr »

sherr

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #106 on: July 13, 2020, 01:19:58 PM »
I happened to have had some interaction with Duke specifically way in the past (what's the chance of that!). Yes, it is a "problem" for them, and yes, they did have people looking at this issue last time when I had a chance to interact with them.

Okay, I guess I believe you, although I would be happier with sources. ;)

ctuser1

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #107 on: July 13, 2020, 01:23:18 PM »
Again, do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Cloudy days are not going to require as much AC as non-cloudy days, so while "solar generation might dip further than demand does" on those days, solar production in general might still be a net-positive. Because demand is still dipping on those days, and so we might not be close to what otherwise would have been the peak capacity that they would have had to build out. Not building power plants = saving bucket-loads of money.

Peak capacity happens generally between 6 and 9. Solar generally does not generate at that time. So, the number of non-solar generators you need to meet peak demand is not impacted by solar capacity.

Wind is generally better matched with the peak demand periods. So, what you really need is a combination of different renewable energy sources. I even found a stanford whitepaper discussing this: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/HosteFinalDraft

I suspect (and it is a commonly held opinion by many) that the present day solar subsidies and cross-subsidies prevent the real, sustainable development of renewable and battery technologies.

e.g. I'm in the process of getting rooftop solar. Net metering will subsidize me at the cost of non-solar customers because my rooftop solar will generate during "cheaper" times, and my usage during the "peak"/"expensive" times will be offset by this. if there was no cross-subsidy, then it would likely have made more sense for me to get the Tesla PowerWalls and try to be less reliant on the grid altogether, especially for my peak-time usage.
It is a bigger topic than just Solar or even renewables, however. It would have made more sense for me to look for smart appliances and such that can intelligently time things based on electricity prices (think my diswasher or cloth dryer than starts based on price signals) had I, as a customer, been sensitive to the actual cost of operating generators and the grid.
 
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 01:30:26 PM by ctuser1 »

sherr

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #108 on: July 13, 2020, 01:40:51 PM »
Again, do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Cloudy days are not going to require as much AC as non-cloudy days, so while "solar generation might dip further than demand does" on those days, solar production in general might still be a net-positive. Because demand is still dipping on those days, and so we might not be close to what otherwise would have been the peak capacity that they would have had to build out. Not building power plants = saving bucket-loads of money.

Peak capacity happens generally between 6 and 9. Solar generally does not generate at that time. So, the number of non-solar generators you need to meet peak demand is not impacted by solar capacity.

Wind is generally better matched with the peak demand periods. So, what you really need is a combination of different renewable energy sources. I even found a stanford whitepaper discussing this: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/HosteFinalDraft

Really? Because according to the first graph in that article peak demand happens around 3pm in July (at least in California). Which is almost exactly the same time as peak solar PV production is happening (2pm), and is exactly when peak solar thermal production is happening.

Look I'm not arguing against mixing in various kinds of generation, or pretending that subsidies do not have unintended market-distorting side-effects. But so far all the actual evidence I've seen is that this is a "problem" like an optimization problem, like the engineers have to actually think about things and engineer the overall system so that everything works out, and that they will. Not a "problem" like "we're better off without it" problem.

ctuser1

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #109 on: July 13, 2020, 01:52:34 PM »
Again, do you actually know that that's a problem anywhere? Cloudy days are not going to require as much AC as non-cloudy days, so while "solar generation might dip further than demand does" on those days, solar production in general might still be a net-positive. Because demand is still dipping on those days, and so we might not be close to what otherwise would have been the peak capacity that they would have had to build out. Not building power plants = saving bucket-loads of money.

Peak capacity happens generally between 6 and 9. Solar generally does not generate at that time. So, the number of non-solar generators you need to meet peak demand is not impacted by solar capacity.

Wind is generally better matched with the peak demand periods. So, what you really need is a combination of different renewable energy sources. I even found a stanford whitepaper discussing this: https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/CombiningRenew/HosteFinalDraft

Really? Because according to the first graph in that article peak demand happens around 3pm in July (at least in California). Which is almost exactly the same time as peak solar PV production is happening (2pm), and is exactly when peak solar thermal production is happening.

Look I'm not arguing against mixing in various kinds of generation, or pretending that subsidies do not have unintended market-distorting side-effects. But so far all the actual evidence I've seen is that this is a "problem" like an optimization problem, like the engineers have to actually think about things and engineer the overall system so that everything works out, and that they will. Not a "problem" like "we're better off without it" problem.

Very much agreed on the bolded part. Without renewable sources, human civilization as we know it would likely not survive for another 100 years. So, I don't think there is anyone sane who would argue "we're better off without it" (and I know there are loads of insane people).

Yeah, I see the July curve too. That is contrary to what I thought to be the case. So I went back to double check at PJM (thinking this may be a localized CA thing) (https://www.pjm.com/markets-and-operations.aspx), and you are right, this time of the year the peak seems to be around 3pm or so. If so, Solar *can* actually meet the generator peak capacity requirements for a little bit at the top.

The market distorting effect of some of the subsidies and cross-subsidies is still a problem. But that is a different topic.

StashingAway

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #110 on: July 13, 2020, 02:09:13 PM »

We make companies pay for negative externalities all the time. It's one of the main things that government does (making sure that certain parties do not encroach on the rights of the general public). For example, we make companies dispose of chemical waste proper ways, which is expensive. They used to just dump in rivers and swamps. We make car companies meet strict pollutant regulations. Left to their own devices in a competitive market, they would not use catalytic converters and the like because they are expensive and reduce performance. We have building regulations that meet fire codes, which contractors would gladly forgo to make a cheaper house. All of these are variants on the "tragedy of the commons" phenomenon.

Oil and gas companies are currently not held responsible for the CO2 that the use of their product emits into the atmosphere. This is an externaltiy on a global scale and should be treated as such.
I was a bit glib in my comment, so I should clarify--when I say "no industry does that", I mean that we don't hold companies responsible for how their customers use their products.  The oil/gas companies are not the ones creating the pollution through the use of their products (yes, they use some for generating the power they use, but it's a small fraction of what gets produced).  It's the end consumer who burns it and creates the pollutants.  You make a fair point about automotive emissions and the mandates for emissions controls, but the building code point is off the mark--that's not a tragedy of the commons, really, since it's really just between the consumer and the builder (unless you're talking about fire spreading from one building to another).  A better comparison would be to point out that we do not require car manufacturers to pay for automotive insurance, nor lumber manufacturers for home insurance.


I want to push back on this, because I don't think that insurance is a good corollary. Insurance i a tool to reduce the impact of a large financial loss. It's different from a known, measurable, consistent output. With insurance, specific large events cause this financial loss to an individual. With climate change we are at a completely different scale wherein the effects are not known but the mechanism is.

One key part of this is that the use of fossil fuels has very predictable CO2 output. We know very precisely how much CO2 a barrel of oil will put in the atmosphere by the end of it's life cycle. Same with gas and coal. So we already know the impact before the goods are used. For home insurance, we have no idea what random events will happen to an individual. So it is up to that individual to do a personal risk assessment and decide for themselves. I know there are caveats with minimum required and such, but the market mechanism of insurance isn't at all like a carbon fee.

This goes back to your proposition that oil and gas companies are not responsible for the pollution. I agree when it comes to pollution but not when it comes to CO2. Pollution is a local(ish) problem and highly variant on process. CO2 is quite steady and predictable. It's not much different than a company selling toys with lead paint saying that the consumer should be testing the toys on their end, because they're not responsible for what is done with the toys. Most people would agree that the company is responsible, and that toys are generally expected to be played with by kids. So we set regulations to make sure toy companies follow guidelines that make their toys safe for regular use. I shop down the toy aisle with reasonable expectation that the products are safe for kids. We do this in all kinds of markets.

Oil/Gas/Coal companies product has one main use, and that's to be burned, and that creates CO2. To me this means that the cost adjustment should be made at this point in the marked. We claim a fee on oil, they pass most or all of that fee onto their customers, and the market adjusts to the new price signals. It's essentially a "disposal fee" priced in because we know how much and where they are disposing it (the atmosphere). Applying this anywhere down market gets way more complicated.

Back to the carbon fee. It is favored by economists; the best way to dis-incentivize the use of something in the market is to make it more expensive. Taxing something where it enters the market is more cost effective than regulating it from the back end.

https://www.econstatement.org/all-signatories

On the last part regarding subsidies. I do agree that the subsidies are relatively minimal (at least the direct ones are, but there are some breakdowns that show that there are a lot more in the purchasing chain). And I would imagine that renewable subsidies are larger by %. But regardless, these subsidies are a problem to me. Currently they are the opposite of a carbon fee; they create an artificially low price on a product that we should be trying to limit our use of. There is no reason to have these, regardless of how small they are. It's the principal of the thing.

I was also being pedantic in that you said that "there are no oil/gas specific subsidies" which there are ;)
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 02:17:44 PM by StashingAway »

sherr

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #111 on: July 13, 2020, 02:12:49 PM »
So I went back to double check at PJM (thinking this may be a localized CA thing) (https://www.pjm.com/markets-and-operations.aspx), and you are right, this time of the year the peak seems to be around 3pm or so.

Okay sounds like we agree. I'll just point out to everyone else that it's not really correct to talk about "the peak" "this time of year". The problem is that power companies have to have generating capacity to meet the absolute max consumption for the whole year, and that those plants are either under-utilized or off entirely the rest of the time (and therefore not paying for their construction/operation, and therefore not efficient and therefore costing people money).

Solar seems to reduce the peak requirements. Which is a win-win, both environmentally and for a power company $$$$$ perspective. I see no reason to believe that we've arrived at or are anywhere near the point where the unpredictability of solar generation outweighs the peak-reduction benefit. Maybe if you lived in the frigid north peak consumption would happen in winter instead, but then if you're that far north you probably weren't considering inefficient-at-that-latitude solar anyway.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 02:52:49 PM by sherr »

zolotiyeruki

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Re: On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the scare
« Reply #112 on: July 13, 2020, 04:09:34 PM »
So I went back to double check at PJM (thinking this may be a localized CA thing) (https://www.pjm.com/markets-and-operations.aspx), and you are right, this time of the year the peak seems to be around 3pm or so.
Okay sounds like we agree. I'll just point out to everyone else that it's not really correct to talk about "the peak" "this time of year". The problem is that power companies have to have generating capacity to meet the absolute max consumption for the whole year, and that those plants are either under-utilized or off entirely the rest of the time (and therefore not paying for their construction/operation, and therefore not efficient and therefore costing people money).

Solar seems to reduce the peak requirements. Which is a win-win, both environmentally and for a power company $$$$$ perspective. I see no reason to believe that we've arrived at or are anywhere near the point where the unpredictability of solar generation outweighs the peak-reduction benefit. Maybe if you lived in the frigid north peak consumption would happen in winter instead, but then if you're that far north you probably weren't considering inefficient-at-that-latitude solar anyway.
There's another issue with distributed solar, and that is when installed solar production gets very wide spread.  That's great on one hand, because you don't need to have fossil-fuel-burning plants generating that power.  However, once you introduce Net Metering into the equation, it gets really messy for the utility.  The reason is that generally net metering treats all electricty equally, regardless of when it went through a house's meter, or in which direction, but the utility pays for (or gets paid for) electricity at the spot price.  So if you have a cool, sunny day, a homeowner may produce an excess 3kWh when the spot price (i.e. the price the utility pays) is 0.5 cents, but later in the evening, use 3kWh when the spot price is, say, 3 cents.  Multiply this by hundreds of thousands of households, and you can see the problem the utilities run into.  Even worse, there are times when there is so much PV production, in fact, that the spot price actually goes *negative*.  And this is at the same time the utility has to maintain all the production capacity and grid for a worst-case scenario.  Tying net metering to spot prices helps, but still doesn't eliminate the problem of having idle production capacity for hot, cloudy days.  This is one of the major factors that drove Hawaii to end its net-metering arrangement.

Now, if we can get develop efficient, cheap-at-scale electricity storage technology, that largely solves a big chunk of the problem. Combine that with variable rate billing (i.e. the price a customer pays is tied to the spot price of the electricity when it was used) and you're almost there.  But even then, there are times of prolonged overcast skies and calm winds, when the utilities will still need to supply nearly all the load.