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GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri missing a chance to build an energy future

Friday, May 20, 2011 | 12:50 p.m. CDT

The most significant economic development bill debated in the General Assembly this year had the support of the governor, lieutenant governor, large majorities of legislators in both the House and Senate, small and large businesses, economic development organizations, labor organizations, farmers, various trade groups and countless individual Missourians.

The bill would have assured that Missouri had options for keeping electric rates low and meeting future demand for energy. And it would have led to the creation of thousands of good jobs at the same time.

But this bill — the nuclear site permit bill — never even came to a final vote in the legislature. Why? Because it would have threatened a special deal a few large corporations get on their electric rates.

In Missouri, large industrial corporations pay a rate for electricity that is about half the rate paid by families and small businesses. These corporations oppose any legislation that could level the rate structure and ever, in any way, interfere with their special deal. These corporations, led by two companies that aren’t even owned by Missourians and aided by a couple of powerful legislators, were able to block the nuclear site permit bill from  coming to a vote even though a large majority of legislators clearly support the measure.

As a result, Missourians will likely now lose out on the many potential benefits the nuclear site permit bill would have brought to our state.

The coal plants Missouri relies on for 80 percent of our electricity are aging. They are expected to need costly upgrades to meet more stringent federal regulations, a move that would likely increase the price of electricity generated by coal. To date, Missouri has done very little to prepare for our changing energy demands.

Furthermore, Missouri’s demand for electricity is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next 20 years. We must start planning now if we are to be able to meet this growing demand and keep energy costs low. Nuclear power may very well be the best answer to these challenges. But without legislation that would make it possible for Missouri’s electricity providers to obtain a site permit, a new nuclear power plant cannot be constructed.

Equally regrettable, in their haste to protect their special deal, these big corporations blocked an opportunity that would have amounted to a huge economic gain for our state. The construction of a second plant in Callaway County would create 3,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in economic investment. The plant operations would employ 400 Missourians permanently. That’s not to mention the positive impact affordable energy rates have on a state’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs.

Other states are seizing the opportunities Missouri walked away from: Indiana’s legislature passed a bill that will allow the state to move closer to nuclear power plant construction. Iowa’s legislature is expected to pass legislation soon. Missouri’s General Assembly did not act on this important issue. In fact, the General Assembly did not take any action that would directly or indirectly create a single job in our state. That is why many legislators are now calling for a special session of the General Assembly to focus on job-creating issues, including the nuclear site permit bill.

We must continue to develop ways to diversify our energy portfolio. The longer we delay, the more opportunities we will miss and the more costly our energy will become. Passage of the nuclear site permit bill is a critical step toward gaining control of our economic future. Missouri needs to get this done.

Irl Scissors is executive director of Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future.

 


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Comments

Christopher Foote May 20, 2011 | 3:20 p.m.

If the free market wants to capitalize Ameren so that it can build a new plant, nobody is stopping them. The problem arises in that the capitalists deem it a too risky proposition. That is, they think they will lose money on the investment. Why should we (current rate payers) assume that risk? The inevitable cost over-runs will translate into a decade of endless rate increases. It seems like a much better approach would be to reduce consumption by 25%. That however, is not in Ameren's financial interest as they make money by selling electricity, not by conserving it. Note, I am not opposed to nuclear in principle (though the spent fuel rods are problematic). I just think that if the market doesn't support it, there is probably a good reason, i.e. it is too expensive.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 3:29 p.m.

What problem? We have a great program for the spent fuel rods. We SEND THEM TO IRAQ!!!

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush May 20, 2011 | 3:47 p.m.

I agree with lobbyist Irl Scissors. ( http://ilsconsultingllc.com/irl-scissors... )
In fact, I've sent a letter to the CEO of AMEREN, Mr. Thomas Voss to ask him for help in building my new home. Since Mr. Voss's pay has doubled in the last two years, ( http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns...) I figured he could help me build a new home. In return, I'll promise to leave my lights on all the time and not use any of those pesky energy saving compact fluorescent lamps.
Since he's reaching into my pocket, I'd give him the opportunity for a reach around back.
I await his reply.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 4:29 p.m.

Christopher says private entities should finance Ameren....
__________________

Actually I agree. So why don't private entities step up to the plate? Well, you mentioned the reason....too much risk.

But, you didn't address, "Why so much risk?"

And the main reason is that private investors (me included) recognize that power from the plant will be so heavily regulated, including prices, that the plant stands to lose money...or not make what is expected by investors.

Utilities are not like making/selling refrigerators, bass boats, or steel joists. You know this.

Take away the regulation and charge customers what it takes to make it a reasonable ROI for investors, Ameren will have no problem financing it privately......hell, I'll buy a bond or two.

You speak of "a decade of endless rate increases."

Guess what?.....that's coming, Ameren private investment, Ameren customer investment, or no investment or plant at all.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 4:34 p.m.

That's it, Mike. You are so brilliant. I want to help you. Let's start a lobbying company to advance nuclear deregulation. And on the side you could probably power a wind farm.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 4:38 p.m.

More:

I hear folks, all the time, speaking about how "conservation" will make power cheaper.

Cheaper than....what?

Let's say I sold widgets. I sell 5 million of them a year at a buck apiece....so my gross is 5 million bucks. My annual expenses are 4 million bucks (including taxes), so I make a million bucks a year.

However, my widgets are "consumables" and folks (at their gov'ts instigation) are convinced to conserve on my widgets. I only sell 4 million of them this year. Now, I still have to pay salaries, and I still have to pay for infrastructure, and I still have to pay taxes, and I still have to pay for power and all the other FIXED-COST thingies, so my annual expenses are still near 4 million bucks. I just broke even or, at best, made a little bit.

Now what do you think power companies will do if we conserve 25%? They still have the same employees, same expenses (except coal, oil, gas would go down), same infrastructure that needs to be maintained, just about the same "everything".

So what do you think they are gonna do?

Lose money?

See profitability go in the toilet, wiping out their stock prices and their ability to borrow money for new infrastructure?

Uh....no.

Don't let ANYONE tell you your power costs will go down with time REGARDLESS of any circumstances. Tis true, they may not go up quite so much, but the overall jist of those who claim "Conservation will save you money" is to imply you will pay less. You won't. You're gonna pay lots more. Hope yer upwardly mobile.

Bank on it.

(Report Comment)
fred smith May 20, 2011 | 4:42 p.m.

Barack Obama: "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 4:44 p.m.

Paul...you've shown a decided inability to understand the workings of businesses, ...you know, those nasty corporations that make sumpin'....including those considered "essential to the public" and worthy of regulation

Instead of the insults, how about posting something that shows my argument totally wrong?....hell, I'd sell for partially.

Chris will....he noz stuff even tho I don't often agree. He's much more lucid than you....and even stays on task!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 4:45 p.m.

Oh, and Paul.....thanks for the "brilliant" comment.

I actually blushed and dragged my toe in the dirt.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 5:03 p.m.

Oh HELL yes, Mike. Let's all use MORE power because that will be sure to make our rates go down. Conservation? We don't need no stinkin conservation.

Send them to IRAQ!!!

http://www.notinkansas.us/du_2.html

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 5:29 p.m.

Paul. For heaven's sake. You...again...totally missed the point.

I made NO comments, good or bad, on the merits of conservation. Indeed, there are MANY great reasons to conserve.

I DID make comments about those who would imply that rates would go down if we conserved. In point of fact, you can conserve all you want, but rates will NEVER go down. Use less power with the same infrastructure, employees, etc. expenses, do you REALLY think rates would go down?

Well, do you? If so, please expound.

I'll help get you started:

We could fire 25% of the power-generation employees, hence saving on salaries, FICA, FUTA, benefits, medicare...prolly 40-45% of total expenses. That would do it.

Your turn.

To reiterate: The point you missed was NOT about the merits of conservation. It was to stress that those who include the prospect of rate reduction (less out-of-pocket expense to YOU on an annual basis) are simply not telling the truth. "Conservation" should be sold to the public on the real merits, not lies to get support.

Don't apply as an entrant on the show Top Shot....you miss too many targets.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 5:37 p.m.

Correction: I stated, "[save] 40-45% of total expenses" by firing 25% of the employees. Not true. The implication is if you fire 25% of the employees, you save 40-45% of TOTAL expenses.

Bad choice of words.

On average, business salaries comprise about 40-45% of total expenses. There's much variation, of course, but that's about the average.

So, if you fired 25% of your employees, a rough calculation would yield 0.25 x 40% = 10% of total (pre-firing) expenses saved. In actuality, it would be a bit more because of other employee expenses not considered here.

Sorry for the error.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 5:42 p.m.

I missed the point? Someone alleges that the plant is running at near maximum capacity. They then want you to pay money on your bill for something that will not come on line for many years, if ever. At the theoretical point when it becomes operational Ameren will operate TWO plants constantly with TWO crews and TWO sets of fixed expenses instead of one.

I'm sure that will be much cheaper.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 20, 2011 | 5:43 p.m.

I think Ameren could show some good faith by paying for the initial permit out of their own pocket. A lot of the issue here is not whether another nuclear plant is a good idea - I think we need it, and can justify that - but whether Ameren will actually build it. Putting their money where their mouth is would convince a lot of people.

As far as investor risk - nuclear, unlike most other power sources, has a bad rep among regulators. Not because of anything it's done, but because of the kind of ignorant fear that comes from inability to properly allocate risk. In this country, the risk of being affected by a nuclear power accident is far less than being struck by lightning (let's not mention driving). Yet we still can't get a nuclear waste facility built, simply because of politics.

Ameren needs to show some good faith here, and pony up some of the $600 million in profits they made last year for the future of their business. The anti-nuclear crowd also needs some good lessons in rational assessment of risk vs. benefit (dispatchable power that wind and solar simply can't provide without a lot of extra equipment).

DK

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 5:59 p.m.

Mark: I agree, especially with the "risk" part.

Humans are notoriously poor risk assessors.

And a few of us who shall remain unnamed (Paul) are notoriously poor point-getters. They are, however, good at re-framing the topic....that means changing the subject, for those who shall remain anonymous (Paul).

Anyone who thinks conservation will reduce out-of-pocket expenses for power....if enuf of us are forced or choose to conserve...deserves to get what they wish for.

Still a lie, tho.

It's ok to sell conservation. It's not ok to get folks on board with a lie.

Unless, of course, you believe the means justifies the end.

Oh......HUGE "aha!" moment.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 6:55 p.m.

"ignorant fear"

And you know I was actually respecting most of the opinion you expressed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7S_XWuKp...

of course, as debaters we all pale in comparison to...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHRxv-40W...

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 7:00 p.m.

Oh and MIKEY, please find one instance where I cited a cost per unit reduction as a motivating factor to do anything.

Guess what? I DIDN'T!!!

But yeah. I'm sure it's much cheaper to run two plants than one. And I'm sure it's much cheaper to buy two units of electricity at a nickel apiece then one for seven cents. I just had the accounting department verify that for me.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 7:32 p.m.

Paul:

Sigh. I talk about the lie that conservation will cause rates to go down. You think I dissed conservation.
________________________

You said, "I'm sure it's much cheaper to run two plants than one."

I said, "Paul...you've shown a decided inability to understand the workings of businesses..."

I was right.

Do you really think, Paul, that when a business doubles itself, it's expenses double themselves? Especially on the same site. For the same side-by-side facility that can ship necessities once rather than twice? With a single administration. With current employees that are promotable so you can hire others with less experience and teach them? With a bigger company that can negotiate lower prices for necessities? And a whole host of other things?

Do you really a doubling doubles the expenses for most companies?????????????

I tell ya what. Nationalize the whole industry. I wanna watch.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 7:36 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 7:48 p.m.

Paul says, "please find one instance where I cited a cost per unit reduction as a motivating factor to do anything."
__________________

Who said I asked for such a thing from you? I did say that those who promote "actual payout reductions" if we collectively conserve are liars.

You feelin' guilty or sumpin'?
_____________________

Look, this ain't hard. Consider the great and isolated Country of Columbia, which has it's own power plant. Further, let's pretend Columbia gets ALL it's power from this plant. Users pay for it, which means all expenses are paid by users.

But, suddenly Columbians conserve 25%. Way cool! How green of us! So, the power plant needs to slow down a bit. Save some money buying coal? You bet. But, what about all those now-unneeded employees? What about all those infrastructure costs? You gonna lay employees off? You gonna let infrastructure go to hell? What about all the other fixed costs? How much do you really think expenses are gonna go down? 25%???????

Perhaps in an ivory tower they will, but not in real life.

Well, I'll provide the answer. Instead of...say...5 cents a KWH, yer gonna pay MORE! Just to keep the utility going!!!!!!!!!!

And, if you want proof, in the midst of this economy where Columbia and Boone County are pinching pennies and paying out less.....have your personal property, real estate, sales, school, business, use, and other taxes GONE DOWN ONE DAMN BIT!!!!!!!!! (Hint: What school levy is gonna be on the next ballot...for how much?)

PS: All this....Same thing for power.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 7:50 p.m.

Paul: Your next to last paragraph is intolerable. I've reported it. Stay away from me.

Done with you.

(Report Comment)
Laura Johnston May 20, 2011 | 8:00 p.m.

@Paul: As Michael Williams notes, our policy prohibits name-calling and asks that you remain civil in your discussions. Please take note.

Thanks,
Laura Johnston, interactive news editor

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 8:02 p.m.

"And a few of us who shall remain unnamed (Paul) are notoriously poor point-getters. They are, however, good at re-framing the topic....that means changing the subject, for those who shall remain anonymous (Paul)."

Re-framing? Only Mikey can decide what is central to Mikey's debate when Mikey climbs on. So what is Mikey's central point when he says this?

"Do you really think, Paul, that when a business doubles itself, it's expenses double themselves? Especially on the same site. For the same side-by-side facility that can ship necessities once rather than twice? With a single administration. With current employees that are promotable so you can hire others with less experience and teach them? With a bigger company that can negotiate lower prices for necessities? And a whole host of other things?
Do you really a doubling doubles the expenses for most companies?????????????"

Kind of hard to say exactly what's on his feeble mind, but it appears that Mikey is concerned about the bottom line of some company that wants to bill you and I for the construction of a plant that will leave large amounts of dangerous radioactive waste around the planet for the next next hundred thousand years, that must be protected from leaching into the environment or falling into the hands of people with bad intentions. He could be wanting to raise the value of some stocks. Or he could be wanting a lot of power for something. Who cares.

But upon viewing this next bit, it becomes apparent that Mikey will stoop so low as to try to berate someone for saying something that they didn't ever say. And then he will call them a liar for saying something that actually isn't a lie, that they didn't say. The only way one might perceive a "lie" is if they were able to dull down their brain enough to accept Mikey's selectively convoluted logic.

"Anyone who thinks conservation will reduce out-of-pocket expenses for power....if enuf of us are forced or choose to conserve...deserves to get what they wish for.
Still a lie, tho.
It's ok to sell conservation. It's not ok to get folks on board with a lie.
Unless, of course, you believe the means justifies the end.
Oh......HUGE "aha!" moment."

Wow Mike. This really IS an "AHA" moment. At this point I kind of do hope that your ends justify your means. Because otherwise I would want to feel sorry for you.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 8:05 p.m.

I have a right to my opinion I described Mikey as I perceive him. God help us all if somebody raises Mikey's electric bill even five cents because somebody used less power.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 20, 2011 | 8:08 p.m.

And Mikey, that is at least the twentieth time you have been done with me. Please don't berate me for missing your childish logic that is so apparent that even a child could see it.

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 20, 2011 | 8:48 p.m.

Mikey - You've been peeing in the wind. Wet shoes? Nothing else, I know.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 9:01 p.m.

frank: short memory about some things, I guess.

I kept hoping others would chime in on this topic of "conservation will make power costs go down". There's always stuff to learn from ALMOST everyone, small things that can modify thinking and even big things that change minds.

Unfortunately......didn't happen.

There's another article in today's Missourian about rain gardens. Lawdy, I'd love to post my "Rain gardens don't do squat when it comes to keeping significant run-off out of streams....Do-the-math" rant. Heck, there are many great reasons to have one....but this ain't one of them. It's just another "BIG LIE".

But my shoes are ALREADY wet..........and the dentist and arthritis doctor I saw today didn't improve my topic multi-tasking one damn whit.

So I won't.

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 20, 2011 | 10:38 p.m.

Mike - I have asked more than once for some elaboration on the "minor adjustments" in our way of life, that we are supposed make to "conserve" energy. I asked, specifically, if the "conservation" caused by this recent spike in pump prices would be considered significant in the fight to reduce those harmful emissions. Not yet an answer.

In my opinion, whether conservation makes cost of energy go down is of no consequence to those who predict the death of our planet, by emissions. Short form - the left. They're goal is the control and taxes that can be obtained with legislation regarding this "threat". You know the "environmentalist" Mark Haim and his group are fighting M. Kehoe and MO, as Haim and they did to get the law under fire, passed after they were unable to stop construction on Callaway, with all the demonstrations and law suits they could muster. I feel the debate is over. These people are only interested in reductions in our energy sources and the ensuing reduction in our influence with the rest of the world.

May have bored you, but, another thought. Wanta bet, if we (the people) can get it together and elect a responsible Presidential administration, the EPA will be among those reined in, thus, the dangers of Hinkson Creek and the remedies, rain gardens, will be memories, soon forgotten. Our kids can play (but don't drink) around the "Hink", only creek in the world with a rubber bottom, for untold years to come.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 20, 2011 | 10:57 p.m.

I don't see much "reining in" regardless of the political party in power.

You see....if you can't sell your program to a sufficient number of voters, and you can't sell it to those who originate laws, there's always the courts.

That's the fall-back position at the local, state, and national levels. It works.

PS: Williams' spokesperson, Ima Cynic, said, "The world ends tomorrow....Michael read it on the internet, so it must be true. Michael is truly remorseful he wasted his last precious day on earth arguing with Paul when he could have been doing something more important like self-collection of belly-button lint. Or drinking beer."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 21, 2011 | 8:12 a.m.

"Virtue is its own reward." [Victorian era saying.] A similar notion can be expressed concerning conservation of electric energy. At some future time - maybe not too far in the future - we in this country may be FORCED into conservation, because we will have run up against a rising demand that equals or exceeds our energy supply.

That will occur if available capacity from traditional and "new" sources temporarily proves insufficient. Remember, you cannot run a power grid continuously at 100% of generation capacity: there has to be some generator off time (maintenance).

Since we HAVE NO real energy policy (other than hot air and fond wishes), it's not difficult to see us in a future bind. A typical "government" solution to such a problem is to slap a hefty surcharge on rates to FORCE conservation.

Bottom line: This is about a LOT more than one nuclear reactor or Ameren.

(Report Comment)
frank christian May 21, 2011 | 9:02 a.m.

Mike - Try as I may, I can't help becoming perplexed with the apathy about R's. I've often stated that I'm conservative, not necessarily Republican. If one can accept the situation as it is, surely you can admit that R's are all we've got. The beast that is our gov't lives on money. Starvation is best way of all to tame it. The House in it's first effort to get serious reductions in spending, got this:
"The EPA

Starting with the big daddy, the budget deal will cut $1.6 billion of EPA funds. Win? Loss? Well, Republicans were aiming to cut about twice that much and there was a strong attempt to cut the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, which Obama stood up to firmly, saying he would veto any proposal that attempted to do so even if it meant a government shutdown. But by starting with such a strong attack, Republicans may have made $1.6 billion seem little while it is still extremely significant. A number of other departments are seeing a smaller percentage of their budgets cut and the Department of Defense is actually seeing a budget boost." Obama immediately replaced the business friendly regulations installed by W. Bush. R's balanced the Federal Budget in spite of B. Clinton.

Surely they rate more than inclusion in "regardless of the political party in power."

I never concern myself with belly-button lint, but, Beer?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 21, 2011 | 10:30 a.m.

"Michael is truly remorseful he wasted his last precious day on earth arguing with Paul when he could have been doing something more important like self-collection of belly-button lint."
"But my shoes are ALREADY wet..........and the dentist and arthritis doctor I saw today didn't improve my topic multi-tasking one damn whit."

Thanks Mike for the disgusting mental imagery. It's almost worse than Frank's trickle down education program. Those talking heads should be ASHAMED of the things they eat.

"Mikey - You've been peeing in the wind."

Frank - There ARE other ways to debate.

There are some large issues involved here, some of them more abstract than others, but you two have chosen involuntarily to focus on a small portion of them, namely money. So we can discuss the money.

Labor and administrative overhead is a SMALL component of the cost of running another nuke plant. So even if Ameren could run a new plant to near 100 percent capacity and sell all the power somewhere there isn't going to be any rate reduction. Nuclear energy is one of the most heavily government subsidized industries that I can think of. The fact that you two are rallying for it demonstrates your own level of hypocrisy, after you have repeatedly complained about your taxes and maintained that the only thing that your government knows how to do is screw things up.

But obviously the subsidy from the government isn't enough. At least not for Ameren. It wants the government to extract more subsidy from every paying customer of it's monopoly whether or not they will ever receive power from the paper plant in question. So it isn't as if we are discussing any free market principles here. Frank and Mikey are unthinkingly advocating SOCIALISM when they feel that it has become convenient to themselves. They want the government to do this directly over one of the most solid opinions that the voters ever expressed. They don't care one bit about that or any of the hundreds of other issues involved.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 21, 2011 | 10:55 a.m.

But then, suppose that the plant does not find market for most of it's capacity. Does it cost half as much to operate it at half capacity? Guess.

I would guess that it would cost at least 98 percent of the amount it would take to run it at full capacity. It isn't like someone can pull billets.

So lets imagine some pie in the sky dyed in the wool liberal suggests that we can somehow save money by conserving. At first glance it DOES sound a little too utopian to believe. But let's remember, the government, the one that can't do anything right, is a major customer, lighting your streets at night among other things.

And your government has the technology to reduce the amount of power it needs to accomplish that objective. And your government hire a consultant to study and recommend the most cost objective ways for the largest customers to make similar reductions.

A clear example is the rural outdoor lamps that look like street lights that Ameren will install and maintain for a fixed monthly charge. They are Mercury Vapor, an extremely cheap, functionally obsolete, incredibly inefficient light source that puts out what little light it does in a portion of the spectrum that is most unpleasant to the eyes of the viewer. It requires twice as much maintenance as similar lights that are only slightly more expensive and three times more efficient, namely multivapor and high and low pressure sodium. The better replacements have been around for decades. It is my understanding that LED technology is also becoming economical.

Ameren could easily put the demand curve back many years simply by correcting this deficiency. Ameren is not interested in correcting any deficiency. Ameren is interested in having someone buy it another power plant that it does not want to buy itself. Ameren and it's proponents like Frank and Mikey are confident that their government - the one that doesn't know how to do anything but screw things up - will find a way to store the waste product for the next few hundred thousand years. And we have a lot of structures standing around that are that old, so obviously nobody's taxes will have to pay for that...

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 21, 2011 | 11:16 a.m.

And yes, I'm sure that it would cost less money to build a brand new power plant than it would to install devices that offer the same function but draw less power than what they replaced.

Here is some info from wikipedia...

The use of mercury vapor lamps for lighting purposes will be banned in the EU in 2015. As this ban is designed to phase out less efficient lamps it does not affect the use of mercury in compact fluorescent lamp nor the use of mercury lamps for purposes other than lighting.[8] In the USA, ballasts and fixtures were banned in 2008.[9] Because of this, several manufacturers have begun selling replacement compact fluorescent lamps for mercury vapor fixtures, which do not require modifications to the existing fixture.

Mercury vapor lamps rarely burn out completely but suffer from lumen depreciation. The lamp produces 50% less light every five years, to the point of becoming ineffective while still drawing the same amount of power it drew when it was new. This comes about because the emitter is deposited as a film darkening the arctube wall and reducing light output.[citation needed]

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 21, 2011 | 3:32 p.m.

Paul Allaire wrote:

"Nuclear energy is one of the most heavily government subsidized industries that I can think of."

It is not. Agriculture is.

Solar and wind electrical production is subsidized at a rate of about $24/megawatt hour. Nuclear is about $1.60/mwh. This is, partially, because there is a lot less of solar and wind, but still, renewables are subsidized to a far greater extent, per energy unit, than any other source of electricity.

Lighting isn't a large proportion of energy use. Heating and cooling buildings is the biggie, and this is already done fairly efficiently. Gains in efficiency in heating and cooling will only decrease energy use perhaps 10%. I agree that our cities are too well lit at night, but people will always demand some light, and it's not a big percentage of our use anyway (overall).

I've heard the story of the Ameren exec that said they wouldn't need to build another plant for 20 years and could close Meramec (a 900+ MW coal plant) with efficiency investment. I don't believe that, and it wouldn't be the first time a corporate suit has misread a technical document. From what I read, efficiency investment would merely slow the growth of demand from about 1.5%/year to about 1%/year, and this is consistent with the IRP that Burns and McConnell prepared for Columbia in 2008. Demand for electricity is not going away, and not to plan for it is to ask for third world style electrical service.

DK

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 23, 2011 | 12:50 p.m.

Note that I said "one of". One of the most heavily sub...

The fact that people are using electricity to heat buildings with IS a major part of the problem. The most efficient electric heater wastes more energy than it disperses in heat. I remember a company offering discounted electric rates if customers used electricity for heat. Something is wrong with that.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 23, 2011 | 2:39 p.m.

DK:

When discussing major segments of electrical energy usage, let's not forget industrial processes. Examples are electric arc furnace (EAF) steel making (particularly well-suited for recycling steel scrap), production of aluminum metal, and batch and continuous production of specialty glasses. Numerous electric furnaces are employed in foundry applications, to produce metals and metal alloys.

These devices aren't uniformly located around the United States. Their power requirements (and therefore cost of operation) tend to be high, so they are typically located where power rates are favorable.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 23, 2011 | 2:48 p.m.

Paul Allaire wrote:

"The fact that people are using electricity to heat buildings with IS a major part of the problem."

It is. In the Midwest most of our heat comes from natural gas, but lots of other places use it a lot more.

Heat pumps and passive solar are efficient, and work well in different places, but 100 million homes and 30 million odd commercial buildings are going to take a LONG time (as well as trillions of dollars) to convert.

The cost of the average residential ground-coupled heat pump is around $20,000, and most existing buildings cannot use passive solar to any great extent. Those people that use electricity for heat are going to be using it for quite a while into the future.

"I remember a company offering discounted electric rates if customers used electricity for heat. Something is wrong with that."

CWL does that. It's the same reasoning that gives Noranda (the aluminum company) the lowest rates per kwh in Missouri.

Insulation and weatherstripping are the most cost effective energy conservation measures a homeowner can take, and CWL offers audits and low cost loans for people that want to do that. Problem is that electricity and natural gas are cheap enough that it's not worth the hassle to a lot of people.

DK

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 23, 2011 | 2:59 p.m.

Ellis Smith wrote:

"Their power requirements (and therefore cost of operation) tend to be high, so they are typically located where power rates are favorable."

Sure, like Noranda. Missouri has some of the lowest electrical rates in the US.

Tampa, FL, used to have a glass plant (Thatcher Glass) that bought mixed cullet (various colors of broken and intact glass) when I was a young and struggling half-assed college student (who, of course, was going to be a rock star). I remember they had a fairly good sized electrical substation outside of the plant. I also understand one of the reasons for closing the plant was cost of operation (Florida has fairly high electrical rates compared to other places in the South).

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 23, 2011 | 4:38 p.m.

Melting glass batches containing glass cullet (ground recycled glass) uses less energy than if one melts the same batch made from all "virgin" components (no cullet). Most glass producers use cullet in their batches.

Gawd! Thatcher Glass. Haven't heard that name in years! My personal favorite is Gallo Glass, California. Care to guess what end product Gallo Glass makes? (They're made for a range of California wineries, who either put corks or screw tops on them.)

Some of us must stifle laughs when "ecology" folks start talking about recycling. Why? Because the metallurgical and ceramic industries have been routinely "recycling" material for more than 100 years!

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 23, 2011 | 6:09 p.m.

I fail to see the humor. Possibly you could explain the joke.

(Report Comment)

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