1. While I too have corrected those that have tried to throw that quote in my face, I have always believed that it will come true in every aspect one day. Now I don’t think that day has come yet, you are right that it is closer now than it ever has been.

  2. For wind power advocates, the fact that nuclear power has low fuel costs is a disadvantage: it makes nuclear “inflexible” to backup intermittent wind. Natural gas has high fuel costs and benefits from being turned off intermittently, that makes it “flexible”. Tortured logic.

    1. @Jerry – the logic makes a lot more sense when you realize that many wind turbine advocates work for natural gas companies.

      1. It it possible T. Boone gave up on wind because his assumptions were wrong (that he actually realized he’s in competition with himself)? DOE study (quoted in NREL) suggests 20% wind by 2030 will reduce natural gas consumption by 50% compared to “no new wind” case, and reduce coal consumption by 18%. How is this mojo so, you ask:
        In New York, for example, a study prepared for the independent system operator (ISO) found that if wind energy provided 10% of the state

        1. EL – You’re assuming that Picken’s plan was to make a lot of money from electricity generation.

        2. @ El – you quoted, “In New York, for example, a study prepared for the independent system operator (ISO) found that if wind energy provided 10% of the state

          1. “… in order to provide a”firm” capacity of 1-watt with the reliability of one coal plant.”
            I remember reading that paper. When the authors state that they could generate a certain amount of electricity with the “reliability of one coal plant” they actually meant that they found the collection of wind farms produces 15% of its rated capacity (or more) about 87.5% of the time, which is the capacity factor that they assumed for an average coal plant.
            Thus, the authors conclude, this 15% of the capacity of the 19-site collection of wind farms should be considered “reliable, baseload electric power.” This is, of course, absurd.
            There’s nothing at all reliable about this generation. The owner of the coal plant determines which 87.5% of the year it generates electricity. Meanwhile, the weather determines the 87.5% probability that the collection of wind farms might be generating at least this much power. The owner of the turbines can do nothing to change this. Therefore, it’s silly to compare the two and claim that one is as reliable as the other.
            The funniest part about this study is that it was not published in any of the energy-related journals, but rather in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, which explains, I suppose, how this conclusion got past the reviewers.

            1. I had to chuckle when I read the Stanford article and got to the term “firm” capacity. Through the rest of the article, all I could think of was “Viva Viagra!”

        3. When proposing something as critical as a major power generation system, the onus should be on those making the proposal to prove beyond any shadow of doubt that, say, yes, the meteorological data does support the contention that distributing wind turbines over region X will certainly allow Y% reliable delivery of Z GW to the grid. It should not be up to critics to challenge unsupported claims to that effect, but somehow wind proponents have managed to get away with this absurd inversion of responsibility.

          1. Proponents can get away with making ridiculous claims about “wind power” because there is very little data to counter their claims. In the US, only BPA publshes real-time power output. I cannot find wind power outputs, either real-time, or summary data, for any other wind farm in the US. So proponents hide behind rated capacities and capacity factors that only the wind farm owners and their utilitiy customers know. For example, I cannot look up any data at all for any wind farm in my home state of New Mexico, including new and supposedly state-of-the-art wind farms like High Lonesome Mesa, running forty 2.5MW Clipper turbines.

            1. @Paul Lindsey. You can find these numbers for Alberta, which has the largest installed wind capacity (at 497 MW) of any Province in Canada. Weekly operational and market reports are published on the “wind power studies” page of the Alberta Electric System Operator (“AESO”).
              Alberta is a little odd for wind because they have great wind resources, no tie lines with US, and very little hydro in Province. It’s one of the least interconnected grids in the country. Power consumption has doubled since 1987, and the only significant new transmission is to Fort McMurray (for oil sands development). Alberta’s electricity reserve margin dropped from 23% in 2003 to 7% in 2008. “The transmission system is now wasting enough electricity to power half the city of Red Deer” says Martin Merritt (Alberta’s Market Surveillance Administrator for AESO).
              And yet, Alberta is looking at distributed generation from renewables as one way to alleviate transmission congestion and bring more stability to the grid. Taxes are low in Alberta, and it seems nobody wants to spend money on new transmission (despite boom times at Ft. McMurray). As the market report for AESO shows, when the wind is blowing they are running their wind farms in the 60-85% range of nameplate capacity. When imports are needed, they most likely come from BC in the form of hydro.

                1. That is interesting – it is now 0630 and wind appears to running at less than 20% of capacity. The point we are generally trying to make here is that humans do not control what the wind does. The system load is probably quite a bit less at 3:43 than it is at 6:30 but the wind is doing less, not doing more.
                  For the record, total net generation (which is equal to demand) is 7399, wind is just 150/777 = 19% at this moment in time. I will check back at a different time several times during the day.

                  1. TNG 7465
                    Wind 134/777 = 17% of installed wind and just 1.8% of system total net generation.
                    04:55 Alberta time.

              1. EL – I was intentionally very specific in saying “in the US.” Eirgrid (Ireland) posts realtime data and has downloadable data in 15 min increments. I have also pulled data in MWh/hr chunks from Denmark’s westside wind. I haven’t checked Alberta’s data stream yet, but a few months ago I pulled a years’ worth of data from Denmark. From 4/21/09 through 4/20/10, Denmark’s entire westside wind production had a cf of 20.0%. The rated capacity was 3180 MW, but the average hourly production was 636.1 MWh, with a 1 Std Dev of 505.4 MWh. When I charted it, it looked like a seisomograph output.

              2. @EL
                It is now 00:17 Alberta time.
                Total Net Generation – 7748
                Total Net Generation from Wind 92 MW out of an installed capacity for wind of 777 MW (not 497 as you reported)
                % of installed wind capacity actually being produced 92/777 = 12%
                % of Alberta’s power being produced by wind 1.2% even though wind capacity is nearly 6% of the system capacity.

                1. It is now 11:27 Alberta time. Apparently there is a high pressure area there.
                  Total Net Generation – 8487 and increasing
                  Total Net Generation from 777 MW of wind capacity – 18 MWe. That is 2.3% of the installed capacity from a widely distributed set of 14 wind farms. It is also just 0.2% of the demanded electricity from a power source that represents 6% of the installed generation capacity for the system.
                  Quite a bargain.

  3. To some, the “too cheap to meter” statement may sound rather strange. However, when those words were spoken in 1954, unmetered electricity was still a living memory.
    I have next to me on my desk a copy of The Story of The Washington Water Power Company, 1889-1930. The company changed its name some years ago to Avista Utilities, but still serves areas in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Even before the beginning of the Great Depression, WWPCo. was buying up small electric power companies in the area, a number of which that did NOT meter electricity to residential customers. Instead, those customers were billed monthly on watts of connected load. Here are some examples: Inland Power and Light in Cottonwood, Idaho, purchased in 1930, 1

    1. You know that rings a bell. I recall once overhearing a conversation about electricity co-ops in Canada prior to the Second World War that charged a flat rate largely because metering was too expensive. Apparently though, one could subscribe only as an electric light customer, or if you wanted to use appliances, as a electric power customer at a different monthly charge, or both.

  4. There’s also the issue of “Distribution Charges” – I live in Ohio, a state where you can purchase your generation from different suppliers – but you still have to deal with the local monopoly for distribution. Distribution charges, currently, are about 30% of my cost of energy. Even if generation charges dropped down to 1 cent/kWh, I’d still have distribution charges of 2.2 cents/kWh (and I’m guessing my distribution charges are probably quite cheap compared to some parts of the country).
    Meaning that, I don’t think it would be possible for electricity to ever get “too cheap to meter”, unless Ohio forced the local incumbents to offer a monthly ‘subscription’ price for distribution – which would probably just end up being more expensive – in my experience, “all you can use” pricing (like cell phones) is often just a way to disguise a bad deal.
    The thing is, companies will always find a way to try to extract as much revenue as they can from customers, and the *actual cost of service* (e.g. how much it costs *them* to provide the service) often have no relationship at all with the price the customer pays.
    I rather like ‘metered’ pricing – as long as the per-unit pricing is reasonable (the only reason, in my opinion, that a lot of American’s over the past few years have gone to ‘unlimited’ phone plans for their cellphones, was because the cell phone companies had crooked pricing schemes where your monthly minutes which were included in your plans might come out to a per-minute cost of, say, 10 cents/minute. But then, if you went over your monthly allotment, you were suddenly charged 50 cents or more per minute. Talk an extra hour (which is really easy to do) and you might have an extra 30 dollars on your monthly phone bill.
    There’s no way that your talking an extra hour cost the phone company an extra $20-30 – it was just good old fashioned price-gouging. So, people signed up for ‘unlimited’ plans at like $100/mo just because it still ended up being cheaper than overage charges (if they talked a lot), and they didn’t constantly have to monitor their usage.
    Luckily, gas and electric have a linear pricing model, where the per-unit charges are consistent no matter how much you use – I *really*, *really* like that model. It’s fair to everyone.
    That said, I agree wtih Rod about nuclear power pricing. Right now, I’ve seen statistics that we get 20% of our power from nuclear. I’m pretty sure that nuclear is currently keeping our power prices, nationally, lower than they otherwise would be if we didn’t have those nuclear plants (that’s a difficult proposition to prove, but based on basic laws of supply and demand, it seems very reasonable to presume that), and I would bet that if we as a nation had been able to keep building power plants for the last 30 years, at the prices they were paying to build them in the 60’s (before the price to build went up something ridiculous like 10 times), such that say, 60 – 80 percent of our power were being produced by nuclear, we’d probably be paying quite a bit less per-unit for power by now.
    Any source which only supplies 20% of market demand cannot dominate the pricing for that good or service – it can have an effect, but it can’t be the primary driver of price.

    1. @Jeff – the issue that I have with a linear “per-unit” pricing model is that it is divorced from any relationship between the production and delivery COST and the production and delivery PRICE.
      There really is such a thing as “economy of scale”. Once a manufacturer and deliverer has invested all of the capital required each additional unit of production costs far less than the initial units. If you have two customers next to each other and they both have the same size line going into their home or place of business, both of the cost the company essentially the same amount. The company has to have the ability to provide up to their full peak needs; that means having the installed equipment and having the people who keep that equipment running, produce the bills, answer the service calls, and put the wires back up if they get knocked down in a storm.
      If one of the customers is carefree with their use of electricity, they might pay a monthly bill of $400. If the other one is frugal, they might pay a monthly bill of $200. Which one do you think is more profitable for the power company, especially if the power company’s fuel bill is essentially constant, no matter how much power they produce?
      It is a thought that bothers many, but volume discounts and encouraging carefree purchases of your product are good business practices. Just ask Sam Walton – except he is dead now.

  5. Last year I put my electricity on the “Level Pay Plan.” I heat my house with electricity (heat pump) and, unlike NY, NJ, or CA it is cheap enough that I don’t worry about the air conditioner costs, but I do set it close to the “recommended” temperatures. The biggest shock was that now my Cable TV bill is bigger than my electric bill! And I have no premium channels, just the HD option.

  6. Rod, there is more to the NES story than just decommissioning. Lawsuits were involved between NES and the person you’re referring to. He also was involved in providing spent fuel racks to VY which didn’t fit. So besides making more money now than when he worked at NES he also has an axe to grind against the plant that revealed his incompetency. Unfortunately, this is what you come to expect in Vermont. An expert is anyone who has risen to their full level of incompetency.

    1. Jim – you are right, I was trying to be brief. However, there is more to his antinuclear activism than just fighting against Vermont Yankee. He has recently testified in Florida against new Turkey Point reactors and he has been making a lot of noises about the containment design for the AP1000. A man with a grudge and a 40 year old pair of degrees from RPI is a very dangerous opponent whose incompetence and mixed motives need to be exposed – repeatedly.

      1. One of the signatures of the anti-nuclear “nuclear experts” is that they are expert on everything. New designs. Corrosion. Groundwater remediation. Decommissioning. Health effects of organically bound tritium. Meanwhile, us poor pro-nuke activists, with our more recent real-life experience–we are always deferring to each other’s expertise. Howard knows plant operations. I know corrosion. We both ask Dr. Ed Maher of the Energy Education Project board of advisors (and current president of the Health Physics Society) about health issues. But if the anti-nukes have an expert, that person is truly an all-around, all-purpose expert.

    2. That’s kinda remeniscent of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer is appointed Safety Officer for the nuclear plant. Mr. Burns chides Smithers over his scepticism of Homer’s competence, stating that accidents are way down since he started as Safety Officer. Smithers points out that the decline is an exact match for the number of accidents Homer was known to have directly caused before starting his new position.

  7. When I was consulting in Kuwait I experienced electricity too cheap to meter. Power and desalinated water were coproduced from oil energy. Some stalls in the souk were simply rocks on the ground with a board across, serving as a counter. Behind the merchant, in the open air desert, was a huge portable air conditioner, blowing cool air onto the open air merchant. Kuwait had to introduce metering.

    1. @Robert – when were you in Kuwait? I imagine that the government there has changed things up a bit now that they have figured out that every barrel they burn at home is another barrel that they cannot sell into the international market at $80-90 per barrel. When the international market could not take any more oil without forcing a price collapse, many oil producers were just as wasteful at home.
      Those days are ending rather violently as the days of cheap gasoline are ending in even Iran and Venezuela.

  8. The cost of nuclear power produced in Vermont is less than the cost of the taxes added, and we all know that taxes will never be too cheap to meter.

  9. One of your best articles, and that’s saying a great deal! Thank you, Rod. I learned a lot.

  10. I did my own completely amateur cost estimate lately, with this result: 0.1 percent for fuel and operation, 9.9 for building the plant, and 90 for dealing with all sorts of hurdles erected by opponents of nuclear power.

    That third factor doesn’t seem to enter your picture, but I think it has grown massively compared to 50 years ago.

    That in turn means that economies of scale don’t make so much sense any more, since smaller units are harder to oppose.

    The Japanese Minister for national policy Gemba was quoted in the WSJ lately as advocating for smaller nuclear units.

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