1. The production tax credit for wind energy has passionate opponents in the nuclear industry. This is because in about half the country, electrically speaking, the wholesale price of electricity is set by auction, and when there is oversupply, prices drop. Sometimes they drop below zero.

    This is a problem for generators that run on coal or natural gas, but within minutes or hours they can reduce their output. Reactors, however, cannot easily lower their power output. Thus, at hours when wholesale electricity prices go negative, operators often end up paying to generate electricity.

    At Exelon, the country’s largest civilian reactor operator, executives say one of its Illinois plants sees negative prices during 14 percent of the off-peak hours. And some of its plants could be shut as uncompetitive next year, not because of their true production costs, but because of the wind subsidy, the company argues. Exelon was a member of the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s trade group, but was expelled in September 2012 because it opposed extension of the production tax credit.

    1. @George C

      One thing that I have not yet been able to deduce is the effect of essentially replacing the Production Tax Credit with the Investment Tax Credit for most projects completed since 2009. Since the ITC is not tied to production, it seems to me that the negative pricing pressure may be lessened. I have not yet found any discussion about this topic.

  2. I think it’s worth mentioning that the governors of both Connecticut and Massachusetts coerced Northeast Utilities and Nstar to agree to purchase electricity from Cape wind at $227 per MW-hr in order for their merger to proceed.

    1. Oh, Really??? And do have we a link for that? One does realize, of course, that UK DECC’s strike price with EDF of 89.5 pound/MWh for reliable dispatchable energy from Hinkley Point C, that causes so much heartburn, amounts to only $143/MWh? Its for 35 years, of course. But that’s less than half an EPR’s expected 80 year life.

        1. That $187/MWh does not seem to include federal $22/MWh PTC, which would boost to $209/MWh. On the plus side, according to Cape Wind President Jim Gordon, “With this decision, Massachusetts electric consumers have secured an abundant, inexhaustible and clean energy resource that provides price stability and avoids all of the external costs of fossil fuels.”

          So that’s all right, then.

            1. @EL

              Correct. Cape Wind is obviously led by people who are savvy enough to recognize the time value of money and compute that a 30% Investment Tax Credit paid as soon as the project begins production is FAR more lucrative. The PTC would be dribbled out over ten years; it’s amount would be dependent on those fickle Nantucket Sound winds.

          1. … 30% Investment Tax Credit paid as soon as the project begins production is FAR more lucrative.

            @Rod Adams

            It’s my understanding, based on one of your sources, that a PTC is typically a more lucrative subsidy than an ITC. What it lacks in overall cash benefit (for early FOAK projects such as Cape Wind), it perhaps gains in helping to secure early investors since credit is non-transferable and only benefits those involved in a project from the beginning. Oil and gas industry has been benefiting from such tax credits for many decades (at a very high level and over longer time frames for project).

            Repeal of these credits for renewables doesn’t help nuclear any (particularly in helping to scale and develop manufacturing capacity and operational experience for new technologies), but instead is a primary benefit to industries that are already well established (oil and gas). I don’t see this as an anomaly (or a gift for a particular industry as you put it), but something that levels a rigged game (and more broadly shares real costs among a variety of private and public stakeholders for projects that for many reasons directly serve the public interest).

            1. @EL

              From the source you provided:

              The types of projects in which the ITC was more valuable are those with higher project costs in relation to wind capabilities of the particular facility site. However, in these situations, it may be proper to determine how desirable a higher- cost, lower-production wind facility is to the industry.

              Offshore wind is substantially more capital intensive that onshore wind.

              Here is another source illustrating why Cape Wind would be foolish to choose the ITC.

              http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/45359.pdf (see table 2. Cape Wind is off-scale high and right with a projected cost of $6,000 per kilowatt capacity – $2,600,000,000/430,000 kw)

          2. Here is another source illustrating why Cape Wind would be foolish to choose the ITC.

            Cape Wind doesn’t have a choice. Qualifying for PTC require units to be in service by 2012 (and timeline is 2016). Unless some kind of waver is granted.

            And I still see the PTC as being a much better deal. Higher up front costs, but also better wind resource offshore (and projected 37.1% capacity factor). With high wind also matching cold spells and high natural gas usage, it might end up being a pretty good deal for consumers.

            1. @EL

              I wrote about the PTC extension that was inserted into a last minute bill in 2012.


              The 30% ITC option was part of that extension. Otherwise, wind energy does not qualify unless it meets the “begin construction” standard of the PTC extension.

              I’ve sailed on Nantucket Sound. So have some of the primary critics of Cape Wind. We believe that the CF numbers are optimistic. The wind is fickle out there; sometimes good, sometimes too much, often missing in action.

  3. Berkshire Hathaway, through MidAmerican Energy, also recently placed a large order for wind turbines from Siemens.

    There is a big scramble on to meet the December 31 deadline. By all accounts, it does look like the PTC/ITC is nearing an end. The negative power pricing that George C mentions makes it difficult for merchant power producers to compete. Kewaunee is one victim. Vermont Yankee will only produce power for another year.

    1. And how bout this reality: nuclear systems have been a playground for scientists and engineers who are almost perfect in their pursuit of ‘How to lose a lot of money real fast’.

      “Great deal more expensive than originally expected” should be the phd motto.

      People around here don’t seem to know much history. Post-war Britain was going to generate vast riches via Nuclear Systems. Now look at Britain today…phd Paradise, and yet no industry of any kind except hedge funds and universities crying out for more funds to waste.

      1. Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power ( http://www.csvts.cz/cns/news13/prevent.pdf )

        global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

        Based on global projection data that take into account the e
        ffects of Fukushima, we find that by mid century, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7.04 million deaths and 80 to 240 GtCO2 emissions due to fossil fuels, depending on which fuel it replaces. By contrast, we assess that large scale expansion of natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and
        would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power.

        And more of a cautious and conservative study I might add.

  4. Jim Gordon stated:
    Of course, we want to make a profit. We want to make money because it’s important that people in this industry see that it’s not just coal and petroleum coke people that can make money, but renewable energy developers can also make money. Because if they don’t, we’re not going to have innovation in this industry.

    But it matters how one makes money. One can design a system that makes electric power at a lower cost. This is real engineering, which is doing for $1 what any damn fool can do for $3. The benefits fall both to the designers and to society in general. The other way of making money is to design an electric power generating system that qualifies for subsidies provided by taxpayers, and qualifies for preferential treatment of its expensive output of megawatt-hours. The benefits fall to the designers, but society as a whole is doubly burdened by needlessly expensive energy, and higher taxes to subsidize that same expensive energy.

    Before anyone sites the $452 million that Congress has authorized to defray the cost of obtaining a Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification for small modular reactors (SMR), recall that a large part of those costs (and a significant chunk of the cost of SMRs) is due to excessively burdensome regulation that does little to enhance safety. Indeed, reducing regulation would enhance safety, because it would allow the more widespread use of the nuclear energy, displacing other more dangerous forms of energy, while lowering (not increasing) the cost of electrical energy.

    1. “…(SMR), recall that a large part of those costs (and a significant chunk of the cost of SMRs) is due to excessively burdensome regulation”

      No it isn’t. The problem with SMR’s is the same problem with large LWR’s: the need of a containment dome.

      “Indeed, reducing regulation would enhance safety, because it would allow the more widespread use of the nuclear energy,”

      No. There is no growth in developed nuclear countries because of the upcoming need to upgrade existing reactors. Even in pro-nuclear Russia where regulation is not a problem, it is doubtful that they will generate more electricity from reactors in 2030 than today.

      The reason Germany abandoned nuclear systems is because they had a very miserable and costly experience decommissioning Russian reactors in East Germany plus the AVR fiasco.

      In the pro-nuclear UK, again, nothing but problems with phds and their grandiose nuclear plans. The simple aggressive ideology of innovation (fast breeders, reprocessing, etc) has left their nuclear industry in ruins today.

      1. I’m sure you have references for all your assertions, starvinglion? I believe that there are welfare scientists out there, but your blanket assessment of an entire industry is ignorant – especially when you provide zero citation.

        You completely fail to realize the level of regulatory nightmare that the NRC has produced in the United States and has exported abroad. The nuclear industry has been completely handicapped by government red tape. The fact that you fail to even take this into consideration any more than a baseless dismissal is telling about your dogmatic talking point spiels.

  5. Remember when environmentalists and naturalists had a cow if you just posted a single billboard near a beach. 130 massive (rotor diameter – 110 m, hub height – 80 m, nacelle weight – 100 tons) turbines don’t bother them now?

    1. They don’t. And I don’t believe that starting construction will be the end of opposition. Even if this gets built it will probably be the first … and last. What’s going on with natural gas is frustrating to a lot of us (I don’t believe prices are going to stay low at all, and I don’t believe this addresses climate change), but it has had one benefit … it is killing wind. So, we may be spared watching a lot of these things rusting away for decades, if they don’t get built at all.

  6. From Wikepedia:

    “The ratio of actual productivity in a year to this theoretical maximum is called the capacity factor. Typical capacity factors are 15–50%;”

    The good thing is that people in the Northeast will only have to be paying for the expensive electricity effectively half the time.

    When a power company attempts to build a new unit, they need to justify the need to the Public Service Commission (PUC). I’d think this would be the policy in most states. Does the PUC have any say with this expensive wind power? It seems like they are not exercising proper due diligence if they just let robber barons build these things and force the state’s ratepayers to pay these spinning white elephants off.

    The Northeast is a long ways from the low sulfur western coal, they are closing down their nukes and they’ve got boondoggle wind projects to pay off. If the price of natural gas takes a spike, they’ll be hurtin’ for certain.

    1. Henry Hub price for Natural Gas today is up to $4.508/MMBtu. Granted, the Henry Hub price is a bit decoupled from the New York gate price now, with the Marcellus Shale production and the New England price is highly demand dependent, due to insufficient pipeline capacity.


    2. New England has a deregulated wholesale electricity market. The electricity is produced by merchant plants who bid into the system. Consumers can choose which supplier they want to purchase from, if they don’t choose a supplier they get the “Standard Offer” which is negotiated between the providers and the local utility. The only rate the regulator can control is the delivery charge which pays for system maintenance.

  7. Just to be fair, new nuclear build also gets a PTC of about the same amount as renewables, although it is ended after 10 years. This turns out to be a big difference, however, because the average lifetime of a wind turbine is 22 years (Danish average) while NPPs last 50 years or more. Thus the PTC lasts for nearly half the lifetime of the wind turbine, only 20%-ish of the NPP lifetime.

    The obvious solution is a rising tax on fossil carbon, combined with elimination of PTC and ITC subsidies (including for nuclear) and RES standards. Let non-fossil sources compete on a level playing field while actually reducing carbon emissions. I have no doubt which technologies would win that competition.

    1. @Keith Pickering

      There are substantial differences in the PTC for nuclear compared to other sources of power. It is limited to a fixed number of MWe, it is not indexed for inflation (thus will still be 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour, even when the PTC for wind grows to 3.0 cents per kilowatt hour), and there is a finite payment per unit that actually limits the potential benefit for an AP-1000 running breaker to breaker between refuelings to 1.2 cents per kilowatt hour. Nuclear plants were also ineligible for the ITC in lieu of PTC option.

      Besides, there has not been a single dime paid to nuclear plant operators under the PTC passed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

      1. Rod, is there an authoritative source I can refer to that explains those wrinkles in the nuclear PTC?

        1. @EL

          It’s not the amount of the PTC that’s the real problem. Until a project get completed and begins operating, the PTC is merely a promise that does nothing to help pay the cost of developing the project.

          Until the ARRA and the lucrative ITC and section 1603 cash grant option, most projects eligible for the PTC had to engage in complex transactions to sell off their future tax equity income steam for near term cash. It’s an inefficient way to spend taxpayer money since banks, lawyers and accountants take a big slice of the dough.

        2. @EL

          Thanks for the link. Note that the proposed bill would offer nuclear developers a 10% ITC vice a 30% ITC. It would look good and would have resulted in a satisfying large total dollar amount for Kerry & Lieberman to brag about as offering substantial support for nuclear. It would not be enough to actually help overcome the financial barriers and regulatory uncertainties that already exist. Like the infamous loan guarantee program, it would not actually cost the Treasury any money.

    2. “I have no doubt which technologies would win that competition.”

      They’ll all lose. The only winning “technology” today is prison labor + extremely rapid environmental destruction.

      The winners are the unsafe operators who strip away all the safety junk that the Phd Experts in Bankrupting designed in the first place.

      If you’re all poo pooing the effects of Fukushima and Chernobyl, then why bother with a growth killer like containment domes?

      1. You really do live in a horrible world don’t you? Excessive pessimism is just as unrealistic as excessive optimism. Or are you just excessively grumpy?

  8. “If you’re all poo pooing the effects of Fukushima and Chernobyl, then why bother with a growth killer like containment domes?”

    Hmmmmm, would a LFTR need a containment dome? A reactor that produces heat at sea level pressure may not need .a dome.

    “The obvious solution is a rising tax on fossil carbon, combined with elimination of PTC and ITC subsidies (including for nuclear)”

    The new EPA rules on emissions are already a very substantial tax on many utilities that burn coal. Companies that supply emissions control equipment are going to have banner years. The CO2 limitations make it virtually impossible to build a new coal plant.

  9. “For projects like Cape Wind, the IRS determined that promoters can qualify for the 30% tax credit by incurring 5% of the total project cost by the end of 2013.”

    Is this the same IRS that illegally targeting Tea Party groups and members while allowing green party activists to go Scot free? And who exactly voted for the President that not only allowed but encouraged this kind of activity, who appointed an anti-nuclear jerk as NRC Commissioner, and then replaced him with a no-nothing geologist? The Narcissist President who gives millions – even billions – to useless, worthless wind and solar companies that eventually went bankrupt? And who supports him? Can it be all those evil so-called GOP corporations like Exxon Mobil and Shell?

    Yes, corporate socialism – anti-nuclear corporate socialism sponsored by the same party that was on the wrong side in 1860.

    1. @Paul Primavera

      Please don’t let your ideology get in the way of clear eyed evaluation of the facts. Yes, the IRS has questioned the tax exempt status of Tea Party groups that have openly declared themselves to be politically involved. That is the way the law is written, by the way. Just because a group is involved in legal advocacy of a position does not make them eligible to be a tax exempt non-profit enterprise. Political activity is not supposed to be a tax exempt educational endeavor.

      Jaczko was already a commissioner when President Obama was elected. Obama certainly deserves blame for promoting him to be the Chairman.

      There are plenty of large corporations that are heavily involved in running the country – in addition to the multinational fossil fuel companies that you mentioned, think about GE, Siemens, Next Era, Exelon, many Wall Street banks, etc. They like those billions in direct subsidies and bailouts when things eventually fall apart.

      1. Yes, the IRS has questioned the tax exempt status of Tea Party groups that have openly declared themselves to be politically involved.

        Rod – It’s not the questioning of tax exempt status that pisses people off, it’s the asymmetric nature of the investigations. If the administration had been investigating everyone and all groups with the same scrutiny, that would be one thing. That was obviously not the case, however.

        One of the accusations that was brought against Nixon is that his administration was trying to use the IRS to target his enemies. Nixon was ultimately forced to resign. Sadly, we don’t hold our Presidents as accountable these days.

        Jaczko was already a commissioner when President Obama was elected.

        And whose fault was that? (Hint: it wasn’t someone with an “R” beside his name.)

        Who is letting ideology get in the way of clear-eyed evaluation of the facts?

        1. @Brian Mays

          Reid certainly worked hard to put Jaczko on the Commission, but all commissioners have to be nominated by the President. I acknowledge that there is shared responsibility, but I cannot absolve Bush of all blame.

          With regard to the IRS actions, there is room for discussion, but that is getting way off topic. I hope that people here recognize that I consider myself a classic liberal, not a supporter of the planks of any existing party.


          1. Reid certainly worked hard to put Jaczko on the Commission

            Rod – In this case “working hard” was blocking judicial appointments by Bush — the same thing that Reid has recently chastised the Republicans for doing and even recently changed the rules of the Senate to get around the problem!

            My irony detector just exploded from overload.

            You can “blame” whomever you want, but it does not change the facts. If there were no Reid, there would have been no Jaczko. If Gore or Kerry had been elected instead of Bush, Jaczko simply would have been appointed even sooner.

            You do realize that your complaints of “blame” and “shared responsibility” simply boils down to an argument that the Republicans should fight the Democrats even harder, right? It’s practically a commercial for Tea Party tactics.

            Just for the record, that is not a situation that I endorse at all.

            1. @Brian Mays

              I’m no fan of the Republicrat Establishment. I push back against the notion that one of the parties is any better than the other.

              I’m in the midst of some heavy reading about the flurry of acts that gave us NEPA, the EPA, and the NRC, which harmed nuclear development as much as the decisions made during the Carter Administration. Can you guess which president pushed those pieces of legislation?

          2. Rod – Don’t forget the Endangered Species Act, which turned 40 yesterday.

            If there’s one thing you can say about Richard Nixon, it’s that he could adapt. Notorious for being a staunch anti-communist, it was he who opened communist China to the West — an act of monumental significance for Wal-Mart shoppers even to this day.

            What did you expect him to do as he found himself in office at a time when hippiedom reached its zenith?

            Creating the EPA was probably Nixon’s second biggest mistake — after trying to cover up for some of his men in the aftermath of the Watergate burglary. I doubt, however, that Nixon foresaw what the agency would eventually become. The EPA in the early years was nothing like what we have today.

            By the way, I was merely commenting on two specific, rather despicable politicians. Paul was the one who brought political party into the comments.

        2. I don’t think anyone credible has claimed Obama or any political appointee ordered, incited, counselled, or otherwise encouraged or promoted the IRS investigations. In fact, they were completely unaware of them and responded promptly to shut them down when discovered. Having the civil service do stupid stuff behind the President’s back is hardly high cromes , or misdemeanors that justify impeachment.

          I do know the vast majority of people here – including people who pretend otherwise – hate “Caliph Hussein” – and probably some think the US is rapidly becoming the nation where East Germany meets Sharia, and Elizabeth Warren and Sandra Fluke have their Burkas measured and tailored for the moment of revelation of America’s Islamic future. That’s just the nuclear industry in particular and the energy industry in general – to the right of Atilla the Hun.

          But even though most hate Obummer, can we stick to factual allegations of the Evil One’s maleficence? Civil servants within the IRS targeted Tea Party groups on their own with no involvement of political appointees or the Obamolech. (The Great Shaitan was too busy turning the Washington Monument iand Reflecting Pool into a giant bong to choke the Tea Party with marijuana smoke to celebrate the Islamic festival of Ashura.)

          PS. Is Paul Ionasses replacement? He’s not quite as insulting or personally
          attacking but seems to come from a simolar background and agenda – attacking Dems and promoting Reps.

          PPS. If the Radical Republicans of the Civil War were around today, I’d vote for them, too. Today’s Republican Party is so far from the ideologies and sympathies of the 1850s – 1870s, of Lincoln, Sumner, and Seward, that they would be shocked and embarrassed to be associated with folks like Dubya, Cheney, and the Tea Party.

          1. Dave – Ah, yes … plausible deniability is a godsend, isn’t it?

            In Harry Truman’s time, “the buck” stopped here. In this administration, only the bus stops here. We just need to find out who is next to be thrown under the bus.

            So you’ve boiled it all down to a question of corruption or incompetence, eh? Either way it doesn’t look good, but to tell you the truth, I think it’s a case of the latter too ;-), so we agree on something.

            But please don’t put words in my mouth. If President Obama should be impeached, I think that he should be impeached for violating Article II, Section 3, Clause 5, of the US Constitution. Although the list of situations in which he failed to live up to his responsibilities under the Constitution are quite long, they also include his failure to faithfully execute the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, and so this is relevant to the discussion on a nuclear-oriented blog. Capisce?

            By the way, do you really think that the President of the United States has enough spare time to plan, organize, or even instigate a “third-rate burglary”?

            Furthermore, where do you get off accusing me of doing anything?! If pointing out that Richard Nixon had to resign because he was about to be impeached is a case of “promoting Reps” then you have a very twisted idea of promoting! Were you drunk when you wrote this comment?

        3. “The EPA in the early years was nothing like what we have today.” I think they have always had a hair …
          In 1975 While working at TMI, somehow during the Hurricane Eloise related flood of the Susquehanna River, MetEd was issued some type of citation or fine? for pumping the dirty water that was in some of the lower areas on the island back into the river. The flood prevention brim/dike around the island sort of makes it like a bowl. Seems that the EPA had issued an earlier warning for using river water pumped by a gasoline driven pump to wash down the crud and trash that had accumulated in the screen house (where the river water is filtered by a screen before it is pumped by the large pumps used for cooling) and the EPA was looking for a more significant violation. Been to long to remember all of the specifics, but it seemed comical that we could not pump water that had come from the river back into the river. Their justification was that the water did not meet the discharge requirements we had agreed to.

          1. I think they have always had a hair …

            I don’t disagree, but I think that the comparison between then and now is like comparing tiger cubs to full-grown tigers.

  10. As a Massachusetts resident who vacations on Cape Cod at least twice a year this whole thing makes me sick.

    Most BWR’s don’t use a containment “dome” (by dome I assume you mean a large ambient dry volume containment) even some PWRs use a type of pressure suppression scheme with an ice condenser.

    One could argue that if Fuku did not have an air tight containment there would have been no need to vent noble gasses and hydrogen and no build up of hydrogen to explosive levels.

  11. I found this interesting article in a blog related to the Washington Post The way Congress funds clean energy is a mess. Max Baucus thinks there’s a better idea. In short, it does away with the current maze of regulations and instead gives a tax credit to any production of energy, and (in transport) use of it that is 25% cleaner than the average for that sector.
    I think there could be more sectors using energy (like buildings, mentioned by someone in the comment thread, or industry) that could be included in this idea. Another drawback could be that the 25% below average seems to be a hard line, not measured against a running average that would be adjusted every 5 or 10 years. This way you could only expect a reduction in pollution and CO2 of 25%, not the much deeper reduction that’s needed.

    I guess it has as much a chance as a snowball in hell to get through Congress, and maybe it shouldn’t in this form, but I think it is a useful piece of ‘out of the box’ thinking and with some luck it will have influence in the discussion about how to go about clean energy.

    Can I have your thoughts on this?

    1. @Twominds

      The negative pricing situation caused by the Production Tax Credit makes me skeptical about the specific structure of any incentive that is based on production. If not properly enacted, a production based credit can result in an imbalance between demand and production and negative pricing. That situation almost invariably harms suppliers that are not being paid the credit, even though their production capacity is required for market balance at other times.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts