Monthly Archives: July 2015

LEDs Pose Same Threat
 As Solar & Net Metering
 For Utility Ratemaking

What is the difference between LEDs and residential solar panels? Plenty, clearly, but for a utility executive worried about slow or no load growth they amount to exactly the same thing—trouble.

I have written extensively about the broad utility-led campaign to quash state net metering programs (see these posts here and here). In general, this effort is based on the premise that net metering unfairly benefits residential solar users (by overpaying them for their generation) and shifts costs onto non-solar customers (by forcing companies to charge them for the fixed costs no longer being paid for by the solar customers through their electricity purchases). But that premise is also true of LEDs if you think it through.

This week I decided to replace a bank of six aging incandescent lightbulbs in my home’s master bathroom with new LEDs—something homeowners are doing with increasing frequency around the country. In years past, this would have been a non-event, but with LEDs’ vastly improved efficiency and lengthy lifespan the equation has changed significantly.

I did a little back of the envelope calculating about the switch: The six bulbs I pulled out consumed 260 watts of electricity when turned on (for reasons unclear to me I had five 40W bulbs and one 60W bulb installed in the bathroom), the new ones just 66W total (and they are brighter to boot, but that is another story). So, every time I turn on the bathroom light switch I am saving 194 watts. That’s an admittedly small amount of power, but if you figure the lights are on for three hours daily that adds up to 582 watt-hours per day. That’s still not much, but over the course of a month, these six lights could save me on the order of 17.5 kilowatt-hours (30×582=17,460 watt-hours or 17.46 kwh).

Continue reading LEDs Pose Same Threat
 As Solar & Net Metering
 For Utility Ratemaking

Reliability Is Key Issue
 For Electric Utilities
 In Changing Market

 It’s not always about dollars and cents.

In a recent article in Utility Dive (the full piece can be found here), Tucson Electric Power’s Carmine Tilghman made a big deal about the unfavorable economics of Tesla’s current 7 kilowatt-hour Powerwall battery option, which he said would cost consumers $7,000 installed. As quoted by Utility Dive, Tilghman said: “At the average all-in electricity rate of $0.12 per kwh, the buyer saves $0.84 per day. And $7,000 divided by $0.84 per day means it will take 8,333 days or about 22.9 years to get the initial investment back for a battery that comes with a ten year warranty.”

Regardless of whether Tesla’s Powerwall actually ends up costing $7,000 installed, utility executives are kidding themselves if they think it is only about dollars and cents. Economics are important, to be sure, but reliability is, as a popular current commercial concludes, priceless.


Just this week I would have paid just about anything to have had Tesla’s battery backup (or anybody else’s for that matter) installed on the wall in my garage. Construction on a new house two down from mine necessitated the installation of a new power transformer on our street. Dominion, my provider, duly showed up, knocked the power off on my block for an hour and hooked up the new equipment. No harm, really, except that since I work out of my home that was 60 minutes of essentially wasted time.

Unfortunately, that was not the only time I wasted day. Later in the evening when I went to turn on the TV (I pay for a bundled internet/phone/TV package through Verizon) nothing happened. The menu info showed up at the bottom telling me that I was watching the Washington Nationals play the first of three games against the Cincinnati Reds—but there was no video, just a blank black screen.

An hour and a half later after the Verizon FIOS tech support guy had had me reboot, disconnect/reconnect, unplug and plug in every cable box in my house (This is standard fare for virtually all customer support these days—when a piece of electronics does not work you are almost always told to turn it off and then back on. For mystical reasons unclear to everyone, that often does the trick.) he finally agreed that I might actually need a real technician to come examine my problem.

Of course, since there seem to be only five of them in Verizon’s entire Washington, DC service territory, the earliest appointment was three days off—so much for watching any of the Nationals/Reds games. And even then, I have no guarantee that the problem, whatever it is, will be fixed.

However, if I had a battery backup installed at my house, none of this would have happened. Dominion would have turned off the power on my block, my battery would have kicked into operation, the power surge that apparently killed my FIOS video feed never would have occurred and I likely would not even have known that the power company was working just two houses away.

Now that truly would have been priceless.

–Dennis Wamsted


Utilities Risk Losing
 Commercial Customers
 Without New Approach

The U.S. commercial sector spent just under $146 billion on electricity in 20141, and that has prompted business leaders across the country to sit up and take notice.

In a fascinating study released late last month, Deloitte’s Center for Energy Solutions reported that 79 percent of the businesses it surveyed viewed cutting their electricity expenditures as “essential to creating and maintaining competitive advantage.” To this end, the survey (which is available here) found that 57 percent of the businesses surveyed have formal energy reduction goals—up significantly from the 46 percent that said they had such goals the year before.

This transition is occurring even though electricity prices are relatively low currently, and businesses do not expect substantial increases in the near term. In other words, energy management is quickly moving from the realm of reactive cost cutting to active planning and forward thinking: what can we do as a business to curb our energy consumption and improve our competitiveness?

The answers to that question may surprise you. Conventional measures such as sensors to raise/lower heating and cooling controls are still the go-to choice. But increasingly, Deloitte said, businesses are forging a path of their own, pushing ahead with options such as in-house batteries and onsite generation. Specifically, 39 percent reported installing some form of onsite generation (solar panels or other options) during the year, up from 31 percent in the previous year. Similarly, 26 percent said they installed batteries during the year compared to just 15 percent in 2014. In addition, 34 percent reported installing recovery equipment to capture previously lost energy used in production and other processes.


The moral of the story? Companies are increasingly concerned about their energy costs and looking for ways, both conventional and not so, to reduce their usage and boost their competitiveness. The question is, who is going to step up supply those needs?

Continue reading Utilities Risk Losing
 Commercial Customers
 Without New Approach