The nuclear morass that has ensnared utility executives, state regulators, and legislators in South Carolina and Georgia shows no signs of easing its grip. Southern is set to decide soon whether its Georgia Power subsidiary will seek to complete Vogtle 3 & 4 even though the total cost for the much-delayed nuclear project has now ballooned to an estimated $25 billion. How those economics can ever pencil out is beyond me, but that is not the topic for today. Across the border in South Carolina, the blame-passing game has now started in the wake of Santee Cooper’s decision to pull out of the similarly delayed and way-over-budget V.C. Summer 2 & 3 project: Legislators in the state launched a series of hearings this month on the project, and the first order of business for Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA Corporation (the parent of South Carolina Electric & Gas, the lead partner in the Summer project) was to remind everyone listening that the company had done everything by the book, and that state regulators had continually vouched for the prudence of the utility’s decisions. But that is for another column as well.
What caught my eye, and what nobody at either utility ever wants to talk about, was the first bullet on the first page of Marsh’s presentation (which is available here). “Why did we choose nuclear in 2008?” he asked, rhetorically, I hope. His lead answer? “Growing customer demand required the addition of new base load generation.”
And therein lies the rub. Growing demand in the early 2000s clearly played a major role in pushing both Georgia Power and SCE&G to ask regulators to approve their respective nuclear projects. But the absence of similar growth, in fact the absence of any growth at all since the 2008-2009 recession and its consequent impact on the need for the projects, has been largely ignored by both utilities, as is abundantly clear in a review of their state-mandated integrated resource plans. Let’s take a look.
Continue reading Georgia Power, SCE&G
Whistling In The Dark
On Growth And Nuclear
It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutia of the revolution under way in the energy industry—announcements of technology improvements, installation milestones and price reductions of all kinds hit my inbox almost daily. But two recent reports, one highlighting where we’ve been and the second pointing to where we are going, are a useful grounding tool, pointing out that while I (and probably many others) often get lost looking at individual trees there is a whole forest out there.
The first report, an Energy Department publication dubbed Revolution…Now (which can be found here), walks through the startling changes in five clean energy technologies during the past five-plus years. While much of this information may be familiar, it is worth a quick review.
Continue reading Taking A Step Back
Brings Energy Revolution
Clearly Into Focus
The first U.S. energy efficiency standards were adopted by the Energy Department in the 1980s and they have proven exceptionally effective in cutting consumption in the targeted appliances. For example, DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported last year that the average new refrigerator in 2010 used only 44 percent of the energy consumed by a comparable new unit in 1985. As a result, LBNL said: “Nationally, in 2010 refrigerator-freezers used one-third less total energy than in 1985 even though there were 70 million more units in use.” (“Energy and Economic Impacts of U.S. Federal Energy and Water Conservation Standards Adopted From 1987 Through 2012.” LBNL, April 2013)
That’s an impressive result, but despite these efficiency-related savings, electricity consumption in the United States has gone up over the past decade. DOE statistics indicate that average monthly electricity consumption nationwide in 2012 was 903 kilowatt-hours, up from 889 kwh in 2000. So what gives?
Continue reading The Energy Implications Of Our Connected Lifestyle