Friday, May 31, 2013

Distributed Generation News

NRG, Led by CEO David Crane, one of the biggest independent utility scale electricity providers in the country, is switching their business model to a residential and distributed model.
A quote from the Bloomberg article - The other part of the package is the growing underground network of pipes that delivers gas to about half the homes in the country. Crane wants to provide customers with fuel cells and microturbines, which produce electricity from gas.
“The individual homeowner should be able to tie a machine to their natural gas line and tie that with solar on the roof and suddenly they can say to the transmission-distribution company, ‘Disconnect that line.’ ” Crane said.
A lot of companies have been promising affordable residential natural gas turbines for a while, Looks like Mr. Crane has his eye on one.  

John Farrell discusses talk of using Master Limited Partnerships to advance renewable energy in the U.S. (spoiler alert! He doesn’t like them). Yet another tax program that local residents won’t be able to use, but absentee energy developers will.  Maybe looking at political donations is just as important as designing the right kind of renewable policy in the States.   

Ontario is reining in their Feed In Tariff program, because … “Anger over large wind farms, especially in southwestern Ontario, cost the Liberals several seats in the 2011 election, when they were reduced to a minority government.” As I’ve said before, if you want to have more support for renewable energy programs, encourage more locally owned wind… It looks like Ontario’s renewable adoption will be slowed now. The good news is their "micro fit" program stays intact, showing Ontario's commitment to locally owned renewables.

Since we’re discussing politics today, one of my energy policy buddies ( I’ll give him credit if he wants) has been saying for a while that DG advocates should reach out to Tea Party legislators for policy support. Looks like he’s right. These folks understand free markets, National Security, and self-reliance.
 Finally, everybody is writing about the utility battle against Net Metering. That’s the reason I’m an advocate for feed in tariffs (FiTs) over net metering. Under net metering, a utility customer essentially leaves the distribution system, though he still pays a facility charge to be connected to the grid. Under a FiT program, the customer adds a “sell meter” to their residence, and continues to buy electricity each month, helping to maintain the distribution system. In short, utilities are merely buying from additional sources, rather than losing customers.   So, IMO, FiTs are fairer to utilities, better for low income electric customers, easier to finance, gets the customer a fair price for the renewable energy unit sold, etc. 

My solar PV system has operated for a little over a year , I feel that I’m not compensated for the benefits  this system brings to the other members of the distribution system, Though I deliver peak electricity to the system, I’m compensated at an absurdly low wholesale rate. Avoided transmission costs are another benefit I’m not paid for.  
Also, a lot of energy efficiency advocates frequently wring their hands about lack of consumer interest in adopting efficiency measures. Maybe they should start advocating for distributed generation. The price of solar makes it competitive with a lot of efficiency upgrades… and if you want to see a homeowner excited about saving electricity, talk to him after he’s had his solar array installed for a while. I should dedicate a post about  living with solar at some point in the near future, as I seem to straying on my message here, But HEY! FiTs are the superior policy tool for advancing renewables in this country.   

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