This is still done, because large commercial sites don't have rates in the same structure as residential. Large commercial and industrial have demand charges -- they pay for energy (kWh) but also a rate according to their peak demand in the month (kW). By making ice at night, they help reduce their peak demand (kW), and so even if they don't have time-based energy charges, they make their savings by saving on the demand charge.
> A few days ago I saw a nice graph showing PG&E's averaged output power during a typical 24h. It's a slanted U-shape, with the bottom somewhere around noon, then a sharp increase between 6PM and 9PM, tapering off after midnight and dropping slightly after 7AM.
No you didn't. That's not their curve. What you may have seen is the so-called California Duck, which is a different thing entirely -- a projection of a March weekend day in 2022 where there's tons more solar and no other changes to the generating capacity (which, of course, doesn't match reality). The CAISO (most of California -- PG&E, SoCal Ed, SDG&E, but not LADWP) daily demand curve can be found at:
Careful -- today is Saturday, where demand is far lower than M-F workdays. Notice that on a Spring weekend, there's a local maximum at around 11am-noon, and then the daily peak in the late evening. On a weekday, you'll see a big peak in the late afternoon, sometimes before 5pm, sometimes after. Nevetheless, it never bottoms out around noon.
> The problem is that many utilities pay far less per kWh than they charge you.
In the US, something like 44 states have net metering, and a few others have voluntary programs. Now it's true, munis and coops are generally not obligated to participate. For the vast majority of Americans, however, their utility pays them exactly the same $/kWh for surplus as it charges them for sales.
There are some other nuances: some tiny charges aren't reversible in some states (like $0.00034/kWh for enviro fee or somesuch), and utilities seem to be moving in the direction of lower $/kWh fees and higher fixed fees.
If you're thinking about putting PV on your roof, go talk to an installer. Don't get your payback advice from Guspaz or stomv.
With due respect inqrorken, your post is full of inaccuracies about the power system in the United States. (I have no idea about other countries).
> Regular electricity is generated. It's then sold wholesale
This is true for everywhere except the Southeast, AK, HI, and the non-California land west of the North Dakota-to-Texas set of states.
> where the local utilities then buy it and sell it at a regulated (5-10%) profit.
Absolutely wrong. In the areas where there is a wholesale market and in the areas where there is not, the profit does not come from the purchase and sale of energy. 0%. In wholesale regions, the utilities purchase the energy on behalf of customers and sell it to those customers with no markup on the energy. In regions without wholesale, the utilities purchase the fuel and chemicals necessary to generate the power, and recapture those costs with no markup.
Utilities make their profits on the expenditure of capital. Utilities recover "of and on" -- they recover the cost of the capital investment and they recover a rate of return on that investment, on the order of 10%. Only, of course, if the public utility commission rules the investment prudent. And only, of course, for investor owned utilities (IOUs) -- neither munis nor coops collect recovery "on".
> If users of rooftop solar get net zero pricing, then they shift all of the upkeep costs to those without rooftop solar - as PV prices go down, these costs will be borne more and more by the poor and/or those who rent (in many cases, one and the same.)
There are a number of implicit assumptions. First, you're assuming that the net benefit of PV is less than the net cost, from a utility operations perspective. This assumption proves true in some places, but not true in others (including Minnesota, Maine, and a number of other states. Authors include E3, Bob Grace, Karl Rabago, and Crossborder). If the Value of Solar exceeds retail rates, then non-participants are actually better off because of the net metered customers. This happens because while it's true, the wires have to be maintained, it's also true that PV energy is produced when hourly prices are high, so the utility avoids procuring higher priced energy. It also avoids building some of the necessary generating capacity, it avoids transmission line losses, it avoids needing to buy hedges on as much fuel, it avoids having to comply (as much) with state RPS policies, it avoids having to purchase allowances for SO2 and NOx, etc.
> hen realize the traditional model costs less to you.
On this much, we certainly agree. Society has already paid to install lots of wires. Why wouldn't we use them? Large renewables (wind farms, solar farms, geothermal, etc) can be built at lower $/kWh prices, so let's use 'em. But lets also use distributed PV, distributed storage, more detailed and comprehensive demand response (DR), and keep pushing for far higher energy standards and energy efficiency (EE) deployment.
> Grid transmission has losses of about 7% from the power station to you, but will likely be higher if it is peer-to-peer.
Methinks your second statement is dead wrong. If my neighbor is producing more electricity with his PV than he's using right now, it flows on the local distribution wire 100' from his house to the street, 100' down the street, and 100' to my home. That 300' of relatively little electricity a very short distance has virtually no line losses. You save both on the transmission and on the vast majority of the distribution losses.
Now, at some point, the peer-to-peer gets saturated without distributed storage because most surplus happens at the same time of day in the same neighborhood. But, with the exception of parts of Hawai'i, this is not yet an issue anywhere in tUSA.
> The goal of the energy industry should be to produce boatloads of dirt-cheap energy with almost nobody working at it, so we can all go off and do something more fun with that manpower and energy.
I disagree. The goal of the US energy policy should be to produce boatloads of clean and safe energy, as cheaply as we can. The goal of the energy industry should be to maximize profits while abiding by the law and minimizing worker injury.
Does that mean I'm against fused or with fused?
Federal gas tax pays for highways and the gas tax isn't enough to cover the cost, and hasn't been for years. Additionally, state gas taxes only pay for half of state and local roadway expenses.
The roadway users aren't paying for the cost of the roadways through fees -- they're covering more than half. There's absolutely no evidence that money intended for transportation is being spent outside of transportation, and at the state level in many states that would violate the state constitution.
We're underfunding transportation in America, both road and rail. The problem is that taxes, fees, and fares are not high enough, not that money is leaking into other areas of government.
For instance, excessively high payment from TV networks require excessively high fees to cable providers which are paid by all cable subscribers, even if they never watch the channel.
You don't need to subscribe to cable. Plenty of folks don't, and more seem to be cutting the cord every day. I haven't subscribed to cable television since the 1990s.
The cartel is also able to leverage national monies to convince localities to force taxpayer to fund stadiums, even if those that are never going to use the stadiums.
If your local and state government sucks, blame your neighbors. This doesn't seem to happen in the Northeast -- both Boston and New York teams paid for their own stadiums (partial exception: Barclay's).
Because the rules are set, public tax dollars can be used to train kids for the NFL through public school funds.
Yeah, and public tax dollars are training rock musicians, artists, debaters, glee-ers, chess players, and goodness knows what else.
Because salaries are set, the players, though well paid, do not have the ability to truly negotiate a contract.
The salaries are set following a union negotiation. If you want to claim that unions set salaries and that's bad, be my guest. You'll certainly have support around here. Union participation in America is nearly 15 million. There's nothing unique about the NFL negotiating with a union to set wages.
I'll stop now, though I'm sure there's more criticism of your weak tea.
Why would the autos be "parked in public stalls?"
I own a garage. I live near lots of other people. If I didn't own a car, why wouldn't I lease this space to the owner of a self-driving car? After all, it's near lots of people, and I could use the dough.
It's true, the number of self-driving cars will certainly be fewer than the number of cars now, but you'll still need capacity for commuting, for Thanksgiving family trips, etc.
Why would a company spend money to build auto storage in public spaces when they could spend less renting the now less-valued garage spaces from people, so that the cars are closer to where those people are?
For Lessig's group to be successful, they need to stay out of the general election, and away from third parties.
1. Stay out of the general. Most congressional districts lean just enough Democrat or Republican than supporting the "favored" candidate is a waste of resources and favoring the "unfavored" candidate is too. If the race really is close, then (a) it will get really expensive, and (b) that candidate isn't likely to still be in Congress 10 years from now -- it's a tough district!
Instead, fight in the primaries. Go to districts where the Dem or Repub candidate is sure to win the general, whomever he or she is. Then, find like-minded candidates of that party willing to run in a primary. A primary race is cheaper and easier to influence -- and if you win it, you'll coast through the general and coast through reelections. Invest in both Democratic and Republican primaries, getting candidates who want the kind of campaign finance reform Lessig's group wants, and to hell with the rest of it. Bonus if the primary is "open" -- that is, there is no incumbent.
2. Stay away from third party candidates. First of all, they almost never win. There are what, two in the Senate (VT and ME senators Sanders and King, respectively), and zero in the House if memory serves. That's 2 out of 535. Terrible odds. Secondly, even if they do win -- they're independents! Their opinions change rather easily! They're unpredictable, and they take pride on being "mavericky." Look at the independents who gave good runs in 2014 -- very hard to predict where they would come down on the details of any campaign finance reform.
Lessig mistakenly got behind independents, foolishly believing that they had a shot in hell at winning. He also spent too much money in November, when the real action is between June and September.
Papers are often served via the US Mail. FCC has no jurisdiction. Papers are often served at "last and usual," jargon for the place where the person is believed to have resided most recently. FCC has no jurisdiction over the front door. Contrary to film noir movies, papers are only occasionally served "in hand" where the process server physically hands the documents to the person of interest. Of course, the FCC has no jurisdiction there either.
In short, the FCC has absolutely nothing to do with this.
Source: I am a process server.
In Nevada and California, electric power is needed most -- and is most expensive -- during hot daytime hours. This is true throughout most of the country, and won't change until there are metric library of congress tonnes of it throughout the grid. Someday, with oodles of PV, the peak will shift a few hours later in the day, to just after sundown (on hot weekdays).
Note: there are some parts of the country, notably the deep southeast, that are winter peaking. Winter peaks tend to be weekdays at around 6-7am.
One only needs a low reservoir (see the Taum Sauk). Furthermore, while pumped storage certainly isn't a good idea in the Southwest, it is ideal in the Great Lakes area, where there's tons of wind resources (see: Iowa, Minnesota, etc.). And, as it turns out, there is a (functionally) infinite supply of water in Lake Michigan and a functionally infinite amount of land with delta h on the West Coast of Michigan, which has hills immediately adjacent to the Lake due to thousands of years of wind blowing from Wisconsin to Michigan. A storage plant like this already exists, just south of Ludington MI. We could easily build 100 GW worth of pumped storage there, equal to the capacity of all nuclear power in the US.
Pumped storage is also lossy, typically about 65% efficient round-trip.
My experience is that the average is closer to 75%, and it can be as high as 90% with modern, well maintained pumped storage. Pumped storage also has extremely fast ramping capabilities, making it very useful for the minute-by-minute operation of the grid. Of course pumped storage, like all major power plants, requires transmission investment to be fully useful.
Grid gas, coal and nuclear generators don't need storage as they either run flat out to meet the instantaneous demand and they can throttle back in quieter times.
Nuclear, coal, and gas steam plants have very real operational limitations. Nuclear is almost never ramped back to follow load; it's cheaper in the long run to pay negative locational marginal prices (LMPs) if need be. Coal and gas steam can only ramp a few MW per minute, and have minimum outputs whereby they can't maintain power any lower -- and that's often at about 50% of capacity. At that point, any lower output requires a shut down, and then a 12-30 hour cool down whereby the unit can't be restarted. Nuclear, coal, and gas steam are extremely inflexible generators relative to hydro, gas/oil CT, and even gas CC.
At the moment intermittent wind and solar generators use the grid as free storage but the more intermittent power that is added to the generating mix the more that storage will be needed to deal with peak inputs and debits.
Free storage? Wind and solar fueled generators, like all generators, sell the energy instantaneously. Your metaphor makes no sense. All operating power plants sell in real-time. Same price for the same power. Eventually, substantially more storage will have economic value, but on the mainland US grid, not for a long time. California is poised to have 33% renewables by 2020, and they don't need additional storage. (There's an order for ~1.5 GW of storage to be procured, but it's not needed -- it's CA's way of pushing progress forward, seeing that eventually storage will be a less expensive resource (LCOE) than CTs.) Most other parts of the mainland won't have exceeded 10% non-dispatchable renewables by then.
Getting wind and solar farm operators to pay for this extra storage probably isn't going to happen, sadly.
Why should they? In most of tUSA, there's a day ahead and a real time market. Power has a price (LMP). Generators can sell into that market or not. When supply exceeds demand, the LMP goes negative, and all generators who are operating are equally responsible for the problem; all generators who are operating at those times pay the same financial penalty. That includes operating wind and solar and the nuclear and gas and coal that can't turn down.
In the mean time, the number of MWh that are curtailed is a tiny, tiny fraction of the total MWh consumed in America. Storage simply isn't very valuable on the American grid right now because we don't have very much in the way of inflexible generation -- about 20% of the GWh of nuclear, and under 10% of inflexible renewables. It will be many years (more than a decade) before the percent of electricity we have to "throw away" due to inflexibility exceeds 2%, and to the extent that coal plants continue to retire and load continues to grow, that year will be pushed farther and farther into the future.
Storage is interesting tech, but it's simply not necessary for the American grid to operate reliably or economically anytime soon.
First of all, nuclear power plants are far more complex than coal plants. Sure, the steam to electric part is identical, but controlling a nuclear reaction requires far different parts than crushing and burning coal.
Secondly, coal fired power plants are not "popping up everywhere" in America. No new coal plants will be built anytime soon, because 111(b) prevents new sources of electric generation that emit more than ~1200 lbs CO2 per MWh (coal is ~2000 lbs). A few plants have opened in the past five years; we won't see any more.
Thirdly, it isn't "red tape" that caused this latest delay -- it's the inability for suppliers of key components of the power plant to deliver the materials on time. The parts are specialized, the vendors capable of building (some of) those parts few and far between, and the list of parts that must be assembled in order rather long. Any delay ripples through the project, and the loan (plus interest) needs to get paid back, even if the plant isn't operating yet.
The big risk in nuclear construction is a financial risk. It isn't until much later that the nuclear reaction itself becomes a challenge.