Tuesday, August 14, 2018

New England Governor's Meeting: Guest post by Guy Page


Toronto, Evening of August 14, 2003, Wikipedia
On eve of 15th anniversary of Big Blackout, governors push more reliable power grid

By Guy Page
AUGUST 13, 2018 - Maybe the timing was just co-incidence. But today, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the August 14, 2003 Big Blackout that put 50 million North Americans in the dark, Gov. Phil Scott and four other New England governors announced plans to prevent crippling power blackouts.

The 2003 outage blacked out an estimated 50 million people and 61,800 megawatts (MW) of electric load in eight northeastern states, including parts of southern Vermont, and Ontario.

Maybe the governors remember the Big Blackout, but it’s more likely they are heeding this winter’s scary wake-up call. For three weeks of record cold in December and January, New England homeowners burned record amounts of natural gas to stay warm. Power grid operators lacked adequate supply to power regional natural-gas fired plants. The New England grid was already playing with a thin bench, due to recent closures of coal and nuclear power plants. Things got worse when a transmission line failure separated an operational nuclear power plant from its customers. In extremis, grid operators burned backup stockpiles of dirty, expensive coal and oil. Soon even these supplies began to run low. Had sub-zero temperatures persisted, the grim reality of blackouts, frozen pipes and frostbitten New Englanders was imminent.  

In the aftermath, grid operator ISO-New England warned that preventing blackouts will require action. Yesterday, the governors agreed:
“The New England states and ISO New England have recognized the challenge of increasing reliance on natural gas-fired generation during cold periods when the region’s natural gas is used primarily for heating. These concerns have been heightened as non-natural gas-fired generation resources, such as nuclear, coal, and oil, have retired in recent years. During recent winters, ISO-NE has been relying on more expensive, carbon-intensive oil-fired units to ensure sufficient generation to meet hour-by-hour demands on our energy system.” 
The governors in particular praised the low-carbon, energy security value of nuclear power:
“Effective next June, the region will have two nuclear power plants that represent approximately 3,500 MW of baseload energy that is not dependent on natural gas infrastructure and also helps to meet emission goals. ….It is important to continue to evaluate cost-effective policies that properly value existing clean energy resources which have significant fuel security implications.”

Proposed energy policies, to be adopted state-by-state, could include:

  • Public “cold weather” education to conserve non-essential electricity and heating fuel, similar to messaging during summer heat waves;
  • Charging customers more at peak hours of consumption, hopefully to reduce demand;
  •  Energy efficiency, including weatherization and combined heat and power, which reduces overall consumption of electricity and natural gas; and
  • New, generation such as large-scale hydropower and off-shore wind;
  • Working with Congress to ensure Liquid Natural Gas can be delivered in a timely manner during winter;
  • More backup generation, fuel storage and transmission. 

For those of us who may have forgotten the 8/14/2003 Big Blackout, or vaguely remember seeing news coverage on our (electric) television sets – power was not restored for 4 days in some parts of the United States, according to the official EPA final report April, 2004. According to August 13 2013, ISO Newswire, New England was largely spared from the effects of the outage because protective equipment installed on the transmission system sensed the disturbance and automatically closed the ‘electricity border’ with New York, splitting New England away from the collapsing power system to the west.

But that’s history. New England’s governors have taken the important first step of acknowledging a serious, life-threatening problem exists. Whether they can prevent another Big Blackout is a question for historians of the future.

---------
 Guy Page, a frequent guest blogger at this site, published this in his newsletter: State House Headliners. 

Copyright © 2018 Guy Page, All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Updated. Batteries at Green Mountain Power: Beating the Peak

Batteries from Wikipedia
(Tesla battery images are proprietary)
Beating the Peak

I wrote recently about The Game of Peaks. This game is a business move, not a moral imperative.

Utilities pay a percentage of overall grid costs based on the percentage of power they use during the high-usage peak hour on the grid. Lowering their usage at that time can save significant amounts of money for the utility.

Note that "beating the peak" saves money for one utility, but the fixed costs of the grid remain the same.  If one utility beats the peak, another utility will pay more for the fixed costs of the grid. Beating the Peak has little to do with conservation, a clean grid, etc.  We are talking about cost shifting from one business to another.  It irritates me when utilities wrap themselves in "do-good" rhetoric about this cost shift plan.

I plan a series of posts about Vermont utilities and their various strategies for Beating the Peak.  I start today with the biggest utility (Green Mountain Power) which has the most high-tech strategy (batteries).

Green Mountain Power: We Have the Batteries

In an article in 2016, Green Mountain Power claims to have used batteries to reduce its peak power demand and save its customers $200,000 in an hour. We know that Green Mountain Power plans to use batteries to shave the peak this year, also, as described in their recent press release: During Hot Weather GMP Leveraging Stored Energy to Drive Down Peak Power Demand and Lower Costs for Customers  In the press release, GMP describes the use of solar power and batteries in terms of 5,000 homes powered by battery during the peak, and that GMP's power sources are 90% carbon free.

Complicated and slow

The battery story is a bit more complicated, actually. The press release above claims that Vermonters have installed nearly 500 Powerwall batteries in their homes...GMP can share access to stored energy to pull down power demand at key times... and drive down costs for all customers.

Actually, Green Mountain Power is not deploying its Tesla battery units as fast as it had hoped to do so.  Electrek reported in April that only 200 home Powerwalls had been installed out of 2000 that GMP planned to install. However, the article said that the utility was making some "big deals" (with commercial customers?) that would lead to more deployment.

If there were 200 batteries in April and 500 now, the pace of installation must have increased.  Here's how Electrek describes the arrangement GMP makes with its customers for Powerwalls: Under their agreement with the electric utility, homeowners who receive a Powerwall are able to use it for backup power for “$15 a month or a $1,500 one-time fee”, which is significantly less expensive the ~$7,000 cost of the device with installation, but in return, Green Mountain Power is able to access the energy in the pack to support its grid, like a virtual power plant.

UPDATE: Green Mountain Power has just claimed to have saved $500k during the recent heatwave, deploying "enough batteries for 5000 homes."  I translate this into 500 batteries.  In this case, my estimate of $1000 saved per battery (see below) would be correct. Vermont Business Magazine: Stored energy helped GMP cave $500 K during heatwave. 


Math on the Batteries

Let's do some math.  If batteries "beat the peak" for Green Mountain Power, they could be cost effective.  Let's say GMP installs 1000 batteries, and each battery costs them $7,000 (true cost) minus $1,500 (cost the homeowner pays.)  So each battery costs Green Mountain Power $5,500.  With 1000 batteries, they will have invested $5.5 million dollars in batteries.

If GMP saves only $200,000 a year by beating-the-peak, it would take GMP about 27 years to make up the $5.5 million cost for the batteries.  Hopefully, they will actually save more, or perhaps they got a better deal on the batteries.

I'll look the calculation a different way, however.  In 2016, Green Mountain Power saved $200,000 a year with less than 200 batteries deployed. If GMP saves $1000 a year per battery, it will only take them 5.5 years to make up the costs of the batteries, which is a more reasonable payback time.


However, if  GMP deploys all 2000 batteries that they plan to use, will they be able to save $1000 per battery?  Will they be able to save $2 million in a year?

To answer this question, I would have to look at what they would pay for transmission without using the batteries. First, we need to know the overall grid costs for transmission.  That part is easy: ISO-NE expects to spend $700 million dollars on transmission this year.

Then comes the hard part: estimating Green Mountain Power's peak use compared to grid peak use.  I fear this would be a lot of speculation on my part. I don't know how much GMP would pay without the batteries. And by what percentage would the batteries cut demand?  Perhaps GMP could save $2 million a year on transmission costs, by using the batteries.  Perhaps they couldn't.  I will just leave the question out there.

Note: It is not clear how quickly the homeowner will make back their share ($1500) of the costs of the batteries.

My opinion of the GMP Strategy: Not very cost-effective. Not straightforward.

Cost: Batteries are an innovative way to shave a peak, but they don't look particularly cost-effective. They are okay, but even a six year payback is long, in terms of business calculations. And a six year payback was my most optimistic calculation.

Rhetoric: In my opinion, GMP's rhetoric about the batteries and the peak is misleading. Their press release is full of feel-good words about the environment, and nothing about how the money is saved --the "savings" is really a transfer of grid costs to other utilities.



Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Game of Peaks

Weapons used as props in the Game of Thrones
Wikimedia
By Benjamin Skinstad [CC BY 3.0 ]
The Game of Peaks

Cutting back on electricity use on the hottest day of  the summer is not a moral imperative. It is merely part of The Game of Peaks. This game allows large utilities to shift costs to smaller utilities and co-operatives.

Luckily Game of Peaks is all about accountants, not swords.  The Game of Peaks is nowhere near as brutal as the Game of Thrones. Nobody gets killed in the Game of Peaks, but lots of people get misled about the situation on the grid.  And lots of people end up paying more than their fair share of grid costs.  There are losers in the Game of Peaks.  You may be one of them.

Rules for the Game of Peaks

ISO-NE must charge utilities their "fair share" of system costs, particularly transmission costs. But what is their fair share?  ISO determines a utility's share of the grid-wide transmission costs by determining the power used by that utility during the peak-usage hour on the grid.  The percentage of power used during the peak is the percentage of transmission costs that the utility has to pay.

Of course, this percentage calculation is an opportunity for utilities to shift costs elsewhere. Utilities campaign about "shaving the peak." Announcements state that "we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by shaving the peak."  For example, in this Burlington Free Press article from 2016, Green Mountain Power claims to have used batteries to reduce its peak power demand, saving customers $200,000 in an hour.

Conservation Now?

The statement about saving $200,000 in an hour is a bit misleading.  It looks like it is about energy conservation, sparing the grid, etc.  It isn't.

That $200,000 wasn't some excess cost of electricity in that single  hour.  The savings comes from the fact that Green Mountain Power used its predictive power and its batteries to reduce its demand at the time of peak demand.  Therefore, it will  reduce the amount it pays for grid-level transmission. Somebody is still paying that $200K for transmission: the overall cost of grid transmission hasn't changed. Some other utility is paying that cost.

According to an article yesterday in Electrek, Green Mountain Power has now has 5,000 kWh of battery storage at this time.  This 5 MWh of storage will not make much difference to expense of transmission on the grid. However, Green Mountain Power hopes it will make a major difference to their own bottom line, as it did in 2016.

Saving Electricity in Summer: The Game as Played

As I wrote in an earlier post, The Not-Stressed Grid in Summer, "beating the peak" is not about
  • saving money while the grid power is expensive, (it is not that expensive in summer) or
  • diminishing pollution (coal and oil are not in use much during the summer), or
  • keeping the grid from failing (there's plenty of reserve capacity). 

 The local grid is doing well in very hot weather.

I am writing this post because utilities only seem to talk about the grid when they are pushing "beat the peak." If the peak is beaten, the peak-beating utilities save money, and the other utilities have to pay more.  It's a zero-sum game, not a moral imperative.

Unfortunately,  people know very little about the grid, except that you "shouldn't" (whatever that means) use as much electricity on a hot day in summer.  If I write about the grid, I need to debunk that fallacy.  I feel that if I am going to write about the problems the local grid faces in winter, I also needed to write about the problems of summer. Or rather, about the non-problems of summer, and the misleading rhetoric of some utilities.

Yes.  Saving electricity is always good

Don't get me wrong. Being thrifty and not using excess power is always a very good thing.  Still,  it helps the environment more if you are thrifty with electric usage in winter (with all that oil and coal-burning) than in midsummer.  It helps your local utility's bottom line more if you are thrifty with electric use in summer.

My voice is rather muted,  compared to utility advertising campaigns, but I felt that I must speak up.




The Not-Stressed Grid in Summer

The grid is not stressed

The Northeast is using a lot of power, but the grid is not particularly stressed.  "Using a lot of power" and "stressed grid" are not the same thing.  Many local utilities are urging conservation...but this is not because the grid is stressed.  More about conservation in the next post.

How can I say the grid is not stressed? We're having a major heat wave! For days, Vermont temperatures have been in the high nineties. A number of communities opened "Cooling Stations" in public building such as fire departments. People were encouraged to go to air-conditioned malls, drink water, check in on elderly people who may need assistance, etc.

Okay, it's hot.  But I will start by comparing the grid situation on this heat wave with the grid  situation in the cold snap in December-January.

Hot weather electricity use and prices

Let's look at the ISO-NE electricity usage  chart for July 3.  The peak is near 25,000 MW. The LMP (local marginal price) prices for electricity were between about $25 and $80 per MWh, or about 3 cents to 8 cents per kWh.

Cold weather electricity use and prices

In contrast, during the cold snap at the beginning of this year, electricity use never got much higher than 22,000 MW, as shown in this graph from the ISO report on cold weather operations.

However, in  the cold snap, the LMP prices spent a lot of time between $150 and $300 per MWh (15 cents to 30 cents per kWh). The circled area on the graph below, from the same ISO report.



In short, during the cold snap we used less electricity and paid higher prices than we do now.

Conservation and fuel usage

Using more electricity in New England means making more carbon dioxide and burning more fossil fuels.  So conservation is always good. But is conservation in summer particularly wonderful? Not really.

Right now, we have a fairly clean grid. The fuel mix is mostly natural gas, nuclear,  hydro and renewables.  The grid was running 60% gas, 20% nuclear 16% hydro and renewables.  Pretty good, in terms of emissions!  Here's a recent fuel mix graph.


A fuel mix chart for the grid on July 4


In contrast, in the winter, when natural gas was not available, oil and coal were in heavy use (Oil Kept the Power Grid Running op-ed). During the cold snap, the mix was 30% oil, not "less than 1%" oil, as it is now.  Coal use was higher, also, up around 5%. 

Surplus Capacity

So far, there's no particular reason to conserve right now instead of conserving some other time.  But let's look at something else.  Perhaps, even with natural gas available, the grid is close to maximum capacity in hot weather? Perhaps, if we don't conserve, the grid will fail?

Nope. The grid is doing well.  If you look at the ISO-NE website,  it lists "surplus capacity" right on the front page.  At this moment, as I am writing this, on a very hot day, surplus capacity on the grid is 1,180 MW.  That is the capacity available above the maximum predicted peak power use for today (23, 000MW) and above the grid's operating reserve requirement for today (2,492 MW). You can always check these types of figures in the ISO-NE morning report

Or, you can simply remember that when ISO-NE predicted the possibility of rolling blackouts in the future, ISO was concerned with winter stress on the grid leading to blackouts. They were not concerned with high summer electricity usage. 

 In short, conserving electricity this summer doesn't save more money or more carbon dioxide then it would save at many other times. As a matter of fact, it saves less of both than it would save in a winter cold snap.  Conserving now also doesn't "save the grid" from blackouts.  The grid is operating at high capacity, but nowhere near its capacity limits.

 So why are the utilities pushing conservation right now?

Game of Peaks

The utilities are urging conservation right now because they are playing the Game of Peaks.  It's  a utility game about money. If they play the Game of Peaks well, they can shift some costs from themselves over to neighboring utilities.  Yeah, it's a zero-sum game.  ("I win" can only happen if "you lose.")

 Learn the rules for the Game of Peaks in the next post.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Micro and Macro: What is the Energy Future?

Solar panel on a house roof near Boston
Wikipedia, Gray Watson 
Everybody knows?

Milt Caplan wrote an excellent blog post on the future of energy.   He describes attending an event where

a number of speakers prefaced their comments with statements like “everybody knows the future will be based on distributed generation – primarily with small scale renewables and storage to provide reliability”.  
(Bold in the original)

Is this indeed what everybody knows?  Is there no dissent?

Maybe Microgrids?

As Caplan wrote:
 We have this romantic fantasy that we can live off-grid with a combination of solar power and battery backup.  Of course, with a bit of thought .....we accept that we cannot go it completely alone.  The conclusion being that maybe we need to collaborate with our neighbours and build a small system (or microgrid) to achieve the reliability that we need to power our lives.
As it turns out, I have also been thinking about microgrids. A few days ago,  I heard an excellent talk on smart microgrids by Andy Haun, Chief Technology Officer, Schneider Electric Microgrids Business. These advanced microgrids can be controlled "in parallel" with the grid.  When used in this manner, the smart microgrid systems can avoid costs by shaving peak demand and by using cheaper, off-peak power. The microgrids can be also controlled in an "intentional islanded mode," which is especially useful for storm readiness.

It seemed to me that while these microgrids could be used stand-alone in remote locations, they were mostly going to be used in conjunction with the larger grid.  Or why develop all these "peak shaving" features, and so forth?

It doesn't look to me as if advanced microgrids are going to make the bigger grid obsolete, or at least, not anytime soon.

Maybe Macrogrids? 

Maybe instead of microgrids, we should be looking at really big macro grids?

Many of the renewables advocates who hope for a proliferation of microgrids also hope for long-distance DC lines, to bring bulk power from sunny or windy places to places where more people are living.  Maybe, the answer is long-DC lines to bring energy across the continent, moving energy from sunny and windy areas to big cities.  In other words, really big grids.

Earlier this year, Power Engineering featured an article, Enabling Large Scale Renewables in the Western U.S. This article proposed new, lengthy High Voltage DC lines. These lines had names such as Power from the Prairie, and Centennial West.  The lines seemed primarily designed to move wind energy from the west to the east.  Similarly, in early June, an Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece titled  Upgrade America's 19th Century Electric Grid.   This article called for a $500 billion dollar infrastructure project to build DC power lines to "transfer energy between power-abundant and power-hungry regions. "

Could this work? Probably not.

Donn Dears wrote a blog post DC Transmission for Cutting CO2 Emissions.  As Dears explains,  HVDC transmission lines are best for moving great quantities of power for long distances; current examples carry hydro power from dams to cities. There are HVDC transmission lines carrying hydro power in the American West (Pacific DC Intertie), and similar lines in China and Brazil.  These lines are fully utilized almost all the time,  because they come from huge hydro systems with more than one power plant.

Such utilization would not be the case for the new DC lines proposed for the US.  They would carry wind and perhaps solar energy, which are not steadily available.  Low utilization rates would lead to higher costs, and DC lines are only cost-effective in limited circumstances to start with. An HVDC build-out would not work.  It would not be cost-effective.

Pursuit of the the Unsuitable

Somehow, in pursuit of renewable energy, microgrids (connected to the main grid) or a huge buildout of continent-spanning DC power lines (connected to the main grid) are considered to be options.  The main grid doesn't go away, but these new features get added.

Now, there are uses for both microgrids and DC lines. Even their proponents, however, are not proposing microgrids and DC lines as a complete substitute for the current grid. At best, they would solve some problems on the grid.  At worst, they would be high-cost, duplicative add-ons to the grid that exists now.

In short, if we want to decarbonize our grid without romantic fantasy and without too much costly duplication,  we need the following:
  • Keep our current fleet of nuclear plants running
  • Build more nuclear plants
  • Build more grid infrastructure, as appropriate.  
  • Don't duplicate infrastructure because "microgrid" or "HVDC" sounds cool.  Add them as needed. 
In other words, for a reasonable future, we must pursue suitable technologies. Technologies such as nuclear energy.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rolling Blackouts for New England? Angwin Op-Ed

Mystic Power Station

Rolling blackouts

Rolling blackouts are probably coming to New England sooner than expected.

When there’s not enough supply of electricity to meet demand, an electric grid operator cuts power to one section of the grid to keep the rest of the grid from failing.  After a while, the operator restores the power to the blacked-out area and moves the blackout on to another section. The New England grid operator (ISO-NE) recently completed a major study of various scenarios for the near-term future (2024-2025) of the grid, including the possibilities of rolling blackouts.

In New England, blackouts are expected to occur during the coldest weather, because that is when the grid is most stressed. Rolling blackouts add painful uncertainty – and danger – to everyday life.  You aren’t likely to know when a blackout will happen, because most grid operators have a policy that announcing a blackout would attract crime to the area.

Exelon announces plan to close Mystic Station

In early April, Exelon said that it would close two large natural-gas fired units at Mystic Station, Massachusetts. In its report about possibilities for the winter of 2024-25, ISO-NE had included the loss of these two plants as one of its scenarios. The ISO-NE report concluded that Mystic’s possible closure would lead to 20 to 50 hours of load shedding (rolling blackouts) and hundreds of hours of grid operation under emergency protocols.

When Exelon made its closure announcement, ISO-NE realized that the danger of rolling blackouts was suddenly more immediate than 2024.  ISO-NE now hopes to grant “out of market cost recovery” (that is, subsidies) to persuade Exelon to keep the Mystic plants operating. If ISO-NE gets FERC permission for the subsidies, some of the threat of blackouts will retreat a few years into the future.

Winter scenarios and natural gas

The foremost challenge to grid reliability is the inability of power plants to get fuel in winter.  So ISO-NE  modeled various scenarios, such as winter-long outages at key energy facilities, and difficulty or ease of delivering Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to existing plants.

Ominously, 19 of the 23 of the ISO-NE scenarios led to rolling blackouts. The worst scenarios, with the longest blackouts, included a long outage at a nuclear plant or a long-lasting failure of a gas pipeline compressor.

A major cause of these grid problems is that the New England grid is heavily dependent on natural gas. Power plants using natural gas supply about 50% of New England’s electricity on a year-round basis. Pipelines give priority to delivering gas for home heating over delivering gas to power plants. In the winter, some power plants cannot get enough gas to operate. Other fuels have to take up the slack. But coal and nuclear generators are retiring, and with them goes needed capacity. In general, the competing-for-natural-gas problem will get steadily worse over time.

All the ISO-NE scenarios assumed that no new oil, coal, or nuclear plants are built, some existing plants will close, and no new pipelines are constructed. Their scenarios included renewable buildouts, transmission line construction, increased delivery of LNG, plant outages and compressor outages.

Natural gas and LNG

The one “no-problem” scenario (no load shedding, no emergency procedures) is one where everything goes right. It assumed no major pipeline or power plant outages. It included a large renewable buildout plus greatly increased LNG delivery, despite difficult winter weather. This no-problem scenario also assumes a minimum number of retirements of coal, oil and nuclear plants.

This positive scenario is dependent on increased LNG deliveries from abroad. Thanks to the Jones Act, New England cannot obtain domestic LNG. There are no LNG carriers flying an American flag, and the Jones Act prevents foreign carriers from delivering American goods to American ports.

We can plan to import more electricity, but ISO-NE  notes that such imports are also problematic.  Canada has extreme winter weather (and curtails electricity exports) at the same time that New England has extreme weather and a stressed grid.

New England needs a diverse grid

To avoid blackouts, we need to diversify our energy supply beyond renewables and natural gas to have a grid that can reliably deliver power in all sorts of weather.  When we close nuclear and coal plants and don’t build gas pipelines, we increase our weather-vulnerable dependency on imported LNG.

We need to keep existing nuclear, hydro, coal and oil plants available to meet peak demands, even if it takes subsidies.  Coal is a problem fuel, but running a coal plant for a comparatively short time in bad weather is a better choice than rolling blackouts.

This can’t happen overnight. It has to be planned for. If we don’t diversify our electricity supply, we will have to get used to enduring rolling blackouts.
-----
Meredith Angwin is a retired physical chemist and a member of the ISO-NE consumer advisory group. She headed the Ethan Allen Institute’s Energy Education Project and her latest book is Campaigning for Clean Air.

______

This op-ed has now appeared in several websites and news outlets. Links below to the post in other publications, some of which have comment streams.
This post at Ethan Allen Institute, The Caledonian Record, Vermont Business Magazine, VTDigger, True North Reports,  The CommonsNew England Diary   Providence JournalRhode Island and New England May Get Hit with Rolling Blackouts in the Future, including an interview with me, appeared in GoLocalProv.com

Special note: My op-ed has now appeared in my local paper, the Valley News, on the front page of the Sunday "Perspectives" section.  It is always a thrill to see my work in my local paper!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Vermont Yankee Sale: Local groups happy, CLF objects again

Almost Everyone Agrees

Entergy plans to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar for decommissioning.  As you can imagine, this plan has led to lots of discussions and hearings, and I have even written a few blog posts about it.

The last time I wrote about this proposed sale was right before the April 12 hearing before the Vermont PUC. (Thursday Meeting on Sale of Vermont Yankee)  In March, all parties (state agencies, Native American tribes, intervenors) signed off on the agreement between Entergy and NorthStar, as detailed by Mike Faher at Vermont Digger. (State, NorthStar strike deal for sale of Vermont Yankee).  At the April 12 hearing, supporters of the sale were clearly in the majority.  Supporters dominate meeting on sale of Vermont Yankee. (Article by Faher)

Oh, did I say "all parties" had signed off on the agreement?  Wrong. My bad. The Conservation Law Foundation refused to sign the agreement. In March, I predicted that CLF would do everything in their power to make the sale fall through.  I was right.

Sleeping Beauty

This reminds me of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, where fairies are giving their gifts to a newborn princess, but one fairy feels slighted.  That fairy's gift is a curse: the young princess will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Another fairy partially reverses the curse. The girl will fall asleep for 100 years instead of dying.  Thus begins the story of Sleeping Beauty.

CLF is planning something similar. I don't know if they actually feel slighted, but I think they sure plan to kill the deal. If they succeed, like the girl in Sleeping Beauty, the VY power plant will be in SafStor for many many years. Sixty years. The economic development of the town will sleep for more than a generation.

The people of southern Vermont and the people of Vernon want a clean site and a new employer in Vermont. They are hoping this change will happen soon, not sixty years from now.  But when a powerful creature like CLF feels slighted, what are you going to do? A creature like that can stop time.

She pricked her finger on the spindle
Art by Anne Anderson
Lawyers and Ventures

Okay, all that was just a metaphor.  CLF is not a magical evil creature.  And it is not unstoppable.  Basically, CLF is a not-for-profit law firm (Conservation Law Foundation) and an associated "Ventures" group.

 CLF claims that the companies involved in the VY sale have not released "even a page of their contract to the public."  CLF also admits that they could have read the contract by signing a non-disclosure form, but they claim that such an agreement would be onerous and unnecessary. ( Mike Faher article in Vermont Digger Conservation Law Foundation details Vermont Yankee concerns.)

Transparency and soap

Guy Page, a frequent guest blogger at this blog, has been following the sale closely. Like me, Page cannot understand why CLF (a bunch of lawyers, after all) won't sign a non-disclosure in order to obtain more information about the sale. I will not attempt to equal Page's excellent commentary in Vermont Digger: Where most see opportunity, CLF sees only problems with VY sale.   However, I will quote him.
CLF’s knowledge of NorthStar’s plan is limited, due to its choice not to sign a non-disclosure statement protecting certain contract information. If CLF was truly concerned about transparency, it shouldn’t have soaped its side of the window.
-----
A side note about CLF Ventures

 Aside: I have never understood the relationship between the main CLF and their Ventures.  CLF is a not-for-profit 501c3, and they make their form 990 readily available. 501c3 organizations generally have educational or charitable purposes, which can include advocacy under the "educational" purpose.  

CLF Ventures seems to be a part of the main CLF, and it is described under the Our Focus section of the CLF website. Still, the work CLF does as "Ventures" seems pretty much like the work other law firms do for for-profit companies. For example, here is a quote from the CLF website: "CLF Ventures helps early stage companies gain access to the market through our unique blend of experience. We use private and public networks, our knowledge of the business, market, and regulatory arenas, and our understanding of key gatekeepers to help early stage companies access markets and generate revenues."

Helping companies "generate revenues"? Is this service also a part of the not-for-profit CLF 501c3?  I can't tell from their website: such services may be part of the main CLF, or not. The website doesn't make it easy to understand the relationship between the two (or maybe just one) entities, CLF and CLF Ventures. It is not transparent. End Aside. 




Thursday, April 5, 2018

PUC meeting on decomm April 12


sign from Wikimedia
Vermont PUC hearing on NorthStar sale set for April 12 in Brattleboro

As I described in a previous blog post, Entergy plans to sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar for decommissioning. Most (but not all) of the intervenors are now supporting this sale. 

The sale must be approved by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission, and the Commission is holding a public hearing on April 12 in Brattleboro. 

Guy Page of Vermont Energy Partnership has a recent op-ed in the Brattleboro Reformer:  Settlement builds foundation for hope at Vermont Yankee.  In this article, he describes how the terms of the settlement will help the Windham County region, and the entire state. My favorite quote from his op-ed:
"For its part, Entergy will contribute an estimated $30 million for site restoration, and also will contribute another $40 million, if needed. 
To its credit, the state did not use the settlement as an ATM machine to fund state programs, as was the practice of some recent administrations."
Supporters, please come!
Guy wrote an email about the meeting to some plant supporters. Here is a partial quote:
The next - and final - Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 12 from 7-9:00 PM at Brattleboro Union High School in the multipurpose room. An informational session will be held prior to the meeting at 6:00 PM.

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this public hearing. Even though a settlement has been reached, many longtime critics of Vermont Yankee did not participate in the negotiations, and it is likely that they will make their voices heard. The PUC needs to hear from Vernon, Windham County and the rest of Vermont why they support the settlement and why sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar is of economic and environmental benefit.
Please attend if you possibly can.

For more information, contact page at vtep.org  
----
Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

(Note: the Vermont Public Service Board has been renamed as the Vermont Public Utility Commission.)

Friday, March 30, 2018

Nuclear Communications, Tribalism, and Kurt Weill

Chatham House
Wikipedia
Nuclear Communications
I just participated in a meeting on nuclear communications: the meeting ran on "Chatham House Rule." According to the Rule, I cannot say who participated in the meeting, or what individuals said.  I agreed to participate  under this Rule, and I am abiding by that agreement.  Chatham House Rule allows to me use the "information received" but without attribution. I received a lot of information.

Luckily for me, "who was there" and "who said what" was the least interesting part of the meeting.

Tribalism
A major point of discussion was what I will call "tribalism."  People are far more invested in remaining in good standing in their group than in careful evaluation of data. Not being "in" with your group can get you in big trouble.  Humans can only survive in groups. Throughout evolutionary history, a single human, without any group, will soon be a dead human.

Since tribalism is a deep human trait, it is true on the right and on the left.  It turns out that most people who claim that there is no significant issue about man-made climate change are aware of the evidence and science of climate change. Similarly, most people who say that nuclear will not help ameliorate climate change are aware of the evidence that nuclear plants are major sources of low-emission electricity.  (Various presenters at the meeting showed evidence for these statements.)

In other words, right or left, people are not uninformed. They are not stupid.  But, as humans, they are far more serious about group membership than about scientific controversies.

Can we solve the problems of tribalism?
So what do we communicators do about this tribalism?  That was a major discussion point at the meeting.  It did not end with a clearly defined answer.

The answer that I derived for myself was that
we should invite people to accept nuclear, without imposing any kind of loyalty oath.  

Not "accept nuclear because of climate change" for the people who don't publicly accept man-made climate change, and not "accept nuclear because renewables are bunk" for people who are invested in renewables as the way to stop climate change.

Many people, many reasons
There are many reasons to accept nuclear. In contrast, it is unreasonable and even arrogant for communicators to expect people to throw away their group loyalty in order to be pro-nuclear. Different pro-nuclear arguments are compatible with different kinds of group loyalties.  To a large extent, this is why my husband and I put together the book Voices for Vermont Yankee.  In that book, we captured the statements that ordinary people made in favor of Vermont Yankee.  We would never have thought about many of the things that other people said.

As communicators, I believe that we have to open our hearts to the fact we are all human, and everyone needs to be included in some kind of a group.  When we open our hearts to people and do our best not to threaten their group membership, they may open their hearts and minds to nuclear energy.

The role of professionals, and a lesson from Kurt Weill
This wasn't my first rodeo. While I learned more about tribalism at this meeting, I knew about it when I walked into the meeting.

What was new to me was meeting people who had a strong anti-grassroots-advocacy stance. These were pro-nuclear people who felt that most grass-roots advocacy backfired and made things worse. They felt that advocacy should be left to trained professional advocates.

Wow.  Well, first of all, as I wrote a friend after the meeting---advocacy by trained professional advocates hasn't worked, has it? Here's an edited version of what I wrote to some friends who had also been at the meeting:
We should leave nuclear communications to the professional communicators because us free-lance communicators will screw it up?  NO!  The nuclear industry has had professional communicators, with carefully crafted “messages” and brand-recognizable color schemes—had this stuff forever!  Has it worked?  NO! What nuclear needs is people who will step up and communicate their own personal  pro-nuclear message in their own communities. We need all the voices, even if they are not in perfect agreement with each other.

Sort of Worked, Actually
Well.  I have to acknowledge something here.  "Has it worked? NO!" is  too harsh.  The nuclear industry would be much worse off without the professional public relations it has sponsored and continues to sponsor. We have some excellent PR people working for us.  However, these professionals are not enough.  We need grass-roots advocacy. We need ordinary people to communicate their pro-nuclear opinions in their own way.   We need people to communicate at their local meetings and to their own neighbors.  To write letters to the editor at their local newspapers.  And perhaps, even to make their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes. It's not like the professionals have never made a mistake!

Free Speech, Democracy, Kurt Weill
Pro-nuclear people should feel empowered to speak out.  It's about free speech, democracy, and our fundamental values as a society.

In Kurt Weill's song, "Caesar's Death," Weill makes a strong and universal statement.  Hiding behind the professionals is "hiring clever men to do our thinking for us."  This leads to disaster.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Thursday Meeting on Sale of VY to NorthStar

Sign from Wikipedia
The Plan for the Sale

On Thursday, March 22, the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP)  will meet to discuss the sale of Vermont Yankee from Entergy to NorthStar. On March 2, all the parties to the sale (and all but one of the intervenors) signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding.
This Vermont Digger article by Mike Faher covers the memorandum and  is a little easier to read than the legal document.  State, NorthStar strike deal for sale of Vermont Yankee.

Why is the proposed sale a big deal?  I will attempt to answer that question by answering three subsidiary questions and providing some links.

1) What is this deal about?

Choices After Entergy closed Vermont Yankee, the next step was decommissioning.  Entergy looked at the available funding for decomm, and it proposed that the plant be put in SAFSTOR while the funding grew and the radioactivity of the plant diminished. (SAFSTOR can last for up to 60 years.)  Nobody really liked this idea, but it was financially practical and legal.  Entergy didn't like the plan because Entergy has expertise in running plants, but not in decommissioning them.  The state didn't like it because the plant would be just sitting there, for decades.

Decomm Companies Many other nuclear plant owners have faced this issue, and most have hired a decomm company to do the actual decomm.  This is a little complicated, due to nuclear regulations.  For example, when Exelon planned to decommission the Zion units, it hired the specialist firm EnergySolutions to do the actual work.  However, "hired" is not quite the way it happens.  Exelon transferred the Zion license to EnergySolutions, and EnergySolutions will transfer the license back to Exelon when the decomm is complete. The accumulated decomm funds were transferred with the license.  In effect, EnergySolutions owns Zion temporarily, and is directly responsible to the regulatory agencies during decomm.

The proposed Entergy/ NorthStar deal took this type of deal a step further:  Entergy will sell Vermont Yankee to NorthStar, permanently.

A Sale The sale plan led to a lot of excitement among the local nuclear opponents. A first-of-a-kind transfer (direct sale, not temporary ownership), and happening in Vermont? Oh my! The list of intervenors grew and grew. I felt sorry for both of the companies (Entergy and NorthStar) that had stepped into the morass of Vermont anti-nuclear organizations. These organizations saw this transfer as their last chance to show the world how deeply anti-nuclear they are.  I think they also saw it as their last chance to wring concessions of various types from the companies involved.

Signatures The big deal is that on March 2, all but one of the intervenors signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the terms for the transfer. Basically, Entergy and NorthStar added more bonds and more insurance and more money to the pot, and everyone signed off.  It was not just a win for the intervenors though: the decomm is allowed to use rubbilization, which means using clean debris from building demolition to fill basements.  This had been a huge issue. My blog post from last year contains facts and links, Rubble at Vermont Yankee: Framing the Discussion

Well, everyone signed off on the MOU except Conservation Law Foundation, who felt there wasn't enough money or enough guarantees. CLF predicts that the decomm will run out of money and leave Vermonters on the hook, etc.  My own prediction is that CLF will do everything in their power, including lawsuits, to try to make their prediction come true.  

2) What are  the next steps?

There are quite a few. Vermont State agencies, NorthStar and intervenors have agreed on the MOU, but the state Public Utilities Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must still rule on it.  Once again, Faher at Vermont Digger has a good article on this: Vermont Yankee sale case will extend into summer.  Within that article, note that Guy Page urges plant supporters to come to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission hearing on April 12.  (Guy Page  of Vermont Energy Partnership is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.)

Guy Page's suggestion about the April meeting leads to an easy segueway into the next question:

3) Should I go to the Thursday NDCAP meeting?

Probably.  NDCAP is an advisory committee, and its meetings are often very informative.  This one will include presentations from Entergy, NorthStar and state officials. The meeting is going to be held at a bigger venue (Brattleboro High School) than usual,  because they expect quite a crowd.  In Brattleboro, "quite a crowd" can be unpleasant, as legions of nuclear opponents come in (sometimes by buses) from Massachusetts and all over Vermont and New Hampshire.  On the other hand, the NDCAP meetings are usually fairly orderly.

As I said in my book, meetings are more civilized when the groups are more even. So I do suggest that you go.

On the other hand, I am not sure I will go. I may have a family visit that interferes.  I may be there, or I may not be there.  That makes it harder for me to write: "Absolutely, go!"

If I possibly can, I will be there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

(Escu) Five things I like about nuclear power


Five Best Things about Nuclear Energy

Suzanne Jaworowski recently asked for input on nuclear communications, specifically for ideas on the best things to communicate about nuclear energy. Jaworowski is Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy.

Dan Yurman posted her request at his blog, and I posted my Five Best and Howard Shaffer's Five Best at this blog. Today, Nick Escu (his pen name) contributes to the conversation.  Escu is a frequent guest blogger at this blog, often writing about natural gas prices.

Nick Escu: Five Things I Like About Nuclear Power

1) Baseload power.

Baseload power is the foundation that the grid depends upon. Nuclear, natural gas, and coal are the  three baseload power sources for the US grid.

2) Reliability.

Reliability is the function of being able to continually produce power. Factors include: fuel, fuel supplies, sustainability during severe weather.

Nuclear plants reliably out rank both natural gas and coal. Nuclear plants produce power over 92% of the time. Coal approximately 57% of the time, and natural gas only 53% of the time. As a baseload, nuclear power is more reliable.

3) Resilience

There are several factors involving resilience for grid operation. How much fuel does a plant have on hand? Do fuel supplies become unavailable? How does severe weather affect the plant itself?

Nuclear plants receive fuel either once every 18 months or once every 24 months. Nuclear plants strive to run breaker to breaker, 24 hours/day, 365 days a year, up to 2 years continuously. The nuclear equipment is extremely safety conscious, with redundancy built in, to order to continue running.

Both natural gas and coal have severe limitations on availability of fuel.

Homes receive natural gas ahead of natural gas power generators. When pipeline restrictions begin to be affected, such as in a severe cold period, like the 2014 polar vortex, or the recent winter blast, most natural gas plants don't have reserves. Some natural gas plants are now building oil storage tanks, and burning oil during severe weather.

Coal supplies in the open, FREEZE. So just because a coal plant has 90 days worth of reserves, doesn't mean those reserves are able to be used, because they're frozen. Many coal plants are now installing ice breaking equipment to break up the frozen coal, and transport it into their plants.

At present, nuclear power plants are much more resilient, and in fact, they care for the grid's needs during severe weather. For example, when hurricanes hit Texas, the nuclear power plant's twin units kept supplying power, when all other power sources had shut down.

4) Low Cost

Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build initially, due to the additional safety built into these plants. But the normal pay-off of the initial costs, is completed between 15 and 18 years. But then these nuclear plants run efficiently for the next 40 to 60 years.

The average life span of a natural gas plant is 19 years, before an entire re-build is necessary. Natural gas plants are smaller, power wise, than a nuclear plant. Natural gas plants are able to be licensed quicker than nuclear plants, so a 450 MWe natural gas plant, which costs $2.5 billion is able to be licensed and approved within a year, and constructed with 3 years, as compared to licensing and building for a nuclear plant within 10 years.

So where exactly are the lower costs?

  • First, natural gas is a polluter of the air, and eventually, assessments will be required for the pollutants natural gas spews out every day. 
  • Next, natural gas prices swing from as high as $14/MMBTU to as low as $1.72/MMBTU. Since the recent $1.73 in March, 2016, the steady natural gas prices have risen to $3.65/MMBTU, over a 100% climb in 2 years. That steady climb is partially due to the export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to foreign countries willing to buy nat gas at $17.00/MMBTU. Prices are rising. When natural gas reaches $4.75/MMBTU, nuclear power becomes cheaper than natural gas. 
  • But for now, nuclear plants are less expensive, for several reasons. Fuel for nuclear plants have risen less than 7%/year since the 1990s. Additionally, power is continually produced by nuclear plants: their reliability and resilience far outdistances both natural gas and coal. Natural gas prices spike during severe weather to sometimes more than $500/MMBTU. Nuclear remains steady. 

Nuclear plants are operational for 60 to 80 years, at the same location. Natural gas plants effectively have to replace everything every 19 years. So megawatt vs. megawatt, nuclear power is built much stronger initially. It out lasts and out performs natural gas in a less expensive manner.

5) Community Friendly

Nuclear plants contribute massive amounts in taxes, in community involvement, in family and community building, because of so many exceptionally talented and experienced people, contributing to their local communities for their working and retirement lifetimes. When a nuclear plant is closed ahead of time, communities and people of those communities suffer tremendously.





Saturday, March 10, 2018

(Shaffer) Five Best Things About Nuclear

Five Best Things About Nuclear Energy

Suzanne Jaworowski recently asked for input on nuclear communications. Jaworowski is Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy. I read her questions on Dan Yurman's blog post , and I sent her my own Five Best ideas. Later,  I published my ideas in a blog post that has a developed a wonderful comment stream of other people's input.  Please read it, especially the comments!

Today, we have Howard Shaffer's essay on the five best things about Nuclear Energy. He sent this to the Department of Energy, and sent a copy to me. Shaffer was a start-up engineer at Vermont Yankee.  He was an engineer at several other nuclear plants, in the United States and abroad, and an American Nuclear Society Congressional Fellow.  Shaffer is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.

Howard Shaffer 
Five Best Things about Nuclear 

by Howard Shaffer

Communications Continuity  Radiation is natural and man-made, and safe within limits. Limits are well known, based on sound science and over 100 years of experience. Like fire, radiation can be used safely and for great good; but can cause havoc  if misused, or mistakes are made. People are not perfect, so mistakes will be made with all technologies.  We still have fire departments, don’t we? Demanding perfection, or raising decades-old mistakes is unrealistic.

Communication about nuclear power has not prevailed in some areas of the country because of a “missing link” in the information presentation “chain.”  That link is addressing concerns raised by citizens at public meetings.  When these concerns, challenges, and charges are not addressed at the meetings, or immediately thereafter- 48 hours(?)-they become the story.  Local media pick them up, and they get repeated many times. Local media go with  "if it bleeds it leads,” and they also love a David and Goliath story.

Nuclear power plant management has just begun to recognize this is a political fight, and all the modern tools are being used by the opposition.  There is an “Anti-Nuclear Industry” professionally staffed, with some of it headquartered in Washington.  One of the common tools they use is repetition, which works for good or bad information.  When bad information is repeated and not countered by good information, it becomes the story.

As in elective politics nuclear power is a “red state, blue state” issue. The political demographics where nuclear power plants have been forced to shut down, compared to where they continue to run with just a little opposition clearly illustrate this truth.

The Anti-Nuclear industry has been effective in selling “Any amount of Radiation is dangerous.”

Safety  Nuclear power is safe. That does not mean perfect for any technology. When the total casualties and environmental effects for energy technologies are compared, nuclear power comes out way ahead of all fossil fuels and even hydro power.  It has been observed by Prof Von Hippel that, “Some people don’t like this kind of arithmetic.”  Those who don’t like the “spread sheet” type of comparison i.e. all effects and costs, seem to like to focus on the few large nuclear power accidents that have been media circuses.

Anti-nuclear information says that a large nuclear accident will make the surrounding area uninhabitable for thousands of years.  How silly is this when anyone can go on-line and see before and after pictures of the city of Hiroshima.  How much sillier that the plant spokespeople don’t use them.

The operational, health, and environmental records over more than half a century prove the personnel and environmental safety of nuclear power, and all uses of radiation.

Inexhaustible Energy  The fuel for nuclear reactors of the present types, and proven types being developed for the market,  can last for at least a thousand years.  This is possible because the energy from splitting an atom is a million times more than from burning an atom. (Burning gives a thousand times more energy than a moving atom-wind or water)

Benign  The environmental impact of the whole nuclear fuel and plant cycle is small compared to fossil fuels, because so much less fuel material is used.  Used fuel is in solid form and is easy to handle; there are no liquids to leak if there is an accident.

Reliable Nuclear power plants, and fossil fuel plants, can and do run 24/7 to supply the electric grid. Coal and oil plants depend on fuel deliveries and usually keep a 60 day supply on hand.  Natural gas plants depend on pipelines, so a pipeline accident will shut them down.  Nuclear reactors have 1 ½ to 2 years fuel in them when refueled.
-----

End note: 

On Facebook, a friend wrote that Jaworowski had asked for the best things to communicate about nuclear.  He is at least partially correct.  However, for the sake of headline writing, I am going to continue to call this exercise "The Five Best Things about Nuclear."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Five Best Things About Nuclear (Angwin)

Golden Gate Bridge with light-brown photochemical smog behind it.  NOx gives the smog that color.
Wikipedia photo by Aaron Logan
Nuclear energy makes no smog.

The Question: Your Five Best

In early February, Suzanne Jaworowski, Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy, sent an email to selected people. She asked the recipients to send her "your top five most motivating facts about Nuclear."  Another part of the letter asked "What facts do you tell people and they are surprised?"

Dan Yurman blogged about this letter; his post is DOE wants ideas to educate the public about nuclear energy.  His post includes the entire letter, as well as his ideas for DOE's future actions.

Okay.  I am a little late about blogging about this.  Jaworowski wanted input by mid-February, and I sent my input quite promptly after after reading Dan's post. Alas, it took me a while to get around to putting my Five Best things on my blog.

Please comment or share your Five Best with me!

The Five Best Things About Nuclear, by Meredith Angwin

1)  Economic: Nuclear plants are great sources of jobs and taxes for a community.  They have jobs for people with advanced degrees and for high school graduates.  Plants often have very liberal policies to encourage continuing education for their employees.  Wages are usually higher than other local wages, and they hire good people at all education levels.

2) Safety: Living near a nuclear power plant exposes you to less radiation than you would get by 1) living in the mountains (cosmic radiation) 2) living on granite bedrock 3) taking some cross country airplane flights. People who live near nuclear plants do not have excess deaths from cancer.

3) Clean air.  This is my favorite, and not because of carbon dioxide. I hate NOx, which is formed in all modern high-temperature combustion-power processes, and only partially cleaned up. NOx is the precursor of acid rain, smog, etc.  Very bad stuff. In NOx, the air burns itself: the nitrogen in the air is burned by the oxygen in the air. This happens at the high temperatures in modern gas and coal plants.  Also, the good thing about talking about NOx is that talking about CO2 raises issues with people.  Many people do not buy into man-made global warming.  Mentioning CO2 is audience-specific, while "nuclear plants don’t make NOx" is straightforward. Nobody likes acid rain and smog!

4) Surprising fact: What a half-life actually means, People keep hearing that something has a half-life of  thousands of  years (or whatever) and this is presented as showing that  the substance is very dangerously radioactive.  Then I lead them through what a half-life is, and what  a long half-life actually means (few atoms decaying at any one time, not much radioactivity). A long half-life is low radioactivity.  This is almost always a surprise.

5) Surprising facts on the big accidents: Nobody died from radioactivity at Fukushima, and few or no cancer deaths are expected.  The sister plant (right next door) to Chernobyl was staffed and producing power until about 2000, over a dozen years past the day of the accident.

Please comment!

I spend a great deal of my time writing about energy and about nuclear power, yet this "five best" exercise was very helpful for me!  I hope you will comment on this post, hopefully with your own "five best."  I will be posting Howard Shaffer's list within the next few days.  If I get some great lists as comments, I plan to post them as blog posts.

I look forward to reading your comments.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Department of Energy: Nuclear policy, nuclear money, and the millennial caucuses

Secretary Rick Perry and Millennial Nuclear Caucus
October 2017
From Department of Energy website
Millennials 
Starting this past fall,  I finally noticed that the current Department of Energy was not the old Department of Energy. In October 2017, DOE cooperated with the Nuclear Energy Institute and held the first Millennial Nuclear Caucus, in Washington DC. At that event, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry met with a group of young nuclear professionals.  In a post on the DOE website, Secretary Perry said: "I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of young visionaries in the nuclear field this morning." As a matter of fact, the hashtag for the Millennial Nuclear Caucus meetings is #NuclearVisionaries.  Here's a brief video of part of the meeting.


More to come
When I saw the announcement of the first caucus, I felt terrific. The Department of Energy promoting young people and nuclear! Well, the only word was--- awesome!

Next, I realized there was more to come. I learned that the Washington meeting was going to be the first of a series of caucuses.  So far, there has been the first Caucus in Washington, another in Ohio, and a third a few days ago at Texas A&M University.  The Caucuses are listed on this page of the Department of Energy website.  https://energy.gov/ne/millennial-nuclear-caucus Videos of the Caucuses are at the U. S. Department of Nuclear Energy Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/NuclearEnergyGov

UPDATE: The next Millennial Nuclear Caucus will be March 7 in Washington D.C. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/millennial-nuclear-caucus-tickets-43452885751

The most recent Caucus took place at Texas AMU on February 20. Once again, the millennial panelists were from various types of nuclear facilities: national labs, start-ups, operating plants. This time, the leader from DOE was Suzie Jaworowski, senior advisor to the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy. Here (hopefully) is a direct link to video of the meeting on the DOE Nuclear Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/NuclearEnergyGov/videos/215074865735271/

Hype or real?
Now, first of all, I would be happy even if this new look by DOE were only hype. I am happy that the the government is holding and co-sponsoring events like the Millennial Nuclear Caucus. Previous administrations tended to act as if nuclear power were some sort of embarrassment. The current DOE Facebook page and the nuclear-positive events show a change in attitude.

However, if you go to the video of the Texas meeting on the Facebook page,  you will see Rod Adams ask a question that he admits puts Suzie Jaworowski "on the spot."  (Move the slider to about 1:02) To paraphrase Adams's question: This is all very good, but the DOE budget proposal has less money for nuclear for next year than it had for this year.  Is DOE really going to be able to support nuclear?

Side note:  Optimism, pessimism, realism  and everything in between before the official start of the Advanced Reactor Summit V is Rod Adams post which includes his comments on the Millennial Caucus meeting.

What was Jaworowski's answer?  Since the budget isn't totally set, the answer couldn't be totally set either. Jaworowski answered that DOE is focusing on its priorities. High priorities include keeping the existing fleet going, and keeping the pipeline of future projects underway. There are also plans for public-private partnerships, with government and private money leading to innovations.

Policy or money?
You might say Jaworowski gave a standard-issue answer, and maybe it was.  But I notice the nuclear group at DOE running events, making videos, posting to FB, and I am encouraged.

The federal government has been running immense deficits for years, and the Republicans are the party of "small government and decreased government spending." Therefore, budget cuts were inevitable, from both a practical (deficits) and policy (Republican) point of view.  Considering that budget cuts will be coming, the new pro-nuclear initiatives of the current administration are very welcome.

In other words, if the major role of the government is to spend money, then things are looking bad.  If the major role of the government is to set policy, then things are looking better.  I think this administration's policies will be pro-nuclear. I believe these policies will have an impact.

I am well aware that support of energy initiatives usually requires both policy and money.  I know money/policy is not a simple either-or.  However, setting policy is the first step.

If you look at Rod Adams post (linked above) you can see a somewhat more pessimistic evaluation of the future of nuclear. I'm not so sure of myself as to say he is wrong.  And he isn't completely pessimistic, either. Maybe I am just an optimist.  Still, I am optimistic about the DOE initiatives.

Only time will tell.






Thursday, February 22, 2018

Having fun with a book sale



Thank you for your orders of Campaigning for Clean Air!

I was right, and George was wrong.

When I told my husband George that I was going to set up a President's Day reduced-price offer for the paperback version of my book, he said that such an offer was useless. He claimed that my target audience is not price-sensitive. I told him that marketers do this all the time, because everyone likes a deal. Plus---people like a signed book.

I was right. He was wrong.

But the main thing was: I had fun!

Orders and comments

Not only did I get some orders, but most orders came with a comment. If I had known how much fun it is to sell the book myself, and to see all the comments, I would have done something like this sooner.  I quote or paraphrase some of the comments below:

  • Tell your husband that students are price-sensitive!
  • Hope you win your bet!
  • I have a copy of your book, but I want a signed copy that I can keep for myself. I won't lend it to friends (as I do with my current copy).
  • From over here in Vernon, near Vermont Yankee, thank you for everything you do.
  • Tell George he is wrong.
I enjoyed the comments!

The sale is over, but you can still buy a book

The sale is over, but the book is widely available.

Whether you are a member of the American Nuclear Society or not, you can buy both the paperback and the ebook through the American Nuclear Society . Members get a discount.  You can also buy the book from Amazon or Nook or Kobo. Most people seem to buy it from Amazon.

I encourage people to order the audiobook through Amazon (Audible). The narrator, Pamela Almand, is wonderful! I cannot arrange a discount on the audiobook, but there are ways you can get a discount on Audible, as I understand it

Or your library can buy the book for you

If you go to your local library, you can ask them to order a copy of the book. The paperback book is available from Ingram Spark, as well as being available from the various places listed above. As I understand it, libraries prefer Ingram Spark.

The audiobook is available from Overdrive. Overdrive is set up for bulk audio orders, and to fufill orders from libraries.

However you obtain the book, I hope you enjoy it!