Sunday, October 4, 2015

Vermont Yankee closed: the consequences were completely predictable

Vermont Yankee Closed: The Consequences were 100% Predictable

Last Monday, American Nuclear Society's blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe, featured my post  Vermont Yankee Closes: the Consequences Were 100% Predictable  The consequences were not only predictable, they were indeed, predicted.

In this blog post, I give a historical summary of many predictions, over many years. They all calculated that closing Vermont Yankee would have cause huge economic effects on the region.  They predicted the economic losses in the region would be in the multi-hundred-million-dollar per year range.

Yes. All the economists predicted hundreds of millions in losses for the local area. Nine figures. Their economic-loss predictions range from  $100,000,000 per year to over $400,000,000 per year.  Some of the differences depend on whether the economists were looking at just-Vermont, or at the tri-state region.

In other words, huge.  And these predictions are coming true.

I ask the question: why were all these economic predictions ignored?  Why was the state of Vermont so eager to close Vermont Yankee down?

Please visit my ANS post and write some comments.  Share your thoughts and share the article.

More Press for Vermont and Vermont Yankee

Okay.  I am blushing furiously.  But here are some more links….

Besides writing the article for ANS Nuclear Cafe,  I was on Pat McDonald's TV show, Vote for Vermont: Beyond the Sound Bite.  I link to the video of my interview in this blog post: Vermont Energy with Pat McDonald.

Rod Adams
But wait, there's more!  Rod Adams embedded the video on his blog, Atomic Insights.  The blog post is titled: Meredith Angwin with Pat McDonald on Vote for Vermont.  But Adams didn't just embed it: he also summarized the conversation. He especially noted McDonald's shock about the source of New England renewables.

The morning of the show, I went to the New England grid operator site and took a screen shot of the percentage renewables and the percentage-what-type-of-renewable, and brought the screen shots to the show. They were very typical screen shots, though the low demand on the grid showed a higher percentage of nuclear than might be seen at other times.  But the shocker was the renewables.  McDonald didn't expect to learn that almost half of our vaunted New England "renewable" electricity consists of burning refuse, and most of the rest of our renewable mix consists of burning wood.  (See graphics below.)

If you don't have time to watch the half-hour video, read the summary at Adams blog.

But Wait, There's More!

The ANS Nuclear Cafe blog has a feature called "Friday Matinee."  Most Fridays, they embed a video on the blog.  Yes….this Friday…the video was the Pat McDonald show featuring me.  Video: ANS Member Meredith Angwin on Vote for Vermont.

You have SO many opportunities to watch the show. You can watch the video at my blog, Adam's blog, ANS Nuclear Cafe blog.  I do hope you will watch it….

There is still more.  The ANS post about economic predictability was reprinted in the Ethan Allen Institute newsletter (I am director of their Energy Education Project).  I was on Rod Adam's panel in a recent podcast: Atomic Update.  I will be on the Common Sense radio show this coming Tuesday, October 6 on WDEV.  The show is between 11 and noon, and you can listen on line and even call in, toll-free. (The date of the WDEV show is now correct.  An earlier version of this post had an incorrect date.)

Okay. That's enough for now.  I can't blush any redder, so I will quit writing.

Monday morning fuel mix on the grid
Renewables are 7%

And here are the renewables, the 7% above
 Consists of 48% wood, 45% refuse


Engineer-Poet said...

So wind and solar were about 6% of the roughly 7%, on the order of 0.4% of the total demand.

And the Greens think they are going to run the nation on them.

They are insane!

Engineer-Poet said...

So wind and solar, the Green panaceas, were roughly 6% of the roughly 7%, or about 0.4% of the total demand.

And the Greens think they can run the nation on them.

They are insane!

Anonymous said...

And, burning wood and refuse is really good for the air, just depends on how many batteries get through undetected. :-)

mulp said...

Well, since Reagan, the only economics allowed is free lunch economics - TANSTAAFL economics of the pre-Reagan era fell out of favor, the era of capitalism and PUCs that set rates to pay the 8-10% ROICs that drove utilities to invest a lot of money.

Free lunch economics calls for tax cuts to put money in your pockets, and competition and deregulation of power generation to cut over investment in unneeded utility power generation.

The idea was to cut the price of civilization, of energy capitalism, based on the idea that paying less would never have a cost, that lower prices would result in high costs.

When the focus switched from paying high wages by forcing more stuff like energy at prices high enough to pay those high wages, to lower prices for stuff, like energy, no one declared up front: lower prices will cost you your middle class lifestyle. Instead, its was sold as a free lunch: the deregulation will lower prices and everyone will be richer.

To keep Vt Yankee open would have required significant higher prices for electric power, which would have required higher electric rates, and in a deregulated market, anyone who could would stop buying from Vt Yankee and it would go bankrupt with high debt.

So, thanks to both the Reagan and now Freedom Caucus conservatives attacking PUCs and the anti-nuclear opposition attacking PUCs in the 70s, nuclear power plants are rarely viable without big government subsidies because they do not have the government forcing consumers to pay the high labor costs of nuclear power.

You can accept a high school drop out digging coal, drill baby drilling, but you do not want the high school drop out doing the welding that must be perfect in a nuclear plant or running the reactor according to written checklists. Nuclear power requires rate payer pay enough to pay high wages.

Which is great for the communities with all those high paid workers! But you can't have low electric rates and high paid workers!

Meredith Angwin said...

You are correct that operation and maintenance costs at nuclear plants are higher (in general) than similar costs at fossil steam plants (mostly coal) or gas turbines. However, fuel costs are much lower for nuclear plants. I encourage you to look at the operating records for all sorts of plants, in the U.S. for the last ten years.

When you look at the "total" column, you will see that nuclear is steadily less expensive than anything except hydro.

You may be wondering where the renewables are on this table. This is a conventional-only table, and that is probably a good thing. These costs can be determined easily. In contrast, it is very hard to get a handle on renewable costs. There is no question that the electricity from wind turbines and solar panels has become less expensive. However, renewables also have hidden costs, which show up on your bill, but don't show up in conventional analysis.

For example, a wind turbine may "bid in" to the market with a negative number: "We'll pay you 2 cents per kWh to tai our power!" Does that mean the wind power is free? Well, no. The wind turbine is also selling a REC (renewable energy certificate) for each of these kWh. It is selling those RECs to a utility that needs to buy them: the utility purchase is mandated by a state renewable program. The RECs are often as much as 6 cents per kWh. However, the WIND turbine company doesn't pay this. The poor utility who has to buy the REC rolls the REC price into its overhead costs, where it disappears from view (but not from your bill). But if the wind turbine couldn't sell the REC, it couldn't bid in at "take my power and I will pay you to do so." So what is the real cost of a kWh of wind?

I just want to say that competition of the grid is not a simple matter of high-priced employees have driven nuclear out of business. Nuclear has had high-priced employees forever, and nuclear generally still beats conventional sources for low cost power.

As they say on FB "it's complicated."