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Sunday, December 25, 2016

David Roberts on Illinois Passes Huge, Bipartisan Energy Bill--Still Antinuclear

Shortly after the elections I tweeted the following:

Below, David kicks off his article about bipartisan politics:

With the possible exception of California’s recent bill, it might be the most significant state energy legislation passed in the US in decades.

Interestingly enough, the link he provides in that quote goes to an article by Brad Plummer which had the following quote about California's bill:

Few countries have ever achieved cuts this sharp while enjoying robust economic growth. (Two exceptions were France and Sweden in the 1980s and ’90s, when they scaled up nuclear power).

Below are some examples of David doing his usual antinuclear energy double-speak:

The bill is somewhat misleadingly being headlined by most journalists as a bailout for nuclear plants.

But while the bailout is in there ...

Lots of them are pushing for bailouts ...

So that’s what Exelon wanted: a bailout for its nuclear plants...

...many enviros and consumer advocates remain deeply opposed to the bailout.

Government assistance for nuclear zero carbon energy is called a bailout but for wind and solar it's called a subsidy?

Whatever your feelings on the nuclear part of the deal — and many enviros and consumer advocates remain deeply opposed to the bailout — it is an extremely significant win for clean energy.

Above, David once again subtly works to isolate nuclear from the clean energy fold. Nuclear is considered a clean energy source by everyone but antinuclear organizations and antinuclear energy misinformation (pick a word) like David.

Now, in many wholesale power markets around the country, big, old, inflexible baseload power plants (coal and nuclear) are losing out to wind, efficiency, and most of all, smaller, more nimble natural gas power plants

The above comment is wrong on several counts:

  1. The next time you see David making small talk while getting drunk at a party, ask him how wind, which has an energy production profile that looks like the ragged edge of a saw blade, can replace a baseload power source that has an "inflexible" flat line for a profile? And while you're at it, ask him to demonstrate how he would insert a square peg into a round hole. Obviously, since the output from baseload plants does not vary, baseload power stations are not being displaced by wind, which varies, ah, constantly. What little wind can be found in Illinois, is displacing gas. Gas is displacing nuclear.
  2. If efficiency is displacing nuclear, why isn't it also displacing wind?
  3. If big is bad, would a wind farm that stretches for dozens of miles be more bad?

 This is freaking gencos, and utility holding companies like Exelon, right out. They do not like it one bit. Lots of them are pushing for bailouts (see: Ohio). Some are talking about trying to re-regulate power markets. Anything to save those plants.

The dripping hypocrisy makes me want to smile. Wind does not freak out with any hint that their subsidy may finally not be renewed, and rooftop solar PV owners don't freak out when they realize that their net metering was a actually a temporary subsidy, and like all subsidies, has to eventually end?

They’ve [two nuclear power stations combined] been losing money hand over fist — $800 million in the past seven years

Above David tries to make the number look huge, and it is significant for the power stations. But for citizens, it's equivalent to an increase of half of a penny per kWh in their electric rate. Instead of paying, say, 12 cents per kWh, they pay 12.5 cents.

... it worried some climate hawks, who didn’t want to lose over two and a half gigawatts of low-carbon energy generation, which would be replaced in large part with natural gas plants that raise Illinois carbon emissions.

Above is one of the more accurate statements made by David but it still merits some comment. He used the term "climate hawk" because he is the one who coined the term several years ago. Being just as or more concerned about climate change than David, I find the label characteristically divisive and disingenuous (and I know I'm not alone). What's more, this is the first time I've seen him suggest that some "climate hawks" are pronuclear energy. Being antinuclear has always been a de facto part of the definition. Has David just admitted that these purported hawks have already split into two warring camps?

The long-term fix, everyone seems to agree, is some kind of market reform, to properly value carbon. The short-term fix is giving the nuclear plants a bunch of money to stay open.

Really? A half-cent per kWh increase in rates to keep our major source of low carbon energy isn't a means of valuing carbon? Net metering and the wind Production Tax Credit subsidy are not " giving the nuclear plants wind and solar a bunch of money to stay open?" Sometimes, David can bring the confirmation bias like no other.

It’s a bold target, but various problems with the way the RPS is designed have led to disappointing results. I covered those deficiencies (and the way to fix them) in some detail here, way back in 2012, and won’t rehash them.

David was a philosophy major when he was hired by Grist to blog for them. Over the years he has morphed into a self-proclaimed expert on energy policy, which is remarkable in that he has absolutely no educational background in engineering or economics. What David desperately needs is peer review (a comment field) to help bring him down to earth.

A variety of grassroots, environmental, social justice, faith, and business groups have spent years pushing a bill that would make various fixes to the RPS...

Riiiight ... grassroots, environmental, social justice, faith, and business groups are going to re-engineer our low carbon electrical grid.

Perhaps most importantly to clean energy fans, net metering will remain in place ... Rather than scrap net metering, the bill protects it ... and most significantly, instructs the Illinois Commerce Commission to convene a multi-stakeholder process to study what comes after net metering— how better to capture the time- and location-dependent value of distributed energy.

Translation: Net metering is a subsidy. Subsidies are temporary. We bought off the few people who invested in rooftop solar who were never told that net metering would eventually have to end and pushed the inevitable end of the subsidy off into the future for some other poor politician to deal with.

So there won’t be any changes in rates that penalize rooftop solar customers.

...yet. And it's a deception to call the removal of a subsidy a "penalty." 

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