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The energy storage myth May 28, 2012

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid, solar.
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One of the decrepit arguments the “big power” supporters -which basically means nuclear- love to wheel out at every possibility is the “problem” of energy storage. It comes up over and over and over again.

They say that renewables don’t deliver power 24/7, so if you want to use them, you have to be able to store it somewhere. And -they continue- since we don’t have this storage, what we really have to do build backup systems, like gas plants. So renewables increase CO2.

Oh, there’s a problem all right, a problem with the argument. Quite simply, the storage problem doesn’t exist.


FIT to be tied January 31, 2012

Posted by Maury Markowitz in FIT program, power grid, solar.
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In my last post I talked about how we try to compare the value of the electricity that different sources generate. When we measure that in terms of how much you pay, we call that the “Levelized Cost of Electricity”, or LCoE. Right now that comes out to around 25 cents/kWh for solar panels on your roof, a little less than double what you pay on average if you buy power from your local utility.

But the key take-away from these sorts of calculations is that solar is falling in cost, and quickly. It’s only a matter of time before it’s cheaper to put a panel on your roof than it is to buy it from the grid. In the best case scenarios, that day is only a few years out.

Except it isn’t. At least not here in Ontario. And that’s because the very program that is helping introduce PV to the market basically guarantees it will never happen. And if we ever want to see grid parity, and we do, then the program has to go. Here’s why…


Man bites Fox October 17, 2011

Posted by Maury Markowitz in balonium, power grid.
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The 4th Estate was all excited today by this report, which claims that Ontario power prices are going to go up $4,000 because of wind and solar. Wow, scary stuff! I wonder why no one picked up on this before the election!?

Oh wait, they did. In fact, one of the paper’s two authors wrote an opinion piece about it in the National Post two weeks ago, three days before the election. Odd, then, that the papers are dragging this up now, especially when you consider everyone’s talking about it like it’s news. And people complain the media forgets stories too quickly?

Sadly the actual paper they wrote is hidden behind a $25 paywall, so I’m sure no one reporting on it today has actually read it. But that’s OK, because whenever a paper is preceded by it’s press release, you know it’s gotta be good. So looking over the co-author’s piece in the Post, I quickly came across this tired old bromide:

For example, the ministry did not adequately account for the fact that wind and solar require backup fossil-fuel generation to ensure no blackouts or brownouts occur.



Nuclear vs. Renewables, a tale of two subsidies July 22, 2011

Posted by Maury Markowitz in nuclear, power grid.
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Thinking over the recent AECL sale, and all the political hay due to Samsung’s part in the Green Energy Act (GEA), I realized there’s a wonderful illustration of the difference between subsidy levels in the power industry.

SNC-Lavalin got to buy AECL for $15 million, and was immediately paid $750 million in tax write-offs.

Samsung got access to the grid for $7 billion, and was handed $452 back in tax write-offs.

That’s really the whole story right there. But when you dig a deeper, it gets even better…


Tim Hudak wants to buy you a coffee May 10, 2011

Posted by Maury Markowitz in FIT program, power grid.
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When the Green Energy Act first came out I wasn’t exactly a big fan. But once I had smarter people educate me (the world’s most beautiful supermodels, naturally), the brilliance of the plan became more obvious. If, and I’ll admit it’s a big if, the plan creates even a few thousand jobs, then it’s pretty much revenue neutral. And if we get any export business out of it? Ontario for the win!

But in spite of these potential benefits, one has to admit that it’s a hard sell – not hard so much as confusing. In this era of the twitterverse, that’s pretty much death. What will happen is that your enemies will latch onto the shortest, easiest to spit out “problem” and harp endlessly on that point.

So, consider the latest elections. As the Globe and Mail notes, “Tim Hudak vows to scrap lucrative green-energy deals in Ontario

Why, you ask? Because “The Tories would end the McGuinty government’s “expensive and unsustainable” so-called Feed-In Tariff or FIT programs and its “sweetheart” Samsung deal if they win the election next October, Mr. Hudak pledged.”

Ahh, the sweetheart deal… the one in which “Samsung will receive $437-million in incentive payments over the 25-year life of the deal if it fulfills its obligation to create 16,000 jobs.”

Wait, wait wait… let’s do the math. 16,000 jobs, at say $50,000 average salary, and maybe 15% tax rate that goes to Ontario coffers is $120 million  year. And how much will this cost the Ontario taxpayer, directly? $21 million a year. Oh boy, better kill that program, quick!

How much is that $21 million? $1.60 on your hydro bill. A YEAR. $1.60 a year. Hudak wants to cancel the program to make Ontario the greenest province in Canada to save you one medium double double. Go team Hudack!

There’s more.

“Mr. Duguid told reporters he does not know how much in penalties the province would have to pay the consortium if it were to walk away from the deal.”

I know it’s ancient history, 15 years ago or so, but does anyone remember the EH-101 helicopter deal? You know, that one where we scrapped the sweetheart deal we signed to get a bunch of helicopters to replace the ones that were falling out of the sky? The one where we waited another decade, only to end up having to buy a different model of the same helicopter? Sound familiar?

I’ll take my coffee coal-fired, thanks!

Musings on a national grid July 16, 2009

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid.
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I’ve advocated that Ontario buy it’s power from Quebec instead of building out new nuclear plants. The power is slightly more expensive per kW, but that’s production costs, there’s no capital costs. If you take that $26 billion that Darlington B was going to cost us, you can subsidize our power load back to local prices for a very long time.

But the flap over Darlington and OPG hides a larger story that I’ve hinted at before. I’d like to share that with you now.