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View Diary: Utilities on Solar & Distributed Power "€œIt's a potential threat to us over the long term" (307 comments)

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  •  What does that mean, "a strong interest in (0+ / 0-)

    energy regulation"?  Pretty vague.  

    Also, utilities have sucked at maintaining their grids.  Regulation has failed.  The utilities milk every penny out of the consumer without setting aside any reserves for upgrades.  Look at Florida after the hurricanes.  People should have been much more pissed off.  When electricity is off for weeks it is because the grid was not maintained and because the utility didn't put the money into an emergency plan and trained repair people.

    I have to wonder how much of the tab for repairs is picked up by the taxpayer.

    •  They've "sucked"? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      just another vet, offgrid

      Power is pretty reliable most places in the US. I mean, sure, you'll get outages during and after storms, but storm-proofing power lines and such is a horrendously expensive proposition. It's better and more economical to just take and fix the odd power outage here and there.

      But in general I think they've done excellently. Power is pretty reliable most places most of the time.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 08:39:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If utilities want the benefit of being a (4+ / 0-)

        monopoly, they should be required to maintain and update their equipment.  Instead, they let it get run down and use power outages as an excuse for hiking rates.

        The CEO of Florida Power and Light made $14.8 million in 2011.  That's expensive.  

      •  you don't stormproof (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        but you have to have enough crews that you can fix a major outage in 72 hours.

        You have to size the work force and the spares such that you can model a Cat 3 hurricane blowing into your area and you can replace all your High Voltage grid towers and wires in 72 hours and you can get secondary grid up in ten days and you can get all your customers back up in 21 days.

        So that means you need to stormproof your baseload generation and you probably want to stormproof your peaker plants ut you need to be able to replace 100 miles of 750KV towers in a day.  

        When Maine had big ice storms, they got the national guard to chopper in towers intact and they borrowed crews from all over the east coast.  

        if Hurricane Andrew hit Philidelphia you need to be able to get power to critical services within 72 hours, you want comms, police, hospitals, Fire departments and shelters up and running ASAP.

        then you work outwards, fixing road systems, water systems, trains,

        and then you have to get power to Gas Stations, pharmacies, banks, grocery stores,  big apartment buildings,,,,,


      •  Any country in Europe (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DocGonzo, Calamity Jean, RUNDOWN

        would laugh derisively at electricity delivered by wires running overhead from wooden poles!  Even in Hungary and Romania, they cast the poles out of concrete.  Most of Western Europe uses buried cables that don't go out during storms, let alone any other time unless the plant itself fails.  Nor would they dream of allowing something like the Enron debacle to occur.  Power itself has traditionally been run entirely by the government, and although there has been some privatization, regulation remains draconian by American standards.  Regulatory capture by private interests is less common than government "capture" by the vested bureaucracies and unions of power agencies.

      •  Suburban NYC (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, RUNDOWN

        I live in an NYC suburb, with a nuke plant practically in my backyard. I pay the highest electric rates in the country.

        Every month or two I get a power outage that lasts from 2-30 minutes. A couple times a year I get an hour outage. Plus the outages about half the time there's a big hurricane-related storm or 3'+ snowstorm or ice storm, which is about twice every three years. For which I'm paying more for just the network/delivery than half the country pays for their entire electric service.

        The US grid is held together with duct tape and twine (and lots of electrical engineer and line worker overtime). Mostly the network is easy (demand response is hard, but that's generating), especially after over a century buildout. Watching the NYC area for the weeks after Sandy (while a single downed pole/transformer in the neighborhood kept our power off for a week and a half) made it clear that the utility's ongoing maintenance sucked, their disaster plans nonexistent or worse, and their emergency skills more Keystone Kops than Captain Sully.

        So yes, "sucked" is the right word. Especially considering the huge profits they make most of the time while they're merely blah, without paying penalties for failing us during the inevitable crises.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 03:07:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  um (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      just another vet, nzanne, patbahn, RUNDOWN

      that's pretty far off.  If utility rates weren't set, we would be paying VASTLY higher rates.  Check out the history of utilities in the late 1800's and early 1900s for the comparison.

      Yes, there's been underinvestment in transmisstion, but it still mostly serves customers.  We don't have frequent brown or black outs from transmission failures, so that doesn't wash.  ANything after a hurricane will be a mess.

      Ultimately, the tab is not picked up by the tax payers, but the rate payers.  That's how the rate cases work.  The utility says "we need X amount of money for Y" and if it's reasonable the energy commission approves a rate increase to cover it.

      I am an environmental lawyer who also works on the energy side, so I keep track of the energy regulatory developments.  However, I don't work for an energy companies at the moment.  I am hoping to land a spot with NRG solar, though.

      Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescindibles.

      by Mindful Nature on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 08:42:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Baloney on several counts. I have seen first hand (5+ / 0-)

        the after effects of a hurricane.  The utility, FPL, was utterly clueless.  The repairs trucks drove around lost and unable to figure out where problems were.  Several weeks without power, I called FPL to check on the status of the outage and the customer service person assured me that my power was back on.  I was pretty certain it wasn't.  It was a joke.  And, no, everything shouldn't be a mess after a hurricane if equipment is in good order.

        Your quaint explanation of how rates are set is amusing.  Maybe you aren't from Florida and don't understand the culture of corruption.  FPL has handpicked the people sitting on the Public Service Commission.  It should perhaps be renamed the Utility Service Commission.  It truly serves the utilities and not the public.

      •  NRG Solar (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, JamieG from Md

        is a leader in Utility bypass.

        their big growth prospect is selling systems direct to large users.  

        We won't get to a true distributed grid for a long time, but
        we could see a lot of big utilities collapse in a few years if their business models fail and they need to get state aid to keep the grid running.

        •  That's probably quite accurate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescindibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 04:18:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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