Sunday, November 20, 2016

Exelon/ComEd asking for the "largest rate hike in US history"

20150714 2708, Dresden Generating Station looking north
[I have no idea why a nuclear power plant has smokestacks.
This is a water cooled plant.]
It is interesting how different organizations spot different issues in a proposed Illinois state legislation bill. Evidently Exelon/ComEd is trying to force a rate change for electricity for everyone in Illinois. BEST puts a value of $24 billion on the rate hike. They focus on Illinois residents and industry keeping obsolete power plants, both nuclear and coal, running.

In the past ComEd has indicated that some of its nuclear power plants are not profitable at the market rate.

Several years ago they went to the legislature to try to force Illinois electricity users to pay a premium because their nuclear power plants don't emit CO2. First of all, global warming is a global problem, and I don't think only Illinois people should pay for CO2 reduction. Secondly of all, I never did see why some plants were unprofitable whereas others still made money. I remember when they were being built that they were designed for a 40 year lifetime. In the 1960s, that seemed like forever. Surely the bad plants have been paid for, so close them. Zion has already been removed. It is a shame that this nation never did get economical, modular nuclear power plants off the ground. Having 50% of our power generated by nuclear plants was nice back when the nation had a major coal strike. Now it would be nice to have some modern nuclear plants because of global warming.

After 2014, ComEd tried to get a premium charge for nuclear generated electricity because of its dependability in the winter. 2014 was a severe winter and many coal plants were below capacity because their coal froze. And plants that had converted to natural gas were below capacity because the gas pipelines could not handle the additional demand of gigawatts of boiler capacity being switched from coal to gas. Fortunately, people fight the construction of new oil pipelines, but seem to ignore new natural gas pipelines.

In terms of saving Illinois coal plants, I have never understood why Indiana and southeastern US plants could afford to add sulfur scrubbers and continue to use Illinois Basin (high-sulfur) coal whereas Illinois coal plants could not afford to add the scrubbers and thus switched to Wyoming Basin (low-sulfur) coal.

But PVtech explains that the new bill would not be a classical rate hike, but a fundamental change to how the usage is computed in an attempt to keep the solar industry dead in Illinois. The cost of solar power has been decreasing, and it must be getting close enough to being competitive that Exelon/ComEd is now scared of it taking off in Illinois. Instead of measuring the power you use during a month, they would measure the power you use during the worse (highest) 30-minute period of that month.

So if I turn on the air conditioning during ab abnormally hot day in May, I'm going to be billed that month as though I ran the air conditioner during every hour of every day that month! Since even in July and August we run the air conditioner just a few days of the month, this change would kill our summer electric bill. (In contrast, it would be no big deal if I lived in Houston where they run the air conditioner every day during the summer.) The good news is that I no longer would have to worry about the parasitic power used by all of my "boxes" (DVR, VCRs, TVs, stereos, microwaves, stove, desktops, laptops, etc.). More significantly, the last few years I have run my furnace blower continuously to help reduce the humidity in the basement. I also run a dehumidifier in the basement. This currently has a significant impact on my electric bill during the summer. Much more than the few days I run the air conditioner. Since I will run the blower and dehumidifier for at least a half-hour each month during the summer, the new usage measurement will allow me to run them continuously with no increase in my bill.

Can you imagine steam locomotive manufactures going to a state legislature to try to keep them alive? The disruption of disruptive technologies is that the old technologies loose. Our state legislature should allow old generating plants to die. If that rate change goes through, I may have to buy an engine+alternator set not only for power outages, but to also run during my peak power demands. But getting one big enough to run my central air conditioner would be expensive.

Maybe the coal plants can switch to bio-coal. Especially since I found an article that claimed old tires and plastic can be used as feedstock, not just wood scraps.

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