Renew On Line (UK) 32
Extracts from the July-August
2001 edition of Renew
|Welcome Archives Bulletin|
US Power Crisis
Bush backs Nukes - Consumers switch to PV
President Bush launched his new energy plan in May. It followed the line taken in the pre-election plan described in Renew 130, with nuclear power, oil, gas and coal figuring strongly. Renewables and conservation do get mentioned, but, meanwhile Bush has proposed halving the Federal research allocation for renewables (down from $376m to $186m), and also cutting funds for energy conservation.
Opposition to the plan has been widespread- we will be reporting in detail in Renew 132. But its not all bad- e.g. Bush did propose tax relief for the use of PV by homeowners, and certainly, with regular power blackouts and electricity bills recently hiked by 40%, consumers in California are turning to PV solar - even though its expensive. For example, the State Energy Commission, which is offering rebates on qualifying systems, took 450 applications from solar buyers in Jan and Feb - nearly the same amount received in the three previous years combined.
One consumer, who was going solar, told the local Orange County Register "Im outraged that large corporate powers can band together and apparently charge whatever they want for power. Were all hostage now to a consortium of electric-power suppliers".
Trying to offer a way out, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), has a generous Solar Rooftop Incentive Program, which subsidises the purchase and installation of a grid-connected PV for a customers home or business. The incentive amounts to $3 per watt for systems manufactured outside the city, $5 per watt for systems manufactured inside LA city lines. LADWP will pay up to $50,000 for each residential system, up to $1 m for a commercial installation.
There are however some conditions. The systems can supply no more than 100 % of the customers own power needs, averaged out. Customers have net metering - a meter that runs backwards - but are not allowed to actually make a profit by selling power, over and above what they consume, to LADWP. And, the incentive will not cover the purchase of energy storage systems - systems must be grid connected only. From LADWPs point of view, they get more solar generating capacity installed, using consumers rooftops, part funded by the consumer, and they can resell any excess solar electricity to other customers on the grid. According the ENERGIES e-newsletter LADWP would like to see 100,000 solar rooftops by 2010.
ENEGIES suggests that the main attractions for consumers are the possibility of reduced electric bills or the availability of reliable solar power for home or business at a significantly reduced cost. And, of course, a contribution to cleaner air.
However, we are not convinced that everyone will see it quite so positively. After all, some consumer-generators would presumably like to actually sell some power themselves, if they have any spare. Alternatively, why cant they go off-grid if they want to? But of course that wouldnt help LADWP get power to sell. Clearly, the micro politics of power generation are alive and well in this scheme. Take a look at Home Power, the excellent US journal of d-i-y renewables, for an interesting analysis of the sometimes byzantine politics of the California power market since deregulation, and what might be done to improve matters - see issues 81 Feb/ March 2001. and 83 June/July 2001. The USAs copy of our privatisation model certainly seems to have come unstuck.....
* Siemens Solar is setting up a sales and manufacturing facility in L.A., which will offer training in installation, and the company plans to offer ready-to-install, pre-engineered systems to incentive participants. On a 2 kW - roughly $15,000 - system participants can save $6000 on imported PV panels, $10,000 for locally built ones.
Electric Cars Get Green Light in US
Air quality officials in California have resisted industry opposition to electric vehicles, thus putting California on course to launch a clean-car revolution that could lead to thousands of advanced vehicles on the highways of America. A unanimous vote to require auto makers to sell electric cars in California, beginning with 2003 models, automatically triggers copycat mandates in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, where 8% of the USAs new cars are sold. Under federal law, those states could require electric vehicles only if California did so.
According to the LA Times the move came after a sometimes acrimonious debate in which representatives of the automobile industry urged the California Air Resources Board to abandon the so-called zero-emission vehicle mandate. The auto makers have fought the requirement for a decade, arguing that battery-powered cars are impractical and unmarketable, and they intensified their lobbying.
Josephine Cooper, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told board members. "Our companies have explored the path of battery electric vehicles. However, electric cars with broad consumer appeal are an idea whose time has come and gone, much like eight-track tapes, Betamax and New Coke".
The alliance represents the worlds 13 largest auto makers. It urged the state air quality board to replace the mandate with a three-year pilot project that would not have allowed other states to require electric cars. But, evidently the auto makers' stance triggered a backlash from the 11-member board, which includes appointees of Gov. Gray Davis, the Democrat Governor of California.
According to the LA Times, Air Quality Officials concede that, although running costs are low, battery-powered cars will initially cost $22,000 more than comparable gasoline-powered models and have only half the range or less, but supporters of the electric-car rule say that requiring auto makers to begin mass production would bring down costs and force the development of new technologies that ultimately will expand the range and reduce the cost of zero - emission vehicles, including hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles . This has been a long running, 11 year, battle, but at last it seems to have been won. In the beginning of the programme, 4,650 full-size electric cars and a like amount of other clean machines must be offered for sale. By 2010, this rises to 22,000 and to 50,000 by 2018. Sport utility vehicles join the programme in 2007. Those provisions can be met using full-size battery-powered cars, hybrids, fuel cells, and electric city and neighborhood cars.
* Opponents of the rule argued that electric cars would worsen Californias electricity shortages. But State officials say that electric cars refuel at night, when the state has surplus power. In any case, you could argue that by the time demand for power really starts to rise, there should be enough renewable capacity to meet it.