I've not tried extensively to model the relative effects; it's a very
interconnected problem that only very intensive efforts could really
begin to unravel which are causes and which are effects.
But, I'd venture the actual overall demand reductions purely from
conservation mandates are, while nonzero and positive, a fairly small
fraction of what has been reduced demand from off-shoring and other
shifts in various manufacturing and industrial usage. The shift from a
predominately product-based to the service and retail dominant economy
is, ime, the primary independent variable.
Which, of course, is also not really truly independent; there's the
whole thing of how piling regulation upon regulation and labor and other
production costs owing to both internal and external influences, tax
policy and all the rest have driven that shifting that are also all
Yep. That's why I give people a hard time about being so certain action X
caused result Y when there are also variables A through ZZZ to consider.
Take crime stats, which I am pretty familiar with. Is a reduction in crime
a) a better economy,
b) better detection methods that take more criminals off the street so less
crimes are committed
c) better deterrents such as CCTV cameras
d) better coordination between law enforcement agencies
e) better results from halfway houses and other programs designed to
reintegrate crims back into society
f) better supervision by parole and probation officers
g) better living conditions for poor people
h) better education in schools
i) reduction of lead paint in the enviroment (seriously!)
You'll find proponents for almost every possible factor, some quite strident
in their beliefs. Proving conclusively which factors are the leading ones
is close to impossible because we don't have detailed enough information and
because the world is a "one off" laboratory. You can't roll it back, change
some constants and variables and re-run it to see how things would change.
The economic and social interactions of the world are strongly immune to the
scientific method precisely because controlled, repeatable experiments are
close to impossible. At best, we have surveys and experiments very narrow
in scope, like the recent spate of them that show people do NOT always react
in their best interest and that Adam Smith's invisible hand presses a lot of
very wrong buttons at times.
<<Warren Samuels, a professor at Michigan University who died in August, set
about investigating what the originator of the term invisible hand, the
influential 18th-century economic thinker Adam Smith, meant by the term and
examine how it is applied.>>
<<In his book, Erasing the Invisible Hand, he argues that free market
thinkers, including Smith himself, were ambiguous about what the term means.
A close examination of articles, books and speeches over the last 200 years
shows it means different things to different people. Samuels says the
academics - and in particular the monetarists and free market cheerleaders
of the all-powerful Chicago school, who influenced many senior figures from
Margaret Thatcher to Bill Clinton - tailored the term for their own
I doubt it. Did you look at numbers for ALCOA, for instance? Those
electric smelters are quite large.
But, otoh, many have gone to larger capacity and even to multiple units
and more features of self-defrosting, ice makers, parasitic loads in the
electronics, etc., that are additional loads so the overall reduction
isn't as much as what one might think from simply a comparison of two
units of the same capacity.
As well, how much is a result of mandates as opposed to simply evolution
that occurred anyway is the factor that is certainly very difficult to
measure that I think is a major driver that the enforcement-minded want
to place far more benefits and far fewer negative consequences on the
results of mandates than are justified.
Baseload new plant generation hasn't gone up much, indeed, but there's
been quite a lot of capacity added by (primarily) three methods--
peaking units (virtually all gas turbine/combined cycle and some of
those units that were intended to be peaking only are now running
essentially base-loaded), upgrades and enhancements at existing plants
to raise rated power over that of initial installation (FL P&L adding
100 MWe to each of their four units, Entergy Grand Gulf unit adding
roughly 300 MWe--those alone are the equivalent of a full addition 700
MWe plant) and, lastly, while it's not baseload generation, overall
there's been quite a sizable installation of wind generation over the
last 10 years that have a contribution (I haven't tried to figure a
nationwide average capacity all these distributed systems would amount
to, but it is probably another 3-500 MWe (WAG). )
So, the utilities are doing what they're supposed to do and protecting
us from ourselves, so to speak, by worrying about how to make an end run
to prevent such major disruptions despite the barriers raised. At some
point, however, there will come a day of reckoning unless the hiatus is
lifted. Unfortunately, I fear that the impetus to do so will only come
by the appearance of severe shortages that then will be seen as major
surprises to those most responsible for creating same.
I realized my above estimate had to be way low; that's about the total
for only the local area that I was thinking of so I got curious about
the overall totals.
The other follow-up link has the data--in 2010, the average power level
of wind generation units combined was an effective 10,800 MWe. There
was about 40,000 MWe capacity installed so an average capacity factor of
about 25% is about right overall. It illustrates vividly the benefit
and the weakness in wind being a non-reliable power source--it took 4X
the rated capacity installed to produce that 10k MWe on average; at some
times it was better but at other times the overall output was probably
only 10% or so.
I've previously analyzed and posted some of the results of the Gray
County monthly production statistics--in the seven years since been
online their cumulative average capacity factor has been right at 40%
(far better than the above national average) but the highest has barely
broken 50% and there are months for which it is in the low 20's even in
the heart of wind country. I have also shown that the correlation
between average windspeed and monthly output over those seven years is
>80% for every single month which demonstrates clearly the facility is
wind-limited in output, not controlled to not produce when wind would be
OBTW, that 10k MWe average output was just over 2% of the mix...that did
surprise me was that significant a contribution at this point.
The below link from EIA server shows net generation from 1949 thru 2010
Just plotted it in Excel; other than the drop during the early 80s
recession and again for the year of 2009, the overall rate of increase
is very consistent--there is no really discernible decrease in the
growth rate that could be attributed to conservation efforts.
Meanwhile, our electric co-op added over 100 new electric irrigation
pump loads just this past summer. Since those average 200-250 hp each,
that's approximately 23,000 kVA additional load. That alone wipes out a
whole bunch of more efficient refrigerators and other minor loads.
The point is like the google server farms--the real loads aren't
consumer electronics and such; it's the core industrial loads that are
the driver for both the grid and economic growth.
Well, actually, the number you gave above for household consumption is
roughly 1/4 of the total net generation last year. So, if you could cut
that to nothing you'd only reduce the overall usage by 25% or so; saving
even 50% of a partial household load just gets smeared out so much it
really doesn't make a whole lot of difference.
Not even close...
From the NYTimes article that says they're using 260 MW continuously,
one can get that's about 2300 GWhr/yr.
ALCOA corporate 2010 _purchased_ electric use was 55,883,973 MWhr or
55,884 GWhr. That's a factor of 25 larger. Their total direct energy
consumption was another factor of 25 over that, but the table wasn't
broken out by energy type specifically and I didn't spend the time to
see if it was possible to figure out how much was electricity as opposed
to process steam, etc. from auxiliary data.
I don't know that ALCOA is even very close to the highest overall
consumer, either, only that certainly Google is pretty small potatoes in
the scheme of things.
Sez you! (-;
"It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes
electrical energy too cheap to meter, will know of great periodic regional
famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly
over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger
and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours as
disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age." - Lewis
L. Strauss (Strauss who chaired the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954) in a
speech to the National Association of Science Writers, New York City
September 16th, 1954.
If the head of the Federal agency in charge of nuclear energy says it,
people tend to assume it's factual. When he says it to a conference of
science writers, you can bet it's going to get repeated quite often.
I heard the "too cheap to meter" claim once again at the 1963 NY World's
Fair Futurama exhibit. I remember it clearly because Dad was working on
nuke subs at the time.
Should give you an idea of how much play that one comment got. Serious or
not, it stuck in people's minds and I am sure had some effect on the
approval of the building of nuclear plants.
So how does one go about evaluating the seriousness of such a claim. It's
easy for us nearly half a century to laugh at it, but what was the
prevailing sentiment at the time?
The seriousness (or lack thereof) of such claims is pretty easy to
assess (and was at the time if one were really being rational) by
looking at the fora in which they were presented. These were Jeanne
(sp?) Dixon kind of futuristic "vision statements" at locations where
that was (or at least should be) the expected kind of "maybes" thrown
Strong indications in Chairman Strauss' remarks that he was reaching
include the elimination of both famine and disease--nobody has faulted
him for missing those, have they?
It was also the NY World's Fair in which the GE "House of the Future"
was essentially fully robotic, too, wasn't it? Or was that the Disney
thing; I forget which, but the juxtaposition of the two is pretty clear
the level of seriousness with which it should be taken.
Predicting the future is a wonderful fun but one should always recall
how much lack of success anybody has ever had in trying it. Who was it
that said there would never be a demand for more than a handful of
computers in the world?
I'm sure the utilities never believed it; they did, however, not expect
the double-storm of 20% interest rates and the kickback from the
anti-nuke lobby to be anything like it turned out to be.
BTW, I was just entering university in '63 in NucE; one of the first
things we were told in Intro to Nuclear Engineering was that while fuel
costs for commercial nuclear power _might_ become an almost negligible
portion of the total operating cost, there was no way the operating and
capital costs would ever be transparent.
I went on to receive BSNE/MS Phys (Nuclear Sci) and have spent nearly 40
years in engineering, first with a reactor vendor and then as consultant
to various clients mostly commercial utility related from a line of
online radiation-based analyzers for coal quality to robotics for
man-replacement in monitoring and repair to R&D instrumentation
development for both nuclear and fossil generation and much other
sidelight stuff along the way.
Yes; I had thought so but was too lazy to go check at the time... :)
BTW, the question spurred me to go find the following...
I tried to find any data at all on O&M costs for various green
generation but was totally unsuccessful. :(
I know the wholesale price we pay at our local REC to provide the
mandated green percentages is about 50% higher than our average cost of
our conventional supplies. Why, precisely, I don't know; one presumes
the capital-intensive nature and the low capacity factor makes it so
when combined w/ the mandate for the distributors to meet the arbitrary
percentages so they have a captive market despite the price...
TJ Sr. wasn't much thrilled with the idea of the modern computers, not
because there was no demand, rather the investment needed was incredible. It
should be noted that it was TJ Jr. who was pushing the point at the time. He
was the next IBM CEO. The rest is history.
Accounting for CFL savings gets pretty muddy when the power company
overcharges you for electricity so that they can underwrite "giving away"
bulbs below the cost of production. The bottom line is that you paid full
price for those bulbs by paying your inflated electric bill.
Electricity is going to cost more, period. When the new EPA rules go into
effect in January, a significant number of power plants will have to be shut
down. I can't find the number for Texas (I remember 17), but various reports
use the term "many."
Texas is but one of a couple dozen states facing the consequences of this
new rule on sulfur dioxide emissions.
Here's a thought:
While it's true the Congress passed a bill (and I think the president signed
it) that removed funding for the enforcement of the ban, the ban is still in
What this means is this: If you manufacture, transport, or sell 100-watt
incandescent bulbs, no agency of government has the wherewithal to sanction
But what if a future Congress restored the funding for prosecution? The EPA,
CPSC, Department of Boogers, or whoever is in charge of this business pulls
out their files - and believe me, they'll be keeping track - of offenders
for the past five years and heads to court.
I can see it now: Millions upon millions of dollars flow into the treasury,
suitably ear-marked for promotion of renewable energy! Companies that
manufacture whale-oil lamps get grants (whales are a renewable resource).
Shouts are heard across the land.
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