Alan Muller on Bloomgate

November 5th, 2016

Bloomgate is distraction from Del.’s energy challenges

The Oct. 30 feature on Bloomgate and the responses generated have been informative, but not so much about the central purpose of subsidizing “renewable energy.”

The point of renewable energy quotas and subsidies is to increase the use of low-carbon electricity sources. This should be an urgent policy goal for Delaware, as carbon emissions to the atmosphere drive climate change and the resulting sea-level rise. Delaware, one of the two lowest-lying states and with climate dependent industries such as agriculture and tourism, is extra vulnerable to the effects of global warming. For a long time, Green Delaware has been arguing that our state should be a leader in pushing for solutions to climate change, but there has been little response from Delaware leaders, in thrall as most of them seem to be to industrial special interests.

The Bloom fuel cells are fueled by natural gas, a fossil, not a renewable fuel. Their efficiency in generating electricity from natural gas appears to be roughly comparable to the best combined-cycle thermal power plants. Bloom claims its fuel cell emissions are lower carbon than the coal-dominated “PJM” grid energy mix. The flaw in this argument is that natural gas, while lower carbon emitting at the point of use, is probably not lower carbon than coal overall, unless we disregard the emissions associated with extracting and transporting natural gas, not to mention the nightmare that fracking has created for many communities.

It also appears that, contrary to claims made during Coastal Zone Act permitting, that the Bloom fuel cells produce significant amounts of hazardous waste. The state of New Jersey has withdrawn subsidies for fuel cell electricity generation, and the California Public Utilities Commission staff recommended likewise.

To the extent that Bloomgate enables Delmarva Power to meet its renewable quotas with fossil fuels, instead of fuels that are truly low carbon, such as wind and solar, the point of the renewable quota is defeated and climate change at least slightly accelerated. I do not know how aware the Markell administration was of these underlying realities, or if it cared, as the administration has not displayed great technical sophistication or procedural transparency. The General Assembly and the Public Service Commission have done no better.

What is certain is that Mother Nature does not care about Delaware politics – or Delaware schemes and scams. Our planet will keep on heating up regardless, unless and until we take meaningful steps to reduce climate-forcing emissions to the atmosphere.

Green Delaware has been following energy policy in Delaware since the early 1990s. It appears that Delmarva Power is making less of a contribution now than it was then. The so-called Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility appears to have been cooked up primarily to get Delmarva Power off the hook. It is possible that the SEU is finally beginning to function effectively. We hope so, but critical years of progress have been lost.

The critical need is to transition to very low carbon energy systems. The good news is that we can do it. The wholesale cost of wind power is on the order of 2-3 cents for a kilowatt hour. The cost of solar electricity is still higher than on-shore wind but dropping steadily. Storage systems can address the wind and solar generation. Investment on the demand side is an available and cost-effective option, but will not be widely implemented if energy policy remains under the control of utilities in the business of selling more, not less, electricity.

The good news for utilities is that the widespread use of electric vehicles is on the near-term horizon and this has great potential to increase electricity use while curtailing the use of diesel fuel and gasoline. This is the most credible scenario for leaving the oil and the gas in the ground, where it needs to stay while maintaining a transportation infrastructure.

Bloomgate is a ripoff of Delmarva Power ratepayers and bad energy policy. Worse, it is a distraction from what we need to be doing. The Bloomgate utility bill surcharges should be removed and the existing installations made to stand on their own if they can. It is not so hard to envision an energy policy for Delaware that would put the long-term future of the state – and the interests of residents – first. But how to get there from here, given the limitations of our political system, is less obvious.

Alan Muller is the executive director of Green Delaware.

BidenChamp

Joe Biden and Champ

I wish Joe Biden would get over himself and stop musing about a Presidential run.  He is not a contender.  Biden’s intent?  I’d guess it’s nothing more than a distraction from the strong showing by Bernie Sanders.  Bernie is the nightmare of Democratic leadership, precisely because he’s the most compelling candidate for democratic voters (small “d”), people interested in preservation, revival, of our democracy.

Biden sure isn’t what I’d look for in a candidate.  A recent post on Politico, How a Young Joe Biden Turned Liberals Against Integration, brings to light Biden’s efforts to preserve segregation.  That should be enough to take him off anyone’s potential Presidential candidate list.

Alan Muller, Green Delaware, has had to deal with Biden for a long time now, and has a lot of insight into Biden’s character based on Biden’s record and actions.  One story I’ve heard often is of a group opposing the Iraq war meeting with Biden in his office, and of Biden’s absolute and nasty dismissal of them and their concerns (expletives deleted for this PG-13 post).

Racial issues have been a struggle for Delaware, and Biden provides an example of white resistance to integration.  Delaware was a slave state.  Though it bills itself “The First State,” and though  Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, it was also the first state outside the Confederacy to reject the 14th Amendment, in 1867, and Delaware was very slow to ratify the 14th Amendment — it held off until 1901, 33 years after it was approved by enough states to be added to the Constitution.

Here’s an example of Biden’s “leadership,” a reminder of Biden’s efforts as a U.S. Senator to maintain segregation:

How a Young Joe Biden Turned Liberals Against Integration

From the article, the bottom line:

Then, as a court-ordered integration plan loomed over Wilmington, Delaware, in 1974, Biden’s constituents transformed their resistance to busing into an organized—and angry—opposition. So Biden transformed, too. That year, Joe Biden morphed into a leading anti-busing crusader—all the while continuing to insist that he supported the goal of school desegregation, he only opposed busing as the means to achieve that end.

This stance, which many of Biden’s liberal and moderate colleagues also held, was clever but disingenuous. It enabled Biden to choose votes over principles, while acting as if he was not doing so.

The article is off, though, in its statements of the mechanism of busing, claiming that it was white parents afraid of busing their white children into black schools.  “White parents trembled with rage as they envisioned scenarios in which their children would be bused into African-American neighborhoods.”  Though white parents did indeed have this fear, the plans were not to bus white children, the plans were to “integrate” the white schools, and to desegregate the black schools, by moving black students to the white schools — that’s what they did not want to see happen.  Busing was most often a burden on the black students, transported to white schools, as white parents, school board and local elected officials did a George Wallace and blocked the doors.  This focus on “dilution” was evident in the court ordered Minneapolis arrangement, which was based on a bizarre definition of segregation, which in Minneapolis was that a school 35% black was “segregated,” but a school that was 100% white was not (note that in an failed effort to avoid a lawsuit, but in my experience a very educationally successful effort, Minneapolis formed the Central H.S. “Magnet School” to draw white students in from other schools to dilute the student population.)
How was Biden, and how were all the other Senators, able to couch their opposition to integration, their efforts to preserve segregation, as opposition to “busing.”  Yes, it is disingenuous, but that’s too nice a word.  Same goes for the term “neighborhood school” a thinly-veiled cry for continuation of segregation — after all, the neighborhoods are segregated.  The framing goes directly back to George Wallace and his development of the language of racism and hate that continues today (I’ve just finished reading “The Politics of Rage,” a must read to see the roots of today’s euphemisms — it’s nothing new.).  I’m glad Politico brought this to light.

PJM_ArtificialIslandProjectRecommendationPJM’s Plan for Delaware

Sure hope so — they’ve got it coming.  Cost apportionment is a big issue, and for PJM, well, they’d taken their cost apportionment dream to FERC, got the FERC rubber stamp, but it seems they’ve not done a good job of it, according to the Federal Court — that’s old news:

Illinois Commerce Commission v. FERC August 6, 2009

Fast forward to today — turns out Delaware’s Gov. Markell is objecting to costs assessed to Delaware ratepayers, (though I’m not seeing any objection to the project itself coming out of Delaware).  DOH!  He’d better, this project does nothing for Delaware.

Here’s the PJM Planning doc that tells all:

PJM White Paper Artificial Island Project

Note on the first page the statement of need, of why this project is wanted — this is really important:

PJM specified that solution proposals must improve stability margins, reduce Artificial Island MVAR output requirements and address high voltage reliability issues.

So let me get this straight — they’re having stability and reliability issues and PSEG wants to reduce Artificial Island MVAR output requirements, and want to charge Delaware ratepayers for this?  PUH-LEEZE… This is a benefit to PSEG, not Delmarva…

And look what our big-coal friends at ODEC have to say:

ODEC letter regarding Artificial Island 7-29-2015

This project taps into the new line that was built not long ago:

RTEP_DE

Delaware has no regulation of transmission need or siting — so utilities can pretty much do whatever they want.  Further, it’s a FERC tariff, so the state doesn’t have anything to say about it going into the rates, and cost apportionment.  Great, just great.  So now Markell is objecting?  It’s a little late…

Delaware needs legislation — legislation like a “Power Plant Siting Act” and a legislative requirement of a need determination for whatever infrastructure they think they want.  They need legislation specifying that only Delaware utilities can own and operate transmission in Delaware (see House Bill 387 from the 2014 session).  Here’s what House Bill 387 would have done (It would have been an effective good start, protective of Delaware!), establish that a utility wanting to construct and operate transmission demonstrate NEED!  Here’s the wording, though it would require quite a bit more, and some solid rules, to be effective:

(5)Public utility electric transmission service providers must have a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the construction and operation of any new electric transmission lines operating at 100KV or greater and located in the State or offshore waters and integrated with the State electric transmission grid.In granting such certificate, the Commission shall consider:

a.the need for the proposed transmission line;

b.the impact on the reliability of the transmission grid

c.the long term viability of the public utility proposing the line;

d.the technical engineering and operating expertise of the public utility;

e.the technology and design proposed for the new transmission line; and

f.the economic and safety impact of the proposed transmission line.

Here’s the report about this PJM approval from Jeff Montgomery, News Journal:

Disputed cost-shares remain in plan for new power line

Note this snippet:

PJM officials said regional and federal rules and precedents obliged the organization to assign 99.99 percent of costs to Delmarva’s transmission zone, mostly in Delaware and Maryland.

The total includes the cost of a $146 million power line installation under the Delaware River and $68 million worth of transformer and substation work by Public Service Electric and Gas at the Artificial Island nuclear complex along the Delaware River southeast of Port Penn.

The Delaware Public Service Commission estimated that transmission costs would increase by about 25 percent in Delaware because of the plan.

“For the average residential consumer, monthly electric bills could increase by several dollars. For the average business, the increase may be more significant,” Markell said in his objection. “Some of our heaviest users could see increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

And here’s the schedule for this project going forward from the PJM Board meeting yesterday:

PJM_ArtificialIslandProjectSchedule

Seems there’s an opportunity before the FERC ALJ.  But before then?  What is Delaware going to do?  Well, take a look at what Illinois did when it didn’t appreciate the FERC Cost Apportionment scheme — they sued FERC and won, based on the notion that if they weren’t benefitting, they shouldn’t be the ones paying:

Illinois Commerce Commission v. FERC August 6, 2009

The FERC Cost Apportionment scheme was remanded, and it’s in settlement negotiations right now.  What is Delaware doing in that docket?  To review the public postings, go HERE and search for FERC Docket EL05-121.  The next settlement conference is Thursday, August 6, 2015, starting at 10:15 a.m. in a hearing room at FERC HQ.  Delaware is represented in this, at least there are Delaware PSC staff listed on the service list, Janis Dillard, John Farber, and Robert Howatt.  So what are they doing about this cost apportionment scheme?  Seems this settlement conference is just the place for raising a stink about the PJM cost apportionment scheme, to raise issues of “benefits” and “cause cost, pay” arguments.  Are they showing up and speaking up for Delaware?

DelawareXmsnMap

Delaware’s a small state, and it’s just the wrong shape for getting a good transmission map.  Click the above one for a larger view, but it’s still hard to see.  But check it out!  Take a look at that black line, stretching from Red Lion down to Milford.  That’s the 230 kV line that Delmarva Power wants to rebuild.  If they play this as I think they will (please prove me wrong), they could use this “rebuild” to significantly increase transfer capacity, which given the withdrawal of the Mid-Alantic Power Pathway (MAPP) transmission project, that’s something to watch for.

Public meeting about transmission line rebuild

7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015

Odessa Fire Company

304 Main St., Odessa, Delaware

Hosted by Delmarva Power

There’s essentially no regulation of transmission in Delaware, a fact that’s hard to believe given the impacts and power associated with transmission.  This project is intended to go right down an existing easement, but the original line was built 50 years ago, and there’s been a lot of development in Delaware since then.  Look at the map, and there’s a lot of development right next to this transmission line.  Do you think these folks know anything about this transmission plan?  Do you think anyone along that easement is getting direct notice about this???

At first glance, a couple of things occur to me.

  • Rebuild?  As always, I want to know the details.  they say it will still be at 230 kV.  Let’s have the conductor specs, particularly.  How big a conductor are they using, ACSR or ACSS or higher capacity?  Will they be rebuild as a single or double circuit, and will it be bundled or not?  Here’s the photo of the line, photo from Snooze Urinal, and it’s as it looks to me from driving under it numerous times on the way to/fro Port Penn:

Line - News JournalPhoto from The News Journal, delawareonline.com

  • Use of existing easement or extending beyond?  In their press release, there’s something disturbing about how they say they’re going to build this thing:

The replacement transmission line will be built along the eastern border of the existing right-of-way so that service will not be affected during construction. The original transmission line will be removed once the entire project is completed.

So looking at this photo above, it’s facing north, the H-frames are on the east side, the monopole on the west, and the News Journal report says:

The project will take place in the current line’s right of way, so no property purchases will be required, Tedesco added.

How is that possible?  The H-frames have been there a long time, and rather recently they added the monopole next to it.  Now now this will be “built along the eastern border of the existing right-of-way.”  EH?  Here’s an example, at the intersection of Port Penn Rd. and the line, the “east” is on right on this photo/map (click photo for larger version):

Port Penn Rd_House

This is what it looks like at the road, looking down the easement with home on the left:

668 Port Penn Rd

And here’s another example, at the intersection of Pole Bridge Rd. and the transmission lines, also on the way to/fro Port Penn, note the new subdivision roads, Waterbird Lane and Marsh Hawk Court:

Pole Bridge_WaterbirdLn&MarshHawkCt

Here’s another at 955 Vance Neck Rd (the road is just to the south):

955 Vance Neck Rd2

Let’s keep going further south along the easement.  Here are homes along Old Corbett Rd. near the intersection of Hwy. 9 — note it’s turned around to fit better, the “easterly” direction they’ll build into is the area towards the homes:

Old Corbett Rd

Here’s another subdivision on the other side of Hwy. 9, and the homes along Middessa Drive:

MiddessaDr@9

Just a little further south, where the line turns southwesterly, the line is abutted by the homes on Mailly Drive and Corbit Sharp Drive:

MaillyDrCorbitSharpDr

Here’s what that easement looks like — build this new thing on the easterly border of the easement?  I think not!

Corbit Sharp Drive easement

And this northern Red Lion to Milford section of the transmission “rebuild” terminates at the Cedar Creek substation, technically in Townsend:

CedarCreekSubstation

Again, do you think these folks know anything about this transmission plan?  Do you think anyone along that easement is getting direct notice about this???

Here’s Delmarva’s Press Release:

 Press Release 12/23/2014 – Delmarva Power Project to Benefit Delaware

Here’s the report from the News Journal:

Delmarva to brief public on transmission line rehab

The electrical spine of Delaware is set for a $70 million rehabilitation.

This summer, Delmarva Power will begin replacing its transmission line running from the substation in Red Lion 58 miles south to the Milford substation in Sussex County.

The utility will host a public meeting to brief the community on the project on Wednesday in Odessa.

Transmission lines serve as electrical highways carrying power from generation plants to substations before the electricity flows to homes through local lines.

The bulk of this particular project will involve removing the towering H-frame double wood poles that currently support the line. Those poles will be replaced with single steel poles towering up to 140 feet above the landscape.

The new supports will be able to withstand 100 mph winds and will replace infrastructure that was built more than half a century ago. The new line will carry the same voltage, some 230,000 volts, as the old line.

The rehabilitation will not effect customer’s power supply. Though requirements of road crossing permits are not final, the company does not expect the project will necessitate any road closings, according to Frank Tedesco, spokesman for Delmarva.

The project will take place in the current line’s right of way, so no property purchases will be required, Tedesco added.

The company will seek leasing agreements with individual property owners for space temporarily needed for construction.

“This project will strengthen our system and ensure that we can continue to meet our customers’ energy need,” Gary Stockbridge, Delmarva Power region president, said in a written statement.

The company noted the rehabilitation will ensure it meets reliability standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

The project will be divided into two phases, the first stretching 15 miles between Red Lion and Cedar Creek. That phase will begin later this year with the second beginning in summer 2016.

Contact Staff Writer Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson@delawareonline.com.

 For more information:

Delmarva Power will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, at the Odessa Fire Company, 304 Main St. in Odessa.

 

bluewaterwindlogo

Seems they’ve put out a press release – the market is at it again.  The first US offshore wind project is going down due to lack of interest, no investors, the market for electricity sucks, so they’re cancelling the contract with Delmarva.  Thanks to a little gas birdie for this heads up!

From the News Journal, a series from Aaron Nathans (I’ll be he’s glad he’s not in Wisconsin anymore!):

NRG to end Bluewater contract with Delmarva

Wind project in jeopardy as NRG drops contract

Bluewater: What went wrong

Offshore wind farms still have Del. potential

offshorewind.jpg

December 14, 2011

NRG Drops Delaware Offshore Wind Farm Project

NRG Energy brought development of a key offshore wind project off the coast of Delaware to a screeching halt on Monday. Saying the development of a new domestic offshore industry was ridden with “monumental challenges,” the Princeton, N.J., company cited its inability to find an investment partner, a lack of federal loan guarantees, and the looming expiration of wind tax incentives as key reasons behind its decision.

NRG and lead developer of the Mid-Atlantic Wind Park off the coast of Delaware, Bluewater Wind, plan to terminate the project’s 200-MW power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Delmarva Power & Light Company (DP&L) at the end of the year.

According to David Crane, NRG’s president and CEO, NRG and Bluewater had made a “considerable financial investment in the Wind Park, but that effort cannot overcome the difficult and unfortunate realities of the current market,” he said. “We’re not giving up, but at this moment we can’t rationally justify further investment in this project without the prospect that it can move forward within a reasonable timeframe.”

Since NRG acquired Bluewater Wind in November of 2009, the company said it has made significant financial investments in development, including design and engineering studies, state and federal permitting and leasing fees, ecological assessments, and professional and consulting fees to move the Wind Park forward.

“At the time of the acquisition, the outlook for offshore wind was positive,” NRG said. “The Wind Park was in line for a Department of Energy loan guarantee, a necessary element for this capital-intensive project, and NRG Bluewater had received preferential development rights for a project off the coast of New Jersey and [had] submitted proposals for projects off the coasts of Maryland and Massachusetts.”

But a little more than two years later, the outlook for offshore wind and for the Delaware project “has changed dramatically,” the company said. “In particular, two aspects of the project critical for success have actually gone backwards: the decisions of Congress to eliminate funding for the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program applicable to offshore wind, and the failure to extend the Federal Investment and Production Tax Credits for offshore wind which expire at the end of 2012 and which have rendered the Delaware project both unfinanceable and financially untenable for the present.”

Finding an investment partner has been another difficulty. “In addition, a central element of the Wind Park’s business plan, previously communicated to public authorities in Delaware, was to find an investment partner. To date the company has been unable to find a partner, despite the attractiveness of the PPA and after having approached more than two dozen prospective investors over the course of several months,” NRG said.

The company said its next steps would be to close its Bluewater Wind development office but preserve its options by maintaining its development rights and continuing to seek development partners and equity investors. “If and when market conditions improve and the company is able to find partners, NRG will look to deploy the Wind Park and explore other viable offshore wind opportunities in the Northeast.”