Articles

New Nuclear Reactors – A Fool’s Errand

By Russell Lowes, 12/24/2021 (This was earlier published in the Newsletter of Physicians for Social Responsibility–Arizona Chapter.)

Can you imagine having two grocery stores, one where you pay the regular price for your groceries, and another store that has the same groceries for three times the price? That is the situation with new nuclear energy.

Unfortunately, some have said that nuclear should be part of the future energy mix, some even saying that nuclear energy can help save the planet. They miss the mark by a mile.

The cost of nuclear energy is so high that it actually forces utilities to produce more fossil fuel electricity. Here is how.

New nuclear energy is very expensive. The total delivered cost is about 28.5¢/kilowatt-hour (KWH). In other words, you get about 3.5 KWH per dollar that you spend on new nuclear energy. For comparison, a home in Arizona might consume 650 KWH per month. Instead of paying the current 12¢/KWH, if you bought nothing except new nuclear electricity, your bill would more than double.

So, with that in mind:

  • Each $1 you spend on new nuclear electricity gives you 3.5 KWH;
  • Each $1 you spend on solar, with battery backup, provides 10 KWH.
  • 3.5 minus 10 KWH gives you a deficit of 6.5 KWH for every dollar spent on new nuclear electricity.
  • How do you make up for that 6.5 KWH deficit? Households and businesses will have to buy more energy from their utility — 75% of that will be from fossil fuels. That is because on average, in the U.S., 75% of all grid energy is generated by fossil fuels. That means for every dollar spent on new nuclear energy, 4.9 KWH will be produced by fossil fuels (75% of 6.5). If you buy more new nuclear energy, then you will buy more fossil fuel energy. It’s that simple.

   In other words, this deficit of 6.5 KWH is called “opportunity cost” in economics. It is what you did not get because you spent your money on the wrong option. One person’s loss is another person’s gain. Opportunity indeed — it’s about money – big money – for the greedy profiteers who build these polluting plants.

   It would be like buying groceries for triple the normal cost at an overpriced grocery store, but you get only one third the groceries. Why? Because you went to the wrong store. 

   It is a fool’s errand to pay triple the cost of your groceries. It’s a fool’s errand to buy nuclear at triple the cost of electricity from solar with battery backup.

   On top of that – never forget this – there is the nuclear waste that is toxic for millions of years. Add the much higher water use, the production of nuclear-weapon ingredients, uranium mining contamination of the Navajo Nation and elsewhere, the massive nuclear subsidies (your money), and more. The list goes on, but I’ll stop there.

Let’s get all the groceries we need for a decent price, and all the electricity we need for a decent price.

P.S., the same goes for other expensive options, not just nuclear energy. The other false options include carbon capture and sequestration coal and gas (aka “clean” coal and gas), and even some “renewable” options like corn ethanol as a gasoline additive.

U.S. Saves Trillions More in Energy Than People Know

By Russell Lowes

Revised January 16, 2022

In 1973, at the height of the OPEC oil embargo, the United States was coming to grips with the concept of limited oil reserves. During that year the entire country, including all companies, citizens and U.S. governments, used a total of 76 quads of energy – that is, 76 quadrillion British thermal Units (Btu).(1) 

Forty-six years later, in 2019, the pre-pandemic energy use was 100 quads, 33% more than that of 1973.

“Wait a minute,” you might ask, “our economy has expanded much more than the energy increase of 33%, right?” You would be right. Our economy expanded from $5.5 trillion to about $17.5 trillion in 2010 (inflation-adjusted) dollars.(2) Yet, all of the energy that we use as Americans – living in houses, driving cars, producing all goods and services, governing our nation and states, counties and cities – adds up to just 100 quads, just 33% more than nearly 5 decades ago.

The 235% real-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) increase in economic output from 1973 to 2019 is radically more than the 33% energy growth.  There is a small factor that could explain some of that efficiency improvement: when you factor in our national reduction in manufacturing from 1973 to 2019 (manufacturing uses more energy than services), the energy equivalence might need to be adjusted downward. However, there were periods of decline in manufacturing and the nature of the trend line has not wavered. Even in the periods with no decline, year after year, energy efficiency has improved.

Improvement in energy consumed per dollar of economic output since 1973 is undeniably impressive.  This is illustrated by the table below.

Energy Use Compared

To Gross Domestic Product                                                  

                     Year  Quadrillion Btu Trillions 2010$ Quads/GDP Trillion $  

                     1973           76                      5.5               13.8

                     2019         100                   18.3                 5.5

Increased Energy & GDP                     33%                235%              60.4% decrease in Q/$T GDP

Reduction in Energy Use/$T GDP                                                       8.3 Quad decrease

Here is the picture of that continual improvement in energy efficiency. It shows the reduction in quads of energy per trillion dollars of GDP by year. As you can see, there is very little variation in the curve. During times of a strong or weak economy, the curve has continually progressed to lowering the energy intensity of our economic output.

Units, or quads (quadrillion Btu of energy), of energy per trillion dollars of GDP have declined consistently.

So how did we do that? How did we increase our economic activity with so little energy expansion? We did so by saving energy. Saving energy falls into two categories: (1) energy conservation through cutbacks in the use of energy, and (2) through energy efficiency, the improvement in the way goods and services are produced.  However, this article and the table above, address only energy efficiency, not conservation through cutbacks.

Energy efficiency includes producing more services like delivering packages around the country for less energy. It also includes producing more goods for the same amount of energy, like reducing the metal and the energy used to make a car that performs the same function.

Computers do not use as much energy as they used to, per computer. I owned a clock radio my mother gave me in 1972 until it finally stopped working in 2020. That 7-pound radio got replaced by one that weighs 7 ounces! There is a lot less energy embedded in the newer radio.

Energy efficiency improvements in the U.S. seem to be largely due to economic forces, rather than federal governmental regulation and support. Sure, there are some federal programs like the C.A.F.E. standards for vehicles that support energy efficiency improvement, but they are not strong enough to drive much of our improvements in efficiency.

YOU save energy through energy efficiency

You contribute to this increased energy efficiency.  You may not even know that you are buying something that has been manufactured in a way that improved efficiency. 

Take the clothes you are wearing. Since 1973, that first year of increased U.S. energy awareness, clothing has been dyed using more effective technologies, like electrostatic adherence techniques. Most folks aren’t aware that technology has allowed manufacturers to use less dye, which means reducing all the energy that used to go into manufacturing dye.

And you almost certainly have changed the type of light bulbs you use. This has resulted in a reduction of energy for lighting with the newer LED lights that replaced the compact florescent lights, which replaced the incandescent light bulbs of just a bit more than a decade ago.

   
What would energy use be if EE had not improved, in 2020 based on 1973 efficiency?
  
Trillions $ GDP 201918.3Trillion Dollars GDP
Trillions $ GDP 19735.5Trillion Dollars GDP
GDP 2019 divided by GDP 19733.35GDP Factor of Increase 1973-2019
1973 Energy Use75.7Quads, actual, 1973
If Quads/Trillion GDP had not improved253.3  Quads, if energy efficiency had not improved, 2019
  
2019 Energy Use100.3Quads
Extra quads, if no 1973-2020 EE increase153.0Quads
   
If energy efficiency had not improved since 1973, we would be using 2.5 times our current energy use, assuming the same GDP growth.

With that in mind, below is a graphic of the energy efficiency categories that will be help reduce U.S. energy use per dollar of economic activity, or per average product or service bought.

The improvement in energy efficiency from 1973 to 2019 saved more energy than all the additional energy expansion since that year. This will continue into the future, and continue to negate the need for additional power plants and oil consumption for transportation and more. My point in presenting the following graph is to simply show the many categories of energy efficiency, to show how we got here, and to show how we are going forward.

https://i0.wp.com/graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/07/29/business/energy-environment/Picture-3.jpg
What are the major categories of energy efficiency — here are 48 of them! From: Above table: Kate Galbraith, “McKinsey Report Cites $1.2 Trillion in Potential Savings from Energy Efficiency,” New York Times, July 29, 2009, cited again in 2020,
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/07/29/business/energy-environment/Picture-3.jpg

How much money has this saved U.S. citizens?

If the energy efficiency in the United States had not improved from 1973 to 2019, the economic consequences would be very high. Our energy use would be 253 quads instead of 100 quads per year. Pollution and resource depletion would be much higher than it has been. What about cost?

If we look at just the electric sector to get an idea, how might we calculate that? Energy comes in many forms. Of all U.S. energy use, about 40% is in the form of electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration the average cost of electricity was 10.5¢ per year in 2019. (6) The total U.S. cost of electricity for all purposes was 4,128.31 billion kilowatt-hours.(7)   That comes out to $435 billion per year.

If electricity cost per kilowatt-hour stayed the same as it is today, with the higher usage, and the use of electricity were to rise at that multiple of 2.53, the factor of increase of energy we would be using compared to the energy we are using, comes to $1,101 billion. This $1,101 billion is the amount that we might be spending on electricity alone instead of the current $435 billion we actually spent in 2019. That is an extra $665 billion we might have spent on electricity in 2019. If you multiply that out by 10 years, that would be an extra $6,650 billion, or $6.65 trillion per decade.

Doing some very rough math, if the rest of the energy pie were to be at the same cost per unit of energy as electricity, and as electricity is about 40% of our energy usage in the U.S., the extra cost would be that $6.65 trillion divided by 0.4 (40%) yields $16.6 trillion in extra spending on energy per decade. This number is highly speculative, because of many different unknown factors. For example, more rapid depletion of oil, coal, uranium, etc. could increase the price, but with such a rush on energy, there might be more innovation, which could decrease price. Also, energy sources and uses all have varying efficiencies. Electricity is different in energy efficiency than the non-electric energy options like gas and coking coal.

It is certain, however, that with such an extreme increase in energy usage, the costs would have gone up by many trillions of dollars.

Where do we go from here?

The technical potential to reduce energy use is extremely high, at about perhaps 80% of the current use, through energy efficiency.  However, reality versus potential might meet half way in between. That is what Arjun Makhijani and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research project by 2050 in the book, “Carbon Free and Nuclear Free,” (p. 290) represented in the following graph. In this projected energy mix, energy efficiency takes over about 40 more quads. When you combine this in the next graph (in the reference of endnote 3), this causes the total of about 100 quads to go down to just under 80, as energy efficiency contributes 40 more quads, and as our economy expands. See graph below.(3)

In a ScienceDirect article, Jonathan Cullen and Julian Allwood state, “the overall efficiency of global energy conversion to be only 11 per cent; global demand for energy could be reduced by almost 90 per cent if all energy conversion devices were operated at their theoretical maximum efficiency.”(4)

Amory Lovins, in an IOP Science article, says that energy efficiency has gone against the conventional wisdom and gotten cheaper to implement over time, per unit of energy saved. He shows how energy efficiency options have expanded over time, in a seemingly inexhaustible way.(5)

Conclusion

First, the United States has saved many trillions of dollars by becoming more efficient year after year, since 1973.

Second, the United States has consistently reduced energy use, per unit of economic output. It has done so every year, from 1973 through 2019, and there is no sign of decline in the improvement of energy use per unit of GDP. To the contrary, the curve is so consistent that it indicates a strong march forward in this improvement of energy efficiency.

Third, energy efficiency improvement has largely been in the absence of federal support for most of the categories in the prior graph. If we apply more federal support for an increase in the rate of energy efficiency improvement, this overall curve could bend much faster toward reducing our energy use.

Put another way, three fifths of our current energy pie is being handled by energy efficiency. To put this more exactly, of the 253 quads we would now be using had we not improved our use of energy, 153 quads, or three fifths is from EE, and 100 quads, or two fifths, is from energy sources, primarily including fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear energy.

Fourth and last, other benefits, like CO2 reduction, are commensurate with the reduction in cost to society, along with resource depletion. Where does all this lead to in the future? Some analysts say that we could still technically reduce our energy use by about 70-90%. That would be a drop from 100 quads to roughly 20. Although technical limits are rarely met, we could reduce our energy consumption by much of that 80 quad difference. This would lead to enormous savings, cleaner air, cleaner water, reduced mining of energy resources (with reduced associated water use and pollution increase), and many other improvements in the quality of our lives.

————

Special thanks go to Vince Taylor, who wrote “Energy: The Easy Path” while with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 1979, and to Charles Komanoff, who has written extensively about energy options including energy efficiency for decades.


In a ScienceDirect article, Jonathan Cullen and Julian Allwood state, “the overall efficiency of global energy conversion to be only 11 per cent; global demand for energy could be reduced by almost 90 per cent if all energy conversion devices were operated at their theoretical maximum efficiency.”(4)

Amory Lovins, in an IOP Science article, says that energy efficiency has gone against the conventional wisdom and gotten cheaper to implement over time, per unit of energy saved. He shows how energy efficiency options have expanded over time, in a seemingly inexhaustible way.(5)

Conclusion

First, the United States has saved many trillions of dollars by becoming more efficient year after year, since 1973.

Second, the United States has consistently reduced energy use, per unit of economic output. It has done so every year, from 1973 through 2019, and there is no sign of decline in the improvement of energy use per unit of GDP. To the contrary, the curve is so consistent that it indicates a strong march forward in this improvement of energy efficiency.

Third, energy efficiency improvement has largely been in the absence of federal support for most of the categories in the prior graph. If we apply more federal support for an increase in the rate of energy efficiency improvement, this overall curve could bend much faster toward reducing our energy use.

Fourth and last, other benefits, like CO2 reduction, are commensurate with the reduction in cost to society, along with resource depletion. Where does all this lead to in the future? Some analysts say that we could still technically reduce our energy use by about 70-90%. That would be a drop from 100 quads to roughly 20. Although technical limits are rarely met, we could reduce our energy consumption by much of that 80 quad difference. This would lead to enormous savings, cleaner air, cleaner water, reduced mining of energy resources (with reduced associated water use and pollution increase), and many other improvements in the quality of our lives.

————

Special thanks go to Vince Taylor, who wrote “Energy: The Easy Path” while with the Union of Concerned Scientists, in 1979, and to Charles Komanoff, who has written extensively about energy options including energy efficiency for decades.


(1) U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.doe.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/mer.pdf and https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/#summary with the specific Excel spreadsheet link at https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/xls.php?tbl=T01.01&freq=m
(2) Statistica, https://www.statista.com/statistics/188141/annual-real-gdp-of-the-united-states-since-1990-in-chained-us-dollars/ and Data360, http://www.data360.org/dataset.aspx?Data_Set_Id=354
(3) Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Carbon Free and Nuclear Free, http://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/CFNF.pdf November 5, 2010 Note: while this was written in 2010, the projection for 2020 was very close to actual energy use.
(4) Jonathan M. Cullen and Julian M. Allwood, “Theoretical Efficiency Limits for Energy Conversion Devices,” ScienceDirect, Elsevier, Volume 35, Issue 5, May 2010, Pages 2059-2069, in the abstract at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360544210000265?via%3Dihub
(5) Amory Lovins, “How big is the energy efficiency resource?” IOP Science, Environ. Res. Lett. 13 (2018) 090401, https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aad965
(6) Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/browser/?tbl=T09.08#/?f=A
(7) Energy Information Administration, https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.php

Appendix A – Quads of Energy Per Year

From:

      YearQuads
197375.7
197473.9
197571.9
197675.9
197777.9
197879.9
197980.8
198078.0
198176.1
198273.0
198372.9
198476.6
198576.3
198676.6
198779.0
198882.7
198984.7
199084.4
199184.4
199285.7
199387.3
199489.0
199590.9
199693.9
199794.5
199894.9
199996.5
200098.7
200196.1
200297.5
200397.8
2004100.0
2005100.1
200699.4
2007100.9
200898.8
200993.9
201097.5
201196.9
201294.4
201397.1
201498.3
201597.4
201697.3
201797.6
2018101.2
2019100.3
202092.9

Appendix B – GDP $2010 Per Year

From: https://www.statista.com/statistics/188141/annual-real-gdp-of-the-united-states-since-1990-in-chained-us-dollars/

YearGDP $ Trillions
19735466
19745436
19755425
19765718
19775982
19786313
19796513
19806496
19816661
19826541
19836841
19847336
19857642
19867906
19878180
19888522
19898835
19909001
19918991
19929308
19939564
19949950
199510217
199610602
199711074
199811570
199912120
200012620
200112746
200212968
200313339
200413846
200514332
200614742
200715018
200814998
200914617
201014992
201115225
201215567
201315854
201416254
201516727
201617001
201717404
201817913
201918300
202017497

Energy Options for the Southwest, Part I: Nuclear and Coal Power

This book, by Russell J. Lowes (Primary Author), Kevin Dahl, Paul Lowes and Jerry Lawson, all of Power Plant Analysts, was published in 1979 and projected the costs of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station compared to the coal alternative at the time.

The construction cost projection was perhaps the most accurate projection in U.S. history, with a plant construction cost that fell within 4% of the Power Plant Analysts projection. The utility estimate, by comparison, was overrun by over 110%.

“Energy Options” was used in the early 1980s as the main document in a citizens’ initiative in the municipal utility of Redding, California to pull out of the contract with Palo Verde Units 4 & 5. The Redding, CA vote ushered the way for other California cities to withdraw from their contracts for Palo Verde electricity. This reduction in demand caused cancellation of these two reactors.

To see the full book in pdf format, click Download below.

Bring in the Solar Batteries

By Russell Lowes, Rincon Group Energy Subcommittee Chair, April 2, 2017

Have you ever wanted to get off the electricity grid? You might have a number of reasons to do so. What about saving money? The economic breakeven may be here sooner than you think. There’s an interesting and eye-opening thing you can do with energy usage and cost numbers (step 4, below) to make your own cost estimates.

Let’s say that you have decided there are four things you want to do at your house. One, you want to reduce your energy use. Two, you want to buy solar. Three, you want to buy a battery system to back up your solar when the sun is not shining. Four, you want to go off the electricity grid.

This is how the process of battery-backed solar might work in the near future. However, you can get started with step 1 & 2 right now, and later with steps 3 & 4.

1) Reducing Energy Consumption

  • Let’s say you use 575 kilowatt hours (kWhe) of energy per month, a typical usage rate in southern Arizona;
  • 200 kWhe is a typical reduction per month by using energy efficiency techniques like insulating shades for your windows, weatherization, insulation for your attic, or getting a an evaporative cooler “piggyback system” added to your air conditioning system.

This translates into:

  • Your usage has been 575 kWhe X 11¢/kWhe, a typical energy cost in So. AZ, which equals $63.25 plus basic service charge, and other charges per month, going down to:
  • Your new usage, with a 200 kWhe reduction, would be 375 X 11¢/kWhe, or $41.25/month + other base utility charges.
  • If you were to leave it at that and not do the next steps, you savings would be $22.00/month, $264/year, $5280/20 years.

2) Adding Solar to Your House

Now that you have reduced your energy consumption, when you add solar, you won’t have to buy as many panels. Instead of paying for maybe 5.6 kilowatts of capacity (the average used by the National Renewable Energy Lab, at https://www.nrel.gov/news/press/2016/37745.html), you now would buy around 3.9 kWe.

Your new solar panel array would deliver energy at about 7.0¢ per kilowatt-hour to your home, plus financing, so maybe 8.5¢.

Solar Prices Continuing to Fall

Solar Prices Continuing to Fall “NREL Report Shows U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Costs Continuing to Fall in 2016” September 28, 2016 *
Solar Prices Continuing to Fall “NREL Report Shows U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Costs Continuing to Fall in 2016” September 28, 2016 *

3) Adding Battery Backup to Your Rooftop Solar

Batteries are the big unknown in this process. Costs are falling quickly, and there is a goal by the industry to bring them down to 14¢/kWhe, when combined with solar. This is a bit more costly, when compared to the roughly 11¢ average cost of electricity by the utilities of southern Arizona. However, you only have to get a portion of your energy from batteries, and with lower solar costs here in the Southwest, the deal gets sweeter. For example, you can get 35% of your energy needs met with energy efficiency, from step 1 above, and 45% from solar, from step 2, and 20% from battery energy, from step 3, well that leads us to that point I opened with. . .

4) Going Off-Grid . . . “There’s an interesting and eye-opening thing you can do with energy usage and cost numbers.”

First, you have to boost the number of solar panels a bit to power the batteries, so your cost of solar would go up from 8.5¢ to roughly 10¢/solar kWhe, fully financed. Let’s project that future battery costs are 20¢/kWhe, fully financed.

Take a look at the following table and if you copy these values and formulas onto a spreadsheet (or ask me for a copy at russlowes@gmail.com), you can change the percentages in column D, and as long as the total equals 100% at the bottom of that column, all the figures will automatically and accurately update! Likewise, if you change any of the projected costs/kWhe in column E, the spreadsheet will auto-self-adjust. But, you math wizards out there already knew that!

This has been about the process of going off the grid, but there are reasons to stay on the grid. The main one is so you can share your electrons with others so they don’t have to use coal, gas or nuclear energy from the grid. However, if the utilities resist the solar revolution, we may not have much choice. If the utilities keep fighting solar rooftop and keep putting onerous charges on our bills, the best choice for you and your family, and for you and your business, might be to go off-grid.

————-

*A side note about the above NREL chart: One interesting thing about the residential-size solar (rooftop solar) versus centralized utility scale is that with rooftop there is much less non-power-generation cost. With centralized solar there are new transmission requirements, more distribution costs, land acquisition costs, switch yard and substation and a myriad of other costs that are not required, as much, as with rooftop solar. Right now, rooftop solar is cheaper when you consider these non-generation costs. I believe that rooftop solar will widen the gap of cost benefit over large utility-scale centralized solar in coming years.

An Update on the War on Solar at the Arizona Corporation Commission

by Russell Lowes and Keith Bagwell

            Two utilities, Tucson Electric Power and its sister subsidiary UNS Electric, are applying for rate hikes with the Arizona Corporation Commission. Included in these rate cases is a troubling and unprecedented restructuring of how rates are applied. These proposed rate reshufflings are bad for the families and businesses in these monopoly areas. Additionally, these proposals are assaults on family and business-owned rooftop solar energy installations.

            TEP and UNS have engaged in a public relations campaign to promote the inaccurate idea that rooftop solar energy is costing non-solar customers more than if there was no additional rooftop solar installed.

            Tucson Electric Power has recently made a number of erroneous statements about rooftop solar costs. However, we will focus here on the most glaring blunder, in what has NOT been said. The utility company does not consider the “opportunity lost cost” for not going with rooftop solar. TEP again made this error of omission in a recent exchange with our County Board of Supervisors, who are opposing the proposed rate shuffle. That is, what happens if families and business owners, schools and local governments in the TEP service area do not install solar panels? TEP is installing centralized utility-owned solar energy plants, and this solar is costing non-solar customers much more than the customer-owned rooftop solar. See the table below, which further explains this.

Examples of Typical Un-Subsidized Energy Costs for New Power Capacity in Southern Arizona, in Cost Per Kilowatt-Hour

Energy Production & Efficiency Options

Initial Un-Subsidized Cost

Trans-mission & Distribution Component

Total Cost

Cost Covered by  Rooftop Solar Families & Business-Owners

Maximum Cost Borne by Ratepayers

           

Homeowner Rooftop Solar Financed with Homeowners Equity Line of Credit, 5%

$0.115(a)

$0.005

$0.120

$0.115

$0.005

Homeowner Rooftop Solar Financed with Lease

$0.120(b)

$0.005

$0.125

$0.120

$0.005

Medium-Size Business Rooftop Solar Financed with Commercial Loan, 6%

$0.095(c)

$0.005

$0.100

$0.095

$0.005

Utility-Owned Rooftop Solar, Financed with Blend of 50/50 Rate of Return and Corporate Bonds, 9% (per IRP)*

$0.110(d)

$0.005

$0.115

$0.110

$0.115

Utility-Owned Centralized Solar, Financed with Blend of 50/50 Rate of Return and Corporate Bonds, 9%

$0.090(e)

$0.060

$0.150

$0.000

$0.150

Utility Solar via Power Purchase Agreement (Subsidized Fixed Contract)

$0.062(f)

$0.060

$0.122

$0.000

$0.122

Utility-Owned Centralized Gas Plant Financed with Same Finance Mix

$0.084(g)

$0.060

$0.144

$0.000

$0.144

Energy Efficiency**

$0.050(h)

$0.000

$0.050

$0.000

            **

           

 * The vast majority of this cost will be borne by the ratepayer directly benefitting from this installation.

**Energy efficiency comes in many forms and at many different costs and benefits. The ratepayer-

   borne portion of this, on average is likely under 1¢ per kilowatt-hour saved.

 

            Recently TEP just secured more fossil fuel power capacity. This will cost much more for non-solar customers in total dollars, and in cents per kilowatt-hour.

            TEP claims that family-owned solar energy increases costs for its non-solar ratepayers. In this claim TEP is probably really talking about what the utility company losses will be. The company financial losses to customer energy efficiency and solar investments are real, if you do not count the gains to the company in terms of grid diversification, performance fees TEP earns on customer energy efficiency investments, etc. However, these gross costs (before these other offsetting benefits) are very minor, at this point of grid penetration, well under 5 percent.   

            What TEP and UNS Electric ignore, in this “solar costs non-solar customers argument,” is that all the other options of electricity generation expansion are more expensive than customer-installed rooftop solar. Centralized solar built by the utilities costs non-solar customers far more than rooftop solar. Fossil-fuel generation is even more expensive, as well as polluting and climate-changing. In addition, the 0.5¢/kilowatt-hour cost that is purported to be shifted to non-solar customers, is actually returned to customers numerous times, by diversification of the grid, reduction in peak gas-generated electricity, and by many other benefits that solar provides to all families and businesses.

            Consequently, it is in the best interest of our families and business-owners that customer-owned rooftop solar continues to be installed, under the current net-metering system. This is not best for the utilities only under the current business models that are now outdated. These models need to change. The Commission needs to require that TEP and UNS update their business models to mesh with the new technologies, the new ways in which people are living, and the improving costs of options customers did not have until recently. Additionally, the business models need to be changed to reflect the far lower impact the newer technologies have on the environment and on human health.

            When a rooftop-solar customer invests in solar, that family or business pays all of the construction cost, all of the interest and all of the maintenance costs. These costs add up to about 11¢ per kilowatt-hour if financed through a home equity loan, or a business loan. When a utility builds solar, it pays for these three categories and more (land acquisition, transmission lines, etc.), but then passes it on to the ratepayers. Similarly, when TEP acquires more natural & fracked gas capacity, it pays for these components of overall cost and passes them on to the ratepayers.

            TEP and UNS should not be allowed to ignore the fact that if solar rooftop is not invested in by families and businesses, the utilities will have to invest in other more expensive power-generation options and pass those costs on to their customers. To ignore this is deceitful and only works to further undermine the trust of ratepayers in the TEP and UNS Electric monopolies.

>>>      Action to take! For anyone wanting to comment before these cases close, you could address your comment as follows. Nobody knows when these two rate cases will close, but it will probably be open through July or August of 2016.

Re: Rate Cases E-04204A-15, E01933A-15-0322 and E-00000J-14-0023

Dear Commissioners Little, Burns, Stump, Forese and Tobin,

——————-

Methodology and References  

  1. a) This is calculated based on typical sale price of $3000/kilowatt of D/C electrical capacity, .8431 conversion rate to A/C electricity, a lifetime average degradation rate of 13.2% over the 30 year minimum life span, with a capacity factor (average output, compared to A/C rating) of 20.85% with 5% APR financing for a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
  2. b) Based on reviews of leases for solar homes in Tucson, Arizona, by one of the authors, Russell Lowes.
  3. c) Based on lower cost per kilowatt installed but higher loan rate, 6% APR.
  4. d) Based on $2800/kW D/C, 0.8431 conversion rate to A/C, a 13.2% average degradation rate for a 30 years, with a capacity factor of 20.85%, with 9% average financing, per Tucson Electric Power Integrated Resource Plan, which lists 8% as the average corporate bond rate, 10% as the average rate of return on equity and a typical 50/50% blend of the two financing options.
  5. e) Based on $2200/kW D/C, 0.86 conversion rate to A/C, a lower 9.5% average degradation rate for a 30 years, with a lower capacity factor of 18.3%, with X% average financing, based on the Tucson Electric Power Integrated Resource Plan, which lists X% as the average corporate bond rate, X% as the average rate of return on equity and a typical 50/50% blend of the two financing options.
  6. f) Based on what TEP is typically getting for Power Purchase Agreements and what it uses as the basis for its proposal to reimburse solar rooftop owners.
  7. g) Gas-produced power from Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis—Version 9.0, at: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-analysis-90/, p. 2 (click on “View the Study”). This is at the lower end of the two combined Gas Peaking and IGCC (more toward baseload) options. The average of these two is 16.6¢/kWhe. Additionally, see table below for similar approach to gas-generated electricity costs. This has to take into consideration more peaking energy costs for electricity that rooftop solar would displace. These costs can be as high as 21.8¢/kWh, according to Lazard, p. 2.
  8. h) , p. 2, energy efficiency is taken from the top of the range from Lazard’s (see g).

Cost for Conventional Combustion Turbine Gas Electrical Generating Plant

Using O&M & Fuel Costs from Table 8.4*, 2012 Dollars

   

1

kWe capacity scenario

$973

cost per kWe**

12%

Capitalization Rate (including principal, interest, taxes and fees)

$117

Cost Per kWe Per Year

   

50%

Cost Per kWhe for Capital

8760

Hours Per Year

4380

kWhe/Yr Generated

   

$0.02666

Cost Per kWhe for Capital

$0.00263

  Operation

$0.00290

  Maintenance

$0.03706

  Fuel

$0.04259

Subtotal O&M & Fuel

$0.06925

Total Cost Per kWhe

$0.06000

Non-Generation Utility Costs (incl. transmission, distribution, etc.)

$0.12925

Total Cost Per kWhe Delivered

   

*

www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_04.html

**

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/capitalcost/pdf/updated_capcost.pdf

Hansen is Wrong about Nuclear Power

Nuclear is a drain on our ability to deal with climate solutions, energy needs.

Dr. James Hansen is dead wrong. He is wrong about nuclear energy being able to make a contribution to solving global warming. He has little or no grasp of the economics of nuclear energy, and that leads him to mistakenly support this doomed option.

Let’s just forget for a moment a key negative aspect of nuclear energy. Let’s assume that there is no greenhouse gas from the nuclear fuel cycle, even though the two lifecycle meta-studies done so far both peg the number at approximately sixty-five grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, more than six times that of wind energy.

Let’s focus instead on costs of new reactors in the U.S., which make them infeasible to solve energy and global warming problems. The newer round of reactors Dr. Hansen would like to see are very similar to the last group of reactors finished in the 1980s in at least one aspect – economics. These reactors require giant nuclear steam supply systems, oversized condensers, large plant footprints, huge reactor containment buildings and an insane level of complexity compared to the other options – and even more complexity and construction material than the last round of reactors.

There have been recent proposals for smaller reactors. The U.S. nuclear program started out small and chose to go with larger reactors to reduce cost per kilowatt. The small reactors would just spread out the radioactive waste, relative cost and complexity issues over a wider ground.

Simply put, the nation, and the planet, can neither gain traction against global warming nor solve its energy problems practically and cost effectively, with nuclear energy. The nation and the world would in fact be set back by the extreme additional cost, compared to a better planned energy strategy. That alternative strategy includes solar, wind, energy efficiency, storage and energy management technologies, plus a rapid phase-down of fossil and nuclear energy.

Let’s just forget that an accident like the one at Fukushima can endanger an entire nation’s nuclear energy program. This is where Japan switched from nuclear to mandated energy cut-backs and massive increases in fossil energy use. It is five years later and things still are not back to normal. However, the Japanese have amplified their renewable energy program.

The last significant round of U.S. nuclear construction was completed in 1987. The average reactor was completed for around 3,100 dollars per kilowatt of capacity. See Brice Smith, Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change, found at www.ieer.org/.

That comes to 6,211 dollars per kilowatt of capacity, in 2015 dollars. See http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl).

***Editor’s note: Dr. James Hansen, the renowned climate change scientist, has said that nuclear power is essential to combat climate change. A number of environmentalists disagree including Lowes and Mainland.***

“This lower-cost clean energy blend would not

only produce less greenhouse gas, but also save

$92 billion/year.” –Russell Lowes

 

Let’s just forget about other issues like national security, and the likelihood that centralized nuclear plants remain vulnerable not only to terrorism and foreign attack but also natural disasters, accidents and operator error. Let’s ignore the Fukushima disaster as well as the damage that some U.S. nukes have already shown in tornados and hurricanes, plus the creeping onset of sea-level rise and storm surges. Let’s also put aside the problem of disposing of long-lived radioactive waste, which is enormously expensive, technologically intractable and probably insoluble.

We’ll just continue on with what 6,211 dollars per kW would cost for one reactor. If we ran this out from this year to 2023, at four percent inflation, the cost per kW would equal 8,173 dollars.

One of us, Russell Lowes, has been accurately projecting nuclear costs since the 1970s (only four percent off on Palo Verde reactors projected in 1978 for 1986 completion). He has come up with twenty-seven reactor construction cost factors, perhaps the most varied list of factors compiled for nuclear construction costs.

The estimate is that the reactors of the early 2020s will cost about twenty percent more in real dollars than the reactors finished in the last big wave of the mid-late 1980s. This considers factors that would make reactors cheaper than in the inflation-adjusted cost of the past, like labor cost declines in America. And it also takes into consideration factors that would increase the costs, like material cost increases, and increases in plant robustness requiring more cement, copper, steel, etc.

If an average U.S. reactor in the future is 1,350 megawatts of capacity, this average nuclear reactor would cost 9,808 dollars per kW in 2023. That’s 13.2 billion dollars per reactor.

 

“When you put a dollar into nuclear, that dollar

would cause only four kWh to be delivered to

ratepayers, versus seven for wind.” –Edward Mainland

 

Assume a higher than average thirty-year capitalization cost, say fourteen percent instead of twelve percent for a typical large fossil plant, due to increased risk (per the Standard and Poor’s ratings agency). The cost per kilowatt-hour just for construction, for an eighty-five percent plant output average, would be 13.8 cents per kWh over forty years.

This would be upped by operation and maintenance costs. See Keystone Report, “Nuclear Power Joint Fact-Finding,” page 42. Add 4.3 cents per kWh for operations and maintenance, plus transmission and distribution of say 7 cents, to deliver the average cost of nuclear energy to 25.1 cents per kWh.

This compares to solar power purchase agreements of 7.5 cents for production, 13.5 cents delivered, with prices continuing to improve. It compares with wind at 3.5 cents, 10.5 cents delivered, and energy efficiency at 3.5 cents. It compares to rooftop solar at about 12 cents delivered with net metering, including on-site transmission and distribution.

Let’s put this on a larger scale. The U.S. spends about one trillion dollars on all energy each year. If it were to build, say, a hundred nuclear reactors, the cost would be about 1.325 trillion dollars for construction. With the interest, operation and maintenance, etc., this would cost ratepayers in the U.S. about 173 billion dollars per year.

This 173 billion dollars is almost half our current annual electricity outlay in the U.S. The equivalent energy produced from solar and wind, and saved from energy efficiency improvements, per kWh, is shown in Table 1.

The 11.8 cent average cost for energy received and saved in the Table 1 energy mix would translate to 81 billion dollars per year, compared to the nuclear option of a hundred plants at 173 billion dollars per year. By the way, this lower-cost clean energy blend would not only produce less greenhouse gas, but also would save 92 billion dollars per year.

We have only a limited amount of dollars to put into energy. When you put a dollar into nukes, you get about four kWh. When you put that dollar into centralized solar, you get about seven kWh. Rooftop solar gets you about eight kWh. Wind delivers about nine kWh. Energy efficiency delivers twenty-nine kWh saved for every dollar spent.

The U.S. has limited capital resources for energy. They shouldn’t be wasted. When you put a dollar into nuclear energy, instead of putting the same dollar into one of the cheaper options, for example wind energy, that dollar would cause only four kWh to be delivered to ratepayers, versus seven for wind. This creates a deficit of three kWh, that now needs to be recovered from this mismanaged dollar.

As Amory Lovins said, “If you buy more nuclear plants you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar and you’ll get it about 20 times slower than if you buy instead the cheaper faster stuff.”

Nuclear energy is plainly a boondoggle, one that is made even more expensive when you consider its subsidy costs, compared to the other options covered here. It would be one thing for James Hansen and others to consider nuclear energy if it gave you extra value, compared to the other options. Instead, it is a financial drain on our ability to deal with climate solutions and energy needs. It is time to nuke the nuclear option.

Russell Lowes is the primary author of the book, “Energy Options for the Southwest, Nuclear and Coal Power.” This was used by citizens creating initiatives at California electric municipalities to cancel Units 4 and 5 at the Palo Verde nuclear plant. Lowes projected a cost of $6.1 billion for the nuclear plant, west of Phoenix, compared to the industry projection of $2.8 billion. The plant came within four percent, at $5.9 billion, perhaps the most accurate projection for a nuclear plant in the U.S. Lowes testified before the Arizona Corporation Commission, as an expert witness on the economics of power plants. Today he heads SafeEnergyAnalyst.org, and is the Energy Subcommittee Chairman for the Southern Arizona Sierra Club Rincon Group.

Edward Mainland is co-founder of Sustainable Novato and currently Secretary of Sustainable Marin, both volunteer groups in Marin County, California that promote long-term community sustainability and local self-reliance. He has been Senior Conservation Fellow at the International Program at national Sierra Club headquarters in San Francisco, and co-chair of California State Sierra Club’s Energy-Climate Committee.

Printed with permission of Public Utilities Fortnightly. See more at: http://www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2016/05/nuclear-debate-hansen-wrong-about-nuclear-power#sthash.pPJNnOWu.dpuf

 

Solar Under Siege | Alert: Three Arizona Electric Utilities Trying to Stop Solar Energy Rooftop Installations

UNS Electric, Inc., is the first of three utilities in Arizona to file a rate case to kill off the booming residential and business solar industry.  The utilities, UNS, Tucson Electric Power and Arizona Public Service, are undertaking a coordinated effort to increase rates, increase basic fees and wipe out family-owned solar energy rooftop installations. They hope to achieve this by implementing a new rate structure for consumers that includes three nasty components. These tactics are particularly detrimental to families and businesses in Arizona.  UNS is the first to propose it, but if the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approves UNS’s proposal, the other two utilities are sure to follow.  The ACC is the regulatory commission for Arizona energy utilities.

First, UNS Electric wants to virtually eliminate a long-standing Arizona policy to put solar on parity with other energy options. This policy, called “net metering,” has been adopted by almost all states in the U.S.  Now UNS wants to reverse it in Arizona. Currently under this policy, your electric utility pays you the same rate for the excess solar electricity that you produce as you pay to buy energy from the grid when you need it. In other words, under the current system, if you have solar panels, the utility buys and sells energy from and to you at the same retail rate. UNS Electric wants to cut what they pay you in half. And then they would turnaround and sell the power that they buy from you to your neighbors for twice the price.
    Second, UNS  wants to increase the basic fee from $10 to $15 per month. This is bad in so many ways. It means a much bigger (50% bigger) portion of your bill would be beyond your control. When you reduce energy consumption, a move better for your pocketbook and for the planet, the fee would not go down. When you put solar on your house, which is better for your pocketbook and better for the planet, your fee would not go down. It is a disincentive to using your energy more wisely. And, because UNS gets the vast majority of their energy from coal and gas, it is a penalty to families that do the right thing by reducing their coal and gas-produced energy.
    
Finally, UNS wants to implement a demand charge for residential customers—something that no other major Arizona utility has imposed on residential users and is typically only used for commercial customers who are better able to control and track their usage. The “demand charge” would be a rate (cost per kilowatt-hour) calculation that would be assessed by UNS, and without notice to the customer, based on each customer’s highest energy peak usage over the worst 15 minute period in each month. So if your overall usage for a given month is lower than usual, if during that same month someone ran a number of appliances while the A/C was on over a 15 minute period, the cost per kilowatt-hour for the entire month would go up based on those brief 15 minutes. This would happen even if your peak was of no consequence to UNS.
    Not only have TEP and APS intervened in the UNS rate case on the side of UNS, all three companies have recently put forth the supposition that rooftop solar energy installed by one family is the cause of increased costs to other families. UNS and the other two utilities have been throwing out this concept, without referring to the other alternatives. Statements of costs of solar rooftop without comparing it to the other options are meaningless in the bigger picture. Energy costs for most other UNS options are much more expensive to these families without the participation of rooftop solar.
    If for example, UNS purchases solar energy at a large centralized solar facility, the cost per kilowatt-hour is currently about 6¢ for production, and going down each year, plus 6¢ for transmission and distribution, totaling 12¢/kilowatt-hour. This is after taking out about 2¢ from subsidies. New gas plants are about 13¢/ kilowatt-hour, with a likelihood of increasing fuel costs. This gas plant price is also is after subsidies are subtracted. New coal plants are about the same cost per kilowatt-hour.
    When UNS buys solar, or for that matter, gas or coal, the cost of construction is entirely passed on to the ratepayers, which includes families with and without solar. With utility solar, all ratepayers pay all the utility-solar-plant land acquisition costs, the environmental permit costs, the siting costs, equipment maintenance costs, increased transmission and distribution (T&D) costs, grounds cost, insurance, switch yard costs and more.  
    
    When a family or business decides to go rooftop solar, there are also system costs. However, instead of passing on these costs to other families, that solar family pays all the construction cost, all the interest costs, all of the other costs except a small portion of the normal transmission and distribution cost. The non-solar family would only pay a small added transmission and distribution cost. But this cost is very small compared to centralized plant T&D costs. The rooftop solar energy does not have to be transported on long-distance high voltage transmission lines. Rooftop solar largely uses existing lines. Under the UNS proposal, rooftop solar gets sold locally by UNS at a virtually 100% profit over a time span that is in an instant, not even the normal measurement of a year for return – that is price-gouging.
    In sum, the non-solar family pays much less for system expansion when the neighbor next door expands the system by 5 kilowatts, for example, compared to when the utility expands the system by that same 5 kilowatt of capacity.  Thus, the message that the Arizona utilities are crafting, that rooftop solar is costly, is false.  The much higher costs are with the other options of utility power plant construction and acquisition.  Moreover, solar energy offers substantial environmental benefits.  However, even without addressing these important advantages, solar rooftop costs less to all families, families with and without rooftop solar energy, than the alternative utility power plant expansion.
    I am hoping that many many ratepayers will submit comments to the ACC on this rate case. Please look over the action section below and at the URL in this section.

———–

TAKE ACTION to keep the solar rooftop option thriving in Arizona! Send your comments to the ACC to the Sierra Club Chapter Director, Sandy Bahr (sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org), as she has offered to get the 13 copies of our testimonies to the Arizona Corporation Commission, so that they will be a permanent part of the “docket,” or rate hearing case. Put at the top of your comments:
Regarding: UNS Electric Rate Case Docket # E-04204A-15-0142
You might address it with something like: “Dear Chairman Little and Members of the Arizona Corporation Commission:”
You can also find out more and comment at the Sierra Club’s http://tinyurl.com/UNSratecase

It is Time to Nuke the Nuclear Option!

Nuclear Electricity Makes No Sense.

By Russell Lowes, 11/18/2014

The Obama administration is already doing all it can realistically do. Despite its “all-of-the-above” façade, it favors nuclear power. To start with, the Energy Department is essentially a nuclear department. Professor Moniz is [was] Secretary because of his nuclear ties. DOE’s national laboratories are basically nuclear labs. It organizes international nuclear R&D groupings to encourage worldwide commitment to nuclear power. The Obama administration has created an inter-departmental Team USA, including State and Commerce, specifically to encourage domestic nuclear industry by promoting nuclear exports. The White House dedicates a staffer to this task. Secretary Moniz emphasizes his commitment to “jumpstart” the U.S. nuclear power industry. DOE subsidizes new domestic nuclear plants through loan guarantees. The nuclear Navy provides government-trained operating personnel. And to facilitate the licensing of new plants, and extend licenses for existing ones, the administration’s appointments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have ensured that it remains industry-friendly.

–Victor Galinsky, ex-NRC Commissioner, National Journal, February 2014

We keep hearing from certain people that nukes are essential to solve energy and global warming problems. They say that nuclear energy is carbon-free, or some say low-carbon. They are neither. They say that nuclear is low-cost. They say building another round of nuclear reactors is essential for the U.S. and the world. It is neither low-cost nor essential. To build more megawatts of nuclear energy would be a mega-distraction.

Such an emphasis would weaken our response and ability to stem future climate chaos. I will take on the mission here of showing how the horrendous costs of nuclear energy makes this source an unpractical one. It is especially unpractical now, during our quest to truly course-correct on climate change.

The bottom line is that electricity generated from new nuclear reactors is about 24 cents per kilowatt-hour. About this 24 cents per kilowatt-hour:

1)    This is double the electricity price for the U.S. on average .

2)    The cost of 24¢ for nuclear electricity is more than twice the 10¢ cost of solar electricity in Arizona, about twice the national average for solar.

3)    It is more than twice the cost of wind-generated and delivered electricity.

4)    Most important, nuclear electricity is 8 times the 3¢ national average cost of energy efficiency.

5)    It is about twice the cost of new coal and gas-generated electricity.

You might ask, well how do we know how expensive a reactor will be? We have nuclear plants scattered across the nation, so how much did these plants cost in the last round?

First, I have been using empirical analysis of the cost of nuclear energy since 1977. We used regression analysis in a book released in 1979. This book was instrumental in convincing investors to pull out of the Palo Verde Generating Station Units 4 & 5, America's largest nuclear plant, west of Phoenix. Our analysis projected the cost of the Palo Verde to be $6.1 billion in 1986 actual completion dollars. The managing utility company, Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), projected $2.8 billion at the same time, and they never waivering on its projection until construction was well under way. 

That down-graded plant of 3 reactors was finished for $5.9 billion. The APS projection was overrun in costs by 111%, while our projection was slightly over the final cost by less than 4%. Of all the reactor projections done across the land that we could find, ours was the most accurate nuclear reactor projection in the nation.

We used empirical approach to costing reactors, with regression and other modeling techniques. Apparently APS used the tried and true method of sales pitch estimation.

So how do we jump from then, when the final reactor at PVNGS was completed in 1986 to now? The method I use is four-fold.

1)    First, find out what the average cost of the last rush of reactors, which happened around 1987;

2)    Then apply general inflation to that cost to bring it up to today’s cost;

3)    Third, apply a projected inflation to the year that a new reactor might be completed; and

4)    Finally, weigh a series of factors that might increase or decrease this figure.

For step 1, a low/conservative estimate on reactor average cost for 1988 was $3100 per kilowatt of net plant size.

Putting that $3100 into 1987 dollars at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Standards inflation calculator yields $6105 per kilowatt of electrical capacity in 2013 dollars.

For Step 3, I project a common 4% inflation rate through 2022, the first year it is likely for the next small group of reactors in the U.S. to be completed. This yields a completion cost in 2022 of $8689/kWe.

For Step 4, I have come up with a survey of 27 reactor construction cost factors. This is the most varied and numerous list of items I have seen, so far, from all my reading on reactor costs. I estimate that the reactors of the early 2020s will cost about 20% more than the reactors finished in the last big wave of the mid-late 1980s.

In this 4th step, I have considered factors that would make nukes cheaper than in the real (inflation adjusted) dollars of the past, like labor cost declines in America. I have also taken into consideration factors that would increase the costs like certain material cost increases, and increases in plant robustness requiring more cement, copper, steel, etc.

After comparing the changing conditions since the time the last reactors were completed, I have come to what I consider a fairly accurate projection.  It probably won’t be as accurate as our PVNGS <4% accuracy level, but I am fairly sure it will be in the ball park.

After going through this process, the final figure I project for the next round of nukes built in 2022 is $9149/kilowatt of plant size. This is in sharp contrast to most sales pitches from utilities today, where they project more like $4000 per kWe. It would be good to remember that the average overrun was 220% in the last round. They sell these plants by unrealistically lowballing the construction cost.

What does that come out to in cost per kilowatt-hour? Just like with solar and wind, you can break this down to the kilowatt-hour of electrical capacity (kWe) level, and then apply production time (hours) to it to get kilowatt-hours of electricity delivered (kWhe). You can also multiply these kWe units to the typical sizes of the wind turbines, solar panels, or coal or nuclear plants.

Here are the calculations.

This is what it would cost roughly, to install 100 reactors in the U.S., a figure being brought up from time to time by members of Congress.

$9149/kWe

X 1,350,000 kWe plant size

= $12.351 billion

X 100 reactors occasionally proposed

= $1.2351 trillion total construction cost for 100 reactors

X 14% loan payback per year (capitalization rate)

= $172.9 billion per year for 30 years

X 30 years

= $5.187 trillion paid just for construction and loan and tax expenses, not counting fuel or operation & maintenance, nor transmission and distribution.

That $172.9 billion/year will cost the average person in the U.S. (assuming an average of 350 million people into the future):

$494/person/year for 30 years if we have a 350 million population, or

$988/taxpayer/year if we have 175 million taxpayers.

 

So, how do we get to cost per kilowatt-hour? For each kilowatt of plant capacity, you can calculate the cost to construct, the capital cost and then calculate the electricity the plant produces over a typical 40 years (before major costs of renovation add to the equation). Then simply divide the capitalization cost by the kWhe. Here we go (simply). . .

——————

Cost Portion of the Equation:

$9,149/kWe

X 14% capitalization rate =

$1,281 in capital cost/year

X 30 years

= $38,426 capital payback over 30 years for each kWe of size – This is just the total capital cost over 30 years.

——————

Electrical Output Portion of the Equation:

1 kWhe

X 8766 hours/year on average

X 85% average capacity factor (electrical performance) over the life of the reactor

X 40 years

= 298,044 kWhe over 40 years – THIS is the e output over 40 years. Note that the capital payback is 30 years and the plant runs for a projected 40 years (before major capital upgrade, if it runs longer).

——————

The Final Capital Cost/kWhe Calculation:

$38,426 Capital cost over 30 years per kilowatt of installed electrical capacity

/ 298,044 kWhe e output over 40 years

= 12.9¢ per kilowatt-hour of electricity.

——————-

There was a multi-disciplinary report put together by the nuclear industry, along with governmental and non-governmental entities called the Keystone Report.

This report projected fuel and operations and maintenance costs at:

4.3¢ per kWhe for fuel and O&M. That, plus. . .

+ 12.9¢ capitalization cost

= 17.2¢ production cost (pre transmission & distribution)

+ 7.0¢ per kWhe for transmission & distribution

= 24.2¢ per kilowatt-hour to your meter

—————–

What are the implications of such a high cost to your household, and to the larger society, the U.S. in this case?

I’ll leave that up to your imagination, as you ponder that solar is currently less than half the cost, while it continues its cost plunge, energy efficiency is about one eighth the cost and wind is also about half the cost. Getting back to Victor Galinsky’s quote from the beginning, the only way in which nuclear energy can compete in the market is in a skewed way, with the U.S. Government favoring it all the way along. That in fact is how nukes have gotten as far as they have. It’s time to nuke the nuclear option!

Fact Sheet on the SunZia Power Transmission Line and Who to Write to Stop this Project

SunZia Fact Sheet and Contact List – Who to Write to Stop this Project

Below are some facts about the SunZia proposal and who you can write to help stop this environmentally destructive project. This is a partner article to another at: http://arizona.typepad.com/safeenergyanalyst/2012/08/sunzia-the-making-of-a-slave-state-first-power-then-transmission.html &#160; However, this factsheet is from the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

1)  This is a transmission project, and does not involve approval of any renewable energy projects. No one knows exactly how much renewable energy generation will result from building the proposed transmission lines and support towers.

2)  A 2008 economic feasibility study has established that transmitting the proportion of renewable energy claimed (81 to 94%) in the BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is very unlikely to occur, because this mix would not be economically competitive in the absence of a CO2 emissions tax.  The same study concluded that under current market conditions, the most likely energy mix to result in actual power purchase agreements would consist mostly of fossil fueled energy. The BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement never acknowledged these findings, despite repeated submission of this third party study by local stakeholder groups.  This violates federal regulations regarding the use of the best available data in the EIS.

3)  The owners of the SunZia project also own a very large planned and permitted natural gas fired generation plant in southeastern Arizona that is located along their proposed transmission lines. The BLM never acknowledged the relationship between the owner’s interests in the two proposed projects, despite the disclosure of this relationship by the owners to another federal agency (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).  This violates federal regulations regarding the use of the best available data in the EIS.

4)  The SunZia project would open up a new industrial scale infrastructure corridor on  40% of its proposed route, most importantly through environmentally sensitive lands along the Rio Grande and San Pedro Rivers. On one route segment alternative, over 80% of the proposed path would be through previously undisturbed lands.

5)  Other proposed transmission projects, such as the Southline Project, would co-locate with existing infrastructure and disturbed lands to a much higher degree than the proposed SunZia project. SunZia is a project that would cause significant new impacts to our dwindling wildlands, and would not live up to its purported renewable energy benefits.

 

To email your Representatives regarding these points, especially regarding the use of best available data in the EIS (points 2 and 3):

Rep. Martha McSally:     https://mcsally.house.gov/contact

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick:     https://kirkpatrick.house.gov/contact/email-me

Rep. Raul Grijalva:    https://grijalvaforms.house.gov/email-raul

 

To email the head of the Bureau of Land Management:

Principal Deputy Director: Neil Kornze:  director@blm.gov

 

To send a message to the President’s staff:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/old

 

To send an email to the Albuquerque Journal:

Sharon Hendrix / Journal Editorial Writer/ shendrix@abqjournal.com / 505-823-3846

Dan Herrera / Editorial Page Editor/ dherrera@abqjournal.com / 505-823-3810

 

To send an email to the Tucson Weekly:

Mari Herreras/ Editor/ mari@tucsonlocalmedia.com

 

To send an email to the Arizona Daily Star:

letters@azstarnet.com

Install Solar at Your Home?

By Russell Lowes, Sierra Club Rincon Group Energy Chair, August 4, 2014

    A year and a half ago my wife, Lhasha, and I took the leap! After 17 years since buying our house, we finally installed solar panels.

Some of the crew members that installed our solar panels, picture by R. Lowes

    This article shows how solar is affordable now. Prices have come down even more, since we installed our solar panels. The costs of owning a solar array to power your home are now far cheaper than buying power from your utilities.
We had done a number of things to get ready for solar. We thought it would be best to first reduce our energy needs, so we engaged in a number of energy and water-saving techniques:

  • Added an evaporative cooler onto our air conditioner, so that we could switch back and forth with this piggyback system – we also put in a barometric damper between the AC and cooler so we would not have to do anything but turn one off and the other on (no getting up on the roof or putting metal sheets in place);


“Piggyback, or dual, evaporative cooler/HVAC system” picture by R. Lowes

  • Had insulation blown in to our attic;
  • Installed insulating blinds;
  • Installed double-pane windows (the noise reduction alone was worth it);
  • Replaced our lawn with desert landscaping and put in a grey-water system on our clothes-washer (with a Watershed Management workshop more water than energy-saving);
  • Replaced our A/C system with a much more efficient HVAC system; and
  • Insulated behind the cabinets on our kitchen cabinets.

    We did all these efficiency things first, to save energy and to reduce the panels we would need to buy. After saving up for solar by late last year, we decided to get three or four quotes. We received quotes from Sungevity, Technicians for Sustainability and Net Zero Solar, and a ballpark quote from Geo Innovation. These quotes were for similar products, and had similar contracts.

    I was hoping to go with Sungevity, because they linked with the Sierra Club in donating $750 to the Club per installation. However, Net Zero Solar in this instance provided the best bid. Their cost, pre-tax reduction and rebate, was $8925 (without the utility rebate, which we signed over to them). Technicians for Sustainability gave a $11,029 quote, and Sungevity gave a $16,910 quote (gross cost, pre-tax benefit reductions).
    So, you might ask, how quickly does solar pay for itself? How good of an investment is it?
    Here is a breakdown of how I would answer this question.
    First, it largely depends upon how you pay for the system. If you are buying the system and are comparing the cost of the system to what you would pay in electric bills, that would require a projected interest rate for a loan, and an electric price prediction.  
    If you are borrowing to buy the system, and are borrowing money at say 6%, it will be different than buying with cash. For my personal approach (after all, it is a personal approach), I do not think that investments will yield very much in the future, as the stock market is very high, so here I focused instead on the electric grid comparison. I also believe our U.S. economic foundation is weak and that we are likely to go into hyper-inflation in several years, similar to the early 1980s. I believe this will increase electricity bills substantially.
    It is important for me to emphasize to you: once you invest in solar, there is a good chance that your investment will be good for well over 25 years. Some solar panels are now still in use after 40 years. Your solar investment is not likely decrease in value like stocks or bonds during an economic downturn. It will keep its value and maybe increase in value if the cost of electricity does what I think it will do.
    This is how I personally approach it. If you are borrowing or leasing, you could come up with a different approach, or you could modify the table below. If you have positive equity in our house, home equity loans are a good way to go. The positive impacts on the environment are matched by the positive impacts on your wallet. Solar energy is economical now.