Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity supplier

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Topic Author
runnergirl
Posts: 131
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:15 pm

Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity supplier

Post by runnergirl » Wed May 30, 2012 8:15 am

I live in a state where electricity is deregulated and I am being bombarded with phone calls and mail promising lower rates. There are many different companies and I don't know where to turn to research which is the most economical and reliable provider for electricity. A google search of many of the companies turns up "scam" and complaints but I don't know whether to believe these or not. On its face, the rates are in fact lower than our main utility supplier and in return you sign a one year contract. 5% of the electricity provided is wind-mill generated so it's supposed to be good for the environment too.

Anyone have experience with changing electricity (or gas) suppliers and would you do it again?

Sidney
Posts: 6736
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:06 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Sidney » Wed May 30, 2012 8:21 am

I briefly looked at options but decided that it wasn't worth the bother. Electricity is less than 5% of our total spending. I preferred to have a single source of distribution and supply.
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

User avatar
Drain
Posts: 1402
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:27 pm
Location: Maryland

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Drain » Wed May 30, 2012 8:24 am

See if your state government publishes a rate comparison. Here, for example, is such a page for the state of Maryland.

Consumer Corner – Retail Suppliers (of Electricity and Natural Gas)
Last edited by Drain on Wed May 30, 2012 8:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Darin

User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 9030
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by cheese_breath » Wed May 30, 2012 8:24 am

I haven't changed suppliers, but I've heard horror stories about some who have. I would stay with my current provider for awhile until things shake out. Let other people discover which ones are the scams and which ones are honest. Also, a year's contract may not always be a good thing. They protect you against cost increases, but they also lock you into a price if costs decrease.
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

texasdiver
Posts: 3280
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by texasdiver » Wed May 30, 2012 9:26 am

Here in Texas we've had this for years. So we've had a variety of web sites built up that let you compare plans and companies and read online customer reviews of the various companies. It's all the same company maintaining the power lines up to your house (in our case Oncor) so all you are really changing is the company that sends you your bill. The physical reliability of your power connection, power meter, and wires to your house are not affected when you change companies.

We can type in our zip code to compare rates and plans. You can chose fixed rates or variable rates for different lengths of contracts and with different early cancellation fees. Some of them tout green energy, wind power, and that sort of thing. But these companies don't really own windmills or solar or whatever, they just buy energy credits from the companies that do. Also, some states have minimum renewable energy standards so don't get sucked into paying a higher price for 5% wind power or something like that when they might be required to do it anyway.

I normally check the rates and company reviews once a year and then lock in the lowest 12 month fixed rate plan I can find from a company that has reasonably high reviews from customers. It's always been a trivial exercise to switch companies when the time comes. Here are two sites in Texas that allow you to comparison shop. I'm sure you can google up something similar for your home state.


http://www.texaselectricityratings.com/
http://www.powertochoose.org/

Grt2bOutdoors
Posts: 21782
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:20 pm
Location: New York

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Wed May 30, 2012 9:37 am

runnergirl wrote:I live in a state where electricity is deregulated and I am being bombarded with phone calls and mail promising lower rates. There are many different companies and I don't know where to turn to research which is the most economical and reliable provider for electricity. A google search of many of the companies turns up "scam" and complaints but I don't know whether to believe these or not. On its face, the rates are in fact lower than our main utility supplier and in return you sign a one year contract. 5% of the electricity provided is wind-mill generated so it's supposed to be good for the environment too.

Anyone have experience with changing electricity (or gas) suppliers and would you do it again?
I have been using Constellation Energy as my alternative provider, the process has been relatively seemless, been paying a rate that is roughly 5% cheaper including taxes for the last 2 years, coupled with referral and sign-up rebate debit cards has raised the overall discounted rate to about 10%. Not shabby in this period of ultra-low interest rates. Constellation is now part of Exelon and does get a large majority of its electricity from nuclear sources, think about 2% was powered by windmill/solar.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Wed May 30, 2012 11:01 am

runnergirl wrote:I live in a state where electricity is deregulated and I am being bombarded with phone calls and mail promising lower rates. There are many different companies and I don't know where to turn to research which is the most economical and reliable provider for electricity. A google search of many of the companies turns up "scam" and complaints but I don't know whether to believe these or not. On its face, the rates are in fact lower than our main utility supplier and in return you sign a one year contract. 5% of the electricity provided is wind-mill generated so it's supposed to be good for the environment too.

Anyone have experience with changing electricity (or gas) suppliers and would you do it again?
Do not be an 'early adopter'. Wait for a year or so and see how this pans out.

Do not go with someone who 'sells' you their service-- wait, investigate and be an informed buyer, don't accept some cold call.

Just on the 5% just don't. If you want to be Green, give the money to an environmental organization: Greenpeace, Sierra, Environmental Defence Fund etc (spread it around). Buying 5% wind to be 'a little green' makes no difference to the planet it's like committing a sin and then putting $5 in the collection plate to be absolved.

For that matter, change the halogens in your house for LEDs, and generally use low energy lightbulbs. Buy more efficient appliances. That's far more 'green' than 5% wind power. You would do far far more for the planet saving 5% of your electricity bill-- buy a kilo-o-watt meter, figure out where you burning electricity, and save 5% of it.

(if you buy a kwhr of wind power, then someone else consumes a kwhr which is not green. The net effect is very small).

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Wed May 30, 2012 11:02 am

GRT2BOUTDOORS wrote:
runnergirl wrote:I live in a state where electricity is deregulated and I am being bombarded with phone calls and mail promising lower rates. There are many different companies and I don't know where to turn to research which is the most economical and reliable provider for electricity. A google search of many of the companies turns up "scam" and complaints but I don't know whether to believe these or not. On its face, the rates are in fact lower than our main utility supplier and in return you sign a one year contract. 5% of the electricity provided is wind-mill generated so it's supposed to be good for the environment too.

Anyone have experience with changing electricity (or gas) suppliers and would you do it again?
I have been using Constellation Energy as my alternative provider, the process has been relatively seemless, been paying a rate that is roughly 5% cheaper including taxes for the last 2 years, coupled with referral and sign-up rebate debit cards has raised the overall discounted rate to about 10%. Not shabby in this period of ultra-low interest rates. Constellation is now part of Exelon and does get a large majority of its electricity from nuclear sources, think about 2% was powered by windmill/solar.
And therefore Constellation is more or less carbon free 24/7 to the extent it is nuclear generated. Ironically the 'greenest' power out there glows radioactive.

Grt2bOutdoors
Posts: 21782
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:20 pm
Location: New York

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Wed May 30, 2012 11:07 am

Valuethinker wrote:
GRT2BOUTDOORS wrote:
runnergirl wrote:I live in a state where electricity is deregulated and I am being bombarded with phone calls and mail promising lower rates. There are many different companies and I don't know where to turn to research which is the most economical and reliable provider for electricity. A google search of many of the companies turns up "scam" and complaints but I don't know whether to believe these or not. On its face, the rates are in fact lower than our main utility supplier and in return you sign a one year contract. 5% of the electricity provided is wind-mill generated so it's supposed to be good for the environment too.

Anyone have experience with changing electricity (or gas) suppliers and would you do it again?
I have been using Constellation Energy as my alternative provider, the process has been relatively seemless, been paying a rate that is roughly 5% cheaper including taxes for the last 2 years, coupled with referral and sign-up rebate debit cards has raised the overall discounted rate to about 10%. Not shabby in this period of ultra-low interest rates. Constellation is now part of Exelon and does get a large majority of its electricity from nuclear sources, think about 2% was powered by windmill/solar.
And therefore Constellation is more or less carbon free 24/7 to the extent it is nuclear generated. Ironically the 'greenest' power out there glows radioactive.
Since nuclear is not going away, whom am I to quibble? 5% in a no/low rate enviornment is significant savings and last I looked no trees are giving away money (I have more than 5 around my house - they cost more to maintain than they give back to the enviornment thus far).
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

Sidney
Posts: 6736
Joined: Thu Mar 08, 2007 6:06 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Sidney » Wed May 30, 2012 11:28 am

Valuethinker wrote:
For that matter, change the halogens in your house for LEDs, and generally use low energy lightbulbs. Buy more efficient appliances. That's far more 'green' than 5% wind power. You would do far far more for the planet saving 5% of your electricity bill-- buy a kilo-o-watt meter, figure out where you burning electricity, and save 5% of it.

(if you buy a kwhr of wind power, then someone else consumes a kwhr which is not green. The net effect is very small).
I have used the Kilowatt meter to shut off a couple of power hungry devices that I don't use often. Also had the house blower tested and sealed -- mostly attic work. Energy tax credits and a rebate from the power company paid for half of the sealing. Our usage has dropped by about 20% (in KWH). The payback on my portion is about 2 years but it also greatly improved the comfort by shutting off drafts.

One thing people often overlook is the HW heater (if electric). These are often set by the installer at 140+ degrees. Dial it back to about 120 and you won't notice the difference (other than reducing the scalding risk).
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

bluelight
Posts: 312
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:08 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bluelight » Wed May 30, 2012 11:54 am

I've been bombarded with the same calls recently and even had one company come to my door. They don't identify themselves, or if they do its so quick that you can't understand what they're saying. Yesterday, I received a call where I was told to get my bill so I could read them a number that was at the top of page 3. Needless to say, I didn't do that. I have since found out they were looking for my Pod ID, so they could switch me over. Nice. I wonder how many people are duped by that.

I'm at the point where I don't care if I can get the energy cheaper, I wouldn't do business with a company that uses those practices. I tell them to remove me from their call list, but the calls keep coming. Possibly I'll revisit this in the future, but for now I plan on keeping my current provider.

User avatar
grabiner
Advisory Board
Posts: 25662
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:58 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by grabiner » Wed May 30, 2012 8:34 pm

bluelight wrote:I've been bombarded with the same calls recently and even had one company come to my door.
Are you on the Do-not-call list? I have only recevied one call for energy supply, and unfortunately I hung up before getting enough information to document a complaint with the NJ Attorney General. Almost all the phone solicitations I get now are scams.
Wiki David Grabiner

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 8090
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Epsilon Delta » Wed May 30, 2012 8:48 pm

bluelight wrote: I wouldn't do business with a company that uses those practices. I tell them to remove me from their call list, but the calls keep coming. Possibly I'll revisit this in the future, but for now I plan on keeping my current provider.
The people you won't do business with may be related to your current provider. In my area a good many of the "alternate providers" appear to be corporate kin to the regulated utility. The only genuine options appear to be co-ops or buying groups that server limited geographical areas.

bluelight
Posts: 312
Joined: Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:08 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bluelight » Wed May 30, 2012 10:01 pm

grabiner, I've been on the Do Not Call list for years. I hadn't thought to file a complaint with the NJ Attorney General. Today a friend told me I should file a complaint with the NJ Public Utility Commission. I went on their site and saw they have a complaint form if you have already been slammed, but it for slamming by a communication company.

User avatar
grabiner
Advisory Board
Posts: 25662
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:58 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by grabiner » Wed May 30, 2012 10:27 pm

bluelight wrote:grabiner, I've been on the Do Not Call list for years. I hadn't thought to file a complaint with the NJ Attorney General. Today a friend told me I should file a complaint with the NJ Public Utility Commission. I went on their site and saw they have a complaint form if you have already been slammed, but it for slamming by a communication company.
Here's the link for filing state complaints; I don't know what NJ will actually do, but they ask for evidence (things like a photo of the Caller-ID to confirm the caller, or a log), so they might actually bring cases.

http://www.state.nj.us/donotcall/
Wiki David Grabiner

User avatar
htdrag11
Posts: 1162
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:22 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by htdrag11 » Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:42 pm

Like to revive this one up for updates.

I've used Dominion for about one year in conjunction with JCP&L in NJ, seeing a 9% savings. Now Viridian and No. Am. Power (NAP) both claim 20 or 100% green option with "higher" savings, but found little info from their respective websites. As a residential consumer, this is like the wild west all over.

Can anyone shed more lights on this?

I've checked out this site http://www.electricitywatch.org/viridian-energy-review/ but it only reviewed Viridian. Like to see similar on NAP.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Thu Oct 25, 2012 4:20 pm

htdrag11 wrote:Like to revive this one up for updates.

I've used Dominion for about one year in conjunction with JCP&L in NJ, seeing a 9% savings. Now Viridian and No. Am. Power (NAP) both claim 20 or 100% green option with "higher" savings, but found little info from their respective websites. As a residential consumer, this is like the wild west all over.

Can anyone shed more lights on this?

I've checked out this site http://www.electricitywatch.org/viridian-energy-review/ but it only reviewed Viridian. Like to see similar on NAP.
I am not a big fan of 'green' tariffs.

My reason is this. Electricity generated goes into a big pool-- there's no way of allocating a particular kwhr drawn on the grid to a particular source of generation input.

So if you buy a 'green' kwhr that means someone else buys a 'dirty' kwhr at a marginally lower price. Total consumption does not change (except in truly huge shifts in production, eg new wind farms).

Only if you could be *sure* the money you paid went to the production of more green power via the construction of more hydro, solar, wind, geothermal plants would it be truly 'green'.

The truly green alternatives are to:

- use less electricity-- first and foremost. Change to LED spotlights for example. Buy power bars and turn off everything when you are not using it. Buy high efficiency appliances (a heat pump dryer uses 40% of the electricity of a normal one, a front load washing machine saves at least half of electricity per wash). Make ordinary savings (eg washing your clothes in cold water). Install SEER 15+ air conditioning (with the 2 speeds, more comfortable in any case)

In particular avoid using electricity in peak hours, especially 4.30pm-7pm-- that is the dirtiest electricity there is, on most grids. Peak plant is often either coal, or Open Cycle Gas Turbine, and it tends to be dirty.

- install your own solar or renewable energy source. This is an expensive way of being 'green'

- give money to green causes, particularly anything to do with rainforest preservation (the cheapest green there is is to avoid deforestation of rainforests)

User avatar
AAA
Posts: 1232
Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 8:56 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by AAA » Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:45 pm

Several years ago, when PA deregulated I went with an alternate supplier. After not too long, I got a letter from them informing me that they were exiting the market. So I tried another...same result. I think after my third one I gave up and just went back to PECO. I find the offers confusing as rates vary over time. If someone reputable would say something simple like "we guarantee to always be x% below PECO, then I'd consider it.

Natural gas is more of an expense than electricity and while we can also choose natural gas suppliers, my initial exposure to that was even more confusing.

So my possibly lazy approach is to do nothing. If things shake out and one alternative becomes obviously better, I'd reconsider.

User avatar
interplanetjanet
Posts: 2226
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm
Location: the wilds of central California

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by interplanetjanet » Thu Oct 25, 2012 7:56 pm

I don't have anything to add, other than that I would dearly love to be able to choose my electricity supplier (the current one couldn't be much worse). My electric bills are my single largest expense after housing, and amount to 8-10% of my spending. The house is filled with efficient lighting, the thermostat is set to 83F in the summer (and sometimes higher), but between marginal insulation and some appliances that need to be on 24x7 for health reasons I just can't get the bill much lower.

My electrical bills are one of the biggest things pushing me towards buying a house at this point, to be able to insulate better and add solar.

User avatar
grabiner
Advisory Board
Posts: 25662
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 11:58 pm
Location: Columbia, MD

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by grabiner » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:22 pm

grabiner wrote:
bluelight wrote:grabiner, I've been on the Do Not Call list for years. I hadn't thought to file a complaint with the NJ Attorney General. Today a friend told me I should file a complaint with the NJ Public Utility Commission. I went on their site and saw they have a complaint form if you have already been slammed, but it for slamming by a communication company.
Here's the link for filing state complaints; I don't know what NJ will actually do, but they ask for evidence (things like a photo of the Caller-ID to confirm the caller, or a log), so they might actually bring cases.

http://www.state.nj.us/donotcall/
I did file such a case, and filed a complaint (including a copy of the caller-ID screen). The Attorney General's office then said that the FTC was a more appropriate place for the complaint and it had been forwarded there.
Wiki David Grabiner

User avatar
htdrag11
Posts: 1162
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:22 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by htdrag11 » Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:19 am

Valuethinker wrote: I am not a big fan of 'green' tariffs.

My reason is this. Electricity generated goes into a big pool-- there's no way of allocating a particular kwhr drawn on the grid to a particular source of generation input.

So if you buy a 'green' kwhr that means someone else buys a 'dirty' kwhr at a marginally lower price. Total consumption does not change (except in truly huge shifts in production, eg new wind farms).

Only if you could be *sure* the money you paid went to the production of more green power via the construction of more hydro, solar, wind, geothermal plants would it be truly 'green'.

The truly green alternatives are to:

- use less electricity-- first and foremost. Change to LED spotlights for example. Buy power bars and turn off everything when you are not using it. Buy high efficiency appliances (a heat pump dryer uses 40% of the electricity of a normal one, a front load washing machine saves at least half of electricity per wash). Make ordinary savings (eg washing your clothes in cold water). Install SEER 15+ air conditioning (with the 2 speeds, more comfortable in any case)

In particular avoid using electricity in peak hours, especially 4.30pm-7pm-- that is the dirtiest electricity there is, on most grids. Peak plant is often either coal, or Open Cycle Gas Turbine, and it tends to be dirty.
We actually had our furnace and central air replaced last year with SEER 15 efficiency, at least another 10-15% drop in our bill on top of the alternative supplier, from $3,000/year to about $2400/year for a house about 3,500 sq. ft. Not sure if the weather or usage has an impact or not.

As for green, I set my ac at 80-82 depending on time of day, and heat to 60-65. Using spot heaters during the winter to warm up the FR or bathroom. It's a great strategy to keep my mother-in-law from visiting too. Most of the lights in the house were already replaced with florescent lamps.

brianH
Posts: 328
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:21 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by brianH » Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:12 pm

I just had fun with this process in South East PA (PECO). You really have to pay attention to the fine print in the agreements - it was like shopping for mutual funds. I finally settled on a company that offered 7.5 cents/kwh (generation and transmission) for a lockin of 7 years. Many of the other offers I saw had rates similar to this, but they were only for 6 months. After that date, the rates were either ??? or higher than the PECO price currently.

The term length made me a little nervous, but I needed to move fast. I'm on electric heat, so I can use North of 2500kwh during the Winter. PECO's last bill was 10.8c/kwh (not including infrastructure charge), so that represents a decent savings. Of course, I still lose because PECO used to offer discounts above 500kwh for electric heat customers (some throwback to a push for all electric heat decades ago.) With this now gone, I hope I made the correct gamble...time will tell.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:13 pm

brianH wrote:
The term length made me a little nervous, but I needed to move fast. I'm on electric heat, so I can use North of 2500kwh during the Winter.
Curiousity.

Did you mean 2500 kwhr per month?

I live in a lot milder climate than Pennsylvania (London England) but in a solid brick wall row house (Victorian) I burn 30,000 kwhr on gas a year. So 2500 kwhr pa would be very little energy-- you'd have an amazingly well insulated home.

Consider getting an air source heat pump? Above about 10 degrees F you should get significantly improved performance (like c. 33-40% of your previous heating bills). Below that, you'd get about the same performance.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:18 pm

htdrag11 wrote:
We actually had our furnace and central air replaced last year with SEER 15 efficiency, at least another 10-15% drop in our bill on top of the alternative supplier, from $3,000/year to about $2400/year for a house about 3,500 sq. ft. Not sure if the weather or usage has an impact or not.
Weather probably has a massive impact-- the swings in cooling degree days. I believe the US has had a record warm summer, so your new AC saved you even more, potentially, than it appears. With those bills I can see why you want to switch suppliers (for reference, in the UK, we are paying c. 21 cents/ kwhr (US cents)).
As for green, I set my ac at 80-82 depending on time of day, and heat to 60-65. Using spot heaters during the winter to warm up the FR or bathroom. It's a great strategy to keep my mother-in-law from visiting too. Most of the lights in the house were already replaced with florescent lamps.
It's illegal in the UK to have a high voltage outlet in the bathroom (we do use 220v AC power so it's somewhat more dangerous anyways). People are always getting killed running extension leads to a heater in the bathroom and then something causes a short, etc.

I wasn't trying to imply you were not green, and apologies if I came across that way.

'Green' tariffs are sold here as being this environmentally friendly thing, but with the exception of a couple of companies that genuinely seem to invest the surplus profits into new wind farms, they are anything but.

hicabob
Posts: 2911
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 5:35 pm
Location: cruz

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by hicabob » Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:29 pm

Valuethinker wrote: It's illegal in the UK to have a high voltage outlet in the bathroom (we do use 220v AC power so it's somewhat more dangerous anyways). People are always getting killed running extension leads to a heater in the bathroom and then something causes a short, etc.

220??? - when I was a kid in Sussex it was 240volts/50hz - was said to be the highest voltage in the world for "house power" if I recollect correctly - and it certainly does have a kick to it relative to the 117 in the US.

User avatar
interplanetjanet
Posts: 2226
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm
Location: the wilds of central California

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by interplanetjanet » Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:17 pm

hicabob wrote:220??? - when I was a kid in Sussex it was 240volts/50hz - was said to be the highest voltage in the world for "house power" if I recollect correctly - and it certainly does have a kick to it relative to the 117 in the US.
There's a funny story behind that - the UK standard was 240V, continental Europe was 220V. These were harmonized by making the common standard 230V with wide tolerances. Most of Europe is 230V -10% +6% (207-244V) and the UK is 230V -6% +10% (216-253V).

This is really a fudge and means there is no real change of supply voltage, only a change in the "label", with no incentive for electricity supply companies to actually change the supply voltage.

To cope with both sets of limits appliances will need to handle 230V +/-10% (207-253V).

The USA standard isn't 117V, it's 120V with a range of 114-126V - see ANSI C84.1 "Electric Power Systems and Equipment - Voltage Ratings (60 Hz)".

brianH
Posts: 328
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:21 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by brianH » Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:33 pm

Valuethinker wrote:Did you mean 2500 kwhr per month?

I live in a lot milder climate than Pennsylvania (London England) but in a solid brick wall row house (Victorian) I burn 30,000 kwhr on gas a year. So 2500 kwhr pa would be very little energy-- you'd have an amazingly well insulated home.

Consider getting an air source heat pump? Above about 10 degrees F you should get significantly improved performance (like c. 33-40% of your previous heating bills). Below that, you'd get about the same performance.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. It is about 2500kwh/month on average during the Winter, for about a 1600sq/ft house. It is a heatpump, but the electric coils do kick on quite often on our bitter-cold days.

I work hard to keep this as low as possible. The house is usually set at 60F (15), and I just use a spaceheater in the room (office) I'm in most of the day. I can't complain too much. Most of the other homes around here use oil heat, which is far more expensive and shows no signs of ever becoming cheaper.

hicabob
Posts: 2911
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 5:35 pm
Location: cruz

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by hicabob » Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:48 pm

interplanetjanet wrote:
hicabob wrote:220??? - when I was a kid in Sussex it was 240volts/50hz - was said to be the highest voltage in the world for "house power" if I recollect correctly - and it certainly does have a kick to it relative to the 117 in the US.
There's a funny story behind that - the UK standard was 240V, continental Europe was 220V. These were harmonized by making the common standard 230V with wide tolerances. Most of Europe is 230V -10% +6% (207-244V) and the UK is 230V -6% +10% (216-253V).

This is really a fudge and means there is no real change of supply voltage, only a change in the "label", with no incentive for electricity supply companies to actually change the supply voltage.

To cope with both sets of limits appliances will need to handle 230V +/-10% (207-253V).

The USA standard isn't 117V, it's 120V with a range of 114-126V - see ANSI C84.1 "Electric Power Systems and Equipment - Voltage Ratings (60 Hz)".
Next ... maybe a common plug-style!

User avatar
interplanetjanet
Posts: 2226
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm
Location: the wilds of central California

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by interplanetjanet » Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:04 pm

hicabob wrote:Next ... maybe a common plug-style!
Now you're dreaming!

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 8090
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Epsilon Delta » Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:07 pm

interplanetjanet wrote:
hicabob wrote:Next ... maybe a common plug-style!
Now you're dreaming!
If you want a success story, the UK has largely accomplished this. In the 70s and 80s there were about 8 different plugs in common use in the UK. Appliances were sold without plugs, and there were racks of different plugs in most retail stores. In the mid 80s there was a report on the situation that, if I remember correctly, attributed several dozen deaths a year to consumer installed plugs, and contained gems such as "We were surprised to find that in some other countries appliances are sold with plugs attached".

So kudos to the faceless engineers and bureaucrats who finally got the situation sorted out, and eternal damnation to the ones who let it develop in the first place.

Now all they need to do is stop using ring mains.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 3:56 am

Epsilon Delta wrote:
interplanetjanet wrote:
hicabob wrote:Next ... maybe a common plug-style!
Now you're dreaming!
If you want a success story, the UK has largely accomplished this. In the 70s and 80s there were about 8 different plugs in common use in the UK. Appliances were sold without plugs, and there were racks of different plugs in most retail stores. In the mid 80s there was a report on the situation that, if I remember correctly, attributed several dozen deaths a year to consumer installed plugs, and contained gems such as "We were surprised to find that in some other countries appliances are sold with plugs attached".

So kudos to the faceless engineers and bureaucrats who finally got the situation sorted out, and eternal damnation to the ones who let it develop in the first place.

Now all they need to do is stop using ring mains.
Yes you used to buy a small appliance in the shop, and they would cut the plug off in front of you. You then had to wire it up and fuse it yourself (British plugs have fuses in them). Indeed there always people being killed due to miswiring and I read some estimate once that something like 40% of them were not correctly wired, bypassing the safety feature of having a fuse in them.

It was quite a shock, that and the fact that there were all these different types of plugs.

Am I right in thinking the choices of wiring are:

- star? Where there is a pair of wires, in effect, back to the board from each wall socket?

- ring main? Where the wires run round the house (a la an ethernet) and the sockets in effect 'plug' into them?

What are the disadvantages of the latter arrangement?

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 4:10 am

hicabob wrote:
interplanetjanet wrote:
hicabob wrote:220??? - when I was a kid in Sussex it was 240volts/50hz - was said to be the highest voltage in the world for "house power" if I recollect correctly - and it certainly does have a kick to it relative to the 117 in the US.
There's a funny story behind that - the UK standard was 240V, continental Europe was 220V. These were harmonized by making the common standard 230V with wide tolerances. Most of Europe is 230V -10% +6% (207-244V) and the UK is 230V -6% +10% (216-253V).

This is really a fudge and means there is no real change of supply voltage, only a change in the "label", with no incentive for electricity supply companies to actually change the supply voltage.

To cope with both sets of limits appliances will need to handle 230V +/-10% (207-253V).

The USA standard isn't 117V, it's 120V with a range of 114-126V - see ANSI C84.1 "Electric Power Systems and Equipment - Voltage Ratings (60 Hz)".
Next ... maybe a common plug-style!
Hicabob

In the UK there is one, now. US not so? My spouse is always terrified by the Canadian 2 prong arrangement-- looks hopelessly flimsy and unsafe to her.

Interplanet Janet

Thanks for the explanation of UK electricity voltage (which I vaguely knew, but I shortformed it as 220v which is indeed the European standard).

The story in the UK is that the National Grid was built in the 1930s, by a public entity. Helped us survive the bombing of WW2. That meant that under public ownership post war, they were adroit at 'gaming' Her Majesty's Treasury.

When the country had a fiscal crisis in the 1970s, HMT would slam the brakes on capital spending by public utilities (water, electricity, gas). So the managements of same became adept at 'gold plating' their capital spending to prevent that happening-- you can't build 50 year life capital assets on annual budgeting. After the coal miners shut the country down in the 1970s, they had help from the politicians-- Britain went into electricity privatization in the early 90s with way too much generation capacity (oil as well as coal and nuclear) and a robust distribution system, because the government did not again want to be held hostage to the miners and the power workers unions.

So the National Grid (the Transmission Network) and the distribution network (the Regional Electricity Companies), backed by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) had a 'goldplated' system and that included one of the consistently highest electricity voltages in the world.

Britain still has one of the best grids in the world for reliability and stability of voltage. And the distribution wires are 90% underground, so less vulnerable to bad weather (but more vulnerable to overheating).

You can actually buy voltage regulation equipment at the household level, which regulates you down to 220V and, it is claimed, saves up to 10% of your electricity bill (consumer tests have given much lower returns). Certainly in a commercial/ industrial context this technology has a very fast payback (and your lightbulbs last longer).

The Grid is now however under considerable pressure. In a privatized environment there is not the same incentive to invest in distribution assets. The NGC remains fairly well invested. However the new generation assets include lots of wind power, and offshore wind power, and there's a huge question who's going to pay for those grid connections. Plus massive local opposition to building new power lines from where the power is (Scotland and offshore) to where it is needed (the South).

One helpful thing is that the nuclear plants are in remote coastal areas, generally, and so there are grid connections to *there*.

A general problem has always been that the coal fields and the coal fired power stations are in the North (Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire) and the majority of consumption is in the South, leading to 'congestion' in the Midlands and connecting points. Combined Cycle Gas Turbine stations (CCGTs) help that, being 'instant on' power and quite local (eg 1350 MW at Barkingside in East London, that's the equivalent of Brooklyn to Manhattan).

On redundant power stations one has become the magnificent Tate Britain modern art museum (opposite St. Pauls, Bankside Power station). Another (Battersea Power Station, immortalized on the cover of Pink Floyd 'The Wall') has had a turgid history of property speculation (the original smokestacks are unsafe and will now have to be pulled down) but might, might, just become the centre of a major residential and shopping complex near the new US Embassy.

They used real architects on those stations (Gilbert Scott from memory) and they have become beautiful landmarks of an industrial era, in a post industrial one.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 5:28 am

brianH wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Did you mean 2500 kwhr per month?

I live in a lot milder climate than Pennsylvania (London England) but in a solid brick wall row house (Victorian) I burn 30,000 kwhr on gas a year. So 2500 kwhr pa would be very little energy-- you'd have an amazingly well insulated home.

Consider getting an air source heat pump? Above about 10 degrees F you should get significantly improved performance (like c. 33-40% of your previous heating bills). Below that, you'd get about the same performance.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. It is about 2500kwh/month on average during the Winter, for about a 1600sq/ft house. It is a heatpump, but the electric coils do kick on quite often on our bitter-cold days.
OK. Sorry. Thanks. I get differing numbers from different places but there seems to be a consensus that below 10 degrees F or so, ASHPs and electric bar heaters perform about the same.
I work hard to keep this as low as possible. The house is usually set at 60F (15), and I just use a spaceheater in the room (office) I'm in most of the day. I can't complain too much. Most of the other homes around here use oil heat, which is far more expensive and shows no signs of ever becoming cheaper.
Besides being a criminal waste of something that has better purposes (to be fair, that piece of a refined oil barrel that is oil heat is not that useful in most other applications) it is also locally more polluting (even than a coal fired station). New York City is finally trying to close out oil heat for this reason-- local air pollution.

*although* caveat a modern oil burner has combustion efficiency of 80-90%, and a coal fired power station only 35% plus transmission and distribution loss (usually assumed 7-8%) and so need 3 times as much energy for the same amount of heat (using an electric bar).

2 other factors are the costs of refining and distributing the oil (say 25%) and the COP of the heat pump. It's usually assumed that if your Coefficient of Performance is over 3.0 you are break even on a heat pump vs. domestic fuel.

That's why, if you have the choice, (which you do not), gas heat is almost always better than a heat pump (*but* of course, there's the AC factor, in almost all of North America-- residential AC is still almost unknown in the UK).

On a purely economic basis coal in the USA is cheap and mostly domestic (gas almost entirely so) and oil is half imported and expensive. If your electricity comes from gas or nuclear it's a lot cleaner.

User avatar
magellan
Posts: 3471
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:12 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by magellan » Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:45 am

Valuethinker wrote:Besides [oil heat] being a criminal waste of something that has better purposes
Agreed. There doesn't seem to be a good substitute for oil/gasoline in transportation yet. I read somewhere that it takes 400lbs of batteries to store the energy that's in 8 lbs of gasoline.
(to be fair, that piece of a refined oil barrel that is oil heat is not that useful in most other applications)...
I always thought diesel fuel was nearly identical to home heating oil.
http://www.ehow.com/list_5970492_differ ... iesel.html

Jim

bpp
Posts: 2017
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:35 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bpp » Sat Oct 27, 2012 8:51 am

Valuethinker wrote: Battersea Power Station, immortalized on the cover of Pink Floyd 'The Wall'
Animals.

(Sorry, couldn't let that pass.)

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 10:11 am

bpp wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: Battersea Power Station, immortalized on the cover of Pink Floyd 'The Wall'
Animals.

(Sorry, couldn't let that pass.)
15-Love to Mr. Bpp.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 10:12 am

magellan wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Besides [oil heat] being a criminal waste of something that has better purposes
Agreed. There doesn't seem to be a good substitute for oil/gasoline in transportation yet. I read somewhere that it takes 400lbs of batteries to store the energy that's in 8 lbs of gasoline.
(to be fair, that piece of a refined oil barrel that is oil heat is not that useful in most other applications)...
I always thought diesel fuel was nearly identical to home heating oil.
http://www.ehow.com/list_5970492_differ ... iesel.html

Jim
Jim

My understanding, and I'm no expert!, is that home heating oil is a different grade and you cannot use the one for the other application.

I had thought, in fact, that HHO was identical, more or less, to marine bunker fuel (which is burned in diesel engines, but very big diesel engines).

However I'd have to do some research.

There's a worldwide imbalance on diesel supply caused by the marked preference of Europeans for diesel cars, and so reducing HHO consumption would, if you are right, help to address that.

User avatar
Epsilon Delta
Posts: 8090
Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2011 7:00 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Epsilon Delta » Sat Oct 27, 2012 10:57 am

Valuethinker wrote:

It was quite a shock, that and the fact that there were all these different types of plugs.

Am I right in thinking the choices of wiring are:

- star? Where there is a pair of wires, in effect, back to the board from each wall socket?

- ring main? Where the wires run round the house (a la an ethernet) and the sockets in effect 'plug' into them?

What are the disadvantages of the latter arrangement?
If you want a comparison the US system is like Ethernet and the UK ring main system is like token ring.

In the US circuits are linear, connected to the power, and fuse box, at one end. They can have multiple plugs (or other devices) on a single circuit. A few circuits will be configured with a single outlet for either a high power appliance or a critical appliance such as a fridge or sump pump. So this is like Ethernet, which is by design multi-drop but sometimes used as single drop for greater throughput or reliability.

In the UK a ring main is a loop, connected to the fuse box at both ends, with multiple plugs positioned around the loop. Each plug is connected to the power source by two paths.

The advantage of ring mains is they use less copper. The disadvantages of ring mains include:
  • The fuse is sized assuming equal current in both legs of the loop. If the loop is cut the user will not notice but the fuse is now too large to protect the wires if most of the load is on one side of the cut. This can result in overheating and fire.
  • Each circuit has two live paths and two neutral paths, these will be slightly unbalanced which means there is a slight in-balance between the live and neutral currents on each side of the loop, this means there is a net current around the loop. This radiates like mad. Every indoor space in the UK is inside a single turn inductor.
  • You need fuses in plugs. This is because the ring main only saves copper if it carries a fairly large current. UK mains fuses are usually 60A. For safety an appliance cord (flex) should be able to safely carry the entire load without overheating. A 60A cord is unwieldy, so they use a smaller cord and stick in an extra fuse to protect it.
Valuethinker wrote: In the UK there is one, now. US not so? My spouse is always terrified by the Canadian 2 prong arrangement-- looks hopelessly flimsy and unsafe to her.
US plugs have been standardized since the 1920s. There have been two revisions but these were backward compatible. In general the US is much better at standardization than the Europeans, but it's all done behind the scenes and for the user "it just works". This is what makes European raves about the value of standards so amusing.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:01 pm

magellan wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Besides [oil heat] being a criminal waste of something that has better purposes
Agreed. There doesn't seem to be a good substitute for oil/gasoline in transportation yet. I read somewhere that it takes 400lbs of batteries to store the energy that's in 8 lbs of gasoline.
I should note that what matters is *useful* energy.

An electric motor manages something like 80% efficiency electricity into motive power. An ICE less than 25%, apparently.

Even that doesn't radically alter the odds.

I think electric cars can work for a lot of applications (basically I imagine a vast fleet of rent by the hour urban cars) such as daily commuting.

The bigger problem is 1). trucks (where hybrid diesel will come in, but I can't see pure electric being feasible for a long time, unless we perfect a grid under highways to supply them with power) 2). airplanes.

On HHO = diesel wikipedia agrees with you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heating_oil

bpp
Posts: 2017
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:35 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bpp » Sat Oct 27, 2012 6:43 pm

Valuethinker wrote: I am not a big fan of 'green' tariffs.

My reason is this. Electricity generated goes into a big pool-- there's no way of allocating a particular kwhr drawn on the grid to a particular source of generation input.

So if you buy a 'green' kwhr that means someone else buys a 'dirty' kwhr at a marginally lower price. Total consumption does not change (except in truly huge shifts in production, eg new wind farms).

Only if you could be *sure* the money you paid went to the production of more green power via the construction of more hydro, solar, wind, geothermal plants would it be truly 'green'.
Changing to a deregulated power system has been a hot topic here in Japan since the disaster last year. If I could choose a non-nuclear, non-fossil electricity supplier, I would. I think there would be enough demand to encourage new suppliers to enter the market, so that it would not be a zero-sum game, and would tilt the overall balance to cleaner energy sources. But we'll see.

patl
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:05 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by patl » Sat Oct 27, 2012 7:02 pm

In my state (Pa.) there are a number of electricity suppliers which are well-established utilities in other geographic regions who are offering generation in my area at a lower rate. I have been able to save about $30 per month switching to one or another of these utilities, comparing prices about once a year. Absolutely no difference in what we experience in terms of power supplied to our home, it just costs less.

The Pa. Public Utility Commission provides information about suppliers, rates and the "price to compare." I believe other states do the same. The state provided info is a great place to start your comparison shopping.

One thing to keep in mind in comparing alternative suppliers: some quote lower rates which are contingent on payment of an exit fee if you change suppliers before a set period of time, not unlike the early termination fees charged by wireless and cable companies. I have steered clear of these suppliers reasoning that I wanted to have the option to change at any time without an exit fee.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:45 am

bpp wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: I am not a big fan of 'green' tariffs.

My reason is this. Electricity generated goes into a big pool-- there's no way of allocating a particular kwhr drawn on the grid to a particular source of generation input.

So if you buy a 'green' kwhr that means someone else buys a 'dirty' kwhr at a marginally lower price. Total consumption does not change (except in truly huge shifts in production, eg new wind farms).

Only if you could be *sure* the money you paid went to the production of more green power via the construction of more hydro, solar, wind, geothermal plants would it be truly 'green'.
Changing to a deregulated power system has been a hot topic here in Japan since the disaster last year. If I could choose a non-nuclear, non-fossil electricity supplier, I would. I think there would be enough demand to encourage new suppliers to enter the market, so that it would not be a zero-sum game, and would tilt the overall balance to cleaner energy sources. But we'll see.
BPP

It does depend on how 'renewables' are done.

In the UK, power companies are required to produce a certain number of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs)-- given up for cancelling by the regulator. But they either produce renewable power or buy it from someone else. So a green tariff simply means they are buying ROCs on your behalf (driving their price up, and dirty electricity down). Unless the company as a whole is 'green' and invests only in renewable generation facilities-- then you are increasing the green energy supply directly.

You can see then why I don't like 'green' tariffs, under our system they don't guarantee greeness of anything.

If there were a 'green' tariff here than included nuclear, hydro + wind, and somehow excluded biomass, then I'd buy into it. Nukes are clean, biomass is potentially worse than coal (more demand for biomass means more deforestation-- that's true even if our biomass is 'cleanly sourced' -- the whole area of biomass supply chain verification is, in any case, a quagmire (as I found out when I tried to buy a sustainable sourced wood floor)).

On your situation, the solution might be to install a solar array? Ie to become your own 'green' provider?

For me, it's to contribute to rainforest charities-- far and away the cheapest form of clean there is, avoiding destruction of an acre of rainforest.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:49 am

Epsilon Delta wrote:
ring mains v. US system.
Thank you.
Valuethinker wrote: In the UK there is one, now. US not so? My spouse is always terrified by the Canadian 2 prong arrangement-- looks hopelessly flimsy and unsafe to her.
US plugs have been standardized since the 1920s. There have been two revisions but these were backward compatible. In general the US is much better at standardization than the Europeans, but it's all done behind the scenes and for the user "it just works". This is what makes European raves about the value of standards so amusing.
The US is one country, so it's surprising when (eg building standards) you do *not* have a common standard for something.

Historically of course a lot of the world standards setting bodies (IEEE etc.) are based in the US (or at least centred there).

And for manufacturers it is the biggest market, so incentive to have common standards even from the interests of people who have to conform to them.

Europe is 27 (?) countries in the EU-- surprising that we ever agree on anything. At the very least there is a German bloc, a French bloc, an Anglo bloc. Plus everyone else. We don't even agree which side of the road to drive on ;-).

I suppose the one where Europe 'lapped' the US was GSM (digital mobile phone standard)-- but that edge has been lost, too.

bpp
Posts: 2017
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:35 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bpp » Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:15 pm

Valuethinker wrote: Nukes are clean
I used to think that, but at the risk of being accused of recency bias, now do not consider the widespread release of Cs-137 to be "clean." And even if magically such disasters were somehow never to happen again, the spent fuel that results is a very unclean substance requiring extremely long-term disposal, a problem that has not really been solved yet either technically or politically.
On your situation, the solution might be to install a solar array? Ie to become your own 'green' provider?
Yes, that is on my list for future home improvements.

Meanwhile, while debating deregulation, the government is offering feed-in tariffs to suppliers of solar and wind energy, forcing the current monolithic power companies to buy solar and wind power at fairly high prices, which will get passed through to the consumer as higher electricity bills. This has spurred the development of quite a few mega-solar arrays and wind farms.

User avatar
magellan
Posts: 3471
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:12 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by magellan » Sun Oct 28, 2012 6:55 pm

patl wrote:One thing to keep in mind in comparing alternative suppliers: some quote lower rates which are contingent on payment of an exit fee if you change suppliers before a set period of time, not unlike the early termination fees charged by wireless and cable companies. I have steered clear of these suppliers reasoning that I wanted to have the option to change at any time without an exit fee.
That's a perfectly reasonable strategy if it suits you. However, those penalties aren't just there to annoy folks, they actually help reduce uncertainty all the way down the supply chain by offering some pricing guarantees.

Once you lock your rate in, an electricity generator on the other side of the transaction, perhaps a natural gas power plant, can lock in their fuel cost for the duration of your contract. Downstream, a natural gas producer on the other side of that transaction gets a guaranteed price for some of their future output. That lets them sign contracts with their suppliers with the certainty of selling their commodity at a known price, or maybe it lets them secure financing to drill a new well to help meet next year's demand.

Nearly all power plant owners depend on price lock agreements to secure financing to construct a plant. These agreements are often between plant owners and utilities without generation capacity or large industrial consumers and they can last for several years. Without a locked in price on at least some of their future production, power plant owners , including developers of wind and solar projects, wouldn't be able to secure financing.

Jim

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:14 am

bpp wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: Nukes are clean
I used to think that, but at the risk of being accused of recency bias, now do not consider the widespread release of Cs-137 to be "clean." And even if magically such disasters were somehow never to happen again, the spent fuel that results is a very unclean substance requiring extremely long-term disposal, a problem that has not really been solved yet either technically or politically.
(long answer sent as PM-- I am getting too off topic here).

We are getting into policy here and I want to make it clear I am not strongly pro 'new nuke'. I think the costs are understated and the economic risks are high relative to alternatives which continue to fall in price.

I do believe that the German government has committed a crime against the environment, and a very serious one, by terminating its existing nuclear reactors before their reasonably safe lifespan. Germany is not tectonically unstable nor is the safety record of its nuclear industry poor (Japan of course is the opposite on both those points). Those reactors exist, and the alternative will be coal, at least in the short term. If the alternative chosen is biomass to create electric power, then the environmental damage could be multiples of coal because of tropical deforestation.

That is very different from advocating building new reactors.

Whether we build new reactors or not doesn't much alter the waste problem-- it's a legacy problem dating back decades and new reactors are much more efficient users of fuel/ less waste.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
interplanetjanet
Posts: 2226
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 4:52 pm
Location: the wilds of central California

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by interplanetjanet » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:38 am

Valuethinker wrote:In other words, I believe that the environmental crisis we face is sufficiently urgent that we need to 'throw the dice' and continue to use low pollution facilities that we have already built, as long as we can. Alternatives are going to take a long time, and the risk is we burn more coal (and more gas) as an alternative.
It is interesting to note that the expected loss of life (normalized to person-years) as a side effect of coal use (taking carbon/global warming completely out of the picture) exceeds that believed to have been caused by all of the reactor radiation releases in history by more than a factor of a thousand. Every year.

I don't expect it to change anyone's mind, but it is interesting. Human beings have a remarkable amount of difficulty in intuitively comparing unlikely risks.

Valuethinker
Posts: 39267
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by Valuethinker » Mon Oct 29, 2012 6:28 am

interplanetjanet wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:In other words, I believe that the environmental crisis we face is sufficiently urgent that we need to 'throw the dice' and continue to use low pollution facilities that we have already built, as long as we can. Alternatives are going to take a long time, and the risk is we burn more coal (and more gas) as an alternative.
It is interesting to note that the expected loss of life (normalized to person-years) as a side effect of coal use (taking carbon/global warming completely out of the picture) exceeds that believed to have been caused by all of the reactor radiation releases in history by more than a factor of a thousand. Every year.

I don't expect it to change anyone's mind, but it is interesting. Human beings have a remarkable amount of difficulty in intuitively comparing unlikely risks.
We are way off topic and that's my fault. I agree with your general point.

Humans are much more able to bear a relatively common risk (driving every day to work) than a rare and hard to know risk (airliner crash).

Far more people worry about their flight crashing (the number of people paralytically afraid of fright is big: hence the consumption of alcohol and tranquilizers on planes) than about dying driving somewhere-- but the latter is a bigger risk.

Having had the recent experience of familial death in automotive accidents I am pretty cautious of the former.

We worry about reactor meltdowns, of which there have basically been two (Chernobyl and Fukushima), and a number of near misses (Windscale, Three Mile Island etc.). But as you say, the toll from coal is much greater.

User avatar
magellan
Posts: 3471
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:12 pm

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by magellan » Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:09 am

Valuethinker wrote:If the alternative chosen is biomass to create electric power, then the environmental damage could be multiples of coal because of tropical deforestation.
In New England, biomass counts as a renewable energy source. It's considered carbon neutral over its lifecycle (except for the carbon expended for harvesting and transport). It's actually being encouraged here, as demand for paper products wanes in Northern New England and those economies are hurting. There isn't a deforestation concern because they use a timber management/lifecycle model similar to what they've been doing all along for paper products. A biomass plant that was recently constructed in New Hampshire had the support of both the Audubon Society and the Society for the Protection of NH Forests.

Perhaps I'm confused, but I didn't think rainforest deforestation could be issue with biomass. The economics prevent long-range transportation of fuel because it's not very energy dense. I read somewhere that biomass plants have to be within a couple hundred miles of their fuel source (eg forest) to be economical.

Jim

bpp
Posts: 2017
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:35 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Energy deregulation - Looking for new electricity suppli

Post by bpp » Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:40 am

Valuethinker wrote:
bpp wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: Nukes are clean
I used to think that, but at the risk of being accused of recency bias, now do not consider the widespread release of Cs-137 to be "clean." And even if magically such disasters were somehow never to happen again, the spent fuel that results is a very unclean substance requiring extremely long-term disposal, a problem that has not really been solved yet either technically or politically.
(long answer sent as PM-- I am getting too off topic here).

We are getting into policy here and I want to make it clear I am not strongly pro 'new nuke'. I think the costs are understated and the economic risks are high relative to alternatives which continue to fall in price.
I tried to be careful not to frame my response as a policy recommendation, but as a personal consumer preference. But always a pleasure to talk to you, VT, and I will reply further in PM.

Post Reply