Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Secure Energy for a Sustainable Future

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Tonopah, AZ

The future of El Paso is the reason so many oppose the El Paso Electric rate hikes and their attempt to destroy the rooftop solar industry. EPEC's business model does not provide El Paso with a secure and sustainable future.

Consider that we get about 30% of our power from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Tonopah, Arizona, 485 miles away from us. Not only do we lose about 6% of that energy from there to here, but there is a lot of nothing between there and here. A lot of nothing makes us vulnerable.

Consider this fact from USA Today: "More often than once a week, the physical and computerized security mechanisms intended to protect Americans from widespread power outages are affected by attacks, with less severe cyberattacks happening even more often." Be sure to watch the video in the online article.

Attack on Yemen grid

Consider what happened last year in Yemen following a terrorist attack on the electric grid as reported by Peter Kelly-Detwiller in Forbes.

Watch the CNN video:

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Not only does our current network of power distribution from faraway generating stations means that we lose power in transition, but we also leave ourselves vulnerable to sabotage.

With rooftop solar the energy you use is the closest to where you need it: from your rooftop to your home or business. If you don't need it, those little electrons will just take the path of least resistance to your neighbor as she runs her washing machine or your abuelita as she tries to keep warm.

EPEC wants to raise everyone's rates in order to make-up for a model of distribution which is not efficient serving homes and businesses which are more energy efficient. And you should pay higher rates for lowering your energy needs?

Solar is about the future. EPEC is about the past.


  1. Silent Running in a Different DirectionOctober 28, 2015 at 10:56 PM

    Thank you for a informative backgrounder on the Energy Security issues that we face in El Paso since we rely on over 30 % of our power and at times even more when our utility buys surplus nuclear power from Palo Verde on the wholesale market exchange which occurs from time to time.
    Granted the long distance transmission lines are double loop and there are two lines that are in place connecting E Paso / Las Cruces to the Palo Verde Plant. This gives us some needed redundancy and higher level of protection.

    But there is large capital cost for this and we pay for it. This is an example of the traditional operating model for utilities and the common practice in the 1980's and 1990's. This out dated practice is shifting as the industry uses long distance transmission now to connect distant wind and solar farms to get power to consumers. Large coal and nuclear plants have fallen victim to declining load factors, high costs and environmental and water usage limitations.

    Distributed solar pv generation delivers power with minimal losses versus the conventional centralized power plants or peaking plants.

    The trend to more localized generation is only going to Grow and become the primary means in many markets. The closure of the large coal plants in many regions will free up transmission capacity that can then be used for wind or large solar farms when conditions warrant their construction.

    The benefit to the market is that the same lines can transmit solar power during the day and then wind power during the evening and early morning hours. The utilities will get more utilization value from their lines.

    Thus the drive for more distributed solar generation will only continue to grow.
    We get more resiliency and energy security and more energy value.

    The classic build more centralized plants and the consumers will use it is now challenged by the laws of diminishing returns. This old business model limits choices for both consumers and also utilities as it locks them into higher operating costs that they must pass on to their customers. Our utility is still caught in the grips of this model as they continue to add plants and costs but their actual utilization factor for these plants continues to decline. This is happening in other regions also to be fair to our utility. They are not the Lone Ranger in these old practices but the warning signs are clearly visible to informed professionals within the industry.

    Many utilities are now embracing distributed generation as it is more flexible and limits under utilized plants that they have to try to earn a rate of return on. Currently we have to Pay for these underutilized plants.

    So the business model for our utility definitely needs reform and change. To continue on the old outdated plan is a high cost proposition to all involved , the impacts to the customer are economically painful too. When the detrimental environmental impacts for the old model are included then the old business model becomes even less efficient.

    The ratepayers, marketplace and even the shareholders all deserve better planning and more innovative approaches to providing reliable affordable power to the market.

    In 15 - 20 years or so when the operating permit for Palo Verde ends, our utility must be prepared for more localized solutions that are more affordable.

    It is to be determined if they will adapt to a more forward thinking business model. lets hope that Adaption becomes the Order of the Day !
    Watching and Waiting ! ?? Right now it looks like a Big Bad Moon is Rising again bringing expensive cheese !

  2. The reason that many utilities like the huge two electrical providers in California started providing incentives in the mid 80's for homeowners and businesses to add insulation and take other energy saving measures including solar panels and solar hot water heaters is that they recognized that the incentives cost less than adding new generating capacity. That is the basis which is nationally accepted for incentives, NOT penalties. Not only is the cost of having to build new power generating facilities offset by solar incentives but the environmental and climate change impacts of additional new fossil fuel generation plants are mitigated. El Paso Electric seems to be entirely ignorant of this justification for supporting solar panels rather than penalizing them and their logic cannot stand up to scrutiny.