John Spezia: Just the facts

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There is an old saying that states, “Everyone can have their own opinions, but not their own facts.” When opinions move into the realm of facts, citizens, elected representatives, voters and public officials make bad decisions and pronouncements. As I have read the letters to the editor and opinions with regards to Colorado Senate Bill 252 (renewable energy standards), it appears that many statements of opinions seemed to be couched as facts.

The goal of Senate Bill 252 is to increase renewable energy standards to 25 percent from 10 percent by 2020 for cooperative electric associations that provide service to at least 100,000 meters. Retail costs are capped at a 2 percent increase to prevent any adverse impacts on customers. Our local electric coop does not have 100,000 meters, so we are exempt from this legislation.

There was a statement in the Steamboat Today by Tri-State Energy that stated this bill will costs many billions of dollars to comply with and is not economically feasible. At the 2011 regulatory filing commission approval meeting for the Limon II wind project, Xcel testified: “We view this wind project as providing substantial net savings to our company and our customers as early as 2014.”

There was also the statement that this bill would raise energy costs to the members of electric co-ops. But the facts are they are already going up, and by advancing clean renewable energy we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels as well as protect Coloradans by shielding them from future price spikes associated with volatile fossil fuel costs.

There was also the opinion that Senate Bill 252 will kill jobs, but the renewable industry has responded to the current renewable energy standard with significant investments in electricity generation projects and manufacturing facilities, employing nearly 10,000 Coloradans.

So you be the judge: Do you want to vote or make decisions based on opinions passed off as facts, or on the facts and just the facts?

John Spezia

Steamboat Springs

Comments

max huppert 11 months, 4 weeks ago

nuclear is the way to go. That McConnell is up to something for sure,, I am going to get inspector Scott of the OC justice league to investigate this.

Wish Spezia was still doing outdoor classes at CMC, they were fun.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

When one looks at the facts one has to look at all of the facts.

The majority of Xcel's "green power" projects were funded by federal grants. Xcel, its share holders and customers, did not pay to build the generation units.

If one looks at the full cost of wind generation, the transmission lines, the backup power requirements, etc then the cost of wind generated power is almost 100 times of coal generated power.

Just last week our State and Federal representatives were lobbying and bemoaning the loss of federal subsidies for Green Power in Colorado, the loss of high paying jobs. In short, green power has no road to profitability clear enough for any commercial lender to take a risk on.

Can wind and solar power generate electricity....yes. Can it do so at rates we can afford. Not yet nor in the foreseeable future.

It is a pipe dream to think that, absent subsidies, SB 13-252 will create one job other than administrative and regulatory (more government) or result in one green power project being built at a 1% per annum increase in rates.

Look at it this way. Ski Corp basically just converts electrical energy into a profit. They use gobs of electrical power to operate compressors and pumps for making snow. They use gobs of power to run lifts, heat buildings and transport goods and services up the mountain. If you're ready for $2000 lift tickets then you should support SB-13-256.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

If it is so easy for wind farms to lower an electric company's costs then any electric company would be wanting to build them. But it takes time to build wind farms and this bill gives little time for co-ops to make big changes.

This is an example of the worst of government because it is government proclaiming some goal without considering the practical aspects of the plan. Germany during the economic boom installed more solar cells than sunny Spain. Now Germany is facing the crunch of skyrocketing electric rates to pay the promised subsidizes or bankrupting those that invested based upon the promise of the subsidizes. Good intent is not exempt from basic economics of cost and efficiency of production.

Even worse, by allowing the PUC to declare sources of methane (nat gas) as renewable then it creates a huge incentive to game the system by nat gas drillers. Now to meet the goals, we will see nat gas lobbyist with the cooperation of the electric companies and politicians that want the goals to be met to all lobby the PUC to have various nat gas wells to be declared renewable. There will be no economic or environmental gain in those efforts other than to meet what is in a fundamentally silly law.

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Fred Duckels 11 months, 4 weeks ago

It is amazing that the renewable fiasco is always heralded by those who consider a $17T debt to be inconsequential. Words connot describe this BS.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Fred,

That's the current Democratic way. "We want it all, we want it now and we want someone else to pay for it:!

Wind power and electric cars: Put a sail on your car, a sail as big as you want, try sailing up Rabbit Ears pass. The energy required to get up Rabbit Ears pass is the same regardless of the energy source being converted.

If we were to make a meaningful change from fossil fuel powered cars to electric cars I think the NREL estimated we would have to quadruple the power distribution system in the US.

A major, very very large, solar plant was proposed for SW Colorado. The rukus raised by people like Diane Mitsch-Bush regarding the tranmssion lines killed the project..

They want it all, they want it now, the want someone else to pay for it and they want it in someone elses back yard.

And OBTW, the NREL, a group of very dedicated engineers who have been at this for quite awhile, had their budget cut in favor of HHS and EPA. Signing people up for food stamps, giving people a $50,000 check because they're a minority farmer, well those things get votes. Planning for the future energy needs of America in a clean responsible fashion does not. Comes from having an "American Idol" President.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Well, the T Boone Pickens report on energy independence came up with the opposite analysis on the impact of electric cars on the electric grid. That there is plenty of off peak capacity and electric cars could easily be recharged at night using the existing grid. Many utilities already use variable pricing where pricing adjusts during the day based upon overall system demand. The charger for the electric car could just be set to wait until past peak electric costs.

The Pickens report also suggested that electric car batteries could be used to help the electric grid because owners could allow their cars to put their charge back into the grid during peak load periods at peak rates. Nothing that couldn't be controlled via a simple phone app.

There is nothing inherently wrong or expensive with renewable energy. But just because it is renewable doesn't mean it is free from basic economics so that costs no longer matters.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

And, of course, the irony of John Spezia's letter is that he is presenting his opinions as facts.

If the 2% cost limitation is to be real and effective then the goal could just as easily be 70% because 2% a year for six years is not going to get Tri-State to 30%. That is what the head of Tri-State was saying. That the 30% goal was going to take billions of dollars for Tri-State. John Spezia cannot wish that fact away. That a realistic person could look at the revenue generated by an additional 2% rate hike a year and figure out when 30% could be achieved. Which is why the bill should have been written in coordination with Tri-State.

Hickenlooper at the Limon II wind farm dedicated mentioned that this demonstrated the need for tax breaks for renewable energy. Thus, even at the dedication ceremony it was stated that it needed subsidies to be a competitive source of energy.

It is also a false fact to talk about fossil fuels such as coal being highly volatile and ever increasing. Coal has long been a cheap source of electricity and the costs to power plants are largely controlled via long term contracts.

I suggest that Mr Spezia could apply his own test of "Do you want to vote or make decisions based on opinions passed off as facts, or on the facts and just the facts?' to his own letter.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Scott,

Cars taking and giving back energy is a potentially viable method of storing energy. It is in its infancy and being sponsored by NREL. BMW just gave a bunch of all electric mini's to MIT to study and work on the "two way" chargers. However, it remains in its infancy and at 70 grand per mini-retail, a long way off.

T Boone is not an engineer. He is a entrepanuer and businessman. A damn good one. Just last year California and Arizona had power lines fail as a result of overdemand. In short the heat of transmission exceeded design, the aluminum conductors expanded to such an extent that the lines sagged until they became shorted with the ground. The normal residential "drop" is 200 amps, up from 100 amps just 20 years ago. A "fast charge" car would require a 250 amp drop as well as a specialized power convertor. Transformers, lines, even the wiring materials would need to be changed for a significant impact (more than 10%) of cars being converted. Electric cars make sense in relatively flat smog prone areas....period.

The best "renewable energy" remains nuclear. We as a nation need to get over the fact that we will have to store nuclear waste and that unprotected folks will not be able to go there for over 2000 years. But heck, we've not been able to go into many places without protection for a lot longer than that.

Antbody, and I mean anybody, is allowed to put solar on their roof, a wind generator in their back yard. They'd get a 50% reduction in their electrical rates and be able to sell power on sunny and windy days. Why haven't they done this? Because the return on investment is so low and so far out its not a good business decision.....even on a broad, many neighbor scale. The power density simply isn't there.

I'd much rather put a "sur charge", a tax, anything towards allowing engineers to do their business and solve problems as opposed to letting engineering ignorant (but personable) politicians knee jerk with regulation.

If T Boone really thought electric cars were both profitable and possible, to the extent the "grid" could support them and they'd make a difference.......he'd be listed as a major stock holder in the various electric car companies around the globe. He's not.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Pickens paid some well regarded engineers to research and write their study.

Electric cars do not typically need fast charging 250 amps. Most can be charged overnight on low power. The study looked at amount of energy consumed daily by households for travel compared to electric grid utilization during the day. There is a huge drop off in electricity consumption at night when air conditioner use decreases. That spare capacity is more than enough to recharge electric cars.

Picken's study did not say that gas cars should go away today and be replaced by electric cars. His study did expect that electric cars were expected to have further improvements in batteries. His study basically concluded that electric vehicles for passenger use in the future is reasonable from an engineering and physics perspective.

Pickens does believe in renewable energy that he tried to build huge wind farms in West Texas. When the transmission lines weren't built, he instead installed his purchased wind turbines in optimal locations near transmission lines. Just because he believes a technology has a future does not mean that he sees a company to invest in that he thinks will be the winning company. The internet has become a big business sector, but an awful lot of the pioneers went bankrupt.

The US has plenty of windy and sunny areas. The northern plains have the potential to power half the eastern seaboard, but no means of delivering that power. The Southwest has both wind and sun.

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Fred Duckels 11 months, 4 weeks ago

250 amps would burn up the battery.

Why is it that left leaning states are mostly flirting with bankruptcy, could it be that they are reaping what they sow? They are not entirely devoid though in that the states with logical ideas will probably end up helping in a forced bail out.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Scott,

I too believe in renewable energy, however the technolgy is not even close to being mature. Nor is it being funded for development.

The same folks that rally about renewable energy don't want the transmission lines that get energy to the big consumers. Same folks but NIMBY. Actually more than NIMBY, they just want to enjoy the views without transmission lines which drives the centralized power generation policies of the US.

I am a registered Marine Engineer who spent some 25 years making power without political concerns for those that were in command. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. And I wish, as most folks do, to make sure the earth is cleaner when I leave it than when I joined it and quality of life improves generation over generation..

I do, however, have great knowledge when it comes to power generation and water generation. I know that these are complex subjects and require great study and education to be effective.

Diane Mitsche-Bush will be holding a "town hall" Sunday at the SS Library. It will be my first political meeting in my life. It is my intention to ask simple engineering questions that she should know and have considered before she voted yes or no on SB-13-252.

I'm told that the State did not contact the NREL for their opinion or guidance on the bill, our number one lab on renewable energy. I'm told that the bill was introduced without notice on a Monday and passed on a Friday without chance for intelligent research, representative education and decision before the vote. I'm told that no one who the bill immediately effects, Democrat or Republican, Engineer or Liberal Arts major.... supported it.

It seems a political ploy, not something that would result in cleaner air or better energy use.

I'm also told that she has a strong political party support that will give a bunch of "hurah" when I ask simple questions. I'm told that she will respond "it doesn't seem anyone else is interested in that question.....next question".....without answering.

I wish to see for myself. Is she educated in the issues of the bill or she pursuing some political agenda that does nothing for Colorado or the US.

2:30 to 4:30 SS Library. Would appreciate you attend.

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Fred,

250 amps would not being going to the battery charging. 250 amps would allow normal household activities to occur while the car was being charged.

You know how the wife wants to run the coffee pot, the microwave and the hairdryer at the same time. Breakers trip.

If you buy an all electric car and try to charge it on a 200 amp house drop you'll get in trouble with the wife. :)

Harv

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Harvey Lyon 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Scott, Rough Numbers

Average CO household burns 750 KWH per month, including those that require AC such as the Front Range.

1 gal gas is 38 KWH power.

Takes about 1.5 gal to get from the base of Rabbit Ears to the top.....at 8 mpg.

I'll get you the NREL numbers but thats about 30 minutes of generation of the best commericially available wind turbines with favorable winds. Not counting transmission losses, capital costs. Wing power is the most efficient and least expensive next to hydroelectric. Solar and geothermal....lots lots more.

Clearly our money is better spent on making fossile fuels cleaner. Nothing else provides the portable power desity in the near future.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

First, while a gallon of gas has energy equivalent of 38 kwh, a gas motor is about 40% efficient. So driving a distance that uses a gallon of gas in a car requires about 15 kwh in an electric vehicle.

A typical commercial wind turbine is 1.5 megawatt. Which could generate 15 kwh in about 36 seconds. Newer turbines are 2-3 megawatt.

In the US, wind turbines generate just over 25% of their rated capacity per year so a 1.5 megawatt would average out to 375 kw per hour which is about 25 cars per hour and 600 cars per day.

Average commute in Colorado is 16 miles. In an efficient car that is less than a gallon for a round trip. Residential use appears to be about 25% of total electrical usage. So a double commute household would change from 750 to about 1700 kwh per month and would increase overall system electrical usage by about 30%. But if that increase in demand was programmed by smart chargers to happen during off peak periods then it not have to increase peak demand. Thus, I don't see why that would require a quadrupling of the grid. And if it were to be done then that would save tens of millions of gallons of gas per day which would be a massive positive effect upon air pollution. I think the coal industry has pointed out that electricity from coal to power electric cars would be a significant overall reduction in air pollution because cars don't have the elaborate emissions control systems of a coal power plant.

The Pickens plan noted that electric is not viable from a physics or engineering perspective for commercial trucking. It analyzed diesel vs nat gas and decided that either was possible. I think Telsa;s 50 minute high power recharging centers is not generally a workable solution because of both the time and power draw during peak load periods.

The funny thing is that I don't think we disagree all that much in that we want this done based upon good economics and the future changes decided by engineers and not politicians.

Colorado for years has had a system where there were some pools of money that were distributed to new sources of renewable energy that were paid out over a few years based upon amount of power produced. It was among the better systems because it had predictable costs for both consumers and investors.

And the increased goal for Xcel was the result of negotiations with Xcel and so was acceptable to Xcel. But SB 252 seems to be a complete surprise to Tri-State and certainly is not close to what they were planning. There is no reason that Hickenlooper's people couldn't meet with Tri-State and ask them what are their plans and what could state do so that Tri-State could bring more renewable energy online sooner. That Sb 252 is aimed at Tri-State and not done without apparently even asking Tri-State's cooperation is more than enough justification to reject this bill.

This bill should be shelved and the State should work with Tri-State to come up with a workable renewable energy plan.

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mark hartless 11 months, 4 weeks ago

And we can have all these wonderful renewables... if we turn every acre of landscape from Florida to Alaska into wind and solar farms... starting with Nantucket.

But THOSE particular Nimby hypocrites said "Not in my back yard!"

In fact, they recently changed their name from "N-i-m-b-y" (not in my back yard)

to "B-a-n-a-n-a" (Build- absolutely- nothing- anywhere- near- anything)

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Steve Lewis 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Harvey, What is your opinion of a carbon tax? Wouldn't it bring us closer to many of your goals?

Some uses seem permanently reliant on carbon. For example, I do not see commercial air travel without fossil fuels. Shouldn't we conserve some of that carbon for our needs 40-60 years from now?

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Fred Duckels 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I suspect that Dianne's town hall event will be controlled so that those having unwanted opinions will go away wondering why they attended.

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