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On For All the Calls to 'Rescue' Ukraine with LNG Exports, US Should Steady the Course on Terminal Applications


Good points all around. The temptation to speed things up is a natural one, including efforts to enable LNG exports. But all it takes is one mis-step, or something that leaves an opening to challenge a trade permit and facility license, then the whole industry could be impacted and in a negative way.

When you weigh them, the pros outweigh the cons of exporting our plentify natural gas. And to do so in ways that help secure energy for our allies makes exports that much more attractive. My main point is to stay the course, conduct these assessments prudently and then unlesh the power of private industry to get the job done.

The calls last week to speed up the process because (it's implied) LNG-hungry nations are waiting for it is almost almost deceptive. I understand Ukraine doesn't yet have the ability to receive LNG. A lot has to happen to conduct these transactions. Let's do our part correctly the first time.

If  you or anybody reading this has a specific idea on how to credibly improve the assessments by the Energy Department and the FERC, please jump in here and share!  If that speeds up the process, all the better.

March 31, 2014    View Comment    

On Wonder How the Next Generation Wants to Drive Sustainability? Check out These "Future Influencers" from Siemens


Thank you for taking the time to comment. The reversal of nuclear's fortunes in Germany -- a country rich with engineering skills -- including nuclear, has mystified me since Fukushima. That said, they've set their path and with it the huge challenge now of rising carbon emissions.

China may be the most intriguing challenge going forward because of its sheer scope, but Germany will be almost as interesting given where they've been, and now where they're headed.

March 14, 2014    View Comment    

On 'Mechatronics' is Central to How Siemens Recruits and Trains Qualified Engineers for its Combined-Cycle Gas Turbine Manufacturing Plant


Thank you for the feedback. I would have thought Siemens' approach was not so unique. Not only was I off the mark, I was impressed how their approach, in collaboration with the community and the state, is a model for manufacturers throughout the U.S. to capitalize on the rebirth of manufacturing there.

March 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Want to Sustain Utilities? Decouple Profits from Revenues, Assign Costs Where they Belong and Enable Customers to Make Smarter Energy Choices


I'm finding, and I think you will too, that rooftop solar owners are keenly interested in (if not fanatical about) efficiency no matter how low the rates may go. In reality, rates are headed up. It's the fixed charges -- not rates per se -- that threaten how rates can empower consumers to take control of their energy diets. If that's what you meant, you're right. As I assert, fixed charges are cop-outs and should be outlawed. Many of the commissioners at this week's NARUC meetings in Washington, DC agree. It's the tradition-bound utilities we have to worry about.

February 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Want to Sustain Utilities? Decouple Profits from Revenues, Assign Costs Where they Belong and Enable Customers to Make Smarter Energy Choices


Quite impressive thought process, elements of which have a LOT of merit. To some extent, the method(s) you're citing and the manner in which they value rooftop solar, for example, already are under consideration. See my column about such an effort in Minnesota in January.

Have you shared one or more of these thoughts with a regulatory body, think tank or trade group? If so, please let me know what kind of response you (hopefully) have received.

Let's keep on thinking of ways to back out coal from electric power generation!


February 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Calculating the Social Cost of Carbon and Value of Rooftop Solar: The Movement Has Begun


You recite a popular -- but I think short-sighted -- retort to how rooftop solar users should be treated. Having performed a LOT of research for this column, hang with me here as I walk you and our readers through what I think is the best path forward. I'm drawing from a relatively new commentary by Karl Rabago, formerly of Austin Energy, who wrote this piece in December 2013 for the International Conferderation of Energy Regulators and who's given a lot of thought to this.

First, to be fair to the utility and non-solar customers, a tariff should ensure that the utility has the opportunity to collect its cost of service to the solar customer, including a reasonable opportunity to earn a rate of return. And other customers should not be unfairly required to pay costs created by the solar customer, nor be unfairly subsidized by solar customers.

Second, the ideal solar tariff should fairly compensate the solar customer, through a credit, for the value that their solar generation brings to the utility system. Value-based analysis should be used to reveal the benefits that distributed solar systems bring to the utility system.

Third, the tariff should recover costs and give compensation credit for value independently from an incentive designed to overcome market failures. Incentives are a legitimate public policy tool, widely used in the electricity and other industries, to encourage certain kinds of market behavior.

One justification for solar incentives is that they help overcome certain market failures such as lack of information and practical experience with the relatively new technology among homeowners, lenders, and others. Another justification for solar incentives is that existing tariffs under-compensate for the value of distributed solar. So adequate compensation for distributed solar energy should relieve pressure on incentive systems. And these incentives will be less necessary as the distributed solar market matures. For efficiency of administration and to communicate clear signals to the market, incentive levels and compensation levels should not be conflated.

Fourth, an ideal distributed solar tariff would operate as a complement to other electricity policy goals, including, especially, a goal of more efficient use of energy. Other goals that a solar tariff should complement include payment or credit for performance, rather than just investment; encouragement of long-term performance of solar systems; reduction of long-term risks or generational cost shifting; and strong alignment with market signals.

Finally, an ideal distributed solar tariff should be intuitively sound and administratively simple to implement and manage. Analytical inputs should be rationally related to the character of solar systems and the quantity and character of energy output associated with the technology. Inputs should also be simply calculated from information the utility already routinely produces.


January 16, 2014    View Comment    

On Know your LEDs: Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs Set to Go Mainstream in Households Globally


I should have guessed, in part because of higher energy costs, the UK is several steps ahead of LED adoption rates in the U.S. I purposefully under-estimated the pay-back times because usage rates can vary widely. And I didn't and don't want to come across as a booster for LEDs given their costs up until this fall. But those prices and the growing variety of LED bulbs available to households is growing every month here in the U.S. The tipping point has arrived!

For others reading these comments in other parts of the world, please chime in with your experiences, especially in your homes.

In the mean time, Happy Holidays!



December 20, 2013    View Comment    

On Know your LEDs: Light-Emitting Diode Bulbs Set to Go Mainstream in Households Globally


I couldn't agree more. I waited several months before sticking my neck out to proclaim LEDs are set to go mainstream. Since posting, I've been poked by some colleagues for waiting WAY too long. I chose the start of 2014 because of updated sales projections, the impact of Cree's TV campaign AND the phaseout of the 40- and 60-watt lamp bulbs in the U.S. on Jan. 1. 

December 19, 2013    View Comment    

On Pilot Projects for Inspiring Utility Innovation

Good summary Megan. The question now becomes, which -- if any -- Maryland utility will step up and earnestly pursue any of the 29 pilot projects. I'm not holding my breath, but look forward to being surprised.

December 16, 2013    View Comment    

On Mapping Whole Communities and Their Homes with Thermal Images to Reduce Heat Loss


Thank you for sharing. What has come of that thermography effort in Belgium? Is anyone advancing the effort with a specific application?

 If so, please do share!



November 18, 2013    View Comment    

On $26,000 Social Media Campaign Trumps $900,000 Oil and Gas Ad Buy


Thank you very much for writing and comparing these campaign spends, as well as, helping readers understand the power of social media on local ballot initiatives. What evidence is there thus far that social media can have a similar impact on statewide campaigns?


November 18, 2013    View Comment    

On Does Thorium Deserve a Role in Next-Generation Nuclear Energy?


Thank you for your input. At the rate it takes to certify a new reactor design and then license it, your point is well taken. But part of the reason is that thorium-fed reactors appear to solve many of the complications of sticking with existing uranium-fed reactors. I wish we could find a more efficient and faster way to accomplish this. If anyone has some ideas, please do share!


November 2, 2013    View Comment