Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Intermittency Isn't a Problem in San Francisco

From the "somebody didn't do their research" file:

The Nitty Gritty and the Grandiose: How and Why CCA Works in San Francisco

The main benefits of forming a CCA are local control over electricity resources, increased negotiating power that comes from "aggregating" or pooling our local purchasing power, and access to low cost capital for the development of future generation capacity. CCAs also empower local regions to develop their own generation resources, offer specific rate incentives to business, and implement aggressive conservation and efficiency programs.

San Francisco currently consumes between 650 MW and 850 MW at any time. San Francisco's CCA plan includes 360 MW of capacity and load reductions. This consists of:

  • 107 MW of conservation and efficiency load reductions
  • 150 MW wind farm outside the city
  • 104 MW of distributed generation - including a minimum of 31 MW of solar photovoltaic installations.

San Francisco's CCA is uniquely designed to promote a massive investment in building a renewable energy infrastructure. The aggregation policy is designed to couple with the bond authority - specifically the Prop H Bonds passed by voters in 2001 - allowing governments to link aggregated procurement bids with requirements to build renewable energy generation and conservation projects at a significant scale.

Apparently, Jevons' Paradox doesn't apply in San Francisco. (But in fairness, their city government is insane enough to apply regulatory strictures that might make this happen.) However, I doubt that God is planning to delegate control over the wind and sun to the city of San Francisco so that 150 MW wind farm and 31 MW of solar panels will always be producing their peak capacity when they're needed. That, or the plan involves a mind-boggling amount of energy storage that the plan doesn't mention.

Also, this program has some interesting qualities:

3) Prove That Nuclear is Not Necessary. PG&E argues that the state depends on the 23% nuclear energy that is created by PG&E's Diablo Canyon and San Onofrio nuclear plants, and that an expansion of nuclear energy is the only way to address climate change. CCA proves that cities can create 40-50% of their energy by building renewable energy infrastructure. San Francisco's CCA will create 1/6 of the energy capacity created by Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. This proves that if a handful of cities switch to CCA, it is completely unnecessary to support costly nuclear energy and its highly toxic waste.

4) No Extra Cost to Consumers. CCA requires all energy service providers who are bidding for the community's contract to meet or beat PG&E's rates. Some expect that electricity bills will be lowered over the long term and even possibly over the short term. At the very least, we will move our city to 51% clean, green energy, and our utility bills will be spared the rollercoaster ride!

On number #3, there seems to be a mental disconnect as to where the other 49% of their power will come from. They can get it from natural gas, coal, or nuclear. If they want to fight global warming, then they have a nice existing nuclear power plant to provide plenty of firm capacity. But apparently, this scheme will prove that this is unncessary.

On #4, I'm totally bewildered by how this makes economic sense. As another part of the page explains:
Is Community Choice Energy secure?
Yes! Under the Community Choice Energy plan, the ESP (Energy Service Provider) is committed to delivering the power at promised rates for the duration of the contract. As part of that contract the ESP is required to post a bond that would cover the City's costs of returning to PG&E if the ESP defaults. So, if it is not able to deliver the power it has promised, if it goes bankrupt or simply can't do the job, the city is protected. In short, all of the risk is borne by the ESP.
Why would investors ever shoulder this risk? It minimizes the potential for profit while denying them the security that a regulated monopoly would offer. It's a total lose-lose for the energy service provider.

However, the ultimate horrors are found on their quote sheet:

Dr. Helen Caldicott
Author, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer
Founder and President, Nuclear Policy Research Institute

“I wrote in my recent book, ‘The potential for growth in the renewal non- CO2 producing sectors is enormous. All that is required is a commitment by government leaders to urgently enact serious laws mandating energy conservation, and to shift the subsidies currently provided to the nuclear power industry to alternative and renewable electricity generation. . . . In truth, the earth is in the intensive care unit, and the prognosis is poor indeed unless we all take courageous measures.’ I am gratified that the San Francisco through the Community Choice Energy program is making these commitments and taking bold action to save the earth. This program will meet 51% of San Francisco’s community power needs with renewable energy in just twelve years. It is an extraordinarily visionary and exciting project that I am pleased to support. I believe that self-sacrifice and responsibility are noble traits to which most people aspire. They are the qualities that will lead the world toward sanity and survival and they are the qualities of the Community Choice Energy program.”
Perhaps more worrisome than that, however, was this flight from reality:

Daniel Kammen
Prof. UC Berkeley & Dir. Renewable & Appropriate Energy Lab

"The German state of Schleswig-Holstein as of today has replaced 25% of its prior coal/nuclear mix with renewable power, mostly wind and biomass. Their goal is to reach 50% in 10 years. San Francisco has a much better resource mix. The benefit of this sort of aggregation is so good we don’t even know how good a deal it is. Every time we have seen large-scale investment in wind or solar we have discovered the price was much less than previously thought. San Francisco is sending all the right signals for businesses to want to locate here; to take advantage of the excellent work force and the opportunity to sell those technologies into this aggressive renewable energy efficiency market. This is a good deal for the city over a relatively short-time scale."
Super-disturbing fact: Kammen is a Professor of Nuclear Engineering at UC-Berkeley.

I'm a little worried that NO-ONE seems to have pointed out that intermittency will make this scheme non-viable. Are the people who run San Francisco really this... stupid?


Charles Barton said...

They have set out to prove the null hypothesis. The hypothesis is that only nuclear power can control CO2. The null hypothesis is that we can have all the power we need without nuclear. But that will be only shown to be true, if you don't need electricity while shivering in the dark on a windless night.

DV8 2XL said...

I agree with Charles, and to make it a real test I call on The California ISO to remove all of their interconnects to the service region covered by this experiment.

Just to make sure that there are no accidental transfers of power from outside the city that would mar the results.

Joffan said...

How big is that wind farm? if they're trying to knock off 150MW average, it need to be at least 600MW rated, and then find the ever-elusive large-scale electricity storage solution. Allowing for an imperfect efficiency of storage would mean they'd need around 1GW nameplate rating of wind.

The unfortunate fact is that trying to address a variable load with an independently variable source increases the variability, which means that your spinning reserve will have to increase also, reducing efficiency.

Sovietologist said...

The plans I've seen are delightfully vague... there seems to have been a belief that if they just ended PG&E's monopoly, that all of this stuff would get built by eager venture capitalists. Honestly, this plan isn't really a threat to San Francisco because it's designed to pose no risk to the ratepayer- which is also the reason that it will fall flat on its face. The windmills won't get built, and people will just buy their power from PG&E like before. But I sympathize with PG&E having to deal with this nonsense- it'll cost them money trying to deal with the city's uninformed meddling.