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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
you found on the Internet? Then CLICK HERE!

Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
This will remain as a searchable
resource for all BHM website visitors.



Archive for the ‘Power companies’ Category

 

EPA Woodstoves vouchers

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Dear Jeff,

I was in the hardware store last week, and was speaking to the owner about the wood and pellet stoves he had on display. I told him I had an old Franklin stove in my bedroom that I wanted to replace with a propane stove, as it gets too hot in the room once the fire is lit, and a propane stove can be turned off, where the Franklin stove, once lit, could not.

He told me to hold off on buying a new anything because the Salt River Project in St Johns, AZ. (the local power plant about 6 miles away) was going to give out vouchers towards the purchase of a new stove, and my Franklin stove would qualify as one that could be replaced with an EPA approved model.

Try as I might, I was and am unable to find anything online about this new program, and was wondering if you knew anything about it, and if not, then perhaps it may be something you might want to research for the BHM readers.

Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing you response.

Respectfuly,

Len Torney
St Johns, AZ

Len:

I am not aware of any national EPA programs.  This sounds like a local program funded by your utility, and they just require the EPA rating as a way to set the quality of the stoves they will help purchase.

It’s not unusual for utilities that are facing power demands higher than they can provide to offer credits or rebates to customers to help lower their energy usage.

The alternative is for them to build another 10 billion dollar plant and they usually find it is more cost effective to just lower their peak demand.  Virginia Power here supplying Virginia always has excess capacity, regardless of demand, so they never have offered any programs like this as they don’t need to reduce demand.  Some utilities in California offer rebates like this to install solar systems.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago

Thanks Jeff,

I did some in-depth searching and found out it was part of a settlement between the local power plant here where I live and the EPA. I appreciate your efforts, and sorry to send you on a wild goose chase.

Thanks again,

Len Torney

 

Selling power to utilities

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Jeff,

I have enjoyed Jeff Yago’s articles. His most recent, “Solar Wind and Energy Credits” got me to wondering about the state of deregulation in the power industry.

In the 90’s I had a friend that worked for one of the local power producers in Indiana. Deregulation was supposed to open up the market for buyers and sellers.

Now I live in Tennessee, serviced by a power cooperative that buys from TVA. They have a green power program that charges the customer a higher rate so they can sleep at night, knowing their power came from a renewable source, such as wind, hydro, solar, etc. I have had no trouble sleeping without this comfort.

For the homeowner producing power, the cooperative credits the customer’s account for any surplus produced by the customer at the higher “green power” rate. When the customer draws power, they are billed at the higher green power rate. There are no cash payments for an account that produces more power than it consumes. This is the electric company’s equivalent of cell phone plans, where you carry a bazillion anywhere minutes that never get used.

My question for Mr. Yago, is it possible to sell power to another company or cooperative, allowing me (if needed) to buy power from my local cooperative at the normal rate?

Regards,

Pat Barden

Pat:

Many of the problems you have identified are well known to the solar industry and as they say, the times, they are a changing. What many want more than tax credits is a national feed-in tariff. All electric utilities have multiple sources of power, and they constantly change the mix of which generators are providing the “base” grid power based on time of day and demand. For example, most utilities will run their coal fired plants full out 24/7 as this reults in their lowest cost to produce power. Unfortunately, it can take several days to re-start a coal fired plant after it has been shut down, so they cannot just turn several on and off as their demand changes. To handle these temporary system peak demands, which usually happen in the late afternoon, they will usually fire up natural gas turbines which are much higher cost to operate, but can be started and stopped fairly quickly and are used for peaks lasting only a few hours. Lastly, some utilities have pumped storage or other temporary types which may only be able to provide power for a few minutes or maybe a half-hour, but these can be started instantly.

The catch to all this is the power companies want to pay back the solar homeowners for any afternoon electricity they sell back at their “base” cost to generate power which typically is in the 4 to 8 cents per kWh, at a time when their actual cost for the temporary afternoon peak load may be over 30 cents per kWh. Since the solar sell back occurs at the exact same time as the utilities are needing to generate the extra peak power at their highest cost, what we are really fighting for is for solar to be paid at this peak rate, not the average or base rate. There are some utilities in states that cannot meet demand now and these utilities are very friendly to solar as a way to avoid building costly new power plants. There are other states where the electric utilities have plenty of capacity from coal or nuclear and they could care less about solar and do not need the sell-back power.

As electric demand continues to increase nationally each year, at some point all electric utilities will finally come to the table and be glad to buy all the solar power they can get, as this “locally produced” power goes to the local community loads and is not lost traveling along thousands of miles of power lines. There are a few a few states that do allow the type of cross-state purchasing and selling of power that you are hoping for, and there are also a few states that now allow trading solar credits. This is when an electric utility is required by their state to purchase a certain amount of their electricity from renewable energy when they do not have any. There are companies called aggregators that go out to hundreds of small solar grid-tie homeowners and “sign them up”. Nothing changes between you and your local utility, but the aggregator gets to claim that he is representing your excess power. They then “bundle” these separate accounts into one large portfolio which they sell to the utility that needs to show they are being credited for so much solar power, even though this power never actually gets wired from your home to their account several states away. These guys are paying very good rates just to “claim” your excess solar power and it will depend on your state and your local utility if you can take part in this program.

If all this still sounds confusing, it is, but give the industry a few more years and we will have all this worked out. One thing you can be sure of, if some utilities are already fighting to purchase all the solar power they can get and at much higher rates then your local utility is willing to pay, you can bet the future looks very bright for all solar homeowners even if it will take longer then they were hoping.

Good luck and be patient,

Jeff Yago

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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