« EV Charging: A Slow Go Of It | Main | Serious Street Stupidity »

December 27, 2020


Paloma Ave

The so-called environmental activists and advocates (whiners and complainers) have to enact SOMETHING, because they believe the big myth that 'We must save the world."

The problem is it is not a Burlingame, San Mateo County, State of California, or USA issue. It is a GLOBAL issue.

The natural gas ban was a 'feel good about yourself moment' and resume enhancement for someone's future run for political office, that by the way, will cost money down the road. Thanks Greta.


Well, well, well...the Chron is reporting:

Farther north in Sonoma County, the town of Windsor just rescinded its all-electric building code because of a lawsuit from a local developer. Staring down high legal costs with the town budget already challenged by the pandemic, the Windsor Town Council begrudgingly agreed Wednesday to a settlement that walks back the electric building code.
I wonder what the premise or cause of action used by the developer?

Paloma Ave

Windsor Town Council begrudgingly agreed Wednesday to a settlement that walks back the electric building code.

Could this be a sign of sanity in California? I sure hope so.


Here are a couple of tidbits from a WSJ editorial that was just published in the midst of the cold snap across most of the nation:

Gas and power prices have spiked across the central U.S. while Texas regulators ordered rolling blackouts Monday as an Arctic blast has frozen wind turbines. Herein is the paradox of the left’s climate agenda: The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them. The power grid is becoming less reliable due to growing reliance on wind and solar, which can’t provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Wind’s share has tripled to about 25% since 2010 in Texas and accounted for 42% of power last week before the freeze set in. About half of Texans rely on electric pumps for heating, which liberals want to mandate everywhere. But the pumps use a lot of power in frigid weather. So while wind turbines were freezing, demand for power was surging.

Europe and Asia are also importing more fossil fuels for heat and power this winter. U.S. LNG exports increased 25% year-over-year in December while prices tripled in northern Asian spot markets and doubled in Europe. Germany’s public broadcasting recently reported that “Germany’s green energies strained by winter.” The report noted that power is “currently coming mainly from coal, and the power plants in Lausitz” are now “running at full capacity.”

Coal still accounts for 60% of China’s energy, and imports tripled in December. China has some 250 gigawatts of coal-fired plants under development, enough to power all of Germany.

California progressives long ago banished coal. But a heat wave last summer strained the state’s power grid as wind flagged and solar ebbed in the evenings. After imposing rolling blackouts, grid regulators resorted to importing coal power from Utah and running diesel emergency generators.

Just Visiting

Did the WSJ also address the inefficiencies in the Texas power grid (also, the U.S. power grid)? Or the nature of a deregulated energy market and how that impacts how power companies provision power?

Probably not--it's more fun to tilt at windmills.

Handle Bard

Typical troll. Doesn't like the point but can't argue it. Changes the topic but can't or won't argue that either.

The Chronicle has an article today about the blackouts without mentioning the word windmill. Typical Chronicle keeping the readers in the dark.

Peter Garrison

Get it?
“... in the dark”?

Just Visiting

Some more reading that suggests windmills aren't the real issue: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-02-16/frozen-wind-farms-were-just-a-small-piece-of-texas-s-power-woes?fbclid=IwAR2pEhpaR8eY7UkV3xJvvGS4F9NX-A6xgdjjm0MvrSSDZjTxcH6tAL9ji2Y

It may just be that (gasp) regulation is an important part of the power game. Anyone reading this blog should be old enough to remember how California got a good lesson in this from energy speculators back in the early aughts.

Handle Bard

Is this what you call deregulation?

In 2018, almost a third of the retail electricity California used was imported—with coal, gas, and nuclear power in the mix. California’s environmental virtues do have a limit. But coal-fired power plants in Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming may not be around much longer to sell power to California during a heat wave. There are two reasons for this.

First, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in 2006 that banned renewing contracts to import coal-fired electricity. This law was later expanded to cover municipal utilities, such as the behemoth L.A. Department of Water and Power.

Second, California’s aggressive subsidies and mandates for solar and wind power have led to frequent surpluses of very cheap (but very unreliable) power flooding the Western grid. Under most states’ public utility rules, the lowest-cost electricity must be purchased first, often idling reliable—but more expensive to operate—coal and gas plants.

This has put significant financial pressure on reliable fossil fuel plants, leading many to close, often decades ahead of their planned decommissioning dates. As these reliable generators of power have shuttered, it has complicated grid operators’ ability to balance the grid.

Just Visiting

Another perspective:


There is no free lunch in the world of power. Are people on the left too attached to wind and solar? Yes they are.

Are people on the right too attached to goal and natural gas? Yes they are.

Should nuclear power be part of the discussion? Certainly. Should it be part of the solution? Very possibly.

Is the market for new coal generation dead? Yes, as it should be.

Should the government relook how it regulates both power generation and the grid? Yes it should.

Did windmills cause the current problem in Texas? No they did not. Nor did they cause the problems in California last summer.

Just Visiting

Most people fundamentally misunderstand how power is generated and provided in this country.

In an ideal world (in which we do not, and never will, live), we would accurately forecast the need for power, and run our power plants at the appropriate speed to meet that need.

Most people don't understand that--just like your car--strain on power plants occurs when you have to change the power output. Just like pressing down on the gas pedal burns a lot more gas in your car than cruising at 65 mph, power plants are much less efficient when they have to increase the amount of power provided.

So the first step to efficiency is to flatten the power curve. That is done through efficiency (reducing demand and loss), and forecasting. This is why power companies want you to defer running electricity-heavy appliances to the night time: so they can flatten out the usage, allowing them to keep their turbines running at a more constant speed.

However, there is an economic incentive attached to providing the least expensive power, which runs counter to efficiently providing power during extreme events. This is a big part of the problem in Texas, and was a big part of the problem in California last year. in the modern world we rely on power arriving when it is needed. That means we need redundancy, and the ability to react to uncommon events. Markets that reward speculation, and driving for the lowest cost have a hard time managing those events. That's one of the key areas regulation is required--and with that regulation, the regulated need to be able to recoup the cost of complying with those regulations.

All of this has less to do with the source of the power, and much more to do with the management of the sources.

And this doesn't even get into how the grid functions, and why we, in the U.S. (including Texas) have such terribly inefficient grids (because of disparate ownership and how that devalues investment in the grid).

But talking about the management--the logistics--of power is far less interesting to the neophyte than talking about fossil fuels versus renewables.


Well, you guys have been busy! I take a day off and miss the action. Thanks for the engagement. Having consulted for a number of power companies over the last 30 years and several other industries that make/use reliable power (mostly telcos), I have more than a neophyte's understanding (not that I think you were referring to me, JV).

Holman Jenkins at the Journal has some addition info today. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Like much of the country, Texas has also increased its reliance on natural gas, in short supply when households suddenly crank up heating demand. Thanks to the Clean Air Act, pipeline compressors run on electricity now rather than natural gas. So blackouts meant to conserve electricity can actually reduce it, by knocking gas-burning generators offline. A coal plant might keep 90 days of fuel on hand. A nuclear plant needs refueling every two years. Gas-fired power plants have no such supply buffer. They depend on just-in-time fuel delivery.

Today's Journal editorial adds a bit more:

(Texas Governor) Mr. Abbott blamed his state’s extensive power outages on generators freezing early Monday morning, noting “this includes the natural gas & coal generators.” But frigid temperatures and icy conditions have descended on most of the country. Why couldn’t Texas handle them while other states did?

The problem is Texas’s overreliance on wind power that has left the grid more vulnerable to bad weather. Half of wind turbines froze last week, causing wind’s share of electricity to plunge to 8% from 42%. Power prices in the wholesale market spiked, and grid regulators on Friday warned of rolling blackouts. Natural gas and coal generators ramped up to cover the supply gap but couldn’t meet the surging demand for electricity—which half of households rely on for heating—even as many families powered up their gas furnaces. Then some gas wells and pipelines froze.

In short, there wasn’t sufficient baseload power from coal and nuclear to support the grid. Baseload power is needed to stabilize grid frequency amid changes in demand and supply. When there’s not enough baseload power, the grid gets unbalanced and power sources can fail. The more the grid relies on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, the more baseload power is needed to back them up.
I should have noted the bit last week about new nuclear power reactors:

The pitch: small modular reactors, or SMRs, that can be housed in compact containment structures and operate safely with less shielding and oversight.

Dozens of designs are now on the table, with a handful under preliminary U.S. and Canadian regulatory review following several billion dollars of investment by private and government entities. A Utah utility hopes to run the first U.S. SMR by the end of the decade.

Utilities could retrofit existing power plants by substituting climate-friendly SMRs for aging, climate-unfriendly coal- or gas-fired burners, boosters say.

Most utilities rely on a variety of electricity sources, with differing costs, emissions and capacity to provide the constant flow that power grids need for stability, says Tom Mundy, chief commercial officer at SMR developer NuScale Power LLC. “Our technology is a great complement to renewable power systems,” he says.

Paloma Ave

I just read in the SF Comicle that Berkeley is now discussing banning single family neighborhoods.

Didn't Berkeley start the trend to ban natural gas, which are City Council decided they should also ban?

Question to the City Council: Will you also try to ban Single Family Homes in Burlingame? After all, wouldn't that be the woke thing to do?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

About the Voice

  • The Burlingame Voice is dedicated to informing and empowering the Burlingame community. Our blog is a public forum for the discussion of issues that relate to Burlingame, California. On it you can read and comment on important city issues.

    Note: Opinions posted on the Burlingame Voice Blog are those of the poster and not necessarily the opinion of the editorial board of the Burlingame Voice. See Terms of Use

Contributing to the Voice

  • If you would like more information on the Burlingame Voice, send an email to editor@burlingamevoice.com with your request or question. We appreciate your interest.

    Authors may login here.

    For help posting to the Voice, see our tutorial.