Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking a Dim View of Solar Energy

A Newsweek article suggests that utility companies may begin to fight the incentive programs now in place as their energy shares decrease in the wake of huge increases in roof-top energy production, suggesting that “So far, they're getting vastly outpaced by the decentralized rooftop approach. According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's 2006-08 count, consumers added 522 megawatts to the grid; whereas utility generated sites added just 96 megawatts.” The increase is attributed in part to subsidies and also to lowering prices overall of solar panels.

It goes on to say “The disparity has utilities worried about loosing (sic) their grip on the country's energy industry, and the $130 billion residential electricity market. In some cases, utilities are actually taking direct steps to thwart rooftop solar. Two weeks ago in Colorado, the state's biggest utility, Xcel, tried passing a surcharge on homes and businesses using rooftop solar power. The rate hike would've generated $180 million, $55 million of which was slated to help fund Xcel's newest coal-fired power plant, the Comanche Unit 3, due to come online this fall. The public went ballistic, and with pressure from Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, the proposal was eventually shelved.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is gas still too cheap?

It must be for some.

For others I am sure high prices lead to scrimping at times to be able to fill the tank when those bargain prices under $3.00 a gallon surface. I drive a Prius, and I am very aware of my gas use. I get oddly upset when my mileage on any given tank drops below 50 MPG (my lifetime mpg average). And even with mostly shorter trips, I can usually have 50 MPG around town in summer.

Then I see an SUV type vehicle in the parking lot of our local Trader Joe’s food store. I can hear the motor running, and I see a person in the passenger side front seat, obviously listening to a favorite song on the radio. This is nothing I have not seen before even with prices closer to $5.00 a gallon briefly last summer. This one is different though.

For one thing, it is only around 80 degrees at barely 10 am. Sure it may be hotter later, but this is still basically a nice cool morning for summer around here. Surely it is not warm enough to waste gas with the AC on. But, I figure maybe the person has some sort of infirmity requiring cooler temperatures than a normal person. Then I see the ultimate irony of the situation. The SUV’s rear passenger windows are both down. What is the point of that?

As I loaded my own groceries, the driver of the SUV came to load theirs. I figured he will see the rear windows are down, and scold his passenger for messing around with the windows. No. This did not happen. He simply opened up the back, loaded the bags in, and drove off with the rear windows down. Why is that so odd? I mean, I drive around with my windows down too. The difference is that my AC is not on when I do so.

Even when gas was closer to $5.00 a gallon last summer, I saw people running their AC while the car was parked. I remember one time there was a beautiful young lady in the passenger seat. While I sat nearby with my windows down and wind blowing through, the young male driver came over with his hands full of icy refreshments from two different stores. I can understand why he allowed her to sit in the car running AC on a day it was not that hot out. He had other things on his mind and no doubt wanted to impress her.

At least she had the windows up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 2009 PG and E unbilled credits in-

Well, the end of July was mostly in the mid 90’s to low 100’s, similar to how it was last year. Last year we used 132 KWh with an unbilled credit of only $2.57. It was a pretty hot month last year also, but to me it seems we ran the AC more this year than last. I think we must have increased efficiency other places. This year, we used 116 KWh- so right away; we had an improvement of 16 KWh in use. Plus, our unbilled credit for the month is $14.61. Our total unbilled credit for 2009 goes to $62.27. The rest of summer is looking pretty good at this point. Our total for last year summer production was only $45.00 through October.