Towards Useful Energy Reporting in Wisconsin

Newman article in Blog Post image

Wisconsinites are hungry for news about energy– from “big picture” trends, to controversial transmission expansion to lagging assistance in making efficiency and renewable energy improvements to our homes, farms and businesses. Given this healthy appetite in the common good, it is disappointing when newspapers print under-analyzed utility press releases, as-is, on the front page. In interest of correctness and societal benefit, the following is a list of observations an alert writer can consider when attempting to make a utility-sourced press release into relevant news. It uses, as example, a recent article, “Midwest Supply is Shrinking” printed in the Wisconsin State Journal.

1. Foreground interests of Wisconsin electric customers. Foremost, Wisconsin electric customers face these realities: nation-leading fixed-fee increases, the midwest’s highest electric rates, profoundly lagging efficiency/renewable benefits and no progress in carbon emission reductions by state utilities. Useful energy reporting would help ratepayers untangle the lack of service we are experiencing and tie all new developments to these stubborn, historical challenges.

2. Consider potential bias. Bias in the cited report originates in self-surveys conducted by midwest utilities and analysis authored by MISO. MISO is an organization dominated by utility interests where 18 of 26 voting members represent for-profit utilities. MISO never suggests end-user investments which electric customers highly prefer. Counter-balance in a news story cannot be achieved by including one counter utterance. Wisconsin readers deserve developed arguments and positions. Ask all potential sources if they currently receive money from for-profit utilities or have in the past. Mention when possible influence of money exists.

3. Research rather than dumb-down the information. In this example, the MISO report does not address possible, overall energy shortages as the headline, “Midwest Supply is Shrinking” asserts. The report considers only the extra (reserve) power that might be available on peak use summer days under a crucial, hypothetical condition that is not even mentioned in the news story. That condition is: any, potential lack of preparedness under rare, peak, conditions is fully dependent on electricity use increasing at a rate we have not seen in many years. The MISO report admits that their prediction is, ”not in line with recent history of flat year-to-year loads.” The 2015 edition of the report used a growth rate of .8% per year. In a likely future where electricity use remains flat, midwest states would use 4% less electricity than MISO is predicting over the next 10 years. A curious reporter might wonder, What percentage of MISO’s total generation are utilities considering retiring? If we can avoid building new power plants and transmission by staying on track and not increasing demand by only 4%, what justifiable excuse is there for NOT staying on track?

4. Read the report and find details and omissions of interest to readers. In this case, the MISO report reveals that Wisconsin utilities have overbuilt power plant capacity compared to other states. An alert writer would quickly notice that the report ignores the rapid development being made in home, business and community solar. If a writer keeps up with user-side developments, he/she would also notice that the report ignores advances in load management allowing customers to profit from reducing peak load in their homes and apartments with smart phone apps.

5. Make utility interests more accountable, not less. In this case, the MISO report does not suggest– as the writer infers– that more power plants and transmission might be needed. Such false conclusions dis-serve electric customers. Electricity costs are spiraling upwards in Wisconsin because of excessive capital utility spending described by the WI Public Service Commission as our “extended spending cycle.” These dollars spent on unnecessary debt leave our state, whereas, investments in energy efficiency, local power and load management go directly to our local economies and jobs and save us money in the long run. They are also the most cost-effective, guaranteed, means of lowering carbon emissions,

6. Follow the money. Fixed fee hikes awarded to WI utilities since 2012 will cost electric customers around $12 billion for payments on capital debt on approved power plants and transmission lines. If WI newspaper writers had equally represented electric customer priorities over the last decade, electric customers could be enjoying the best energy efficiency, load management and solar program in the midwest with billions left in their pockets over coming years.

Disorderly Conduct of the Badger-Coulee Review


In an orderly state of affairs, the WI PSC would adhere to the goals of Energy Priority Law and require large utility proposals to fairly compete with comparable investments in energy efficiency and distributed renewables from the outset. This is what states who continually plan user-side benefits like efficiency and home solar do.

With use dropping since 2007, small differences in wholesale pricing and utility planning that does not pursue net carbon emission reductions, investments in energy efficiency are extremely competitive. A very high percentage of efficiency dollars goes directly to electric customers– not to financing fees on 40 year mortgages with 12% guaranteed return to utility investors. The return on energy efficiency investment is minimally 30% higher and more often 200-300% higher than the razor thin “potential” energy savings claimed for transmission investment. In terms of carbon emission reduction, three studies have concluded that Energy Efficiency was responsible for 75% of the green house gas emission reductions achieved in the U.S. in 2012.

One year into the Badger-Coulee “Public Information” phase in 201i, alert town, village and county governments began adopting resolutions requesting the utilities and the PSC to immediately conduct a cost benefit study of all energy options including efficiency. Interest increased as it became clear that the proposed 150 mile long, high capacity transmission line connecting La Crosse and Madison was only one of seven such lines announced for the state. The resolutions asked the PSC to let free market competition work and give WI ratepayers with clear, factual information about their energy options early in the process rather than having to hire lawyers and experts to get factual information in the technical hearings the end of the process. What benefits would Wisconsin customers get if the same or fewer billions for 8 transmission lines was invested into energy efficiency instead?

Three years have passed and the utilities and the PSC have yet to provide the energy product choice information. How is this possible when special, bi-partisan legislative meetings were held, resolutions came from every corner of the state and 12 state legislators formally supported the municipalities’ requests?

In short, WI’s utility review process was gutted in 1998. No longer is our Commission required to conduct competitive energy planning to serve electric customers. Current law allows privately-owned utilities to conduct detailed, multi-year investigations of “potential” transmission siting before the public is provided factual information about need and transmission alternatives. In recent years, the agency has made access extremely challenging placing the burden of exploring non transmission alternatives entirely upon the public– individuals and organizations who have the time and wits to find and hire lawyers and highly skilled engineers who are willing to place their personal credentials on table for little pay to counter millions of dollars of utility efforts.

In the draft impact statement that came out last week, one can find only dismissal of the alternatives that ratepayers have asked to be studied. Of the 466 pages, 8 address need. Two pages provide boiler plate description and six pages recount utility claims without discerning oversight. Providing no account of the efficiency priorities and study requests in the municipal resolutions, the PSC echoes this hollow utility claim, “Energy efficiency and load reduction would not serve as an adequate substitute for the proposed Badger-Coulee project because it would not provide energy cost savings for Wisconsin customers regardless of the level of additional load reduction achieved.” In other words, tell grandpa he meant to say, “Waste more, want not.” Profound savings from efficiency are nearly limitless as our homes and businesses still waste 40-50% of the energy we buy. Unlike the “cheaper” energy we never got after building a robust transmission system over the last 7 years, energy efficiency actually lowers utility bills, slashes emissions and creates local jobs galore. There is a very different energy path for our energy dollars that more and more electric customers are becoming aware of.

At this very moment, farmers, business owners and households across WI are fighting for very limited Focus on Energy rebates to install more efficient equipment and solar panels. They have done the math. They know that efficiency with a modest investment in solar can save an average house more than $40,000 over 40 years while attaining a zero carbon footprint. From all indications, trusting that “increasing access to wind energy” has guarantee to shut down billions of protected fossil fuel assets in the energy pool insures one’s footprint will grow. Its time to stop building assets for utilities and build them ourselves and neighbors.

The municipal resolutions were effective at encouraging PSC staff to ask the utilities more questions about need, so many hoped the PSC would adequately fund experts for the technical hearings so we could finally have non transmission alternatives to consider. But the agency again put the horse before the cart funding $75,000 for the public side to probe need and develop alternatives and $125,000 to an environmental organization to effectively promote the utilities’ high voltage transmission option by defining routes with fewer negative impacts. I’d feel more confident about their input if the group had developed contacts with landowners over the last 4 years.

With funding for only 1/3 of the engineering hours needed, SOUL of Wisconsin is raising $66,000 to to pay engineers to do what the state had the discretion to do three years ago. Hopefully, SOUL can raise the money.

With grandmothers cashing in CD’s to buy solar panels in order to save money, its easy to understand why utilities do not want preferences for efficiency and solar piling up in the final impact statement. There are many glaring omissions in the draft. So far, the only mention of the resolutions is a list of municipalities on page 45 with no mention of what the resolutions asked for. The legislators’ support letters are not even mentioned.

All ratepayers can and should express our dissatisfaction with the PSC’s lack of responsiveness and the overall disorder of our states utility review process. Given the agency’s reluctance to make ratepayers’ wishes known, sending copies of one’s PSC submission to local newspapers and state legislators seems very appropriate.

Anyone who pays electric bills within the MISO and PJM regions will be affected by Badger-Coulee as the costs and policy impacts are widely distributed. One can find the email addresses of staff handling the impact statement on the bottom of this PAGE.)

Rob Danielson
La Farge, WI

Where does the electricity we don’t use, go?

I’d like to thank my Arkansas friend, Luis, for asking this great question.

The shortest answer seems to be it gets used, stored or wasted. The part that is wasted goes into heat and “sink” loads. There are several ways electric power gets wasted and a limited number of ways it can be stored (today).

Storage: There are few resources here– batteries (a very small %) and some higher capacity solutions like pumping water back above dams.

Electric generation also produces heat which is best used locally as in a “distributed generation” system where the heat can go a short distance to a bakery, school, university, hospital or buildings in a city. All of downtown Milwaukee used to be heated by the excess steam created by on coal to coke conversion plant through a network underground pipes. This resource lowered business costs so much that it created many vacant buildings when the system was shut down. In terms of electric power management, our bigger problem is creating too much heat, or wasting power.

Waste: First, take a look at this chart: http://blog.opower.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/LLNL_Flow-Chart_20121.png

38 quads (large units of energy) of the 95 quads of energy used in the U.S. goes to electricity generation. From this, 12 quads of power are sent through transmission lines to residents, commercial buildings and industrial uses.

This initial inefficiency, or loss, is huge in terms of planet resources/emissions. Every kilowatt-hour of power you save through diligence (energy efficiency and conservation) saves (38-12 = 26) or more than 2 kilowatts MORE of comparable energy that was avoided. So when you save a kilowatt-hour, you save the earth 3.

700 kWh, the WI monthly average, is a lot of energy. Our masonry wood stove heats our whole house on 2-3 cords of wood per year. Our fairly efficient refrigerator uses about 1 kWh/day. The power from coal power plant used to run the frig is responsible for more CO2 emissions each year than our wood heater is.

As more than 70% of our electric power is inefficiently generated by coal and natural gas in the Midwest, one can quickly see why Energy Efficiency (EE) is such an effective means of reducing carbon emissions. Combine the fact that EE works 24-7 and renewable energy power is highly variable,.., and one can see why utility PR pictures wind turbines instead of super high efficiency air conditioners. REMOTE Renewable Energy (RRE) poses much less sales competition than EE and can be used to “justify” utility capital investments like regional high voltage transmission expansion– very profitable prizes for utilities that we pay for.

Remote renewables are not cost/environment effective enough to be a primary investment focus. Local renewable installations have several more benefits and they are great tools for learning about energy management– problem solving that is comprehensive and much more productive than solutions at a distance.

To the core of your question as it pertaining to transmission:

Most power generators “see” and adjust to demand. For example, the turbines in a hydro electric dam actually allow water to flow through more quickly when demand is low (flow is also restricted to not waste the potential). The same is true with coal/steam generation but less efficiently. Wind turbines do not respond efficiently to varying demand. PV or solar responds almost perfectly. If you have an off-grid solar array and no batteries, the PV array will only generate what is demanded by your house. The array will send 90+% of the excess to the grid if connected. So, some adjustment to demand occurs depending on the generation type. The excess that remains in the centralized power system is dissipated through heat and load “sinks”.

Heat: Copper and aluminum wire in transmission lines, transformers, voltage and phase stabilizers create heat. The heat produced can increase for several reasons– one being when supply significantly exceeds demand.

Transmission loss over longer distances is in the 6-20% range. There’s a lot of wire over 150 miles to heat-up when supply is greater than demand. I read that a 1.25″ diameter aluminum strand conductor (wire) at 345 kV heats the air around it to about 180F under average air temperatures. I bet that can get much higher when the system heats up. When wires get hot, they “droop” considerably– one reason the towers have to be so high. Hot wires are also less efficient than cool wires. If you’ve been to a substation, there are usually fans cooling some transformers and when the system gets hot, more fans turn on. If transmission cables are buried, the heat builds-up and the air has to be exhausted/cooled = less efficiency.

Heat Sinks: (We learned about this attending the American Transmission Company’s FERC-required publicly accessible planning meetings. I suggest that anyone interested in energy planning attend the meetings in their state across the U.S. The meetings are usually on the web too.)

In WI, when supply exceeds demand, large industrial users actually get paid to turn on their equipment. This is currently cheaper than other ways to rid the excess power. The factory “sinks” do not necessarily produce proportional extra product,.. some basically “spin” and heat-up.

There are creative ways to use excess power in a smaller system or locally. For example, a “smart” grid in a small town would detect when supply exceeds demand and know that its a good time to pump water into the town’s water tank, run the saw mill, and pre-cool buildings that use lots of AC.

If you have a solar array, such “smarts” become obvious. Do the wash, dishes and vacuum the house when the sun shines. Pre-cool the house in the am so you can shut off the AC during peak demand after the sun goes down. This is called, “energy management” and it avoids a lot of gird power being generated.

Rewards in thinking about waste:

Practicing conservation and energy efficiency is better driven as an “aesthetic” choice than it is a moral obligation. Why? Energy “is;” it is “live-ness” or “perception” in human terms. When one personally interacts with energy it connects one to “elegance” — the greater awareness of the beauty the world down to molecular thermo-dynamics. There is no greater or more pervasive connection point to a greater awareness of our matter-energy world than our electric outlets. In other words, doing good is more rewarding and fun than not doing bad.

Newton showed us how to see one big system or machine. So, when we look for “where excess power goes,” we don’t have to look far. What we can see around us is our earth’s atmosphere becoming the default, “storage” system as we struggle to find an aesthetic powerful enough to teach us to experience energy. I think Newton would probably observe that its far easier to slow down our requirements of a very inefficient machine than it is to make a much-much better machine.

The “renewal” we “need” the most is in our awareness– not in more and bigger machines.

Or more simply: “Waste not; want not,” and, “Less is more.”

RobLivermore Lab  Energy Uses Chart

Wisconsin Solar & EE Improvements = Grid Use Cut 78%


October 2012 update calculations (annotated electric bill)

(1) Added 8 kW Solar Array to our house (Dec 2011) +
(2) Converted from Electric Hot Water* to Wood/LP Hot Water “0n Demand” (Nov 2012) +
(3) Improved use habits learned from Nov 2011 – Nov 2012

Produced a 78% reduction in the power we use from the grid (October, low sun reference).

The total reduction in grid power use would be about 87% if the energy efficiency measures we took after our new “efficient” house was complete were included. In December (after the LP water heater is in) our utility company Facility Charges will be more than double the amount we will pay for grid electricity. Our Focus on Energy charge will be 4% of these utility Facility Charges.

About 60% of the solar power we generate is used by others on the grid.
Examining other investments besides further enlarging our centralized electric power overhead costs makes more and more sense to me.
Rob

*Unwisely justified by the contractor citing use of .065/kwh “dual fuel” incentives.

Oh No! German Solar Incentives Are FAILING!!!

Graph Source

The Center for Rural Affairs has a daily newsletter with news that often promotes regional high voltage transmission expansion and development of remote renewable energy, usually large scale wind. The newsletter’s target audience makes political sense as mile for mile, rural communities are more heavily impacted by high voltage transmission proposals. Regional utilities have wanted to increase overall grid capacity years before “Wind Power!” was cried. MTEP plans ask ratepayers to assume 100% of the costs of increasing the size of the whole grid about 20%. Growth in the use of electricity is predicted to creep along at the historically slow rate of only .7% per year for the next 25 years, so maybe its our excess energy dollars and economic certainty that are driving this pressing need? Or, perhaps other ways to invest our energy dollars are starting to look much more promising?

The headline article today (10-1-2012) “As U.S. plants close, coal still hot in Germany despite renewable revolution” seemed especially distracting.

Most energy policy folks equate Germany with leading the world in distributed generation, particularly rooftop solar. The data needed to support this insinuation was missing so I decided to dig some up. Here is my critique in a pdf:

Clean-Up the Dirty Act or Export it?

Some Examples of West to East Market Expansion Lines Being Sought by Regional Utilities
Enlarge Map

Communities in Illinois are under even more pressure for regional high voltage transmission development to move power to the east than we are in Wisconsin. Here’s is a map of a small part of proposed development that I made for several groups there and some talking points that occurred to me as I worked on it:

1. In one of the MISO webinars I attended last year, it was mentioned that our current high capacity grid in the Midwest (the light blue lines) could carry about 39% of the projected wind development the industry says it can’t support. In 2011, our grid in the Midwest was base loaded with a blend that averaged 74% from coal plants and 13% from nuclear plants. The clean-up act dangled before consumers is to make our transmission system “greener,” but this goal becomes less achievable with a fatter grid system. Under current federal policies guiding the wholesale power markets, we ratepayers cannot stipulate that any single proposed transmission project be approved on the basis on carbon emission reduction performance. What goes for one, goes for all. Though we pay for all transmission, we have no way to guarantee environmental performance and do other effective energy planning under these policies. Transmission proposals are now preventing us from addressing key goals like creating sustainable energy jobs where we live, eliminating waste, lowering operation costs and decreasing transmission liabilities.

2. There is probably enough capacity in the current high voltage transmission system to carry all the renewables we can afford to add. Adding remote wind generation seems to be a lot more expensive than other ways to cut carbon emissions. As outlined by Bill Powers in his alternative proposals for San Diego and the Bay Area (great video), the most cost effective, job-generating solution is: (A) Dramatically cutting use with aggressive energy efficiency (B) Developing on site distributed generation which frees-up existing transmission to carry greater amounts of renewable energy while improving reliability. Wider adoption of distributed generation including rooftop solar becomes competitive when the money we are being asked to spend for enormous transmission system expansions is put on the planning table

3. Looking at results in Massachusetts, for every million dollars invested in Aggressive Energy Efficiency, electricity dependency can be cut by 1 Megawatt. Here in the Midwest, that Megawatt is 74% coal-generated on average. With smaller, more flexible investments than transmission expansion, studies suggest that we can cut use by 15% and directly cut carbon emission about 7-12% in the first 3-4 years. A goal reduction of cutting use 50% is achievable –on par with world efficiency standards. As for benefits, for each million invested into AEE, we get 42 jobs every year the program is funded; it lowers home/farm/business operation costs; it increases demand side management and system reliability and it opens up 1 Megawatt of space for locally produced renewable power and remote renewable power to be carried on our existing lines.

4. For every million dollars invested in remote wind power and expanding our national High Voltage Transmission system, we get 1/6 of Megawatt of power; about 12 jobs for only 3-5 years and lots of new infrastructure to keep safe from terrorists. These additions come with 40 years of inescapable debt, they insure increased home/farm/business operation costs, they do not curb carbon emissions overall because continuing to grow our waste quickly overtakes the small percentage of “green” we can afford to generate remotely.

5. If we build this west to east fattened pipe system like utilities desire, without accountability, we are guaranteed to go backwards in every way that counts: job creation, home/farm/business operation costs, the environment and reducing liabilities/dependencies on centralized power. How could remote wind make our act “dirtier?” By far, the largest existing generation capacity in the Midwest is coal. Building a significant amounts of remote generation is essentially cost prohibitive. In 2010, all of the wind farms in Iowa generated the equivalent of a 1070 Megawatt power plant– about the size of one, large coal plant. There are a good number of those on the map. Regional renewable generation was about 5-7% in 2010. On whose backs do we place the enormous funds needed to double or triple or quadruple these remote facilities? We pick it up in our rates and we pay for the transportation system.

6. “Wind Power from the Plains” sounds great but its not likely to achieve significant carbon emission reductions, especially affordably. Regional utilities have no intention of rolling back their production as a result of high capacity line additions. Consider this example: Wyoming, the 2nd largest energy producer in the county has a portfolio that in 2010 was 75% coal generation and 17% hydro. If we were to fatten the pipes that run out of Wyoming today by removing all transmission “congestion,” the blend would likely jump to 89% coal and 7% hydro power based on DOE analysis. Compare the cost to make that 89% mix “green” at $5,000,000 per Megawatt opposed to making the changes in our homes, farms, businesses and communities at $1,000,000 per Megawatt. Our challenge is not about what kind of power we generate, its about comprehensive, goal driven, accountable energy management. Its about top-down, centralized, liable power or being able to exercise self initiative towards greater energy self sufficiency. Its a matter of becoming aware that these options exist and getting our states to allow us to make investments that will make fulfilling work for us.

Efficiency & Distributed Solar Alternative to $8.4 Billion Rock Island Clean Line

When we turn up our air conditioners in July and August, the wind power being produced in the Great Plains is usually of little help. The opposite is true with on-site solar power; its generation synchronizes with summer peak load reducing transmission needs at exactly the right time– in the heat of the day. Studies by Bill Powers show how elegant and effective this arrangement is for energy planning.

The web provides us access to data, years of studies and even critiques of studies. What I have done in this assessment is combine findings from studies that I thought would be informative to relate. In no way should this replace an integrated process. It supports an argument that we need to let the free market work and let all planning solutions compete. Utilities will not provide such comprehensive planning for us unless we demand it.

Numerous studies over the last several years have consistently shown that investments in energy efficiency are a more cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions than adding renewable generation. In Massachusetts, the aggressive EE program saved 30,000 Gigawatt hours at a cost of about $650,000 per eliminated Megawatt. Distributed generation Solar at 20% efficiency costs about $20 per watt. Wind at 35% efficiency is around $24 per watt. Solar and EE both create a larger number of local, non-specialized jobs than wind and high voltage transmission projects. I applied data from a few studies and determined, that EE/DG solar is a preferable alternative in all respects. The RICL is a private investment proposal so using DG solar would entail management of incentives given to hundred of thousands of homes, businesses and farms instead of 8, large wind farms.

THE ROCK ISLAND CLEAN LINE

A 500 mile long, high voltage direct current transmission line that would connect approximately 4,000 MW of wind generation in the tri-state region of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota with energy demand centers in Illinois and points farther east. The transmission line would connect eight, new 500 MW wind farms to the transmission grid with five located in Iowa and three elsewhere.

The economic study for this proposal estimates that jobs related to the materials and construction of the Rock Island Clean Line and the manufacturing & construction of the the wind farms in IL & Iowa over three years would generate from 29,600-42,500 job years. It would have a combined cost of $8.4 billion ($1.4 transmission and $7 billion in wind farms). I used the 35% nameplate capacity or 1400 MW of added renewable energy as the project’s measurable outcome. The transmission line would also carry existing coal, gas, nuclear and renewable power.

ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENT – AGGRESSIVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY COMPONENT

Job creation associated with Aggressive Energy Efficiency Vermont & Massachusetts studies range from 41-43 job years per million spent. These jobs are more localized, less specialized and distributed across communities of all sizes and types. Spending $1.5 billion from our budget would offset 2400 MW of generation and result in 65,500 job years. The Midwest ISO base-load was 74% coal generation in 2011 but Iowa, MN and SD are closer to 60% fossil fuels. 60% of 2400 MW means 1440 MW of coal generation not being required.

ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENT — DISTRIBUTED GENERATION SOLAR COMPONENT

This gives us $6.9 billion to spend on solar which works out to about 300 MW net capacity at $4/watt installed at 20%* efficiency. This is 300 MW improvement in environmental benefits spread across many users plus greater grid stability/reliability. According to a 2010 study by the University of California- Berkeley, 300 MW of installed solar power would create 7500 job years or about 4,100 located in Illinois and Iowa applying the Loomis study max rate of 55%. This is a total of 69,000 job years created for both components.

==========

SUMMARY
Using available studies, the alternative of combining Aggressive Energy Efficiency with 300 MW (net) Solar Distributed generation would seem to produce around 27,000 more job years, with significantly greater reductions in carbon emissions. The alternative budgets about 350,000 homes, farms and businesses with 4kW solar installations worth $6.9 billion for which private investors would be able to arrange considerable returns. The alternative would have similar tax revenue but no negative transmission impacts such as loss of property value. This comparison does not include potential revenue from the solar arrays or lowered home, business and farm costs created by the accelerated EE funding. A glaring omission in this analysis is Demand Side Management which I did not include because I could find not find job creation data.

*My 8kW solar array in SW Wisconsin north of the site location generates at 18% efficiency. I have used the common standard of 20%.

Heat Wave!! – Winter to Mid Summer Solar Array Contributions

Chart Solar Array Impacts On Electricity Consumption Wisconsin

Most of the benefits of our 8KW solar array are shared with others on the grid. The rise in our electricity use stems from hot water heating in the Spring then beginning to use or geothermal AC unit in late June. The household compromise is about 4 degrees lower than some would prefer, but harmony is another powerful argument for energy self-sufficiency.

Our array can produce enough juice to fully carry the AC from about 10 am to 5 pm so we’ve been cooling the house to 72F during the day and shutting it off at night. Basically, any other electricity use with the air-conditioner running pulls power from the grid. Watering has been a big one, laundry, hot showers, dish washing, ironing, etc. The night temps during the record heat wave have been in the low to mid 70’s, but on nights when the temp drops to 55-60F, ventilating the house, even without fans, has drastically reduced AC use on the next day. The night temp accounts for much of the fluctuation in July.

Carbon Offsets – Is there a better Goal?

Carbon Offset Calculation Wisconsin

We are at the 6th month marker with our 8 kW solar array. We’re still using more electricity from the grid than we hoped for– about 2/3 less. Our carbon emissions are about 1/2 of the Wisconsin average– still too much real impact. We’d like to see that 4400 kWh go under 1000/year. Replacing our standard electric hot water heater is a must. Driving less. Figuring out the storage solution for night electric uses.

Energy Efficiency Points to Our Best Future

I have annotated and posted a page from the Wisconsin PSC’s 2016 Strategic Energy Assessment below. With an investment of about .75 cents per month, WI reduced its electric energy .6%. This rate should come very close to leveling off our use– that is– offsetting the projected growth rate of .7% forecast for the next 25 years (U.S. Department of Energy).

This result affirms that “aggressive” energy efficiency investment here could be as successful as in Vermont and Massachusetts. If Wisconsin ratepayers are allowed to do what the WIS PSC and the State recommended in 2010 and we invested about $2.50 per month into Focus on Energy with much higher incentives, we’d very significantly lower our dependency on electricity year after year. This exceeds what EPIC has been targeting.

In addition to lowering home, business and farm operation costs, the invested $2.50 to $3 per month would result in about 25 times the number sustained jobs in our communities compared to high voltage transmission building.

We’d be waking up in 2018 to realize that for the same amount of monthly investment as regional transmission expansion that our BEST dreams would be coming true.

Should carbon emission reductions be a top priority in energy planning for you, consider that reducing our use at a sustained rate of .7% per year for 20 years would produce a 24% reduction in carbon emissions compared to a .8% per year increase in use regional utilities predict for us (MTEP11 BAU scenarios).

Note that larger MTEP11 reductions appear to be fully dependent upon adding significant carbon taxes and a 20% national renewable energy law. Maybe these are possible someday if public support grows,.. but in the meanwhile, its time to put the brakes on regional high voltage transmission expansion and put our first, precious dollars towards energy efficiency where we know they will produce results. Then let’s see what happens for 5-10 years and then re-assess our options.

The PSC assessment demonstrates that investment in Energy Efficiency is working in Wisconsin. The approach also gives ratepayers the ability to adjust the investment rate over time depending on results. Any proposal that locks Wisconsin ratepayers into paying around $3 per month for the next 40 years with no performance guarantees has very poor cost and benefit performance in comparison.

Wis PSC Focus On Energy .6% Use Reduction from 2011 SEA Report