In my last post on energy conservation, February Follow up on Green Technology that pays for itself, it appeared that my energy savings was well on its way. Then came the shock of my March bill. The price the electrical company charges for electricity jumped by 18%. How did that happen? In a time of dropping gas and coal prices, the cost of electricity goes up! My all inclusive price for electricity in 2011 averaged out to 9.6¢. My current rate which is a flat rate for two years looks like it will average out to 10.6¢ for a 10.4% increase. I will pay a lot more in the heating months and a little less in the cooling months. With my recent lack of wage increases I doubt I will feel better about it in 2013.
For kicks I decided to estimate the cost of 6 KW solar array using the online calculator at Wunderground.com. The price came in $25,000 just for the panels. I re-priced the panels using www.solarpanelsonline.org and came up with $12,570 with a 15 year payback. This confirms previous solar panel calculations that I made in the past. Although the cost of solar panels have dropped dramatically, I need either the efficiency to improve by 100% or drop the cost by 50% to entice me into a project like this. This amount of efficiency improvement in the next ten years is not impossible but it is unlikely.
When we look at the government report, Estimated Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources, 2016, we can see that gas and coal are the low cost power generating sources. Photovoltaic generation is one of several high cost sources. It is safe to say that coal and gas power generators are going to be with us for the foreseeable future and the question is what are we going to do to make the situation better. In a non-partisan way it would seem that we could craft a reasonable 10 year plan for Ohio that would take advantage of our competitive advantage of lower electrical rates, replace aging power plants, improve employment opportunities, and lower pollution. This is a winning issue for a lot of people including people like me who want lower electric bills when coal and gas get cheaper. I have been by several coal power generating plants and I believe their pollution risk is over-hyped. Although you can make a pretty good business case that improving existing plants is good for almost everyone, I was pretty pessimistic about the politics until I saw this post.
But Catherine Wolfram, an economist at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says that we too often ignore simpler solutions, such as wringing more efficiency out of our existing fossil-fuel and nuclear plants. Many of those power plants, after all, are likely to stick around for decades to come. And there are quite a few minor tweaks that can be made to these plants that can cut greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically ”” tweaks that can have as much impact as building hordes of new wind farms or solar panels.