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Podcast / Audio

Texas, Enron and the Ghost of California

Bryan Lee's picture
Consultant Lee Strategic Communications

Bryan Lee is the media relations consultant for the Retail Energy Supply Association, a broad and diverse group of retail energy suppliers who share the common vision that competitive retail...

  • Member since 2017
  • 3 items added with 2,079 views
  • Mar 19, 2021
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Access Podcast / Audio

In the wake of the February 2021 historic grid failure in Texas, misinformation and self-serving recriminations have sprung up faster than mushrooms on the Texas prairie. In Episode 3 of the Energy Markets Podcast, former FERC and Pennsylvania PUC regulator Nora Mead Brownell addresses the misinformation that has been bandied about regarding the Texas event and discusses the parallels with misinformation that emerged and has unfortunately become "common knowledge" in the wake of the 2000-2001 energy market failure in Texas, while noting the causes of the two event are very distinct. One thing is for sure, Enron didn't cause either event.

 

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 20, 2021

Bryan - is a transcript of the podcast available?

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 22, 2021

I'm not impressed with Bryan or Nora when they discuss the GRID and Nuclear. They both mention putting lots of money into poor accets but don't think it applies to Nuclear which has had the most subsidies in history. They talk zero carbon but don't cover the water used , the tons of deadly waste or the plant failures of Nuclear. 

    The only thing they said that makes sense is interconnections all of the GRID so excess Wind and Solar can be sent to places that can best use it at certain times. I do not want them making policy for the future of power generation. 

 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Mar 22, 2021

Nuclear power can arguably be claimed as having had "the most subsidies in history", or be recognized as the least subsidized sector of the energy industry. It just depends on how one elects to tally subsidies.

The claim for "the most subsidies in history" -- rests on two questionable pillars. One is counting all of the government R&D funding for the national labs related to nuclear power as subsidies. The other is assigning an estimated value of the indemnification provisions of the Price-Anderson Act to nuclear plant operators and counting that estimate as subsidy. It has to be a subjective estimate, since the provisions of the act have never actually cost taxpayers a cent. 

Nuclear power has never received any subsidy for energy delivered, or for plant operation and maintenance. In most states, it is denied credits extended to wind and solar for being a zero-carbon energy resource. Legislative attempts to extend carbon credits have generally been met by protests of "unfair subsidies for nuclear power". Nuclear is also forced to operate within a market system that undervalues resilience and reliability.

It can reasonably be argued that renewable energy interests have aligned themselves with fossil fuel interests in opposition to carbon taxes, because taxing carbon emissions would weaken or eliminate the subsidy advantage that wind and solar currently enjoy over nuclear.

Make no mistake, the wind and solar industries have just as much of a market interest in suppressing nuclear power as the coal industry did in the last century. The human tendency to see the world in terms of "us vs. them", "good guys vs. bad guys" is an unfortunate legacy of our tribal evolutionary past. We have tremendous abilities to rationalize whatever is in our interests, and to find ways of seeing the world that justify actions we take on behalf of that self-interest. As a society, we uphold monetary gain and material wealth as prime metrics of social status. So long as that continues, "follow the money" will remain the best guide to understanding the positions of political actors.

If we ever manage to collectively value quality of life and the good of the planet over material wealth, we'll find the world looking very different to us. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 26, 2021

Excellent Roger. Another dimension to the economics of energy: consumption.

Renewables require consumption of substantial quantities of hardware, and land, and transmission for each unit of energy they generate. It needs to be replaced every ~30 years. There are corresponding profits to be realized from selling all of that "stuff".

Fossil fuel-powered electricity requires consumption of substantial quantities of fuel for each unit of energy they generate. Thus, there are substantial (and ongoing) profits to be realized from selling all of that "stuff".

Nuclear energy uses a minimal amount of land and hardware. The hardware, with maintenance, can last 80-100 years. Profits available from sales of nuclear fuel are three orders of magnitude less than coal per unit of energy. With little profit to be realized from nuclear energy it is, quite literally, too economical.

"If we ever manage to collectively value quality of life and the good of the planet over material wealth, we'll find the world looking very different to us."

Or, put another way: forever unsatisfactory will private solutions be for solving public problems.

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