Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sempra Buys a Bazillion Solar Panels...

Reader and friend Simon M. passes along this news about Sempra (our local electric utility) buying 1.1 million solar panels; there's more detail here.  Simon suspects lower prices and subsidies are at work.

Well, solar cell prices certainly have come down, rather dramatically.  And there are subsidies involved.  But incentives aren't what's driving this purchase: it's mandates.  Specifically, the California Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – which, amongst other things, mandates that 33% of all energy supplied by power utilities come from renewable sources by the year 2020.  This is what's known to the bureaucracy as an “unconditional mandate”, which means exactly what it sounds like.  The utilities must provide that percentage of power via renewable sources regardless of the cost, regardless of the reliability, regardless of the impact on utility rates, regardless of any reason to use conventional power.  Sempra is reacting to that mandate.

A third of all power coming from renewable sources is an incredibly high fraction to achieve in such a short term, especially given that it takes up to 20 years to build new power plants in California (note that the Copper Mountain project is in Nevada!).  Some large organizations (can you say Google?) have given up on building solar power plants in California because of the lengthy and risky approval process.  As Sempra and other utilities noted at the time, this could only be achieved by spending huge amounts of money in capital investment – and that investment money is going to come from the rate-payers (that is, the folks like you and I who buy power from Sempra).  This need to finance capital is why the power from Sempra's all-PV Copper Mountain facility will cost significantly more than power from conventional plants.  Oh, and the rate-payers also get to pay for the costs of Sempra disentangling themselves from contractual commitments already made for future conventional plants, too.

This is one of the issues that's driving us out of California – in this case, a piece of regulatory madness that's guaranteed to drive up electricity costs, but not guaranteed to deliver any tangible benefit (all that political rhetoric notwithstanding)...

Sounds Perfectly Logical to Me...

But then, I'm a male.

Reader and friend Simon M. sent along this little story, which he says is perfectly logical to all males:
A wife asks her husband, "Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have avocados, get 6."

A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.

The wife asks him, "Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?"

He replied, "They had avocados."
Well, with a sample space of one (me), the assertion proved true.  The implication is that the story wouldn't seem logical to a female.  Debbie and I were at dinner when I received this email, so I read the story to her.  She said that it made no sense at all – she'd ask the same question as the wife in the story.


If you try this yourself, please report the results in the comments!

Filthy Filner: It Looks Like the End Is Near. Dang It!

The one-man entertainment bonanza known as Filthy Filner looks like he's winding down.  There are numerous reports that he is negotiating for a “graceful exit” from his job as Mayor of San Diego.  Thought in the context of Filthy, I'm not entirely sure what a graceful exit would look like...

If Filthy won't go on his own, the City Council and City Attorney are cooking up other ways to get rid of him, and (as I noted on Sunday) the recall effort is finally underway.  One way or t'other, it looks like my most reliable source of morning entertainment is coming to an end.  Dang.

I did spot one thing in the Filthy news that shocked me more than any other Filthy revelation to date: there was a demonstration yesterday by Filthy supporters.  Over at Hot Air, the blogger AllahPundit pretty much sums up my own reaction:
Still, I feel the only solution now is nuking the city from orbit. Just to be sure.
Yup.  Just get the power setting right, will you?  I live well outside the area enclosing any Filthy supporters...

What the Hell is Happening to My Country, Part 49,929...

In Arlington, Texas, a small farmer was suspected of some “crimes”:
…authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations, including “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house, and generally unclean premises”...
Sounds like a very annoying neighbor, doesn't it?

Now what do you suppose the authorities decided to do about it?  Send a code inspection guy to knock on their door and discuss the issue?


The authorities started “a massive police action last week that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search.”

This is the kind of story I expect to come out of some place like Mynamar or North Korea.  But Texas?  Last time I checked, Texas was still a member of the United States.  You know, that place sometimes called “Land of the Free”?

What the hell is happening to my country?