THE POWER PLANTS OF AT LEAST FIVE UTILITIES IN NEW England and California get swapped this year for more than $5.3 billion. And happily, those holding bonds on the plants will be given cash for...
If truth is the first casualty of war, as we learned from author Mark Krebs ("It's a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric 'Efficiency,'" December 1996, p. 24), then certainly the truth has been mutilated beyond recognition.
His article, which suggests that electric utilities have used conservation and demand-side programs improperly (to build electric load at the expense of natural gas!) is full of inaccuracies, misleading charts and other errors. Moreover, one can easily say the reverse: There are many cases in which 20th-century gas utilities have taken ideas such as conservation and turned them into marketing strategies that compete head-on with electricity.
In Washington, D.C., for example, Potomac Electric Power Co. offers rebates on room and central air conditioners and heat pumps, but only if they satisfy certain minimum efficiency criteria, while Washington Gas Light Co. offers an incentive of $1800 for installation of a gas-fired heat pump, with no minimum efficiency requirements. (Source: Washington Consumer's Checkbook magazine, Winter/Spring 1997.)
Overall, we at the Edison Electric Institute have identified many items in the Krebs article that warrant a closer look (see sidebar). One particular subject concerns carbon emissions.
The Krebs article ignores the beneficial effects of electric technologies in minimizing growth in carbon emissions. Let's start with Mr. Krebs' citation of the International Energy Outlook 1996, where world energy consumption increases by 60 percent, electricity demand doubles, and carbon emissions exceed 1990 levels by 54 percent in 2015. Over the 20-year period, that translates into worldwide annual growth rates in energy consumption and electricity demand of 2.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively, but only a 1.75-percent annual rate of growth in worked carbon emissions (using 1990 as the base for the 25 years). The smaller emissions growth rate stems directly from efficiencies from electric technologies.
Interestingly, Mr. Krebs (who also serves as chairman of the American Gas Cooling Center Education Committee) ended his article quoting a report that asked for more incentives and federal funding for gas technologies, but nowhere does he talk about increasing the efficiency of gas appliances.
In a truly competitive market, the customer will have access to unbiased information about all resources and technologies. The customer will decide which fuel to use.
Steven Rosenstock, P.E.
Manager, Electrotechnology Policy,
Edison Electric Institute
The author responds:
I find I must claim responsibility for one typo (the bar labels on the right-hand side of figure 3 were transposed). Otherwise, EEI and Mr. Rosenstock have largely (though unwittingly) substantiated my original underlying theme. Consider that report about how Washington Gas Light Co. has offered incentives to install gas-fired heat pumps without efficiency standards.
The only heat pump on the market fired by natural gas is the York Triathlon. Whether it builds or decreases load depends upon the climate. In temperate climes, such as Washington, D.C., summer gas sales volumes from the Triathlon's cooling operations are offset by a nearly exact decrease in winter sales volumes. This load-balancing effect is due to the significantly higher seasonal efficiency of the Triathlon in the heating mode relative to that of a traditional