Today in Fortnightly

Electricity on Sale

Electric bills 1.37% of consumer expenditures

Just before Christmas, the Commerce Department reported that electric bills were 1.37% of consumer expenditures in the US in November 2015.  What's the importance of this statistic?  

To put it into perspective, in only ten other months in history was electricity a lower percent of consumer expenditures.  The Commerce Department has collected the data for 683 months now, for all of the period of January 1959 (when Dwight Eisenhower was President) through November 2015.  

How Much We're Paying Utilities

Utilities’ sales revenues were slightly down from prior year

The latest Energy Department data shows that how much electric utility customers are paying utilities is pretty flat.  Last year, through October 2015, utilities' sales revenues were 331 billion dollars.  That was slightly down from the prior year, for the same period, when sales revenues were 333 billion.

Yes, that prior year, 2014, saw record sales revenues.  2015 looks like it will have the second highest sales revenues in history, falling short of the record 393 billion in 2014.

Insull's Article in Public Utilities Fortnightly

Electricity the Price of a Cigar per Day

He wasn't famous like his brother Samuel Insull.  But Martin Insull was surely accomplished working closely with Sam.  Martin was the president of Middle West Utilities Company.  Sam was the undisputed leader of the rapidly growing electric utility industry in the roaring 1920's, owning large interests in Commonwealth Edison, Peoples Gas, Northern Indiana Public Service and other recognizable industry companies.  Earlier he was Thomas Edison's personal secretary and then co-founded General Electric.

Home Gas Use in 2015

Annual gas usage by households has remained in range of 4.3-5.2 quadrillion cubic feet since 1967

For the first nine months of last year, through September 2015, households used 3.4 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas.  Usage was down by 2.5% as compared to the same period of the prior year, 2014.  The difference, mainly a weaker January, and March as well.  These months in 2014 were much colder in 2014 than in 2015.  

The all-time record year for residential gas consumption was 1996,  and second place is held by 1972.  Third place is held by 2014, when consumption was only 2.9% short of 1996 and 0.8% of 1972.    

Watch Less TV to Save Energy

Off-Peak Stories in February’s PUF

A November 2015 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, found there's a major downside to the latest television technology that we all crave, ultra high-definition (UHD, or 4K).  Replacing all of America's televisions of at least 36 inches with UHD would increase the nation's electric bills by a billion dollars, to pay for eight billion more kilowatt-hours.  Five million more tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted.

Solar Through the Roof

Home solar remains at one tenth of one percent

The latest Energy Department data reports that home solar roofs generated 5,111 thousand megawatt-hours during the first ten months of last year.  This represents a 42% increase over the first ten months of the prior year, a hefty gain.

Yet, home solar roofs still contribute less than half of all the megawatt-hours produced by distributed solar.  And the power made by home solar is dwarfed by that made by utility scale solar that is four times greater (by more if solar thermal is included) and by utility scale wind that is thirty times greater.  

FDR's Article in Public Utilities Fortnightly

Soon-to-be-president a PUF Author

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote an article for Public Utilities Fortnightly, in June 1931, he was governor of the state of New York and a strong contender for the Democratic nomination for the 1932 presidential election.  What drove FDR to write the two-page article?  

The PUF editors asked the soon-to-be-president: 

"... whether or not it will be possible for a privately owned public utility company to earn a reasonable return on its investment in New York, notwithstanding the enactment of all of the so-called progressive proposals?"  

Fortnight Editorial: Like Wind and Solar

Heated nuclear debate among climate activists critical to us all

We've all heard it said so many times, a variation of:

"By 2050 (or some other year in the future), a hundred percent (or some other high percent) of our electricity will come from renewables like wind and solar."

A key phrase is at the very end.  The words "like wind and solar" imply there's a list of renewables that'll dramatically ramp up their share of the electric generation mix, a list in which wind and solar are merely examples.  

Reddy Kilowatt Versus Willie Wiredhand

US District Court ruled in 1956 for Willie

The epic battle was played out in US District Court, Eastern District South Carolina, Judge Harry Watkins presiding. In this grudge match of 60 years ago, nothing less than the icons of the investor-owned and rural cooperative utilities were at stake.  

Light Bulb Cartel

They secretly fixed light bulb life in 1924 at a thousand hours

The IEEE Spectrum article posted by Markus Krajewski of the University of Basel, Switzerland, opens like a mystery thriller (posted September 24, 2014). The secret meeting in Geneva 92 years ago still haunts how we light our world today.  

All the major manufacturers of lightbulbs met to split up the world market among them. Soon enough they found a way to accelerate the market's expansion as well:

"In carefully crafting a lightbulb with a relatively short life span, the cartel thus hatched the industrial strategy now known as planned obsolescence."