Today in Fortnightly

Evaporating Hydro

Produced a third of our electricity, but soon it’ll be blown away by wind

Coal has always produced the most electricity for the grid, compared to other sources, until a few recent months when coal was temporarily surpassed by natural gas. That's what the panelist said, in a seminar last week about electric utilities.

It's true that coal has led. But hydro ran neck and neck with coal well into the 1930's. And up until 1947, hydro produced over a third of the grid's electricity.

New House Sales Driving Electricity Sales

South now 57% of new house sales, Northeast/Midwest just 16%

November 2015 new house sales were 4 percent greater than the prior month and 9 percent greater than November 2014. More importantly, from the perspective of the electric utility industry, as well as the natural gas utility industry, new house sales in the South were 5 percent greater than the prior month and 19 percent greater than November 2014.

What happens in the South is crucial to the national numbers on electricity. To show why, look at the regional breakdown of electricity sales.

Electricity's Variable Cost All-Time Low Percentage?

Pertinent to rate design debate, variable falling further behind fixed cost

The public naturally believes that most electric utility costs are variable, if only because utility bills are mainly based on per kilowatt-hour rates. Utilities' fixed costs, for generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, are largely invisible to the average person.

Electric Rates Losing Ground to the CPI

December CPI up 0.7 percent, while electric rates down 1.2 percent

The Labor Department reported last week the Consumer Price Index, the CPI, for December 2015. 

The CPI for all goods and services increased 0.7 percent during the twelve months through December. That's a low rate of inflation. The CPI for electricity specifically decreased 1.2 percent during the same twelve months. That's a medium rate of deflation.

Fortnight Editorial: 132 Thousand Residential Solar Jobs?

Either labor productivity is real low in residential solar, or …

The number of solar industry jobs, now said to be 209 thousand, is widely reported and cited. President Obama included, as during his speech last April, announcing a program to train retiring military and veterans to work in solar.

The source for the number of solar jobs is an annual survey conducted by The Solar Foundation. The findings of the latest survey were published a couple of weeks ago in the "National Solar Jobs Census 2015." 

Gas Blew Away Coal

Gas now pulling way ahead in electric generation, coal’s lead razor-thin for the year

Energy Department data through November 2015 was released last week. It’s stunning how far coal has fallen. 

In November, coal’s share of the nation’s electricity generation fell to 29 percent. That’s right, a number starting with a 2. 

Solar Number One

Solar reached one percent share of the nation’s generation in November

From the Energy Department data released last week, around 3.8 billion megawatt-hours of electricity were generated last year through November. All but three-tenths of a percent was utility-scale. The small remainder was produced by commercial and residential distributed generators using solar.

Singing Electricity

David Bowie, Boz Scaggs, Ray Charles, Laurie Anderson, Dolly Parton, Damian Marley, Jimi Hendrix

Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it's like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. 
- David Bowie 

November Electricity Sales Soft

Residential sales down 7 percent from November 2014, 6 percent from November 2013

Electricity sales were soft last November, per Energy Department data released last week. A combination of mild weather and a disappointing economy led to overall sales off 4 percent from November 2014 and 3 percent from November 3013. 

With November, 2015 Residential Rates 1.2 Percent Over 2014

Residential rates 15 hundredths higher, commercial rates 14 hundredths lower

Average residential rates were 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour nationally in 2015 through November, per the Energy Department. That’s slightly above what rates were in the prior year, by 1.2 percent. Unadjusted for inflation.