Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

* A doddering giant: The National Regulatory Research Institute is the research arm of the National  Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; a straight-laced team, all of whom wear sensible shoes. In a new report NRRI takes a close look at electric generation in California, with a particular focus on last summer’s electricity power failures. Scary stuff. For a report from utility peeps, this is a document that can be read and (mostly) understood by people who only speak English and other human languages. The report details how CA deliberately eviscerated its generation capacities and upended formal demands set for reliability standards (and now has to walk some of that back). Some examples: CA’s nuclear plants have a capacity factor of 93%. Solar: 24%. It will take 6 GW of nameplate solar capacity to fill 2160 MW provided by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, slated to close. On average, CA imports 25% of its electric power (see Rail Tie below), a business model threatened by other states’ renewable goals. Batteries? You don’t even want to know. A critical deadline for new capacity is August 1, 2021. Climate first, people second.  Hopefully US DOE Sec. Granholm is distributing this report to her team for careful review and discussion. Whaddya think…?

* Aestheticide: Big Sky Country, uh, well, maybe still big sky country. More likely – big sky gets clipped. The proposed Rail Tie Wind Project would take approximately 26,000 acres of ranchland on private and Wyoming State Lands near Tie Siding, WY. Rail Tie’s draft EIS was released last week. Comments are due May 17. Rail Tie would serve “increasing market demand within the Western Interconnection, driven by state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandates and clean energy goals,” i.e., vampire California is the big customer.  WY population: 578,759. LA school district: 600,000 students. Rail Tie needs 60 miles of new permanent access roads and 105 miles of buried and overhead collection lines. Impacts are expected to individual birds and bats, but populations are not expected to be affected…. uh…how’s that again…? Project life is 35 years.

Aestheticide… but just look the other way, this is for the best…

* Supply Chain Gang: DOE published a request for information (RFI) last week as part of its work on President Biden’s EO 14017 which requires DOE to identify “the risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries, including electric vehicle batteries, and policy recommendations to address these risks.” Responses are due April 14. DOE’s requests are specific and extensive, covering materials, manufacturing and workforce challenges, R&D requirements, and suggested legislative or regulatory changes to “ensure a resilient supply chain for high-capacity batteries.” Interestingly, this isn’t DOE’s first such request, or at least a closely related request. On June 16 DOE published an RFI regarding “Battery Critical Materials Supply Chain R&D.” That RFI was to inform a Battery Critical Materials Supply Chain Opportunities Workshop held on June 29, 2020, part of work required by EO 13817. Now that, of course, was battery science under a previous President. Most likely, battery science has completely changed since June… Political science, though, doesn’t change too much…

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