On the Camping at home is cheaper thread in comments, Kakatoa had pointed out that the local utilities and the rate setting commissions were planning to have a load of E-cars on the road and expected to jack up electric rates generally to about $1/2 / kW-hr to pay for all the Green Subsidies and Solar / Wind Mandates.
3 June 2012 at 3:24 am (Edit)
Yes, the goal is to have bunches of EV’s on the road in CA by 2020. The ISO’s (PG&E, SCE, San Diego) and a couple of the larger public utilities (LADWP and SMUD) have included EV in their expected demand as noted here-
Last time I checked PG&E’s E9 rate schedules (for charging EV’s) the owner of EV’s gets a pretty good discount on the costs for their electrical energy (and they don’t pay sales taxes or any road use taxes either) at home as long as they don’t charge at peak times. A lot of the 240 volt public charging stations are free (to the EV owner that is). I am not sure who picks up the costs………… The fast charging stations (440 volt) are not free to the best of my knowledge. NRG is going to be putting some fast charging stations in shortly.
It is my understanding that PG&E is projecting the price of Tier 2 energy to be $.19 in 2022 and Tier 4 prices to be 50 cents. They didn’t note Tier 3 prices but they will be close to $.45 or so. IF the economy improves and fewer of PG&E’s customers fall into the CARE category (currently 28% of their households fall into this category) the increases for Non CARE customers will be mitigated at bit. .
The “Lifeline” rate is what is charged at the bottom tier (currently about 12.8 cents per my bill for the first 300 ish kW-hr) then it pops up to about 14.6 cents up to 130% of ‘baseline. Over that you end up at 30 cents. Headed for 1/2 a buck.
Why the fuzzy numbers on baseline sizes? Because there isn’t one… from: http://www.pge.com/myhome/myaccount/charges/
How are baselines determined?
Baseline quantities are set by state law and implemented with the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission. Since baseline quantities are set based on the average use for residential customers in an area, they can vary by geographic location, or baseline territory. Baseline quantities also vary by time of year (summer or winter), and are based on your home’s heating sources.
Baseline quantities are set between 50 and 60 percent of the electricity the average residential customer uses in each territory. In the winter, all-electric customers have a higher baseline quantity, between 60 to 70 percent of average use, to account for electric heating.
Thank you Herr Commissar for making an entirely irrational and looney system, but very Politically Correct, that assures nobody can have a clue what “baseline” is, and so can not possibly manage to it nor plan from it. Vary, as it does, based on your neighbors, the time of year, the geography, what kind of heater they think you have, and what Herr Commissar had for lunch before the last meeting…
But you get the idea.
At present the PG&E site lists the Tier 3 price as 30 cents / kW-hr for usage above 130% AND below 200% of “baseline”, whatever it may be… then it jumps to 34 cents.
Now I thought that prices of 1/2 a buck sounded a bit like “Crazy Talk” simply because with natural gas at about 25 cents / Gallon Of Gasoline Equivalent (GGE) you can make electricity from it way cheap. On industrial scales we’re talking single digit cents cheap. Markets would normally fix that kind of crazy talk with market discipline. Any large power user who is still left in the state would run screaming for the exits as well. (Large data center? Here? At 1/2 buck / kW-hr? Now that IS crazy talk… and likely part of why Apple put their Cloud center in the Carolinas and not here.)
Except we don’t have a market in California. We have a Central Planned Economy with Boards of Commissars setting rates for things (then trying to make enough “patch over the problem” rules to prevent markets from showing their folly).
Delivered to the home, natural gas is far far more costly than that bulk wholesale rate. Running either 90 cents or 122 cents / therm (about 100,000 BTU or about 100 cubic feet or just shy of the 114,000 BTU in a gallon of gasoline). Still, at “about a buck” per GGE, it’s pretty darned cheap.
The obvious thing to do is buy a Natural Gas Generator and make your own electricity. At 1/2 buck / kW-hr, it will be a definite money maker. (Or payment saver). But is it ALREADY reasonable to do? Perhaps / perhaps not. Need to “run the numbers to know”… So I did.
Web Sites and Spreadsheets
I found a surprising number of Diesel small portable generators. A decade or two back they were quite rare. I also found a decent variety of Tri-fuel generators that run on your choice of gasoline, propane, or natural gas.
Making a spreadsheet out of the “specs” I rapidly realized that a couple of the web sites were “making stuff up” as they were ending up with fuel consumption numbers about 1/2 of every one else. So Caveat Emptor still rules.
I’ll save you all the details. The bottom line was that the Honda generators get a little more efficient with size from 1 kW up to about 6 kW and the gasoline generators are VERY efficient at full throttle, but lose efficiency at part throttle. Enough that it would be worth the charge / discharge losses to put all the “small stuff’ on a battery / inverter box. Run the generator full power during the day while doing things like washing cloths, dishes, running the TV and all. Go to the battery box in the evening when it’s ‘just some lights’.
They were surprisingly close to the Diesels in total $/kW. I used $4.50 / gallon (as in California it is running between $4.20 and $4.50 now) and got about 70 cents / kW-hr for most generators. Some less. I’m going to quote numbers based on $3.50 / gallon here, as I think that’s closer to what regular unleaded costs in most of the rest of the USA.
My little Honda 1 kW generator makes electrons at 61 cents full power, $1.21 half power. (Yes, about 1/2 efficiency too…) The 3 kW Honda runs at 59 / 85 so there’s a big efficiency gain with size. The EG6500 runs at 56 / 80 but doesn’t have the same inverter features and looks noisier. Clearly using retail gasoline isn’t going to be competitive at those rates.
Moving on to Diesel, I found several neat little generators. Even down into the 1 kW range. (I’d have bought one decades back if they had been available here, then.) Subaru makes one. It caught my eye, especially when I saw the jaw dropping performance figures from one site… 40 Cents / kW-hr from a 3 kW to 5 kW generator? So I checked further… Walmart lists the same generator, but with different performance numbers. It comes out at 58 cents. Much more likely.
Maybe there is some subtle difference between them, but I think “sellers puff” more likely:
Several other generators all ‘pencil out’ at similar performance numbers to the Walmart et.al cluster, so I think it more likely they are reporting the real numbers.
But even at that rate, it isn’t quite cheap enough to become my own utility. Clearly I need cheaper fuel.
So I did a quick check on natural gas generators. I chose to look in particular at the Winco brand simply because I’d heard of them before. I have no idea if they are “optimal” or not.
Using my natural gas prices, I “did the math”.
Again, though, I ran into “sellers puff” at one web site. “Crazy Talk” consumption numbers. 27 cents / kW-hr on gasoline. So I checked some more. The Winco site itself was much more modest (and likely correct) at a calculated 57 cents / kW-hr on gasoline. Just a penny or two more than the best Honda. So then I put in natural gas prices.
That took just a bit of conversion. The Winco site listed consumption as 138 cu-ft / hour. I used $1.50 / Therm for the gas prices (mid-point of the range for me) and it came out to 24 Cents / kW-hr. Less than the next electric Tier up. Even at the top gas Tier for me it was 27 cents. So 3 cents under. In theory, I can run one of these and arbitrage my gas bill vs my electric bill at about 3 to 6 cents gain (depending on gas tier) right now, any time I go over my electric baseline current tier (whatever it is this week…)
Though I must note that there is a note at the bottom of the page that the “capacity” needs to be derated by 10% for propane and 20% for natural gas, so those might be 30 cents and 34 cents respectively depending on when the ‘derating’ is applied in the calculations.
Winco’s HPS9000VE is ready to produce electricity when other generators are out of gas. With a dual carburetor this generator can quickly and easily switch between gasoline, LP gas, and natural gas. Gasoline is difficult to store in large quantities and can be scarce during storms and other disasters. The flexibility of the HPS9000VE will help you have power when and where you need it.
Due to increased demand contact factory for availability.
At even just marginal break-even these things are selling out. Perhaps there are places with lower delivered gas prices, or perhaps there are places with higher electric rates (though I doubt it). But it looks like I’m not the only one who is looking at the natural gas vs electricity arbitrage…
And at $1/2 per kW-hr?
Let a million generators rumble…
That is the problem with attempting to “harness market forces”. The market never submits to the leash. They are called “Emergent Systems” for a reason. UNexpected behaviours emerge. ALWAYS.
Generally a free market has emergent behaviours that are beneficial (see Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand). Occasionally they have bad effects (like price gouging after a natural disaster or like "Fattest Wallet Wins" of the Robber Barron monopolist era.) So we do need a tiny bit of Macro-Regulation on some markets. But once you enter the realm of micro-regulation and micro-management of markets, it's Katie Bar The Door 'cause a whole lot of "emerging" is about to misbehave.
And I've not even started looking at the industrial scale issues. At those scales you can buy natural gas closer to "spot" (so about 1/5 my cost basis above) and with larger scale comes larger efficiency in generators as well. Capstone Turbine makes a great package (even comes 'ruggedized' for sale / use on offshore oil platforms) at the 30 kW, 60 kW and 200 kW sizes. My local high school put one in as their swimming pool heater. Uses the same natural gas as their old heater, but they get 30 kW of electricity "for free" in the process.
All Capstone MicroTurbines operate:
Continuously or On-Demand
Stand alone or Grid Connect
Individually or Multi-pack
Run on a variety of fuels
Low or High Pressure Natural Gas
Biogas (landfill, wastewater treatment centers, anaerobic)
It is devices like that which force an arbitrage between fuel types. It is silly Commissars thinking they can make electricity cost $1/2 / kW-hr to pay for Green Fantasies that “don’t get it” (and they usually try implementing even more prohibitions rather than admit their error when the SHTF moment comes).
So if you are any kind of major company, looking at the power bill, you will be open to the idea of a co-gen site and cutting your bill in half. Capstone isn’t the only one, there are others. I managed a 119,000 sq.ft. facility for a while. I paid the power bill. I know what happens. I also helped build out the Newark site for Sun Microsystems (on the networking side). They were installing large cogeneration units for the computer room support. That was a decade+ ago… with much lower cost power.
Honda even makes a home sized gogeneration unit that they presently only sell in the East and North (as they are selling the ‘heating’ feature of it). Someone needs to tell them heat can make air-conditioning and that California is going to make their product profitable even if the heat is thrown away…
It will start with the large industrial users and very rich folks with large facilities. Likely the PUC will try to give dramatic "buy down" on the rate to keep them in the customer list. This, though, just puts more costs lower down the food chain moving the problem, but not fixing it.
So "watch this space" as we move from 30 to 50 cents / kW-hr in California and the sales of natural gas power plants blows through the roof.
Watch, too, as anyone who uses much above “lifeline” rates either finds a way to bypass the “Rate Structure” or exits the State.
I understand Texas has low cost electricity and a business friendly environment…