Rick Kohl, the President of Cleen n' Green Energy (www.Go-Green.com), was the speaker at today's TASC Lunch (January 4, 2000). His topic was the state of California's energy deregulation, how his company fits into the power mix, and how he sees the marketplace developing over the next few years.
Kohl began with the fact that the Electricity Industry is the single greatest source of pollution on the planet. He then went on to explain what has happened as a result of deregulation. He showed a graphic that explained that in a typical electric bill 10% is used up for distribution costs, another 25% to 35% is used to amortize old buildings (nuclear power plants etc....), 25% to 35% actually goes to pay for the electricity consumed, and the rest is absorbed by the other costs of doing business. It is the quarter to a third that goes into the power consumed where different providers are allowed to compete.
Part of the deregulation bill was setting up a State regulatory framework to ensure that there would be some standards of truth-in-advertising for electricity providers. While this has had some impact on what could be said, the problems come from the details that can be left out. For example, Kohl pointed out that much of the power being sold as "Green Power" is just cherry picked power from the same old utility mix, allowing the rest of the dirty power to be sold at a lower price to large industrial buyers. He is proud of the fact that Cleen 'n Green stands alone as a seller of renewable power from small producers.
At present only one or two percent of California's citizens have switched from the standard utilities to other electricity providers. The main reason for this is simple inertia, which is augmented by the difficulties small providers face in marketing their products. Other barriers that providers like Cleen 'n Green face are things like when a customer moves, the major utility is in charge of hooking up service, whereas the small producer has to wait for the customer to ask for their service.
Grass roots marketing is further hindered by the fact that every sale has to begin with a consumer education project. Most people don't understand what the choices that confront them are, never mind which one to choose. The deregulation bill accounted for this somewhat, by having slightly different rules until 2003, when everyone will be on their own. Cleen n' Green is hopeful that California consumers will apply their demonstrated desire for more ecologically sound products by buying their power in larger numbers over time.
I gave Rick Kohl a Delaware quarter at the end of the meeting.
In a message dated 1/5/00 8:44:54 PM, WaltonCA@aol.com writes:
>Only a fraction (fraction unknown to me now) of my electric bill goes for
>paying for the fuels they use. Electric power plants also burn very cleanly
>(i.e., low monoxide, low sulfur, primarily CO2, the latter generally being
>considered clean in view of ready vegetation and oceanic absorption).
The problem is that a lot of electricity is used. I started realizing how much when I gave a speech to a toastmasters club about how cost effective it was to switch to florescent lightbulbs because of the energy savings. If just a few of the 15 people that heard that speech got just one bulb, I would have earned Mother Earth big bucks. I found out later that one woman redid every bulb in her 5 bedroom house that the new bulbs would fit in. Her energy bill probably went down more per average month than I have ever given PG&E in one month.
>Presumably fuel use is a measure of pollutants emitted. .. All of my
>gasoline bill goes for a pollution creating product (which is not clean
>burning, in spite of catalytic exhaust systems). My automobile depreciation
>is presumably not polluting.
Please keep in mind that your automobile depreciation is where the energy used to build the car is factored into the equation. The two-thirds to three quarters of the electric bill that does not go directly into fuel costs also must be treated the same way. For example, I heard someone say from the back of the room on Tuesday "A nuclear power plant has to run for 20 years to generate enough power to equal the amount that was extracted from fossil fuels used to build the thing."
>For buying a product such as a Sears washing machine, I do not know how
>much of the cost goes into paying the Sears electric bill, but I will guess
>less than 5%.
For any commodity product made from aluminum, the biggest piece of the cost is the energy used to make the stuff. That's why they build smelters near big hydro plants. It makes economic sense.
I have read that industrial agriculture is essentially turning fossil fuels into food. Consider rice. The sow the field by dropping rice from helicopters, they spray insecticides from airplanes, and when harvest time comes around they use combines the size of tanks to bring in the crop. Every one of these machines uses lots of energy, most of which does not come from biomass.