Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More businesses are shifting to energy-related industries. MPBN reports that Bath Iron Works is pursuing zoning changes to allow it to increase the size of its Ultra Hall indoor facility -- a move that will help with both traditional shipbuilding, as well as a possible switch to production of parts for offshore wind turbines. MPBN quotes BIW's Director of Fabrications, Jim Favreau, as saying, "We're always open to opportunities and if the energy field or windmill market opens up for us we'd certainly look for that synergy with our shipbuilding."

Simultaneously, General Electric is refocusing on energy and health care sectors, reducing exposure to finance and entertainment.

Using electricity as efficiently as possible means reducing waste heat from lighting appliances, but this may have its downsides, as the season's snows are starting to show. Some reports suggest that efficient LED traffic lights might not generate enough heat to melt snow, reducing the lights' effectiveness. Sounds like a good argument for redesigning the enclosure while keeping the LEDs.

In New York, Governor Patterson accepted the final 2009 State Energy Plan from the New York State Energy Planning Board. The plan provides a blueprint to continue the transition to a clean energy economy over a 10 year period.

Following on yesterday's selection by the Maine Ocean Energy Task Force of three offshore wind test sites: the Monhegan site will be developed by Dr. Habib Dagher and his team at the University of Maine. The University-led public/private consortium recently received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for this project.

In international carbon news, NYT reports that Australian company Cool nrg International will distribute 30 million CFLs to poor and middle-income families in Mexico. Cool nrg's program has been approved under the Clean Development Mechanism, meaning that for every ton of carbon saved by the lights Cool nrg will earn a U.N.-certified carbon credit. Dutch utility Eneco Energie has agreed to purchase the credits generated by the already-deployed pilot program, with an option to buy more. Is it economic? Current prices are about 13 EURO per ton, while the program costs about 18 EURO/ton -- meaning Mexico is funding about 30% of the project on its own dime.

NYT also reports of concerns raised over smart meter implementation. The article cites complaints by ratepayers that the new meters are measuring significantly more consumption than the ones they replaced, despite no other changes to customer load. Utility PG&E counters that the anomalies are caused by the rate structure that gives tiered rates for incremental usage beyond the first few hundred kWh, meaning small kWh increases lead to large bill increases. (It isn't clear why smart metering is implicated in this.)

States might follow the example of Texas, where the public utility counsel forced utilities to agree to pay for public education and to subsidize the installation of in-home displays to give an instantaneous price in low-income households -- the "Prius effect" in action.

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