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Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:07 am

10/12/17, edit:

Title changed from Any BEV drivers interested in defecting from the grid? to Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Anyone living off-grid with a BEV?

It would seem to me that utilizing a BEV for both energy storage and energy transport would make a lot of sense.

I am one of the small minority (end-of-the-line high maintenance costs, and low kWh use) for whom the electric grid is already non-competitive in terms of the real cost, even though my current PG&E bill is effectively subsidized (E9, ~8 cents per kWh) so my bills do not reflect this reality.

I only pay ~$400 a year for the ~5,000 kWh to fuel both my LEAF and my home, which probably does not even cover what PG&E pays to maintain the final ~300 yards of lines to my home. The past and present CPUC policy of charging low-cost urban/suburban ratepayers more to subsidize lines to higher-cost locations with superior alternatives is unsustainable, IM0.

I could change the primary charge location of my BEV to balance my at-home (probably PV) energy production by season and time-of-day, greatly reducing my requirements for stationary batteries at home, by using my BEV as my powerline.

The article below gives some views on the economics of defecting from the grid, without even taking the BEV-as-powerline option into account.

The Power Grid Might Become The ‘Alternative’ — Off-Grid The Norm

Originally published on Rocky Mountain Institute.
By Leia Guccione and Peter Bronski.

For years, low-cost solar-plus-battery systems were seen as a distant possibility at best, a fringe technology not likely to be a threat to mainstream electricity delivery any time soon. By far, the limiting factor has been battery costs. But thanks to a confluence of factors playing out across the energy industry, the reality is that affordable battery storage is coming much sooner than most people realize. That approaching day of cheaper battery storage, when combined with solar PV, has the potential to fundamentally alter the electricity landscape.

While grid-tied solar has seen dramatic recent cost declines, until recently, solar-plus-battery systems have not been considered economically viable. However, concurrent declining costs of batteries, growing maturity of solar-plus-battery systems, and increasing adoption rates for these technologies are changing that. Recent media coverage, market analysis, and industry discussions—including the Edison Electric Institute’s January 2013 Disruptive Challenges—have gone so far as to suggest that low-cost solar-plus-battery systems could one day enable customers to cut the cord with their utility and go from grid connected to grid defected.

But while more and more people are discussing solar-plus-battery systems as a potential option at some point in the distant future, there has been a scarcity of detailed analysis to quantify when and where. Until now.


Today, Rocky Mountain Institute, HOMER Energy, and CohnReznick Think Energy released The Economics of Grid Defection: When and where distributed solar generation plus storage competes with traditional utility service. Seeking to illustrate where grid parity will happen both first and last, the report considers five representative U.S. geographies (NY, KY, TX, CA, and HI). These geographies cover a range of solar resource potential, retail utility electricity prices, and solar PV penetration rates, considered across both commercial and residential regionally specific load profiles.

The report analyzes four possible scenarios: a more conservative base case plus more aggressive cases that consider technology improvements with accelerated cost declines, investments in energy efficiency coupled with load management, and the combination of technology-driven cost declines, energy efficiency, and load management. Even our base case results are compelling, but the combined improvements scenario is especially so, since efficiency and load management reduce the required size of the system while technology improvements reduce the cost of that system, compounding cost declines and greatly accelerating grid parity...
http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/28/pow ... grid-norm/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by edatoakrun on Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Any BEV drivers interested in defecting from the grid?

Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:53 am

Part of the real cost difference with investor owned utilities as we primarily have in CA is the rate of return on grid assets is too high. Once we can buy batteries and finance them similar to a car loan at 2% and just pay for what we use vs. paying 7% to 12%+ for grid assets on top of all the maintenance I agree the transition will be swift. Otherwise the regulators should be pressing the utilities to earn closer to the 10yr treasury and drop the retail rates.
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Re: Any BEV drivers interested in defecting from the grid?

Wed May 21, 2014 10:51 pm

Count me in - I'm working my escape checklist now.

Have house plans, a full PV system minus battery, solar hot water system, rainwater catchment/storage/filtering equipment...

Just found the system to generate the small amount of biogas I'll use for the gas cook stove and backup on-demand water heater today.

Until I find the piece of property I want, I'll stay in this tube and dream about taking the red pill.

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Re: Any BEV drivers interested in defecting from the grid?

Thu May 22, 2014 12:14 am

Not quite the same, but I'd love to have a grid-linked PV system. We could only afford a leased one, though, and the one thing no one ever tells you in promoting solar PV is that *none* of the companies involved in these systems will install them on slate roofs - like ours. We'd also be willing to have panels installed on our South walls, as we have a two story house with great Southern exposures, but no dice on that, either...
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Re: Any BEV drivers interested in defecting from the grid?

Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:42 am

With the series of massive fires northern Califiornia and other parts of the western USA has suffered over the last few years, maybe this topic question should be restated as:

Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Climate change has already rendered the model of electric transmission through above-ground wires impractical in many (or most?) rural areas.

IMO, we need to move to local rural micro-grids, balanced by transference of energy surpluses over-the-road in EVs, ASAP.

It has now become, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

It simply is not possible for fire agencies to effectively contain multiple ignition sites which rapidly spread into large firestorms, which we now should expect to occur more frequently with changing climate and increasing high-wind events.
‘Dice was really loaded’ for wildfires exploding in California, experts say

A cascade of extreme weather events fed Northern California’s wildfires that exploded Sunday: Unusually high winds blew flames through unusually dense and dry vegetation, which sprung up following last winter’s heavy rains and then were toasted by months of record hot temperatures.

“The dice was really loaded because of the big wet winter,” said Park Williams, a California native and a research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “That set up the West with a lot of fuel to burn, and this summer has been exceptional in terms of dryness.”

Scientists such as Williams say California is especially prone to wildfires, in part because of the state’s dense population, which makes it easy for sparks to be ignited and turn into raging fire storms. But this week’s blazes also show the fingerprints of climate change, he said, a harbinger of what the West should expect in the years to come...

California’s fire chief said he and other firefighters were stunned by the fury and speed of the blazes that erupted Sunday night. “We’ve raised the bar again in California just in terms of the conditions that we’re facing and the destruction and devastation, ” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said Monday...

The combination of a wet winter followed by extreme heat and dryness has caused record wildfires in many Western states, including Montana, where more than 1 million acres burned. The federal government estimates it spent more than $2 billion fighting wildfires nationwide this year.

In terms of U.S. acreage burned, nine of the 10 worst fire seasons in the past 50 years have occurred since 2000, according to the National Interagency Fire Center...

.. in California, said Williams, climate change is compounding the risks of wildfires by extending the length of the fire season and adding to the intensity of droughts and heat waves. “I’m highly confident that the combination of dry fuel, extreme heat and climate change is a recipe for what we are seeing,” he said.
http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/califo ... 66206.html
Investigators Look Into Downed Power Lines, Exploding Transformers as Possible Cause of Fires

October 11, 2017

State fire investigators are looking into a possible connection between failures in Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s electrical infrastructure and the devastating wildfires sweeping through Northern California.

The Bay Area News Group reported Wednesday that Sonoma County dispatchers sent fire crews out to at least 10 locations over a 90-minute period, starting around 9:20 p.m. on Sunday, to respond to calls about electrical problems.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton said the agency is investigating whether reports of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding in Sonoma County Sunday night may have caused some of the wildfires in the region.

The agency stresses that it’s investigating a number of potential causes. PG&E spokesman Jason King said the crews found wires down, broken poles and impacted infrastructure.

But he blamed the historic nature of the hurricane-strength wind — and trees weakened by years of drought impacting the company’s electric lines.

At Least 24 Dead, 3,500 Structures Destroyed in Northern California Fires

Cal Fire investigators determined the 2015 Butte Fire was started by a PG&E line coming in contact with a tree. State regulators fined the utility more than $8 million for failure to properly maintain the lines.

Authorities say the wildfires currently raging — some of the most destructive in California’s history — have killed 21 people so far. Eleven people have died in Sonoma County, six in Mendocino County, two in Napa County and two in Yuba County.

The blazes have burned almost 170,000 acres across Northern California with little containment, according to Cal Fire. Sonoma County officials said Wednesday that hundreds of people have been reported missing during the fires ...
https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/10/11/in ... -of-fires/

More reports at:

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/10/10/ ... try-fires/

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/califo ... 2017-10-10

And some sources for local coverage of the ~ five county fire complex:


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Does CA need to replace their incompetent governor?

Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:36 pm

A better question is why Californians keep Governor Brown in office when he makes such monumentally-disasterous mistakes as this one: Wine Country fires: Gov. Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power line, wildfire safety.
San Jose Mercury News wrote:A year ago, a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires from overhead electrical lines went to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

It was vetoed.

The author of the measure — passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature — now says the governor missed out on a chance to tackle one of his state’s longstanding vulnerabilities: massive wildfires endangering residential communities. But the governor’s office and the California Public Utilities Commission say the bill duplicated efforts already underway among the CPUC, Cal Fire and utilities like PG&E.
San Jose Mercury News wrote:But meterologist Jan Null, owner of Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga, said that Sunday night’s winds, while strong, were not “hurricane force” and had been surpassed in previous storms. Atlas Peak had gusts of 32 miles per hour at 9 p.m. on Sunday night, Null said. By comparison, the peak had gusts of 66 mph in last February.

SB 1463 had been introduced in last year’s legislative session by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. The bill would have required the state to identify the places most at risk for wildfires and would have required the CPUC to beef up plans to prevent fires sparked by power lines — including moving lines underground if necessary.

But Brown said the bill was unnecessary. “Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations,” he said in his veto message. “This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

But the senator isn’t buying it.

“Up until my bill those guys were doing nothing,” Moorlach said Wednesday. “I think you got some false information.”
It seems the CA state congress was ahead of this problem, but your governor in his infinite wisdom headed off the solution and we see how his "wisdom" has played out.

This ranks right up there with the massive disregard for the dams that was clearly demonstrated last year.
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Re: Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:28 pm

As was inevitable, virtually all of last October's fires will eventually be found to have been ignited by PG&E lines, and the questions of Liability will take years of litigation to resolve:
California fires: 4 blazes in October firestorm traced to PG&E lines
https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/ ... 945081.php
PG&E responsible for three Northern California wildfires, Cal Fire alleges

Cal Fire Says PG&E Power Lines Caused Fires in Butte, Nevada Counties[/quote]

https://www.kqed.org/news/11670763/cal- ... a-counties

And now we move on to the inevitable financial repercussions for PG&E shareholders, and its lenders, and ratepayers:
PG&E’s survival hinges on Wine Country fire reports

..If Cal Fire holds PG&E responsible for the most destructive fires — particularly the Tubbs Fire that leveled parts of Santa Rosa and killed 24 people — the 112-year-old company could face a major financial hit. Insurance claims from the fires total roughly $10 billion, far outstripping the $800 million in liability insurance that PG&E carries. Wall Street analysts consider bankruptcy of the company a possibility, albeit a remote one. The company’s stock price has already fallen by more than a third since the fires...
https://www.sfgate.com/business/article ... ca87fcef47

Not a single mention of the obvious solution, in the articles above.

How many $billions have been spent to subsidize grid connected suburban rooftop solar in California, where it arguably least cost effective, when the same solar panels on the right rooftops with battery storage would have allowed us to shrink the grossly uneconomic and dangerous rural grid?

Just as in the case of our addiction to ICEVs, the huge sunken costs and inability to accept current financial realities prevent the obvious cost-effective solutions.

For rural areas with high fire risk...get rid of the damn powelines!
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Re: Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:51 pm

PG&E has been suggesting it wil begin cutting off power to rural customers during high-wind events for some time now, and I got the Email every rural resident who depends for their power supply, and their pumped water supply has been dreading:
Dear Valued Customer:

As part of our commitment to safety, we are reaching out to our customers, like you, who live in or near high wildfire-threat areas. We want to keep you and your family informed and updated of additional precautionary steps that we are taking to address the growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires, such as possible power outages. Please visit pge.com/mywildfirealerts today to update your contact information.

Taking action to keep you and your family safe
To help ensure the safety of our customers and communities we are privileged to serve, we are taking action with our Community Wildfire Safety Program. For your safety, it may be necessary for us to temporarily turn off electricity to your neighborhood or community when extreme fire danger conditions occur. We know how much you rely on reliable electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort. If we need to turn off your power, we will attempt to contact you in advance to ensure you have enough time to prepare. We will also provide updates until power is restored.

What to expect if power is turned off
In the event we need to turn off your power for safety reasons, here is what you can expect:

When and where possible, early warning notification so you can prepare. Extreme weather threats can change quickly. Please make sure to update your contact information by visiting pge.com/mywildfirealerts. We will use this information to alert you via automated calls, texts, and emails.
Additional updates through social media, local news, radio, and the pge.com website.
Coordination with your local authorities to provide updated outage information.
Taking steps to prepare
We know you may have questions about how to best prepare for the threat of wildfires and the possibility that power may be turned off. To learn whether your home is in or near a high wildfire-threat area on the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fire map, visit cpuc.ca.gov/FireThreatMaps. All customers living in these high-risk areas should prepare an emergency plan. For more information on how to keep you and your family emergency-ready and safe during an outage, please visit pge.com/wildfiresafety. You can also reach us by email at wildfiresafety@pge.com.


PG&E Wildfire Safety Team
It's going to be a great feeling the first time I return home later this Summer with my pack close to the VLB, and find that PG&E has shut off the power, both to my well to fight a potential fire, and also to my EVSE to recharge my LEAF to prepare for an emergency exit.

As expected, most of last fall's fires, and those with the high death counts, have now been officially blamed on PG&E:
PG&E to blame for more wine country fires, Cal Fire says

Cal Fire on Friday blamed PG&E for 12 more of the fires that overwhelmed Northern California's wine country last October, citing the utility's power lines and poles and increasing PG&E's potential financial peril over the deadly fires.

The report came two weeks after Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which is lobbying state lawmakers for relief from financial responsibility for the fires, was blamed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for three other fires last October in Nevada and Butte counties.

However, Cal Fire's investigators still haven't weighed in on the deadliest of the wine country wildfires, the Tubbs Fire, which started in Calistoga and swept into Santa Rosa. The Tubbs Fire destroyed more than 5,000 homes and other buildings and killed 24 people, accounting for more than half of the 44 people killed in last October's fires.

Cal Fire has determined that most of the fires were caused by tree limbs brushing up against PG&E power lines. PG&E, however, has declined to acknowledge that it's been at fault...
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Re: Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:13 pm

All the more reason to have solar and battery to be independent or semi-independent of the grid.
Grid may just dismantle itself. If the power is off enough... who needs it?
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Re: Do we NEED TO dismantle the grid in the rural west?

Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:35 am

As a former mountain dweller I can relate to the fact that having no power is an inconvenience while having no water really sucks. Depending on what's in the fridge of course and how long the power is out that can vary but having no water gets aggravating very fast.

And I agree it may be a good reason to go off-grid or perhaps put in a backup system of some kind, such as a gas or propane generator.

It does seem like a drastic measure but wild fires certainly are not to be taken lightly.

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