Reply to Steve Fischmann

1) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann made the incredible statement, as reported in the Beat article, that storage was 'substantially cheaper' than natural gas-generated electricity, currently the cheapest fossil fuel-based electricity."

The Beat's quote in its 5/16 story was incomplete. The Daily Press's 5/12 article quoted Fischmann as saying, "There is recent bidding in Colorado to provide energy credits. Wind plus storage and solar, plus storage was found to be substantially cheaper than the cheapest natural gas."

My apologies to Mr. Fischmann. I should have realized that no one on earth would claim storage alone was cheaper than natural gas.

To quote my 5/19 correction: "Regardless, since the amount of storage included in those bids was not disclosed, and since the bids were only 15-20% higher than stand-alone solar and wind, one commentator wisely noted that there was probably 'only a limited amount' of storage involved."

2) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann doubled down, claiming there was a large-scale storage project underway in New Hampshire that subsidizes homeowners because it saves the utility money."

Mr. Fischman says he did not say that, rather that he said, to quote from his letter today, "that both Vermont and New Hampshire had successful projects they are planning to expand."

The Beat quotes Fischmann as saying, "There are large-scale storage projects. In New Hampshire they are giving incentives to home owners and subsidizing them because they save the utilities money."

Interested readers will have to go to the Daily Press recording of the forum to get Fischmann's exact quote. I guess "large-scale" is the contention. I'll concede the point. Interested readers may also want to google the article I referenced, "Liberty Utilities Proposes Battery Program for Lebanon, Valley News 4/4/18." That article will reveal this is a hugely subsidized small-scale experiment in distributed storage.

3) In my article I wrote: "Fischmann also claimed that San Antonio, Texas, was getting cheap energy from Austin Energy, 'which is 50 percent renewable'."
Fischmann claims he did not say that, but he did admit that he had said Austin Energy was at 50 percent renewable. "I was slightly off. They will be at 50 percent by 2020."

Here's the Beat's version: "Fischmann: I have a suggestion that we learn from successes, not just failures. San Antonio, Texas, has cheap energy through Austin Energy, which is 50 percent renewable."

I'll concede Steve is correct that he did not say San Antonio was buying electricity from Austin. I'm not going to watch the video to confirm this.


The issue in this little tempest-in-a-teapot is the cost of storing electricity from renewable sources, specifically solar and wind. In my article I quote the investment banking firm Lazard, a big backer of renewables: "Although alternative energy is increasingly cost-competitive and storage technology holds great promise, alternative energy systems will not be capable of meeting the base-load requirements of a developed economy for the foreseeable future."

It is entirely possible that with enough transmission lines, solar and wind can be hooked up over a large enough geographical area to provide enough electricity for a medium sized city. To say NO storage will be necessary because when the sun doesn't shine, the wind is blowing, is far-fetched even for an "eco nut," a term I have never used.

What would be the cost for such an effort? How much would such a scheme cost for New York City, Chicago, even Albuquerque? How about for the entire country? How about with zero subsidies?

Mr. Fischmann asserts that the cost of storage is falling fast and "the reliability of battery technology is improving so rapidly that you can toss past assumptions out the window."

Fine. How about assumptions in the here-and-now?

One would assume that there are no coal plants being built anywhere in the world thanks to the economics of renewables. One would be wrong. Technologically advanced nations such as Germany and Japan, and many others not so technologically advanced, are building new coal-fired generating plants.

One would assume that large storage battery prices are falling. Not yet. Tesla just RAISED the price of its PowerWall battery from $5500 to $5900. (Interested readers can google "Tesla Australia Battery" to determine if I have been guilty of "horrifically misleading" estimates of storage costs. Tesla is successfully operating these huge batteries, but "cost" is the issue.)

One would assume that where renewables are growing in use that utility bills would be decreasing in cost to consumers. Where? Not in Germany, Denmark, California or New Mexico.

Finally, my thanks to Mr. Fischmann for his review of my article. He was correct to raise those points that were inaccurate. However, his continued uncritical support for renewables and storage as viable for TODAY is why I'm still voting for Sandy Jones!

Live from Silver City

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