And some actual good news

Great Britain went almost four days without having to draw power from a domestic coal power plant. That is good news. It is not great news, as half of the power generated and consumed still produced carbon dioxide but it is good news.

As countries continue to deploy more solar and storage prices come down, more and more days will be coal free. The next challenge over the next decade is to eat into cheap natural gas. And even there, there is hope as the combined levelized cost of power for brand new renewable generation is below that of fossil fuels. There is a huge bolus of natural gas capacity that has a significant natural lifespan in front of it, but the repair or replace calculation looks like it will be leaning towards replace with renewables and storage for most cases.


72 replies
  1. 1

    I’d just like to point out that a huge reason this kind of thing is possible is because we put a ton of money into subsidies for renewable energy a decade or two ago. One of the huge, understated legacies of the Obama administration- and one Trump will struggle in vain to undo- is getting us to the point that renewable energy is cost competitive with fossil fuels. Wingnuts will naturally still argue that it’s impossible/unrealistic/excessively expensive to replace fossil fuels with renewables, but they’ll be doing it in the face of money people deciding to do just that.

  2. 2
    West of the Rockies says:

    Very promising news, Mr. Anderson! Thank you.

  3. 3
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    Don’t forget the quiet revolution in appliances and lighting. In 2009 I had a 19 inch tv that was already 20 years old, weighed a ton, and used a ton of energy. When I finally gave it away I needed a strong man to take it away. To watch it required a heavy piece of furniture with a shelf needed to hold a VCR and the heavy cable box. Today my 19 inch tv is a light as a feather and sits on my desk. The energy needed is a fraction of the 2009 tv, and doesn’t need any special furniture.

    I grew up buying light bulbs every so many weeks to replace ones that burned out. Since flouresecents and LEDs, I haven’t even had to think about buying bulbs-I’m still working through the ones the power company gave me. The amount of power needed is again less than one incandescent by a factor of at least 2. Christmas lights (incandescent) was always a worry because if you forgot to turn them off when you left-it was a fire hazard. I replaced them with LEDs and I don’t even have to plug them in anywhere or worry about fire at all-they are cool to the touch.

    CRT-lots of energy use even with computer age tech-heavy as fuck too. Laptop, way less energy, and unless I left it on the mattress, no real worry about fire or excess heat.

    And on and on.

    And don’t think the power companies haven’t benefited from the change-which is why they are willing to hand out/lowball electric lights. Less power demand means less pressure to build more power plants with their associated costs. Instead just string out the use of existing plants, build lower maintenance solar and wind plants.

  4. 4
    chopper says:

    It is not great news, as half of the power generated and consumed still produced carbon dioxide

    other fossil fuels suck, but coal is the fucking devil.

  5. 5
    NotMax says:

    And some actual good news

    The spirit of Gabriel Heatter thanks you.


  6. 6
    psycholinguist says:

    Somebody who knows stuff please provide your wisdom. I think I heard someone argue that when a president is impeached, one effect is that the impeachment make his actions that constitute the high crimes and misdemeanors unavailable for pardon. In fact, one reason given for Nixon resigning, rather than fight an impeachment battle, was so that he could be pardoned, otherwise that was off the table. Anyone know if that’s true, and if so, does that create an additional argument for impeachment, even if it isn’t successful at removing the president.

  7. 7
    Ruckus says:

    I saw somewhere not long ago that England had I believe 17 coal mines operating at one point in time. Now they have one.
    We have a way to go to get to that point but we have made progress as mines close and no new ones open up. And while natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, it is still a lot cleaner. I believe that we will have NG electric production for a long time as it doesn’t depend on the sun or wind and is relatively easy to start up and stop production as needed. It can also scale down pretty good to be used to fill in gaps as necessary, cutting down use and CO2 production even more. However we will produce a lot more with renewables and create a lot less carbon dioxide.

  8. 8
    Kathleen says:

    Since this is open thread I’m posting this article from Wired here. Sorry if it’s Off Topic.

    14 Mueller Report Takeaways You Might Have Missed

    I hope link works. I think Wired allows so many free articles (I have subscription). Some very interesting perspective.

  9. 9
    David Evans says:

    @CarolDuhart2: LED bulbs are better than incandescent by a factor of much more than 2. Mine claim a factor of 7 and I think they look even brighter than that.

  10. 10
    Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho says:

    @CarolDuhart2: All of that is important to remember. It’s all so much less of an energy suck now.

    @chopper: As is this. It kills the people who mine it – quickly or slowly. My maternal great grandfather was killed in a mining accident, and having seen how people with black lung had to live, I believe he was one of the lucky ones.

    @Kathleen: (+CarolDuhart2) There needs to be a SW OH meet up – which Steve in the ATL is of course welcome to join if he’s in the neighborhood and we want Subaru Diane when she’s on her road trip, but let’s not wait for either of them. Evodevo, cintibud, Ohio Mom, galangal, Bill(?) from Troy whose nym I don’t recall, etc should all visit.

  11. 11


    And don’t think the power companies haven’t benefited from the change-which is why they are willing to hand out/lowball electric lights.

    Depending on where you live, that may be by design. Part of the reason California has declining energy use is because we’ve written the utility regulations to encourage the utilities to push people to use less power. If you design a rate schedule so the rates stay stable regardless of usage, the utilities have an incentive to encourage consumers to use as much power as possible. Instead, California allows utilities to raise rates as consumption falls, so it’s actually more profitable for them to encourage conservation.

  12. 12
    NotMax says:


    Short answer: yes, it is true and unequivocal. From Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

    The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

    It’s why (not trying to open a can of worms here) Clinton reached – literally at the end of his term – a separate non-prosecution agreement to pay a fine and have his law license temporarily suspended in place of facing charges after leaving office.

  13. 13
    NotMax says:


    No edit function Amend that to read:

    in place of the possibility of facing charges after leaving office.

  14. 14
    Jager says:

    I opened a new office in 2010. In the lobby we had a floor lamp with a high efficiency bulb. As an experiment I left it on 24/7. It lasted over 4 years. I sold the business, we kept the lobby furniture for our “library” 2 lamps have bulbs that are 9 years old with normal usage.

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:

    Generation during this time was met by: Gas 42%, Nuclear 23%, Wind 12%, Solar 11%, Imports 7%, Biomass 4%, Large Hydro 1%, Storage 0%

    I see that nuclear is a significant component. And yet, there are some folks in the US who insist that nuclear be taken off the table.

    There is a huge bolus of natural gas capacity that has a significant natural lifespan in front of it, but the repair or replace calculation looks like it will be leaning towards replace with renewables and storage for most cases.

    I don’t know. It still looks as though fossil fuels (which includes natural gas) and non-renewables still loom large. Also, I think we need to understand that even renewable sources are not necessarily “clean.” The processes to develop and deploy solar energy leave their own marks, batteries create replacement and recycling costs, etc. Much less pollution, but still associated issues.

    There is some truth to the historical anecdotes that people thought the automobile would eliminate all the problems associated with dying horses and their excrement.

  16. 16
    Martin says:

    @NotMax: Worth pointing out that can apply to any other office holder which is impeached as well – judges or other confirmed government officials such as the Atty General.

    Also, also worth pointing out that a pardon is not an exoneration. In fact, it requires admitting guilt per the supreme court.

  17. 17


    I think I heard someone argue that when a president is impeached, one effect is that the impeachment make his actions that constitute the high crimes and misdemeanors unavailable for pardon.

    I think this is a misunderstanding. What the Constitution says is:

    he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

    IANAL, but my understanding is the general legal consensus is this means the President can’t keep an impeached person in office by pardoning them, not that he can’t pardon someone who was impeached and also convicted of the same offense in a criminal trial.

  18. 18
    trollhattan says:

    Cal ISO right now (14:30 PDT):

    Natural gas–7.7%
    Large hydro–17.6%

    Of renewables:
    Small hydro–3%

    That’s a ninth of the US population functioning via more than half renewables, of which about three-quarters is solar.

  19. 19
    Amir Khalid says:

    Apparently, not everyone understands that. When Joe Arpaio got his pardon, he immediately tried to get his conviction voided — and of course he failed.

  20. 20


    Also, I think we need to understand that even renewable sources are not necessarily “clean.”

    They may not be clean, but coal is just incredibly dirty, even beyond the CO2. Burning it releases all kinds of really noxious crap into the environment. We’ve gotten better about trapping the ash and sulfur oxides, but it still releases vile stuff like mercury. I remember people complaining about the mercury in fluorescent lights, and one of the counter arguments was that burning enough coal to produce the electricity to keep them running releases more mercury into the environment than is used in the fluorescent light. And the coal ash we trap has to go somewhere; right now it winds up being stored really badly and regularly causing very bad accidents when a coal ash pit floods and spills into nearby waterways.

  21. 21
    Martin says:


    I see that nuclear is a significant component. And yet, there are some folks in the US who insist that nuclear be taken off the table.

    I’m one of those. Not so much insist, but recommend. There are two reasons for this:

    1) The cost benefit of nuclear is steadily diminishing relative to other supply-smoothing alternatives such as battery or other stored energy forms. When taking in all external costs for maintaining the safety of nuclear plants (something we suck at) that gap is quite small.
    2) We don’t have time for nuclear. Assuming everything can be fast-tracked, it takes a decade to get a nuclear plant up and running. We don’t have a decade. Most other stored energy solutions can be deployed piecemeal. We can get batteries online within months, and their deployment is much more flexible.
    3) 2/3 of the emission problem remaining in CA is transportation, not energy production. Nuclear doesn’t help us with that. Lots of other things do – including more aggressive adoption of batteries to continue to drive those prices down to make EVs more cost effective. CA needs more charging points, but many of those points would benefit from having local storage. So build out storage there and make it more widely available to the grid. You get both sides of the problem improved that way. Other states simply need to follow what CA did to get most of their power grid done.

  22. 22
    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    I just got my second electric bill. Minus $3. I didn’t use much, as I don’t really have much in the way of electric sucking products and don’t keep it overly warm or cool and use LEDs for most of my lighting use.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:


    Slightly OT.

    My friends who run a computer repair store are no longer able to offer lithium-ion battery replacement as part of their services. The state, in its ‘wisdom,’ has made shipping those in next to impossible. It has to be done by boat, which is not only more costly but can easily take 6 months from the time of placing an order to arrival.

    I cannot, as another example, order a UPS from Amazon or most anyplace else, as they will not ship it to Hawaii because of the same misguided state law.

  24. 24
    trollhattan says:

    +1. You’d get far more bang for the buck investing the same money into efficiency gains, cutting demand, improving the grid and emphasizing distributed generation and storage. Anybody recall one of the first tariffs President Beavis slapped on was for PV solar panels? And now he’s looking at rolling back Bush II’s lighting efficiency standards. Somebody doesn’t want us winning this particular battle.

  25. 25
    rikyrah says:

    Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) Tweeted:
    Let me just put this out there: The only reason Dem leadership is tepid about impeachment is because they are afraid to rankle the precious white, middle class voters who find Trump a viable option. That’s where all the energy is. The rest of the base is taken for granted.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    Actual lawyer who did actual lawyering subpoenaed to House.

    The House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn.

    Why it matters: McGahn, a key cooperating witness who sat for more than 30 hours of interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, helped shed light on many of the episodes of potential obstruction by President Trump that Mueller highlighted in his report. The 36-item subpoena demands that McGahn testify at a hearing on May 21 and turn over dozens of records — including “any documents referenced in the [Mueller] Report” — by May 7.

  27. 27
    Martin says:

    @trollhattan: An asterisk on that – CA is, I believe, the only state that doesn’t consider hydro to be renewable, mainly because we have little faith we’ll still have water in 20 years. That said, it’s a mistake to exclude hydro from the equation. What is already built is clean and it’s on-demand. That 17% goes a long way to smoothing out peak demand provided we overbuild solar/wind.

    There’s also a really good opportunity to use methane (main component of natural gas/biomass) that incorporates carbon sequestration.

    In short, you need something to drive a turbine. Water in a hydro plant, steam in nuclear and many others. This design uses supercritical CO2:

    Allam’s counterintuitive approach stemmed from an idea he’d had long before he started working at NET Power: Burn the fuel and oxygen in supercritical CO2 and the resulting exhaust has the necessary mass to spin the turbine. The heat of combustion expands the supercritical CO2 exhaust through a turbine, from which it exits at around 3 MPa. The hot exhaust enters a heat exchanger, which transfers the gas’s thermal energy to a supercritical CO2 stream that’s headed back to the combustor.

    The turbine exhaust, meanwhile, exits the heat exchanger, having been cooled to air temperature. It falls out of its supercritical state and the water vapor produced in combustion condenses and drains away. The now highly pure CO2 stream is then compressed, cooled, and pumped up to a supercritical 30 MPa for a return trip to the combustor.

    Basically, in the same way that a turbocharger in a car takes the exhaust and uses it to drive an impeller to ingest air into an engine faster (with the exhaust making a trip around the atmosphere before it’s reingested), this takes the exhaust, drives a turbine, drops out the water, and puts the resultant CO2 right back into the combustion chamber for another trip. It needs to bleed off some CO2 continuously, but it’s in a pure state. Stick it in a fire extinguisher or use it as part of the natural gas extraction process instead of pumping water down there. The CO2 is heavy and will stay there eventually becoming natural gas or coal again in a million years. We expend a fair bit of energy making pure CO2. This creates it as a byproduct, and in a form that it’s easy to sequester.

    It’s an exceptionally clever solution and one that is tough to engineer, but WAY easier than a safe nuclear plant.

  28. 28
    Redshift says:

    @trollhattan: Another statistic l never tire of pointing out is that as a result of the conservation and efficiency initiatives from the Carter Administration, even after Reagan did his best to undo everything, the total energy consumption of the country didn’t rise above 1979 levels until the early ’90s.

    I’m sure there’s a lot less low-hanging fruit left (at least in this country), but efficiency is a really major part the climate change battle.

  29. 29
    Martin says:

    @Ruckus: Ours is a flat $8. We use a ton of devices, but tend to work hard to find efficient ones. Our solar is putting out double our daily usage (should be 25% over usage when we click on the AC). The $8 is the transmission fee to keep us on the grid, which is fine. System should break even in about 10 years, less when we buy an EV (soon, I hope).

  30. 30
    Martin says:

    @Redshift: We could cut usage in half, as California has shown. That’s not that hard. Not only is it not expensive, it saves money as CA electric bills are among the cheapest in the country despite us having the 2nd highest rates. Our bills are less than half that of residents of Texas or South Carolina.

  31. 31
    Kathleen says:

    @Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho: Totally agree. I can give CarolD a ride.Do you have a timeline in mind? I have no life as it were (other than working full time) so I’m pretty open.

  32. 32
    trollhattan says:

    It’s not just California, different states count large hydro differently WRT their renewables portfolio. A related issue is manmade reservoirs turn out to be significant GHG sources.

    On the flip side, pumping-generating plants are an ideal way to store unused renewable energy, and the proposal to add that capacity to Lake Mead is pretty fascinating. California has a few hybrid plants already.

  33. 33
    rikyrah says:


    Eunice Chantilly’s tacky barrette. (@RafiDAngelo) Tweeted:
    Buttigeig: I’m a basic white guy candidate BUT GAY.

    Biden: I was your favorite President’s best friend.

    O’Rourke: I was in a band.

    Liz Warren: Student loan forgiveness, free public college, $50 billion set aside for HBCUs.

    Voters: Hard choice, which white guy should we pick?

  34. 34
    Jay says:


    A lithium ion battery is seen at a store in Singapore April 19, 2018.
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government said on Wednesday it is issuing new rules barring airlines from carrying potentially hazardous lithium-ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft, and setting new requirements for transporting them on cargo planes.

  35. 35
    trollhattan says:

    Jimmy knew even back then, although the needed technology didn’t reach us for quite awhile after Ronny dragged us up the shiny hill, or whatever that was.

    Last winter I took a second whack at the house lighting, having already done the easy conversions. Turns out there’s now an LED replacement for every weird halogen lamp you can imagine and I was able to swap out a few kilowatts worth–virtually every one not stuffed inside an appliance. All the 4-foot fluorescent tubes are gone, too.

    An odd discovery–the ceiling fans with remote lamps never shut completely off and when I replaced the halogens the new bulbs glow even when shut “off” and I have to use the wall switch. Not cool, guys!

  36. 36

    Conservation and efficiency are great because they’re such obvious wins. Developing energy efficient technology can be expensive, but once it’s available it generally pays for itself pretty quickly. And the technology doesn’t get forgotten when people who are hostile to conservation take office, so people who want to save money will keep buying it.


    The $8 is the transmission fee to keep us on the grid, which is fine.

    I’m pretty sympathetic to the power companies when it comes to home solar. It made sense to give early adopters a sweetheart deal to try to get the technology off the ground, but we can’t keep letting people connected to the grid for free forever, or the grid will disintegrate because nobody will be paying upkeep. Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to let people sell their excess power at the retail price when there are going to be transmission losses before anyone else can use it.

  37. 37

    @Martin: 4. Not to mention the nuclear wasteissues. Nuclear ain’t as clean as they’d have you think.

  38. 38
    rikyrah says:

    This is heartbreakingly real and honest 😪😪😪

    Jennifer #KamalaHarris2020 (@leftyjennyc) Tweeted:
    One of the most horrible things about losing someone to addiction is the miserable, guilty knowledge that your own life is much easier with him gone.

  39. 39
    Martin says:

    @trollhattan: Another solution are reversible/regenerative fuel cells. I have a building mostly powered by one nearby. Essentially, the building requires say 10kWh of electricity per day, with peak usage of 30kW. You build out 40kWh/day of solar capacity (the excess to cover efficiency losses). The fuel cell attached to the system take surplus power from the solar when there is a surplus and electrolyzes water into H2 and O2 which it stores locally. When there is a load on the fuel cell, it reverses converting those back into water.

    There are some obvious challenges in balancing the system, but it basically incorporates a battery as large as you can provide storage. There’s losses in the conversion, but that can be minimized. With new catalyzers based on common elements like nickel and cobalt, they should become pretty cost effective in time.

  40. 40
    ThresherK says:

    Don’t tell Mitch McConnell about this, or we’ll get a “Hands Across Kentucky” coal-burning bonfire.

  41. 41
    Martin says:

    @Roger Moore: Right, we get credits for what we push onto the grid based on when we push them on. Mid-day when everyone else is putting power up, not so generous. I think that’s fair. And I think it’s fair that we pay for the service of being connected. None of us are well served if the utilities go out of business and can’t provide transmission. That’s key, and needs to be paid for.

    I’m not looking to make money on my system, I’m just trying to do as much as I can so my kids don’t have to do all of their shit on their own. I have money now. I can solve these things now.

  42. 42
    trollhattan says:

    Sounds very cool. Have wondered when fuel cell breakthroughs would drive the price down.

    Have bicycled behind a couple of these Toyotas and they literally emit just water and steam. Science fiction.

  43. 43
    rikyrah says:

    Protect the Investigation (@NoOneIsAboveLaw) Tweeted:
    WATCH: @nedprice shares what he thinks is most alarming about the Mueller report: what’s not in the report. #ReleaseTheFullReport

  44. 44
    trollhattan says:


    I can give CarolD a ride.

    I read that as “Cardi B” and thought celebrity! Can you tell I have a teen daughter? Not that CarolD can’t also be a celebrity.

  45. 45
    Amir Khalid says:

    MH370 was carrying a shipment of Li-ion batteries in cargo. A battery fire is among the suspects in that mystery. Although of course until the plane is found, if it ever is, no one can know.

  46. 46
    Martin says:

    @John Revolta: That isn’t necessarily that hard to solve, but people freak the fuck out about the solution. Nuclear plants are sufficiently uncommon that getting a drilling rig out to the plant and drilling a 2-3 mile deep borehole gives you a really safe solution to the problem. Simply lower the waste down, along with a moderator layer, pour concrete down there, and then stack the next load on top and repeat. After you’ve filled up 1000′ or so of it, fill it with inert material, cap it off, and drill another hole a hundred feet away. Transportation is the real risk. And solutions like Yucca Mountain wanted to keep the waste near surface level. Put it a few miles below the water table and nobody will every see it ever again.

  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    There are lots of people like Martin at #29 who have solar and benefit from it. But there are literally millions more who don’t have it. But that is changing with the cost of panels going down and more installers coming into the business. Of course shit for brains has put tariffs on the panels, to help out of course. Most VA facilities that I go to have massive amounts of solar, in some cases they provide enough electricity for the entire facility.
    Some other countries are doing a lot more, but most of those don’t have huge resources that someone can profit off of. We still do and so of course renewables are not as widely accepted here. I still get verbally ridiculed by some drivers as being poor, that must be why I walk so much. Of course I own a nicer car than any of those people have been driving. But I chose not to drive it the one mile to work and back and I take the Metro across most of LA to go to the VA hospital for my appointments because it costs less and is better use of energy and doesn’t take all that much longer.

  48. 48
    Martin says:

    @trollhattan: Fuel cells still have challenges. Operating temperatures being one. Fuel storage and production another. I suspect autos is the wrong market for them, but the dreyage project up at port of LA/LB seems perfect. CA is building a hydrogen pipeline (already in use) around SoCal that will go to the port. Dreyage trucks tend to get used pretty damn close to 24/7. They take a container out to some distribution facility – either those north or east of LA or to Ontario for air freight, etc. and return. Maybe 200 miles round trip tops. That’s very doable with a fuel cell truck, and it always comes back to the port. Fill it up, change drivers if need be, repeat. All day.

    Trains are another potential use. But stationary applications aren’t that hard to do. Hydrogen can be tricky to store and transport because it’s such a small molecule that it seeps out of everything, but it’s solvable. Building large subsurface tanks isn’t that hard (think every gas station you’ve ever been to). And given that CA is already overproducing solar/wind to the tune of 4TWh per year (when renewable production exceeds total demand, but the excess can’t be stored) dumping that excess power into reversible fuel cells is one solution. Another is dumping the excess into desalination plants so we don’t need to pump so much water from up north, which might make the hydro production a bit more reliable long-term. There’s a million trade-offs that can be made provided we can get adjacent industries to play nice.

  49. 49
    bluefoot says:

    @Jager: I have an IKEA LED floor lamp that I bought in 1999 that I still use every day. Still haven’t had to change the bulb. I think it cost me about $20. I love that damn thing.

  50. 50
    Martin says:

    @Ruckus: A lot of people don’t realize that the innovation that turned GM into a major auto producer wasn’t anything like the assembly line for Ford, it was the introduction of GMAC in 1919. The barrier to adoption of cars wasn’t necessarily the cost, it was the need of consumers to smooth that cost out over time. The invention of the car loan is what made GM.

    Solar suffers the same problem Yeah, I had $12K to put solar on my roof, but man, so many people don’t. CAs solution to this is simple – all new homes starting next year must have enough solar production to power the house. Of course, usual bitching from the usual corners, but the solution is pretty brilliant. For one, you get economies of scale because builders will be buying panels on the scale that they currently buy lumber (massive here in CA for anyone not from here – we don’t build 10 or 50 homes at a time – some builders will do 1000 at a time.), plus they are installing during construction when it’s cheapest to do, plus it’s baked into the cost of the home so it’s just absorbed as part of the mortgage. It’s expected to add about $8K to the cost of a home. So, most efficient way to deploy, and no out of pocket cost to the buyer. They should have added a whole-house battery to the mandate, but maybe they can add that soon.

  51. 51

    @Martin: Okay, but how many places are they actually doing this?

  52. 52


    An odd discovery–the ceiling fans with remote lamps never shut completely off and when I replaced the halogens the new bulbs glow even when shut “off” and I have to use the wall switch.

    It might turn out that the best course is to replace the whole ceiling fan rather than replacing the lights in it. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that different lighting technology is fundamentally different. Retrofitting new lighting technology into old luminaires is a reasonable work-around, but it means you aren’t getting the most out of the technology. This is especially true with LEDs compared to previous lighting technologies.

    Both incandescent and fluorescent lamps naturally send their light in all directions, and a big chunk of luminaire design is about using the light efficiently even though a lot of it is heading straight for the ceiling or wall. Efficient designs have to incorporate reflectors to send the light back into the room. LEDs are different because they naturally release their light on only one side, and can fairly easily be made even more directional than that. It doesn’t make sense to take a directional light source like an LED, package it to give omnidirectional light like an incandescent lamp, and then put it into a luminaire that’s designed to make omnidirectional light more directional. It makes more sense to redesign everything from the ground up to take advantage of the light starting out being directional.

  53. 53
    jeffreyw says:


    So, most efficient way to deploy, and no out of pocket cost to the buyer. They should have added a whole-house battery to the mandate, but maybe they can add that soon.

    I like hearing your take on this stuff. What are the constraints on battery availability, if any?

  54. 54


    What are the constraints on battery availability, if any?

    We still aren’t producing nearly enough batteries to make this work. I’m sure companies like Tesla and Panasonic would love a mandate for new homes to include battery storage, since it would give them a built-in market and justify spending to expand their battery production.

  55. 55
    trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    I was surprised at what’s available, finding G9, E11 and R7 replacements, for example. They apply LEDs all around a base cylinder (example). Have far too much invested in contemporary light fixtures to consider swapping them out (90-year old house with everything upgraded).

    Still doesn’t explain why those fan lamps dim but don’t shut completely off.

  56. 56

    @trollhattan: Saw a shitton of solar on my trip to the Carrizo Plain and Antelope Valley(also windmills) last Friday.

  57. 57
    Kathleen says:

    @trollhattan: Ha! I do that all the time! I once walked by newspaper stand where I saw headline something something job cuts. I swore it sad “job cults”.

  58. 58


    Still doesn’t explain why those fan lamps dim but don’t shut completely off.

    My assumption is that they’re just using a dimmer rather than a separate on/off switch. With an incandescent light, you could get it dim enough that way that it was putting out essentially nothing, but an LED is still putting out enough light to see.

  59. 59
    Ruckus says:

    People in red states are doing solar and wind. They see the cost benefits even if they don’t see anything else. And yes those benefits take time to recoup but they do come back. And a farmer in a wind area putting in a wind generator is pretty easy to see the recoup time and figures, as long as he can sell the power. Countries in Europe are putting in wind farms in the North Sea, they get almost constant power and no land use. Sure there are some transmission losses but those exist in any situation. And what’s the loss if there is a line failure as opposed to under sea drilling for oil and piping it to shore or a collection station?

  60. 60


    And a farmer in a wind area putting in a wind generator is pretty easy to see the recoup time and figures, as long as he can sell the power.

    As a practical matter, power distribution is a lot less reliable in the boonies than it is in the city. That’s why local generation and “living off the grid” was a rural thing long before anyone in cities took it seriously. The first wind power revolution in the US was about farmers putting in windmills to power their well pumps back in the days when that involved direct mechanical power rather than electricity.

    ETA: One reason I thought Rick Perry wouldn’t be terrible on renewable energy is that Texas is now the country’s biggest producer of wind power. He obviously wants to boost fossil fuels, but he at least has some understanding that renewable energy is real business.

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    Dan B says:

    @trollhattan: I second your discovery. A decade ago there were only a few lamp options in LED’s. (Lamp being the technical term for the thing that puts out light. Light bulb being the comm9n term.) A couple years ago the options were good. Now they are available for everything it seems, including exposed filament chandelier lamps. Also available are high CRI lamps, those that mimic natural sunlight or halogens. I believe that all tv stations, their camera crews, and filmmakers currently use LED’s. They are lighter weight, more durable, require minimal power cabling, and don’t cook the interviee subjects.
    We’ve installed some high CRI lamps. A flower arrangement or artwork comes to life. It’s one example of energy efficiency propelling innovation and economic benefits.

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    @Dan B:
    High CRI lights are a huge improvement. I remember when I first moved to my current home, I thought I was going to have to repaint the guest bathroom. People’s skin always looked sickly in there, and I thought it was because the walls were pale green, but it was a low priority. After not too long, I realized I was going to have to replace the ballasts in the fluorescent fixtures there, which appeared to date to 1964, when the place was built. While I was doing it, I decided to upgrade to high CRI lamps. In the process, I discovered the problem was with the lighting, not the paint; with the new lamps, skin looked normal. I recently upgraded again to high CRI LEDs, which are even nicer.

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    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Rick Perry has understanding of anything? When did this happen and how?
    That power doesn’t have to go all that far to be effective and those farms and power grids aren’t what they used to be 50-60 yrs ago. When I moved to OH 25 yrs ago and bought a house there were only corn or soybean fields 2 blocks from my house in the burbs. When I left 11 yrs later the fields were almost 2 miles farther away. It’s the same for many areas. And all of those houses had the same utilities I did, which included optical cable 20 yrs ago. (the last 25-50ft were copper) Where I just moved to was the first place I’ve seen optical cable since I moved back to CA in 2005. And it’s not just to the building it’s right to the modem in my apt. I opted for 200mps up and down, it was the same price as 100 and less than I was spending for copper and 30 up 10 down. And I could have gone for 1000 up and down if I wanted to spend double.

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    Dan B says:

    Batteries are on the same cost curve that solar pv was a decade ago. Every auto manufacturer is developing electric vehicles with ever greater range. The choke points are raw materials and production facilities. Nissan and Tesla, maybe another Chinese mfg or more, have their own battery plants. Others contract with the manufacturers. The next decade will shake things out.
    Hydrogen fuel cells have the issue of using hydrogen produced by hydrolysis or from natural gas. Simple physics says if you use one energy source, electricity in this case, to produce another source of energy you experience energy loss. Hydrogen is probably a solution for some limited, though still practical, applications. As battery technology matures and safer forms prove themselves they are likely to be useful in the majority of applications. It will be important to develop standards so auto/truck batteries that need high performance can be economically be repurposed for home and office applications that do not. And recycling of materials will be a factor.

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    NotMax says:

    @Dan B

    As they’ve become so ubiquitous, sometimes hard to remember that the marketing of efficient white LEDs dates back only to the mid 1990s, following on the heels of the discovery of how to make useful blue ones..

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    @Dan B:
    The fuel cells look like they have two big advantages over batteries:

    1) It’s much faster to refill your hydrogen tank than to recharge your batteries. If the infrastructure were there, hydrogen fuel cell cars would be more similar to internal combustion engine cars than battery cars in terms of down time to extend your range.

    2) You don’t have to carry your oxidizer with you. Batteries are heavy in part because you have to keep both the fuel and oxidizer in them. Fuel cells can use oxygen from air, and they can dump the water they generate from their chemical reactions rather than toting it around.

    The big advantage battery cars have is that our electrical grid is very well developed, so it’s easy to add new recharging stations. There isn’t much of a hydrogen infrastructure, so adding hydrogen filling stations is a huge headache.

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    Dan B says:

    @NotMax: Exactly! And to think I’m wearing glasses from Costco that have a coating to reduce eyestrain from LED screens.

    The LED applications that are showing up from the manufacturers is amazing. In landscape lighting it’s possible (I’ve done it) to light huge areas of garden, and 150′ conifers, with cheap transformers. When I first started we had to trench to bury line voltage in uf (underground feeder) cable 3 feet deep, or in conduit at least 18″ deep. It was affordable for only the wealthiest or commercial applications. I look forward to truly creative products soon. Interactive motion sensing, probably. Wirelessly powered, we’ll see.

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    Dan B says:

    @Roger Moore: Quite true. Therr will be valuable applications. If we could figure out safe and reliable, and economic, local hydrogen production it could make sense in rural areas for hub and spoke transport. Will it make sense for train transport or will electric trains still win out?

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    rekoob says:

    @Martin: When I started looking at this in the early-2000s, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute were in the vanguard of the idea of “nega-watts”, namely, that the most efficient power plant is the one you never build. The book he wrote with his then-wife and Paul Hawken (Natural Capitalism) offered some examples and possible strategies, many of which could still be adopted successfully some 20 years later.

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    @Dan B:

    Will it make sense for train transport or will electric trains still win out?

    Electricity makes sense for trains. If you’re putting in the infrastructure for tracks, it’s not a huge extra expense to put in overhead wires to power the train while you’re at it. And trains already need to have restricted rights of way, so some of the safety concerns from exposed high voltage are already taken care of.

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    Ruckus says:

    @Roger Moore:
    And the technology is mature and yet still evolving. The maintenance issues are known and handled. A fuel cell train would require a lot of space to provide something that already exists. Electricity. IOW you’d need a engine car, like diesel-electric trains already have. In an overhead line train you need a cab area at the front of the train. You’d need a refueling area. My question is what is the point of a fuel cell train? It gains nothing that we don’t already have other than lower emissions and the overhead line electric gives us that. Now there is the question of freight trains and their needs which are different than passenger trains, a lot more weight is required and none of the freight cars have motors, which all the passenger train cars do. Requiring motorized freight cars would add significantly to the cost of freight transport I’d bet as well as a huge change over cost. As well the cost of overhead line maintenance over the distances traveled might be a lot higher. Maybe fuel cell power generation for freight trains would be possible but the voltages and currents required seems like it may be limiting.

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    Douglas P Gardner says:

    @Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho: Please add my very boring nym to the list of peeps in the area. I don’t often comment, but I always read.

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