Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm......

Our friends at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) released the results of a new survey on Friday, designed to show that 30 years after the accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island power plant, Americans feel confident about the safety of the power source.

Well, make that Americans who have nuclear power plants in their backyards.

The results of a survey done in mid-July that polled more than 1,100 adults living within a 10 mile radius of an active nuclear power plant found that:

- 84 percent of Americans living near nuclear power plants favor nuclear energy.

- 90 percent view the local power station positively.

- 76 percent support construction of a new reactor near them.

- 88 percent give the nearest nuclear plant a “high” safety rating.

“The familiarity, comfort and support of those living near nuclear plants is reflected in this survey, and they are enthusiastic about the possibility of new plants being added to the existing sites for the obvious economic and environmental benefits,” said Scott Peterson, NEI vice president for communications.

While these results are designed to sway public opinion about nuclear energy, they should hardly come as a surprise.

Think about it: Anyone who has even the slightest concern about the nuclear energy who lived near an active plant would have moved away years ago. There hasn't been a new nuclear plant built in this country since the Three Mile Island accident occurred.

And while the NEI survey excluded electric company employees - who might either work at the local nuclear plant or could be predisposed to have favorable opinions regarding the energy source - it also isn't a revelation that people living near these types of facilities might support a new one being built near them.

After all, a power plant of any kind is usually a major employer and taxpayer in the communities in which they are located. And with the escalating cost of oil and natural gas that is used to run fossil fuel-driven generation plants, nuclear power looks better by comparison.

So with license applications for more than 25 new nuclear plants currently pending before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it begs the question: Can a majority of Americans can put the specter of Three Mile Island behind them?

To some extent, I think it depends upon what happens with the debate over the nuclear waste repository that has been proposed for Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he has been assured by the Obama administration that it will seek to eliminate funding in 2011 for a review needed to open the nuclear waste site, which is located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Obama opposes the use of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump, and Energy Department officials have said it's the administration's policy that Yucca Mountain would never be used.

But the licensing process continues, although on Wednesday, the Senate voted to cut funding for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's review to $29 million in 2010. The president had requested $56 million.

Obama administration officials have said a commission will be appointed to find alternatives to Yucca Mountain, which according to the latest estimates

If the Yucca Mountain repository plan really is dead, it seems to me that it doesn't make much sense to increase the number of nuclear power plants in this country, thereby exponentially increasing the amount of nuclear waste. But a couple more years worth of increases in energy costs might be a game-changer in terms of public opinion.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Limited Time Offer....

Maybe I've been watching too much late night television or too many infomercials, but the I've always been suspicious of the term "limited time offer."

To my way of thinking, the idea behind the limited time offer is to create a sense of urgency that would not otherwise be there.

The term is one that is usually invoked by retailers. So imagine my surprise a few days ago when I received an e-mail from Con Edison Solutions offering - you guessed it, a "limited time offer" -on prices that consumers pay for renewable energy.

Typically, consumers pay a little more for power from renewable sources like solar and wind power. But Con Edison Solutions says it is offering rates for renewable energy that are lower than the standard rates that customers of Connecticut Light & Power and The United Illuminating Co. pay for energy that doesn't come from a renewable resource.

The hitch is that the company is requiring customers to sign up by July 31 for the lower renewable energy rates.

What troubles me about the way this offer is being presented -aside from the fact that the rate the company is offering isn't mentioned in the press release - is that it fails to take into account that most consumers consider switching power providers to be a momentous undertaking. It requires a great deal of thought and research for the average consumer; It's not like switching brands of coffee or toothpaste.

And yet, Con Edison Solutions is out there on July 22 - just nine days before the company's self-imposed deadline - pitching this idea for a story. In an e-mail, a spokeswoman for the company explains that the lower price is only in effect until the end of the month "when new rates could make green power less favorable. "

There's no question that price of energy fluctuates. The per gallon price of gasoline, for example, is now falling after increasing for much of the spring and summer.

But at least when it comes to shopping for a lower price for gasoline, all a consumer has to do is drive down the road to the next service station. Changing electric power providers is far more complicated and elaborate proposition.

Consumers who still want to check out this limited time offer can click on this link:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We're In The Money

Stimulus money may yet trickle down to the average Connecticut resident, particularly if that resident is in the market for an energy efficient appliance.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that Connecticut will receive up to $3.36 million in funding federal stimulus money for its state-run rebate program available to those who purchase new ENERGY STAR qualified appliances. ENERGY STAR is a well-known labeling program that helps consumers identify the energy efficiency level of different products.

Of course, in order to receive the money, state officials have to submit a plan specifying which ENERGY STAR appliance categories will be included in the rebate program, the amount of money that will be returned to consumers for each product type, how the rebates will be processed, and a plan for recycling old appliances.

States interested in using the federal money for their rebate programs must file an application expressing their intent to participate by August 15, according to DOE officials. The state then have to submit full applications by October 15.

The states will receive 10 percent of the federal money for the ENERGY STAR rebates after submitting an initial application to DOE. The remainder will be given out once the feds have approved the plans submitted by the states.

DOE officials anticipate that a vast majority of funding will be awarded by November 30,.

Although there are more than a 60 types of appliance categories, the DOE is recommending that states focus their rebate programs on heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and water heaters. That's because those types of products offer the greatest energy savings potential.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly

Although the Middletown-to-Norwalk power line upgrade has been in operation since last December, a legal battle over the project is just making its way into a Connecticut courtroom.

Opening arguments will be heard Tuesday morning in Waterbury Superior Court in a lawsuit filed in March 2007 against Connecticut Light & Power Co. Clement and Georgianna Passariello of Orange filed the lawsuit, claiming the utility abused an easement on their property by creating a gravel road on their land and uprooting trees.

The Passariellos are seeking more than $15,000 in damages.

The lawsuit contends CL&P overstepped certain rights given to it in a 1924 easement agreement signed when the power lines were first erected in Orange.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chill Out, Connecticut

Until recently, giving tips on how to reduce the potentially budget busting costs of cooling your home this summer seemed like a pointless exercise.

But now we've traded in the unseasonably cool conditions that lingered through much of June for the muggy weather which July and August are best known, the state's Office of Consumer Protection is offering the following suggestions:

  • Do something shady: When installing window units, choose a shady spot to increase efficiency up to 10 percent.

  • Look for the label: Look for Energy Star-qualified models if you;re buying a new air conditioning unit. Models that carry that label are rated based on their ability to operate efficiently.

  • Don't max out: Start at medium rather than setting the air conditioner to a maximum cool setting immediately when you turn it on. It won't cool the room any faster, but it will certainly use more energy.

  • Early or late, either is great: Don't use your household appliances until early morning or late evening. That way, the air conditioner won't have to work as hard to offset the heat produced by the appliances.

  • Take good care of my baby: Maintain your air conditioner. Dirty, clogged filters increase energy use. Clean the filter on window and central air conditioners monthly or as needed by vacuuming and washing. Outside, keep plants and shrubs at least 2 feet from the condenser.

  • Dim all the lights, sweet darlin': Common incandescent light bulbs emit a great deal of heat. Turn off unnecessary lights in your home. Also consider replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. They use about 75 percent less energy and give off 75 percent less heat than incandescent bulbs.

  • I'm your biggest fan: When the outside air is cooler than that inside your home, fans can come in handy. Vent fans draw in the cool air and exhaust the hot air. Window fans are inexpensive to operate and easy to install. To boost the chimney effect in which warm air rises and vents naturally, place one fan blowing in on the ground floor, and another one blowing out on the floor above.