Tipping Point New Mexico Podcast 075 Why SB 489 the Energy Transition Act is such a bad deal

Attorney and utility expert Germaine Chappelle returns to the podcast to discuss SB 489 the Energy Transition Act. This legislation just passed the New Mexico Senate (although it had not when we recorded earlier in the week) and it would mandate 50% of all electricity generated in New Mexico be “renewable.” The bill would also shut down the San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners area.

Chappelle has spent decades working on utility regulation issues and shares some of her in-depth knowledge of the issue and how it will impact New Mexicans at large and those in the Four Corners who would be most impacted.

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12 Replies to “Tipping Point New Mexico Podcast 075 Why SB 489 the Energy Transition Act is such a bad deal”

  1. From Renewable to Natural Gas – Part 1:

    New Mexico is a state with abundant sun, wind and natural gas. We also have very large coal, oil and uranium reserves. We are also a state with a thousand years of saline water underground. We are in fact a state with more natural sources of abundant energy that it has left our state government confused as to what it should do with it. So, to get along, our state government has decide to go along, with wind and solar that is.

    Even though two of the five coal furnaces at the Four Corners Power Plant have gone through multi-million dollar retrofitting with carbon scrubbers to filter particulates from air pollution, political decisions have been made to shut down those last two furnaces.

    This is a foolish mistake and what’s worst is the notion that the electricity can be replaced with wind and solar energy. It is well document that this will most likely not happen. The Governor’s goal is to decarbonize power generation with renewable energies by 2045 in New Mexico.

    What is renewable energy? Energy sources that can be sustained through use and reuse for defined periods of time. New Mexico’s ‘clean energy plan’ is based on one hundred percent renewable energy consisting of wind and solar. Sun and wind have existed for billions of years. Uranium and thorium have existed for billions of years. Oil and natural gases have existed for billions of years. Water and air have existed for billions of years. All of those energy sources will be here for another billion years or more. What is not sustainable or renewable about that?

    Here is a fact that most people fail to relate to. Wind and solar require collector devices made of finite raw materials mined from the earth. After 20-30 years, all the collector devices require replacement with same, ad infinitum, persevering a continuous low tech job demand machine.

    Renewable wind and solar farms are intermittent electricity generators and require natural gas power as a backup power source. New Mexico is a state with a lot of natural gas so you have to question why it is not our primary base load source for electrical power and just skip this industrial wind and solar quest based on political and psychological reasons?

  2. From Natural Gas to Nuclear – Part 2:

    When will more policymakers start facing up to the yawning gap between renewable hype and energy reality? They may be forced to. The blistering summer of 2018 throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere pushed electricity usage to dangerous levels.

    Germany’s vaunted green-energy infrastructure couldn’t keep up, and the country had to rely on its few remaining nuclear reactors to fill the gap. South Korea moved to restart 5 shuttered nuclear power plants back to operation. Japan accelerated a plan to reopen some of the nuclear power plants closed after Fukushima, nearly doubling its nuclear capacity. Taiwan reopened a formerly closed nuclear power plant.

    Anti-nuclear sentiment has been running high in all these and other countries, but their political leaders apparently decided that they would face a stiffer voter backlash if they allowed power blackouts.

    Just this month, the European Commission has confirmed that nuclear will form the backbone of a 2050 carbon-free European power system, together with wind and solar renewables. My only question is why even bother with renewable wind and solar which require natural gas backup? It would be more practical to just switch to plentiful natural gas for the next 30 years while developing it’s new nuclear power fleet.

    The goal for the entire world should to be to transition to lower-carbon power energy first and then to zero carbon by 2100. That could be a realistic time frame if we don’t waste our time and resources on alternative sources that can’t solve the climate change issues.

    Natural gas has 60 percent less CO2 and particulate pollution than the coal plants we’ve been using the last 150 years. Since 1880, surface temperature has risen at an average pace of 0.13°F (0.07°C) every 10 years for a net warming of 1.69°F (0.94°C) through 2016 according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    In other words, there is more than enough time to decarbonize the electrical grid while the world may warm less than 0.94°C through the last part of this century. Instead of a ‘Green New Deal’, we should be having a ‘Clean Energy Program’ for global electrification with nuclear energy. By nuclear, I mean the molten chloride salt fast reactors or equivalent that will consume all the unused nuclear fuel rods in storage before mining for new nuclear fuel.

  3. Misconstrued wind and solar energy:

    There are many people who are so dense about understanding the lack of energy density from industrial wind and solar farms. Wind and solar are both at the bottom of the energy density meter chart with stored fossil fuels having ten thousand times more energy density and nuclear fuels another million times more energy density than fossil fuels.

    When we talk about energy density we are referring to the stored energy in the source. While the sun has stored energy, it is 92.15 million miles away. Also, wind has stored energy but it is constantly moving around and not concentrated. In order to leverage wind or solar, you need collectors. The energy from the sun and wind passes through the collectors as converted electricity to be immediately used, stored in batteries or discarded. There is no stored energy in collectors themselves.

    When you look out over the horizon and see all those massive wind towers with blades spinning in the breeze (or not) and you see endless rolling hills blanketed with blacken sheets of solar panels, you have to be impressed on the surface. But when you look behind the physics of wind or solar collectors you will understand why these two sources are just not going to power the world alone.

    We absolutely must have fossil and fission energy as our energy sources for generating base load electricity for the national grid. There’s also an incredible correlation between the rise of fossil fuel use and an increase in life expectancy, gross domestic product, and population. Nuclear energy is how we continue our human flourishing.

    Renewables only provide their advertised energy about 30% of the time, frequently much less and over long periods. Short fluctuations of a minute or two may be bridged by batteries, but most of the 70% back-up comes from fossil fuels. Germany has been attempting a transition to 100% renewables, the Energiewende experiment, and is failing. Closer to home is California’s attempt at wind and solar which is also in jeopardy.

    Why is New Mexico being so foolish to ignore the warning signs and continue with their clean energy program without high density energies.

  4. Inconvenient Renewables – from here to there.

    Climate change and its effects on Earth continue to be a hot topic in the media these days. Now the US Congress has taken on their own solution to mitigate the highest security priority issues with the Green New Deal (GND). There are two major problems with GND’s wind and solar solution: energy availability and location, location, location.

    The first has to do with land use. Electricity from solar roofs costs about twice as much as electricity from solar farms, but solar and wind farms require huge amounts of land. That, along with the fact that solar and wind farms require long new transmissions lines, and are opposed by local communities and conservationists trying to preserve wildlife, particularly birds.
    And of course, the other challenge is the intermittent nature of solar and wind energies. When the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing, you have to quickly be able to ramp up another source of energy, like natural gas. So what we have is energy when and where it wants to be, not when and where we need it. Solution: direct current transmission lines.

    In 2017, Iowa enacted a law that prohibits the use of eminent domain for high-voltage transmission lines. The move doomed a 500-mile, $2 billion, high-voltage direct-current transmission line that was going to carry wind energy from Iowa to eastern states.

    The same is about to happen in New Mexico with the SunZia Project, to build two 1,500 megawatt high voltage lines running 520 miles from central New Mexico to carry wind generated electricity to western markets. After ten years, this project is still in the courts because it requires a lot of private land easements.

    Pipelines of all kinds also face staunch opposition from climate change activists. Oil and gas drilling encroaches on suburban neighborhoods and draws the ire of nearby residents. A key difference is that renewables require far more land above ground, 700 times more to produce the same amount of energy.

    Small nuclear reactors and micro reactors don’t require new transmission of any kind. They take up little space and can be built underground near existing grid transfer substations and plugged into the local, regional or national grids.

  5. I have been writing letters to the editor for Southeast New Mexico for 10 years and I hardly ever get any feed back from the readers. No one seems to understand what is happening because they are so busy with their personal lives.

    A rate payer forum or advocacy group will be very limited and that is why I haven’t pursued it.

  6. How can I get a hold of Attorney and utility expert Germaine Chappelle?
    I love what this lady is saying and doing.

    How does HB489 allow for nuclear? Clean vs Renewable?
    PNM uses nuclear from AZ and XCEL uses nuclear from MN.

    I would like to see a small modular reactors (NuScale to start with and others are available too) in NM. Utah will have nuclear within 5 years through Idaho National Labs (INL).

    1. The Sagamore wind project in Roosevelt County will cover 150,000 acres with a nameplate capacity of 500mw–that’s 300 acres per megawatt. Ten NuScale reactors ganged together would produce 500mw 24/7 on less than one square mile–something like 1 acre per megawatt.

      1. Bruce, Sagamore is an XCEL project. I am not sure how that project applies to this bill. I believe the transition is all about PNM and Four Corners Coal Power Plant. I could be wrong.

  7. Indeed, no one speaks for the rate payer, certainly not PNM, certainly not the Republicans. How about Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, billionaire and ardent environmentalist? A few years ago he said the cost of going 100 percent renewable would be “beyond astronomical.”

    Nothing has changed since then, but the renewable believers still get away with saying solar and wind are the cheapest forms of electricity. Why? Because nobody questions their use of Levelized Cost of Electricity numbers from the Department of Energy’s Energy information Administration.

    LCOE numbers are total BS and should not be used to compare costs of different sources of electricity, solar vs. coal, for example. But they are. Since the cost of compensating for renewables’ intermittency, i.e. storage cost, is not considered in the LCOEs, they are meaningless.

    The bottom line: except for a few specialized uses, renewable energy is worthless.

    This first appeared in The Grant County Beat:


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