Saturday, January 31, 2015

Santa Las Vegas





















We spent the Christmas Holidays in Santa Monica and Las Vegas this year.

My son was turning 40 and he couldn't decide what he wanted to do.

Venice, New York, Paris?

They are all in Las Vegas.

I have always loved Santa Monica and have never really been to Las Vegas.

It always seemed a little icky to me.

Here is my version of it.

You can google it by searching Michael Osborne and Family do Las Vegas.

The Fireworks at the end are pretty cool.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Doing it Right


It was the last meeting of the Austin City Council of 2014.  There were more than 200 items on the agenda.  And not only was it the last meeting for the year, it was the last meeting for the elected at large system with six council members and a Mayor.  The next time the Council would meet, there would be 10 members, each elected from their district only and a Mayor elected at large.

Of those 10 members, only one would have experience as a council member.

Of all the big issues, and there were a lot, the biggest was the issue of the generation plan for the City.  Back in July, the Generation Task Force had released their report.  Then in August,  Resolution 157 was adopted which embraced many of the Task Force Recommendations.  In response, the Utility, which had earlier indicated that the Recommendations would cost billions, offered a compromise which would accomplish much of the goals in Resolution 157 yet was deemed affordable because of the inclusion of 500 MW gas plant.  This 500 plan became the Utility's new position.

Working with the Utility, the Sierra Club agreed to the basics of the Utility plan with some major important changes and amendments.  The Sierra Club then attempted to smooth their deal with the rest of the broad environmental community and in doing so, improved the plan substantially.  Solar was increased to 950 and a 55% renewable energy target by 2025 was established.

After lots of amendments and drama, the amended plan was passed 6 to 1 with the always unhappy Mayor Leffingwell voting no.

The next day Public Citizen wrote:

New Austin Energy 10-Year Plan is a Step Backward, but Benefited from Community Involvement
The Austin City Council’s vote last night to adopt the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 brought to an end a year’s worth of work by numerous advocates and engaged members of the public.

While the result was disappointing, I find myself being immensely grateful for the many people who took time out of their schedules to stand up in support of the strongest renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage goals and in opposition to Austin Energy’s continued use of polluting fossil fuels.

Many of the people who we worked side-by-side with over the past year have spent years trying to improve Austin’s energy policies and their past work has been critical in getting us as far as we are now. Others who hadn’t been very involved in energy policy also got engaged. Some had to put in a lot of effort just to get educated on the complex facts that surround energy policy. What united us all was a common belief that not only is a transition to clean, renewable energy sources possible, but that it is the only responsible course of action.
 We joined forces with people and organizations who are concerned about climate change, health impacts of air pollution and water pollution, water use, affordability, and equity. It is clear that when the costs of the many negative impacts of using fossil fuels – including the mining of coal, fracking for gas, and then burning those products – are taken into consideration, clean energy alternatives are by far the better deal. Even without those important costly externalities included in the equation, wind power, solar power, energy efficiency and demand response (strategically reducing energy use at key times) are now all more affordable than energy from a new gas plant.
For all those reasons, we made incredible progress with the policies that the Austin City Council adopted in the Affordable Energy Resolution on August 28. Unfortunately, as a result of losing a big piece of its political cover, Council passed a plan last night (December 11) that rolled back some of those gains and opened the door for Austin Energy to build a big new gas plant.
On the other hand, others saw it in a different light:

Austin adopts generation plan setting big renewable goals
 Mayor Lee Leffingwell votes no, citing cost implications
 Austin Energy plans to phase out two fossil fuel generating plants while more than quadrupling the municipal utility’s solar generation goals to 950 megawatts (MW) under an ambitious plan approved by Austin City Council, 6-1, last night. 
Under the plan, the utility will phase out its Decker natural gas plant and Fayette coal plants while speeding up its renewable energy generation goals by 2025 from 35 percent now to 55 percent. That goal exceeds the highest state goal, Hawaii’s, which is 40 percent for the same year. 
The adopted 2025 Austin Resource Generation Plan powers down Austin Energy’s most polluting fossil fuel plants while setting historic commitments to solar and other renewable energy. It also strengthens commitments to demand response (paying consumers for cutting peak demand energy use) and energy efficiency while starting energy storage investments.
It's hard not to notice that the new gas plant doesn't make the first three paragraphs of this report.

Upon its passage, the plan did not actually OK the gas plant, but it did provide a road map for it.  It was this study that became the most contentious element of the plan and was the most amended.  Activist successfully rebranded it as a gap study....a study to determine how the energy gap from retiring two fossil fuel plants could best be met. Another amendment required the Utility to consider its unique position as both a generator and retailer in its hiring of the consultant.

And it is this study, and the hiring of the consultant who would do the study that is now front and center in the generation plan debate and the action has now moved over to the Electric Utility Commission.

Nora Ankrum's Pioneers or Settlers piece in the Austin Chronicle does a good job of  telling the story. Her story closes:

"Everybody got really excited, upset, etc. about the Gen Plan, but it's a living breathing document that will change," says Reed. With little else guaranteed to happen under the plan in 2015 – aside from the issuance, likely this month, of an RFP for the gas plant study – there may be plenty of time for new rounds of dabbling, perhaps prompted by a brand new Council. Ulti­mate­ly, the plan is not so much about what's written in the document now, but how well it serves as a guidepost in the coming years. As Pipkin says, "It's really a framework of how we value and position energy as a part of our community ethos."

Apparently Act Three is a long one.

"It's important to be a leader not only in the sense of being the first person to do something but the first person to do something right,

Michael Osborne











Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Long Dawn

It's totally amazing but this November marks 10 years of Earthfamilyalpha. When I started it, George Bush had just been reelected and the thought of 4 more years was just plain brutal.  Over the next four years, I posted over 1300 posts on technology, philosophy, advanced tech, and the earthfamily.

My ideas about large scale human coops still hold true to me, but their time is still not upon us.  But they are coming.

Also during this November I gave the luncheon speech at the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association 30th annual meeting.  I cofounded TREIA and led it actively for its first decade.  The two part video of the speech follows:

Here is the first



And here is the second


HOME


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Earthfamilyalpha Content IV
Earthfamilyalpha Content III
Earthfamilyalpha Content II
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Links

LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Predictable Renewable Energy

Here is another clip from Climate Crock of the Week  on Predictable Renewable Energy.

I should also make a correction here.  Predictability three days out to the hour is not 90% for wind resources.  It is for solar.  Renewables as a whole are highly predictable 24 hours out, so they can be dispatched into the day ahead market with relative accuracy.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Vehicle to Grid

Last spring, a friend of mine and I brought Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week into town to try to raise some money for his Dark Snow project in Greenland.  We spend several days together and he shot video of me in my office.

Recently he posted them on Crock of the Week.

Here is the one on Vehicle to Grid.



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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Second Act



















Austin Energy's response to the Austin City Council regarding the adoption of the resolution that called for 50% renewables by 2020 was presented to Council several weeks ago.  It is a far cry from generation plan that had been offered before the recommendations of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force.

"Based on a yearlong study, staff is recommending the “500+ Plan” that would have Austin Energy achieve 50% renewable generation resources and 75% carbon-free production by 2025. This plan includes the following:
  • Adding 500 MW of solar, 375 MW of wind, and 500 MW of Natural Gas from a Combined Cycle power plant to Austin Energy’s generation portfolio
  • Reducing power plant carbon dioxide emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020
  • Achieving 800 MW of additional peak demand savings through energy efficiency and demand-side management by 2020
  • Keeping rates in the lower half of the Texas retail market and ensuring annual rate changes do not exceed 2%
The Austin Monitor reported it this way:


Skeptical Council hears new AE generation plan

Despite disagreements over exactly how much solar energy Austin Energy should purchase by 2020, both sides in a tug of war over the utility’s generation plan agreed Thursday that Austin Energy should move forward with a request for proposals for more solar power.

City Council members, sitting as the Committee on Austin Energy, heard more about Austin Energy’s new 500+ Plan generation mix proposal, raising several questions about the merits and drawbacks of adding a 500 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant to its portfolio. That would most likely be placed at the Decker Power Station.

Michael Osborne, chair of the Austin Generation ResourcePlanning Task Force, also commented on the 500+ Plan, looking at it through the lens of the task force’s July report on increasing renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.

Osborne challenged some of the assumptions that Austin Energy used in its analysis. “We’re not saying the methodology that they used is wrong, we’re saying it’s flawed,” Osborne said.

Council Member Laura Morrison told the Austin Monitor after the Council Committee on Austin Energy meeting that Austin Energy staff and task force members are providing “different answers” to Council questions. “I don’t believe that we’ve laid out where those differences come from,” she said.

“We just need to keep digging away until we can make sure we understand the decision that we’re making,” Morrison said, noting that it needs to happen before the end of the year.

Council Member Mike Martinez told the Monitor that Austin Energy’s presentation did not lead him to support constructing the gas plant AE has proposed to replace the aging plant at Decker, but he wants to hear more information and is open to continuing the conversation.

Austin Energy Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Mele said the biggest driver behind the 500+ Plan is Council’s August resolution that includes task force recommendations, which she referred to as Resolution 157.

“We’ve got a plan that adapts to many of the desires and many of the outcomes of Resolution 157,” she said, “with the key difference being that we have to look at our ability to produce revenue to support the other things that we want.”

Mele said that the utility’s ability to meet stringent goals “does depend on additional gas generation that’s very efficient to be able to balance the customers’ costs.” She added that “in the short term, having more efficient, cleaner generation locally is going to be a good thing for the customer bills.”

Osborne said that he would like the city put out a request for proposals on the 600 megawatt solar project included in Resolution 157.

“When it really comes down to it, we’re not going to know whether this plan is affordable until we see those bids,” Osborne said. “Once we see those bids, then we can have an independent, third-party group look at it and we can determine whether this plan is affordable or not.

Skeptical Council hears new AE generation plan

Despite disagreements over exactly how much solar energy Austin Energy should purchase by 2020, both sides in a tug of war over the utility’s generation plan agreed Thursday that Austin Energy should move forward with a request for proposals for more solar power.
City Council members, sitting as the Committee on Austin Energy, heard more about Austin Energy’s new 500+ Plan generation mix proposal, raising several questions about the merits and drawbacks of adding a 500 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant to its portfolio. That would most likely be placed at the Decker Power Station.
Michael Osborne, chair of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force, also commented on the 500+ Plan, looking at it through the lens of the task force’s July report on increasing renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.
Osborne challenged some of the assumptions that Austin Energy used in its analysis. “We’re not saying the methodology that they used is wrong, we’re saying it’s flawed,” Osborne said.
Council Member Laura Morrison told the Austin Monitor after the Council Committee on Austin Energy meeting that Austin Energy staff and task force members are providing “different answers” to Council questions. “I don’t believe that we’ve laid out where those differences come from,” she said.
“We just need to keep digging away until we can make sure we understand the decision that we’re making,” Morrison said, noting that it needs to happen before the end of the year.
Council Member Mike Martinez told the Monitor that Austin Energy’s presentation did not lead him to support constructing the gas plant AE has proposed to replace the aging plant at Decker, but he wants to hear more information and is open to continuing the conversation.
Austin Energy Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Mele said the biggest driver behind the 500+ Plan is Council’s August resolution that includes task force recommendations, which she referred to as Resolution 157.
“We’ve got a plan that adapts to many of the desires and many of the outcomes of Resolution 157,” she said, “with the key difference being that we have to look at our ability to produce revenue to support the other things that we want.”
Mele said that the utility’s ability to meet stringent goals “does depend on additional gas generation that’s very efficient to be able to balance the customers’ costs.” She added that “in the short term, having more efficient, cleaner generation locally is going to be a good thing for the customer bills.”
Osborne said that he would like the city put out a request for proposals on the 600 megawatt solar project included in Resolution 157.
“When it really comes down to it, we’re not going to know whether this plan is affordable until we see those bids,” Osborne said. “Once we see those bids, then we can have an independent, third-party group look at it and we can determine whether this plan is affordable or not.”
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2014/10/skeptical-council-hears-new-ae-generation-plan/#sthash.PUZbV3Q5.dpuf

Skeptical Council hears new AE generation plan

Despite disagreements over exactly how much solar energy Austin Energy should purchase by 2020, both sides in a tug of war over the utility’s generation plan agreed Thursday that Austin Energy should move forward with a request for proposals for more solar power.
City Council members, sitting as the Committee on Austin Energy, heard more about Austin Energy’s new 500+ Plan generation mix proposal, raising several questions about the merits and drawbacks of adding a 500 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant to its portfolio. That would most likely be placed at the Decker Power Station.
Michael Osborne, chair of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force, also commented on the 500+ Plan, looking at it through the lens of the task force’s July report on increasing renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.
Osborne challenged some of the assumptions that Austin Energy used in its analysis. “We’re not saying the methodology that they used is wrong, we’re saying it’s flawed,” Osborne said.
Council Member Laura Morrison told the Austin Monitor after the Council Committee on Austin Energy meeting that Austin Energy staff and task force members are providing “different answers” to Council questions. “I don’t believe that we’ve laid out where those differences come from,” she said.
“We just need to keep digging away until we can make sure we understand the decision that we’re making,” Morrison said, noting that it needs to happen before the end of the year.
Council Member Mike Martinez told the Monitor that Austin Energy’s presentation did not lead him to support constructing the gas plant AE has proposed to replace the aging plant at Decker, but he wants to hear more information and is open to continuing the conversation.
Austin Energy Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Mele said the biggest driver behind the 500+ Plan is Council’s August resolution that includes task force recommendations, which she referred to as Resolution 157.
“We’ve got a plan that adapts to many of the desires and many of the outcomes of Resolution 157,” she said, “with the key difference being that we have to look at our ability to produce revenue to support the other things that we want.”
Mele said that the utility’s ability to meet stringent goals “does depend on additional gas generation that’s very efficient to be able to balance the customers’ costs.” She added that “in the short term, having more efficient, cleaner generation locally is going to be a good thing for the customer bills.”
Osborne said that he would like the city put out a request for proposals on the 600 megawatt solar project included in Resolution 157.
“When it really comes down to it, we’re not going to know whether this plan is affordable until we see those bids,” Osborne said. “Once we see those bids, then we can have an independent, third-party group look at it and we can determine whether this plan is affordable or not.”
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2014/10/skeptical-council-hears-new-ae-generation-plan/#sthash.PUZbV3Q5.dpuf

Skeptical Council hears new AE generation plan

Despite disagreements over exactly how much solar energy Austin Energy should purchase by 2020, both sides in a tug of war over the utility’s generation plan agreed Thursday that Austin Energy should move forward with a request for proposals for more solar power.
City Council members, sitting as the Committee on Austin Energy, heard more about Austin Energy’s new 500+ Plan generation mix proposal, raising several questions about the merits and drawbacks of adding a 500 megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant to its portfolio. That would most likely be placed at the Decker Power Station.
Michael Osborne, chair of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force, also commented on the 500+ Plan, looking at it through the lens of the task force’s July report on increasing renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.
Osborne challenged some of the assumptions that Austin Energy used in its analysis. “We’re not saying the methodology that they used is wrong, we’re saying it’s flawed,” Osborne said.
Council Member Laura Morrison told the Austin Monitor after the Council Committee on Austin Energy meeting that Austin Energy staff and task force members are providing “different answers” to Council questions. “I don’t believe that we’ve laid out where those differences come from,” she said.
“We just need to keep digging away until we can make sure we understand the decision that we’re making,” Morrison said, noting that it needs to happen before the end of the year.
Council Member Mike Martinez told the Monitor that Austin Energy’s presentation did not lead him to support constructing the gas plant AE has proposed to replace the aging plant at Decker, but he wants to hear more information and is open to continuing the conversation.
Austin Energy Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Mele said the biggest driver behind the 500+ Plan is Council’s August resolution that includes task force recommendations, which she referred to as Resolution 157.
“We’ve got a plan that adapts to many of the desires and many of the outcomes of Resolution 157,” she said, “with the key difference being that we have to look at our ability to produce revenue to support the other things that we want.”
Mele said that the utility’s ability to meet stringent goals “does depend on additional gas generation that’s very efficient to be able to balance the customers’ costs.” She added that “in the short term, having more efficient, cleaner generation locally is going to be a good thing for the customer bills.”
Osborne said that he would like the city put out a request for proposals on the 600 megawatt solar project included in Resolution 157.
“When it really comes down to it, we’re not going to know whether this plan is affordable until we see those bids,” Osborne said. “Once we see those bids, then we can have an independent, third-party group look at it and we can determine whether this plan is affordable or
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2014/10/skeptical-council-hears-new-ae-generation-plan/#sthash.PUZbV3Q5.dpuf

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Affordable Energy Resolution




















Serving as Chair of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force has not only been a mouthful to say, it has been a great opportunity to participate in local government and to experience first hand the importance of our community processes.

Created in March, the Task Force didn't get going until mid April.  For the next 14 weeks, we met weekly, holding two public meetings, with a final meeting on July 9th.  You can view The Plan on our web site.  But just as important as the plan are the various reports and presentations that were given to the Task Force that are also posted on the web site.

Almost immediately after the plan was published in print form, a City Council Resolution containing many of the recommendations in the plan began to get traction at Council.  It also included elements of other actions by the Electric Utility Commission and other environmental groups.  Another resolution, which included other Task Force elements dealing with efficiency and weatherization also gained support.

 Meantime, Austin Energy, the utility that was being told what to do, went nothing short of postal in its position on the Task Force Report.  Even though the Task Force Report made it clear by the endorsement of the affordability metrics adopted by Council as the first  recommendation in the report, the utility went on a scare campaign.  The second recommendation on zero carbon by 2030 was equally constrained with the same affordability language.   

Yet, the Utility continued to appear on the front pages of the local newspaper, mailing to its commercial energy customers, and speaking openly that the adoption of the main elements of the plan would be a financial disaster.  "I can tell you that replacing Decker with solar power contracts would be an economic disaster for rate payers", said the Austin Energy general manager.

This was in contradiction to his statement in March 2014 when he said that the 150 MW west Texas solar deal would have a "very small but favorable impact to the power supply adjustment."

Yet, in a rather famous evening at Austin City Council, The Affordable Energy Resolution was passed on a vote 5 to 0 with the Mayor and Council Member Spelman off the dias.

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reported it this way:

Historic Affordable Clean Energy Plan Adopted 
City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030

    Austin, Tex. – A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday evening.

    The resolution comes after years of community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan, identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.

     The Affordable Energy Plan calls for Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by 2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

     Solar is now cheaper than building a new natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group.  “We’re grateful for the strong leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”

     The landmark resolution also takes significant steps to expand local solar power.  It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.

 I was in Mexico in the mountains when the vote came.  But since it was so late, the internet was working good enough to see it all come down.  It was a thing of beauty. And don't let any one tell you differently.  A hundred people had waited all day to speak in support  of the resolution and were now being told that they must come back the next day.  An alert Council member Martinez saw that there was no one signed up to speak against the resolution and so he made a motion to reconsider the postponement and bring the resolution up.

That motion passed over the Mayor's objection.  After some brief comments from supporters and one activist who had signed up neutral on the resolution, the resolution passed 5 to 0.

The next day there was a lot of hubbub about it all and so a reconsideration motion was made by the Mayor pro tem.  That failed 3 to 3.

Thus the first act ended.




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