Will electricity demand increase?

Back in April Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning gave yet another version of his stump speech that we saw at the shareholders’ meeting in May and that he’s video blogging on YouTube now. In April he emphasized a huge assumption with no evidence; an assumption that may just not be true.

National Energy Policy – Part 5 of 7 (30 April 2012)

This much we know: demand for electricity will increase. The Energy Information Administration projects an 18% increase in electricity demand nationally and in the southeast, we’re as expecting as much as a 25% increase over the next 20 years. So we know the need is real, immediate, and critical.

Really? Here’s recent electricity use and nearterm forcast by the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

Sure looks to me like there was a big dip in 2009, and projected use in 2013 is no higher than in 2007. What was that about “immediate”?

Now you may say, of course, that’s a recession. But what about this?

Figure 4

A Profile of Energy-Efficiency Opportunities in Georgia,
Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University,
by Marilyn A. Brown, Joy Wang, Matt Cox, Youngsun Baek, Rodrigo Cortes, Benjamin Deitchman,
Elizabeth Noll, Yu Wang, Etan Gumerman, Xiaojing Sun, April 13, 2010.

That sure looks like total usage leveling out due to efficiency in various sectors. Or actually decreasing if most of the sectors realize their maximum estimated efficiency improvements.

With these policies, the electricity generated by six 500-MW power plants in 2020 and ten such power plants in 2030 could be avoided.

Let’s see, 6 * 500 MW is 3,000 MW, which is more than the 2,200 MW rating for Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4, the new nukes Southern Company is building because SO claims energy demand will increase. And 10 * 500 MW is 5,000 MW, which is four and a half times as much power as those new nukes are rated to generate.

CEO Fanning continued back in April:

And perhaps even to invent….

You know the way we generate and distribute electricity is changing. And the way our customers think about, and perhaps even consume electricity is changing.

Then he punted on changing consumption and went on about more production, using the same list in the same order as he did in his video blog: nuclear, “21st century coal”, natural gas, renewables, and efficiency.

Dear CEO Fanning, how about you and SO turn that list around and use SO’s vaunted private R&D to start with efficiency: then you won’t need any new nukes or coal or natural gas. Add solar and wind instead, load-balanced through a smart grid designed by your R&D, and you can shut down some coal and gas plants. And you’ll profit more than you would by that regulatory-captured nuke boondoggle. And we’ll thank you for not sucking up all our water and our money. We’ll thank you for turning the mighty ship of Southern Company and getting the southeast out in the lead in running the world on renewable energy.