Tag Archives: e.on

European utilities scared of renewable energy

Another reason Southern Company needs to get on with a smart grid, using its biggest private R&D outfit in the U.S. Now that solar has reached grid parity with everything including natural gas (and years since it passed nuclear), if the utilities don’t get out in front, they’re going to be left behind.

Derek Mead wrote for Motherboard yesterday, European Utilities Say They Can’t Make Money Because There’s Too Much Renewable Energy,

Renewable energy has been on a tear the past few years, with growth in many countries spurred by subsidies for wind and solar power. Now the heads of 10 European utility companies say EU subsidies should end, because they've got more renewable energy than they know what to do with.

The 10 CEOs in question, who refer to themselves as the Magritte group because they first met in an art gallery, represent companies that control about half the power capacity of Europe. The group gave a press conference today— Reuters says that 10 such executives giving a joint public statement is “unprecedented”—to hammer home a message they’ve been trumpeting ahead of an EU energy summit in 2014: There’s too much energy capacity, which has driven prices down so far that they can’t make any money.

As long as there are nukes or coal plants, there’s too much capacity. European utilities need to get on with things like Continue reading

Fukushima still broken 2 years after

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that heavily damaged four of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan on 11 March 2011, also known as 3/11. The broken reactors at Fukushima continue to leak radioactive substances into groundwater, the sea, and the air, where it is carried across oceans to the U.S. and elsewhere. And it could still get much worse: if the No. 4 reactor pool, still suspended in the air, collapses and causes the disintegration of spent fuel rods from all the other reactors there, Tokyo, 200 miles away, will have to be evacuated. Fukushima’s GE reactors are the same GE Mark I design as Southern Company’s Plant Hatch 1 and 2 only 100 miles from here at Baxley, GA, and about 200 miles from Atlanta and Charleston. Hatch is leaking radioactive tritium into our groundwater again. Five more reactors within 500 miles of here are also GE Mark I.

Among the 311 or so facebook pages and websites about Fukushima or against nuclear power is this concise one, Unplug Nuclear Power, which offers a simple action anyone can take tomorrow:

On 3/11, we will mark Fukushima day by using as little utility supplied electricity as possible. This direct Action is designed to punish the utility companies for continuing to push for nuclear power even after the Fukushima disaster has proven that it is just too dangerous. On that day, we will punish them in the only way that they understand, by denying them our money. There will be four levels of participation, go to the website, www.unplugnuclearpower.com for a more complete description. Also, be sure to join the Event. Finally, if you are in a group our organization that can endorse this Action, please let us know.

As Jeremy Rifkin so concisely spelled out, nuclear power is over Continue reading

Carbon bubble? Solar and wind erode coal, gas, and biomass credit quality —Moody’s

In Europe it’s already happening: solar and wind are causing bond-rater Moody’s to warn of downgrades of energy companies that depend on heat from burning coal, gas, or biomass. Moody’s earlier even warned the Bank of England of a potential carbon bubble developing. If combustion energy plants are affected like this, the credit effects will be even bigger on even-more-expensive nuclear plants, which Moody’s called a bet-the-farm risk way back in 2009.

James Murray wrote for businessGreen 6 Nov 2012, Moody’s: Renewables boom poses credit risk for coal and gas power plants: Credit ratings agency warns increases in renewable power have had ‘a profound negative impact’ on the competitiveness of thermal generation companies,

“Large increases in renewables have had a profound negative impact on power prices and the competitiveness of thermal generation companies in Europe,” said Scott Phillips, an assistant vice president and analyst at Moody’s Infrastructure Finance Group, in a statement.

“What were once considered stable companies have seen their business models severely disrupted and we expect steadily rising levels of renewable energy output to further affect European utilities’ creditworthiness.”

And not just rising, rising increasingly Continue reading

Profits per Market Cap in the Forbes 2000: solar and wind still win

We saw that two out of three of the most profitable electric utilities in the world emphasize solar and wind energy: ENEL of Italy and Iberdrola of Spain, both of which operate in multiple countries, including Iberdrola claiming second most wind power in the U.S. Well, maybe those companies are small, so their profits are a fluke. Nope. We get similar results for profits divided by market cap:

ENEL of Italy is still number 1, with no nuclear and a lot of solar and wind energy. Iberdrola is #4 in profits/market instead of #3 in profits alone. However, Electricité de France (EDF) is #7 instead of #2, and Exelon is #9 instead of #4. Number 2 is Energias de Portugal (EDP), which is heavily into wind power including owning Horizon Wind Energy LLC:

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Electric Utility Profits in the Forbes Global 2000 from 2006 through 2012

Which are the most and least consistently profitable electric utilities in the world? Hint: the biggest losers all lost on nukes. But the biggest winners may surprise you.

Following up on Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning’s brag that “We are a great, big company from an energy production standpoint,” I looked in the Forbes Global 2000 to see which are the biggest electricities in the world. Indeed, Southern Company (SO) is the biggest in the U.S. and number 6 in the world for 2012. But what about the rest, and what about previous years? Here’s a graph of profits for the top 40 electric utilities from 2006 through 2012. SO is the blue line muddling along in the middle:


Graph by John S. Quarterman from

What’s that dark red line dropping way below the rest? Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima nuclear plants. And the red line starting at the top and ending up near the bottom? E.ON, the company that owns most of Germany’s nuclear plants, as Germany shifts away from nuclear energy, after Cheronobyl and now Fukushima. The blue line that ends up as low as E.ON? Korea Electric Power (KEP), also an owner of nuclear plants. All the big losers are nuke owners.

What about the winners? The light green line ending up second by profits is Electricité de France (EDF), also an owner of nuclear plants, but one which has not yet had a major accident.

But what’s that purple line that starts near the top and ends up at the top?

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Fukushima destroying nuclear-owning electric power utilities

The world’s worst nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan has had economic effects on nuclear-owning power utilities. What will happen to the Southern Company as Georgia Power customers and U.S. taxpayers get tired of paying for cost overruns which are already almost a billion dollars?

Erik Kirschbaum wrote for Reuters 26 May 2012, Germany sets new solar power record, institute says,

The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.

And closing those nuclear plants caused German electric utility E.ON to lay off up to 11,000 staff, to take its first quarterly loss in a decade, and to cut its shareholder dividend. According to Forbes, E.ON in 2006 was the biggest electric utility in the world (and TEPCO, owner of the Fukushima nuclear plants, was number 6). In March 2012, E.ON was number 22. (TEPCO dropped from number 6 to number 45.) Southern Company (SO) jumped from number 16 in 2006 to number 6 this year, quite possibly because E.ON and TEPCO and others dropped so rapidly.

Hm, I wonder what Southern Company’s nukes, already almost $1 billion over budget, will do to SO’s ranking in Forbes’ list of top utilities? Maybe there’s a reason Moody’s called nuclear “a bet-the-farm risk”. What will SO do when this big nuclear bet goes bad? And how big a bill do Georgia Power customers and we the taxpayers want to let SO run up that we’ll get stuck with?


Exit strategy for when this big nuclear bet goes bad? –John S. Quarterman @ SO 2012-05-23

At Southern Company’s (SO) shareholder meeting, I enumerated some examples in the U.S., Japan, and Germany of nuclear gone bad, and pointed out Japan, Germany, and even Bulgaria had already or were getting out of nuclear, while Southern Company and Georgia continued to bet the farm on nuclear, and I asked what was SO’s exit strategy for when that bad bet goes bad? SO CEO Thomas A. Fanning said they had learned everything there was to learn from Fukushima, and besides Plant Vogtle is 100 miles inland where there are no earthquakes. He didn’t mention the same description applies to Chernobyl. He did say SO planned to make the U.S. nuclear industry the best in the world.

You kept using big bets and then bet the farm. Very interesting terminology.

Um, the title of SO’s corporate biography that SO was giving out in the lobby in paper, video, and audiobook formats is Big Bets: Decisions and Leaders That Shaped Southern Company. And ‘nuclear’s “bet-the-farm” risk’ is, as I mentioned, bond-rater Moody’s phrase.

He said the new Plant Vogtle units were planned for $14 billion and 10 years to build, and

…it is a big investment.

He said a company to do such a thing needed scale, financial integrity, and existing credibility of operations.

Scale seems to me a problem, since SO seems deadset on building mainframes in a networked-tablet world.

SO’s nuclear financial track record is that four nuclear plants were originally planend for Plant Vogtle at a cost of $660 million and only two were built at a cost of $8.87 billion. The new units at Plant Vogtle are already overbudget by almost a billion dollars. The Georgia Power bonds that SO CEO Fanning mentioned: aren’t they guaranteed by the $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee?

Regarding operations credibility, a year ago Vogtle Unit 1 shut down 2 days after the NRC gave Vogtle a clean bill of health. But the SO CEO says it’s all better now.

Here’s the video, followed by links to sources for the points I made:

Exit strategy for when this big nuclear bet goes bad? –John S. Quarterman
Shareholder Meeting, Southern Company (SO),
Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia, 23 May 2012.
Video by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).

Here are the main points I was reading from, with links:

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