Tag Archives: Forbes

LEDs vs. the entire U.S. nuclear fleet (and gas pipeline)

All U.S. nuclear power reactors could be replaced by LED lighting with a few clever on-off controls. More evidence Plant Vogtle is a boondoggle good for nothing but propping up profits for Georgia Power and Southern Company.

Michael Kanellos wrote for Forbes 28 October 2013, Can LED Bulbs Make Nuclear Plants Obsolete?

One $7 billion nuclear plant like one of Georgia Power’s 1.2 GW units would add a little over 1 percent of capacity. The bulb solution would cost $60 billion, and around $36 billion two years from now, and require only that consumers know how to screw in a light bulb. Nuclear would cost $105 billion, probably more, and take decades.

So maybe it’s not just weather that’s pushing down your demand, Southern Company: maybe Continue reading

Internet access lunacy maybe partly corrected by Google Fiber

Slower and more expensive than the rest of the world: U.S. Internet access doesn’t have to be that way. Bob knows about our Internet issues here and is interested in helping.

Chunka Mul wrote for Forbes 26 April 2013, The Lunacy of Our Internet Access, and How Google Fiber Could Provide Needed Shock Therapy,

Imagine you are the world’s largest operator of shopping malls, and shoppers can only get to your malls via the equivalent of dirt paths and country roads. What’s more, those meager routes are all controlled by an oligopoly of private, toll-road operators that focus on their profitability, not on getting consumers to the stores in your malls.

The result would be a mess. The roads would be slow yet expensive. Consumers would limit shopping trips. The stores in your malls would have a hard time generating business, so your malls would languish.

Yet the entire online economy runs on an analogous network. The network could easily be lightning fast, pervasive and cheap (or even free). Instead,

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What is Moore’s Law for solar power?

Many people are unfamiliar with Moore’s Law, and how it affects solar power. Moore’s Law doesn’t occur in many technologies or industries, but it’s there in solar photovoltaic (PV). For those of us whose whole working lives have been affected by Moore’s Law, seeing it turn up in another field is like a flashing neon sign pointing to the future. A future of distributed solar power sunrise over the crumbling industrial relics of coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants. A future with much less control by monopoly utilities, which is why they fight it. If they even see it coming; Bill Gates didn’t, back in the day, but Jeff Bezos of Amazon did. They both surfed that tide, and Moore’s Law made both of them among the richest humans on the planet while changing the world for all of us. Steve Jobs even used it to put a computer in your pocket more powerful than big companies could buy a few decades ago. What does Moore’s Law for solar power mean for electric power?

This chart shows the telltale symptom of Moore’s Law in solar electricity: 65% compound annual growth rate in solar power plants deployed for the past 5 years:

Source: Solar Power Graphs to Make You Smile by Zachary Shahan for CleanTechnica 10 June 2011.

As SunPower’s Dinwoodie puts it:

That 17 GW installed in 2010 is the equivalent of 17 nuclear power plants — manufactured, shipped and installed in one year. It can take decades just to install a nuclear plant. Think about that. I heard Bill Gates recently call solar “cute.” Well, that’s 17 GW of “cute” adding up at an astonishing pace.

Bill Gates should recall that Moore’s Law made formerly “cute” PCs with his “cute” operating system Windows expand into every company in the world and made him the second richest human on the planet. Growth of computer software markets, like for the U.S. as shown in the graph on the right, is a symptom of the original Moore’s Law. Software runs on hardware, and these hardware market curves are driven more directly by Moore’s Law:

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NRC rejects nuke permit for EDF in Maryland

French nuclear operator Électricité de France (EDF) was denied a license last week for the proposed Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor in Maryland, because the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 prohibits majority foreign ownership of nuclear plants. EDF now has 60 days to find a U.S. partner, or give up the project. Who could the possible suitors be? Hint: think southeast.

The handwriting was on the wall two years ago when Constellation Energy pulled out of the project. Jim Polson and Alan Katz wrote for Bloomberg 10 October 2010, Constellation Drops Nuclear Plant, Denting EDF’s U.S. Plans,

Constellation Energy Group Inc. pulled out of negotiations on a $7.5 billion loan guarantee to build a nuclear reactor in Maryland with Electricite de France SA, potentially damaging the French utility’s U.S. expansion plans and the companies’ partnership.

The cost of the U.S. government loan guarantee that the companies’ joint venture, UniStar Nuclear Energy, would need to build the Calvert Cliffs 3 reactor is too high and creates too much risk for Constellation, the Baltimore-based utility said in a statement yesterday. The statement said the next step is up to EDF. Enlarge image U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman

In a letter Oct. 8 to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Constellation said it received a government estimate that the venture would have to pay about $880 million to the U.S. Treasury for the loan guarantee, “dramatically out of line with both our own independent assessments and of what the figure should reasonably be.”

Constellation’s decision may make it more likely that the U.S. utility will exercise a put option forcing EDF to buy as much as $2 billion of Constellation’s non-nuclear power plants, said Ingo Becker, head of utilities sector research at Kepler Capital Markets.

“EDF very clearly said if they exercise the put, this thing is over,” Becker said. “Constellation may have just turned around the calendar and pulled out of the new build before exercising the put, anticipating EDF’s reaction.”

In a letter Oct. 8 to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Constellation said it received a government estimate that the venture would have to pay about $880 million to the U.S. Treasury for the loan guarantee, “dramatically out of line with both our own independent assessments and of what the figure should reasonably be.”

Meanwhile, Southern Company is still trying to reduce what it has to pay for its $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee.

Back in Maryland, the news got worse for the nuke last year. EDF asked for the state’s help, but didn’t get the answer it wanted. Scott Dance wrote for Baltimore Business Journal 16 December 2011, EDF: Constellation-Exelon settlement hurts Maryland nuclear industry,

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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?


Who profits from CCA’s private prisons?

Who profits from taxpayer dollars that support private prisons? Here’s one example: CCA’s CEO.

Jakada Imani wrote for HuffPost 23 February 2012, Private Prisons Profit From Pain,

CCA’s CEO Damon Hininger stands to benefit should the states provide him with prisons well-stocked with prisoners. In 2010, for example, his total compensation equaled $3,266,387.
That would be Damon Hininger, number 4 on America’s 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under (by Jacquelyn Smith, 14 February 2012).
4. Damon T. Hininger
Corrections Corporation of America
Market cap: $2.83 billion
Age: 40
Industry: Property management
How do you like that euphemism? “Property management.” Does that refer to the real estate, or to the prisoners? Or maybe to captive local government agencies that cede CCA “absolute discretion”?


Mic check stops a police riot at UC Davis

By now you’ve probably seen the video of UC Davis police pepper spraying peaceful protesters who were simply sitting on the gorund. But have you seen what happened next? Police were forming up with weapons raised surrounded on three sides by protesters, when someone yelled “Mic check!” Follow this link. Or, if you want to see it starting with the pepper spraying:

The one with the two pepper spray cans appears to be the same police lieutenant who pepper sprayed the protesters. As the protesters say through the human microphone that they are willing to let the police just walk away, even after the police had assaulted them with pepper spray, that same lieutenant motions to the police, who lower their weapons and back away.

Here’s the police version of the incident: Continue reading