Natural Gas NOW Picks of the Week – April 20, 2019

NaturalGasNOWTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Natural Gas NOW readers pass along a lot of stuff every week about natural gas, fractivist antics, emissions, renewables, and other news relating to energy. As usual, emphasis is added.

“So We Spent $1 Million Per Job?”

GreenTechMedia says Tesla is “staring down a 2020 employment deadline in New York state” and “skeptics wonder if the company can meet it.” 

Challenges at the Buffalo plant are just one of many questions hanging over the future of Tesla’s solar business. Residential installations at the former SolarCity unit have dropped precipitously in recent years… 

Tesla declined to comment on concerns about meeting its 2020 jobs target…

“At best, [meeting the jobs target] will be challenging for them,” said a former executive with knowledge of the development of the solar roof product and who left the company in 2017.

The move to pare back retail stores, where Tesla may have been able to generate leads for solar roof sales, would seem to further cloud the factory’s future, the former executive added…

At the end of 2018, Tesla reported over 800 employees at Gigafactory 2. About half are employees of Panasonic, Tesla’s partner at the plant. After cutting 7 percent of its overall workforce in January, Tesla told Greentech Media it still has more than 750 employees working there…

Tesla committed to bringing 1,460 employees to Buffalo by 2020, and some of that pool may work outside the Gigafactory. It must deliver 5,000 jobs to New York within a decade of the facility’s completion, according to a 2016 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In exchange, the state would invest $750 million to build the plant and lease it back to the company for $2 a year plus utilities, according to a 2017 SEC filing. Starting in 2020, if Tesla fails to meet the agreement’s terms, it faces a penalty of $41.2 million for each year it falls short…

“So we spent $1 million per job?” asked state Senator Liz Krueger

Data from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables shows the company’s residential installation volumes nearly halved from 650 megawatts in 2016 to 352 megawatts in 2017, and then tumbled again last year to 208 megawatts.

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Source: Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (“Top National Installer Volumes, 2013-2016”)

Analysts suggest that Tesla may plan to rely on its brand power to turn sales of its luxury vehicles into leads for its battery product and boutique solar roof.

That may not lead to the wide buy-in that Musk peddled as a linchpin in the sustainable Tesla lifestyle when the company acquired SolarCity. But Allison Mond, a senior solar analyst at WoodMac, says Tesla no longer seems to be selling that solar-powered life. 

“It seems to me we’re just going to continue to see their installation volumes plummet,” she said.

As the reader whom forwarded this notes, “GreenTechMedia is generally favorable to renewable energy, but apparently they do not appreciate scams in the name of renewables.” Indeed.

“The Pieces Did Not Add Up to
The Whole We Were Trying to Plan”

According to UtilityDive, it’s not likely California can possibly meet its climate goals. “A new bill may capture broad agreement about the need for a central backstop procurement entity, but doubts about it remain,” it says. What’s this about the need for a “backstop,” all of a sudden?

Gaps in resource procurement by California’s proliferating load serving entities (LSEs) could prevent the state from achieving its nation-leading renewable energy and climate goals.

The state’s massive renewable resource portfolio has gaps in it that threaten the reliable delivery of electricity, according to a March 18 proposed decision in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) integrated resource planning docket. The docket was designed to address reliability in planning by assuring that variable resources are adequately balanced by resources that are available when needed.

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The CPUC must decide whether the LSEs’ combined plans will deliver “a reliable and affordable electric system” while meeting California’s mandated climate goals, Administrative Law Judge Julie Fitch wrote in the March 18 proposed decision.

That will require balancing “existing and new resources” with “baseload and intermittent resources” made up of “renewable, storage, and conventional fossil-fueled resources,” Fitch wrote. In the LSEs’ filings, “there is inconsistent, and in some cases, nonexistent, recognition of these realities.”

The article is an exercise in obfuscation, but, if one reads closely, it’s apparent serious Californians are realizing they still need dispatchable energy (natural gas) to have any hope the whole thing will work. Once again, our reader makes a good observation. “Renewables are so far behind schedule that natural gas is the only viable alternative for at least the next several decades,” he says. I agree. 

Valve-Turner Conviction Gets Overturned,
Breathing New Life Into “Necessity Defense”

Well, Washington State courts have “gone to the dogs.”

A Washington state appeals court threw out the conviction of “valve-turner” Ken Ward, ruling “the trial court erred in preventing Ward from introducing evidence in support of his necessity defense,” thereby violating his constitutional rights.

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Ward was one of five activist extremists who launched a coordinated effort to stop the flow of oil from Canada into the U.S. by breaking into the pipeline valve stations in four different states and closing emergency shut-off valves…

Following is how the appeals court interpreted Ward’s case for the necessity defense:

“…Ward offered evidence of his more than 40 years being involved in various environmental movements, the numerous attempts he has made to address climate change, and how most of those efforts have failed … Ward offered evidence that he had tried the alternatives and they were unsuccessful. Whether Ward’s evidence was sufficient to establish that his history of failed attempts to address climate change revealed the futility of supposed reasonable alternatives was a question for the jury. Viewed in the light most favorable to Ward, and admitting the truth of his evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom, Ward’s offer of proof created a question for the jury.”

“Because Ward met his initial burden of showing that he would likely be able to submit a sufficient quantum of evidence on each element of necessity to make it a jury question whether he established that element beyond a reasonable doubt, the trial court violated his constitutional right.”

This is extremely dangerous. If a state appeals court will give this much credence to the ridiculous “necessity defense” argument, we are all in deep trouble. If you suppose I’m exaggerating, simply put the shoe on the other foot. Simply take your favorite cause, and imagine someone who views opposing your cause as a necessary action and is willing to violate the law to stop you. It’s not hard if you try and you may come away with a new respect for the rule of law.

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2 thoughts on “Natural Gas NOW Picks of the Week – April 20, 2019

  1. Tom,
    You make a subtle but important point. We are simply heading towards a state of “civilized anarchy”. As SCTV’ s Count Floyd of Monster Chiller, Horror Theater would say, “Scary Stuff, Kiddies!! Scary Stuff!!!” **$18.00 3D glasses not included!! 🙂

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