Category Archives: Energy

Finalist for POMS College of Sustainable Operations Best Student Paper

Kyle Cattani, one of my co-authors, was left off the original announcement. I have added him below.

Announcement sent out via Tim Kraft and Yannis Bellos:

On behalf of the awards committee, we are pleased to congratulate the finalist for the 2017 POMS College of Sustainable Operations Best Student Paper Competition. The finalist in alphabetical order are:

Karthik Balasubramanian (Harvard Business School)
Inventory Models for Mobile Money Agents in the Developing World
Co-author: David Drake

Eric Webb (Indiana University)
Mind the Gap: Coordinating Energy Efficiency and Demand Response
Coauthor: Owen Wu, Kyle Cattani

Can Zhang (Georgia Tech)
Truth-inducing Mechanisms for Medical Surplus Product Allocation
Coauthors: Atalay Atasu, Turgay Ayer, Beril Toktay

The winning paper will be announced during the College of Sustainable Operations business meeting on Saturday, May 6th at this year’s POMS Annual Conference in Seattle. Thank you to all those who submitted. We had a record number of entries this year with 24 submissions, all of which were of high quality.

Book Review – Micro Cogeneration

Micro Cogeneration: Towards Decentralized Energy Systems
by Martin Pehnt, Martin Cames, Corinna Fischer, Barbara Praetorius, Lambert Schneider, Katja Schumacher, and Jan-Peter Vob, 2006

This book describes efforts to improve the adoption of small-scale cogeneration, or combined heat and power plants. I wrote a bit about CHP plants here.

This book is written for the German market, but describes the situation in the US, Europe, and Japan as well.

I didn’t read the whole book, as many of the chapters were overly technical for my interest-level. I’m mostly interested in the economic situation of CHP plants. Here are the chapters I read:
2. Dynamics of Socio-Technical Change: Micro Cogeneration in Energy System Transformation Scenarios
3. The Future Heating Market and the Potential for Micro Cogeneration
4. Economics of Micro Cogeneration
9. Embedding Micro Cogeneration in the Energy Supply System
11. Micro Cogeneration in North America
15. Summary and Conclusions

I think this quote sums up the difficulty of embracing decentralized CHP well:

Micro cogeneration… faces a selection environment that is geared towards central generation and long-distance transmission of electricity combined with separate heat production. The existing “regime” of energy provision may indeed represent a fundamental barrier for the widespread application of micro cogeneration technology, because it more or less subtly works towards the preservation of the existing structure: to which vested interests, actor networks, traditions, established mind sets, sunk costs, and more are attached.

My CHP project is looking at economic situations and policy levers in which utility ownership of CHP will be more favored.

Book Review – Small-Scale Cogeneration Handbook

Small-Scale Cogeneration Handbook, 2nd edition
by Bernard Kolanowski, 2003

My second energy paper is about cogeneration, also called combined heat and power (CHP). Cogen plants burn fuel for electricity and also put the waste heat to work. The waste heat can be used for space or water heating, for industrial processes, or for air conditioning (via a heat-exchange setup). This book covers the basics for someone interested in putting a cogen plant to work. Common uses of cogen are for manufacturing processes, hospitals, hotels, and universities. Basically, anyone who has a large and stable heating load (in addition to their electric load) could be a candidate for CHP. Electrical output of the systems range from dozens of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts. About 8% of the U.S. electricity generation comes from CHP plants.

For me, interested in modeling cogen/CHP plants instead of buying one, the most useful parts of this book are where it discusses PURPA and subsequent U.S. regulation (Chapter 3) as well as where it discusses financing and contracting (Chapter 11). As this edition was written in 2003, some of the discussions of the deregulation of electrical systems and incentives for green energy are out of date, but I’m sure the newer version is more current.

Links 20170207

Looking forward: We’re probably underestimating how quickly electric vehicles will disrupt the oil market. “Michael Liebreich, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, expects oil demand to peak in 2025. The CFO of Royal Dutch Shell agrees — he said the company expects it to peak within five to 15 years. The World Energy Council predicts peak demand in 2030.” … “History has taught us that for new, distributed, consumer-focused technologies, unexpected explosive growth is … to be expected. Big oil companies and investors would do well to prepare.”

Looking backward: Be Your Own Tyrant: John D. Rockefeller’s Keys to Success. Long read, but a great write-up. Good principles for life.

Indiana is not a fan of solar

Indiana energy bill would eliminate net metering, move to ‘buy-all, sell-all’ solar model

New bill would eliminate net metering, which is not unheard of and is a common attack across the country. However, I’ve never heard of “buy-all, sell-all” where your generated power must be sold to the utility at “avoided cost” and then bought back from the utility at retail rates. Basically, you end up paying about 5-7 cents per kWh to use the power you generate on your roof.

I imagine this is a ridiculous first offer in a negotiation process so that when the utilities “settle” for just eliminating net metering, the solar advocates can claim they staved off the worst.

Book Review – The Power Brokers

The Power Brokers: The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry
by Jeremiah D. Lambert, 2015

“The history of the electric power industry in the United States, created by entrepreneurs, is also the history of the exercise of political power.” (Conclusion, pg 259)

I recommend this book for those that are getting started in the energy field and need a bit of a deep dive into the context and history of political influence in electricity generation. Granted, that’s a small subset of the population. But I’m in that subset! So I thought the book was good. It is very specialized, though. It covers 7 “power brokers” in the history of electricity: Sam Insull, David Lilienthal, Donal Hodel and others at Bonneville Power, Paul Joskow, Ken Lay, Amory Lovins, and Jim Rogers. The writing takes some getting used to, but I found myself reading the later chapters at a faster pace.

Links 20161109

Trump Rode a Wave of Economic Angst. Will He Harness America’s Greatest Economic Opportunity? There are now more jobs in the solar industry than in oil/gas/coal extraction. The clean energy market (solar, wind, electric vehicles, energy storage, etc) is job opportunity and a future leadership opportunity. While I don’t expect him to subsidize clean energy, I hope Trump’s presidency won’t actively harm this sector.

Re-regulation on the horizon? Could we actually see states move from de-regulated utilities back to regulated? It’s hard to imagine, but market mechanisms are making base load generation impossible in many cases. The marginal prices aren’t covering the fixed costs.

Dept of Transportation unveils national electric vehicle charging network. Helps solve the chicken and egg problem.

Links 20161007

Two cool demand-side energy startups:

SolPad will offer a modular solar+storage solution for both homeowners and renters. Will be an especially big win for renters who cannot put panels on their house. From what I can tell, the only downside appears to be the fact that you have to designate which outlet the power goes to, instead of it just flowing to your entire house.

Ice Cub offers a combo A/C+thermal storage unit. The A/C can be run as a conventional air conditioner, or a tank can freeze ice and then run the A/C during times of high electricity price without using electricity. Projected to save customers who have time-varying rates up to $500/year, without much of a difference in install price.