It seems we now have clear parallels between the electric utility industry and the automotive industry. The link here does a pretty good job of describing Detroit’s problem in a mature market. Very simply, Detroit is in a flat or declining market and is watching Tesla get way too much attention.
It is interesting to me to watch the Europeans who seem more eager to offer electric vehicles. Perhaps it is because they do not have significant market shares, so they view the electric vehicle as additive. Maybe it is because the high price of gasoline in their home countries makes them more economically attractive.
What I find most interesting is the design of the European cars has nothing to do with economy. They are after performance. Detroit is still putting out relatively slow electric vehicles. Hasn’t anyone talked to people who have EVs and found out what they like best about them? Could it be that customers want the perky performance?
This week’s blog is simply a reposting of an article from the USA Today on water in the west and how government incentives can distort sustainable thoughts. It is an honest recount of a rancher who has received subsidies over many years and now finds himself in a moral dilemma.
I get a sense of unreality from all of this. By rancher standards, federal agencies and their generous staffs are the Cadillacs in a used-pickup world: too expensive to expose to daily wear, but without them, very little of modern agriculture would exist out here.
Our family has always hewed very close to the original meaning of productive self-sufficiency. We have made every effort to evade the outpourings of government help, refused to sign the forms that opened the government coffers, rejected the smooth counsel of advisers whose common theme has always been to take every possible advantage of every well-intended government handout. To us, this has been the difference between freeborn and serfdom.
But now I find myself faced with the very real possibility that to carry on with my commitment to life, I may have to join the serfs. If I don’t, 15 square miles of desiccated shrublands and forests, now anticipating that trickle of water, will pay a much higher price than disappointment.
The NRCS has soothing answers: eligibility lists and connections with many other government programs, which can be bundled to make this near catastrophe a financial opportunity. And suddenly it becomes clear how stern, independent, long-suffering ranchers can so easily be beguiled into the honeyed rat trap of federal subsidies.
You are all aware that wind turbines have been getting bigger and bigger … and for good reason. However, nobody seems to be focused on the consequences of these mega machines on the operational reliability and true final costs of the grid to enable and integrate their contribution. And, no, I am not talking about the bird loss, NIMBY or other obvious concerns.
The key here is the true financial and operational impact. Power plants have always had economy of scale benefits, but the concern has also been LUOS (largest unit out of service) consequences on reliability and balancing. Reliability is now more complex because the individual variability of the output of these devices is going to be significant and possibly impossible to meet with the current design of the load following power plants in our electrical system. Solar has the same concerns and the alarm has gone up about the ramping loads which, if the future solar plants are built according to plans far outstrips our load following generation capabilities.
The problem by comparison here is the sun is much more predictable. The wind tends to gust and die with almost no warning.
The other problem that no one seems to be asking about is the cost of these load following power plants on the true economics. It is not being priced into the short term markets so that we can clearly see it. It is being priced into long term costs with what are called uplift charges … a dull instrument of price correction and evaluation.
When will we learn that there is always more to the story?
Many of you who know me have heard me ask that question when I am talking about something that should be pretty obvious. It usually gets a laugh because what I had said just before that was so obvious.
For example, if I was talking about electric rates and stated that sudden increases in rates will kill customer satisfaction. Following that with this question almost always gets a chuckle.
Well, I have to admit I may be going a bit too fast if I assume you know the earth (and the other planets and stars in the sky) are round.You would think that today’s average person in the US has seen the news about other countries and knows you can fly in either direction to get there… some longer and shorter of course.
You would think that most people have been on big lakes or the coast and watched ships seem to disappear until only their masts or upper structures show on the horizon.
I remember the time when Tom Peters seemed to own the airwaves with his “In Search of Excellence” series of lectures and consulting. His book by that name extolled the virtues and business acumen of firms like Federal Express with their motto: “When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight!”
As my prior blog on them pointed out, they no longer feel that way. When I asked the package delivery agent how I could get my wife’s computer to Denver she said I first had to give her the dimensions and weight and would not answer the question when it would arrive until I did. Little did I know that she was simply following the instructions for the tracking initiation software.
My wife Susan and I lectured using his stories and I recounted my experience at Nordstrom’s with shoe laces in another blog as one more example. People in the audience laughed until it hurt as we recounted story after story in our own lives of how service excellence made a difference.
The word that seems to have replaced “ownership” of a customer’s situation is “monetization.” If it is not saving money or making money it is discretionary. Sure, airlines like Southwest seem to be getting away with this, but I suspect they can easily be disrupted by better value and service. I know from our staff that they no longer buy the cheapest seats on their airline tickets because flexibility has value.
It is interesting to contrast this with things people do seem to care about. The recent win of Tiger Woods is all the rage for golfers. I don’t follow sports but I am sure each has its passionate followers of this or that team. Does it make any sense to talk about “good enough” in these areas? Good enough relegates you to a position pretty far back in the pack.