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Houston Chronicle, 4/10/2017

Please see:: Going negative on energy pricing

“Negative prices usually result when generators with high shut-down or restart costs must compete with other generators to avoid operating below equipment minimum ratings or shutting down completely,” the EIA reports.

Coal and nuclear plant owners say they can’t compete with tax credits and complain that they distort what is supposed to be a free and fair wholesale market.

Not so fast, says John Hall, clean energy director at the Environmental Defense Fund. When Texas switched to a competitive wholesale market, and away from the old regulated market, the state gave traditional generators $6 billion in the early 2000s to make up for stranded resources. Federal tax laws still give fossil fuel and nuclear generators all kinds of advantages, just not tax credits.

“We say let’s do away with all of the subsidies for everybody,” Hall said. “We think bailing out coal again is bad public policy and will have a huge economic impact on the state. The fact is that they can’t compete.”
“The grid of the future will be flexible and composed of resources that can ramp up or down and still economically operate,” Hall said. “Large base-load plants where you simply can’t shut them down quickly and can’t bring them online quickly, and that aren’t price competitive with natural gas and renewables, are destined to fail.”
 

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I agree that the large coal and oil powered thermo-electric power generators should begin phasing out as their operating costs will rise and cannot compete with wind and sun powered generating systems. The only potential advantage they may still have is when there is a shortage. But newer storage systems can supply for those shortages or outages, so in the long term, all these outdated thermo-electric systems can and will be displaced.

Our local power utility, PREPA, has four thermo-electric power plants with up to four generators each. They added several wind turbine generators (I have pictures and a video) such that their power output was enough to displace some of the thermo-electric generators, so some of the generators were powered off and taken out of service. Actually, the entire power consumption of Puerto Rico dropped enough that PREPA can completely shut down one of the four power plants, and may do so in the future. All of this has helped lower our energy costs, down to just $0.14 (14 cents) per kWh.
 

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I agree that the large coal and oil powered thermo-electric power generators should begin phasing out as their operating costs will rise and cannot compete with wind and sun powered generating systems. The only potential advantage they may still have is when there is a shortage. But newer storage systems can supply for those shortages or outages, so in the long term, all these outdated thermo-electric systems can and will be displaced....
I recently learned that our electric utility, which is city-owned, had an ulterior motive in sending one of their coal-fired stations into early retirement a couple of years ago.

San Antonio is one of the largest cities around that is still in compliance with the EPA's air quality regulations. Although only ~30% of the pollutants that we do have are locally produced, so we (the city) has taken steps to help keep us in compliance. Failure would add a drag to our economy with fees and added regulation costs. We're right on the edge right now though since the standards have been tightened recently on particulate counts. Clear-cut farming in South America sends that smoke across our region nearly every year - as an example.


So solar, wind, landfill gas, nuclear, natural gas and other alternatives have taken on more importance in our energy portfolio in the last couple of decades.

Edit: They're also actively investigating storage solutions as well.
 
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