Bloom Energy (Rick Jensen show)

Civic activist John Nichols & thermodynamics expert Lindsay Leveen were patched in by phone for roughly a half hour of talk interrupted by news, commercial breaks, etc. A podcast has been posted.

As Jensen sees it, the problem is rather simple. Bloom Energy is producing electric power at about $200/MWH, three times as much as the cost/MWH of power from a combined cycle natural gas plant. The efficiency of Bloom’s fuel cells is only about 45%, notwithstanding a statement of a Bloom official that it was 55%, so Bloom doesn’t offer lower CO2 emissions. Ergo, this isn’t “green energy,” it’s just an exorbitantly expensive way of producing electric power with no compelling environmental benefits. Bloom has shaded the facts in various instances, and “they are laughing at us.” Clearly, it’s time to end the bloomdoggle.

Leveen agreed with the cost data and other facts referred to by Jensen, and added that “people can stop it.” He was preparing to elaborate when the connection was broken.

Nichols said he was contemplating a petition to the Public Service Commission. The PSC would be requested to open a docket, “go back to the beginning,” figure out why and how the Bloom tariff got approved when it was obviously a bad deal, and see what might be done to improve the situation going forward. Perhaps the outcome would be a decision to stop approving the Bloom tariff on a month-to-month basis, although in principle Nichols would favor a claw-back of the Bloom tariff amount (roundly $195M) already collected.

Why not go to the General Assembly? asked Jensen. Nichols said this would trigger the “poison pill” provision that was authorized by the legislation enacted in 2011 and was included in the Bloom tariff approved by the PSC.

Some “inside baseball” theories from Nichols: (1) Delmarva Power’s support for the fuel cell power plant with Bloom was secured by letting them cancel the Bluewater Wind contract and get the associated liabilities off their balance sheet. (2) The Markell administration thought a 21-year contract for the Bloom Energy power contract would provide assured continuity and facilitate making the arrangement commercially successful, not fully appreciating the cost penalty of using fuel cells for commercial scale power production.

Jensen envisions an on-line petition of some sort urging Governor Carney and the General Assembly to take action. Nichols said fine, the more signatures the merrier, even if he followed through on a petition to the PSC.
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