EDITORIAL: Find ways to save energy

2013-09-15T08:30:00Z EDITORIAL: Find ways to save energyJournal editorial board Rapid City Journal
September 15, 2013 8:30 am  • 

Black Hills Power received the rate increase last week that we all knew was coming. The pending agreement with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission is for an overall 6.4 percent increase beginning Oct. 1.

The rate increase won’t be felt because the utility already had permission to raise rates on an interim basis effective June 16. Because the agreed rate increase is less than what BHP had been charging as interim rates, the company will issue refunds that the company said would be an average $10.50 to residential customers.

The pending agreement was negotiated with PUC staff and amounts to an additional $8.8 million in revenues for BHP. The company had sought an increase of $13.7 million.

BHP officials have told the Journal that the rate increase was requested as compensation for retiring older coal-fired power plants and building a newer plant near Cheyenne, Wyo., that will generate electricity using natural gas as fuel.

While natural gas is a cleaner fuel source, company officials have said the cheapest energy source available to them is coal, but federal regulations are making it all but impossible to build more coal power plants, and its existing coal plants are facing stricter emissions requirements that will increase the cost of electricity generation.

What this means to consumers is that the cost of electricity will continue to increase in the future to achieve public policy goals on plant emissions.

Whether you agree with the policy goals or not, the result will be rising electricity rates down the road for everyone.

Let’s face it, life as we currently know it is impossible without electricity. Our lights, appliances, electronics, even that electric car that some politicians envision in every garage, depend on electric power to run. We have difficulty imagining that wind and solar energy alone could meet future demands for power.

What to do? Electricity isn’t going to get cheaper and could become more scarce. It would be in anyone’s best interests – in homes and at businesses – to look at energy efficiency to offset rising energy costs.

Black Hills Power, in fact, offers energy efficiency programs, appliance rebates, and energy savings tips on its website. There are many other sources of information about energy efficient appliances, insulating homes and offices, and cutting back on energy use. You can even get tax credits for buying energy efficient products on your federal income taxes.

If we’re not going to pursue the cheapest and most abundant energy available – and we’re not – then finding ways to save energy – and holding down monthly utility bills -- is the next best alternative.

We need electricity, and it’s not going to get cheaper anytime soon.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. farmer
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    farmer - September 24, 2013 5:42 pm
    Investors don't subsidize the energy bill,,you are paying it all. They pit there money into projects to get a return on there money, its called capitalism. How come Obama gets a free pass on higher rates it is his policy's that are causing less coal use...But Quail you got the rest right!
  2. Report Abuse
    - September 16, 2013 4:03 pm
    Ripe-for-retirement generators are typically older, inefficient, and less utilized than the rest of the nation's coal fleet. They average 45 years in age, well beyond the 30-year expected life span for a typical coal generator, and operate at an average of just 47 percent of their power generation capacity, compared with 64 percent for the total U.S. coal fleet.

    (above found from google with Search words Coal Plant Lifespan and look the results over)

    The Rapid coal plant is 52 years old. I'd read an article that BHP's business plan had long had shutting down the rapid plant in mind, I'm still trying to find the specific article. That's wringing another 20+ years of life out of the plant if 30 is a realistic figure.
  3. Report Abuse
    - September 16, 2013 3:50 pm
    The French plant in Rapid was due to close anyway, it's already been run past it's expected lifespan. This was covered in earlier articles at the Journal. Claims that it's a victim of EPA regs. is an exercise in "spin-doctoring" when BHP was going to close it anyway. It's over 50 years old.

    There are some posts here, (not yours breaker), that bend the truth beyond recognition. Borrowing this from another post, do the math, it makes sense.

    CFLs use about one-fourth the energy of standard incandescent bulbs. This, combined with their longer lifespan, translates into significant cost savings. For example, a CFL bulb has a lifespan of approximately 10,000 hours. During that lifespan, it will use 140 kilowatt hours of electricity. At 20 cents per kilowatt hour, the lifetime electricity cost of a CFL is $28. To compare, an incandescent bulb will only last around 1,200 to 2,500 hours. If measured over the 10,000-hour lifespan of a CFL, incandescent bulbs will use around 600 kilowatt hours of electricity, which will cost $120. The CFL will save $92 and 460 kilowatt hours of energy over its lifespan

    An LED bulb will last approximately 50,000 hours --- five times longer than a CFL bulb. If the bulb is left on for eight hours per day, it will last over 17 years. During that lifespan, an LED bulb will use 300 kilowatt hours of electricity. At 20 cents per kilowatt hour, the lifetime electricity cost of an LED bulb is $60. To compare, you would need five CFLs to match the 50,000-hour lifespan of an LED. Those five CFLs would use 700 kilowatt hours of electricity, costing $140. The LED bulb saves 400 kilowatt hours of electricity compared to the CFL and 2,700 kilowatt hours compared to the incandescent bulb. This represents a cost savings of $80 over CFL bulbs and $540 over incandescent bulbs.
  4. beaker
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    beaker - September 16, 2013 9:48 am
    I believe they are closing a plant in RC due to the fact that it would not be cost effective to retrofit due to epa regulations. Due to the plant being closed they are going to have to build another one.

  5. quail
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    quail - September 16, 2013 7:52 am
    The consumer "conserving energy" will do nothing but perpetuate the vicious circle. If we use less electricity, the company makes less money which only makes them request higher rates and us to conserve, etc., etc., etc........... The only way for the rates to go down is for the company to become more efficient and that would mean cheaper power generation like coal. The EPA and this Administration are making sure that is not going to happen. You can point your finger at stock holders all you want but without them, the user picks up the entire tab without the investors money and if you think they're going to let you use their money without a competitive return on their investment, then you're into wishful thinking. They would take their money elsewhere and the consumer would be footing the entire bill. Solar has worse and obvious pitfalls, like clouds and sunset and wind requires the power plants to continue to "hum along" ready to kick in the second the wind dies since you don't restart a power plant on a moments notice. Holland gets 20% of their power from wind (the highest in the world) and they have the highest electric rates in the world, so be careful what you wish for. Incidentally, the USA removing 1 power plant from the grid every few years is hardly makes up for China adding a new coal fired plant each week without "scrubbers". Oh, and in case you missed it, global warming is over with the pack ice in the Arctic up 60% this summer (an additional 1 mil. sq. miles) in spite of the IPCC warning that all the Arctic ice would be gone this summer, and we're heading into another global cooling "cycle". We only warmed 0.8 deg. C over the last 150 years anyway. As long as the control freaks in Washington are in charge of the regulations and spending, expect life for the average American to get continually more expensive for responsible people or free for the incompetents and their enablers.
  6. Jonnnnn
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    Jonnnnn - September 15, 2013 8:47 pm
    Ridiculous premise since US electrical use is down, yet the monopolisitic utilities continue raising rates - not for improvements, but to sustain and increase profits, shareholder dividends, and bloated board and executive salaries. Want to save money on electric utilities - then go Boulder on them; fire them and create municipal utilities. The private utility's business model is a dead man walking. Google up: solar panel is the generation granite countertop. Distributed power is the future. It's long past time to usher in the future via net metering; but alas the South Dakota PUC is captured by the utilities and their walking dead business model.
  7. oldsarge
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    oldsarge - September 15, 2013 3:16 pm
    Please permit me, as a former engineer, to make a trivial remark. We do NOT save energy...WE CONSERVE IT. I know, I know it may sound ridiculous but not to those in the industry.
  8. Roger Cornelius
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    Roger Cornelius - September 15, 2013 12:36 pm
    Is it just President Obama or other presidents too that have control and raise prices of everything as you suggest? History has taught us that a President can freeze prices in a crisis, but I have not heard that a President can actually raise prices of goods and services.

    In conservatives haste to point fingers and blame President Obama for higher prices, the omit the obvious, corporate GREED! Have you checked the income disparity between the middle class and the wealthy? That should be of concern.

    Many consider President Obama a socialist, if that were true, you would be paying little or nothing for energy, food, housing and other life necessities.
  9. Dog Soldier
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    Dog Soldier - September 15, 2013 11:54 am
    For a 100 years America was first in air pollution and now we have been regulated to a close second. Many fools would like to regain first place again.
  10. Farwalker
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    Farwalker - September 15, 2013 8:58 am
    Thank you President Obama for making everything more expensive.
    your war on coal is misguided.
    don't count on your windmill to keep the lights on, it will not provide the reliability of coal
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