martes, enero 02, 2007

EWPC: People Coordinating and Cooperating with Electrons Part 5

Reference: Playing with Fire - The 10 Tcf/year Supply Gap -- Part I

James said, "My intention is not to convince Professor Banks… is to challenge his assertions with which I disagree. Thousands of people read these forums, and I think it is a bad idea for them to get the impression that… Banks reflects the prevailing consensus. Frankly, I expected a more spirited clash. He merely makes pronouncements with little support and fails to respond to my rejoinders."

As I will show, readers can reverse Banks and Carson’s names without any loss of generality. That shows that Jim opinion does not reflect the prevailing consensus either.” Bad ideas “must be killed, the sooner the better.”

After working for 30 years at FPC and at FERC, Jack Duckworth – a professional engineer, not a politician - predicted the 14th August Blackout in the very illuminating article The Fatal Flaw in Electric Power Deregulation. Mr. Duckworth said that “[D]eregulation can work, but it will not work unless those overseeing the deregulation initiative recognize the inherent flaw and install a mechanism that will fill the gap by guaranteeing the availability of electric power without guaranteeing the price.”

As a mechanism, he said: “When I saw in 2001 that the market was failing to ensure adequate generating reserve margins, I proposed in my book, Power to the People, that the government put national rules in place that would require any power generating company to maintain a set reserve generating capacity margin as a condition of doing business. Such a mandatory reserve margin would ensure that there could never be a disastrous shortage of supply that could blackout an entire electric power supply region. It would also ensure a level field for all competing generating companies.”

This is what Jim, the practical analyst, advised to all readers of EnergyPulse on Feb 18, 2003:
Sorry, I did not find this article at all illuminating.

The principal objection appears to be that reliability is not considered in the market price of power, and cannot be. This is true, as far as it goes. However, there are several market mechanisms that have been developed that specifically address this.

First, capacity. It is not perfect, but it does work after a fashion. More work must be done to improve this mechanism.

Seond, spinning reserve markets are already functioning in PJM and, I believe, ERCOT. So far, so good on these efforts. The notion that electricity is somehow 'different' from other commodities must be killed, the sooner the better. One could make the similar points about wheat and natural gas. Indeed, the histories of both of those commodities are replete with similar concerns.

Power as a commodity is distinguished by two 'interesting' features, both of which contribute to its incredible volatility. First, with a few exceptions, power cannot be stored. However, now that we have functioning markets, we can measure the value of storage. I have already worked on one project that required an estimate of the value of storage.

Second, the elasticity of the demand curve at any particular moment for power is essentially zero. That is, a marginal change in price produces no change whatsoever in demand. Even a large change in price produces no change in demand. That is why the marketplace is working so hard on 'demand side' management programs. Again, the market is responding, albeit slowly.

James Carson

EWPC: People Coordinating and Cooperating with Electrons Part 4

The IEEE Spectrum Online, Tech Talk, a weekly Blog, discussing topics chosen by Susan Hassler, IEEE Spectrum's Editor-in-Chief, issued on October 13th the post FINAL REPORT: BLACKOUT ACTION NEEDED, where I added the only three comments posted so far. I suggest reading those comments too, if you are interested in the generative dialogue.

Jim Carson seems to enter into a very radical opinion when he says that “We do NOT need yet ANOTHER investigation. The blackout has been investigated ad nauseum. We already know what happened.”

As can be seen in the Final Report, however, a totally different story exists: “… the ultimate impact of the source failure was compounded by "long-standing institutional failures and weaknesses that need to be understood and corrected in order to maintain reliability.”

Secretary Bodman is more conservative than Jim when he says “I appreciate the hard work and diligence that went into this important report. It demonstrates that while improvements are being made to enhance grid reliability, we still have a very complex system that is subject to possible mechanical and human failures. We must remain vigilant." Phrases like “need to be understood,” “very complex system,” “must remain vigilant,” denote that they still don’t know what happened.

In addition, admission that there are "long-standing institutional failures and weaknesses that need to be understood and corrected in order to maintain reliability,” can be the ground for an independent investigation, or better yet a generative dialogue by itself, which I repeat “… should consider fully both the institutional memory and the sound research done by Fred C. Schweppe and colleagues, from 1978-1988, not in a debate, but in a generative dialogue, to resolve most of the flaws identified by Casazza, Delea and Loehr, and also to break the barriers to the emergent innovations flowing into the industry.”

Since the Final Report stresses that “… we have a very complex system…,” I also reiterate that “[S]ystemic thinking, scenarios, system dynamics, mental models are tools to help us approach system complexity. An explanation based on simple cause and effect, mechanistic thinking, is generally insufficient to explain system complexity…”

I am willing to change my opinion to change the need for an independent investigation to that of generative dialogue, and the remaining sentence would read “[T]hose tools should be used fully, since “[a generative dialogue] is needed of all the issues raised by the blackout and other reliability problems to ascertain that all necessary remedial actions have been taken, as PEST suggest and the GMH extends.”

© 2007. José Antonio Vanderhorst Silverio, Ph.D.

Opinión sobre la Opinión

Por César Féliz,

Apreciados todos:

Vivir en una sociedad plural impone asumir que lo absolutamente respetable son las personas, no sus opiniones, y que el derecho a la propia opinión consiste en que ésta sea escuchada y discutida, no en que se la vea pasar sin tocarla como si de una vaca sagrada se tratase.

Lo que debemos fomentar no es la disposición a establecer irrevocablemente lo que se ha elegido pensar, sino la capacidad de participar fructíferamente en una controversia razonada, aunque ello "hiera" algunos de nuestros dogmas personales o familiares. Aprender a discutir, a refutar y a justificar lo que se piensa debe ser parte irrenunciable de cualquier ser humano. Para ello no basta saber expresarse con claridad y precisión (aunque sea primordial, tanto por escrito como oralmente) y someterse a las mismas exigencias de inteligibilidad que se piden a los otros, sino que también hay que desarrollar la facultad de escuchar lo que se propone en el palenque discursivo.

No se trata de patentar una comunidad de autistas celosamente clausurados en sus "respetables" opiniones propias, sino de propiciar la disposición a participar lealmente en coloquios razonables y a buscar en común una verdad que no tenga dueño y que procure no hacer esclavos. Desde luego amigos, tal disposición debe encontrar su primer ejemplo en la propia actitud de quienes han tenido y tienen el privilegio de dirigir o haber dirigido, en el caso que nos ocupa la cosa pública, firmeza en lo que se sabe pero dispuesto a debatirlo e incluso modificarlo en el transcurso con la ayuda de los demás si fuese necesario; para eso definitivamente se necesita tener entereza y temple. Y no hay que temer que ese espíritu crítico lleve al puro nihilismo indisciplinado, porque si es auténtico más bien previene contra él.

Escuchemos una vez más la sensatez de Jhon Passmore, cuando dice:

Aceptemos que la persona que es un crítico especialmente dotado suele ser destructora. Pero, al menos esperémoslo así, destructora de la verborrea, de lo pretencioso, de la hipocresía, del conservadurismo complaciente y del radicalismo fantasioso. Si como resultado de ser crítico puede ayudar a destruir estos pecados capitales antes de que destruyan a la sociedad humana, tanto mejor.
Para finalizar apreciados amigos, quiero decirles, que los humanos no somos problemas o ecuaciones, sino historias; nos parecemos menos a las cuentas que a los cuentos, de manera que lo que hagamos debe estar vinculado al pasado, y a los cambios que han acompañado su desarrollo, quizá sólo así podríamos tener un presente exitoso y liberarnos de la incertidumbre futura.

Con afectos para todos