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March 2, 2007
Deconstructing Al Gore's utility bill (updated)
Much of what has been written about Al Gore's carbon footprint demonstrates the ignorance of the writers more than it illuminates the facts. So let's try and understand the reality.
So far the description of his electric bill has been undisputed. He used 221,000 KWH of electricity and spent an average of $1,359 per month. Totaled over the full year, that is an annual bill of $16,308.
That means Gore is paying 7.39 cents per KWH. In defending his actions, Gore has communicated through the Think Progress website that he has signed up with the Green Power Switch program of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Note that TVA pays its Green Power suppliers 15 cents per KWH!
So Al Gore pparently is receiving what amounts to a subsidy for his "green" electric usage that is greater than what he pays for electricity ( 7.61 cents per KWH) totaling $16,842 annually.
Note also that all TVA customers are getting a huge bargain on their bills due to the TVA being a mostly nuclear and hydropower source utility, originally funded by the federal government (i.e. all federal taxpayers). How many of American Thinker's readers pay 7.39 cents per kwh retail (e.g. including distribution charges)? Not many, I wager.
Let's look at what it costs to generate electricity:
Today's Wall Street Journal puts the price of natural gas futures for April delivery at $7.30 per million BTUs. Using the conversion factor of 3412 BTU/KWH, that amount of gas is enough to generate 293 KWH at 100% efficiency (2.49 cents per KWH). But no turbine can achieve anything close to 100% efficiency. The actual fuel cost for a gas turbine depends on the efficiency of the turbine.
The efficiency of gas turbines varies, but is about 30% for simple cycle units. Here is a report indicating that a Capstone microturbine gets 23.7% at full load That would put the fuel cost alone at 10.51 cents per KWH. Even a combined cycle gas turbine capable of 60% efficiency would have a net fuel cost of 4.15 cents per KWH. Add in the capital and operating cost for the plant and then the distribution cost and you'll see that Al Gore's cost of 7.39 cents is a true bargain.
If Gore really wants to help reduce global warming, how about paying 15 cents per KWH? He'd be really motivated to stop wasting precious electricity!
Update: Reader Ed Waage writes:
I did some more calculations which show he is only purchasing about 37% of green electric power.
TVA's average rate is 6.4 cents/kwh: http://www.tva.gov/abouttva/keyfacts.htm (Gore's rate may be different.)
Green energy is sold in blocks of 150 kwh for $4.00 or a cost of 2.67 cents/kwh in addition to the base rate: http://www.tva.gov/greenpowerswitch/green_resid.htm
So Al Gore would be paying 2.67 + 6.4 = 9.07 cents/kwh if he were 100% green
As you point out he is paying 7.39 cents/kwh which is only about 1 cent more than the average rate of 6.4 cents/kwh.
Divide the 1 cent by the 2.67 cents cost of green energy, and you get 37% usage of green energy.
The rest of his power is generated with about 60% fossil fuels (http://www.tva.gov/index.htm) principally coal (http://www.tva.gov/power/fossil.htm).
Update: Reader Tanner jessel writes:
)Businesses and individuals with the financial means to do so help create that demand. FedEx, Lowe's Home Improvement, and The University of Tennessee are among the largest customers (and reader Donald Sensing writes:
I live in Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville, and blog at www.donaldsensing.com
In this column, "Deconstructing Al Gore's utility bill," Bruce Thompson wrote,
TVA has been self financed since 1959; neither Al Gore's nor my electricity is taxpayer subsidized. Also, TVA is neither mostly nuclear nor hydropower. According to http://www.tva.com/power/index.htm: