Delaware Politics and Bloom Energy

Bloom2 All else being equal, my monthly electric bill is $6 more than yours. That is the average subsidy Delmarva Power customers are paying to Bloom Energy for supplying electricity from renewable resources and as an incentive to build a manufacturing plant here.

Bloom Energy makes fuel cells that convert natural gas directly into electricity. But the law says the subsidy is earmarked for renewable resources, and, you may have noticed, natural gas is not renewable. When this was pointed out to our political bureaucrats who forced the program on Delmarva Power, their reply was, to paraphrase, “Well, yes, that is technically correct, but it is clean energy, which is almost as good.”  Clean, if you don’t count carbon dioxide, that is.

Law? Law! Who cares about a stinking law?

Bloom Energy makes some of those fuel cells at a new facility that was previously an empty Chrysler assembly plant owned by the University of Delaware. The old plant adjoined the university, and they got it at a bargain-basement price, but it was a huge property with no prospects of any use, and politicians were desperate to restore the lost Chrysler jobs (or appear to). Initially, Bloom Energy was talking about 1,500 local jobs, but so far it is about 100 and even those are far from secure. I suspect they are having trouble finding other politicians as gullible as ours in Delaware.

To add insult to injury, our electric bills come with a request to contribute to a needy family fund to help pay their bills which are inflated by the same debacle.

The exact subsidy we are paying month after month after month is still unknown because the Delmarva computers have yet to be programmed to split out this cost on our monthly bills, but it took them almost no time at all to program the calculation of the amount and add it to the total. Initially, they were talking about needing a subsidy of only $1 per customer, and we are now flooded with unforeseen reasons why it is so much higher (Like, whoops, May has 31 days.  Who knew?). We are not surprised. We are the same state that threw money at the now-defunct Fisker automotive plant that was going to have us all driving luxury electric cars by now.

Bloom has always advertised their fuel cells are over 50% efficient, but now the records show they are only 47% efficient and are consuming more natural gas than permitted. They explain that fuel cells slowly degrade, and 47% is still pretty good. “The best performance you get from a fuel cell is the day you take it out of the box.” Funny no one mentioned that in the beginning.

Is it any wonder we are fed up and instinctively suspicious of any government programs?  Even government programs in your state, wherever it may be.

(This should end my dumping on Delaware, but the future is certain to reveal new fiascoes.  The state ran much better years ago when the du Pont family was in charge.)


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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