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big energy « Previous | |Next »
February 10, 2012

Ellen Fanning has an interesting and informative article on Australia's surging power bills in The Global Mail. It is entitled The Hidden Cost of Infinite Energy and in part one she argues that the increasing costs come primarily from cost of upgrading the network to meet growing peak demand, for air conditioning and other energy hungry appliances:

Now more than 70 per cent of Australian households have air conditioning, so suddenly we need an electricity system that can cope when everyone turns on those air conditioners at once on a sweltering summer afternoon in the suburbs — without turning anything else off. It is called peak load. And it happens a handful of times each summer — sometimes for only 40 hours a year in all — mostly between the hours of about 2 and 8pm when Australians arrive home on one of those 35-plus-degrees days.

What that means is that the bulk of a customer’s electricity bill is not the actual cost of generating however much electricity they use. It is the cost of shifting the electrons through the grid, down the poles and wires to their home from the coal-fired power station.

What is also pointed out is that big energy makes money out of consumers using more power: the retailers make money by selling more electricity, the generators make money by selling more power… and the electricity networks make money from every kilowatt hour that goes through their network.

In the second part of the article Fanning highlights the inefficiency of the electricity grid caused by generating electricity hundreds of kilometres from where it is used. You end up with less than 30 per cent of the primary energy generated at the power station. Most of the electricity is generated is lost. Yet maintaining the long-distance network of poles, wires, cables and substations needed to get the electricity to the cities is very expensive.

The way to address this is increased energy efficiency in the premises and to allow premises--households, industries, rural communities, universities, hospitals, sporting arenas or convention centres to supply power to the national electricity grid from their renewable resources or tri-generation systems.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:20 PM |