Imagine the papers give column-inches to a car company calling for more roads subsidies, or a criminal calling for nicer prisons. Something analogous seems to be happening in a speech to the grandly titled Royal Academy of Engineering.
Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid plc, is arguing the case for a £200 billion ($320b) investment in the new smart grid. This technology allows power to be rationed at peak times for selected customers (probably those least able to pay). £200b is a large figure – enough to keep Mr Holliday in bonuses for many years to come. And it might be a surprise to learn that the National Grid would be one of the principle beneficiaries of the proposed investment. (more…)
National Grid, which serves energy to millions of customers on US East Coast is fighting desperately to raise its profit margins in the US after being slammed by regulators for its poor performance and lavish executive pay and perks. National Grid CEO Steve Holliday is apparently trying to save his own job by firing and reshuffling those around him. Of the 25 most senior executives in the US, six will go by April.
The British power company is laying off a further 1200 staff in what may be its final throw of the dice before exiting the US market. Citigroup says its rate of return is still dismal and warns that regulators are unlikely to let it keep the full value of the savings it is making. The company has been heavily criticized for poor customer service and it is highly doubtful it can prove that the latest cost-cutting exercise will help raise the quality of energy supply to the end user. (more…)
The current system of generating electricity centrally and distributing it through the grid wastes as much as sixty per cent of energy -and it ain’t about to get any better, a leading UK academic has told Off-Grid.
He estimated that energy losses in the power grid during generation of electricity are between 45 per cent and 55 per cent, depending on the technology used. The transmission system run by National Grid which does the bulk shipping of electricity in the UK, loses a further two or three per cent. Local distribution networks run by big power companies have losses of between five and seven per cent.
At last – the UK energy regulators have woken up to what everyone else has been saying for months – Britain’s energy infrastructure is crumbling – and massive price rises, plus probable power outages, face the British consumer for the next five years.
The electricity industry is delighted at the announcement – they expect the result will be more subsidies to build a bigger and more wasteful energy infrastructure. They are already demanding cash for the so-called smart grid. Now companies like EDF, the French nuclear giant, want an increase in subsidies for “clean“ energy such as nuclear, so it can get increased payments for more nuclear reactors
According to Dow Jones ”U.K. utilities welcomed proposals from gas and electricity regulator Ofgem for a radical shakeup in regulations (more…)
Actor and broadcaster, Griff Rhys Jones has joined the battle against the Grid. He opposes the new electricity towers,or “Super pylons,” which are supposedly needed as part of the coming “Smart Grid.” Here is Griff’s manifesto against the new Super-Grid:
“We live in perplexing times for rationalists. The people of Suffolk have recently been presented with a “choice” by National Grid, the largest electricity provider. You may recognise the proposal from the school playground: “What do you want, a punch or a slap?”
FoE’s Robin Webster: “useless”Micro-generation suddenly looks a better bet in the UK after an official report painted a dismal picture of insecure energy supplies and yo-yo prices over the next decade.
In a tacit admission that the private sector and the national grid are failing to deliver energy security, the study by UK energy regulator Ofgem predicts that consumers could face price volatility with energy price spikes of up to 60 per cent within the next 7 years. (more…)
UK gov says power to the people The UK government has made off-grid thinking an integral part of the country’s energy policy with new grants available to any household or office that generates its own power.
The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, unveiled yesterday by Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, charts exactly how the country will meet its legal commitment to cut carbon emissions by a third within eleven years. (more…)
Hidden costs of the GridUS utility companies are trying to cut the large amount of power wasted as it goes down the line to customers. They say they are acting because of looming limits on greenhouse-gas emissions in the US.
The greedy and slothful companies are in fact motivated by billions of economic stimulus dollars being handed out. The stimulus money could be used more effectively installing renewable power and microgrids in local communities.
Harvesting extra efficiency from the national grid could postpone the next power plant, but so could introducing widespread household-level renewables. Installing micro-grids everywhere would cut down on the losses made in transmission.
“It could be a bigger factor in reducing emissions than retraining customers on how to use their electricity,” said Thomas Jobes, the director of distribution reliability for American Electric Power Company Inc. (AEP), a Columbus, Ohio, electric utility. Well he would say that wouldn’t he? It depends how badly you retrain the customers. Mr Jobes did not explain why the mooted efficiencies have not already been implemented.
Transmission and distribution lines are imperfect conductors, with over 10% of power lost as heat. If these so-called line losses were reduced by a tenth on the distribution system alone, the power saved would equal all the wind generation installed in the U.S. in 2006, according to the industry’s Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI. That’s 2,454 megawatts, or approximately the equivalent of three typical coal-fired power plants.
However the biggest losses are made in the generating stations where a vast amount of heat energy is wasted.
The lazy energy companies have known for decades that they are losing (our) money this way, but in their near-monopoly position there was no incentive to do anything about it. Now they are siezing on President Obama’s stimulus money to do the things they ought to be paying for out of their profits.
AEP has demonstration projects under way that use sensors placed on distribution lines to help the utility manage the power system more effectively. Line losses grow as voltage on a line increases, but utilities can cut grid inefficiency by balancing voltage across the system so one line doesn’t carry a much larger electrical load than a nearby line does.
AEP told Dow Jones news service it plans to seek federal funding for the demonstration projects under the economic-stimulus legislation passed in February. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $11 billion for the creation of a smart grid, which utilizes digital communications to increase efficiency. Of the $11 billion, $615 million has been set aside for demonstration projects like AEP’s.
“Smart-grid technology can help regulate the voltage of the distribution system,” said Omar Siddiqui, who spent a decade working for power companies before joining the EPRI, based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Utilities are also exploring ways to make the power lines themselves more conductive. In 2007, New York’s Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) signed an agreement with American Superconductor Corp. (AMSC) to test a line using wires cooled by liquid nitrogen, which eliminates the electric resistance on the line and allows it to carry up to 10 times more power than standard copper cables.
Smart Grid or Dumb Grid?
Smart-grid and superconductor technologies are at an early developmental phase, with further research required (again, to be funded by our stimulus money). Most utilities are sticking to traditional methods of reducing grid inefficiencies, such as replacing older equipment, including the power lines themselves, with newer models.
“Most of what we can do right now is with the equipment,” said George Bartlett, the director of transmission operation for Entergy Corp. (ETR). “Conceivably, when the smart grid is implemented, you could better balance power flows over the lines to reduce losses.”
Still, efforts to lower line losses with smart-grid technology are gathering steam. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG) and FirstEnergy Corp. (FE) are among the utilities participating in EPRI’s “green circuits” initiative, an 18-month research-and-development project launched last year that aims to improve distribution-system efficiency. The project involves field tests of smart-grid technology.
Standard electric-grid equipment is designed to ensure that the system stays within required voltage levels at times of peak demand, such as on hot summer days when many customers run their air conditioners. But the grid is less efficient during off-peak periods.
Although projects like EPRI’s and AEP’s haven’t yet been deployed on a commercial scale, they could help utilities maintain the optimal voltage levels across the grid at different times of the year, decreasing line losses and allowing utilities to defer the construction of power plants that run on fossil fuels, said Paul Dorvel, a project manager with R.W. Beck, a Seattle-based technical consulting firm that has a dependency relationship on the Utility companies.
“Depending on what generation source would be selected, the reduction in losses and improvement in efficiency could defer that amount of CO2 emissions from a [natural gas] or coal facility,” Dorvel said.
Low tech solutionsBangladesh biology prof Raj Hussein, reports for Off-Grid from a dairy and poultry farm in his country that could be an inspiration to the whole of rural America — and suburban America as well, come to that.
Advance Animal Science Co. Ltd. (AAS) is hooked up to the local grid, but has its own arrangement to fill its electricity requirements.
While the rest of the country faces up to a mounting power crisis, AAS has set an example for others to follow, generating bio-power from the gas from its animals’ droppings – cow dung and chicken litter. (more…)
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