How Much Money Can A Smart Electric Grid Save?

Mr. DELUREY: Something that most people are surprised to hear is that 10 to 20 percent of the overall electricity costs in the U.S. come from the top 100 hours on the electricity system.

I had “All Things Considered” on the car radio this evening as I made a quick trip to Hamden. The distinctly piped Robert Siegel was interviewing Dan Delurey, president of the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition. They are an organization which promotes “Smart Grid” technology for power companies.

I know what he’s selling so the interview was pedestrian until this exchange.

Mr. DELUREY: Something that most people are surprised to hear is that 10 to 20 percent of the overall electricity costs in the U.S. come from the top 100 hours on the electricity system.

SIEGEL: I want you to repeat that number because it’s astonishing. The top 100 hours of the year for demand of electricity account for 10 to 20 percent…

Mr. DELUREY: That’s correct.

SIEGEL: …of the cost of providing electricity.

Mr. DELUREY: That’s correct.

And, of course, that’s the real weakness of a public utility. You have to build for peak demand even if average demand is much, much lower and large portions of your capacity will be unused most of the time.

If there’s 10-20% of low hanging fruit savings I’d probably participate… if I shared the savings. Some companies aren’t good at sharing. We’ll see.

I’ve been talking a lot about alternate power generation recently. People bring it up in conversation all the time. BP has gotten us all pissed at oil. Oil needs some tough love.

I’m suspicious of solar power and wind energy. Neither is dependable enough nor are the solar cells and windmills efficient enough. On top of that it’s tough to store excess electricity to use when the wind isn’t blowing or the Sun’s not shining.

I favor wind/wave action. I’m no engineer, but the slow progress here has got to be a consequence of the difficulty… not that getting oil in the Gulf is so easy!

The advantage of turbines spun by currents or generators driven by wave action is they’re very dependable. The motion to power them is quite plentiful and free.

You would think building offshore removes most of the NIMBY problems. It doesn’t. Otherwise green residents are up in arms against the wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Still, it’s got to be easier than building on land.

Imagine tapping into the Gulf Stream or the ocean swells a few miles out. These are inexhaustible sources of power and they add no pollution.

Until that day 10-20% savings by letting someone else control my thermostat seems worth considering.

4 thoughts on “How Much Money Can A Smart Electric Grid Save?”

  1. I think Solar and wind are still in development. They are beiung improved and will continue to improve. How practical were the earliest automobiles or heart transplants? They need to be adopted and used on a large scale to learn how to improve them. Solar has already had huge advances, and even large companies who must obey the bottom line are implementing it. There will be no single magic bullet. We need to get all we can out of the existing technology for solar and wind even if it barely breaks even. That’s what will lead to it getting better. There are school buildings in Connecticut powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Also not a panacea, but a likely piece of the overall solution. Lets use each type of energy where it works and chip away at all the areas we can do NOW. That will reduce the size of the nut and reveal the improvements that will make it work even better. Make electricity from solar when the sun DOES shine, and from wind power when the wind DOES blow. I would also like to see property taxes based on a formula of people per square foot of house. Anything over 1000 square feet per person should result in proportionately higher taxes. At 2000 square feet per person your property taxes should double. Automobile registration and sales taxes should factor in weight. We pretty much HAVE to think of these types of changes. We have already waited 50 years too long to even get a little serious about energy issues, so now the cure will be more abrupt and painful. It still has to happen.

  2. Geoff, as you said “..a piece of the overall solution”. There is no single magic bullet. Marine energy generation is costly to build and maintain in that harsh environment. There is also the cost of transmission facilities back to the mainland.
    Yes, fast start peaking power plants are expensive in that they are usually gas turbine rather than coal/oil and sit idle much of the time. They only come online to satisfy peak demands.
    I think that resources to be devoted to cost-effective energy storage R&D. This will help smooth out the unpredictable and variable output of wind/solar sources, in addition to reducing the necessity of peaking plants.

    1. Matt – As a Pennsylvania residing adult during Three Mile Island I (along with many others) have great fear of nuclear. It’s not that it isn’t safe when properly run, it’s that it’s easy to cut corners and not properly run it! There is, unfortunately, a great deal of incentive for companies to cut corners because they don’t cause problems most of the time. Look at BP or the financial industry.

      Thanks all for chiming in.

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