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View Diary: Transmission dooms the little guy (27 comments)

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  •  I'm happy to let businesses handle it, as (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, BYw, Horace Boothroyd III

    soon as they become nonprofit and democratically controlled by elected managers.

    Until then, fuck em.

    "The free market" has no more business being in the public utility sphere than it does being in the health care sphere.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sat Nov 09, 2013 at 05:45:58 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Uh, but wasn't (0+ / 0-)

      one of the major attractions of solar and wind the fact that it could be operated on a small scale, with lots of small operators generating power and putting it onto the grid? How are these people supposed to operate under government control? The original plans were that they would sell their power to the grid operator.

      •  uh, nope (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw, Horace Boothroyd III

        The major attraction of solar and wind is that they have a lower carbon footprint than coal or nukes.

        They will not "operate under government control"--they will be operated BY the government.  That's what a "public utility" is.

        I have no desire at all for smaller energy companies, any more than I have a desire for smaller government (I'm not a libertarian loonie).

        I want a democratically-elected energy company, just like I want a democratically-elected government.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:12:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ps--decentralized energy production IS more (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw, Horace Boothroyd III

        efficient, for precisely the reason you cite---energy is lost quickly through transmission.  That is why the most efficient way of energy production is production at the point of use--for each individual building to produce as much of its own internal energy needs as possible, through things like solar panels or windmills on the roof. It also helps solve the storage problem, since storing energy for an individual building is much less daunting than centralized large-scale storage. Already-existing battery technology is pretty good--and of course new and better battery technology is already in development. Not to mention the fact that most buildings are unoccupied at night and don't use as much energy anyway.

        None of that has a blooming thing to do with how big the energy company is, though.

        Technologically, we already have all the elements needed for widespread production at the point of use--we simply don't want to pay for it. Methinks your agenda is ideological, though, more than technological . . .

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 04:21:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Some contradictions here (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrganicChemist

          You prefer a "democratically elected energy company"; that's a nonsensical idea, because democracy applies to political institutions, not commercial ones. I suspect that what you're driving at is the notion of a "regulated utility": a commercial, for-profit institution that operates under the regulation of a political institution, which in turn is controlled by democratically elected political institutions.

          Regulated utilities work; we've got gobs of them in this country. There are also publicly-owned utilities; they work, too. Economic theory is uneasy with both concepts; they are accepted as a clumsy compromise for an intrinsically impossible problem.

          You're right that eliminating transmission costs increases overall efficiency -- but that's not the only component of system efficiency. For example, instead of burning fossil fuels at big power plants and transmitting the electricity to individual consumers, we could have each consumer use his own gasoline-powered generator, thereby eliminating transmission costs. And in fact this option is available to everybody right now. Very very few people utilize this option because it's horribly inefficient. They buy generators to provide power in those rare cases when the centralized system fails. This, I think, demonstrates just how serious a problem intermittency is -- people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to cope with the tiny intermittency problems that centralized systems have. That's the standard that will be applied to renewable systems -- and it's a steep standard.

          When you write that "we simply don't want to pay for" decentralized energy systems, are you acknowledging that these systems are more expensive than centralized energy systems?

          "Methinks your agenda is ideological, though, more than technological . . ."
          Huh? How in the world do you come to that conclusion? And would you reveal to me the ideology that is driving my agenda?

          •  your understanding seems limited (0+ / 0-)
            You prefer a "democratically elected energy company"; that's a nonsensical idea, because democracy applies to political institutions, not commercial ones. I suspect that what you're driving at is the notion of a "regulated utility": a commercial, for-profit institution that operates under the regulation of a political institution, which in turn is controlled by democratically elected political institutions.
            You suspect wrong.  As I thought I made clear, what I want is a government public utility, with NO private enterprise or free market involved in any way--run democratically as a public utility.
            You're right that eliminating transmission costs increases overall efficiency -- but that's not the only component of system efficiency.
            Nor did I say it was.  (shrug) What I said was that you are simply wrong when you declare that transmission loss necessarily means a centralized large-enterprise method of generation.  It assuredly means no such thing.
            And would you reveal to me the ideology that is driving my agenda?
            Why don't you just tell us, and stop being coy?

            In the end, reality always wins.

            by Lenny Flank on Sun Nov 10, 2013 at 09:04:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK, so you believe (0+ / 0-)

              that all regulated utilities should be converted to public utilities. This runs against historical experience. For the last 30 years, G20 countries have been opening up their transmission grids to independent operators, and in every case they have thereby lowered costs. It's tricky to compare current costs, because they all have different tariffs applied to them. Germany has very high electricity prices -- about $0.30/KW-hr, maybe twice what we pay in the USA.

              Most countries keep the transmission grids either publicly owned or tightly regulated, but everything else has been privatized in quite a few countries. They're doing this because it reduces overall costs to society.

              You disagree with me that long-distance transmission losses will give a big advantage to centralized operations as opposed to decentralized operations. OK, we disagree. Nothing more to say on that.

              You want me to reveal the ideology that you think drives my agenda, as opposed to technological considerations. The fact is that I am NOT driven by ideological considerations. I don't really care if the end results favor tall people or short people, Republicans, Democrats, rich people, poor people, Westerners versus Easterners, and so forth. My only concern is finding a solution that yields the lowest net costs (including externalities such as pollution) to society as a whole.

              However, I think that shoe fits you better. Your strong belief that utilities should be publicly owned is supported by neither technological nor economic evidence; therefore, it must an ideological concern. I won't argue with you about ideologies. But in this instance, you're definitely the pot calling the egg black.

          •  Other "selfie" options... (0+ / 0-)

            Besides the unattractive current option of producing your own electricity via gasoline powered generator, I think two other examples that are quite functional but selected against are personal water supply and personal sewage disposal. Both are quite possible and in wide use in many parts of our country and could be expanded but aren't for many of the same reasons you noted. My house has a well and before I bought it, I believe it originally had a septic system. We love the well water. The maintenance and replacement amounts I pay for my well are far below what I would pay if I tapped into the city-supplied water supply. Most people who own a home could have their own well, also. However, most do not because of fears, safety (in some cases) and hassle issues (people are concerned about reliability of supply). In the area of personal sewage disposal, technology improvements certainly could make this a very doable option. However, today it seems to be used only when no other options are available. Indeed, in our area, it is illegal to use a septic system. It certainly would be far cheaper - (our sewer bill is outrageous!!!) but there are safety, reliability, and esthetics issues that seem to select against it. I'll certainly acknowledge that there is also a high "yuck" factor involved. I remember from one of the first "Blue Man Group" shows that I saw, there was a skit about plumbing systems. A diagram showed arrows moving  through pipes in a house. The key factor was that movement in the system was ALWAYS "away"!!!

            It is certainly that increases in personal provision for both water and sewage disposal are technically possible, but their numbers are continuously falling for the reasons noted. I think personal electricity provision would have the same problems. There is already a very-well maintained and reliable system in place that is quite reasonable in price. People might well install personal systems (as they are now) to augment and reduce their use of the centrally-supplied product. However, few will go completely off the grid (except in those places where there is no other or no economic option) because of safety, fear, or hassle issues.

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