(March 4, 2011) Energy Probe executive director Lawrence Solomon argues that plans to spend trillions on ‘smart grids’ will collapse.
Power companies around the world are planning to spend trillions of dollars building smart grids — next-generation marvels likened to the transcontinental railroad and the Internet because they are seen as revolutionizing society.
It won’t happen. The smart grid is nothing more than a politically driven fantasy that has no economic rationale other than to support politically favoured technologies that themselves have no economic rationale other than to save the world from global warming. And on global warming the public in most developed countries, public opinion polls show, has already spoken: Global warming is a non-problem.
To understand what the smart grid is supposed to be, and supposed to do, think Internet by analogy: The power company would be akin to an Internet service provider, the smart grid akin to the Internet network, the electric vehicle in your garage and solar panels on your roof akin to the laptops, desktops and video game terminals in your home. Instead of downloading movies or uploading computer files, you’d be downloading power for the electric vehicle in your garage and uploading electricity from your solar system to the grid, for use by others.
Sounds dandy, except the analogy falls flat on economic grounds. The Internet network, which is profitable, carries high-value data such as movies, which are profitable, from laptops and other capable devices, which are profitable. In contrast, the smart grid, which is unprofitable, would carry mostly low-value electricity, which is unprofitable, from solar panels and other incapable devices, which are unprofitable. The massive subsidies that governments are providing to the smart grid, in fact, are attempts to somehow overcome the drawbacks in the incapable electricity technologies that governments are backing.
Solar technology is incapable because its availability cannot be accurately predicted, raising the risk of power disruptions and blackouts. On a sunny day, passing clouds can instantly eliminate much of the power the electricity system depends on. Several days of low dense cloud cover can reduce the output of a solar panel by more than 90%, even in summer. Storms add to the unreliability, particularly when sticky snow adheres to the solar panel, rendering it useless for days or weeks at a time and causing no end of consternation to utility managers who need to compensate for the unexpected loss. Too much sun is also a problem — Germany’s energy authority fears strong afternoon sun coupled with low demand for power could crash the country’s power grid.
That consternation from solar panels is as nothing when wind power is concerned. The wind can and does die down suddenly over vast geographic expanses, causing utilities to lose up to 99% of the wind power they had expected. As worrisome, the wind can just as easily rise up unexpectedly, overwhelming the power grid. Whether there is too much or too little wind power, blackouts again loom.
Unlike most conventional power plants, solar and wind technologies can’t be powered on and off as needed to meet the varying demands of customers. These still immature renewable technologies, prematurely brought to market by politicians seeking alternatives to fossil fuels, are entirely hostage to the weather.
The smart grid would solve the problem of instability by controlling the customers instead of the technologies. To protect the grid from sudden drops in the power being produced, for example, the smart grid engineers would reach into our homes and businesses to instantly turn off our refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, air conditioners, and other smart appliances as needed to match the sudden power losses.
The smart grid and the smart meters with which they are integrated would control customers in other ways, too — by changing our lifestyles to have them better conform to the technologies the politicians have chosen for us. Here the smart grid engineers would reach into our pocketbooks, by pricing power cheaper in the middle of the night, on political criteria, to encourage us to soak up an excess of power that their anti-fossil fuel scheme has produced. Most of that excess power, they fantasize, will recharge the batteries of our electric vehicles as we sleep. But electric cars are going nowhere, the marketplace has made clear — they remain unaffordable even with big rebates on the vehicle’s purchase price.
Neither will wind and solar systems go anywhere — cash-strapped governments throughout the world are slashing subsidies to them, leading to numerous bankruptcies and an inevitable collapse.
For all these reasons, the smart grid dream won’t last much longer. The one smart grid that was completed — a small smart grid in Boulder, Colo., called Smart Grid City — came in at $100-million, three times the original cost estimates, and at a cost of $2,000 per billpayer, it has little value to show for itself. Politicians still push the smart grid, but at some point they will need to face reality — the renewable technologies that the smart grid is intended to support, along with the global warming ideology that underpins them, is all but dead.
The world’s electricity systems will remain predominantly fossil fuelled, and because fossil fuels are both flexible and cheap, they won’t require a smart grid to manage them. The politician-driven smart grid will disappear, and with it the trillions of dollars in needless investment now on the drawing boards.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe.
It is an interesting opinion. It is understandable that it is hard for some, more than for others, to imagine what life will be twenty years from now.
There are those that have a limited, narrow assumption that the past dictates all that the future can hold. There are some, most, that live life as a “been there, done that” mentality.
Big statements are usually a clear giveaway of people that have closed their mind to new information and are only confirming their existing perceptions. Statements like: “And on global warming the public in most developed countries, public opinion polls show, has already spoken: Global warming is a non-problem.”
What planet do you come from friend?
It must not be this planet. For here we are seeing the effects of global warming and the vast majority of our scientists have come to the conclusion that the debate about global warming has indeed ended; we are causing global warming and if we do nothing about it we will most likely have a much less agreeable life in as soon as 20 years from now. Just because we are in the water and do not feel the water beginning to boil does not mean we will not boil.
Do you know how many people it took to believe in, develop, market, perfect the object of our conversation itself; electricity? One.
Yes, when all else thought it was wizardry, stupidity, futile and most of all, uneconomical, one guy believed in electricity as a planet changing technology.
I wonder what all the people that did not invest thought of their narrow mindedness 50 years later?
Think longer term, not just in front of your nose. At least keep it to yourself if you have little productive to say. You are talented in presenting your opinion, please think how much good you can do when you are not as angry and focused on winning your argument rather than looking at the facts.
We have some hope in that some of us believe that we can do better than the sum of our past. We can reinvent the way we live as we have over our past brief time on this planet. Some wisdom would go a long way in helping us let future generations have a go at life here.
There is nothing “smart” about the “smart grid” concept. It is entirely based on technology that does not yet largely exist. Sure there are some limited “intelligent” appliances around but there are as yet no “plug in” electric cars for example. Additionally, it has yet to be shown that these aforementioned intelligent appliances can be controlled by the grid and also, there are as yet no standardized protocols for ANY of this!
More importantly, how any horrendously massive electrical grid, smart or otherwise, can be as intelligent as “distributed” or “point of use” generation boggles the mind. Using CURRENT RELIABLE generation technologies like small hydro, small nuclear and waste-to-energy, there is really no empirical argument that can be made for continent -spanning electrical grids no matter how smart these may or may not be!
“Off grid” and/or “no grid” beats “smart grid” hands down every time!
This obviousness does not speak highly to the “smarts” of those running our affairs.
As for you Software; although Lawrence and I don’t see eye to eye on the energy file, I will take his grasp of the facts surrounding “global warming” (now called “climate change” after the fraud was, and continues to be exposed) over your grasp of it any day!
Of all the crimes humanity has and is committing against the natural environment, CO2 isn’t one of them! It therefore follows that strategies employed to mitigate this are essentially useless and most likely fraudulent. Any science that attempts to dispute this fundamental truism is really BAD science!
Need proof? Follow the money! OUR MONEY! Or if you have a scientific bent, look to the fossil record as far back as it goes…
The truth is stranger then fiction!