The Current Status Of The Electricity Market:
The Electricity market should be viewed as 2 separate branches:
- The Production Level
- The Transport Level
The majority of electricity production today is still primarily using carbon-based fuels, which are highly polluting. In different countries, non-polluting renewable energy production today is between 10 % (USA) to 25 % (Ireland & UK) of total production.
Production is still organized following the 20th Century precepts, which manifest as, “Private Enterprise Monopoly Centralized Vertical Silos”. In many cases these Silos are fighting to outlaw Private production of renewable energy.
The Nuclear Time Bomb:
Nuclear Energy was sold as the ultimate clean energy – except this simply wasn’t true.
It cannot be labeled clean since we do not know how to dispose of Nuclear Waste which will silently kill people over the next 100 years. Nuclear Energy is not cheap since the cost of neutralizing nuclear waste and the cost of dismantling the reactors was never factored into the price.
The cost of dismantling a nuclear reactor has been estimated at €20 Billions. Neither the Local Communities nor the Government can afford this cost. The Private Electrical Utility managing the plant cannot afford it unless the price of electrical power is brutally increased.
Politicians in most countries have deemed it wiser to ignore the issue and to pass on this huge cost on to future generations.
The Aging Grid:
The electricity transport system called the “Grid” began in 1938. On the average the age of National Grids is estimated at 50 years old. The Grid was built mostly by Private Enterprise with little or no redundancy in order to maximize productivity. Rural Electrification in many cases was subsidized by the Government.
Nothing has been done to compensate for hot and cold weather impact on the physical infrastructures. This results in numerous and regular Power interruptions on very large geographical areas. Research has been minimal except maybe for the connecting units. Copper wires are still being used, as they have been since 1938. Only in rare cases is there an attempt to transmit data along the electrical wire, even though this could generate substantial supplementary income.
Energy demand has expanded with urbanization. Electricity is a highly perishable commodity and because storage was not favored the Industry has developed markets on a regional and continent basis.
The current business model is to use one very large centralized production plant, to reap the economies of scale, distributing to the regional Grid.
GPE – Facilitating A Positive Global Shift:
The trend from legacy carbon sources to renewable energy sources is well established and increasing. The Cost of Solar energy is falling, as is the cost of wind energy. In many cases the cost of solar is now below the cost of most carbon energy sources.
This change of energy source has dramatic implications for the transport part of the industry. The shift from centralized legacy Grids to mini and micro-Grids cannot be stopped. Renewable energy is best suited for distributed energy systems. The energy is produced from small local systems, rooftops for example, where some is used locally and any surplus can be sold or traded.
This shift to a renewable-energy based distributed system is creating havoc with the legacy Utilities’ business model. In many cases such Utilities cannot fully use their expensive carbon-based production units, which are increasingly being relegated to the secondary role of producing the Base Load to stabilize the Grid.
Until 2016, in the days of the legacy carbon energy, electricity was considered exclusively as a perishable commodity. What was not used immediately was lost. Storage was not part of the business model. With the expansion of Solar energy (not produced at night) a new demand for storage is exploding.
Recent research has opened many options and the costs of both production and storage are coming down very fast. The legacy Utilities have not yet perceived electricity storage, by itself, as representing a true business opportunity.
Solar and Wind energy sources have been shown to be more resilient to storms and tornadoes, in part because there is no single point of failure. Production units are independent and spread over a large area.
One of the great weakness of the legacy Grid transport are the overhead cables and power lines. Storms, winds, tornadoes, ice, snow, extreme heat or cold, and trees, all combine to interrupt the transport of energy.
The result is frequent black-outs or brown-outs. The solution is to bury the power-lines 2 m or more underground where the temperature is stable. There is also an undeniable “quality of life” factor since nobody enjoys the view of the Towers and Lines defacing the scenery.
The problem with burying extremely long power-lines is the cost. Burying power cables can cost up to $10 Million per Km in mountain areas. This means that for a typical European Country the cost is approximately $1 Trillion. Investments of this magnitude are discussed in another section of this document.
There is a substantial need for research funding. Solar panels are still at the first generation stage. Storage research is only in the starting blocks and there has not been a major technology breakthrough yet. Electricity transport cable producers need to consider an alternative from the legacy copper. Graphene shows promise and needs to be further studied and tested.
More research is needed to look at the combined transport of both electricity and data on the same conduit. These are just a few avenues of promising research.
The GPE Solution: GPE proposes a long term solution to the energy crisis synergizing a holistic strategy and management approach, which includes the long term financing of the systems, and burying under-ground the Power Lines for a higher quality of Life. The Funding will come from historical sources and Financial Management through the Financial Markets as described elsewhere.
If you require further information, please contact Global Project Engineering.
Global Project Engineering
1 Carrefour de Rive
1207 Geneva – Switzerland
Tel : + 41 22 735 7900