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The Grid : Between a Rock and a Hard Place

 “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”—Socrates

Our position is to promote renewables first, not efficiency, because then the resto of the clean energy transition will follow. We are confirmed in this conviction by the changing situation in the energy markets.

The Grid to consolidate legacy energy?

Previously we worried a lot about the smart grid, in every size and shape, because it really is a waste of energy if you compare it to using the same resources for building renewable energy generators. The Grid is promoted using a distorted reality of a world with a highly dynamic energy market and super intermittent unreliable renewable sources and no place to store any of the peak or surplus production, at least not at ‘reasonable cost’. This artificial situation however can not withstand the effects of increasing renewable capacity, and here’s why.

Negative prices? Compare Germany with France

Even though the Grid is proposed to serve transportation of coal, gas, nuclear electricity, it also transports renewable energy. This means that energy enters the market around Europe. This means it competes with fossil energy, seriously competes. Yesterday German Wind electricity had a negative price, minus 80,- Euro per MWh. Compare this to the cost of electricity in France, around 57,- Euro per MWh. So Grid expansion will lead to increased competition from renewable sources, a better carbon offset scheme than the virtual one we have now.

This trend does not play well with the economics of running wind farms, but economics doesn’t do that in general. In economics all resources are priced first, then the money to buy them is extended as credit. Renewable energy creates the right to extend energy credit, by the energy producer outside the economic/banking system. It requires a new credit system to free up renewables to their full economic potential, but even without that, they push out and shut down fossil generation. The Grid helps renewables, it does not protect legacy energy producers!

"Renewables need flexible backup, not baseload" 

Embracing Storage?  

So while the legacy producers are lying about the need for a grid and the impossibility of storage, their strategy (grid expansion) doesn’t help them in any other way then diverting resources away from renewables. The real killer though is storage. Take that intermittend wind power and solar and shift it a couple of hourse using any type of storage, and grid investment becomes unjustifiable. Solar panels are autonomous things, batteries can be the same, both can keep a household running even through the winter.

Battery technology is kept expensive and utility scale, but you got so much types, like NiFe NiZinc, Active carbon ultracapacitors, Liquid salt, AluminiumAir, even ordinary lead Acid. Usually already up and running in industry for decades. To keep them expensive banks invest millions in them, hoard patents and push up the price. Even the very inefficient concept of hydrogen storage, requiring some nickel, tubes and graphite and a plastic membrane with KoH in it costs thousands of Euro’s after decades of production. 

Business cases for storage will start to make more sense the more renewable energy is produced and peaks simultaneously. But it really takes a reset of patent law and financing regulations to force the obvious switch to local storage with long range replenisment through the grid. This can be augmented with liquid fuel generation based on renewables like ethanol , NH3 (ammonia) and other fuels (as pioneered by the US Navy). 

Win Win 

Either way, a win win situation is developing. The grid does not protect centralized power generation, and motivates implementation of storage. The centralized generators can’t win. The economic power of renewables is growing palpably. So the strategy to support more renewable energy sources remains the most effective one to defeat fossil fuel/nuclear.

See also : The Carboncredit system : A limit to growth 

The Euro, Auro and the Joule


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