Author Topic: The future of the electric grid  (Read 1496 times)

Offline Zakalwe

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2021, 02:31:26 AM »

I'll also acknowledge that, you know, Ted Cruz could not personally do anything about what was happening. 

Rubbish. Rafael couldn't have done anything? When he was flying to Cancun with his family AOC was flying into Texas to help.

   




He could also have not spent his political career denying anthropogenic climate change and instead have done something to prepare for it's effects.
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Offline Peter B

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2021, 03:51:07 AM »

I'll also acknowledge that, you know, Ted Cruz could not personally do anything about what was happening. 

He couldn't fix power lines or water lines, no.

Heh, like the Prime Minister of a certain country a little over a year ago, after it was found he'd jetted off to Hawaii on holiday just as that country's Black Summer was kicking into high gear: "Mate, I don't hold a hose."

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As a Senator, he could have helped coordinate federal relief efforts.  He could have used his Twitter account to communicate status of repairs, provide relief information, relay messages between different groups, any number of small but useful things. 

Even the empty symbolism of a photo op handing out bottles of water would have been something.

Perhaps not lobbing them out basketball free-throw style like a certain President in Puerto Rico...?

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These are things that normal politicians who even just pretend to give a crap about their constituents do.  But no, his first instinct wasn't to do any of that, his first instinct was to fly to Cancun because he could.  His second instinct was to blame his family when the optics went sour and he had to come back (and do the stupid photo op handing out bottles of water). 

Dude is a moral and ethical vacuum.

In our case the PM talks often about the "Canberra Bubble" (it's vaguely interesting to know I live in this bubble!) that he claims the Parliamentary Press Gallery exists in, separate from the reality of "real" Australians. Yet so often his explanations are so at odds with the evidence that it's reasonable to claim he's more in a reality bubble than the journalists.

Offline molesworth

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2021, 05:06:44 AM »
...

Instead of winterizing we'll blame the windmills.  20 years from now it will happen again.
With ongoing climate change it's going to become more and more frequent.  I'd be surprised if it's as long as 20 years until the next similar event.

The likely worsening of winter storms, hurricanes, floods etc. is going to need to be dealt with all over the world, and politicians should be making plans now.  Unfortunately that means spending money, which is never a popular political move.
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Offline Peter B

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #33 on: February 23, 2021, 06:19:06 AM »
This is all quite interesting - I've always just 'flicked the switch' without a second thought about how the "green steam" gets to me.

I didn't really give it much thought until recently, but I've been trying to learn more about it. It gives me hope that there are solutions to the problems we're facing.

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He explained that the existing grid simply could not provide the required power / load.

Whenever new electrical devices explode onto the market (think of TVs, clothes washers & dryers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, personal computers, air conditioning) the power grid adapts fairly quickly.

I think there are a lot of things we can do... such as reducing energy usage in other areas, improving efficiency, expanding solar & wind generation, and adding energy storage to the grid. Saying "it's too hard so let's not bother" is what we've been doing for too long. If we took it more seriously 40 years ago we would be under less of a crunch now.

Something like 20% of Australian homes have solar PV panels on the roof. And probably somewhere a little less than that have some sort of solar/heat pump system for producing hot water. IIRC, in West Australia alone the amount of power generated by solar PV is equivalent to a standard-size power station. And late last year, for half an hour or so renewables (wind and solar PV) met South Australia's entire electricity needs.

Sure, Australia naturally has an advantage over the USA because we're nearer the equator. But I know solar hot water makes sense even in Canberra (35 degrees south and 100 km from the sea and 600 metres above sea level, so cold in winter) and Hobart (42 degrees south) so I'm sure a lot of places in the USA would similarly benefit.

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Right now our existing solar & wind power generation capability is being under utilized because of the way we produce power on demand. Near where I live you will often see wind turbines completely still on windy days because there isn't enough demand for electricity at that time. If we had grid storage capacity we could utilize solar & wind farms on low demand days, and then use that stored power on cloudy/windless days (or when a freak weather event takes out the traditional power stations). You can sell that excess power to other states or countries that need it and make a profit. It would also allow you to reduce the need to fire up fossil fuel peaker plants when demand spikes.

South Australia has a large-scale battery installed by Tesla a few years ago. AIUI it can meet the state's electricity needs for only about half an hour if all production is knocked off-line. But the main ongoing benefit it provides is as a buffer - smoothing out imbalances between supply and demand in seconds, rather than the minutes required by even the best gas-powered generators, and thus saving a lot of money in wholesale electricity prices.

The Federal Government is also looking at pumped hydro as another method of storing energy, but that's still years away.

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If every new building was built with a solar power roof and battery system it would allow home/business owners to charger their vehicles, which would mean no additional demand on the traditional power grid. But not only that, it would allow the building owner to sell electricity to the grid. They could also use their vehicle as a backup power supply for their building if needed.

Yes, and I think there are some countries which already mandate this sort of thing. Heck, even requiring roofs to be painted white might help save money in hotter parts of the land. Or not stigmatising the idea of hanging clothes on a clothesline to dry...

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And how much electricity does fossil fuel refining demand of our grid? If everyone switched to EVs, wouldn't that mean the oil industry would require less electricity?

The Engineering Explained YouTube channel just put out a video going over why the grid can handle the switch to EVs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dfyG6FXsUU

Buying an electric car is something I plan for the future. But not now - not if the electricity to run it is being generated by a power station running on brown coal, as some Australian power stations still do.

My plan for the next few years is instead to start with installing a heat pump hot water system, then install solar PV panels and a battery, and then get an electric car (or two). The idea is that the car would act as a second battery, providing even more storage capacity for use when we have a run of cloudy days.

Offline gillianren

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #34 on: February 23, 2021, 10:43:18 AM »
You can coordinate from anywhere.  That he wasn't doing that is its own issue, and I'm assuredly not trying to absolve him from that.  I'm just saying, you know, he's not an expert in logistics.  He's not an expert in infrastructure.  He can't personally get people's power and water back on.  The hard work that's on the ground?  That has to be done in Texas?  He can do some of that symbolically, but he's not really doing the work that needs to get done.

Really, where he's needed most is arguably in DC, doing the work of, you know, a Senator.  Working with other Senators.  Now, none of the other Senators, including on his own side, like him, so that's going to be a problem, but there we are.

Honestly?  I also get not investing in infrastructure.  I live in the Greater Seattle Area.  People mock us for our reaction to snow, and we get snow every year.  It doesn't always stick, and we usually have it for a couple of days before it melts, but we get it.  And (in part because we just moved here and I didn't go anywhere) I don't know what the nearest street in my neighbourhood that got plowed was.  I have a guess, but I know ours didn't, and I know the one you turn into to get to our street didn't.  Because we don't have the infrastructure.  We have chosen to spend it elsewhere.

But Texas had this problem once before.  And making sure all these things are winterized is an expense that may to an extent feel unnecessary.  But winterizing, unlike maintaining enough snow plows to deal with an extremely hilly area, is much more of a once-and-done expense, and it's going to turn out to have cost Texas more not to have done it.  I just wonder if this time, they'll learn their lesson.

As for "deserving" to have these extraordinarily high power bills, no, I disagree with that.  Frankly, I am of the opinion that utilities should be socialized and definitely shouldn't be for profit, and those exorbitant increases in power bills should not be happening, spread over months or in a single bill.
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Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #35 on: February 23, 2021, 01:14:07 PM »
You can coordinate from anywhere.  That he wasn't doing that is its own issue, and I'm assuredly not trying to absolve him from that.  I'm just saying, you know, he's not an expert in logistics.  He's not an expert in infrastructure.  He can't personally get people's power and water back on.  The hard work that's on the ground?  That has to be done in Texas?  He can do some of that symbolically, but he's not really doing the work that needs to get done.

Really, where he's needed most is arguably in DC, doing the work of, you know, a Senator.  Working with other Senators. 

Like John Cornyn, who was doing exactly that. 

His family could have flown to Cancun without him, and I wouldn't have had any issue with that (well, yeah, I would have had issues, but they'd have been more along the lines of "travel during COVID" and "must nice to have the resources to just get away while everyone else is stuck").  It's that he took the opportunity to check out when Cornyn and a good chunk of the TX House delegation were doing what they could to help, like normal elected officials.

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Now, none of the other Senators, including on his own side, like him, so that's going to be a problem, but there we are.

Al Franken once said he probably liked Ted Cruz more than any of the other Senators did, and he hated Ted Cruz. 

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Honestly?  I also get not investing in infrastructure.  I live in the Greater Seattle Area.  People mock us for our reaction to snow, and we get snow every year.  It doesn't always stick, and we usually have it for a couple of days before it melts, but we get it.  And (in part because we just moved here and I didn't go anywhere) I don't know what the nearest street in my neighbourhood that got plowed was.  I have a guess, but I know ours didn't, and I know the one you turn into to get to our street didn't.  Because we don't have the infrastructure.  We have chosen to spend it elsewhere.

But Texas had this problem once before.  And making sure all these things are winterized is an expense that may to an extent feel unnecessary.  But winterizing, unlike maintaining enough snow plows to deal with an extremely hilly area, is much more of a once-and-done expense, and it's going to turn out to have cost Texas more not to have done it.  I just wonder if this time, they'll learn their lesson.

Ars Technica had an article about the grid failure, and one of the outside experts (who has nothing to do with the Texas situation) pointed out that if we had winterized for the 2011 event, that likely would not have been sufficient for this event (this was colder for longer with more frozen precipitation).  He also pointed out that can't really test if our winterization is sufficient until a similar event occurs, which won't be for years, possibly decades.

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As for "deserving" to have these extraordinarily high power bills, no, I disagree with that.  Frankly, I am of the opinion that utilities should be socialized and definitely shouldn't be for profit, and those exorbitant increases in power bills should not be happening, spread over months or in a single bill.

Again, the extraordinarily high bills are for customers with variable-rate plans, which exposes them to spikes in the wholesale price of energy.  That's a small minority of consumers.  Most of us have fixed-rate plans through our providers, so we're insulated from those spikes.  Our bill next month will be higher for a variety of reasons, but it won't be in the thousands of dollars range. 

And I'm not saying they "deserve" those bills, I'm just saying that being on a variable-rate plan exposes you to some risk, and you should be aware of those risks before signing on.  Now, my wife read yesterday that some customers who had been on a fixed-rate plan were placed on a variable-rate plan without their knowledge, so they're getting screwed.  Again, per our Congressman, some of the relief funds coming in should go towards paying those bills. 

Our grid does need real regulation and oversight, but I disagree that it needs to be completely socialized.  It's cheap and stable under normal conditions, we just need to make sure it's also stable under abnormal conditions, which will make it less cheap. 

Finally read the water meter yesterday, and the situation isn't anywhere near as dire as we were fearing - it was on par with the previous month's usage.  Maybe a little more than we've used in past Februaries, but not a severe outlier. 

God we were lucky. 

Offline gillianren

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #36 on: February 24, 2021, 10:25:41 AM »
If it is possible for the company to charge that kind of bill, no matter the specific situation, there is something wrong.  Full stop.
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Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #37 on: February 24, 2021, 03:04:47 PM »
If it is possible for the company to charge that kind of bill, no matter the specific situation, there is something wrong.  Full stop.

I agree it's a mistake to allow private individuals to sign on to the same kinds of wholesale plans available to providers and commercial customers because of exactly this kind of risk.  Whatever regulatory action arises from this, that should be part of it.

Note that providers like Griddy were telling their customers "you really want to change providers" before the storm hit because they knew what was going to happen. 

So as more comes out about this, we're learning that we got incredibly lucky and the grid was literally within minutes of total, irreparable collapse, which would have knocked power out to everyone for weeks. 

This was scary enough that action may actually be taken to protect the grid from future cold events.  Texans are stubborn and a little stupid, but getting kicked in face will usually elicit a response. 

Offline Peter B

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #38 on: February 24, 2021, 06:59:44 PM »
If it is possible for the company to charge that kind of bill, no matter the specific situation, there is something wrong.  Full stop.

I agree it's a mistake to allow private individuals to sign on to the same kinds of wholesale plans available to providers and commercial customers because of exactly this kind of risk.  Whatever regulatory action arises from this, that should be part of it.

Note that providers like Griddy were telling their customers "you really want to change providers" before the storm hit because they knew what was going to happen. 

So as more comes out about this, we're learning that we got incredibly lucky and the grid was literally within minutes of total, irreparable collapse, which would have knocked power out to everyone for weeks. 

This was scary enough that action may actually be taken to protect the grid from future cold events.  Texans are stubborn and a little stupid, but getting kicked in face will usually elicit a response.

Do you have some more information on the bolded bit, please?

Offline jfb

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #39 on: February 24, 2021, 07:08:40 PM »
If it is possible for the company to charge that kind of bill, no matter the specific situation, there is something wrong.  Full stop.

I agree it's a mistake to allow private individuals to sign on to the same kinds of wholesale plans available to providers and commercial customers because of exactly this kind of risk.  Whatever regulatory action arises from this, that should be part of it.

Note that providers like Griddy were telling their customers "you really want to change providers" before the storm hit because they knew what was going to happen. 

So as more comes out about this, we're learning that we got incredibly lucky and the grid was literally within minutes of total, irreparable collapse, which would have knocked power out to everyone for weeks. 

This was scary enough that action may actually be taken to protect the grid from future cold events.  Texans are stubborn and a little stupid, but getting kicked in face will usually elicit a response.

Do you have some more information on the bolded bit, please?

4 minutes 37 seconds

Abbott just gave an address - the next legislative session will mandate and fund measures to protect the grid.

We’ll see.

Offline VQ

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #40 on: February 24, 2021, 10:01:22 PM »
If it is possible for the company to charge that kind of bill, no matter the specific situation, there is something wrong.  Full stop.

This comes down to a question of how much legislation should protect people from their own dubious decisions. Generally I gravitate towards the opinion that people should be allowed to make decisions for themselves and be responsible for the risks of those decisions (though it sounds like some of the victims of this were tenants who didn't actually make the choice to be on a normally-cheaper-but-risky wholesale plan; they should have recourse through whoever made the decision for them, for example their landlord).

Of course, the wholesale prices spike precisely because there was something wrong, in that demand exceeded the capacity of the generation system.

Offline Grashtel

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #41 on: February 25, 2021, 05:26:45 AM »
4 minutes 37 seconds

Abbott just gave an address - the next legislative session will mandate and fund measures to protect the grid.

We’ll see.
I am not able to access that article, do you know of alternatives?
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Offline gillianren

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #42 on: February 25, 2021, 10:24:04 AM »
This comes down to a question of how much legislation should protect people from their own dubious decisions. Generally I gravitate towards the opinion that people should be allowed to make decisions for themselves and be responsible for the risks of those decisions (though it sounds like some of the victims of this were tenants who didn't actually make the choice to be on a normally-cheaper-but-risky wholesale plan; they should have recourse through whoever made the decision for them, for example their landlord).

Whereas I don't see this as "this behaviour was risky."  I see this as "these companies are trying to gouge their customers."  Why should the power suddenly be enormously more expensive?  I can see averaging your payments over months--something not everyone has the option of--as being a sensible plan based on higher usage.  But that is not what is happening here.  This is electricity's suddenly being phenomenally more expensive.  Some years ago, when our washing machine went out and flooded our apartment, we had to run an industrial blower for days, and our usage spiked.  I think we ended up charged about an extra hundred dollars, which our landlord paid as the problem with the washing machine was a mechanical defect.  I'm sure using substantially more heat all of a sudden did that for some people.  But these people lost power, meaning their usage went down, and are being charged literally thousands of dollars in some cases?
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #43 on: February 25, 2021, 11:33:32 AM »
While I'm generally in favor of caveat emptor, it's hard to see where a line should be drawn, if any, between that and predatory or deceptive marketing.  It seems a thorny issue to determine what risks the customers believed they were incurring.  So much of that gets buried in fine print these days.  But I can see the advantage in allowing customers to accept greater risk in exchange for lower prices.  To me that's not an immoral way to do business, provided (of course) that the risk is clearly spelled out.

As a landlord in a place that has extremes of both hot and cold, I'm required to cover utilities with a landlord account. 
The law deems it unacceptable to cut energy supplies for non-payment.  So if the tenant's account is in arrears, I'm charged and I'm expected to extract the payment from the tenants if I want to be reimbursed.  But because of how the billing works, the tenant account has to have the same payment structure as mine.  So I sympathize very much with Texas tenants who may have been caught in a similar situation and become the victims of their landlords' poor decisions.
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Offline JayUtah

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Re: The future of the electric grid
« Reply #44 on: February 25, 2021, 11:38:16 AM »
I am not able to access that article, do you know of alternatives?

This might work better for you, although it's a 3:37 television report instead of a written article.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2021/02/25/ercot-texas-power-grid-winter-storm-aftermath.html?&qsearchterm=texas?__source=twitter%7Cmain

Often the problem is that not all American web sites are fully compatible with the GDPR yet, and so as a matter of limiting their liability, they deny access to non-American destinations.  I think the Salt Lake Tribune is now finally GDPR compliant.
"Facts are stubborn things." --John Adams