Thursday, July 10, 2014

Here Comes the Sun

Coal, of course, will never be free. And the rapid uptake of rooftop solar – dubbed the democratisation of energy – is raising the biggest challenge to the centralised model of generation since electricity systems were established more than a century ago.

Network operators in Queensland, realising the pent up demand for rooftop solar, are now allowing customers to install as much as they want, on the condition that they don’t export surplus electricity back to the grid.

Households and businesses have little incentive to export excess power. They don't get paid much for it anyway. Ergon Energy admits that this will likely encourage households to install battery storage.

The next step, of course, is for those households and businesses to disconnect entirely from the grid. In remote and regional areas, that might make sense, because the cost of delivery is expensive and in states such as Queensland and WA is massively cross-subsidised by city consumers.

The truly scary prospect for coal generators, however, is that this equation will become economically viable in the big cities. Investment bank UBS says this could happen as early as 2018.

The CSIRO, in its Future Grid report, says that more than half of electricity by 2040 may be generated, and stored, by “prosumers” at the point of consumption. But they warn that unless the incumbent utilities can adapt their business models to embrace this change, then 40% of consumers will quit the grid.

Even if the network operators and retailers do learn how to compete – from telecommunication companies, data and software specialists like Google and Apple, and energy management experts – it is not clear how centralised, fossil-fuel generation can adapt. In an energy democracy, even free coal has no value.
Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete (The Guardian)

Nice if true. Here are some other links on solar:

Wind, Solar and Hydro Could Power All 50 States (Washington's Blog)

Solar power to trump shale, helped by US military (The Telegraph)

Is Anything Stopping a Truly Massive Build-Out of Desert Solar Power? (SciAm)

Solar on a grand scale: Big power plants coming online in the West (WaPo)

Peru’s poorest will soon have solar power (Grist)

Solar panel-carrying donkeys bring internet to Turkish sheepherders (Treehugger)

The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy (The Week)

New connection between stacked solar cells can handle energy of 70,000 suns (

L.A. launches nation’s largest solar rooftop program (Global Possibilities)

Renewable Energy Provided One-Third Of Germany’s Power In The First Half Of 2014 (Think Progress)

But not everyone wants the solar revolution:

Utility companies go to war against solar (BoingBoing)

Koch brothers, big utilities attack solar, green energy policies (LA Times)

With Rooftop Solar on Rise, U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back (Environment 360)

Fight over Rooftop Solar Forecasts a Bright Future for Cleaner Energy (SciAm)

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