Archive | December 2018

q. What energy source are we not hearing about?

Electricity! As primary energy for making storable heat.

As of this posting, it’s still stuck in potential energy category because we haven’t had a matching use for it.

The fact is that our current electricity requirements can’t tolerate the variability and flicker effect of weather impacted sources, so the system operators have to prioritize the reliable generators and disconnect the intermittent electricity.

That is coming to an end. The use we’ve been looking for is to make the heat that industry is burning fossil fuels to produce. We don’t hear about that because it would encroach into the market that fossil fuels are holding onto for dear life.

It’s actually kind of mind-boggling because thermal electricity has always been made by burning fuels or nuclear heating. In that context, it’s the result of making steam that turns the turbines that turn the shaft of the generators. That is all we’ve known.

Since 99.99% of consumers have had no reason to ever contemplate what electricity is, and there has been no profit in getting into the details. Those “details” like; electricity generated by wind will work just fine to make heat that industry is buying petroleum products to do.

If you are one of the gazillions of people who have wondered why we can’t use lightning, the answer is that there is no way to predict where lighting is going to strike. No telling when or how much is coming at the ground.

Wind turbines solve 2/3 of that problem by establishing where and how much electricity we’re going to get, but we cannot control When it’s going to come. Oops.

The “when” part has been the whole point of electricity. The reason we’ve never heard about it is that we’ve never been curious about it. This was never talked about because that would have caused people to start thinking about electricity beyond the wall plugin.

Never mind. Google and Siemens have been doing that thinking for you. The same kind of molten “salt” that doesn’t care when the sun heats it, doesn’t care when electricity heats it.

Voila’ heat with no fire… we’re still a couple of steps away from applying that, Energy Storage regulations have been keeping that away from consumers, but Elon Musk has blown those doors open, and the Batteries have now battered down the walls, that electrically powered thermal storage has been stuck behind.

And this my friends is why I’m so much more optimistic about the same kind of future that fossil fuels are terrified of.

I’ll conclude by saying I wouldn’t recommend buying oil stocks for your retirement, and

Happy New Year



©William Ross Williams 2018

A bit of fresh air.

This is a link to a Forbes article that deserves a complete read.

We’ve been being so barraged by the outrageous behavior of the loudest and most radical Capitalists in America it’s getting hard to remember what is good about America.

This article shows a trend and awareness that $15.00/hour is the effective minimum wage. And that happy employees do better work.

As I scanned the list I also noticed that 3M and Johnson&Johnson have employee and customer treatment numbers that are both top tier. Both of these companies were cited a few years back in a book about what makes great companies great.

The economic gap where the middle class used to be is being noticed. I don’t care how they rate on the 100% (fake) renewable charts. My opinion on sustainability has been businesses that manage to keep All of the stakeholders reasonably happy, rather than just the beady-eyed analysts and stockholders.
We have a long way to go but acknowledged awareness is sure a good place to start.

A current view of African electricity: The mental model that isn’t working.

Millions of urban Africans still don’t have electricity: here’s what can be done

File 20180306 146650 1kgus7y.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Millions of people without electricity access in Africa live close to existing power grid infrastructure.

Rebekah Shirley, Strathmore University

At least 110 million of the 600 million people still living without access to electricity in Africa live in urban areas. Most are within a stone throw from existing power grid infrastructure.

In Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Liberia alone there are up to 95 million people living in urban areas. All in close proximity to the grid. In Kenya, about 70% of off-grid homes are located within 1.2km of a power line. And estimates for “under-the-grid” populations across sub-Saharan Africa range from 61% to 78%.

Besides energy access being crucial for many basic human needs, these underserved populations represent a massive commercial opportunity for cash-strapped sub-Saharan African utilities. Electricity providers could reach tens of millions of densely packed customers without the cost of a last-mile rural grid extension.

So, why aren’t these potential consumers connected to the formal grid?

Urban communities often face many challenges in obtaining electricity access. These range from the prohibitively high cost of a connection, to the challenges of informal housing, the impact of power theft on services and socio-political marginalization. In many cases, these obstacles are difficult to address successfully.

However, recent advances in distributed renewable energy technologies mean a more affordable, faster to deploy, cleaner alternative is at hand in Africa. One that can step in where policy and utility reforms are wanting.

Barriers to grid connections

One of the major barriers to electrification is the cost of a grid connection. A grid connection in Kenya, for instance, is estimated at USD
$ 400 per household
. This is nearly one-third of the average per capita income of a Kenyan.

Beyond pure cost barriers, urban communities often can’t access energy services for other socio-economic reasons. For instance, not being metered because they don’t have a formal address. Or living in an area that is difficult to service – such as near flood plains or in informal housing settlements.

Corruption among electricity service providers, power theft by customers and the establishment of electricity cartels also complicates and limits electricity access.

Finally, the utilities themselves face many challenges in implementing reforms to get more people connected. Take the example of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company, which owns and operates most of the electricity transmission and distribution system. In 2015 it introduced a subsidized connection fee of US $150. This was done through the Last Mile Connectivity Project. In one year, this installment-based payment plan led to a 30-fold increase in legal electricity connections in impoverished neighborhoods.

But the project was marred by cost overruns and inflated and misreported new connection numbers. On top of this, newly connected households often have very low consumption levels and low-income customers were often unable to make payments, even at subsidized rates.

Without the necessary infrastructural development, experts argue that the program puts a strain on the technical, commercial and financial resources of the utility. This means that the programme may find it difficult to generate revenue, recover costs or provide the service intended to new customers.

Decentralized renewables

Decentralized renewable energy technologies offer an important solution for “under-the-grid” electrification. They are simple, fast and agile. They have short installation times, and offer a reliable electricity service for informal settlements.

Pay-as-you-go solar systems and appliances, for example, can provide a much lower barrier to entry. Compared to the high upfront connection costs noted earlier in Kenya, a 15-watt solar home system costs on average USD $9 per month for 36 months after which point the household owns its system.

The renewable energy sector recognizes this under-the-grid market. In fact, about 35% of solar lighting product sales in Kenya are made in peri-urban areas. And it’s a good bet. Evidence shows that the willingness to pay for decentralized renewables is much higher than a grid connection because they are seen as more reliable.

Policies to support decentralized technologies include integrated energy planning that incorporates these solutions, adopting and enforcing product quality control standards and providing financial incentives – like reduced import duties for products or local loan and grant programs.

These solutions show that with the right approach, and simple innovations, Africa’s prospective urban customers can finally get access to electricity.

Ben Attia, a Research Consultant with Greentech Media, contributed to the writing of this articleThe Conversation

Rebekah Shirley, Research Director at Power for All and Visiting Research Scholar, Strathmore University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


An Alternative Energy future

Q. When will alternative technologies replace hydrocarbons as the main producers of energy?

That will start when we stop focusing on producing electricity and start expanding the horizons of how we can put it to use.

100% reneewable solar and wind

Electricity from wind and solar will be the dominant source of the energy that will power the expanding global economy. We never have to worry about electricity shortage again in the “consumer world.” It’s going to take a book to explain just how we’re going to do that

This is a book that would be banned by the climate denier government if we lose our first amendment rights.

Why? Because starting from here forward will be a direct assault on the sales of the petroleum products we are consuming today.

The magic will be when we stop our focus on electricity production and start exploring how many things electricity can do that will replace 60-70% the need for petroleum.

The vision that’s in my head is a result of correlating everything I have learned since Christmas Eve 30 years ago. 90% of that learning is the result of decisions I made without the aid of what I’ve learned since.

One hint is that we need to deploy electricity powered transportation at five times the pace that automotive experts think is possible. (Keep in mind that the entire transportation infrastructure system we have today has been designed to be petroleum’s prize revenue generator)

If Elon Musk had not come from so far outside of the establishment and managed to be so successful that the US auto industry has had to follow suit, the rollout of EV’s, globally would still be at a snail’s pace.

The nice thing about batteries is that they really don’t care when they’re charged or how much they are charged at any given time. In other words, they are a perfect use for intermittent electricity from wind and solar.

Another key break that we’ve had is California’s insistence on renewable energy, and even more important is the clearing of the regulatory hurdles for “Energy storage.”

Something I did not anticipate, as I researched various energy storage technologies over the past decade, was that the high cost and the positive impact of lithium-ion battery systems would improve so dramatically that they are justified at utility scale.

This is opening the door for an even bigger opportunity to reduce fossil fuels that will double the Renewable Electricity absorption capability.

We’re on our way

I don’t care how we get there, I just care that we get there as quickly as possible. The evolution of electricity storage since California provided the regulatory environment needed, has been and continues to be astounding.

The ability to convert the electricity from renewable generation or energy from any source that’s being wasted into a useful energy form that can be stored is the next step to the energy future that’s now possible with an alternative mental model.

In conclusion, I will reiterate that we now have plenty of ways to generate electricity without combustion, but saving our planet depends on how many other ways we can find to use intermittent electricity.


© William Ross Williams 2018