Electrification, Energy Decentralization, the Power Grid, and how do they affect our Cost of Energy
Updated: Jun 15
The energy we consume (not about our metabolism) has been through heat and burning since thousands of years ago. We burned wood for heating and cooking for families and those living together. On the other hand, electricity wasn’t a thing 200 years ago; Michael Faraday found a way to generate and use it. Actual electrification started just 100+ years after many great scientists commercialized their inventions, including Edison, Nikola Tesla, etc.
Electrification has enabled many impossible and rapidly changed our lives, cultures, and health. The only problem is that we create electricity by burning fossil fuels, and burned too much. A new wave of electrification is now underway, using renewable, towards 100% Electrification with AI/robotics/IoT/automation/EVs, at least for residential and the general public.
This massive wave of electrification creates massive electricity generation demands. Luckily, the cost of renewable energy generation has dropped to a reasonable level. It just requires massive land, away from people, to keep the cost down.
So, why is the electricity price still going up?
Short answer: we’re still not 100% using renewables as yet.
Are you sure?
Our still popular ICE cars are getting fuel from a petrol station, not directly from an Oil Field.
Oil -> transport -> refinery to petrol -> transport -> petrol station -> our ICE cars
Electricity requires a similar route:
Fossil fuel (or renewables) generates electricity -> transport -> to household/industries.
The rising cost depends on how far and the number of hubs need to go during transportation.
Transporting energy is an expensive exercise
It is why the European Natural Gas Crisis is a challenging problem during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) worldwide cannot be redirected just by pressing a button. It needs an expensive specialized LNG vessel to transport. Similarly, our Hydrogen Hype is struggling to commercialize because of the even higher cost and loss (60 – 80%) in transportation and storage. If solar PV is converting solar energy at 25% efficiency, green hydrogen produced by solar is resulting in 5% only efficiency when it reaches the end-users.
Our renewable energy, such as solar and wind, require extra thousands of miles (some millions) of the power grid to connect to the populations. The Electrification process also demands capacity upgrades to the existing grids.
Do you still think we’ll have cheap energy in the future?
Let’s face it. The power grid will need an upgrade sometime in the future. We need a plan to ensure we upgrade what we need, not just because of the dispersed generations from those remote “Farms” that require extensive grid connections.
The further away they are from the population, the more power poles we need (those giant electric towers in the countryside costing millions each), the more expensive it will be.
Many more solar/wind farms are built at remote locations; thus, new power grids must be installed to reach those far-reach locations. Many battery storages from main grids, sub-grids, and households are needed to store the excess power generated during the day for use on nights or cloudy days, which pushes up the battery, EV, and critical minerals prices.
Energy Backup, Resilience
It is always good to have a backup power source, or you can generate your own; a rooftop solar and a home battery may be a way to go. If you have an electric vehicle, you already have a much bigger battery standing by. Why would you spend another ten thousand to install a backup battery and slash solar outputs to the feed-in tariff? So that you don’t have an electric vehicle, how desperate that you need a battery to survive a multi-day blackout?
In an energy crisis, rooftop solar is a fantastic complement. Unfortunately, we need 24x7 energy resilience for our modern life. A sustainable energy solution will need to plan in the community that benefits everyone together. A hybrid energy generation approach of in-situ energy generation, grid power supply, and energy storage at both household and grid levels will complement each other.
It’s happening, and your rooftop solar is doing just that. Energy generated used by your house or managed by the grid—the ability to generate in-situ energy reduces the need for extensive grid installations/upgrades. However, during the night and on cloudy days, it still needs help.
Electric vehicles, power tools, heaters, air-con, etc., are electrifying our everyday life and requiring extra power. Only rooftop solar is not enough. Energy Decentralization is the best way to remove the grid's burden, but it requires a much larger group of occupants.
More importantly, we want clean/renewable energy.
What’s happening from now to the future, say 2035
Suppose we can speed up the Electrifications in the current progress. In that case, we MAY still meet the Net-Zero Emission (NZE) targets, with a considerable cost, such as increases in energy cost (electricity), inflation, wealth inequality, and over 10% of the world’s population still has no access/steady access to electricity.
Because of the high energy demands day or night, more blackouts/brownouts happen. Yes, we need to fight climate change. Although report from 2022 NREL study "The benefits of just Decarbonizing exceed the cost of a Net-Zero Power Grid". We also need sustainable growth while improving humanities, not chaos.
A better 2035
Electrification, together with sustainable growth, is the goal. There are many different steps we can take to achieve this.
Combustion gardening tools can all be electrified (Study shows 1 hr use of petrol blower is equivalent to 1100 miles driving of a typical ICE, not much about CO2, but PM2.5, 5, 10, NO, CO, etc.) Outdoor workers can use their EV’s battery or small battery system with portable solar for their commercial tools. RV/campers can also rely more on portable solar power.
Reduce battery uptake – it doesn’t mean we don’t use battery technology, use them wisely, a fairer usage. EV requires batteries to reduce fossil consumption; let them have it. Household rooftop solar doesn’t need a battery backup if your grid is reliable, or an hour or two of blackouts.
More rooftop solar and the use of portable/EV with solar - Solar charging for EVs can be solar carport parking or PV installed on an EV to increase the daily mileage gained by solar. 90% of vehicles only commute daily and park most of the day. The small daily solar mileage gained could easily overcome your daily usage. If you recharge your EV in a 5 days cycle, a 50% solar mileage gain on daily usage will extend the recharging cycle to 10 days. A 75% gain would result in 20 days cycle. As a result, extra grid demands remain moderate and increasing steadily, avoiding the needs for urgent grid upgrades and investments.
With the reduced EV recharging demands, there is less required for urgent grid upgrades. Better upgrade planning, less waste, and better cost control would mean better living and more sustainable growth.
Since most people do only daily commute, extra long-range EV is unnecessary. A 400km EV is suitable for most people for at least a week or two. Even a 200km range is probably good for one-third of the population, with solar recharging to extend the driving range and better charging infrastructure. People and Industries also benefit from a fairer distribution of EV batteries, more affordable EVs, and an exponential uptake of EV resulted in many more opportunities.
PHEV is a good option for some people who require long-range travel, especially for commercial use. However, they’re still EVs, just with a smaller battery. A 50km range battery could easily be fully recharged by solar when parked during the day. Your PHEV might never have to ignite its combustion engine on days when it only commutes.
Solar and wind farms may produce excess energy at times. The excess energy can be stored as Hydrogen, not wasted. It is a better energy storage compared to a battery. Energy can be used to electrolyze Hydrogen and store it near the hydrogen power plants, modified from old fossil plants. The generators back up our electricity need when solar/wind energy is unavailable, and at night. This on-site generation reduces energy lost in Hydrogen transport and storage. It may also supply to Aero and Shipping industries in the future, help us further away from fossils and achieve the NZE faster.
A better world would mean we have some capacity to help/build the less developed countries/areas. Over 10% of the world’s population is still without access/steady access to electricity. Helping to build an electricity network for these people would be something we should prioritize.
All those sound possible but complicated. We need collaborative efforts from governments to the markets to make it possible. Nonetheless, there is always an alternative, an easy cheap alternative, that is, Nuclear power. The problem is, do you want a reactor lying around in your community?
MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) claims to be the safest emerging nuclear reactor technology. Nuclear nowadays is, itself, very safe. Who knows, there are always human errors or a 2nd Putin trying to blow up a nuclear plant! We just don’t know how big the effects of a disaster happen.
People around the world have started to understand Climate Change. NZE is just our initial target but an urgent one.
We want everyone to take more ownership of our climate and environment, use resources wisely, reduce waste, and recycle whenever possible. A better world would mean everyone taking responsibility and building it together. In a world of people taking it for granted, leaving behind Climate Change, NZE, the renewable-sustainable ecosystem, will not last long.
If we want the next generations to keep enjoying this beautiful world, the Earth, we need everyone to contribute.
Climate Change – Everyone Owns It, Everyone Needs to Contribute
Notes for the pics