Archive for the ‘demand pricing’ Category


Could government green buying simulate the economy?

November 21, 2008

The Daily Kos (and other places too) recommended the government replace it’s mamoth fleet of ICE cars with Chevy Volts instead of dumping a huge bailout in their laps.  That would 1) stimulate the demand for US hybrids, 2) support the automaker with legitimate revenue, and 3) improve the government fleet’s MPG.

I’ve an advocate of this approach to promoting green tech (see my earlier post about School Solar) because it allows markets to develop.  Unfortunately, the companies most likely to have solutions are not equipped to navigate the bureaucracy need to do business with the government.  For example, Texas has funds to install solar at school but the money goes unspent because solar installers are not on school bid lists!

Here are 10 programs that would generate more tax revenue (to pay off ill conceived bailouts) and/or simulate critical US technology sectors:

  1. carbon tax (gas is cheap now, let’s act before people forget about high prices)
  2. convert trucks to natural gas (ala T Boone Pickens)
  3. energy neutral for schools and military bases in 5 years
  4. require national time-of-use billing by utilities including tax-by-time-of-use
  5. national passenger rail on dedicated tracks – free up freight lines for freight and make passenger trains faster
  6. nuclear plant design standardization & construction
  7. implement LED lighting in all government buildings (not those toxic CFLs!)
  8. legislate tele-commuting / commuting carbon footprint reduction
  9. enable cities to implement pay for car entry policies
  10. eliminate corn ethanol as a fuel

You must read Hot, Flat, & Crowded

October 29, 2008

by Thomas Friedman (Amazon).  It’s an excellent discussion about our current challenges with concrete solutions.  I’ll post more about it, but I recommend just reading the source.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

Hot, Flat, and Crowded


Solar so far so so

August 9, 2008

An interesting quote from the AustinEV (off topic) discussion on solar. Bruce J from Madison WI has an array that cost $13k to install. Like my EV, it’s not a profit center. His says he did it “because it is SOMETHING. And if *everybody* does *something* then great things will happen.”

Solar is Austin is subsidized by the local power company, but still have very long pay back. California has demand (time-of-day) billing so their solar arrays produce power at peak (3 x $). Since home use is mainly off-peak, the California arrays can reduce utility bills dramatically.

The big problem with solar for US homes is that WE USE TOO MUCH POWER to make an array practical.  An off-the-grid array is either really expensive, requires a life style change, or uninvented technology.  I don’t think that it makes sense to turn roof-tops into solar farms because most individuals are not equipped to maintain them.   Parking lots, however, could be excellent solar sites!

Developing countries like Africa are a stark contrast to the US.  Their current power demand is near zero.  A tiny solar array can make a life changing difference.  For example, the BOGO light initiative sends solar LED flashlights to Africa and allows people there to have lights on a night.  THEY ARE SO POOR – THEY DON”T HAVE LIGHTS AT NIGHT.   They don’t care about air conditioning, dryers, or plasma TVs.  In these places, solar is a huge wind fall.

Buy One, Give On (BoGo) Light

Buy One, Give On (BoGo) Light


Want to lower gas prices? Advocate for energy independence!

July 31, 2008

It’s not a shock that reductions in supply or increases in demand will increase prices.  The strange thing about our current oil price is that supply is stable and demand increases are moderate (or at least predictable).  So what is driving the price up?

I don’t agree with this as a complete picture, but let’s blame “market speculation” just for the fun of it.  There is some justification for blaming speculation – when China removed price controls, oil fell because demand would drop.  Oil falls on news about major car makers converting from trucks to cars.  Fundamentally, the THREAT of reducing demand is enough make the price of oil drop.

If the US takes decisive action to reduce our demand for oil then the price would drop.  I believe that oil rich countries would then be forced to take equally decisive measures to maintain our addition on oil.  Unfortunately, with low prices we would again lose our conservation drive.  There is a strong historical pattern of this type of behavior.

Do we have the will power to finally break free of the Oil cycle?

Do we have the will power to finally break free of the Oil cycle?


Negawatt defined

June 17, 2008

Another perspective on Negawatts from GreenMonk


In Hot Water? Gas or Electric?

April 29, 2008

Over lunch with a friend asked my opinion on installing a gas or electric tankless water heater. I have a gas tankless and LOVE it. In the past I’d always recommend getting a gas model. Gas is historically cheap and has a lower carbon footprint for heating. This is because electricity for heat generation looses efficiency when we make it mechanically from heat, transport it over wires, and then convert it back to heat. Gas converts directly into heat with high efficiency.

However, a new day is dawning in which the price of carbon-based fuels will continue to climb due to limited supply. Like gas, the cost of electricity will also climb because it’s generated primarily from carbon-based fuels. Unlike gas, we can’t store electricity so our future costs will be controlled by demand-based spot pricing. We will soon be in a market where it makes a dramatic difference when you use electricity not just how much you use.

For my friend, his off-peak shower (as per the grid, not his personal experience) will be much less expensive than his during peak shower. In this new utility model, he’ll have a degree of control about how much he pays for hot water. Even if prices go way up, he still have a way to economize based on time of day.

Since we can store gas, there is no need for demand pricing. My friend’s showers get more and more expensive as prices rise and he has no recourse except cold showers.

I suspect that we’re all in for a cold shower before all this settles down. Until then, buy electric.