Homepage Forums General Transition Issues Cheap power???

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  • #582
    AvatarAmy Lewis
    Member

    I fully expect that no matter how cheap it becomes to make electricity the greedy utility companies will just keep charging what they do now, and continually ask for rate increases.

    a.

    #4085
    AvatarRematog
    Member

    They are just as greedy as every other corporation, from Mircosoft to GM to Mobile Oil.

    But one difference. They are highly regulated. If generation costs fall, then the price the customer pays for power will drop. Big reason, in most states, the Commission that regulates the utilities, and sets the rates they can charge, is either ELECTED, or appointed by elected officials. Which is a good thing. If they had the monopoly power the do have, without regulatory oversight, they would, as the greedy corporations (almost as greedy as most people in fact) charge much more for power.

    So, in some cases, regulation is a good thing.

    And, If FF modules delivering 5MW roll out of factories for under 1 million each, the price of power will, in a very few years, fall though the floor. Then many of us will, literaly, air condition the back yard (just like I tell my kids when they leave the back door open, hee ,hee)

    Rematog

    #4097
    AvatarPhil’s Dad
    Member

    Ramatog is right but for the wrong reasons (although regulation on safety grounds should of course continue – the safety elves have to have something to do).

    5MW power-stations the size of a double garage mean that there need be no enormous generation / distribution companies. Local communities will own / operate their own stations for their own use. A couple of such generators (for resilience / maintenance /refueling) would replace the need for a grid. You might even pay for your power in your local taxes (different bunch of greedies but hey 😉 ) The price you pay can become a local election issue. Literally “Power to the People”

    (WARNING:- Neither the big utility companies, oil rich nations nor centralist politicians will like it. Expect a battle)

    #4110
    AvatarRematog
    Member

    PD may well be right….in the long run. But the local community will need to have a line crew to run the power distribution lines and will need to contract expert maintenance services for the FF modules. Power will get much cheaper and the local power “utility” will be a source of patronage jobs, similar to the local road crew.

    But, the power will get cheaper DESPITE the local control/ownership. The FF module will make it cheaper. The local control/patronage jobs will absorb part of the cost savings. There is an economy of scale in power distribution. Walmart is much cheaper then a mom & pop store. They take over because the large scale operation is much more cost effective then a small scale operation.

    Remember, the mom & pop store only made money for mom & pop, and then often not a lot. If they had any employees, they generally paid low wages with no benefits…just like Walmart.

    Big business has many, many, problems….but small local business often has a different set of problems. It isn’t a perfect world.

    #4111
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    I like that part about patronage jobs. I hadn’t considered that angle. :-S . And you’re absolutely right about the need to maintain and repair the lines when the weather demolishes them. That part will always take professionals. I think the longer term is going to be a public/private venture, where muni’s may own local plants which are operated by the utilities.

    The utilities are secure in the short term due to NRC licensing track records.

    #4112
    AvatarPhil’s Dad
    Member

    It is perfectly reasonable to start by plugging generator modules into existing transmission / distribution networks to prove the viability of the product and until people get used to the idea – I have no problem with that. Still I don’t think it will be long (i.e. weeks after launch) before large businesses (and after them local government bodies) grab hold of this. (There are individual computers that can eat 5MW).

    The mom and pop local store analogy is still the before picture though. What is being created here is more like the hairdresser (stay with me! ;-P ). It is a local service with very few large branded chains (some, but not many). The fundamental difference is they don’t need the supply chain a food store needs and economies of scale are pretty thin on the ground. They still have a skilled work force backed up by the less skilled. They can still be quite big in local terms (the full on beauty salon maybe). They still need the special piece of kit (stretch the analogy and say the adjustable chair or the drying hood)They can still do it better than the next guy – in fact that’s how they stay in business. They have a supply chain – for scissors or shampoo or what ever, spare parts – but not for the product (be it haircuts or electricity) only for the tools of the trade. That’s much closer to the future of energy supply. But enough analogy.

    The obvious place to put these babies is in place of the final step down transformer. Its already a fairly secure site. The distribution cables are in. They typically (Rematog will put me right here if I’m way off ) service about the right number of end users and the NIMBY’s have long since moved on. Easy. 🙂

    Producing enough to satisfy demand will be challenging – but what a nice challenge to have. China has the political and financial muscle to turn its entire manufacturing industry on to this project overnight. It’s a climbable mountain. We just need to make the stuff work first. (I mean that both ways too – we need to be the first to make the stuff work). I’m going to lay down in a darkened room now.

    #4113
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    I like your service industry analogy, PD, and the Chinese muscle worries me. https://focusfusion.org/index.php/forums/viewthread/268/ is a thread where Rematog and I recently worked out how to power my rural township. As you’ll see, what started out with a few reactors now looks like around 10, on 5 sites. Let’s say 5 big transformers to spike the price, throw in who’s going to service these modules, and the savings of the free fuel continually erodes…

    Since fusion IS a nuclear reaction, it will be regulated by the NRC or one of its local assignees in the US. Even if we could get the laws interpreted to distinguish between fission and pB11 fusion, the X-ray emissions would be covered by NRC jurisdiction. This makes partnering with a utility who already has a long track record with operating at least one fission reactor highly desirable from the political and regulatory viewpoints. Not to mention that the utility has all the transmission lines, service, and billing facilities in place.

    The only place I don’t follow Rematog right now is how fast the floor will drop out of electric pricing. The reason is that the utility I’m talking about currently has 12 coal-fired plants. Assuming these average 1.5GW ea., similar to Rematog’s plant, this would be around 18GW total capacity. If I could get 1GW out of one of these huge empty factories around here, something like 200M$ and one to five years construction time would reduce fuel costs 5.5%/GW.

    I’d sure be looking to using those fuel savings to get the rest of my network upgraded so my utility wouldn’t get railroaded into sequestering smoke stack gasses with shareholder money. Without FF, this State’s laws make scrubbers look like the only realistic way to meet ambitious emission requirements.

    Yes, there will be locales where FF makes a lot of sense, but I’d pretty much guarantee that the regulatory groundwork for the required licensing will have to be done by utilities and large corporations for at least ten years before the general population even becomes aware that they can put this up for a vote. Then another five to ten years to get it on one or more ballots…

    #4129
    AvatarRezwan
    Member

    Hi y’all!

    I always find your posts very informative and fascinating. You seem to have an intimate working knowledge of utility and power industries and comments about your credentials are scattered throughout the posts. Is it possible to summarize this credential information in your bio?

    Change bio at your control panel – see top nav line.

    Also, trying to think of a way to harness this experience not just in forums, perhaps give blog posting privileges to explain various aspects of the industries involved. Otherwise it’s just me, thinking of writing a summary and linking to these cool forum discussions.

    #5427
    AvatarPete Keech
    Member

    I think many people miss the big picture on this issue. If the power is as cheap as promised, the cost to consumers will be cheap, regardless of existing institutions. If the NRC or anyone else over-regulates this sort of thing, then Mexico or Canada will build reactors & sell the power cheap… or someone else connected to the US grid. It really doesn’t matter, power is integrated, and the market can only be so crooked… Someone will go for the easy bucks & the people holding it up (utilities or regulators) will be powerless to stop it. An existing example is Hydro Quebec, who generates more than 36 GW of power (mostly hydro), most of it for the US market. Ontario generates a net power annually as well, mostly through nuclear & hydro, and transmits to Michigan and New York, etc. During peak summer demand, Ontario imports (coal) power generated in the US. We have no choice – the market will decide. Canadian provinces (i.e. Quebec) might consider separating to make it happen if the Canadian government is against it or slow, and their provincial government rallies (they’re always a little pissed off at the rest of Canada anyway). In Ontario, anyone can generate power now & the power authority has to give market value for it. Someone will make this happen once it’s possible. If the US or Canada or any European country vetoes the process through inaction, overregulation, etc, their economy will drop off the map through direct competition with those that buy in. You think China will not do this? It will take them 6 months under target to build the first reactor, and the second will be faster yet… How about India? This cat out of the bag will run wild.

    #5428
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    Rezwan wrote: Hi y’all!

    I always find your posts very informative and fascinating. You seem to have an intimate working knowledge of utility and power industries and comments about your credentials are scattered throughout the posts. Is it possible to summarize this credential information in your bio?

    Change bio at your control panel – see top nav line.

    Also, trying to think of a way to harness this experience not just in forums, perhaps give blog posting privileges to explain various aspects of the industries involved. Otherwise it’s just me, thinking of writing a summary and linking to these cool forum discussions.

    Thanx, Rezwan, but all that hardware is laying all over the countryside for anybody who’s tuned in to observe. 🙂 Too bad it’s tacitly illegal to photograph things you want to improve…

    Microsoft is giving away Office 2010 Beta at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/ee390818.aspx. It’ll run until Oct 31,2010, but not on Macs.

    The built-in program called One Note is a fantastic tool for condensing ideas. You can copy an entire thread into a single page with lots of margin space for selected copies, notes, etc. I think this will make everybody’s life a lot easier.

    #6878
    AvatarPete Keech
    Member

    I’ve been thinking that the FF power cost calculations may be off by a significant amount and should in fact be much lower. All calculations consist of material costs, etc, based on current values, many of which are really energy based (think processing of metals, raw materials & the energy/electricity used). With the factor of 10 reduction in power cost projected now (upon building the first reactor or fleet of reactors), manufacturing will see a significant drop in cost, driving materials costs down for future FF reactors. Within a few generations of reactors, energetically impractical materials separations become feasible, meaning cheap recycling efforts of aging reactors or removing existing materials from landfills, etc, is doable, and the price goes down further…

    #6910
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    Aeronaut wrote:
    all that hardware is laying all over the countryside for anybody who’s tuned in to observe. 🙂 Too bad it’s tacitly illegal to photograph things you want to improve…

    what’s that about?

    #6917
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    vansig wrote:

    all that hardware is laying all over the countryside for anybody who’s tuned in to observe. 🙂 Too bad it’s tacitly illegal to photograph things you want to improve…

    what’s that about?

    It’s a US thing. Seems we have 2 outfits named DHS over here.

    #6919
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    Seems to me that homeland security would be more interested to prevent plans and vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure from falling into the hands of terrorists, than to prevent improvement of its aesthetic appeal and robustness; but i guess there’s no accounting for taste. 😉

    #6923
    AvatarAeronaut
    Member

    It’s all about appearances, Vansig. Since nobody in their right mind would waste their time trying to figure out a way to improve (or eliminate the need for) the power grid, anybody who takes pictures of the local electrical distribution system must obviously be up to no good, since security types will project according to their world view. The Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth” spelled it out clearly back around ’67: “It starts when you’re always afraid… step out of line, the Man come, and take you away”.

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