How much are you really paying for the power grid?

I’ve been investigating again. I listen to people talk and I write a few notes now and then, but the most disturbing note that I have written for a long while is about the cost of the grid versus what electrical power is really worth. First off, the grid costs us …

a lot more than you might think. According to an article in Popular Science (Jul 2011) only 22% of the power makes it to you. That’s really a grim number. And don’t expect any improvement if you are running a gasoline powered generator as the internal combustion engine is only 22% efficient and the inverter is anywhere from 80 to 95%; so you are looking at an even worse overall transfer of energy from gasoline.

So, let’s focus on the grid, shall we? Let’s say that you are paying 10 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. And you are paying for that power at the point where it is generated. Fuel inefficiencies, power line losses … So the real cost of the electricity is only 2.2 cents per kWhr? You are paying almost five times more than it is worth. I don’t like that kind of math, and it is not good for the planet either.

Rumor has it that the big power companies are downsizing their generation facilities and going to what they call micro-power generation plants. How small is that? Well, micro-power to them is still over 1,000,000 watts of generating power and I would suppose that 10 megaWatts is the smallest they will consider. Just rumors though.

So, what is a guy to do about this?
Choice 1: Get off the grid; which is a costly endeavor and not very practical at this time.
Choice 2: Change the way you think about power generation and start to whittle away at the utility bills with a 500VA or 1000VA wind or solar system. You can do a lot with only 500 watts.

If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to write about it.

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