Computing stuff tied to the physical world

The price of electrons

In Musings on Dec 15, 2012 at 00:01

Came across this site recently, thanks to a link from Ard about his page on peak shaving.

They sell electricity at an hourly rate. Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 12.35.52

The interesting bit is the predicitive aspect: you get a predicted price for the entire day ahead, which means you can plan your consumption! A win-win all around, since that sort of behavioural adjustment is probably what the energy company wants in the first place. Their concern is always (only?) the peak.

Is this our future? I’d definitely prefer it to “smart” grids taking decisions about my appliances and home. Better options, letting me decide whether to use, store, or pass along the solar energy production, for example.

Here’s another graph from that same site, showing this year’s trend in the Chicago area:

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 10.45.47

It’s pretty obvious that air-conditioners run on electricity, eh?

But look also at those rates… this is about an order of magnitude lower than the current rates in the Netherlands (and I suspect Western Europe).

Here are the rates I get from my provider, including huge taxes:

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 14.44.11

You can probably guess the Dutch in there – two tariffs: high is for weekdays during daytime, low is for weekends and at night. Hardly a difference, due to taxes :(

Here are the rates for natural gas, btw – just for completeness:

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 14.44.51

No wonder really, that different parts of the world, with their widely different income levels and energy prices, end up making completely different choices.

Solar panels are currently profitable after about 7..8 years in the Netherlands – which is reflected by a strong increase in adoption lately. But seeing the above graphs, I doubt that this would make much sense in any other part of the world right now!

  1. Comed only counts the bare price for generating electricity. If you read their FAQ, you see that there is a plethora of additional costs. So compare the European spot price, close to the Dutch price with the by-hour price of Comed. It would be interesting to inspect Comed’s by-hour graphs in the july period. I bet they differ more than a penny or two. And no, I don’t want the utility company (or the smart meter) to force anything upon me. What if they shut down my fridge when I just placed a copious amount of fresh food in? I want to be seduced to decrease my electricity consumption, based on the price I see.

  2. I’m with you on the control aspect of smart grids. I can imagine myself using a system where I, for example, set my washing machine etc to be done by a specific time and let it decide when to run based on reccomendations by the smart grid or price analysis. A smart grid is fine, as long as the sovereinty is where it belongs – in the hand of the customer.

  3. In Ontario, Canada, our electric wholesale price is similar to that plot for Chicago, but after distribution costs, losses and taxes, the end user pays 2-3 times that wholesale cost. The Ontario wholesale price is about $0.03/kWh. My quoted (retail) electric rate is $0.065/kWh (off peak), $0.117/kWh, but my final bill (average rate, but mostly off-peak consumption) is (lat month) $92/563 kWh = $0.16/kWh.

    FWIW, gas here (retail) is $0.108/cubic metre, but my bill last month (after distribution and taxes) was $58.95/200.6 cubic metres = $0.29/cubic metre.

    ($1 ~ 0.75 Euro)

    • So, still much, much cheaper over there than in Europe…

      Still, jcw could get his electricity and gas a bit cheaper at Greenchoice, I pay €0,21/kWh and €0,61/m3 gas…

  4. No too bad in all of Western Europe – average price quarter 3 in Norway is 0.09 €/kwh including taxes etc, average price for the electricity on its own is 0.03 €/kwh. And therefore gas is not really used (but exported).

  5. At the gas prices there I can see why you export. Here, despite the somewhat cheaper electrons, gas is still a far cheaper way to heat my home. My house previously had an electric furnace, but with gas my heating cost dropped in half.

    I’m not looking forward to 10 years from now, after all the coal plants are decommissioned for environmental reasons, the nuclear plants are shut down due to age, and the gas from fracking runs out… Electricity and gas rates will skyrocket.

  6. Again – that depends, my example from Norway (I live in the UK btw) is still not different, as all electricity in Norway is produced by Hydro, which is unlikely to run out.

    Higher prices will also to a certain degree drive other ways of providing energy, but I do not doubt that energy prices will increase.

  7. @Tor – smart approach. Use all that wonderful renewable, low lag time hydro for domestic demand and sell the gas to those flatlanders that, despite putting up windmills for years, are still addicted to energy imports.

    The path to changing user behaviour is littered with misconceptions and failed projects. What is so unfortunate about the current European roll out of half-smart metering is that Governments are convinced by Big Power lobby groups that it is ‘a good green thing’. Legislation in place, capital cost recovery directly from the existing user base through allowing punative price increases.

    Possibly the silver lining in the cloud is that ultimately a firmware upgrade to the meters could bring back a more symmetrical negotiation ….

  8. I’m in the midwest US (Cincinnati, ohio) and prices around here for residential are around 11 to 13 cents/kWh. My brother in law is an “energy specialist” (or some title like that) at a local factory and he said they get about 4 cents/kWh.

  9. @Paul: had you changed your electro for a heat pump, you would likely had your heating bill divided by five. And gas is renewable. Farmers produce natural gas from cow manure.

    • you would likely had your heating bill divided by five I highly doubt that. I have one. It eats 2 kW ($0.32/hr) but certainly does not pump 10 kW – maybe half that (as determined by the temperature difference * quoted airflow rate). My gas furnace eats 2 m^3/hr ($0.58/hr), producing 18 kW of heat.

      Farmers produce natural gas from cow manure. Well, that would be interesting to see scaled up. Especially since a large fraction of that energy content comes from the petroleum-based fertilizer used to produce the feed.

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