Global Electricity Grids Strained  

Posted by Big Gav

Adam Porter reports that electricity grids around the globe are struggling to meet demand. Australia isn't mentioned but its certainly the case here as well, and the likely upshot is that more coal fired plants are going to get built - and as I've moaned before increasing carbon emissions isn't a very wise option to choose at this point.

Talk of problems with grids always brings Richard Duncan's grim "Olduvai Cliff" theory to mind. Personally I've always thought his fears are overdone - but when I look at the impact power generation is having on the atmosphere and hence the water cycle (and how much water plants require for cooling), and imagine what would happen if oil supplies were interrupted for a period of time (as we need oil to dig up the coal and transport it to the plants), I can start to see how this nightmare could become a nasty reality.

The solution ? Conservation (reducing demand), increasing efficiency of use and increasing distributed power generation based on renewables wherever possible. Are these things happening now ? No, no and very slowly...

Electricity supply in developed countries is straining to cope with demand, an International Energy Agency (IEA) report suggests. In a report called 'Saving Electricity In A Hurry', the agency predicts there will be outages like those experienced in the United States, Japan and Canada.

Several developed countries have experienced power shortages and more are likely to occur, it says. A mix of factors lead to power cuts but pre-planning rarely happens, it adds.

The report lists recent electricity outages in the United States, Japan, New Zealand and Canada and says there is "reason to believe that this list will grow".


Notes:
(1) 1930 => Industrial Civilization began when (ê) reached 30% of its peak value.
(2) 1979 => ê reached its peak value of 11.15 boe/c.
(3) 1999 => The end of cheap oil.
(4) 2000 => Start of the "Jerusalem Jihad".
(5) 2006 => Predicted peak of world oil production.
(6) 2008 => The OPEC crossover event.
(7) 2012 => Permanent blackouts occur worldwide.
(8) 2030 => Industrial Civilization ends when ê falls to its 1930 value.
(9) Observe that there are three intervals of decline in the Olduvai schema: slope, slide and cliff — each steeper than the previous.
(10) The small cartoons stress that electricity is the essential end-use energy for Industrial Civilization.


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3 comments

don't forget about Russia's recent blackout too...

and that picture on the olduvai stuff just isn't complete without the footnotes from that graphic, they're priceless...

hope all's well down there!

The pix are priceless. Do you all agree with his central assertion that 'the delivery of electricity to end-users is the sin[e] quo non" of the 'modern way of life'? The more I think about it the more it makes sense to me.

PG - thanks - you're quite right about the notes, so I added them on as well.

Matt - yes, I think electricity (even more than oil) is the key to the modern way of life (with water being the key to any way of life). While its important to wean ourselves off oil, in the case of electricity its important to ensure the supply keeps running and that we use it as efficiently as possible.

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