Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cost of Energy (kWh)

The cost of electrical energy in kilowatt-hours(kWh):

I've doubled the low end estimates to get the high end of the ranges except for natural gas where I increased it to a penny. From the gasoline engine on down, the difference is a factor of 2.46. I divided 1000/406 to take into account the differences in cost estimates from the source and the Science article. I am currently paying $0.17 per kWh (peak rate) in Texas where fuel costs are supposedly normalized to the cost of natural gas, but the majority of power plants are coal. The regulatory environment in Texas makes the Bush deregulation in Washington look minimal. Texans don't believe in regulating business and likely we are paying for it. But, it's still cheaper to live here than on either coast. And, we have T. Boone Pickens building wind farms and suggesting that everyone convert their vehicles to natural gas which makes a bit of sense. The take home lesson here is to choose your electric utility and transportation wisely. The automakers are using NiMH packs which will be expensive to replace. Lithium will be even more expensive. Lead cobalt batteries for EVs or hybrids might be the way to go if we don't convert our internal combustion engines to use natural gas. Temperature will be an issue. Lead acid batteries fare poorly in the cold or if it's too hot. Since all batteries are electrochemical in nature, the efficiency will be temperature dependent. For Texas, it'll have to be hybrid vehicles. There's just too much distance to cover.

There are other factors to consider. Natural gas power plants cost half as much to build as coal fired power plants. They are more efficient and produce 3-4x more electricity per dollar than coal fired power plants over their lifetimes. It is likely that American consumers are being gouged by their electric utilities. It explains why TXU was bought by a private equity firm and is now a private entity even though it's a public utility.

1. Science magazine book review of Physics for Future Presidents
2. EV Comparison by Apollo Energy Systems (make Lead Cobalt batteries)
3.Apollo Energy Systems
6.EV Battery Comparison Overview
7.The End of Oil


Hi John

I mistakenly put my first energy comment in comments for your NEXT post. So here it is again:

"...while the cost of energy is bad for the country its good for the personal Bush oil fortune and that of his Daddy."

Seeing as US consumers pay around 40% less for "gas" (petrol) than us Aussies I'm heartened by you $0.17 per kWh peak electricity figure. Where I live we're paying the equivalent of $0.10 peak.

There is more widespread use of natural gas power plants here and more consumer protection (for electricity anyway).

Same long distance problem here as Texas - making hybrids the better solution.

Agreed about Bush, Daddy, and Cheney profitting from higher oil prices. The above information isn't readily available in chart form and people probably don't realize how expensive batteries really are. Would you want to replace a $10K battery pack on your hybrid after 3-5 years, or just buy a newer car? We really need carbon fiber cars that would be lightweight and get great gas mileage with or without hybrid technology. And we really need a debate on what would be the best energy and natural resource policies for the country and the planet in general.
I once knew this old coot in Chicago who had too much money, who was building an egg shaped, titanium car. Had 6 wheels - 4 in the usual place, one in middle front, one in middle back. The aim was safety.

He thought that as its rigid structure wouldn't crumple this would improve safety. The concept of hapless passengers rattling around inside a hard eggshell was probably too much for Detroit.

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