David Cooke

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Energy generation for personal use should be free of control and taxation

This change in the control of power will only come from the individual but it can significantly increase the overall efficiency of the public grid and significantly reduce waste in electricity generation . . . especially from fossil fuels that cost resources simply to burn them. When we burn fossil fuels less than 27% of the energy arrives at the light bulb. When we "produce and use at source" over 90 to 95% of the energy arrives at the light bulb.

Considering exploration, extraction, refining, transporting, burning and disposing there is far more waste than use of these energy sources. Meanwhile solar, wind, hydro, bio and other renewable sources are burdened by the old thinking that all energy must flow through and be controlled by the utilities. Produce and use at source will extend the life and reduce the waste of the limited remaining supply of fossil fuels. Allowing and encouraging personal power generation for personal use can be a major multiplier of overall efficiency.

Meanwhile, utilities PAY excessive Feed in Tariffs to "encourage" wind and solar development as long as they stay within their control and they make no distinction between personal or commercial uses. Incentives are important on large scale commercial applications that require major investments, but supporting renewables would be of far greater value if they were smaller and subsidized personal ownership of renewable generating equipment rather than the energy they produce.

New thinking about the right to personal energy and a change from the status quo in energy generation systems control is needed.

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    Feb 27 2012: You are headed in the right direction . . the only thing needed is some compliance from the utilities . . .Public utilities at least should be required to allow net-metering at NO cost since the net benefit is to the utility and it's owned by the public . . . I can see that limiting the maximum [personal production is necessary but there is ZERO justification for other fees and taxes in my view. Using the car battery as a backup could be good except it;s not as operationally productive if it's not there during the day to store the excess and any time it's there with a full charge there is no way to store except the grid. . . lots of little issues to resolve . . the big one is . . . How do you marshal the public education of their rights to free energy when it;s for personal use?
  • Feb 26 2012: Great Topic. I have roughly 4 kW of solar panels on my house and am grid tied. The local city owned utility gave me a rebate on the panels ~20% but they set the rules for net metering and they had to approve the system size. I was limited to 120% of my annual average electricity usage in the size of my system. I had room for two more panels and my inverter is sized for two more panels but the 120% rule was non negotiable if I wanted to be grid tied. The utility still charges me the access fee (~$10 a month) and they tend to have problems reading the multiple meters each month. I could disconnect from the grid if I wanted to spend another $20,000 on batteries, charge controller and reduce my energy usage even more (more efficient refrigerator and gas dryer). I am hoping in another couple of years to purchase my first electric car and what is an electric car but nearly 16 kwh of electricity storage. I am hoping the cost of battery technology will decrease quickly with the mass production of electric cars and putting a 15 to 20 kwh battery pack in my garage will be much cheaper than it is now.

    I would love to develop a residential bio gas generating system. You can turn most of the organic waste material generated in a household into methane. A capstone micro turbine or bloom box type fuel cell can convert the methane into electricity and heat. The difficulty is removing the CO2 and H2S from the gas as it would cause problems in both the micro turbine or fuel cell. It would be expensive at first and homes would have to be designed for this type of system but correctly sized and I am guessing supplemented with solar panels you could completely disconnect from the local utilities (no more electric, gas, water or waste water charges). If not only houses but communities were designed in this manner it would be game over for the large utilities. Not quite a Mr. Fusion (Back to the Future) but getting there.
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    Feb 21 2012: I think you are right on . . spreading the truth about how inefficient and expensive the current way we make and distribute energy is . . its only going to happen politically I think. . . I've been wrestling with this problem for years now and it's not about getting people OFF the grid as much as allowing those on the grid or off to have their own power sources that are not controlled by the grid . . they can and should work in harmony . . When you see countries changed in weeks over social media I can't help thinking that if the information and choices were more available to people they might pressure their leaders to invoke change. Politicians seem to grasp the idea that subsidizing renewable energy projects will encourage change, growth, new industries and jobs . . but they are subsidizing the least efficient parts of the chain and only doing it in a way that maintains control over the energy produced so they can TAX it, thereby making it even less efficient and maintaining the monopoly.

    We need a creative social media process to go around these obstacles . . . straight to the issue of subsidies and control. There is a better model of energy generation, distribution and subsidies that could dramatically increase efficiency of the whole system and recognize a basic human right that is being ignored.

    One key aspect of this issue is human rights.

    Energy is an essential to life the same as air and water. Try living a day without using electricity ( unless you want to revert to being a hunter gatherer). Canadians recognize the absolute RIGHT of all people to breathe clean air. No one has the right to prevent or even interfere with your ability to breath clean air. No one is allowed to pollute it or tax it or limit your access to it. The same applies to clean water. . . . and the SAME applies to ENERGY. It's essential to life and like the atmosphere, the sources of clean energy are freely accessible and cannot and should not be controlled by anyone.
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    Feb 20 2012: I'm not talking about the technology so much as the will to assert control over generation. The grid is mostly controlled by governments, certainly here in Canada it is mostly provincial governments. . . taxpayers "own" the resources but if we don't change something about connection rights and control over distribution we will always be "managed" by utilities rather than control your own personal energy . . . this makes the whole commercial process of energy generation way less efficient for everyone and far more costly in taxes and services than it needs to be.

    The technology is available and affordable . . what we can't afford is to let utilities and governments control personal generation and decide who pays who . . and for what. . . .Personal energy generation/collection/conversion/storage and use is no business of anyone but the person themselves. If we want an efficient use of collective resources and lower costs we need to segregate and protect this personal RIGHT.
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      Feb 21 2012: Through what processes? Politics and protest? Or business strategy? The only effective solution I can come up with is spreading knowledge about the different kinds of technology one can build with little effort to get one off the grid. And the tech exists. The best choices we can make to protect our rights is to do it ourselves.

      We can take this reasoning a step further and apply it to nearly every government-regulated or business-regulated process. The solution to the problem is more important then the bravado which is used to tackle the problem.
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      Feb 22 2012: Though I do think everyone should have means of generating some of their own energy, getting off the grid is not entirely the solution. The concept of the grid needs to be re-thought. The grid needs to be understood as a system for the exchange and sharing of energy not a means of distributing energy from a central source. If the grid could be owned and managed by the people that directly benefit from it then their would be a lot more motivation to move towards a greater diversity in sustainable energy sources. It is in the very benefit of the people who regulate our energy to ensure it remains a commodity, it is the shift of energy to an ubiquitous good that would drive away centralized control, and this is what they fear most. Therefore Communities must fight to foster development focused on creating energy abundance. Essentially shifting the grid to a means of sharing and exchanging the very good that was once regulated, and exploited. Trying to run from the issue by getting off the grid is only going to create a greater divide within our communities pitting the haves against the have nots and having the very people that want to solve this problem resenting each other. This is a community issue, asking a bigger question how do we make energy ubiquitous?

      I think it starts with awareness, people need to understand they are being exploited and they need to understand the alternatives, it is at this point communities can then decide to make a change. Here is an example of one community doing exactly that, its not the solution, but it is sure a start in the right direction.
      http://www.startribune.com/business/133081993.html
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        Feb 22 2012: Yes but as I said it is not about going OFF GRID . . and you are right on when you say "Drive away central control" . . electrical distribution engineers and managers would feel threatened by that and likely find more obstacles than any means toward accomplishing it but the bigger question as I see it is "How do you reach enough people in way that will cause them to act?" . . very few people if seem think in terms of the greater good even though we all know internally what's right . . acting in that direction takes effort that replaces the day to day demand of our limited time. There has to be a spark of some sort (sorry pardon the pun) like what happened in Algeria . . one kid gets to his limit and dies for it . . . that will never and should never happen on this issue . . and maybe that why it can't take hold at least for a long time. Either that or a political LEADER steps up and makes the case . . or better still ACTS in the public's interests.

        I'm still searching for the means . . or the trigger that can initiate the change. Politicians here in Canada at least are too preoccupied with immediate fiscal challenges, revenues and getting reelected to listen. I've tried
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    Feb 20 2012: I agree there is a lot of existing technology and the only thing lacking is the will .. . actually part of what's lacking is the knowledge by average citizens that its possible and the belief that they can initiate political change. social networks and individual conversations like this can lead to that change. I believe there is a window here where desire for safer, more accessible energy is being channeled to industry and government . . . but individuals are the ones who need to take control of making personal energy . . how do we educate others to think this way.

    Failure to do this now, as new generation technologies become affordable and available will keep control of our personal energy in the hands of governments and industry and keep the inefficiencies alive
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    Feb 20 2012: There's plenty of reason to shift over to more logical types of energy. All we're lacking is the political and economic will. And many have been trying to establish change within and without the system, with some success and failure. I think there is no quick-fix to the issue of our will.

    Take a look at Open-Source technology man. There are many people working on schematics, tools and devices designed for stable long-term use with minimal waste. People are trying to help other people understand the potential for "DIY" in life.

    We must stop working for companies and start working for ourselves. We've got to end the reliance on debt and regain control over our own lives. We've got to start building our things ourselves. I want to see if Xavier can get schematics for his friends power grid and figure out if it's a feasible idea.
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    Feb 20 2012: If its of any interest,
    Its not particularly difficult to build solar panels for a cheap price and hook them upto an assortment of car batteries (storage) and then attach an adaptor for mains based electrical appliances.
    A friend of mine manages to contain enough electricity each week to power most of his houses appliances; Something I will be doing shortly aswell.
    (and yes, the energy is off-grid and free from taxation and regulation).
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      Feb 20 2012: Is your friends design online?
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        Feb 20 2012: I believe there was a 'how to build' solar panels article online that he used to build it.
        I've just searched around and there are a number of them available, most of which provide similar manuals for the task, perhaps its one of those.