Power companies attempting to fend off solar power are at risk of following the horse and cart into oblivion

My previous post about the lines company Unison's intention to charge extra to households generating their own power prompted several people to contact me, one of whom directed me to a particular quote:

Under the portentous, capitalised title “DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES” one of an NZ Lines Company’s Trust owners published the following in a recent report:

“The name is a lead, perhaps a clue into the effect that the march of technology will have on the electricity industry of the future.

In the very near future, modern photovoltaic arrays on consumer premises, coupled to the latest efficient design for storage batteries will change the face of the industry, particularly for those consumers who can afford to fund the installations.

Uptake is likely to be rapid along with price reductions in inverse proportions.

This will present both challenges and opportunities for the electricity retail industry and even more challenges for Lines Companies. Already we are seeing the start of a death spiral where consumers are choosing to switch to their own harvest and management of their energy needs for both economic and philosophical reasons.

Those left on conventional supply systems are likely to face even higher costs going forward. As an investor in a generation and retailing company we need to work closer together to chart a good pathway through these issues for our beneficiaries”.

It is worthwhile noting the somewhat breathless language used as well as the immediacy of the “problem” described.

Distributed generation (solar power) is not in the dim, distant future. According to the report the “death spiral” has begun and major change is in “the very near future”. Although the need “to chart a good pathway through these issues for our beneficiaries” is conceded, no strategy, at least in this document, is defined.

It looks like Unison (not the source of the above quote) has decided its “pathway” is to deter distributed generation by making it more expensive for those who go solar but stay on the grid.

The history of disruptive innovation tells us that this strategy is doomed.

I discovered with the assistance of Wikipedia (itself, a disruptive technology that has displaced traditional encyclopedias) that much academic work has been done on disruptive technology or, more broadly, disruptive innovation.

If the Unison directors and managers need a glimpse of their possible future, they could do worse than count the horses in Heretaunga or Emerson Streets on any Friday. At the turn of the last century, horses and horse drawn vehicles were practically the sole means of transport, but within a couple of decades, internal combustion engines powering cars and freight vehicles had taken over. Attempts to fend off the new technology, like the short-lived British rule mandating a flag-bearer walking in front of vehicles, all failed.

Many of the horse traders shifted to selling cars and their yards turned into vehicle dealerships.

Recent history is littered with redundant technologies. Digital photography has replaced chemical photography bringing about the death of an entire industry that produced and processed films. Eastman Kodak, an industrial colossus for most of last century, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Mechanical typewriters, which were ubiquitous when I grew up, have been entirely displaced by word processors, and in November 2012, Brother's UK factory manufactured what it claimed to be the last typewriter ever made in the UK and donated it to the London Science Museum.

Just as we have seen flat screen television sets displace cathode ray tube technology; light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will almost certainly supplant light bulbs.

Apart from its daft reaction to the spread of solar generation, Unison seems a reasonably well-run outfit, and should consider copying the horse traders who prospered as car salesmen.

Solar power systems have to be sold, installed and maintained. Certain elements, like the batteries, don’t last forever and need regular replacement.

Who better than Unison to ride on the solar bandwagon? The company’s business is electricity and it presumably has a resource of electricians and other valuable, and relevant, intellectual property. Not only does Unison have the capacity to dominate the growth of distributed generation in sunny Hawke’s Bay, it has matchless market intelligence because of its current business.

The company has already diversified into the transformer, contracting and fibre businesses, so why not solar power?

The Unison directors should take the lead in this process. One of them, Wellington Lawyer Lucy Elwood, is quoted as saying:

“It’s interesting what makes an idea fly or an organisation win – often it is governance that makes the difference. I’ve always been interested in the effectiveness that good leadership brings whether it is in a not-for- profit or in a corporate”.

If Unison fails to develop ideas to deal with the solar power challenge, the company will go from a “corporate” to a “not-for- profit”.

Comments (42)

by Chris Morris on May 28, 2016
Chris Morris

As I put on your previous post:

Dr Ian Mason,  a research fellow at Canterbury University  Civil and Natural Resources Department presented some interesting numbers at this year's Downstream: By his reckoning, for a 10,000 kWh per year customer in Christchurch to go off grid using only solar and batteries would require 27kW of solar panels and 256kWh of battery storage.

That means that the distribution network will have to be there is some form or another. As NZs power demand is highest on winter nights, especially after gloomy days, the network is going to have to similar size to current -if electric cars take off, it will have to be bigger. How is the cost of operating and maintaining that system going to be paid for? And costs have gone up, and will go up more, because of Health and Safety requirements among other things. PV is just the latest way of getting the poor (and renters and apartment dwellers) to pay the rich. That is why Germany now has fuel poverty because their electricity costs have gone so high.


by barry on May 29, 2016
barry

For rural dwellers it is probably already cost effective to go off-grid and certainly for new installations where the cost of connecting will be very high.  OTOH it will be a long time before stand-alone installations justify avoiding the lines cost of supplying city residents with power.  I can see the electricity companies gradually receding back to the cities.  At the moment there are all sorts of cross-subsidies that need to be sorted out before they start charging extra for self-generators.

It should soon be cheaper for lines companies to get power from PVs & windmills within their network than to pay Transpower to bring it from the other end of the country.

by Chris Morris on May 29, 2016
Chris Morris

Barry

I agree with your first paragraph, but not the second.

Lines companies don't want home PV. It is not dispatchable, unreliable, and generated off peak. With wind, it is just the first two.

by Peter Grant on May 29, 2016
Peter Grant

You are right Barry, we are a new build modern rural family working from home and have achieved both economic and secure delivery of electricity to our home via a PV generated system that cost a lot less than the estimated cost to connect to the grid.  In fact a saving in excess of $8.000, but the best and most important benefit is the continuity of supply.  Rural users have in the past been badly served by the line companies who usually put their efforts into serving the masses first, and understandably so, but it leaves us out in the cold, without electricity out water doesn't work, toilets and other essentials just stop working, a fact missed by most people.  Most of the so called informed commentators suggest a usual consumption figure around 20+ Kw hrs (or a great deal more) a day for an average family.  We consume around 5 to 6 per day and we have all the so called essentials such a heated towel rails, underfloor heating  etc.  We do use gas for cooking and have a small stand by generator that is utilised when requires at around 120 hrs a year.  Our $7000 battery bank is now 7 years old, has been well maintained and will last another 5 years or more. To renew it will mean we will have in effect reached the status quo in regards the initial cost versus the grid connection and having had no power bills during that entire time.

And with continuity of supply !!!

 

by barry on May 29, 2016
barry

Chris,

Lines companies may not want it, but that doesn't mean it won't be cheaper.  Eventually lines companies will have to adapt.  People will have batteries (perhaps also the EVs plugged in in the garage) that can smooth the load as well.

There will probably always be a place for Transpower (for some definition of "always"), but as lines networks become more local, Transpower's supply will become a smaller percentage.

The same concerns arise about energy efficiency.  If people use less then the lines charge becomes a bigger percentage of their bill.  It is the same whether they do it with PV/batteries. Or efficient houses and appliances.

The lines companies will change.  It is only a question of whether they prepare for and lead the change, or react when there is no alternative.

Dunedin used to have cheaper electricity due to the local lines company owning a dam.  Unfortunately Bradford's reforms forced them to sell it off and now Dunedin prices are as high as anywhere.

That is more the model for the future I think.

by Chris Morris on May 29, 2016
Chris Morris

barry - I was wrong in saying that lines companies don't want it - they are only the transmission conduit. It would be the generators that would decide whether they wanted to buy it or not. From the press releases and complaints like Mike's post, I would say the retailers don't want it for the reasons outlined previously. However, the lines companies have a vested interest in that they bill on a part fixed charge and part usage. If the usage changes like you suggest, then it will be very likely they go to a near total fixed charge model. That will penalize the low energy users who don't have alternate means, like the pensioners, even more.

According  to this article: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/industry_sectors/Energy/water-... it wasn't the Bradford reforms that caused the price rises, but they occurred during the following Labour Government. If you go into the statistics, you will see the Domestic prices have been stable the last two years and the rate of change started levelling out about 2010.

 

by Ian MacKay on May 29, 2016
Ian MacKay

Chris Morris seems very well informed. Chris what is your relationship to the Electricity industry?

And Alfie West in the previous Mike post wrote this: "Say you fitted a couple of low energy appliances, or added better insulation and maybe changed your lighting to LED throughout your home. Would you consider it fair if your power company said, "Your usage has dropped. You were using $x of electricity per month but now it's only $x, our profits have dropped therefore we're going to tax you the difference." Would you happily pay that extra tax? Of course you wouldn't. What you are advocating is a little like anyone buying a Prius being "taxed" by petrol companies because they're using less of their product. "

Sums the approach that the Power companies <b>should </b> have.

by Ian MacKay on May 29, 2016
Ian MacKay

Peter Grant. What sort of batteries are you using?

by Chris Morris on May 29, 2016
Chris Morris

As has been previously noted, I work for one of the generators but in generation. I have no relationship with retail - don't even know any of the people that work for that side of our company. I also know a number of people in the lines companies and Transpower, plus there are the industry conferences both here and in Oz.

With regards electric cars, they are being subsidized as they don't pay road user charges.

 

 

by Draco T Bastard on May 29, 2016
Draco T Bastard

it wasn't the Bradford reforms that caused the price rises, but they occurred during the following Labour Government.

Actually, it was. What happened is that the Bradford reforms went through and the new power companies cut back on maintenance to boost profits. After a few years of poor maintenance they had to put the prices up dramatically to rapidly fix and expand the network which meant that the prices went up more than they would have if they'd just the work properly in the first place.

by Brendon Mills on May 29, 2016
Brendon Mills

Chris, prices were much lower 20-30 years ago, than they are today. People could actually afford to heat their homes back then.

If we didnt have private owners raking in profits and dividends, power prices would be a lot cheaper.

Personally I think power prices are deliberately kept high so as to have high dividends.

 

by Brendon Mills on May 29, 2016
Brendon Mills

With our hydro dams, we should have the cheapest power in the world -- power too cheap to meter. It is only because of greed that we have prices that are much higher.

by Stewart Hawkins on May 29, 2016
Stewart Hawkins

Hi Brendon You may well be correct but I wonder if you could provide inflation adjusted pricing data per kWh to back up your cost suggestion? I also think that claiming "greed" when our culture and civilisation is based on capitalism is a bit of an off-beat comment.

Chris - I have done my own calculations as an informed amateur and I agree entirely - from an urban dwellers POV it is far more practical, cost effective, capital effective and risk reducing to avoid home generation (by risk I mean financial, though I suspect there are other physico-mechanical risks to mass battery storage systems which havn't been examined here). Solar, wind and batteries are fine and dandy but if you want all weather reliability you need to be connected to a well maintained grid connected to a reliable power generation system. Unfortunately  comments such as "Uptake is likely to be rapid along with price reductions in inverse proportions." don't help the cause of the off grid idealists as uptake will rise as reductions rise (prices reduce), not as stated.

by Peter Grant on May 29, 2016
Peter Grant

Hi Ian MacKay,

We have a bank of 16, L16, wet cell deep cycle, 6volt batteries, arranged to form 4x24 volt batteries.  These are charged by 12, 135 watt PV panels through an "Outback" charge controller and back into the house through 3.5 Kw "Outback" inverter.  

As per your previous post, if I thought it was possible that any line or generator company was able to charge me for being able to look after my own affairs I would probably take up arms.

by Chris Morris on May 29, 2016
Chris Morris

Draco

Have you evidence to back up your statements, or is it just prejudice masquerading as hearsay? If you cut back O&M, your outage rate goes up. I can't speak for the whole industry but I know at my work, the availability and load factor went up from mid 80s  right through until 2009 when I lost interest in compiling the figures.The only big example of failure was Vector and their power cables, and that was because they sacked the guys who knew how to maintain it. The cost rises in the Clark Government were because of large special dividends taken out (Mike was on the board of SOEs so he knows) and that caused big cuts in capital expenditure across the generation and transmission industry.

Brendon -Until very recently, three of the big 5 power companies were wholly government owned. Since they were partially privatized, Statistics NZ says prices has been stable.  For the power bills, there are three main components, generation, transmission and distribution. The EMCo data shows the average market price in 20 years has gone from about $50/MWh to $70. Transmission charges have gone up, but there has been major capital development, and Transpower is still Government owned. distribution costs have gone up a lot, but many of those companies are Trusts. Who are these rapacious owners jacking up prices? If you think they are gouging, there is nothing to stop you setting up your own power company and selling to the market. There are lots of little hydro generators out there that do.

 I can't go back 30 years, but I have power bills from 20 years ago. Then my standard rate was 11.9c a unit, 10.2 on ripple control and 83c a day. Now it is 23.54, 17.54 & 205c respectively. That is full price. I get a bigger prompt payment discount now, so actual rises have been lower.

 

by Ian MacKay on May 29, 2016
Ian MacKay

Thankyou Chris for your well informed input. The costs like $100,000 set up is exactly what the CEO said when interviewed by Kathryn on Nine to Noon. But might be a bit high and pessimistic in the life time of the unit.

Peter Grant thanks for that too. There others elsewhere who will value your facts and figures. Hope you don't mind my quoting you.

And Mike thanks for bringing the topic up again and we hope that forward thinking companies go with rather than against self sufficient technology.

by Antoine on May 29, 2016
Antoine

So:

- Everyone agrees that generating your own power can be cost-effective for rural sites not connected to the grid:

- Most people agree that adding solar panels can be cost-effective for grid-connected customers in sunny areas

- It's a pretty big call to say that it will ever be cost-effective for existing urban customers to disconnect from the grid and use solar + batery instead.

A.

by Brendon Mills on May 30, 2016
Brendon Mills

:" I can't go back 30 years, but I have power bills from 20 years ago. Then my standard rate was 11.9c a unit, 10.2 on ripple control and 83c a day. Now it is 23.54, 17.54 & 205c respectively. That is full price. I get a bigger prompt payment discount now, so actual rises have been lower."


See, power was cheaper back then than it is now. It is pretty clear why those increases came about, which have led to people not being able to have power connected to thier houses because it is so expensive. Due, simply to corporate greed.


30 years ago, power prices simply recovered the costs in generating power. Now appearently we have to pay for dividends as well.

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

>> I have power bills from 20 years ago. Then my standard rate was 11.9c a unit, 10.2 on ripple control and 83c a day. Now it is 23.54, 17.54 & 205c respectively. That is full price. I get a bigger prompt payment discount now, so actual rises have been lower."
> See, power was cheaper back then than it is now.

Wrong

Assuming Chris's household uses 10,000 units per year all at the non-ripple rate, his annual power bill has increased from $1500 to $3100 over 20 years. Now let's look at that $3100. Take off 10% for prompt payment gives $2800, take off GST gives just over $2400. Take off the 50% inflation that has occurred over the period gives just over $1600 - basically no change from the pre-Bradford $1500.

Happy with those numbers Chris?

A.

 

 

 

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

Oh wait hold on (slaps self), GST was also in place in the 1990s (albeit at a lower rate). Losing track of time here. So there has been an increase in real post tax terms. However much of that has gone to network companies not generators...

A.

by Chris Morris on May 30, 2016
Chris Morris

Antoine

I don't disagree with the intent of your numbers, but I use 8000 on full and 2000 on ripple control, my original prompt payment was 5% now its 25% - so overall the difference is even less than you calculated. And yes, it is Transpower and the distribution companies where much of the extra has gone - and their costs have gone up from compliance with most of them making a very low return on assets - look at the EA rulings.

For the relative value of electricity, look at the changes in averages wages over that time. Here is the data since 1990 http://www.tradingeconomics.com/new-zealand/wages  But then people like Brendon aren't swayed by mere inconvenient facts

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

Hey Chris, do you consume more units now than you did in the 1990s, or less?

by Alfie West on May 30, 2016
Alfie West

This was posted on the previous thread... added here to clarify misinformation re off-grid requirements.

@chris: By his reckoning, for a 10,000 kWh per year customer in Christchurch to go off grid using only solar and batteries would require 27kW of solar panels and 256kWh of battery storage. Sure people can change their lifestyle to live with a reduced electricity supply, but who is going to buy into that?

What bizarre figures you quote, Chris. Let me provide a real world example to put things into perspective.

I visited an off-grid house recently which is just north of Dunedin, so enjoys even less sun than your ChCh example. With a modest 5kWh system using 20 panels and two 10kWh lithium batteries, they have less than a fifth of the panels and less than a tenth of the battery storage you quoted. By your reckoning they'd run out of power daily in the winter, right? But they don't. 

They've lived in the home for two years. While they have a backup generator, they haven't had to use yet. And there's a rather classy and super-efficient Polish triple-insulated boiler providing backup for their water heating. They only fired that up 4 times last winter. Run it for two hours and it keeps the water hot for 4 days.

Not only are they powering their entire home on that system, but they're running underfloor (water) heating to every room in the house. Sure, the house is well-designed and beautifully insulated, but it's a very comfortable, almost new house that's completely off-grid.

"Solar-doesn't-work" stories are all very well, but when they fall so far short of reality, they're actually only tall tales.

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

For sure, whoever built that house has done a great job, kudos to them. However:

(a) I bet it cost a bunch, and

(b) setting yourself up like that is only an option for new builds. I couldn't stay warm on that much electrical kit in my crappily insulated house.

A.

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

The point I'm trying to make is that, while some people will go off grid and good on them, the grid isn't gonna go the way of the magic lantern or horse and cart any time soon.

A.

by Ian MacKay on May 30, 2016
Ian MacKay

Antonine. No one was suggesting that the grid would disappear. What Mike was writing was that alternative generation technology is here and it is evolving rapidly. Electricity companies can either try and block/impede their existence, or they can adapt and even develop business by getting involved in the marketing, installing, and maintaining those businesses. For now some of us are chancing our arm with a few panels (12 X 260) and keep an open mind about storage options.

by Moz on May 30, 2016
Moz

I'm personally a bit torn. On the one hand a grid inherently covers every house that it passes, so like water and sewerage there's an argument that every property passed should pay (this is how many rural councils operate). But on the other, if the charge is so outrageous that it's cheaper to go off grid... why should anyone pay?

As someone watching this technology, I can't help feeling that many grid operators are missing the point if they're focussed on demand management and strictly on-demand generation. The question I'd be asking is where the batteries go, and at what point it will be cheaper for the grid operator to install (sub)municipal batteries than expand grid capacity. Much as the water board doesn't build filtration plants to handle peak water demand because they have storage, the electricity system should be using storage to avoid demand spikes hitting the generators. If not right now today, it's something they should have a very sharp eye on.

I'm living in the middle of Sydney, my parents in Nelson, both houses with PV on the roof. It's not worth trying to go off grid right now, but as panels get cheaper and batteries improve I can see that happening. Albeit I suspect most urban dwellers would be better running an extension cord over the back fence than buying a generator.. it's still cheaper if one house in 5 or 6 stays on the grid... at least for the homeowners.

When we put PV up I looked seriously at tilting the panels to get better year-round generation, but it was cheaper to buy an extra couple of panels than deal with the extra hardware to get the angle from 25 degrees to 45. I can see that happening with batteries, at some point the wee UPS on my computer will be replaced with a cabinet in the shed that runs the whole house for a couple of hours. Then a couple of days. Then off the grid we go, because we're those sort of people.

by Ian MacKay on May 30, 2016
Ian MacKay

Moz. Interesting. A recent radio interview talked of a community or Electricity supplier having a storage system expressly to bank power needed for that dreaded peak time. Use the solar/wind power to "pay back" when it is needed.

An aluminium based storage battery is being developed which is promised to be better and much cheaper than other forms. Hoping. At the moment our 12 fixed panels cover the daytime use at least and today here in Marlborough they produced 10.4 KW 8 of which reduced the import. And it is nearly mid-winter day.

by Moz on May 30, 2016
Moz

Antoine said:

(a) I bet it cost a bunch, and (b) setting yourself up like that is only an option for new builds. I couldn't stay warm on that much electrical kit in my crappily insulated house.

The sad thing is that for a new build it can be cheaper. But not if you use traditional timber-frame construction, you need to use structural panels or some other "new" technology invented since the 1950's. I was watching a time-lapse advert on the internet the other day showing builders running round with 1m x 12m panels... one builder on each end. House went up very fast, it seemed as though most of the time was fixing the metal channel to the concrete slab that holds the walls in place.

Refitting older houses is a right PITA, and we are struggling to find a builder who is both experienced with the technology and willing to reclad our place instead of building a whole new house... unless we pay the profit margin he'd get on the new house, which means paying $150,000 for $50,000 worth of work. So we may end up doing the work ourselves using Chinese panels, since the local manufacturers won't sell to DIY'ers. It is kind of sad but such is life.

I am slightly fixated on having a north-facing roof at 45 degrees because my brain still thinks it's the 1970s. But with panels so cheap it makes more sense to build the roof you want and focus on having a nice rectangular section facing north or north-north-west that you can cover with panels. Given proper (ie, European) levels of insulation and sealing, and some thought to other aspects of the design, it's quite reasonable to end up using under 10kWh/day for four adults (assuming solar hot water). Which means about 4kW of panels.

On battery you'd want 30kWh or so of usable storage (50kW of lead-acid) but some of that would be purely so you can run the toaster and kettle at the same time without damaging the batteries. It's cheaper to grossly over-provision the PV right now, so you'd probably put 15kW of PV up and on most overcast days you'd get 5kWh or more out of it. Trouble is, you're never going to make back the connection charge to the gird, so 80% of the electricity you generate will be wasted. Or the grid operator could offer to connect you up for no charge and even 2c/kWh feed-in tariff, just to get that cheap-unto-free power from you the other 95% of the time.

by Nick Gibbs on May 30, 2016
Nick Gibbs

Another contributor to raising household prices after the Bradford reforms, was the removal of the larger prices per unit businesses paid to subsidise households. When that subsidy was removed the lines companies all enthusiastically chased the big business users offering them great rates. But residential users weren't nearly so valuable and had to pay more.

by Chris Morris on May 30, 2016
Chris Morris

People need to distinguish between the distribution network and the grid. They are different companies and  have significantly different functions.

 

Antoine -I use a lot less power now than 20 years ago (though the arc welder bumps it up a bit) but the consumption was just an average to make sure comparisons were apples with apples. I also don't have a wood burner or gas to cheat on the numbers.

Alfie - those figures were Ian Mason's, not mine. No doubt he has data to back it up, whereas you only have anecdote. It isn't only sunshine hours, or latitude that matter. It is the number of gloomy winter days in a row. And with regard the house you quoted, Ian had an all electric house. Yours had a back up burner. How many solar cells / batteries would they need to eliminate that? 

The average house in NZ is probably 40 years old. Moz has pointed out retrofitting is very expensive and difficult. The 10,000 unit a year would cost about $2500. How much capital investment can be justified saving that?

Nic - you are partially correct. According to this report https://www.ea.govt.nz/dmsdocument/16624 · until about 1990, the domestic consumer was subsidized over 10c a unit in 2013 $ terms. The cross - subsidization has been reduced since then.

 

by Chris Morris on May 30, 2016
Chris Morris

Looks like power companies in other countries are facing the same issues at Unison

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/29/households-could-be-charged-a...

by Alfie West on May 30, 2016
Alfie West

To answer your questions Antonine.

(a) I bet it cost a bunch

Not really. The build was around $350k for a 4 bed house with internal access 2 car garage. That doesn't include the land which down this way (eat your heart out Aucklanders) runs at about $250k for 40 acres, 20 minutes from town.

(b) setting yourself up like that is only an option for new builds. I couldn't stay warm on that much electrical kit in my crappily insulated house.

Agreed. Retrofitting wouldn't be cost effective for an existing house. This one is a true "zero energy" home and they need to be built that way. And damn it was nice. When I win Lotto... ;-)

by Alfie West on May 30, 2016
Alfie West

@Chris Morris

Alfie - those figures were Ian Mason's, not mine. No doubt he has data to back it up, whereas you only have anecdote.

I've visited the house and seen their figures.They have no grid connection as it was going to cost $30-40k to hook up. Those figures are genuine, real-world numbers, but I guess one man's facts are another man's anecdote. Your kWh may vary!

And with regard the house you quoted, Ian had an all electric house. Yours had a back up burner. How many solar cells / batteries would they need to eliminate that? 

I can't answer that, sorry. The Polish boiler cost $13k landed. Because it's so efficient it strikes me as a worthwhile addition, even if they only use it four times each winter.

Moz has pointed out retrofitting is very expensive and difficult. The 10,000 unit a year would cost about $2500. How much capital investment can be justified saving that?

Ahhh! We have stupidly large lines charges down this way, so while your power may cost a mere 25c per unit, I'm paying 0.429824c... call it 43c. At that rate the payback happens a lot sooner. I'd estimated 7-8 years to recoup the costs of my solar setup, but two years of actual figures have brought that down to nearer 6 years.

Despite Max Bradford's claim that competition would reduce electricity prices, I can't see them coming down, ever. That's not the way neoliberalism works. My Enasolar (ChCh made) inverter is guaranteed for 15 years and the panels for 25 years. So it was always a sensible retirement plan for us, even though I'm not quite there yet.

 

by Alfie West on May 30, 2016
Alfie West

@Antoine: "The point I'm trying to make is that, while some people will go off grid and good on them, the grid isn't gonna go the way of the magic lantern or horse and cart any time soon."

You're right, of course. With no incentives or subsidies, most urban dwellers wouldn't even consider going solar. Even now, the total solar uptake in NZ is only around 5,000 homes, a fraction of one per cent of NZ's housing stock. That's why any "threat" to the lines companies is mainly imagined, and more than likely just a ruse to increase profits.

As others have pointed out, installing solar makes sense when you live in a rural area (or a semi-rural one in my case) because our grid power is hugely expensive. While the cost of battery storage puts me off at the moment, if someone like Unison decided to penalise me for having a few panels as a power-saving device (see previous thread), I'd seriously consider going off-grid altogether with a small wind turbine to supplement generation at night.

 

by Antoine on May 30, 2016
Antoine

@Alfie

> They have no grid connection as it was going to cost $30-40k to hook up.

Exactly. This is the kind of case where being self-sufficient may be cost-effective. We agree the numbers don't stack up so well for a house already connected to the grid.

@Ian

> No one was suggesting that the grid would disappear.

I was reacting to the OP's rhetoric about horse-drawn carriages and mechanical typewriters, which seemed to envisage a gridless future.

I'm glad we all agree that the grid is going to stick around (in some form).

A.

 

by Brendon Mills on May 31, 2016
Brendon Mills

Chris, you make it sound like the subsidy of power was a *bad* thing. Heaven forbid that people could afford to heat their homes, and have money left over to buy food.

by Brendon Mills on May 31, 2016
Brendon Mills

As for the question of PV's, a more elegant solution to everything would be to have PV/Battery and main supply seperate (ie not interact with the main supply). One idea would be the low voltage devices run from the PV system (with back up batteries), while the higher use appliances pull their power from the network.

by Antoine on May 31, 2016
Antoine

@Brendon

I sympathise with what you're saying, but I don't think that making all businesses subsidise households' power bills would actually leave New Zealanders better off.

A.

by Moz on May 31, 2016
Moz

As for the question of PV's, a more elegant solution to everything would be to have PV/Battery and main supply seperate

One thing we're seeing in Australia is "oversize UPS" devices. Partly they're an easy retrofit, and partly they work around some of the sillier regulations excreted by power companies (specifically the "if you have a battery, any battery, you can't feed the grid at all" one. But if the battery is plugged in, rather than hard-wired... that rule doesn't apply). It's relatively easy to find a inverter with energy management interface so you can have a smart controller that charges the UPS when there's a surplus from the roof and tells the UPS to run off battery when it can.

Low voltage stuff is really not that great, you end up paying a fortune for stuff like fridges because so few of them are designed for household use. If you want a "bar fridge" that runs off 12/24V no problem, caravan people have them by the dozen. But if you want a big, efficient 12/24V fridge for the house... there's one that I know of, and it doesn't meet the NZ/Aus standard because the compressor is tiny (so it can't cool a car-load of groceries from 30 degrees in an hour). Plus the currents get large, so you need big expensive wires to carry the low voltage round. In a caravan the runs are shorter, but most people don't want a battery bank in the kitchen where the big loads are. It's much easier to wear the 85% efficiency of an inverter and keep everything 240V.

by Moz on May 31, 2016
Moz

sound like the subsidy of power was a *bad* thing. Heaven forbid that people could afford to heat their homes

The main effect of the power subsidy was to kill home insulation. When it's cheaper to heat a drafty cardboard box than to build a properly insulated, well-sealed house, the market for decent houses suffers. Sure, a few weird hippy freaks and European immigrants will build nice houses, but the mass market will be shacks that the wind blows through. I think it would have been better to leave power expensive and focus on helping people be comfortable using less of it.

by Murray Grimwood on June 06, 2016
Murray Grimwood

Moz - good comment. Energy is actually way too cheap; even renewables are based on finite fossil energy.

To price it properly, there has to be as much left available (all resources, but let's just stick to fossil energy) for the next generation as there was for mine. And for their offspring, and theirs. Otherwise things come to a halt, and if 'things' includes exponential growth of consumption, that halt comes soon.

So using the currently-available supply to insulate your house, increase it's solar gain and reduce it's energy-dependency, are all valid 'investments'.

Post-crash, the stuff won't be available.

 

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