Not so sustainable, after all?

Finally sold my car!

Yes, I was considering to buy an EV, as I discussed in the post “To EV or not to EV”. But, for the moment I just sold my car and will try to be “car-less person”. At the end of the day, using public transport, car-sharing (we now have car2go in Madrid and it works great) and the bike is clearly more sustainable than owning any vehicle. (Well, and also borrowing my wife’s car sometimes…)

Parte trasera coche fino

But: I sold it. Which means my 15-year-old diesel guzzling 7-series BMW will still be consuming +15 l/100 km and emitting lots of particles and CO2 pollution. Depending on the distance the new owner will drive, it might be more ecological than him buying a new, more efficient, one. That’s because of increased asset utilization and vehicle construction sunken emissions. However, it might be that the most ecological and sustainable would be  Sigue leyendo

The “magic” of Autonomous Electric Vehicles

Autonomous Electric Vehicles (AEV) not only will change the way we drive, (actually the way we won’t drive)

There is a more interesting consequence related to Asset Utilization and Efficiency you should consider.

The key to unlocking so much efficiency potential from such a vehicle is the time when the owner is not been driven by the car. When the car is working for it’s owner, that’s where the “magic” happens…


Image by D. Warrington on freeimages

During these otherwise idle times, the AEV can be in use (increasing the utilization of the asset) and enhancing the efficiency for a) it’s ownership, b) the electric and energy system and c) the logistic systems.

How is that? Sigue leyendo

The least sustainable gadget possible?

I think it might be, every time I see one… but specially when I hear the noise.

It’s probably one of the least efficient and more disturbing modern technology around. Burning oil to produce noise and smoke, in order to spread dust and debris around! What can be better?


The “dreadful” Leaf blower

The funny thing is the device doesn’t even pick up the leafs, once they are pushed somewhere, they still have to be picked-up for disposal.

Of course it can save time, but…

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Smart Grid Reliability! …or Efficiency?

One of the main benefits of the Smart Grid is increased reliability. Investing in Smart Grid technologies that improve reliability may have a good benefit-to-cost ratio or not, it will depend on the value of the improvement and the avoided outage or interruption costs. Examples of such technologies are; automatic outage restoration systems, Wide Area Monitoring, energy storage at distribution level, geographic information maintenance systems, advanced protection systems, etc.

The cost to improve reliability follows an somewhat exponential curve, as having a 100% reliable system is close to impossible, the cost is close to infinite. This leads to an asymptotic curve towards the end. Something like this:

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Electric boats and sea energy harvesting

As commented in a recent post on renewable islands, to completely decarbonize islands, it is necessary to use renewables for electricity and heating, together with the electrification of transport. (Actually, electric mobility serves as renewable storage)

By transport I mean electric mobility on land, that is vehicles, rail, buses, but also on the sea. How can we decarbonize sea transport?

No, I’m not proposing getting our hands on the oars or going back to:

Por MKFI (Trabajo propio) [Public domain], undefined

Let’s see how…

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Demand energy policy Vs supply; the Saudi Case

In my opinion, there is no better example of where demand energy policy is pivotal than in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

In KSA, peak demand is expected to nearly triple from 44 GW in 2010, up to 121 GW, in 2035 (Source: ECRA 2010). This is, of course, with the actual demand patterns and expected growth.

The supply energy policy takes these predictions as valid and focuses in covering the expected demand. How is it planned in the KSA case? By building 41 GW solar plants and 21 GW of nuclear, geothermal and waste-to-energy (source: KACARE, Saudi Solar Energy forum 2012). The lead time for building the capacity (specially in the case of nuclear) is difficult to synchronize with the aggregate demand behavior, and there can be frictions. An example of supply energy policy going wrong is that of Spain, where current excess power generation capacity has been (mainly) a consequence of decreasing demand opposed to predicted growth.

However, if we take a look at the demand (source: Saudi HVAC confex), the HVAC represents more than 70% of electricity consumption.

Cooling % in KSA

Given the importance of HVAC, we might agree that the first Saudi HVAC conference, should have taken place sooner than start of this year (February 2013)

Demand energy policy focuses, instead of building GWs of nuclear power to generate, transport, distribute and transform into cooling, in reducing the expected growth in demand. Solutions are building retrofits, HVAC efficiency improvements, renewable self-consumption, solar cooling, etc. Deferred investments in generating capacity are the best return on investment for these energy efficiency and demand response measures.

In fact, during the recent WEC (World Energy Congress), the SEC  Eng. Ali Saleh Al Barrak, President and CEO , highlighted the building retrofit as offering the biggest opportunities. That’s not only true for KSA, Spain, again an example, has a great opportunity in building retrofits to improve energy efficiency and reactivate the building industry.

Moreover, a 2012 paper on efficiency measures, described the opportunity for the future of the KSA, both on supply and demand:

In short, both demand and supply policies have to be considered, but in my opinion, demand measures are more sustainable, more efficient, faster to deploy and have a better return on investment. We’ll see what Saudi does…

SmartMoney for SmartGrids

Where should we put our money on Smartgrids? If you have 1 €, where would you invest in the whole array of SG technologies and applications to have the best return?


That is the question I ask all utility colleagues on any panel or conference and it is the question I am trying to (help) answer with my research. The answer for the moment is not clear to anybody I ask.

Take energy efficiency as an example (it’s what many answer as part of smartgrids), the payback time for different measures is well known and industries are investing progressively to implement the most appropriate. For example, starting with efficient lighting or the purchase of drives and efficient motors with paybacks below 1-2 years.

On Smartgrid, from a general perspective, there are some estimations, such as the most recent from EPRI that estimated a 2.8-6.0:1 benefit-to-cost ratio. In this whitepaper, most benefits are related to reliability and security, for example reducing outage costs. The technologies that give the best NPV are mainly storage and demand response, but facilitating renewables is also to mention, as it is very much related to both and is core for reducing emissions. Another report, from the Perfect Power Institute from the Galvin Electricity Initiative (Investing in grid modernization; March 2012), presents a 3:1 benefit-to-cost ratio, where the return is mainly from efficiency (48%) and reliability (30%) savings, coming mainly from investment in Home automation (25%) and clean energy (31%).

There are other examples, focusing on Spain, where there is not such an ageing infrastructure and the transmission can already be considered a smartgrid. Accenture published a report for the “Club de excelencia en sostenibilidad” called Spain 20.20, where the benefit-to-cost ratio for the period was 1.3:1 (89% of benefit are energy savings). BCG has also recently published a report for Futured, where they consider the benefit-to-cost ratio to be higher; between 2:1 and 3.5:1.

Of course the response to the business case and cost-benefit depends very much on the region, and specially the regulation, as the main investment is on a regulated business. But most papers on the topic show investing in SG is profitable without subsidies and where to invest is the question the power industry must be trying to answer every day.

What is your answer? Where would you put your money? Could we even crowdfinance the smartgrid?