Assorted Friday links

by on February 21, 2014 at 11:52 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Alexei Sadeski February 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm

#1 won’t be a problem for a long long time. Haha.

2 AndrewL February 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Is this really a problem? we don’t have enough electrical generating capacity? A Tesla requires 11kw power to charge, 1 millon is about 11GW power.

The average difference in max/min power usage in a week in the US is 85GW (http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=12711)

There is more than enough electrical generating capacity to handle 1 million EV’s, no need for any of this fancy “load balancing”.

3 PD Shaw February 21, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Also, your link shows that electricity demand falls overnight, the most likely time for recharging. Large electricity users, like wastewater treatment plants, that can run their systems automatically at night, do so to get a better rate.

4 AndrewL February 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

The graph already takes into account existing night-time electrical users like waste-water treatment plants. The fact that there is a 85GW difference between day-time peak and night-time minimum electrical demand shows that there is more than enough electrical generation capacity to handle about 7.7 million EV’s charging overnight simultaneously. By the time we hit that number, we will probably have a lot more generation capacity built up.

5 Jay February 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Are we sure they’re not looking at more local issues with power generation? For example, California with its rolling brown-outs during the Summer months?

6 PD Shaw February 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I’m in agreement with you, but thought it was worth emphasizing the day/night distinction because the article claims that the “basic problem is that most electric vehicles will require overnight charging,” implying that the timing is problematic, when in fact the timing is opportune.

7 Tomas February 21, 2014 at 8:11 pm

The issue is not generating the powers, but getting it over the wires to the consumer. That’s where the bottlenecks are, so there will be locales where enough power can’t arrive.

The “smart grid” should be based on a market price mechanism. But it turns out that sending meaningful price signals around and reacting to them in an automated way is hard and takes a lot of infrastructure.

8 Dan Weber February 21, 2014 at 7:30 pm

The article isn’t loading for me right now, but TR has previously reported on how that “low demand” time at night is important for things like neighborhood transformers to get a chance to cool.

9 Mo February 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I also don’t see the requirement that people will need to input their demand. The power company will already know when you leave in the morning because that’s when you unplug the car every day.

10 Michael February 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I don’t see why they always make this so complicated. Much like the “smart grid”, it is overdesigned, and too focused on optimized centralized control.

All we need is a grid that varies price by demand, and has a mechanism of communicating current price, and it will all figure itself out.

It’s almost as if these folks are physically incapable of considering market based solutions.

11 Tomas February 21, 2014 at 8:00 pm

+1

It’s silly – just have a variable price with a bit of lead time built in and local optimization will figure it out.

If anything, the utilities should like it, in the first approximation. Charging at night means marginal revenue from the fixed assets. The second order effect is interesting though – many transformers are already overloaded and build up heat at peak demand, and cool down when demand drops. It’s designed that way to get away with lower-rated transformers. When not given a chance to cool down, those transformers will start going out.

12 Just another MR Commentor February 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm

#5 I should hope so I would be worried about the possibility of them melting down the metal for weapons purposes, this is another advantage of using a soft metal such as gold for currency or better yet BitCoin.

A few other interesting links up today

More on the most important story of the decade:
http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2014/02/20/facebooks-horrible-stroke-of-genius-ipo/

Another under-reported benefit of open borders:
http://blogs.reuters.com/reihan-salam/2014/02/07/more-americans-should-work-abroad/

The success of private railways in Cambodia
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304558804579375600262482752
This is especially interesting given that leftists are often complaining that the government needs to spend more on
infrastructure and transportation. Cambodia shows how this can be done purely through private sector means.

For balance here’s a far-left Downer-Saurus Rex:
http://robertreich.org/post/77305875533

13 Anti-Ummm February 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm

+1 on the Reich piece. Have we reached peak jobs?

“In the emerging economy, there’s no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp’s 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).

Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling — just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.

Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line – or spread the gains more widely – our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.”

14 Brian Donohue February 21, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Yes, Reich is extremely astute for notig this ’emerging’ trend of fewer employees producing more output and the inevitable elimination of jobs.

Never in human history have we faced the horror of producing more with less. Now we can only brace for the awful repurcussions.

As I think on it, Obama might have beaten Reich to the punch here with his observations about ATMs.

15 Just another MR Commentor February 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Yeah, listen I’m sorry I just put that on my link list to be fair-and-balanced. I mean clearly this guy is completely out of touch. Unlike what Reich believes, Americans are moving past the world of employment into this new exciting world of technological change. Reich just wants them to be left behind.

16 Cliff February 21, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Bring back the horse buggy drivers!

17 Brian Donohue February 21, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Don’t go soft on my now. Ever since Ned Ludd busted up the shops, idiots have been frantically wringing there hands: what will we do with all these people?

And they’ve all been wrong. Until now. This is why Reich is a genius.

18 Mo February 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Gold is harder than lead, and yet the latter has been used in weapons for centuries.

19 Sir Barken Hyena February 21, 2014 at 12:18 pm

1) “But they also say there is a trade off–car owners will have to provide accurate information about their driving habits. Is that too much to ask?”

Perfect application for cryptography and blockchains. Broadcast usage data collected by the car but through a decentralized system that anonymizes the car but exposes the data for use. The driver can trust that the electric companies or any one else won’t be able to derive info about his particular car, and so doesn’t care, or even know, that the data is being collected.

20 Someone from the other side February 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Or just auction off the power in real time and be done with it.

21 Michael February 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

+1

22 Shane M February 22, 2014 at 2:28 am

I don’t understand how an auction would work while I’m asleep and my car is charging.

23 Sigivald February 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm

And for that matter, the only “habits” you’d need to divulge for charging purposes would really be “amount of power needed to charge over time”.

One could guesstimate a mileage derivation from that, but that’s it.

(I’m not sure any of that is necessary at all, given what AndrewL said above, which matches my spot-check of the numbers.

If there were a million EVs in the US, all charging at night, and they were all high-power Tesla TwinCharger units [the most power-hungry ones I know of currently] at 20kW a piece, that’s an impressive-enough 20 gigawatts – out of a terawatt of peak US capacity.

But the interesting thing there is that those units charge a car really fast – a daily commute charge shouldn’t take over an hour – and the US is in four relevant timezones; a bit of timer-based load balancing or more-intelligent but not-needing-any-driving-information central on/off balancing, and the actual load at any given time for even ten millions cars probably shouldn’t exceed 25 gigawatts nationwide; 1/40 of capacity, and at night when usage is the lowest.

One also assumes that since EV sales are over time, not instant, there would be response to incentives to build more capacity if this ever happened, assuming any price signalling for electrical power was allowed by the State.)

24 Steve February 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm

For #1, am I missing something obvious, or can’t the power companies just raise the prices until demand drops to supply, rather than these rationing systems?

25 Alexei Sadeski February 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm

You won’t last long outside the Econ department with wild theories like that.

26 Jacob February 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Agreed that #1 is missing the obvious economic angle — “How do we distribute a scarce resource? It’s too bad there is no academic field that studies this problem!” — but the correct economic solution requires more subtle mechanism design than just “raise the price”. The cited paper makes the point that, by cooperating, we can achieve a more optimal solution overall than just by raising the price (in which some people will have to substitute away from electric cars). There is a topic in algorithmic computer science called “price of anarchy” that discusses how much you lose by not having people coordinate.

So the question is how do you encourage people to cooperate. The answer is by incentivizing the participants appropriately, but figuring out a good way to do this can be difficult. Witness the gaming of energy auctions by J.P. Morgan (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/30/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20120930). I imagine there has been significant research on this topic already when it comes to arbitrating between large electricity consumers, but making mechanisms work on a larger scale probably requires some work. I’m sure this is an enticing topic for mechanism deigners!

27 Alexei Sadeski February 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Jesus Jacob!

Is it so hard to just say that some people can charge their cars during the day?

28 Sigivald February 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The cited paper makes the point that, by cooperating, we can achieve a more optimal solution overall than just by raising the price (in which some people will have to substitute away from electric cars).

Well, on the other hand, a higher price should lead – economically, if not necessarily because of State involvement, which also IIRC affects ability to change price signals in the first place – to more capacity to try and extract some of the money that demand represents.

Markets would be an interesting thing to try sometime, wouldn’t they?

29 Jacob February 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

@Alexei – day is worse, that is when electric demand is at peak.
@Sigivald – yes, you get more capacity, but you have to build it. Having unused electrical generating capacity is a deadweight loss. It is a legitimate question to explore if there are market mechanisms that would let existing capacity be better used!

Spot prices are not the only market mechanism that exist. Pretending that anything else is “anti-market” is doing a disservice to economics.

30 Alexei Sadeski February 21, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Day will cease being worse if there are tens of millions of EVs charging at night.

31 Ronald Brak February 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Demand seems likely to change to me. In Australia demand for grid electricity is now generally U shaped during the day due to rooftop solar. There is a peak early in the morning as electricity demand starts to increase but solar isn’t producing much followed by a drop as the sun rises and then there is a higher peak in the late afternoon and early evening as solar power production declines. Here in South Australia rooftop solar can supply over 20% of total electricity use around noon. As rooftop solar capacity is continuing to rapidly expand, the day will be the best time to recharge electric cars with the lowest wholesale electricity prices followed by the early hours of the morning. As the United States has plenty of sunshine and there is no reason why the US can’t install solar at the same or lower cost as Australia and given that the cost of solar is continuing to decline, I’m sure the US will end up with a U shaped demand for grid electricity during the day as well.

32 Mark Thorson February 21, 2014 at 7:35 pm

No, it won’t. German company SolarWorld is pushing for tariffs to raise the price of Chinese solar panels to a level at which German and U.S. manufacturers can compete. Everybody else (installers, customers, U.S. silicon vendors, U.S. semiconductor equipment manufacturers, etc.) will be screwed. It’s already happened in the EU and will happen in the U.S.

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/02/u_s_china_solar_trade_war_solarworld_case_is_bad_for_green_jobs.html

My view is when somebody is dumping you should buy all that you can.

33 Ronald Brak February 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Mark Thorson, while a tariff against Chinese PV will make solar more expensive in the US than it needs to be, it will make little overall difference to the cost of installed solar. The costs of European and US PV are also very low and the panels are only a small part of the overall system cost. So while tariffs would be unfortunate, and will reduce the installation rate compared to what it would be otherwise, they won’t actually stop the US solar boom. After all, we still buy plenty of German panels in Australia because of their high quality and known reliability despite having no tariff against Chinese PV. And we also buy panels from a US company that does its manufacturing in Malaysia.

34 Jay February 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Are all power companies at liberty to raise rates at will? I know power companies in CA have had trouble meeting supply at times at current rates.

35 I call it a "market" February 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm

On #1 I have invented a better solution! In a forthcoming publication of Armchair Economics Quarterly I introduce the concept of a “market.” While lacking a fancy computer simulation, I nonetheless convincingly show that when a so-called market is introduced, increased demand will lead to an increase in the price of electricity until supply increases or demand falls. In an armchair perfect equilibrium model I show that this problem of an electricity shortage due to increased demand from electric cars only exists within the computer simulation described in #1.

36 chuck martel February 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Twenty years from now the five remaining electric cars will be in a museum near Hoover Dam.

37 Jonathan February 21, 2014 at 12:47 pm

You mean… near where Hoover Dam used to be, until it was torn down to restore fish migration patterns.

38 The Other Jim February 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Can we please stop calling them “electric” cars? Call them what they are — “coal-powered cars.”

Done? Done.

39 msgkings February 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Yeah, not too up on current events are ya…Google ‘natural gas boom’

40 jdm February 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm

In 2012 coal accounted for 37% of electrical power generation, a number that continues to fall. So not “done”. If the human race were to have a rare moment of good sense or were to experience the slightest concern about the welfare of future generations (don’t worry, it’s not going to happen), it would realize that we need to immediately start building lots more of the safest, cleanest, and most reliable kinds of power plants known – 3rd and 4th generation nukes – we could quickly cut coal use to zero, which is where it needs to be if we want to keep our planet habitable.

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3

41 Urso February 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Only if I can also say that I brush my teeth with a coal-powered toothbrush.

42 Sigivald February 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Naw, they really do make sense for some specific tasks, like local delivery for a pizza joint.

I agree on the implied skepticism on an “EV takeover” of the car space, however.

(Plus the Tesla, e.g., is an honest to god sports car, with the looks to match the performance – 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. There are very few ways the Tesla P85 loses in a comparison to a Porsche Carrera S [at least for the actual markets for both]…

It’s compelling as a high-performance vehicle in its own right, if you can tolerate the range limitations.

The only reason I don’t have gearhead lust for one is that I couldn’t drive from Portland to Vancouver in one sensibly.)

43 Finch February 21, 2014 at 2:48 pm

+1

The only thing wrong with the Tesla is that it is an electric car. It is otherwise a really awesome car. If it had an internal combustion engine it would be unbeatable.

And even the electrical aspect is interesting and well done, albeit probably misguided.

A friend switched from a big Benz to one of them and raves about it.

44 jdm February 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I’ve got one and it is by far the best car I’ve ever owned not despite but because it is electric. Acceleration, weight distribution, driving dynamics, passenger space, storage space and safety are all consequences of having a battery and electric motor and the design freedom it allows. There are many fewer moving parts and systems so much less can go wrong. One of the best parts for me is the ability to just plug it in in the garage at night (which takes all of five seconds) and have a full charge in the morning.

45 Alexei Sadeski February 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

>…and the design freedom it allows.

Are you being sarcastic?

46 jdm February 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

No. Not having an engine, a gas tank, a transmission, a radiator, a muffler, etc gives the designers lots of flexibility.

47 chuck martel February 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

The Gazans were capable of smuggling in petrol from Egypt but not small change? Or don’t they use Egyptian change? With what do they pay for the smuggled Egyptian petrol? Does the whole area operate with Israeli currency?

48 Mitch Berkson February 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm

How about keeping a gas-powered generator (e.g., Powermate PM0497000.04 8,750 Watt) in the trunk? According to Tesla, that will provide around 25 miles of range per hour of charge. With the ability to convert readily available gasoline to electricity, no more worries about finding a place to charge your electric car.

49 Hopaulius February 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

#1. Wait! I thought all those bird-chopping windmills and bird-frying solar panels were going to increase our energy supply!

50 Ronald Brak February 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Well, in my state, South Australia, we get about a third of our electricity from wind and solar and we are continuing to increase their capacity. But they don’t chop much in the way of birds and they certainly don’t fry any. Maybe you are doing things wrong where you are?

51 So Much for Subtlety February 21, 2014 at 9:10 pm

The bird frying thing refers to New Mexico’s Power Tower plant. Which does, naturally, cook birds. Windmills also chop them up too. So if you haven’t noticed it where you are, that is because you haven’t noticed it. Not because they don’t. It is inherent in the technology.

As for South Australia, it about to get the highest power bills in the world.

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/power-prices-to-be-highest-in-the-world/story-e6frea83-1226305741810

Nor is wind reliable – when you need it, it may not be there:

http://www.wattclarity.com.au/2013/06/prices-yo-yo-in-sa-this-morning-as-installed-capacity-goes-missing/

This should hardly be a surprise. Renewables are uneconomic. No matter how much they are subsidized, they are still uneconomic. Australians get paid a lot of money to install solar. And the power is still uneconomic.

So South Australia, a declining state with industry fleeing, its car plants about to close, its massive debt, and elderly population, is only being saved from becoming a Third World country by the fact that other parts of Australia give it money.

52 Ronald Brak February 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Wind provides utility scale power which is sold on the wholesale market and wind power has lowered South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices. They used to be the highest in Australia on account of the lack of cheap coal in the state. Now, like the rest of Australia, the average wholesale price is very low by world standards. Australia’s retail electricity prices are very high, with Queensland now being about on par with South Australia, not due to wholesale electricity prices being high, but on account of the distribution side of things. It seems that electricity privatisation didn’t turn out quite as well as we were told it would. And of course with high retail prices people are installing a lot of rooftop solar which now provides roughly about 5% of electricity in South Australia and Queensland.

And do you really think that a region with South Australia’s mining and agricultural industries would really be a developing economy without old age pensions and things bringing money into the state? Seriously? Do you think Italy is a third world country?

53 So Much for Subtlety February 22, 2014 at 6:40 am

Highest. In. The. World.

Which largely looks to be caused by wind power. Given South Australia has coal, oil and gas. Largest onshore oil field in Australia even.

Queensland has a highly distributed population. South Australia is basically one city. Comparisons are absurd. People install solar because the government gives them absurd amounts of money to do so. It is highly subsidized.

Italy has a real economy. South Australia is a retirement home run by idiots. As can be seen by their investment in wind. Guaranteeing it will never be anything but a place for people too poor to move somewhere nice to die

54 Ronald Brak February 22, 2014 at 7:15 am

So Much for Subtlety, you say South Australia has coal, gas, and the largest onshore oil field in Australia, but you also say that South Australia would be a third world country if it wasn’t given money by the rest of Australia. These statements don’t really go together now, do they? You might want to think a bit about how much sense you’re making here.

55 So Much for Subtlety February 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm

So you’re saying that Sudan does not have oil? Brazil does not have the vast mineral resources that it seems to have? India does not have significant resources of coal and iron? Angola does not sell more oil to the US than Kuwait does?

Do tell.

There is no contradiction here. South Australia, along with Tasmania, has chosen to be Third World. Bad policies. The Third World inherited their Third Worldness, but then they chose even worse policies to make sure they remain Third World. Singapore chose other policies and now is richer than Britain. Even though it has no oil, no coal, no farm land.

56 Ronald Brak February 22, 2014 at 9:16 pm

On the off chance that someone is actually interested in South Australia, or alternatively you just want to laught at So Much for Subtlety, here are some actual facts about South Australia:

– It is currently approaching noon on a pleasent and cloudless Sunday and rooftop solar is currently providing about 25% of the state’s total electricity use.
– South Australia’s coal exports are zero. There is a single small brown coal mine that supplies coal use to the state’s only operating coal plant. There were two coal plants that operated through the year, but due to expanding wind and solar capacity we now only operate one and it it only runs about half the time as it follows seasonal load following because the wholesale price of electricity is too low thanks to South Australia’s wind and solar capacity to make it worth running all year round.
– South Australia produces natural gas but is a net importer. Fortunately natural gas use has declined thanks to increased use of renewables.
– South Australia produces zero barrels of oil a day. While the geological formation it is part of extends into South Australia, the country’s largest onshore oil field is actually in Queensland.
– South Australia’s newest windfarm, Snowtown II, is under construction and at a 5% discount rate will produce electricity at under 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. The subsidy from Australia’s Renewable Energy Target does not change that.
– What’s it like living in the poorest mainland state in Australia? It can be pretty tough. The minimum wage is only around $17.50 an hour ($15.75 US) and so many of our working poor can’t afford eight cars. Also, ice cream cones and new computer games for the xbox are really expensive. If there wasn’t a 10 cent deposit on bottles I’d probably be destitute.

57 Tom Jackson February 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Google’s English translation of the food piece only makes it better.

“In the latter case, the ram of decency was Prohibition, legislation that ended the sale of wine at dinner and the benefits ends meet on the premises.”

I hope to learn more about the ram of decency.

58 Peter Rickwood February 21, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I dont think #1 is convincing. Residential PVs and/or plant solar will give us lots of capacity, but lumpy. What we need is storage technology to help us smooth this out, and EV’s help with this. The mindset of charging overnight is a mentality our current coal-fired system.

59 chuck martel February 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm

If we’d have spent the last 150 years living with electricity produced by wind and solar powering everything including transportation, people would be enthralled by the concept of using fossil fuels to generate juice and move us around.

60 nike air max 95 March 13, 2014 at 4:32 am

BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) — A Beijing-based Tibetology scholar has criticized the Dalai Lama’s Friday meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, saying it was another “anti-China farce.” “Once again, the Dalai Lama slipped into the White House Map Room for a so-called ‘unofficial meeting’ with Obama. This was another farce against China,” said Lian Xiangmin, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Center, in a signed article.

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