Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself in the past few weeks. I don’t have the answers to these, and a fair amount of analysis (and guesswork) will have to go into formulating answers.
- What happens if utility-scale energy storage declines from $thousands/kW (I’ve read of anything from $900-3000/kW from various battery manufacturers, all-in, including power electronics, installation costs, etc.) to $hundreds/kW? Could wind or solar PV actually become baseload power, competitive with coal or natural gas plants that run at 70-95%+ capacity utilization?
- What happens if the world could actually save 5% of power demand through energy efficiency? 10%? 20%? What impacts would that have on the generation side in terms of actual need for new power plants, i.e. how many fewer plants would we have to install?
- Is smart grid really worth it? Or is it just a fancy way of saying ‘grid improvements’ that enables utilities to pass on capex charges to ratepayers? What if all HVAC, lighting and appliances became 10% more efficient (new build + retrofits)? Would that obviate the need for trillion-dollar grid capex and the utopian vision of a two-way digital grid? In other words - if all my major sources of demand in buildings becomes efficient because equipment suppliers are all going there already - do we need to spend all this money doing slow, expensive grid improvements?
- There are around 1 billion cars in the world today, and virtually all of them run on liquid fuels. How many years would it take to transition all light vehicles over to EV/PHEV/hybrid, given aggressive government incentives/rebates/mileage standards? What’s the aggressive case (20 years? 30 years?), and how much would this translate to in actual savings in oil consumption?
- What would it take for lighting to be sold as a service, instead of as equipment? I.e. if the major lighting equipment suppliers sold lighting subscriptions instead of capital-intensive equipment? What about heating as a service, or cooling as a service? Let the equipment suppliers finance the installation capex (they generally have pretty big balance sheets and can get low cost of capital) instead of landlords.
- Is Jevons Paradox real? (see here for a description: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Jevons_paradox ). If my air conditioner, lights and refrigerator get more efficient, will I be tempted to leave my lights on all the time and turn my thermostat down? Isn’t there some point where efficiency outstrips human laziness or greed?
OK, when I start talking about “Jevons Paradox” I know it’s time to stop asking questions…
If anyone has seen good, rigorous analysis on any of the above, I’d appreciate you pointing me to the relevant studies or reports.