Sunday, March 22, 2009

Energy Use--Some Specifics

by Richard Crews

The latest data for energy use per person (2005) in kgoe/p/y (kilograms of oil equivalent per person per year):
Worldwide = 1,778
U.S. = 7,886 (about 4.4 times the world average)

There are 9 countries that use more kgoe/p/y than the U.S.: Bahrain, Canada, Iceland, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Netherlands Antilles, Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago, and United Arab Emirates.

There are 4 countries that are close behind the U.S.: Brunei, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore

The 4 countries that use the lowest kgoe/p/y are Bangladesh (171), Cambodia (354), Congo (including the Democratic Republic) (300), and Eritrea (175).

In addition to these 19, there are 118 other countries listed in this statistical summary.

Household Energy Uses

Energy use per household in the U.S. varies widely, depending on the climate, weather, size and insulation of the home (windows, doors, etc.), and the various kinds (and particularly, the efficiency) of appliances in use. That is why some of the following categories have such wide ranges.

10-60% space heating
0-40% space cooling
5-25% cooking (microwave, stove top, oven)
5-10% refrigerator (freezer)
5-10% water heater
0-10% washing, drying (dishes, clothes)
2-5% lights
2-5% TV and other communication/entertainment appliances
0-5% special uses (shop tools, copier, etc.)

Travel Energy Uses

15-50% local/commute
0-10% mass transit
0-40% long distance, air
0-25% long distance, car
0-15% long distance, rail

Characteristics of Ideal "Smart Meters" for Electricity and Gas

(1) they are in-line at the household meters
(2) they read real-time consumptions
(3) then transmit these data to central household, readily available (e.g., kitchen) read outs
(4) the read outs are in dollars per hour ($/h) with conversions to dollars per month ($/mo) for electricity and for gas

Frills*: The following provide useful and interesting additional information for householders:
(5) Instant comparison with monthly average for that time of day and season of the year
(6) Data on specific major uses and appliances for (a) space heating, (b) air conditioning, (c) refrigerator (freezer), (d) washing/drying, (e) water heater, (f) other

* Note that adding these "frills" raises the cost of a "smart meter" from around $35-$100 per household to $1,200-$1,500 per household. The main reason for the increased cost is the purchase and installation of various sensors and transmitters located at the key energy-use appliances; the cost of the additional computing and computer memory is trivial.

Household Electricity Generation

Every house should have an array of solar panels on the roof. The house should have a bi-directional meter that's allows the owner to sell electricity back into the main utility grid when the Sun is shining and the household is not using as much electrical energy as it is harvesting. Although 36 U.S. states have some provision for allowing private individuals to do this, in all cases the excess electricity is purchased by the local utility company at a significantly reduced rate (often half or less of the selling rate). Some households have battery banks for storing the excess electricity they harvest; in some systems the excess is used to charge up a hybrid car's batteries. But a fair in-and-out arrangement with the local electrical utility company could be most efficient and should be legally mandated.

A national "smart" electricity grid should be built to enable wind corridors along the east and west seaboards and in the north-central states, and the solar energy available in the south-west "Sun" states to feed in electricity for use in populous areas. Although the estimated price tag for this nationwide grid is around $135 billion, utility experts emphasize that the utility companies would be willing to foot this infrastructure bill if the U.S. government would assure right-of-way and permitting feasibility.