Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | February 11, 2010

Efficiently Electric

Please watch the above 10 minute video about electric cars and the smart electric grid.

First of all, I don’t really care about climate change. I’m not a denier, but I think it’s not the best ‘call to action’. People generally respond more to financial incentives rather than moral obligations. I believe that if we prioritize efficiency, then everything else will benefit as a result of that; climate change, Kuwait’s economic output and an increase in societal health and safety.

How should we implement the smart grid? Electric cars are critical. The batteries would be owned by the state, or a state owned company, and are then leased to consumers. This is how Israel and Denmark are doing it, with Better Place. The advantage is that the up front cost for consumers is much less, since the batteries are very expensive and will need to be constantly upgraded. So you just buy the car. When you go to ‘fill up the tank’ (recharge) all you do is drive up to a gas station, and the empty battery will be swapped out and replaced with a fully charged one. The process takes as much time as you would filling up your tank with gas.

Having the infrastructure set up is the first step. Next, we obviously need to abolish the fuel and electricity subsidy, gradually. It should be loudly advertised that the subsidy is going away and that people should invest in more fuel efficient cars and smart homes as soon as possible. People will start to shop around for the best deal and many will see the value in electric vehicles. Go Nissan Leaf! Of course, the government can help by subsidizing the more fuel efficient cars. That way you can entice the auto dealers to help instead of fighting the change. Taxis and government vehicles should all become electric first and this sudden shift in demand will make the dealers fight for this new market, driving down costs.

Of course, no comprehensive energy/transportation solution is complete without having the Kuwait Metro. More options for people and less dependency on one mode of transportation.

The beauty of having a fleet of electric cars parked and plugged in to the grid is that they become a sort of electricity demand buffer. As you can see in the video, people will be able to sell surplus electricity automatically back to the grid during the high demand hours. This is good because that will be when prices are highest. The cars will automatically recharge during the low demand and cheap hours, probably late at night. This is all controlled by your home smart meter which is what communicates with the grid.

This all sounds very nice, but the fact is that it works. It works in Denmark and it works in Israel. We can benefit in so many ways by being ahead of the game and progressive about energy and transportation. Kuwaitis won’t change just because they’re asked nicely; Tarsheed proved that. People need easily understood incentives that punish waste and reward good behavior. Money talks and financial incentives speak louder than words.


Responses

  1. Interesting….. what I find interesting is a link a friend sent me. About a project called SolarIvy

    Here is the link.
    http://www.refresheverything.com/SolarIvy

    Very interesting project.. really

  2. That’s really cool. I’m not so sure how important it is that it “mimics the form of ivy and its relationship with the environment”. That seems like it’s being complicated just for the sake of aesthetics, which is never a good thing.

    My hope is that we start to develop an ‘energy market’ in which people can automatically buy and sell energy whenever prices fluctuate. You would sign up for a plan with the utility company, which will then follow that plan with your smart meter; adjusting your car battery levels, lowering the AC or boiler when demand is too high and your rooms and hot water levels are comfortable. Basically making the minor adjustments that results in major efficiencies when aggregated as part of a nationwide system.

    This is part of the ‘Virtuous Cycle’ that I mentioned in the Pecha Kucha presentation. Once the infrastructure is set up and the incentives are there, things will keep getting better and better in a self-sustaining cycle of progress.

    It’s a dream, I know, but nothing is stopping us from doing it. We can do it financially and we can do it technically. All that’s missing is the will to do it.

  3. I think it collects solar energy, and probably wind as it moves against the building? I dunno, just thought it looked interesting hehe

    • From what I understand, it’s basically a modular way of attaching little pieces of solar cells together to created a large array that can cover the sides of buildings. They need to be attached to a frameworks of some sort, you can’t just ‘glue’ them or staple them to the wall. They definitely don’t generate wind power.

      I just think that they’re sacrificing efficiency for the aesthetic effect of making it look like leaves. One of the points against solar is that it looks ugly on a roof, so maybe that’s a point that needs to be addressed, but I think this method goes too far.

      A solar fabric, on the other hand, is much more promising: http://www.celsias.com/article/its-curtains-solar-power-nanotechnology-brings-sol/

      In any case, this is all way, way too early and won’t see the light of day (heh) anytime soon.

  4. Hi everybody I am Laji from rainbow Kuwait.
    Please visit our website for more details on Renewable green energy from solar and wind power.

    Thanks

    Laji


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