Why isn't electricity cheaper?


That’s the most surprising thing to me.

Anyone know what the annual renewables % is?


26% annually

The Irish Government has a target of 40% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020.


EI launches new price plan for electricity users.
Almost as cheap as when incorporating other cashback offers.
A €97 pa standing charge compared to normal rate of €200+
Hopefully it’ll shake up the market
bonkers.ie/blog/gas-electri … customers/


Frickin’ swindle. Electric Ireland made huge fanfare the last couple of years that there was no need to keep switching as they would always offer the same great discounts to existing customers as well as switchers. It seems they lied.


If all the things that got patented actually got built, we’d have flying cars, portable nuclear bunkers, and shoe-powered neck massagers. Not everything that is patented is practical.

Nevertheless, when a scientist applies for a patent on behalf of the US Navy, I sit up and listen. When the patent is for a room-temperature superconductor, it gets quite interesting indeed. Experience suggests that it’ll still probably come to nothing, but obviously the implications for power generation and transmission and a host of other applications are large.


New battery technologies are among the most hyped. Most disappear, never to be heard of again, so take everything with a pinch of salt. This one claims to be going into manufacture immediately, with ten commercial customers this year, two hundred units to be built next year, and licenses to manufacture in Europe issued.

It’s for stationary power, not automotive, intended for short term (< 48 hours) grid storage. It’s based on thermal energy storage using molten silicon. Claimed advantages are:

  • more than a dozen times the volumetric energy density of lead acid, and six times that of L-ion
  • cheaper than L-ion (60-80% of the price)
  • scalable from kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts – just add more units
  • storage from hours to a couple of days
  • can be charged and discharged at the same time
  • expected life of 20 years – not limited by number of charge-discharge cycles
  • very low maintenance – three moving parts per unit

What’s not clear is the efficiency. The article refers to a “heat engine” for extracting stored energy, and the manufacturer’s site mentions a “thermic generator”. The compactness and low number of moving parts would seem to preclude a steam turbine, but solid state thermoelectric generators have efficiencies under 10%. The other things not mentioned is how quickly it can be brought online, and whether it is therefore a suitable standby for despatchable power.

Could be an interesting one to watch. Tesla has already demonstrated that you don’t need huge amounts of grid storage to offset a huge amount of the cost of peaking power and load smoothing.


Chalk this one up to YAFA … Yet Another Fusion Approach. Nevertheless, the guy behind this venture is not to be trifled with. Heinrich Hora is a leading light in plasma physics, having discovered among other things an effect of laser-plasma coupling that could be used to compress plasmas to fusion conditions.

The Holy Grail is to use it to achieve proton-boron (a.k.a. hydrogen-boron, p-B11, or HB11) fusion. This reaction produces no neutrons, just three charged alpha particles (Helium nuclei) which can be used to generate electricity directly, with no thermal exchanger or steam turbine. The fusion reaction produces an excited state of carbon, which then fissions in the reverse of the triple-alpha process that powers red giant stars. The net result is three alphas plus nine million electron volts.

p-B11 fusion has been known about for decades. It is Hora’s coupling effect and advances in pulsed petawatt lasers that could turn it into reality. He claims that non-linear effects occur under the right conditions to boost the reaction by nine orders of magnitude. ScienceDaily article here, paper here, and new HB11 company website here… though they do mention the dreaded “5 to 10 years of research”.


Zeta Energy’s new battery is a quantum leap in lithium battery technology. I hesitate to say “game-changer” as we know nothing about the eventual large-scale manufacturing process. That could be fraught since the anode contains graphene and carbon nanotubes. But the results of the work so far are peer reviewed and have appeared in journals like Nature, among others. And it looks amazing. A charged Zeta battery will allegedly retain 90% of its charge after ten years! In addition it has:

  • Up to 3 times the energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries
  • Faster charge time (minutes instead of hours)
  • Lower battery temperature
  • Little degradation over charge/recharge cycles
  • Outstanding shelf life
  • Significantly lighter than lithium-ion batteries
  • Zero cobalt
  • Significantly lower cost than lithium-ion batteries


I’ve said before that the quip about nuclear fusion “always being thirty years away” is misguided. Many things have changed. Here’s another one.

The record for strongest continuous magnetic field generated in the lab has stood for twenty years at 45 Tesla. The machine that did it weighed 35 tons and drew 30 megawatts of power. Now scientists have generated 45.5 T, drawing 18 MW with a coil weighing less than a pound, and the size of a toilet roll core.

More than one research company will be testing these ceramic high-temperature superconducting magnets in prototype fusion reactors this year and next.




Siemens Gamesa builds offshore wind farms, but is experimenting with grid-scale storage. Their thermal electric storage is based around electrically heating rocks to 750 C, then regenerating electricity on demand through a steam cycle. The latter inevitably means it is complex, has a certain minimum size, needs water, and so on.

Their prototype launched last month with a thousand tonnes of rocks is the same capacity as Tesla’s grid battery in New South Wales – about 130 MWh. But they say it will scale to gigawatt-hours and will store energy for a week. Round-trip efficiency is about 40%, which sounds inefficient until you think about all the curtailed renewable energy where we dump 100%.

I couldn’t find any information on cost, but Tesla’s NSW battery cost over $90m which gives plenty of leeway to be cost competitive. The three-prong plan is to 1) use waste heat from existing thermal plant, so not all your energy involves 60% electricity loss, 2) keep the steam plant part of decommissioned fossil fuel generators to hook up to the new thermal storage, 3) build lots of new units and evolve to grid-scale storage.

Video, website, and articles below.





so, it’s a glorified storage heater!?

all joking aside I wonder if the new smart meter regime will lead to more interest in night time immersions and updated storage heaters. If there’s a shed load off wind turbines operating then it makes sense to use less efficient but cheap technology instead of fancy dan heat pumps


Probably not, EV’s and home battery systems will soak up that spare capacity rendering any night saver tariff obsolete.


Definitely not. (I do realise you’re joking). At 750 C it would be starting to glow – it’s about the temperature of the coolest lavas. The point of that is that the energy is more useful at that temperature, due to the lower entropy of high temp generation. However it sounds complicated and I can’t find anything on projected costs which is the only thing that matters in energy applications unless you’re a doomster cult greenie. So could be a total white elephant.


That will be an interesting development. Who are the leaders in fusion. I assume USA and china


My top two to watch in the fusion race at the moment are UK- and US-based. Though that’s out of a field of nearly twenty, and there are so many different avenues being pursued I wouldn’t be surprised to see something come out of left field either.

But for the next couple of years I’d be looking at two well-funded projects with serious research credentials launching into testing high-temperature superconductors (HTS) in compact tokamaks. They are UK-based Tokamak Energy and MIT Sparc.




Tough for the workers but it always seemed nonsensical to import biomass from Australia and South America.



Now branching out into tyre recycling, plastic recycling, wind energy. Anything to justify its existence.

Why didn’t we just shut it down?