There’s a reason we use the word for electricity and political influence – it literally makes things happen. The West saw an incredible rise in standards of living because we were able to let machines do the work for us. That indirectly allowed women to move out of the home and into the workforce, because they weren’t required to wash dishes, clothes and floors. This is why we’re all made poorer when energy is rationed and left with incredible amounts of work when the power goes out. This also explains why we end up doing so much hard work and see our quality of life decline when we take many steps to dramatically reduce our energy usage, whether this is for environmental reasons or just to save money. Don’t be left in the dark – understand your alternatives.
Cheap, Renewable Energy
This isn’t an oxymoron. Solar and wind power were originally much more expensive than coal and natural gas for a variety of reasons. The technology took years to pick up efficiency. Solar panels, for example, had efficiencies of just a few percent. Now newer designs are approaching the 20 percent efficiency. Other advances in technology maximise the output from these systems, such as solar controllers that balance the power collected from many panels and send nearly all of it downstream. Losses are minimised. Wind power turbines have become much more efficient too, while the later turbine designs generate much more power at lower wind speeds and don’t burn out at high wind speeds.
Where does this leave us? It results in more power from solar and wind farms. Advances in technology are making geothermal, wave and biogas power practical, and it’s now being added to the grid. The expansion of these technologies results in economies of scale that bring down the cost of each wind turbine and solar power. All of that is further subsidised through tax breaks when the technology is purchased and installed and the government policies that fund development.
Now solar and wind power costs about as much as conventional energy sources. This means that cheap electricity and green energy are becoming synonymous. That’s one of the arguments for carbon taxes and punitive penalties for buying coal, oil and gas power, too. By raising its cost per kilowatt hour, you’d push people to buy renewable power through economics. Regulatory controls and other factors result in new coal being more expensive than new wind and solar energy. For example, much stricter pollution control mechanisms increase the cost of building a new natural gas burning power plant. This results in new wind power plants putting out wind power 14 percent cheaper than new coal and 18 percent cheaper than new natural gas power plants on a per kilowatt basis.
The expansion of the technology tapping into economies of scale should bring solar and wind power prices down further over the next few years. Today, you can visit a site like iSelect and choose a cheaper power plan relies mostly or entirely on renewable energy.