mean anything to you?
Michael Gunter, renewable energy enthusiast, and scrutineer of electricity industry ethics was labelled "voltscommissar" by a North American electrical engineer for daring to challenge the industry about the effect of supply voltage on electricity utility revenues.
Contents:Empowerment at Home: practical projects save money and reduce emissions.
"Them's fightin' words" - well, we have to fight to stop the planet-wreckers!
Understanding what high voltage can do to your power bill
with technical references
Practical Projects for Energy Independence:
(and big emission reductions)
- DIY Baseload Renewable Energy Project (a do-it-yourself solar hot water project) A solar water heater on every Australian home within the decade, would be eight million units, saving about 32 million tonnes CO2 annually, compared to present day coal or gas powered water heating. Over time, it is as cheap as present-day off-peak electricity, and would be equal to three 1000MW nuclear power stations, but much cheaper, and without any radioactive waste. Politicians continue to LIE REPEATEDLY when they assert "Australia must go nuclear, because there is no cost effective baseload renewable technology yet." Get your plumber to put this system on your roof, and prove what liars they are!
- The Mini Maximiser is a simple electronics construction project. This amazing gadget squeezes the best performance from solar photovoltaic cells, especially in the applications of driving electric motors, air fans and/or water pumps under conditions of partial sun or even bright overcast conditions. Electronic hobby stores can supply the necessary parts, and here is how to make one. It is an integral part of the DIY solar hot water project (above), but has many other uses (see next project!).
- Prototype off-grid cooling system: Free plans for empowering consumers with a solar powered evaporative cooler. It has the potential to save lives during a heatwave, if market forces cannot deliver reliability of supply to the elderly and young children during extreme summer weather. Build your own for US$500 with these free plans. That's for regular summer use, but if you choose to run the unit briefly only during emergency situations, it can be operated from an ordinary 12 volt car battery for up to twelve hours. The cost without any photovoltaic solar panel is then reduced to around US$150.
- A "heat scavenger" experiment, seemingly able to recycle 75% or more of the waste heat down the plug hole of your daily shower
back to top
Them's fightin' words:
- Basslink is an HVDC undersea electricity cable about to link Tasmania to Australia's east coast "National Electricity Market", and has frightening potential to increase Australia's greenhouse gas emissions: "Basslink sucks coal out of the ground." would be fair comment, according to this analysis.
- Do power stations cause severe bushfires? Local tropospheric plumes from power stations could be "seeding" regional forests with carbon during wet seasons, and severely exacerbating bushfires during subsequent el Niņo droughts.
- Wind energy development in Australia is about 20 years behind Europe and the USA. Most of the coastline of the Australian continent has a world-class wind resource, currently only being exploited in a few scattered places. To keep abreast of recent developments, visit the Australian Wind Energy Association's web site.
- A donation to the Alternative Technology Association's Renewable Energy Development Trust is a highly effective way to support environmental education and sustainable development. Donations from Australian residents are tax deductible. Simply make a cheque out to "Renewable Energy Development Trust" and snail-mail it to Alternative Technology Association, PO Box 2001, Lygon Street North, Brunswick East, 3056 Australia. A special receipt will be promptly returned to you: retain it for tax time!
- A solar water heater on your roof can save up to 5,000 kg of CO2 every year (this claim is based on fifteen years' monitoring of my own 5m2 solar water heater in suburban Melbourne, compared with a standard "off-peak" electric water heater.)
back to top
Supply voltage affects electricity customers:
- Voltage Primer: 6 min. radio interview. Audio introduction to the supply voltage story, hear the radio interview (MP3 format or RealAudio format) of Michael Gunter, broadcast on 5AA Adelaide 11th August 2000. Interviewer: Leon Byner. The audio copyright holder is Bilote Pty Ltd, whose permission to have the audio files online is acknowledged with thanks.
- Overview document on voltage, Issue Number 68 of ReNew magazine (click here to view the cover) contains a controversial article, detailing how increased supply voltage can substantially increase your electricity bills.
- Federal Court hands down decision on "electricity as a good" (commodity). September 2001: Mr Justice Finn's judgement went online at Austlii. In a nutshell, the Competition and Consumer Commission won on the complex legal technicalities. The ESAA technical expert reports and affidavits to the Federal Court appeared to have serious factual errors and omissions regarding the physical properties of electricity, and specifically the way that voltage can affect customers' power bills was completely ingnored due to the failure to mention Ohm's Law or its implications for consumers' energy bills. The Expert's description of current, power and voltage was particularly "illuminating" (!):
159. The voltage of the supply is a measure of the power which is given up by 1 Ampere of electric current moving from the active to the neutral conductor. [sic, double checked] The voltage is always present while the power system is healthy.The court case is disappointing that it has not adequately addressed the technical issues, but at least now that the judgement has been handed down, consumers are free to challenge the electricity industry through the courts to recover money that has been paid in excessive power bills. Overbilling is due to the distribution networks being operated, whether intentionally or not, at an average voltage which has been set at a significantly higher voltage than the product description (240 volts, soon to be 230 volts), where the industry demonstrably has the infrastructure to provide the correct lower voltage if they chose to do so.
- *** WARNING *** Any person who is curious about the electricity supply voltage to their house MUST NOT attempt to measure the voltage UNLESS they are over 18 years of age, have extensive experience and/or qualifications to handle lethal voltages, and their mental abilities are not impaired by fatigue, alcohol or drugs. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
- In late August 1999 the Victorian Regulator-General convened a technical meeting between myself and two electricity distribution businesses. My 20-minute presentation is now online here: Voltage is a Market Issue. It shows how a three per cent increase in average supply voltage from 240 volts to 247.5 volts could easily be costing commercial and domestic customers in this state (Victoria, Australia) $60 million in extra electricity alone. Then there's the cost of all the blown light globes and appliances with a shortened lifespan....
- Experimental proof: a table here shows exactly how much the running costs of a range of home and office appliances can be increased by a high voltage supply to your premises. Ohm's Law has not been repealed by electricity privatisation.
back to top
- In 1987 the Victorian Wind Monitoring Study Report was published. It seems to have had a very limited distribution. To redress this situation, an electronic version can now be viewed here (with important notes, containing links to wind data files).
- New evidence against Daylight Savings Time. This data from official Australian electricity industry sources demonstrates a significant effect of Daylight Savings Time has in flattening the daily load profile of electricity consumption in Victoria, Australia. The author concludes that this plays into the hands of baseload electricity generation companies, by facilitating their market penetration (presently running at over 80% of market share). Baseload generators are generally more polluting in terms of greenhouse gas emissions or intractable nuclear fission waste, and on environmental grounds it would be better to (i) abolish Daylight Savings Time, (ii) reduce off-peak and night-time voltages to 230 volts to honestly reflect the new Voltage Standard AS 60038, and (iii) slap a hefty carbon tax or fissile waste tax on all off-peak electricity tariffs. What is the point of having allegedly "cheap" electricity if the technology is poisoning the planet for future generations?
- Submission to the 1999 Australian Senate Inquiry into the adequacy of Australia's response to global warming. Synopsis: not adequate, not even totally inadequate, but worse!!: a bunch of greedy corporatists being enthusiastically counter-productive!!
- 2% renewable electricity by 2010. The scheme chosen by the Australian Greenhouse Office will have a profound impact on the final cost. Market distortions must be removed to allow the true value of distributed electricity generation ("embedded generation") to be transacted.
- Wind farms are coming. Exciting economic prospects for Victoria wind energy. This analysis claims that wind energy looks attractive even in the current depressed wholesale market (NEM1).
- Karlsson and Hill "Modelling and identification of nonlinear dynamic loads in power systems" from IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, Vol. 9, No. 1, February 1994. A zipped, user-unfriendly hypertext/facsimile version is available here to download and view (838kB: unzip to a temporary folder and start with file "new-0.htm"). Wording in the abstract, and the discussion that followed, both seemed to caution the reader to use the information only for the purpose of "system stability analysis". But of course, the clear demonstration of the increased volume, and therefore cost, of electricity delivered at a higher voltage is of vital interest to the customer. A scientific paper should not try to restrict the uses to which the information is put.
- Specialist Industry Magazine Electricity Week (Australia) Volume 24, No. 12 (317 kBytes Adobe Acrobat file). Two important voltage problems are extensively covered in this document: the effect of high steady state voltages on the running cost of existing appliances, and the likely increased running cost for appliances manufactured to a proposed new 230 volt standard. The synergistic effect of these changes could lead to an 18% increase in running costs, unless the regulatory authorities mandate the lowering of steady-state voltages in line with the new 230 volt appliance rating standard.
- The Australian Broadcasting Corporation web site has a science forum called "Self Serve Science" where a lively debate ran for much of 1999 on what excess voltage can do to your power bill. A table of contents (no frames) on the ABC site allows you to view a wealth of archived material on their discussion forum.
- Browse this document folder for a selection of other DIY energy projects, copies of published articles, and a smorgasbord of curiosities like: a pre-911 diatribe against US hubris by Richard Neville: "americanpsycho.pdf".
back to top
- Feedback always welcome.
End of page....last updated Monday, 11th December 2006.