‘How do you buy clean power?’ and other questions electrify Science Cafe

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 12:31:37 AM. Electricity is complicated and the system in New England is even more complicated, so I’m always ready to latch onto a simple metaphor that will help me understand.Happily, it seems one of my favorite metaphors – “The New England power grid is like a...
Electricity is complicated and the system in New England is even more complicated, so I’m always ready to latch onto a simple metaphor that will help me understand. Happily, it seems one of my favorite metaphors – “The New England power grid is like a great big bathtub full of electricity!” – is pretty accurate. “We have spent billions and billions of dollars on transmission upgrades in New England over the past decade, and we have all but eliminated transmission congestion and constraint. So it really is like a bathtub now,” said Don Kreis, the state’s consumer advocate and a longtime observer of electricity’s regulatory and technical smorgasbord in New England. As evidence, Kreis points to the wholesale price of electricity, which changes every five minutes. “Look at the real-time market price of electricity around the region,” he said. “Most of the time it is all very similar, all around New England. ... Years ago, that wasn’t the case.” In other words, pretty much any New England producer of electricity connected to the grid, whether it’s Seabrook Station or your neighbor’s rooftop solar panels that he insists on talking about every single time you see him, pours electrons into one gigantic pool. And any user of electricity – whether it’s me using it to light up the computer screen I’m staring at as I write this or your town’s power-hungry sewage treatment plant – pulls its electrons from that same pool. That’s why we mostly pay the same wholesale price. (Our retail price...Read more
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