Cheap renewables and surging bills

Even as we see the levellised cost of solar coming down, and increasing penetration of renewable energy, the electricity coming to us in our grids are increasing in prices. At least it seems to be so in Australia. There’s a lot of cost associated with the transmission and distribution infrastructure that needs to be recovered – partly because the growth of intermittent renewables mean that the grid infrastructure will have to be expanded.

But it is not just that; there’s also more padding required in the margins of electricity retailers because the intermittency results in even more volatile electricity prices in the wholesale market. That means that if the retailers are still providing fixed price tariffs and long contracts to customers, they will have to manage their risks by putting higher profit margins into the retail packages.

There is a huge price to pay by the society to eventually enjoy more renewable energy. If we don’t adapt to the intermittency through more adding more flexible generation leveraging on demand response and integrating EV recharging networks into the network operation optimisation (ie. Vehicle-to-Grid systems), we can only expect higher bills. We had better accelerate the transition or we’re soon losing the patience of energy consumers.

Googley Social

Surpassing Yahoo! Search directory and indexes a decade ago, they let you search things online, things that you probably never will manage to find by trying out random keywords followed by “.com” on the URL bar. Not losing out to Hotmail which offered 2MB and Yahoo! Mail which offered 3.5MB during the ‘good old days’, they started an email system that gives you several Gigabytes of space in your inbox, which was virtually unheard of during those days.

And though Facebook took and lead in social networks and and proved that it is going to be revolutionizing the web and business world somehow, Google has decided to join in the fun. The public profile page is like a lite version of Facebook’s profile page and Buzz’s advantage over Google Wave (which haven’t seem to take off at all; I don’t really use it though I have an account and plenty of inactive friend on it) is that you don’t require a ‘separate’ sort of account with Google, it comes right in your Gmail system.


And the success of introducing this feature as part of the Gmail system is reflected by the fact that millions of users responded with feedbacks and concerns. Google is using its size to its advantage this time and their fine-tuning and feedback gathering process is going to be important, just as it is for any new products. That’s probably why they should lend a ear to what Farhad Manjoo have to say on about What’s Wrong With Android?


Social Networks
Start the Chatter

Social networks have been rising for some time now. And while they initially started out as mere toys for youngsters, there have been talks of higher degrees of commercialization, how these networks will change the lifestyle of people, and so on. Now that the change has taken place somewhat, it makes sense for The Economist to tabulate some of the impacts these networks have brought in.

To begin, these networks have definitely became an important way people communicate; however mundane or skimpy each little piece of content may be, they are viewed by many people within your network and it broadcasts bits of information about you that couldn’t have been captured in the yesteryears. This is true for the comments you cast, the status messages you post, the photos and videos you uploaded and all the social games that you play. Although online social networks remain essentially much like a bulletin board (except viewership ability of contents are more strictly controlled and with richer content) and thus does little to enrich people’s ability to do real networking, it does a wonderful job at augmenting our real relationships.

This strong link with the real world is a great strength for online social networks. Websites are viewed as corporate facades that give little information about the reality of the companies. On the other hand, the pages for these firms on social networking sites are viewed as better avenues for firms to communicates with their customers. Likewise, a corporate site announcement of a promotion the company is offering does less to boost sales compared to a tweet which might have much more followers.

That is the free advertising service that sites like Twitter and Facebook might offer, which brings us to the question of how money is being made on such networks. A peach of an opportunity, an article in The Economist special report on social networks gives us an idea what are the businesses that taps into the plumbing of social network connections and thriving. For all the talk about connecting with friends, being entertained by your online pets, or having a good laugh from the video your friend has shared, businesses might be the greatest benefactor of this trend.