In the modern world, countries need a reliable electricity grid to prosper. Globally, demand for electricity is growing as a result of population growth, new ways to use electricity, and the effort to spread access to electrical power to a greater portion of the world’s population.
For the past four years, Robert Bryce has been intensively studying the electricity business, which he describes as the world’s second largest industry by revenue, trailing only the fossil fuel industry. He calculates that global annual electricity sales total approximately $2 trillion. He traveled to a number of different locations to learn how countries, states, cities and even individual businesses are creating, transmitting and using electricity.
His resulting book, A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations, was released on March 10, 2020. By the time it had been released, the world was in the throes of responding to the coronavirus and his well-planned book tour had been essentially cancelled.
I had the opportunity to talk to Robert to find out what he had learned about the electricity business and to to discuss some of the key findings in his book.
We discussed the big five in data processing – Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft – and how their electricity needs have affected each one’s business decisions and location preferences. Together, they are already using 20 terawatt hours per year.
We talked how legal and black market marijuana farmers often produce their products in intensive, year round, indoor grow operations that consume approximately 800 W per square meter of building space.
We talked about a resort in the Lebanese mountains that obtains all of its electricity from a microgrid with solar panels and lead-acid storage batteries.
And we discussed the paradigm-shifting development of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse and the company’s recently announced application for a combined license to build and operate the showroom floor model of the facility sometime before the end of 2024.
We also discussed the continuing importance of coal as an electricity generating fuel, the growing importance of natural gas, the impressive and successful effort to reduce the cost of wind and solar as generating sources, and the importance of nuclear energy today and in the future as all countries seek to improve the cleanliness of their electrical grids.
I think you’ll enjoy this conversation. As always, your feedback and commentary are welcome.