If you, like me, open the power bill with some trepidation and wonder how it can be so expensive, then you may also have wondered what is in the wind [no pun intended] to make future power usage a bit easier on the pocket.
It is notoriously difficult to foretell what in the future may be invented or existing ideas brought to fruition. For example no one foresaw the internet, the smartphones or for that matter the fall of the Berlin Wall or today’s use of fracking let alone the effects these events had.
The price of oil has been on a rollercoaster ride and we know a little of the effect of the price of coal has had both in Australia and here, and not all down to China’s demand or lack of it, but rather because of technology.
Yes, during the past decade six technical breakthroughs has occurred which could ultimately lead to a different power world.
First there was the solar panel, the price of which has fallen faster than expected and can be expected to fall even further whilst being integrated into building materials and other elegant solutions.
Next is the increasing use of much more effective geothermal production of energy in places where previously fracking was used to gain the oil and gas.
Leon Musk and Tesla came up with ‘home batteries’ launched this year allowing for storage of energy derived from solar panels or wind turbines making the price of batteries attractive and solar energy much more an everyman’s solution.
Bill Gates and associates has shown that with an innovative ‘travelling wave’ technology it is possible to cheaply and securely to deliver enough energy for the whole world for up to 18000 years by reusing existing nuclear waste.
Then there is Thorium. For some reason the use of the safe fusion material has not attracted the investment it deserved. Now both India and China are close to launch Thorium reactors which can deliver sufficient energy to cover world demand for 100.000 years. In the USA such small modular nuclear rectors using Thorium are being developed for installation into ships, trains etc.
The principle of fusion or compact fusion should be very attractive, and in India at least 5 competing companies have announced working prototypes. When perfected the technology can provide the world with enough energy from deuterium and tritium 7 times longer that the Universe has existed, and all without a waste problem.
The trouble with thinking about such outcomes is the consequences on existing production methods and materials, e.g. the economies of the middle east will fail with all that entails including a new wave of immigrants and civil wars, presumably leading to closing of borders of many European countries, possibly also North America.
Suddenly I think I better pay my power bill without quibble for once the politicians get around to contemplate how best to serve their interests, the bickering can go on for years. Long enough maybe to not worry about such technology.