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Turning incandescent lamps into heatballs September 8, 2010

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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Incandescent lamps are terribly inefficient. About 5% electricity gets converted into light with the remaining 95% lost as heat. They are class F appliances at best.

However, their inefficiency as lighting devices makes them 95% efficient to convert electricity into heat, justifying a class A label without any doubt. Enter the heatball.

As a result, the lighting industry is now rapidly converting its production towards this new product. Apart from packaging issues, the main challenge is to make sure that none of the remaining 5% of energy is emitted as light.

Electrical engineers react enthusiastically. After decades of increasing the percentage of non-linear loads on the network, finally we have a product that will reverse the trend. It will do wonders for the stability of the grid, increasing the lifetime of equipment, improve reliability as well as prepare for large-scale integration of renewables.

Also architects and builders of low-energy homes are pleased. Their challenge is to provide ever lower residual demand for space heating with a cost-effective system. In passive houses, heatballs will act as a central heating system, providing small heat pulses where required using the electricity system which is already there.

Please join us today in promoting heatballs everywhere. I can see nothing but benefits, and hence sincerely hope that the heatball product is not a joke …


How should we support the development of renewables? September 8, 2010

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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potencial of renewables

Image via Wikipedia

An interesting article on the Oil Drum asks this question. Renewables receive many billions of dollars/euros in support, primarily in feed-in tariffs. There is little questioning about the level of support, but lots of debate where to spend it. Some say that spending it all on research would have resulted in much more progress.

Supporting feed-in tariffs is based on the premise of technology learning. When new technologies are introduced, cost reduces rapidly. Typically, with each doubling of cumulative output, one sees a 15-20% cost reduction. In the early days of a technology, this effect goes very fast. For example with a 20% learning effect, the second unit is 20% cheaper, the 4th 36% and the 8th brings you to 50%. Up to a few 10,000, cost reduces a factor 20, but after that, the learning effect slows down. To have the next order of magnitude cost reduction needs a dramatic increase in cumulative output.

The feed-in tariff is based on the idea to finance the cost premium while a technology goes through its learning cycle. It is based on a poor understanding of the exponential curve, as amply illustrated by the wheat & chessboard problem. There is also a popular video on YouTube on our difficulty to understand the exponential curve.

Proponents of supporting energy research will say that technological breakthroughs are much more efficient and have bigger replication factors on public money spend. However, the track record from government to stimulate development and select winning technologies is spotty at best.

The debate will not be over anytime soon. However, the decision is political. It will be interesting to observe what happens if feed-in tariffs start to have a sizeable impact on broad layers of population.

Saving energy with high efficiency motors April 1, 2008

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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After only three to six weeks of continuous operation, the power costs associated with low-rated electric motors and drives can already have equalled their purchase price.

Once upon a time there was a buyer at a large company who had to purchase a large three-phase induction motor with a power rating of 1 MW that was to be used in a big machine. As usual, he invited suppliers to submit bids. Before drafting the tender documents he spoke to the head engineer and technicians at the relevant technical department about the expected number of operating hours per year, the machine’s level of utilization and its load profile. Talks then began with potential suppliers about what sort of efficiencies could be achieved. As is normal, the buyer and supplier agreed on a penalty clause that would allow a price reduction to be imposed should the motor fall short of the efficiency level agreed in the sales contract. Equally, in the event of the motor exceeding specifications, the supplier would receive a bonus.

Read full article on Earthtoys – Emagazine:

Industrial Heat pumps February 9, 2007

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency, technology.
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By Bohdan Soroka, Laborelec

Industrial heat pumps, using waste process heat as the heat source, deliver heat at higher temperature for use in industrial process heating or preheating, or for space heating in industry. There is a debate over their definition, but in general they represent a worthwhile method of improving the energy efficiency of industrial processes, and/or reducing primary energy consumption.

Industrial heat pumps (IHPs) offer various opportunities to all types of manufacturing processes and operations. Increased energy efficiency is certainly the IHPs most prominent benefit, but few companies have realized the untapped potential of IHPs in solving production and environmental problems. IHPs can offer the least-cost option in getting the bottlenecks out of production process to allow greater product throughput. In fact, IHPs may be an industrial facility’s best way of significantly and cost-effectively reducing combustion-related emissions.

Download application note

The Passive House in the Electricity System of the Future December 23, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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By Hans De Keulenaer & Rob van Gerwen

Reducing the energy consumption of houses fits very well with the first and most important step of the Trias Energetica strategy towards a sustainable energy system. However, this strategy will seriously influence the design of energy grids in the residential area. It will have both a technical and economical impact that can not be neglected. The energy standards for passive houses are at such a level, that it is not economically viable anymore to invest in more than one energy infrastructure in a residential area. Although technically this could be a natural gas or hydrogen infrastructure, the choice for an all-electric infrastructure is more obvious. The traditional passive electricity distribution grid will gradually change into an active network with “prosumers” (both producers and consumers) of electricity instead of just consumers. Local balancing of electricity consumption and production, electricity storage and demand side management will become more and more important.

Download paper

See also:

Webinar presentation of this paper

Pathways to 2050 – towards an ‘all’ electrical society May 10, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in carbon management, efficiency, nuclear, renewable electricity, roadmap, security.
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Challenging climate change caused by carbon emissions is such a many-sided problem, involving many actors from all over the world, that it is absolutely necessary to set clear and realistic goals. That is what the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) did in its paper Pathways to 2050 (pdf – 3 MB).

The WBCSD unites 180 international companies who share the commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. In their paper on energy and climate change (December 2005), they describe three paths to 2050.

emission paths

Business as usual

If we don't react, global carbon emissions will rise from 7.8 Gigatons in 2002, to some 12 Gt in 2030 and 15-16 Gt by 2050. In that case, the atmospheric CO2 concentration will rise up to 1,000 ppm. The resulting temperature rise cannot be predicted accurately, but it might be as high as 3-4°C by 2100 and up to 6°C by 2300. It goes without words that such an enormous temperature rise will have far-reaching consequences.

An optimistic scenario

A figure that is sometimes postulated is to reduce the global carbon emissions to half of its current value. In that case, the carbon concentration is expected to rise to 450 ppm, causing a temperature rise of 1 up to 2.5 degree C by 2100. Bearing in mind that the global energy demand will at least double, even if we put a lot of effort in energy efficiency, this is clearly an optimistic scenario that would require far more drastic measures than the ones we are applying today.

A realistic scenario

More realistic would be – according to the WBCSD – to bring back the carbon emissions to the current value by 2050. This would limit the atmospheric concentration to 550 ppm and the temperature rise to 1,5 up to 3° C by 2100. It would allow carbon emissions to increase in the medium term, and require a global downturn by 2025, followed by a continuous decline. Realistic but ambitious, this scenario would still require sectorial shifts and significant changes in energy production and use.

The energy mix for electricity production

In the realistic scenario, the WBCSD sees the share of electricity in the total energy consumption double by 2050. The growing importance of electricity is the result of following trends:

  • improvements in electrical applications, and substitution of fossil fuels in end use
  • increasing number of electrical appliances
  • information technology and the internet
  • urbanisation

energy share

Since the total energy consumption itself is expected to double by 2050, this means that the electricity production should quadruple. The energy mix for the power generation could be as follows:

energy mix

Source % in mix Growth compared to 2002
Wind (+ geothermal, tidal, and wave energy) 25% x 160
Solar 12% x 300
Biomass and waste 5% x 18
Hydro 8% x 2
Nuclear 10% x 2
Natural Gas 20% x 3
Coal with Carbon Capture and Storage 20% x 2

Half of the electricity production will come from renewable sources. To realize this, solar, wind and biomass should see a very steep and continuous growth. Mind that coal fired power stations are still in the mix, but are equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) systems. Also nuclear energy is still growing according to this scenario, meaning that the currently operating plants will have to be replaced and new capacity should be installed.

Demand Side Management for residential and commercial end-users May 3, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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This paper focusses on  demand side management in the residential and commercial sector, i.e. for small end-users. Demand side management provides a range of technical, organisational and behavioural solutions to cut or decrease electricity consumption and demand. In this article, special attention is given to proposals for  cost-effective actions, which are classified from no-cost  to investments with long payback time. It concludes that there are lots  of  solutions to save electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

View paper

Can electricity save energy? April 30, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency.
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SEAL's 14th briefing paper explores the question 'Can electricity save energy?'. This question may be much more important than its usual counterpart 'Can we save electricity?'. While the inefficient use of electricity is a waste, at the same time, using electricity in new applications, or instead of other energy carriers can have a boosting effect on reducing primary energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bicycle parking near Leuven station, Belgium April 29, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency, public transport.
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bicycle parking near Leuven station, Belgium

Originally uploaded by Leonardo ENERGY.

Bicycle parking on a Saturday morning near Leuven Station (a university town), after the students went home for the weekend.

Students using the bicycle-train combination instead of car reduce energy consumption by a factor 2 and CO2 emissions by a factor 3 (or twice these factors when being picked up).

Efficiency in public transport April 28, 2006

Posted by Hans De Keulenaer in efficiency, public transport.
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The 2 reports in this post are not recent, but together, they present a very detailed case study on efficiency in DC railway systems, offering a wealth of technical information. Both studies have been performed by KEMA (the 2nd study has never been published before):

In 'Optimal reduction of energy losses in catenary wires for DC railway systems', the optimum conductor cross-section is found to be significantly larger than the standard currently used. Selective and gradual phasing-in of thicker copper conductors in the feeder wire yields following benefits for the Dutch railway sector:

  • an estimated energy saving at 30 GWh/year, or 2% of the total Dutch traction power consumption
  • an avoided annual emission of 21,000 tons of CO2 per annum
  • improved traction performance and hence better punctuality of trains (to be quantified)
  • enhanced energy saving and CO2 emission reduction by regeneration of braking energy (to be quantified)

The second report 'Benefits of upgrading the overhead line of a DC railway line in the Netherlands – a simulation case study', focussed on the last 2 bullets mentioned above, quantifying these effects for a specific railway line.