There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, +0.75% President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
Ironically, technology can make the utilities’ problem worse, not better—at least in the short term. In the past, grids were developed because it was cheaper to generate large quantities of power and distribute it over wide distances, rather then generate smaller quantities closer to the place of use. It is for this reason that electricity is seen as a business that benefits from “economies of scale”.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.
Since consumer demand directly affects energy rates, it’s important to note seasonal trends of demand throughout the year. Overall, demand tends to be higher during the winter and summer months and lower during the fall and spring months. This pattern isn’t shocking since it’s normal for people to require more energy during extreme heat and extreme cold.
Excessive Total Harmonic Distortions (THD) and not unity Power Factor (PF) is costly at every level of the electricity market. Cost of PF and THD impact is difficult to estimate, but both can potentially cause heat, vibrations, malfunctioning and even meltdowns. Power factor is the ratio of real to apparent power in a power system. Drawing more current results in a lower power factor. Larger currents require costlier infrastructure to minimize power loss, so consumers with low power factors get charged a higher electricity rate by their utility. True power factor is made of displacement power factor and THD. Power quality is typically monitored at the transmission level. A spectrum of compensation devices mitigate bad outcomes, but improvements can be achieved only with real-time correction devices (old style switching type, modern low-speed DSP driven and near real-time). Most modern devices reduce problems, while maintaining return on investment and significant reduction of ground currents. Power quality problems can cause erroneous responses from many kinds of analog and digital equipment, where the response could be unpredictable.
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