Is global warming by losses in power line distribution and substations etc of any concern?

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
I was checking the wiring to a neighbours large storage heater and was surprised by how warm the mains cable supplying it had become. Not hot, but definitly warm.
As this is caused by resistive loss in the wiring, it lead me to wonder how much heat is liberated into the environment by the resitive losses in the electricity suppy grid, and if on a global scale, whether the effect is significant.
From Wiki, I found this....(bear in mind these are from 2005 and probably considerably greater in 2019)
  • Length of 132 kV (or lower) grid; 5,250 km (circuit)
Total generating capacity is supplied roughly equally by renewable, nuclear, coal fired and gas fired power stations. Annual energy used in the UK is around 360 TWh (1.3 EJ), with an average load factor of 72% (i.e. 3.6×1011/(8,760 × 57×106).

Losses[edit]
Figures are again from the 2005 SYS.

  • Joule heating in cables: 857.8 MW
  • Fixed losses: 266 MW (consists of corona and iron loss; can be 100 MW higher in adverse weather)
  • Substation transformer heating losses: 142.4 MW
  • Generator transformer heating losses: 157.3 MW
  • Total losses: 1,423.5 MW (2.29% of peak demand)
Although overall losses in the national grid are low, there are significant further losses in onward electricity distribution to the consumer, causing a total distribution loss of about 7.7%.[21] However losses differ significantly for customers connected at different voltages; connected at high voltage the total losses are about 2.6%, at medium voltage 6.4% and at low voltage 12.2%.[22]

Generated power entering the grid is metered at the high-voltage side of the generator transformer.[23][24] Any power losses in the generator transformer are therefore accounted to the generating company, not to the grid system. The power loss in the generator transformer does not contribute to the grid losses.
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
16,399
Forget the transmission losses. From the planet's point of view, all of the electrical energy we generate ends up as heat whether that happens in the wires leading to our loads or in the loads themselves. No difference. A tiny amount of energy radiates away as light and radio, but that's surely a rounding error compared to the bulk.

And the grand total electricity generated by us humans is trivial at a global thermodynamic level.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,671
No.
It does not matter if the losses are 1% or 100%.

100% of the energy is released as heat energy into the system if the system is closed.
In other words, all the energy released by burning fossil fuel, nuclear fuel, hydroelectric, solar, wind, ocean, etc. is released into the biosphere.
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
I can't find how to edit the title of the thread to correct the spelling. It should be "Power line distribution" ....and also correct the spellin of "concern"
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
Yes of course, I'm having a senior moment today, My question could also be, is whether the local temperature rise by the losses in the system likely to affect local weather? I had heard of some areas where there had been the old style cooling towers have different weather patterns now that they have been demolished and the 400kV grid is no longer in use there.

But then I guess that is difficult to quantify over such a short timescale.
 
Last edited:

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,865
As mentioned above, nearly all energy generated is going to end up as heat eventually. But you do bring up a good point that I'm surprised we don't hear much about. Global warming discussions seem so focused on greenhouse gasses, but the heat created directly by the burning of the millions and billions of gallons of fossil fuels must surely account for something.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,671
Will losses in the system affect local temperatures? Not likely.
The only significant temperature rise that I am aware of is the rise in temperature of cooling water from nuclear generating stations.

Another question you might ask is "Would reducing power losses reduce global warming?".
Every MW of energy not produced is a MW of energy not being released to the biosphere.
If we make the distribution system more efficient then there is less energy needed to be produced and less energy released.

The same argument can be made in favour of energy conservation and reduction in consumption.
The less we consume, the less energy is needed to produce all this stuff that we consume.
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
Will losses in the system affect local temperatures? Not likely.
The only significant temperature rise that I am aware of is the rise in temperature of cooling water from nuclear generating stations.

Another question you might ask is "Would reducing power losses reduce global warming?".
Every MW of energy not produced is a MW of energy not being released to the biosphere.
If we make the distribution system more efficient then there is less energy needed to be produced and less energy released.

The same argument can be made in favour of energy conservation and reduction in consumption.
The less we consume, the less energy is needed to produce all this stuff that we consume.
Yes exactly a far better question and certainly should be addressed by the power companies. The main focus is always on greenhouse gas production and reducing the losses could have a significant effect.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,671
And this leads to a political, economical, and societal dilemma.

If you want consumers to reduce their energy consumption, would increasing the energy prices that one has to pay be the right thing to do?
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
And this leads to a political, economical, and societal dilemma.

If you want consumers to reduce their energy consumption, would increasing the energy prices that one has to pay be the right thing to do?
I'm not convinced that raising prices to reduce demand is the answer. We've seen this done with cigarettes, and smokers just pay the extra and complain about the price, same with petrol costs, and alcohol. When there is a price increase, everyone complains initially, then just carries on as before whilst the companies and governments rake in more money.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,073
Forget the transmission losses. From the planet's point of view, all of the electrical energy we generate ends up as heat whether that happens in the wires leading to our loads or in the loads themselves. No difference. A tiny amount of energy radiates away as light and radio, but that's surely a rounding error compared to the bulk.

And the grand total electricity generated by us humans is trivial at a global thermodynamic level.
But if we could reduce losses in the distribution system, then the energy that is lost wouldn't need to be generated in the first place and thus wouldn't end up as heat.
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
16,399
But if we could reduce losses in the distribution system, then the energy that is lost wouldn't need to be generated in the first place and thus wouldn't end up as heat.
True of course. It comes down to: What's the easiest, least impactful way we can reduce energy production? Reducing transmission loss is certainly on the table and is under the control of the people that have an incentive. Changing consumption may be easier and cheaper, though. LEDs, efficient appliances, better home insulation and such have a big collective impact.
 

joeyd999

Joined Jun 6, 2011
4,425
If you want consumers to reduce their energy consumption, would increasing the energy prices that one has to pay be the right thing to do?
Why should what he wants have anything to do with what I pay for electricity?

Everyone wants to be an authoritarian these days.
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,865
To play man in the middle here; this is a case of what one person does has a direct effect on everyone else. If one group of people does away with all emissions standards and burns fuel and energy out of control, that heats up the whole world and affects everyone else. The solution is obviously complicated (politically and technically) or it would have been solved by now.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,073
True of course. It comes down to: What's the easiest, least impactful way we can reduce energy production? Reducing transmission loss is certainly on the table and is under the control of the people that have an incentive. Changing consumption may be easier and cheaper, though. LEDs, efficient appliances, better home insulation and such have a big collective impact.
Of course, we have to keep in mind that reducing transmission and other losses has been a huge priority of the electric industry since day one -- in a very real sense no one is paying them for that energy and all of the costs associated with it -- so just how much more blood can be squeezed out of that particular turnip? Yes, it's built into the rates, but the end user would be largely just as willing to pay that rate with lower losses as they do with higher losses, so if the losses can be reduced, the energy company pockets the difference (there are some caveats on that, of course).

Just how realistic is it to reduce losses significantly lower than they are already? Is it possible to reduce them? Sure, but there are also costs, both financial and environmental, in doing so. You can use lower-loss wire, which translates into higher cost and more material used. You can go to higher voltages, or at least higher voltages over portions of the grid that are at lower voltages right now, but that is a huge infrastructure expenditure and also means putting even higher voltages closer and closer to end users with associated safety concerns and damage potential when failures do happen.

And consider the comparison. If you completely eliminate all distribution losses you save less than 8% (and reducing all losses is, of course, a physical impossibility). Now compare that to the effect of reducing demand by just 10%. Which is more realistic and achievable?
 

Thread Starter

recklessrog

Joined May 23, 2013
985
What makes you think price increases have not helped reduce smoking?

See: https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/assets/factsheets/0146.pdf

Bob
Possibly for non addicted people that may well be true, but just taking my sister-in-law and a few people I've known as examples, they had been heavy smokers for many years and no price increase caused any of them to cut down. They all just paid more and smoked the same as before.
Probably the education as to the terrible effects of smoking have done far more than any price increase has done.
 
Last edited:

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
21,671
@WBahn
Yes, I was thinking of that.

If energy generation and distribution is in the private sector, their mandate is to turn a profit for their share holders.
Hence their objective would be to increase demand and sell it at the highest rate that the market can bear.
 
Top