One reason why energy traders can make $2 billion in a year is that energy prices are crazy, crazy things – they often behave more like hotel rooms than like normal assets like stocks or bonds or 2-bedroom apartments. Back in October, for instance, the spot price for natural gas in Britain was briefly negative.
The problem is that it’s really, really hard to store electricity – which is the main reason why electricity, at least if you’re a reasonably large consumer of it, costs a lot more during the day than it does at night. What consumers and electricity companies both need is a massive network of electricity storage devices, from which electricity could be drawn down during periods of high demand.
Now, electricity storage devices are better known as batteries. But batteries don’t generally connect to the mains – unless they’re in electric cars! Now we’re getting somewhere:
A utility’s electric meter spinning backwards, pulling power from souped-up batteries in a modified Prius, drew Silicon Valley leaders to a Sunnyvale, CA parking lot today.
At an event put on by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group at the headquarters of chipmaker AMD, local utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) gave what it called the first-ever Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) public technology demonstration.
The plan: drivers, who charged their vehicles at night when power was cheap, could commute by day, plug their vehicles in at their destinations, and receive rebates if the power grid needed electricity at time of peak demand and pulled power from their batteries.
This is a really good idea – David Neubert calls it “Electricity 2.0” – although it won’t happen in reality until well into the next decade. And it might even help smooth out energy costs so that we consumers get lower prices and people like John Arnold have to make do on a couple of hundred million a year.