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Original Post by One Block Off the Grid

How Much Will You Spend to Power Your Gadgets in 2011?

These days, in developed countries like the United States, the average household has about 35 electrical appliances and the average annual cost of using these appliances is about $1,100. If you live in a state where electricity is expensive*, that annual price tag goes up to about $1,600 a year.  In five years, you’ll pay somewhere between $1300 and $1900 a year to use your fleet of devices, and that’s only if you don’t buy anything new to plug in between now and then, including a car.

Not likely. Analysts say the electrical appliances market is still growing like gangbusters. Baby boomers are moving to the South and Southwest where houses are big and air conditioning use is high. Demand for electric cars is high and is expected to present a significant new draw on the grid nation-wide. All good for the economy, right? There are just a few problems. For one, in the U.S., grid power is fired primarily by dirty fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, so any increased pull on the grid means more CO2 and particulate matter in the air**. The other is that utility companies are raising their prices, on average, by six percent every year, so just because that Nissan Leaf costs less than filling up your tank today doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way. You can be sure that utility companies will be keeping close tabs on electric vehicle adoption, which means the plug may someday be just as pricey as the pump. (Ironically, these rate hikes are sometimes related to costly new clean energy ventures like the controversial Cape Wind project in Massachusetts.)

The question, then, is this: as the average houshold’s energy needs increase, will people be willing to pay a higher and higher percentage of their income to utility companies every year? Or, as the cost of home-based solar and wind power come down, will things reach a tipping point where homeowners start to see their own roofs and yards as a way to reduce or even eliminate this growing annual spend?
Original Post by One Block Off the Grid

Recent Events in Japan

In the last week, the earthquake, tsunami, and the still unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan sent oil prices downward on world markets, but as of today, Wednesday, the price of Brent crude (the biggest of major oil classifications) rose significantly, back up to $110 a barrel.  Many analysts speculate that Japan, a major oil importer, will be importing much less oil in the short term while others point to the fact that it will very shortly need much more oil in order to replace lost nuclear energy. Oil prices have reflected this uncertainty. The price of oil fell on Tuesday for the first time in two weeks, but quickly rose again on Wednesday.

Despite falling oil prices, gas prices have yet to follow. The U.S. national average price of self-serve regular yesterday, March 15th, was $3.55 a gallon, according to AAA, up four cents a gallon from last week.

What do oil prices have to do with solar energy?

As the infographic shows, while grid electricity prices don’t directly depend on oil prices, they are connected. The two main sources of electricity in the U.S. are coal and natural gas. The contraptions we use to extract and refine these substances are, quite literally, some of the largest machines on earth, using petroleum-based fuel on a nearly incomprehensible scale. So when oil prices climb, the price of grid electricity can be affected. (For more information on this, we highly recommend this amazing infographic published by Wellhome, “The Mechanical Monstrosities of Fuel Extraction.”)

It’s worth noting that we’ve noticed a sharp uptick in the number of people interested in knowing how many solar panels it would take to charge an electric car.
Original Post by One Block Off the Grid