Tag archives for electricity

It’s not your imagination – you have been paying more for electricity this year. Driven by large increases in the Northeast, U.S. residential electricity prices took their biggest leap in five years during the first six months of this year, the government said on Tuesday. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said pinpointing all the factors…

A red food cart that sits on the corner of 17th Street and Broadway in New York City’s Union Square may not look different from the thousands of others scattered throughout the city, but it is unique in at least one way and that way has nothing to do with food. This Rafiqi’s cart, which…

This week in 2003, a chain of events that started with power line brushing against some overgrown trees resulted in a power outage across the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. For up to two days, some 50 million people were left without electricity. (See related pictures: “World’s Worst Power Outages.”) We have seen other…

Thanks to the demise of the cathode ray tube, and with assistance from a shift from personal computers to tablets, Americans are using less energy to run their home entertainment and information technology devices, according to a new study commissioned by the folks who make the stuff. But critics said that progress so far has…

The big waves that crash ashore near Yakutat, Alaska, earned the tiny Gulf of Alaska town a spot on a National Geographic Traveler “bucket list” as a surfing destination – but nobody believes chilly hordes toting boards can cure Yakutat’s ailing economy. Waves, however, might still hold the key, by delivering it from sky-high electricity prices.…

Energy use increased in the United States in 2013 as a fourth consecutive year of economic growth exerted its influence, but the longer-term trend shows the country operating with greater efficiency while also revealing the small but growing role of renewable sources like solar and wind. The font for these insights is the Lawrence Livermore…

On March 25, I was honored to participate in a roundtable discussion convened by National Geographic as part of its Great Energy Challenge initiative. Along with a group of academics, government officials, and representatives of industry and nongovernmental organizations, we tackled key questions about the role of natural gas in a low-carbon future. What became…

Last year more than 25 million tourists visited the Caribbean’s islands, drawn in part to the region’s sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets. Though many consider it a tropical paradise, the Caribbean’s 40 million residents know that such positives also come at great cost: dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuel for energy generation. It affects everything…

The extreme cold temperatures experienced by a large part of the United States this month have highlighted the vulnerability of power systems equipment in such extreme weather. This week’s snowstorm led to power outages in the Northeast, but cold weather alone can be enough to cause problems: The Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves 9 million…

A massive winter storm hit much of the U.S. Tuesday, dumping heavy snowfall along the East Coast and sending temperatures plunging from 15 to 30 degrees below normal from the Mid-Atlantic region to the upper Midwest. But in addition to causing school closings and disrupting highway traffic, frigid winter weather has far-reaching effects on energy…

With the acquisition of thermostat-maker Nest Labs for $3.2 billion announced Monday, Google might finally be arriving at the right moment in a quest for home energy data that began about five years ago with the now-retired PowerMeter. Nest might be one of the few home energy start-ups that you recognize by name. Founded by…

The incandescent light bulb has been around since the late 1800s, but the venerable technology’s dominance seems just about over.  On January 1, 2014, in keeping with a law passed by Congress in 2007, the old familiar tungsten-filament 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs can no longer be manufactured in the U.S., because they don’t…

Which is more important: Meeting energy demand, lowering carbon emissions, or conserving water? How about all three? The Three Big Challenges Facing the Electric Power Industry The U.S. electric power industry has huge challenges to meet in the coming decades. First and foremost it has to meet growing demand for electricity. By 2050 it is…

A catastrophic, prolonged failure of the electrical grid—the sort of event whose effects are  depicted in National Geographic Channel’s upcoming American Blackout, which premieres Sunday—may seem like just apocalyptic science fiction to some viewers.  Unfortunately, though, the possibility of such a breakdown is all too real.  (See related interactive: “Survive the Blackout.”) Government and utility…

Sometimes our dependency on battery-charging devices seems ironic, considering the abundance of energy around us that is being generated every day by sources as mundane as the human hand, footsteps, and lightning, which strikes the Earth dozens of times per second. (See related photos: “Immense, Elusive Energy in the Forces of Nature.”) A typical lightning…

Many of us stash a flashlight for emergencies, only to find that when the time comes to use it, the batteries have run out. The problem of how to achieve efficient, lightweight energy storage plagues everything from flashlights to electric cars. But what if you could bypass it altogether? That’s what Ann Makosinski of Canada…

The Obama administration on Friday unveiled the first-ever national limits for carbon emissions from new power plants in the United States–a step that seeks to reshape the debate on climate change in the inevitable political and legal battles that lie ahead. (See related, “Four Ways to Look at Global Carbon Footprints.”) “We must meet our…

As half of Venezuela, including much of the capital Caracas, plunged into darkness during electrical outages Tuesday, the country’s president used Twitter to go on the offensive. Saying that his government had stabilized the electrical system while directing blame for the outage at political opponents, President Nicolas Maduro posted on Twitter, “It’s evident that behind…

The recent news of President Obama’s $7 billion program to bring electricity to 20 million households and businesses in six sub-Saharan nations in Africa is both timely and strategic, as electricity is foundational to economic growth and is the linchpin — the most fundamental critical infrastructure — of modern society. The news also served as…

Information technology managers take note: The cloud can be your friend. U.S. government researchers built a model to test the energy cost of running common business applications using centralized data centers instead of local systems. Turned out the cloud’s energy efficiency advantages on a nationwide basis were huge – up to 87 percent, or around 23 billion…

When it comes to keeping the lights and air conditioning on this summer, how much of a safety margin do we need? After all, summertime is when electricity demand surges, as an entire nation reaches for the thermostat in the midst of a heat wave. Overall, our grid is getting older, and the demands are…

On a recent late night at the office, I got a warning from the cleaning woman: “You know the lights all shut off at 10 o’clock, right?” Fortunately, I had never stayed at National Geographic late enough to learn that fact. But I had noticed before that at 8:00 p.m., my computer sends a message…

Smart meters are just one aspect of the new electric infrastructure generally known as the smart grid, but for consumers, they are the most visible. Utilities in California, Texas and other states have led the way on installing the meters, which can relay information about a household’s energy use back to the grid. A new…

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. But is duplicating “Race to the Top” the way to get a new energy grid up and running? If you don’t keep track of education policy, Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s signature schools initiative, with $4 billion in federal grant money awarded to…

The “Let’s Do It Again!” team from James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina weaves reuse, recycling, and waste reduction into construction of the high-efficiency electric cars it builds for Shell Eco-marathon Americas. This year, the team’s three vehicles incorporate parts of an old baby carriage, a child car seat, a chair, some…