[Marxism] The Economic Function Of Energy by Manuel García, Jr.

Marla Vijaya kumar marlavk at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 27 09:52:38 MST 2012

The Economic Function Of Energy
by Manuel García, Jr.

(Swans - February 27, 2012)
The ideas expressed by Manuel Garcia are very interesting,
though a little more effort is needed to refine them. 
I would like to add a few ideas:
1.       Energy extraction efficiencies from Renewable
sources are being enhanced at a very fast pace. I see no reason why they can be
competitive with fossil fuels within the next 10 years.
2.       For example, simple PV may have low conversion
efficiency. And solar thermal is much more efficient (about 2 times) than PV.
The figures quoted by the author are a bit dated, I suppose.
3.       By seamlessly combining different renewable
sources and dynamically balancing the sources with the loads, it is possible to
achieve very high efficiencies (about 85%), which is not possible with
conventional fossil fuel systems. This concept is called poly-generation and is
linked with decentralized grids.
4.       Minimize conversion of energy from one from to
another and thereby gain better efficiencies. In this context, use of batteries
is viewed negatively as batteries pollute the environment. The author has not
mentioned about thermal storage systems, where the heat generated by solar
thermal systems is stored in phase change materials (PCMs) and extracted during
evening peak load hours, thereby effectively converting solar thermal plants
into base load power plants. These PCMs can also be used to store waste heat
from industrial process and used for productive purposes like RO systems  and air-conditioning in summer/ space heating
in winter.
5.       Indoor weather conditioning (air conditioning in
hotter climates) is bound to become very important as in many cities in the
hotter climates, power consumption by air conditioning constitutes about 20-30%
of the total grid  power.  In countries like India, summer power cuts
(especially in mid-days) is common as the grids get overloaded. Hence solar air
conditioning is a very attractive concept. My own calculations show that it is
possible to cool a 5 floor, commercial office using solar power collectors
installed on its roof. It can meet a part of the electrical load also, at least
meeting the requirements like water pumps, elevators and emergency lighting.
6.       In the hotter climates, cold storage for
agricultural products is very critical, but in many parts, availability of
power for at least 6 hours a day is a luxury, forcing the use of costly diesel
electric power to keep the agricultural produce such as vegetables, fruits and
meat cool. Another critical area is milk chilling in rural areas. Solar
assisted chilling is the best option.
7.       I agree with Manuel Garcia that Low HDI nations
can leap-frog the use of fossil fuels, but as it is obvious, big business will
be reluctant to do it.
8.       It is pertinent to note here that decentralized grids
employing renewable sources will undermine the monopoly power of big capital
and hence will not be encouraged by the ruling classes. I feel that such a
concept of poly-generation is best suited to socialist societies in the coming
I suggest that more intense debate
on this subject will throw up new ideas in incorporating the concept of energy
studies into Marxist theory.
Vijaya Kumar Marla

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