International Electricity Woes

on August 03, 2011 at 3:10 PM

“Due to a temporary shortfall in generating capacity, some JPS customers may experience a disruption in their electricity supply today, Tuesday, July 19, 2011, up to 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.”

This was the warning from the Jamaican Public Service Company. It illustrates a problem that many developing countries are facing as electricity consumption grows faster than development of new generation. The strain is now increasingly being coupled with higher electricity prices as countries struggle to stay on top of loads.

Faced with exponential development that is straining the electricity grid, Malta partnered with IBM to install a smart grid throughout the small Mediterranean island country. Nevertheless, Enemalta, the country’s electric utility, announced on July 1 that it would be building three new distribution centers to reinforce electricity networks.

“Thanks to its investment, [Enemalta] is making sure that the country can meet the demands for further economic growth and more job creation,” said Malta’s Minister of Finance, Economy and Investment Tonio Fenech.

According to the utility’s statement, several large area of the country have essentially been “developed from scratch into large residential areas.”

“All of this has resulted in significantly above average increase in electrical demand in the region,” the utility said.

Read more on Malta’s smart grid in Learning To Speak Smart Grid In Malta. See pictures of the technology in Learning From The Maltese Smart Grid.

Global consumption of electricity is on the rise, according to the Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2010.

Figure 12. World marketed energy consumption, 1990-2035 (quadrillion Btu)

Developing countries are projected to be a major source of increased global electricity consumption, though some experts say those numbers are skewed as American and European companies move manufacturing and development offshore where prices are cheaper.

But even if some of the power consumption in developing countries comes from offshore American companies, developing countries, most of which are not part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will face major hurdles as they attempt to feed growing demand for electricity.

In this EIA graph, the agency projects that energy demand in non-OECD countries will rise exponentially by 2035 to over 450 quadrillion Btu. Demand in more developed OECD member countries will remain more constant at less than 300 Btu.

Figure 13. World marketed energy consumption: OECD and Non-OECD, 1990-2035 (quadrillion Btu)

Growth in China is projected to be a major driver in the global increase in energy demand, with the country’s projected demand growing steadily over the coming decades.

Figure 14. Shares of world energy consumption in the US, China, and India, 1990-2035

“Historically, OECD member countries have accounted for the largest share of current world energy consumption; however, in 2007-for the first time-energy use among non-OECD nations exceeded that among OECD nations (see Figure 13),” the EIA said in its 2010 report.

If the trend continues as projected, developing countries may need to become increasingly creative as they attempt to provide affordable reliable power.