I wrote and posted on my blog, “Is  IT a utility?“, it’s unfinished and there’s some dubious stats and treatment and so I have created this supporting article.

This was written 2015. It focussed on some ideas about innovating the power grid by building small scale p2p generators.The economics have changed. I looked into putting panels on the roof of our flat but it seems the grid’s purchase price makes this too long term to be profitable. The expected price rises in 2022/2023 brings the issue to the forefront of consideration again.

Generated power, about ⅓ is lost as it travels over the grid. The key insight is that power transmission loss is a source of economies of scale if we weere to build p2p energy generator systems. This would be arguably similar to some of the early distributed computing solutions such as SETI which did this for IT in the home. The power loss is also a function of the distance the power has to travel.

The inability to store electricity and compute cycles is an interesting common differentiator. I did not explore the fact that when networking bits, order is important whereas the order of the ‘cc’ of water or electrons is not. I did not use a hammer to explore Nick Carr’s idea that there are ‘infrastructure industries’ with which I disagree, and my recent insights ask if the power transmission cost and the centripetal force of data mitigate against the economics of the megadata centres, but didn’t stop them being built. These are basic economics arguments that reinforce the jurisdictional constraints on system location.

  1. The original IT doesn’t matter by Nick Carr
  2. https://davelevy.info/wiki/energy-climate-change-and-just-transition/ on this wiki, looks at public policy development
  3. The energy market isn’t working let the winds of change blow through by Thrive Renewables, who talk about the anti-renewable bias in the UK’s price management regime.
  4. Take back control energy industry by Paul Mason in the ‘Statesman

Thrive renewables say,

“there have been some significant policy announcements by government, including the Energy Security Bill, which is currently being read by Parliament, and a fundamental review of the UK electricity market. Currently gas prices dictate wholesale electricity costs and we have been calling for this to come to an end for some time – it is unacceptable that UK energy consumers are still not able to fully access the economic benefits of renewables.”


I created a montage of the coming of the water network which deserves some words. The networking of water, from a river bank to a well, when people had to go to the water, via an aqueduct, a cart and to a tap. I was first introduced to the ideas using motion as the energy source, but I think water works better.

Dave Economics , ,

4 Replies

  1. When I looked at whether it was worth putting solar panels on the roof, consensus was that the price that the grid bought at made it a very long profit horizon; I wonder if the 2022 price increases change that.

  2. I removed this, “Another unfinished thought is that if we consider future customers to be queueing for the unused capacity, then Erlang’s theory says that it’s most efficient to have one queue; does this imply one data centre? I think not but this is why Gateway experimented with ‘rooms’ for technical support.” from the article. There maybe something in it, but it’s not well written.

  3. The expected price rises in 2022/2023 brings the issue to the forefront of consideration again.I added some links dated 2022 which move the note away from p2p concepts to broader ones inc. the centrality of the energy market in modern capitalism. It has to be planned, the market can no longer provide.

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