Too cheap to meter?

Lewis Strauss coined in reference to the prospect of fusion power, the phrase too cheap to meter. Mr. Strauss argued that once fusion power would become available, the costs to produce electricity would be so low, that wouldn’t be worthwhile to charge the consumer in respect to their actual energy consumption.

The principal source of energy in Space Settlements is, of course, solar power. Our natural fusion reactor produces such amounts of power, that only a tiny fraction is needed for use by Space Settlers. Hence the question arises whether Space Settlers should be charged for their actual energy consumption?

Though the Sun does deliver its energy for free, it does not mean that the energy consumed by Space Settlers should be free. In order to make use of Solar energy, Space Settlers should convert it into useful forms of energy, such as electricity. This requires the construction of Solar Power Plants (SPPs).

And though a SPP has no fuel costs, it needs money for its construction and maintenance. Further the SPP has to be protected against meteorites and terrorists. It is obvious to someone has to pay for these services. And then we are only talking about the power plants, what to think about the construction and maintenance of the grid? But the good news is that even if we take these cost into consideration, space settlers will receive a considerably lesser energy bill than their terrestrial fellows.

The backside of SPPs is that the initial investment to build them, is quite high (though this would be compensated by the extreme long service life of the plants) and hence vulnerable to emerge of monopolists. After all once a space energy company has built a SPP, it can offer energy at relatively low prices, while the threshold of building a new plant will deter potential competitors.

Since such a monopoly is likely inevitable, it would be best if the governments of space settlements will take care of the production and maintenance of SPPs. This had two benefits: first all profits will flow to public treasury, and secondly price setting by the energy company is subject to democratic supervision.

15 thoughts on “Too cheap to meter?”

    1. The most optimistic experts expect the first commercial fusion reactors to be available not sooner than 2050. The ITER is expected to be build by 2019, but is expected to produce its first fusion reactors by the mid 2020s. An its successor, the DEMO, the first real commercial reactor is to be constructed by 2033 (I guess it will be later).

      SPPs for terrestrial purposes have been proposed since at least the 1960s, but I am quite skeptical whether there will be much public acceptance for them, since they will use microwaves for transmitting power to Earth.

            1. This is indeed an important step, but they are still far from a commercial fusion reactor. What I missed in the article, is how much more energy was released. Was it only a few percent? A commercial fusion reactor should produce about ten times as much energy as it consumes.

  1. As with everything ‘new’ It’s always that initial outlay that so often puts the mockers on things.

    Until something can be mass produced and someone can make oodles of money then traditional forms of energy will continue to hold the world to ransom, let alone out in space.

    Within the next 5 years we are hoping to rebuild our house completely and run as much as we can from solar power.
    The day I can flip the bird to the utility companies will be a day to celebrate, not least because the energy will be relatively clean.

    1. We wish you the best with your solar energy project, and we are eager to learn its results.

      In space the most realistic forms of energy will be solar and nuclear power. Since most traditional forms of energy (mainly fossil fuels) will not work in space as the required oxygen has to be produced by the electrolysis of water.

  2. One of my pet peeves is people leaving lights on unnecessarily. I don’t flip the bird (as another commenter mentioned), but I do go around flipping off lights. 🙂
    If you are cold, put on an extra sweater instead of turning up the heat.
    If you are hot, take off a layer instead of turning down the A/C.

    1. >>One of my pet peeves is people leaving lights on unnecessarily.

      I understand. One of my greatest annoyances is that entire office buildings have their lights on, whilst everyone is gone home, during the night. Especially if it are offices of organizations funded by tax money.

      I see no reason to keep the lights on. If it is done to deter burglars, then I would say that burglar will probably know that the building is empty, despite the lights,

Comments are closed.