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Electric vs. Gas Cont...

Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

is commonly done.

• High tower flow values applied to absorption chillers are representative of old technology. Compounding this, the assumptions on condenser water pump efficiencies seem low. %n5%n

• Why are electric and gas chillers modeled on differing load profiles?

And other issues abound. Overall, these issues are more than enough to completely reverse the comparison between gas and electric cooling.

Finally, warfare between the utility industries is not the key struggle in America's future. International economic competitiveness is. Our current cooling infrastructure contains a burden of economic inefficiency not carried by our international competitors. Building expensive electric generating, transmission and distribution capacity to serve poor load factors electric chillers is a resource waste that has been obscured by regulated rates in the past.

Our international competitors do not allow this. The Japanese have restricted the use of electric chillers for decades. Last year, they produced 10 times more absorption chillers than electric systems, and have reaped the societal rewards of better utilization of their expensive electric system resources. The Koreans recently have moved in the same direction. These are our competitors in the future. Perhaps public policy should be more focused on the struggle that really matters.

Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada, once commented that having the United States as a neighbor was like "sleeping with an elephant. No matter how polite the elephant may be, every snort and twitch wakes you up." The relationship between the gas industry and the enormous American electric industry is similar. If electric deregulation ever emerges from the legal morass, economic inefficiencies previously obscured by regulation will come to the surface. Needless to say, after years of indifference, gas cooling suddenly has the electric industry's attention. Let us hope the public good is not lost under the weight of the elephant.

Dr. William Ryan, Gas Research Institute and

Ed Reid, American Gas Cooling Center

1From Environmental Costs and Benefits of DSM: A Framework for Analysis, Stephen Bernow, et al, "Proceedings: Electricity Use and the Environment," EPRI TR-100254.

2Average Annual Heat Rate, from Electric Plant Cost and Power Production Expense, EIA Report.

3Value based on data from EIA Electric Power Annual 1994 report.

41993 Clean Air Act.

5See ASHRAE Standard 90.1-1989 Table 13.6.

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