[Beowulf] Academic sites: who pays for the electricity?

Jim Lux James.P.Lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Fri Feb 18 10:30:39 PST 2005

At 08:36 AM 2/18/2005, Vincent Diepeveen wrote:

> >>> > Complete academic nonsense calculation. If you use quite some
> >>> > the electricity gets up to factor 20-40 cheaper. Getting a factor 10
> >>> > reduction in usage bill is pretty easy if you negotiate properly.
> >
> >Just where do you live that such negotiations are possible. Here's some
>You aren't going to negotiate about a single small room with a few
>lightbulbs obviously.
>We're talking about huge usage, like if all supercomputers are located at 1
>central spot and the entire institute with thousands of working places gets
>powered in a central way, and usually electricity offering companies aren't
>going to put online their rates for reduced usage, as that would give them
>a bad negotation starting point :)

In the U.S., at least, electricity at the retail level is fairly regulated, 
and anyone selling electricity must post official "tariffs" that give the 
rates and so forth. A significant part (perhaps 20-30%) of the "as 
delivered" cost of electricity is the amount you pay for the transmission 
and distribution system (all those HV power lines, etc.), which is, again, 
somewhat regulated (or at least, the past pricing data is readily 
available, by law and regulation).

The significant exception to this might be if you co-locate with an 
independent generator of power, in which case there's no interconnection to 
the grid.  But, even in this case, if your generator interties with the 
rest of the system, so you're not the only customer, then your supply will 
be affected by the fluctations in the supply and demand on the overall 
grid.  In general, the price that a generator is paid is almost totally 
unregulated (unlike retail rates, which is what caused the problems in 
California a few years back), and so, while you may be able to negotiate a 
very low price for power for some times of day, etc., you'll probably also 
get a "interruptible load" clause in the contract, or you'll have to pay 
high rates at other times.

James Lux, P.E.
Spacecraft Radio Frequency Subsystems Group
Flight Communications Systems Section
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mail Stop 161-213
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena CA 91109
tel: (818)354-2075
fax: (818)393-6875

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