Symmetry – A Beautiful Thing in Nature and in Energy Policy


It is interesting how much we admire symmetry … unless you just happen to be in love with Picasso’s form of art.

Symmetry comes from Greek word symmetria, which implies “agreement in dimensions, due proportion, arrangement.”  In everyday language, it means a sense of harmonious proportion and beautiful balance.  If you are a Photoshop user, you can really make this point by slightly distorting a human face to prove how much we dislike imbalance from side to side in any form of facial feature.

This last week we saw illustrations of just how flawed our energy policy discussions are as we observed blackout conditions in the West alongside political correctness about closing down a nuclear plant in the region.  We see incentives to promote solar without due regard for cost recovery and long-term planning to reflect the real costs and the sustainability of short-term decisions.  We see advocates for wind without due regard for the costs to keep the grid stable with its vagaries.

It seems we dislike the natural symmetries of running an electrical power system.  We somehow think a beautiful thing will emerge as we forget or disregard the differences between capacity, energy, and the true operational costs of keeping the lights on in our control strategies.  These are the elements of symmetry … and they are beautiful when kept in proper balance.

I guess asymmetric decisions seem perfectly OK when you simply have no idea how the electrical supply system really works.

Acting this way in my engineering profession is considered incompetence and can result in criminal charges.  Yet in today’s PC energy policy world, it seems to be perfectly acceptable.  There is a natural balance between energy and capacity.  There are natural dependencies in the control of power flows that also require symmetrical balance.  Ignoring those because they are complex to explain does not make them go away.

They will show up and present a very ugly picture … perhaps all too soon.

2 thoughts on “Symmetry – A Beautiful Thing in Nature and in Energy Policy”

  1. I thought if we just ignore things we don’t like or understand they would just go away? And if they don’t, then Congress can pass a law that makes everything safe and happy again! ? No?

    If we write it on the internet, gravity will reduce, so our scales say we lost weight, and electricity will flow uphill and always balance supply with demand. That’s what solar panals are for! Right?

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