Energy FUD and our Smart Grid Future

TC Labs Energy Learning Machine

Cyber terrorism is the nightmare scenario for the energy industry. Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) are the weapons of choice.  In the ‘good old days’ we worried about was hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires taking down transmission lines.  Because transmission was always more difficult to site, permit and build due to NIMBY and the eternally long process of environmental and regulatory review.  We compensated for that uncertainty by building more power generation, closer to …Continue Reading »

The Economics and Politics of Domestic Energy Production Growth

The good news is America finally has a national energy policy we can believe in.  Even better news is that this national energy policy is being defined, shaped and driven by the markets and the ingenuity of investors, landowners and business people all across America.  The challenge we face is keeping our government out of the way and out of our pockets so that this economic revival and its multiplying economic effect and the low cost energy it is producing can become sustainable. There are …Continue Reading »

New Energy Realities: A Low Gas Prices Scenario

A funny thing is happening on the way to the clean energy future--reality is setting in. There is ‘incontrovertible evidence’ about the economic growth and job creating effects of America’s unconventional oil and gas production boom - more than 600,000 jobs directly attributable to shale gas development. Even President Obama is praising the job creating benefits of ‘America’s resource boom’. America is getting its energy mojo back and that is good news but not the entire story. How …Continue Reading »

Spain Ends New Renewable FiT

Spain’s new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy suspended the nation’s feed in tariff subsidies for all new renewable energy projects January 27, 2012 announcing that Spain could no longer afford it given its budget deficit.  There has been widespread trepidation that the FiT program would be cut, but the swift and decisive action suspending the program entirely left the renewable energy industry reeling. As if to remove any doubt about its future, the Prime Minister went further saying the …Continue Reading »

The Looming Battle over Energy Costs

There is a looming battle over the cost of energy between the 'green at any cost' versus the 'green enough at a reasonable cost' where wind/solar forces will battle natural gas---you can sense the fog of war ahead as the battle being set up.  The graphic above from a recent GTM Research report shows the reality in clear focus. The policy landscape has been designed to drive toward clean energy policies sometimes without much regard to the cost.  It started with environmental groups …Continue Reading »

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. Here's an excerpt: The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 48,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. …Continue Reading »

Fear of Smart Grid Stall-Out

As smart meter deployment reaches saturation points across North America there is disquiet about what is next.  It all seemed too fast and too easy.  The idea of smarter power grids was seductive promising reduced line losses, more efficient integration of renewable energy, happiness, prosperity for all.  You see my point? We’ve reached what the Gartner folks like to call in geek-speak the ‘trough of disillusionment’. That ugly place where just when we thought we could see the new world …Continue Reading »

Illinois Smart Grid Street Fight

The comedic opera that played out in Illinois from the legislative battle over smart grid is typical of the Land of Lincoln where everything is political and everything has its price.  But while the outcome is not what was planned or predicted it may end up being an interesting lab experiment on whether smart grid can earn its keep. In full disclosure I spent five years working for the Illinois Commerce Commission as Manager of its Public Utilities Division and then my last year there as …Continue Reading »

Signing Long Term Solar Power Contracts in a Falling Price Market

"The PPA unnecessarily saddles ratepayers with extraordinary above-market costs -- $1.25 billion. We could probably get almost 500 megawatts of renewable energy for the price we're paying for this 250 megawatts."---CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio. That was the essence of Commissioner Florio’s pique in voting no on the approval of a purchase power agreement between PG&E and a solar power producer.   We are seeing more of this show up as the cumulative cost of meeting California’s 33% …Continue Reading »

USEPA's Electric Reliability Roulette: Can We Keep the Lights On?

The biggest casualty of EPA’s aggressive regulatory push may be electric reliability.  There are growing warnings even from experts inside the government at EPA and FERC that taking out perhaps as much as 25% of the installed coal-fired power generation base to achieve EPA's emission reduction goals will result is loss of resources integral to reliability. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is the independent body responsible for monitoring grid reliability. It …Continue Reading »