Monday, May 14, 2012

Electricity at a Crossroads

We are at a crossroads in a lot of social, political, economical, environmental, and moral issues, not only in this country, but throughout the world.
Here at home, three main issues need to be addressed in the future of electricity planning.

1.        Our power plants and transmission grid system is getting old, and need massive replacement and upgrades. 
2.        Regulations on pollution and climate change gases will continue to get tighter, as science and the resultant ramifications eventually trump politics.
3.        The cost of cleaner renewables is rapidly coming down, and beginning to gain significant market share.

The current cost of building two new nuclear reactors in Georgia is estimated between $14-25 billion.  Just to replace the 100+ current reactors in the US which will soon end their lives will potentially cost $2+ trillion??!!  Add another trillion $$$s for upgrading the grid, decommissioning those nukes, isolating nuclear wastes, and other technical necessities, and the future costs are astronomical. 

Meanwhile, Solyndra and other solar companies are going bankrupt because they cannot compete with the decreasing costs of solar equipment.  A lot of this is driven by the huge subsidies China is giving its solar industries, which we should also be doing.  Instead we quibble yearly about renewable tax credits and incentives, spend millions to “fight” the subversive renewable industry, and offer billions in support of the dying (if not dead) nuclear industry.

One would think that without federal aid and subsidy, renewables would continue to be a “hippie” dream.  Not true!  Solar and wind are making major inroads in this country’s energy mix in spite of the “big” business model.  It all boils down to the old argument of centralized vs. de-centralized technology.  Where once,  an individual person was responsible on their own for installing solar on their rooftop, there are now associations of residents and neighborhoods leasing and buying into community solar projects, ie. panels on the roof of a large church where individuals and financing entities share in the profits of solar electricity. 
One drawback of solar PV is that it produces DC power, and inverters to make it “grid compatible” were expensive and bulky.  Not any more.  Buy a panel or two, and just plug into a wall socket, and run your meter backwards! 
And remember, this is coming DOWN in price, as more and more small entrepreneurs , communities, individuals, and local agencies begin to realize the values and benefits…economic, sustainability, environmental, and social...that doing for yourself offers.  Just the tip of the iceberg, and big energy is trying to melt!  Just think of what we could accomplish if we had the full support of the federal government!

Meanwhile, electricity rates continue to go up in Florida for nuclear plants that will never be built
and the citizens in Japan pay an enormous price for its once blind trust in the nuclear industry.

You know what?  The “big boys” aren’t always that smart!

Which fork in the road do we take?  We’ll see if sanity prevails.  If not, economics will take us down the right (left) path,

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