Monday, August 19, 2013

Update on Renewables

As we enter the second half of 2013, we find that renewable energy is alive, well, cost-competitive, and significantly gaining in the addition of new electricity generation here in the US, as well as the rest of the world.  The war has been won, although major battles continue to be launched and fought.  The current issue now is the fight which the Conservative, Big Fossil Fuel Industry, Republican, Anti-Environmental, Big Money…the Koch Brothers, Exxon, etc, all the players which I will now call the FFs…are launching against solar, wind, and energy efficiency.  Lots of money being spent by ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and the like; but they seem to be losing their battles. 
Many states have imposed mandatory renewable quotas for their utilities, which created rate increases and general political upheaval over the years.  Subsidized energy!  Well, all that is changing.  In a landmark decision, Michigan (that wonderful sunny state) is now saying solar and wind are cost-competitive, and is reducing the ratepayer fees which helped bring these resources online.

FF attacks on state renewable mandates are not having much success.

The big FEAR the FFs have is the loss of money, and control and power over their customers who rely on aged utilities to supply them with electricity.  More and more individuals, as well as businesses, are installing their own solar systems, and selling power back to the utilities.  Obviously, this creates a huge new technical, economic, regulatory, and monopoly-busting nightmare for the electricity generating industry.  What to do, what to do?  Fight the change…or join the club.  We’re seeing major utilities, even in Georgia, getting into renewable generation.

This is just business common sense.  If a utility is in business to supply electricity to its customer, then it can do so in a variety of ways…build a large central power plant, whether it is gas fired or solar, or wind…but it can also offer that generation potential in small packages on individual rooftops, commercial complexes, basically any appropriate site.  That is what many small solar businesses are already doing in California and many other states.  In other words, instead of fearing the “new age,” they should see opportunity to profit from it.  A good example is ATT and the telephone land-line.  More and more people are abandoning their old land-lines and going cellular.  The cost of maintaining land-line service is being paid for by a smaller and smaller share of customers.  We may eventually do away with those “telephone poles and wires,” but for now, ATT is very much into cell phones; making that positive transition to the “future.”  The same will be true for the electric utilities…at least those that survive.

Renewables are surging.  We need to keep in mind that the transition will take a certain amount of time.  We can go from 2% renewable electricity to 20-30% in the next 10 years if WE want to. It is an incredible opportunity to create jobs, allow for incredible technical innovation in the industry for production, storage, and cost reduction, be environmentally sustainable, and lead us into the future just as the computer chip has brought us to where we are today.

The battles will continue with the FFs pushing the lies and mis-statements that solar and renewables are too expensive; they are intermittent and thus cannot be trusted; the new small modular nuclear reactors are the wave of the future; global climate change is a hoax…all those clich├ęs that are slowly getting worn out. 

As my friend says, ”follow the money!”

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