All Clean Energy is Local

All Clean Energy is Local

Technology tells you what you can do; economics…what you should do; politics...what you will do.  Approximate oracles surely, but what are they telling us about our energy future these days?

In general, technology is telling us we have a proliferating number of new and excellent tools with which to change our energy infrastructure for the better.  Listening more closely, it is telling us that innovation has never been easier, but to stop looking for breakthroughs.  Energy breakthroughs these days are manifested by tipping points, not the brilliance of Nobel laureates. The apparent "aha!", on closer examination, usually turns out to be the product of twenty years of tenacity and scraping for funding, followed by a stroke of luck in the nick of time to head off a technology venture's imminent collapse.

A Different Drummer

A Different Drummer

"Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured, or far away."

Most will recognize the author as Henry David Thoreau. I find the quote particularly poignant as I embark on The IRES Network adventure. For many reasons, including the brilliant work of my companions, I am no longer keeping pace with them in renewable energy. For nearly forty years we've marched to a unifying beat. It is now loud and clear. The work of pursuing a vision is done. The work of fully realizing the vision is well underway.

What's in the Name IRESN?

What's in the Name IRESN?

Integrated planning and operation of energy systems is not a new idea.  Ironically, it was more easily and (arguably) better accomplished in the past than in the present.  For example, electric utilities invested to create an economically balanced mix of generation resources.  The individual economic attributes of these resources were complementary.  High capital cost, low fuel cost base load plants (e.g. coal and nuclear) provided the majority of the energy.  They were complemented by plants that cost less per unit of capacity and consumed higher cost fuel (e.g. combined and simple cycle plant burning natural gas).  Plants and transmission links were located to give the franchise area grid a highly reliable carrying capacity.  All proposed generation and transmission projects were selected according to a goal of minimizing overall cost of delivered energy.

What is Renewable Energy Integration?

What is Renewable Energy Integration?

When we use the term “renewable integration” to describe IRESN’s focus, what do we mean? Integration with what?  In what context?  

IRESN has been active in certain major dimensions of renewable integration.  They are:

  • Project integration
  • Infrastructure integration
  • Money integration
  • Societal integration

Without some examples, these terms don’t help much either.  So, for example

Safe Driving in Data Blizzards

Safe Driving in Data Blizzards

Not knowing whether to change direction has consequences.  Disruptions and trends in the world these days will determine how our energy systems need to adapt or transform…changes in technology, relative costs, and the competitive need at all scales of energy use to respond both opportunistically and strategically.

Imagine driving at 90 miles per hour in a blinding snowstorm.  Obviously unsafe.  No one would do it even if there were no other cars on the road.  But our permanent energy data blizzard does tend to obscure the road ahead, and our current circumstances don’t allow us the option to slow down.

Energy Sector Decarbonization: Acceleration Requires Trust and Collaboration

Energy Sector Decarbonization: Acceleration Requires Trust and Collaboration

A recent gathering in Long Beach, California featured a lively debate between a Community Choice CEO. Geof Syphers, and the President of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael Picker.  The debate will likely continue in other forums and ways.  Foundational assumptions are not yet in alignment.  They will need to be if both sides of the debate are to collaborate fully and effectively.

Will California’s energy future continue to depend primarily on state policies and initiatives?  Or is the state’s Community Choice movement ushering in a scenario where local initiatives become a major driver and policy enabler?  Or is the answer “both, and”?  

On Driving Down a Road with No Headlights

On Driving Down a Road with No Headlights

I once owned an old pickup truck.  It had loose steering, brakes that didn’t like long downhill runs and headlights that would stay on for about 20 miles and then take a break.  I could never find the source of that problem.  But I loved the truck.  I used it mainly for commuting to my job in Washington, DC from my home in the Virginia suburbs.  Sometimes on weekends I would use it to haul stuff out to a rustic cabin across a couple blue ridges in West Virginia. 

Smart Cities and Community Choice Energy

Smart Cities and Community Choice Energy

IRESN Comments to the California Public Utilities Commission Hearing on  Community Choice Aggregation Issues, February 1, 2017

The on-going rapid expansion of Community Choice Energy (Community Choice) in California is a breakthrough opportunity for successful deployment of economic, efficient and environmentally responsible local energy resources into competitive energy markets.

Shopping Local for Energy

Shopping Local for Energy

Does common sense apply to energy?  Would it be a plus for a community’s economy to shop local for energy?

Let’s take a look at the big picture.  Dollars are shipped out of town for each unit of energy that comes in.  They flow to regional utilities, wholesale fuel suppliers, then all the way down their supply chains, no part of which is typically local.  The outflow is economically significant.  When spread over the US population, annual energy costs were $3,461 per person[2].  This is about 10% of the per capita annual income in the little town in the Sierras mentioned above.[3]

Are Renewable Energy Subsidies an Unprecedented Budget Buster?

Are Renewable Energy Subsidies an Unprecedented Budget Buster?

Subsidies from government to new technologies or industries date back hundreds of years in the U. S. The purpose of subsidies is generally to give exciting new technologies a boost in helping fund the cost of starting up until its’ cost of production is competitive with older, less desirable methods. Subsidies keep prices for consumers below market levels or for producers above market levels, or reduce costs for consumers and producers. Subsidies have also been introduced to increase production of a product whose national need has increased due to war or other national calamity.