Technological Left Side

Build Nuclear Plants, Limit Coal to Intelligent Coal, Fund a Massive Development Program for Energy Storage, Continue to Commercialize Renewables, and Limit LNG to Strategic Imports for Distributed Power Networks As I have suggested, on the production side, all dials on our insecurities and vulnerabilities meters point to nuclear as the best option for bulk power generation. It's far from perfect, but it best solves the optimization equations governing the left side of the value chain. We need...

Taking on the Oil Lobby

The only way to meet such a huge potential demand, without aggravating global warming, is to generate the additional electricity with carbonfree sources of energy. That means nuclear fuel and or renewable energy coupled to energy storage. In this case, wind energy becomes as interesting an option as nuclear. In many locations with strong wind resources, the wind velocity profile is much stronger at night than it is during the day. Under our current demand and consumption patterns, this isn't...

And Now for the Good News

Having just depressed any recent graduates thinking about a career in electricity, let me now emphasize that the brain drain issues affect the left side of the production and delivery value chain far more than the right side. There are some incredibly exciting things going on in the industry There is distributed and on-site generation, advanced meters, wind turbine generators, photovoltaics, power electronics, broadband over power lines (BPL), electricity storage, fuel cells, wireless...

Its All about Decarbonization

If you take the electricity industry in the context of its history and as a subset of energy consumption in general, expansion of nuclear power makes perfect sense. Since the Industrial Revolution, humankind has been gradually decarbonizing its energy sources. We've progressed from inefficient wood-fueled open fires to progressively more efficient use of fossil fuels, transitioning from coal and oil to natural gas. (Incidentally, I've seen recent articles discussing the growing popularity...

The Return of Electric Cars Again

It may seem counter-intuitive, but using more electricity could also be a pathway to greater energy efficiency overall as well as greater energy independence. Power plants are responsible for approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions. Automobiles are responsible for approximately one-third. The more electricity substituted for gasoline in supplying energy for transportation, the fewer emissions we have to worry about, with an important caveat The method of generating the...

The Impact of Lengthening Supply Lines

Sixty percent of this country's petroleum is imported. Very little petroleum is consumed at power stations. Only 2 percent of our electricity generation is fueled by oil. Therefore, global petroleum markets have little or no impact on electricity production, right In other countries, both natural gas and petroleum are used for power generation, and they compete fiercely in industries such as chemicals and petrochemicals. Thus, there tends to be price correlation between the two energy sources...

Now What about the Wastes

Positive momentum aside, all is not Terra Firma for the nuclear power business. Accidents still occur at nuclear plants, although none have been as serious as TMI or Chernobyl. Occasionally, there are even embarrassing discoveries, such as when it was discovered that the top of a reactor vessel in Ohio had almost completely corroded through. This event led the industry to spend a great deal of money on a crash basis to replace the reactor pressure vessel heads at many plants as a preventive...

Let the Entrepreneurs in

When it comes right down to it, the real forcing function will be entrepreneurial energy services firms who will get in between the utility and its customers. The increasing cost of electricity service, and, more importantly, the business cost of unreliable service, will widen the gap between utilities and ratepayers. These so-called energy management or demand side management firms will make the investment in the smart meters, and the energy efficient lighting, appliances, heaters, air...

Brother Can You Spare an Engineer

The issue may be, in my opinion, most acute for nuclear plants, but the entire industry is affected. The results of a nationwide survey of the coal power business, published in Power Engineering in Aging Workforce A Challenge to the Industry, in June 2006, show that a large coal plant with 250 employees will lose half its current staff in the next decade. One executive struggles with attracting and retaining electrical engineers who can do transmission planning. One client of mine entered into...

About the Author

Jason Makansi earned a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Columbia University. He worked in power plants at the Tennessee Valley Authority during the summer of his junior year and after graduation and then at a refinery in New Jersey. In 1981, he joined Power magazine, one of the oldest and most successful industry trade publications in the country. There he became a leader and spokesperson for the industry and evaluated most every technology relevant to electricity generation. In...

Banana Republic Utilities

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Indian power sector, something that distinguishes it from most other countries of its size and development, is that electricity theft is endemic and largely tolerated by the authorities. Up to 25 percent of the electricity that is generated is said to be lost through normal transmission and distribution losses, and 15 percent of that is attributed to theft. Talk about a place where there's some low-hanging fruit in terms of minimizing the need for new...

Gaps from Tectonic Movement

We've already talked about how the competition and deregulation programs of the 1990s, rightfully called tectonic movement in this business, pulled apart the production and delivery value chain. A corresponding movement called distributed energy (or power) gained strength as well. While in principle, a distributed power (DP) system (see Figure 17.1) borrows directly from Edison's vision, the advocacy was being fed from several different directions. First, the big versus small crowd saw...

Farther out on the Network

Consumers can be fickle and often irrational. Businesses, however, have a bottom-line reason for conserving energy. It reduces costs. When entire office buildings begin to apply an intelligent grid concept, real savings accrue. One way the intelligent network manifests itself for a building or a factory is by managing the interface between its electrical network and the electricity supplier's network. The onsite network can then be powered by a distributed generation device, as described...

The Geeks Try to Communicate

The notion of retail competition in electricity began to get real attention in the late 1980s. Before that, economists talked among each other about how regulated industries could be made competitive to the betterment of all customers. Some utility economists listened very carefully and began to bring the concepts to utility managements, but more importantly, to the federal and state governments. The phrase that took hold was retail wheeling, which refers to moving power from one area where...

Economic Boots on the Ground

Instead of sending troops and armaments to developing countries, large U.S., U.K., and European electricity companies and suppliers sent teams of engineers, executives, and managers, and financial specialists to negotiate and develop projects as portions of the electricity value chain privatized usually the electricity generation portion first . These folks were preceded by waves of consultants, economic development and financial engineering specialists e.g., the World Bank, the International...

Changes Everything

The seeds of the second inflection point had long been sown, but it was the attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York that sealed the deal. Although there are many instances of globalization still occurring, 9 11 has irreversibly changed the psychology, if not the ideology. Virtually all of the overseas assets of the U.S. natural gas and electricity companies have either been sold off or are up for sale. Except for petroleum companies, U.S. energy companies are, with only a few exceptions,...