Sunday, September 18, 2011

Energy and just getting along

No single energy technology will solve the world’s issues with renewable energy.

That’s a key message of the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo, which was held Sept. 13-15 at the Honolulu Convention Center.

It’s not a new message, certainly, but it’s apparently one a lot of folks still need to learn.

“We need technology-agnostic approaches...There is no one-size-fits-all,” said Chris Myers, vice president for international business development and energy markets for Lockheed Martin.

And yet, the rifts were obvious. Wind versus geothermal. Ocean thermal versus solar.

And there were even battles within sectors. This wind generator versus that one. Utility-scale photovoltaic versus distributed rooftop photovoltaic.

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said the state’s initiative to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels requires those divisions be set aside.

“We have the most aggressive public policy in clean energy in the nation,” he said. And then he added: “If we’re going to get to 70 percent clean energy, we need everything and everyone.”

Sempra Generation’s Mitch Dmohowski, whose firm plans large-scale solar, said cost should be one deciding factor.

“At the end of the day, renewables have to make sense from a cost basis,” he said.

Technological capability is another key determinant of what works, said T.J. Glauthier , former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. There may be lots of interesting energy technologies, but the ones that will make a difference are the ones that can be taken to scale, he said.

And ultimately, one message of the sessions was that it’s not just about supply. There’s efficiency. And conservation. Michael Trovato of Johnson Controls said energy retrofits can yield major savings.

Specific programs can help get people to invest, even when they lack the resources to do so independently. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Energy Right program helps people put in heat pumps by guaranteeing bank loans, which can be paid off through the electric bill. Here’s how the city of Aloca, Tennessee, does it.

And a big issue is simply managing energy more appropriately. On this point, a smarter grid is key, said Glauthier. He argued that a smart grid is long overdue: “It is the last major part of our economy to be computerized.”

© Jan TenBruggencate 2011

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