Sign up | Login with →

Comments by James Greenberger Subscribe

On How Smart Grid Keeps You Safe in Winter Storms

Well said, Christine.  The key to smart grid implementation (and to deployment of distributed energy storage) is to sell investment in it to retail consumers as a matter of system reliability.  Most retail consumers do not care about the energy markets or want to micro-manage their own energy use.  But they care a lot about reliability...just ask Jeffrey Butler, former President of CL&P.  Reliability is the story we need to lead with and to drive home continuously to retail consumers.  NAATBatt is currently planning a national PR campaign, targeting areas that have gone through a recent electricity outage, to do just that.

November 28, 2011    View Comment    

On Government Support for Electric Drive Must Continue

Willem:

I agree with your assessment as to the importance of energy efficiency.  But I believe that energy efficiency is a goal that is independent of the goal of investing in new enegy technologies, not an alternative to it.  Your advocacy of mandates for vehicle and building energy efficiency is interesting and begs a question that never gets well discussed: whether it is better to pursue efficiency goals by using mandates (such as CAFE standards) or by price signals (such as a carbon tax).  The latter may be more efficient but the former may be more politically feasible.

As to your suggestion that the government not pick technology winner and losers and assume no risk, I am afraid I cannot agree.  The government has been investing in new technology for decades (e.g., subsidizing air mail when aircraft technology was in its infancy, the Space Program, etc.).  And the reason it invested in those technologies was exactly the same reson as why it is investing in solar energy, wind energy and electric drive today:  because the capital investment is too high and the risk of failure is too great to attract private investment without subsidy.

The failure of Solyndra was unfortunate.  But a better argument can be made that the decision to invest in Solyndra was the continuation of a longstanding government policy of investing in the new high risk technologies that made the United States the most powerful country in the world rather than of a spendthrift culture that culminated in the last three years.

 

November 16, 2011    View Comment    

On Government Support for Electric Drive Must Continue

Willem:

I agree with your assessment as to the importance of energy efficiency.  But I believe that energy efficiency is a goal that is independent of the goal of investing in new enegy technologies, not an alternative to it.  Your advocacy of mandates for vehicle and building energy efficiency is interesting and begs a question that never gets well discussed: whether it is better to pursue efficiency goals by using mandates (such as CAFE standards) or by price signals (such as a carbon tax).  The latter may be more efficient but the former may be more politically feasible.

As to your suggestion that the government not pick technology winner and losers and assume no risk, I am afraid I cannot agree.  The government has been investing in new technology for decades (e.g., subsidizing air mail when aircraft technology was in its infancy, the Space Program, etc.).  And the reason it invested in those technologies was exactly the same reson as why it is investing in solar energy, wind energy and electric drive today:  because the capital investment is too high and the risk of failure is too great to attract private investment without subsidy.

The failure of Solyndra was unfortunate.  But a better argument can be made that the decision to invest in Solyndra was the continuation of a longstanding government policy of investing in the new high risk technologies that made the United States the most powerful country in the world rather than of a spendthrift culture that culminated in the last three years.

 

November 16, 2011    View Comment    

On The Curious Disconnect Between Smart Grid and Energy Storage

Willem:

We are not that far apart.  Nevertheless, I think you underestimate both the cost and the efficacy of time of day charging schemes.  Since the average U.S. residential electricity rate is only about $.12/kWh, you will have to impose a significant price penalty on consumers in order to influence their behavior.  Good luck getting that one done in the real world!  Then there is the little matter of paying for the necessary smart meters and related communications systems and for all the lawyers to litigate the privacy lawsuits.

The principal point of my post is that with distributed energy storage you are at least purporting to provide the consumer with immediate benefits that he or she can appreciate, in the form of greater electrical service reliability and backup power.  And although most consumers won't care, you will, with distributed energy storage, also be providing them with a way to use more renewable energy and to more conveniently charge their eventually electric vehicles.  Time of day charging may be (relatively) less expensive, but it can do none of those things.

Upgrading the grid is a complicated undertaking on a number of different levels.  The cheapest option may not be the best or the most practical.

October 24, 2011    View Comment    

On The Curious Disconnect Between Smart Grid and Energy Storage

Willem:  The lowest cost solution, of course, would be to turn the grid off for 4-8 hours a day, much as they do in parts of India and the developing world.  While this would clearly reduce electricity consumption and expense, no one (that I know of) suggests this as an optimal approach to grid efficiency.  Telling consumers when they should and should not use electricity by way of price signals is in some respects simply a kinder and gentler way of conducting planned outages.  Your point about automatic reductions in energy usage by consumers is well-taken.  That is why I believe that demand response is and will properly be an important part of the smart grid of the future.  Our ultimate goal, however, should be to let consumers use electricity when they want to use it, rather than to be held hostage to the early Twentieth Century design of the grid that creates the peaks and valleys that so stress grid infrastructure.  Cost is an important consideration and will keep us from attaining this goal soon.  But I believe that we should be moving towards it.

 

 

October 24, 2011    View Comment    

On Community Energy Storage Leads the Way to Electricity Storage on the Grid

Point well-taken, Willem.  But you have to play the hand you are dealt.

October 4, 2011    View Comment    

On Community Energy Storage Leads the Way to Electricity Storage on the Grid

Great comments, Nathan.   With respect to ordinary residential electrictiy consumers (actually all electricity consumers), there is always a trade off between power reliability and cost.  Utilities could spend less on capital investment and maintenance, reliability would go down, but so would costs.  And that would be just fine for some consumers.  The opposite is true for other consumers.

My point is that there is nothing scientific about the equalibrium that has been reached in most service territories between cost and reliability.  If consumers start demanding that the equalibrium change in favor of reliability, community energy storage would be on the short list of tools that utilities could deploy, at a cost, to address that demand.

It remains to be seen whether residential electricity consumers will demand a change in the current cost-reliability equalibrium.  But, notwithstanding the corrosive impact of the current economic climate on consumer expectations, there is a general feeling in society that technology should be getting better over time.  This could well translate into public pressure for greater reliability of electricity distributions systems.  If it does, electricity storage, and in particular community energy storage, could be a big winner.

October 4, 2011    View Comment    

On Community Energy Storage Leads the Way to Electricity Storage on the Grid

Comparing storage (and peak generation) technologies on a per kilowatt basis assumes, erroneously, that all electrons are created equal and have the same value.  They do not.  Where an electron is located on the grid, in space and time, is a significant determinant of its value.  My point about CES systems is that they put electrons at the point of the grid where electrons are the most valuable.  Therefore, even if CES systems cost more on a per kilowatt basis than, say CAES systems, they may be a better investment.

October 3, 2011    View Comment    

On Community Energy Storage Leads the Way to Electricity Storage on the Grid

I think we are all falling victim to acronyms.  CES is neither CAES nor CPS.  CES, or community energy storage, is the practice of storing electricity on the distribution portion of the grid out as close to the customer as possible.  The specifications for CES systems are described on the AEP web site at: www.aeptechcentral.com/CES/cesfunctionspec.htm  

 

 

October 3, 2011    View Comment    

On Duke Energy and the Outlook for Energy Storage

Thanks, Willem.  FYI, Guenter Conzelmann at Argonne National Laboratory is currently conducting a study about the impact of wind energy on CO2 emissions, which I suspect will be pretty comprehensive.  I am not sure when it will be published, but my guess is that it will be fairly soon.  I served on a panel with Guenter in July and, although the study was still in process, he seemed to indicate that though the issue of peaker plant cycling is real, his sense was that the ultimate impact was likely to be small and that wind energy was going to come out looking pretty good from a CO2 emissions perspective.  -Jim

September 18, 2011    View Comment    

On Duke Energy and the Outlook for Energy Storage

Willem:

My organization, NAATBatt, focuses on energy storage technologies that have application both in electric vehicles and grid-connected energy storage.  As a consequence, the storage technology we talk about at our conferences and meetings tends to be systems that will be installed in electricity distribution systems, rather than bulk storage systems that might be operated by or in connection with a generator or used to support transmission systems.

Distributed energy storage (DES) systems will be located in buildings or communities, close to the customer, in or adjacent to substations, or on the customer side of the meter.  While third party ownership and financing of DES systems is possible, non-customer owned DES systems will probably be owned by utilities as regulated assets.  Accordingly, deploying DES systems will require utilities to be able to make the case to their PUC's that expenditures on DES systems are "just and reasonable".

Today that is a difficult case to make.  As one senior utility executive observed, it is cheaper to generate an electron than to store one.   Recent white papers by EPRI, SCE and Sandia (all of which you can read on our Web site) purport to calculate the current cost of storage relative to peak generation.  Until that equation changes, DES systems will be an interesting technology relegated to government-funded demonstration projects.

There are two ways to change the equation.  The first is by improving the technology of DES systems in order to lower their cost.  Zinc-air, sodium-ion, advanced lead acid and secondary use of EV batteries all offer the prospect of reducing significantly DES system cost.  But they need further work.

The second way to alter the equation is to recognize (and better to design DES systems so that PUC's will recognize) that an electron generated by a DES system may be more valuable than an electron generated by a gas peaker plant or other spinning generation reserve asset.  The reasons why this is the case are numerous and beyond the scope of this response.

As to why David Mohler thinks that, in essence, it will be cheaper to store an electron rather than to generate an electron by 2015, as I said in my post, I am a little unclear.  But my assumption is that David thinks we will be make sufficient progress on both solutions to the aforementioned storage vs. generation equation by 2015 for this to be the case.

Jim

 

 

September 17, 2011    View Comment    

On Inspiring Confidence in Advanced Battery Technology

As Robert Oppenheimer famously observed, scientific breakthroughs do not occur because we want them to occur; they occur because the science lets them occur.  But Oppenheimer was only half right.  Breakthroughs occur when science and human ingenuity intersect.  They cannot occur in the absence of either factor.  The point of my post was that we have fully deployed the human ingenuity factor to the problem of advanced battery science.  Whether the fundamental science is ultimately there is unknown and probably unknowable.  The Manhattan Project faced the same issue.

June 14, 2011    View Comment