All posts by Nick Sorrentino

Nick Sorrentino is the editor and handles day to day operations. A writer and political consultant, he lives just outside of Washington DC.

Mobil is transforming rural India, providing opportunities for hundreds of millions

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6 Years ago I worked with an organization called Openworld and we were concerned with helping people in places like rural Africa and Asia gain access to relatively inexpensive mobile tech tools which help actualize human potential.

Now it is possible to access almost all human knowledge with a few taps on an iPod. Entire curricula can be accessed by isolated schools in the bush. People with the general aptitude can lean advanced mathematics in places where there is no running water. Schematics for motorcycles can be downloaded, same for water pumps. We are just seeing the beginning of this thing.

Mobile tech is as important as the printing press was when it emerged for a large part of the human family. It may be even more important.

Click here for the article.

Chris Christie sells out to the car dealers and hurts consumers, blocks Tesla’s direct sales model

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Why in the world can’t I go to Toyota.com, pick out a new car, customize it, do the financing if need be, and then have it delivered to me in a couple of days? It would save me time, money, and hassle.

The answer: Car dealerships.

They don’t want you or me buying directly from the company even though the cost to me and you would likely be considerably lower. Dealerships make their money on the markup and they are not interested in just closing up shop even if their entire business model is completely outdated. So the dealers have gone to the state governments in an effort to ban direct sales. Sadly for us they have been successful in some places.

Take for instance the regulations New Jersey just approved.

(From The Wall Street Journal)

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved a rule change Tuesday that would require auto retailers to have a franchise agreement with an auto manufacturer to be granted a license to sell cars in the state.

Tesla owns its stores, selling directly to consumers, something that dealer groups in New Jersey and other states have fought, primarily through legislation.

A Tesla executive said the move amounts to a “death penalty” to its auto retail outlets in New Jersey and could encourage regulators in other states to follow suit.

The rule, which deals with the licensing of auto dealers, would require that a person have a franchise agreement with an auto manufacturer to be granted a license.

Tesla’s vice president of business development, Diarmuid O’Connell, said during a conference call Tuesday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration “abrogated” an agreement to hold off action on the proposal by the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission.

Click here for the article.

How taxi cartels resort to desperate measures to kill innovation and save their crumbling industry.

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Despite this latest effort by taxi companies to exploit a tragic accident caused by an Uber driver, the people (aka the market) have spoken.
Continue reading How taxi cartels resort to desperate measures to kill innovation and save their crumbling industry.

Big Tech moves to counter the NSA on the lobbying front

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The fight for policy is often fought along K Street not in the Capitol or in the White House. In Gucci Gulch the future of industries is worked out. Who gets government largess, who does not. Who gets what contract, who does not. Who gets surveilled and…

Continue reading Big Tech moves to counter the NSA on the lobbying front

The Digital Revolution: How Will It Impact Democracy, Prosperity, and Power?

By Bill Shireman

A revolution is sweeping the world, transforming nations, corporations, cultures, and markets, and creating new opportunities as well as new risks for individuals.

The agent of this revolution is a new family of technologies – broadband, the Internet, microchips, and software – technologies that for the first time draw the world together into a single, coextensive whole.

This revolution, like all revolutions, holds both promise and peril.

The Promise

On the positive side, it undermines repression in all its forms – from abusive corporate factories in China to repressive governments across the Middle East – and unleashes powerful forces for democracy.

It empowers individuals – from the once-poor peasants of China and India who are joining the middle class in the tens or hundreds of millions per year, to the brave women and men who advanced the Arab Spring and its fruits, some ripe and some not so.

It decouples prosperity from consumerism – enabling billions to achieve economic abundance, potentially using a fraction of the resources we consume today in the west.

It enables sustainability – holding the promise to move beyond today’s fossil fuel dependent economy, and the increasing economic, military, and environmental costs.

But we all know these ideals do not flow automatically from this emergent revolution. Whether the digital planet approaches these ideals, or advances their opposite, depends on people and institutions – and how we, individually and in our communities, choose to use these technologies.

The Challenges

That is because the digital planet also imposes huge new challenges:

It unleashes democracy – but offers no guarantees that every mob will be a smart mob, a wise mob, or a virtuous mob.

It undermines repressive institutions – but also challenges every nation, culture, and business to be more adaptive than ever.

It links every person on the planet – but virtually eliminates personal privacy, and challenges us to self-correct our tribal instincts, and to respect one another’s differences, even those we do not understand.
It empowers the individual – but extends this power also to the renegade hacker, the online criminal, and the suicide bomber.

It enables sustainable low-carbon prosperity – but also entices billions of us to consume the old-fashioned way, exploiting the planet’s natural systems beyond measure.

Changing the Nation and the Corporation

From Washington to Beijing, Damascus to Cairo, the central powers of the industrial world, weary giants both public and private, are gradually ceding their power to the individual, and the self-arising group.

There is no longer a fixed locus of power in the world, no center from which to govern.

Yesterday saw the disintegration of the empires of eastern Europe. Today sees the continued change of central governments in the Middle East. Tomorrow the west too will be transformed. The path of change, and the ease of transition, will depend on how adaptive we are to the currents swelling beneath us.

Corporations too will be transformed. Today 51 of the 100 largest economic entities on the planet are not nations at all, but corporations. Some worry (or hope) that we are entering an era when corporate power outstrips that of government. Yet big government and big corporations tend to be twins, both parented by industrial-era imperatives. The erosion of central government power may well lessen corporate power as well, and open up whole new opportunities for people to organize individually and in self-chosen communities.

In fact, rather than fixed nations and corporations with clear borders, the world may begin to see fuzzy institutions that emerge to serve particular needs, and morph into other forms or disappear altogether. The new social contract may be more emergent and implicit, and less formal and explicit. Governance may arise according to the conditions facing small or dispersed groups, locally or across the world.

Scarcity and Abundance

Scarcity – the physical reality that industrial society both relieved and perpetuated – is largely undermined in a digital world. The chief catalyst for growth is no longer physical – not pig iron, not coal, not oil. Today it is knowledge and the carriers of knowledge, including broadband.

“We still model the broadband spectrum as if it is like real estate. That is the wrong metaphor. Broadband is more like the aurora borealis – infinitely expandable,” says technology futurist John Perry Barlow. “When we relied on crystal transmitters and receivers, it looked limited, like real estate. But now, we can hop into and out of spectra at lightning speed, and open up vast stretches of white space, where people can create.”

Companies that understand this future, like AT&T, are betting on this abundance model of broadband, figuring that by opening up more and more virtual territory to more people, they will reap more business opportunities there, says Barlow. Others, like Verizon and much of the telecommunications sector, are clinging to the scarcity model, believing their lawyers or the government can control access to their assets and others, he says.

Definitions of property may change in the process. Property rights are fundamental to capitalism. But what happens to capitalism – and socialism – when the most valuable resources are super-abundant and extremely hard to own and control? The economic ideologies of the industrial age are in for a revision.

Transparency and Privacy

One newly-scarce resource will be privacy. The populist ideal is to enjoy personal privacy and institutional transparency – to own and control information about ourselves, yet know everything about the companies and governments that impact us.

Neither of those ideals is likely in the digital age, but the second will be approached more than the first.
As technology makes all things transparent, privacy may become less expected, and individuality more accepted.

Transparency will help to hold in check individual abuses of power. Simple and harmless differences between people, at first fascinating novelties masquerading as shocking revelations, may gradually be accepted as trivial idiosyncrasies.

Personal privacy will be hard to hold on to. “Not on my watch” is every politician’s brave-faced rationale for penetrating more deeply into the private lives of everyday citizens, to stop the one bad-guy-with-a-bomb that always seems about to leave a suitcase in the middle of Grand Central Station, or anywhere.

Privacy laws used to be enforced by government, a fox-in-henhouse problem that is today undeniable. Tomorrow, privacy, if possible at all, will more likely be a result of flooding the Internet with information and disinformation, rather than ridding it of embarrassing truths.

But institutional privacy may also be a relic of the past. Names like Snowden and Assange generate widely disparate opinions on both the left and right, and even within the intelligence community, where debaters quietly argue about whether leaks are examples of virtue or vice.

Either way, their actions won’t be the last cases where sensitive information is released en masse to the public, without much thought to the consequences. Institutions may well have to find more contemporary ways to collaborate and compete – intellectual property may be owned, but it won’t likely be controlled.

Ethics Inside?

In the new ecosystem of power, ethics may be increasingly chosen, not imposed. The individual, as the new hegemon, may be in a position to choose whether to act only in the interest of the self, or also in the interest of the whole.

That makes personal ethics increasingly important, though not necessarily more abundant – at least until the consequences of its lack are widely felt.

Self-consciousness of one’s power, and personal responsibility for how we use our power, will become an increasingly important cultural choice, embraced and enforced, if it is, informally by the individual and the culture.

The rising power of the individual calls for rising humility as well.

The consent to govern, once fixed and formalized, is increasingly emergent and informal. Power now flows, sometimes quickly, from one center to another, and sometimes to none. Governments will no longer rule multi-generationally, but temporarily, always dependent on the daily consent of the governed.

This cyber-revolution will be democracy’s greatest triumph, and its greatest test.

Prosperity, Wealth, and Equality

Prosperity in the new economy may no longer be defined strictly by financial wealth, dictated by control of fossil fuels or physical resources, or held immutably by rigid class. Prosperity is increasingly in the eye of the beholder. It is often immaterial in form, a form of art, knowledge, or agreement, conveyed in transactions, relationships, and thought itself, deployed across the web of our communications.

In a world where prosperity takes multiple forms, income inequalities may become greater, but not necessarily more inequitable. Make no mistake – inequity will be vast. But many will find that they choose to pursue different forms of prosperity, some taking financial form, and some not.

Wealth for a time may be held in more concentrated forms than ever, yet it could become increasingly transitory, especially if unused or abused. Those who hold nominal wealth could find that, in cyber-finance, it can and will vanish quickly.

How Digital Tech is Driving the Energy Productivity Explosion

By Bill Shireman

There are two ways to double the nation’s energy supply.

One way is to dig deeper and broader wells, to extract twice as much of it. The other is to invent smarter products and processes that need half as much of it, doubling the productivity of energy.

The first way is the equivalent of doubling our bank withdrawals – it reduces our wealth. The second is like doubling the buying power of our savings – it increases our wealth.

As advanced information and communications technology becomes embedded in products and processes, it is already enabling leapfrog gains in productivity.

And, as advanced information and communications technology becomes embedded in the energy production and distribution system, it will enable even greater gains in productivity, including the development of entirely new sources of energy.

Think about what has already happened to energy productivity, in the information and communications technology sector so far.

EnergyProductivityChart

Energy productivity gains for specific activities—some 1000 per cent or more—led to overall gains in economic productivity. But more interesting than the quantitative gains are the qualitative impacts they had. Each major innovation created powerful new tools that could be used by people and institutions.

As this “energy productivity explosion” continues, the net effect may be another economic transformation as great as the transition from the agricultural age to the industrial age and as great as the already dramatic transition from the industrial age to the early information age.

The real potential lies in the shift from an industrial economy refined by information, as exemplified by virtual storefronts like Amazon, toward a truly new economy founded on it—a place where industry is simply part of a new system that transcends it, just as agriculture is part of the industrial world today.

“For those of you keeping score, the dotcom era has ended,” says Henry Jenkins, founder and director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. “The age of social networks and mobile media has emerged … We are no longer talking about a digital revolution, which envisioned new media displacing the old. We are now talking about media convergence, where old and new media interact in ever more complex ways. We are no longer talking about interactive media technologies; we are talking about participatory culture.”1

And a participatory economy. That economy is being created in real time, by individuals—Tea Partiers and Netroots, gamers and bloggers, Indian villagers and high school hackers, consumers and employees, government leaders and corporate executives. We are all agents in a participatory economy. As Jenkins says, “we are discovering new ways to pool our knowledge and work collaboratively to solve puzzles and master complex tasks. What we are learning as consumers has the potential to change how we think as citizens. And these new social skills and cultural competencies have implications as well for the future of education.”1

In his prescient 1998 essay, Entering the Infosphere, Michael Vlahos, Professor of Strategy at the United States Naval War College, foresaw “the fusion of all the world’s communications networks, databases and sources of information into a vast, intertwined and heterogeneous tapestry of electronic interchange.” People will join it, he predicted, because, while it feels artificial and foreign at first, “it offers tremendous advantages. It gives people the ability to meet and access information anywhere, all the time. And people can meet in groups, share information and make agreements, just like they do in situ. The difference is that they are not site-bound. Eventually, as the environment becomes more familiar, it will become less alien.” Once drawn in, people become part of something new—a whole new social ecosystem.2

Vlahos’ prophetic 1998 vision is today’s emergent reality. Google gave almost everyone access to the world’s information. Facebook gave everyone access to each other. Breakthroughs in “telepresence” are being driven by companies like Cisco, Skype, AT&T, and Intel. New networks and digital concepts are sprouting daily—new Googles and Facebooks have already been born.

The potential quantitative gains in energy productivity are vast, but even more momentous are the qualitative changes, which could transform our lives.

The resulting economy has the potential for dramatic efficiencies. The energy productivity gains just from reduced travel will be substantial. But efficiency alone will not automatically drive environmental sustainability.

That is in part because efficiency happens inside an economy driven by the embedded subsidies that supported the industrial era and its dominant narrative—a narrative that tended to correlate physical consumption with economic value and personal fulfillment.

In the industrial world, it made sense to drive physical consumption, to overcome poverty. In a world where the fundamental resource—information—is both renewable and regenerative, it will not only be possible but lucrative to satisfy more needs and wants with ever decreasing material and energy inputs.

1 Jenkins, Henry. YouTube to YouNiversity. USC Annenberg Center Speaker Series (2007).

2 Vlahos, Michael. Entering the Infosphere. Journal of International Affairs, Volume 51, Issue 2 (1998).

Microgrids and the Future of Energy

TEN IMPLICATIONS FOR CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY

by Bill Shireman

Today’s energy markets are undergoing a transformation, moving from a top-down monopoly system dominated by large-scale fossil and nuclear power plants sending power one way to passive consumers to a dynamic, bi-directional network increasingly dependent upon distributed resources featuring an increasing diversity of technology, fuels and ownership.

One of the key enabling technology platforms that will be necessary if this new distributed energy future is something called a “microgrid.” When Thomas Edison helped birth today’s electric utility industry, his original vision was a series of microgrids, serving customers from on-site power generation. Over time, however, a “bigger is better” mentality drove the market to monopoly structures capturing economies of scale.

Today, huge declines in the cost of modular technologies such as rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) is challenging the status quo, requiring new forms of innovation in hardware and software – and new business models to allow corporations seeking an edge in the pursuit of sustainability.

What is a microgrid?

Here is, in essence, the federal Department of Energy’s definition: “A microgrid is a group of interconnected customer loads and distributed energy resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity that can connect and disconnect from the grid (known as “islanding”).

The key defining feature is the ability to island itself off from the larger power grid during times of a black-out, but this organizing structure also helps integrate distributed renewables into utility-scale resources.

Ironically enough, the term “microgrid” was originally applied to systems that optimized resources into a network NOT connected to any utility grid. It is this latter business model and opportunity that the United Nations has now identified as the key pathway to providing universal access to energy for the developing world.

What follows are 10 key trends with strong implications for any corporate entity seeking to understand how this new wave of deregulation and innovation will impact their triple bottom line.

1

THE DEVELOPING WORLD IS WHERE THE MICROGRID WILL MAKE THE BIGGEST IMPACT

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the annual cost of achieving universal energy access is approximately $48 billion. Under a base case scenario, IEA estimate the gap between expected costs and available (primarily public sector) funding at $34 billion annually. This majority of this latter figure represents household level lights and cell phone chargers. However, more than 10% of this total represents vendor revenues in the remote microgrid space, if private investment, policy reforms and technology advances can be orchestrated to meet market demand. The microgrid would enable a radically different economic development path for Africa and other developing regions such as India, South America and parts of the Middle East, and create new business opportunities for companies like Unilever, Nestle, and P&G to meet basic consumer needs at the “bottom of the pyramid” (the world’s poorest billion people. The analogy is the cell phone, as developing world nations skip land lines and leapfrog to the newest technology. A similar argument can be made for microgrids displacing any investments in centralized nuclear or coal plants.

2

MINES, OIL & GAS EXTRACTION SITES ARE IDEAL TARGETS FOR MICROGRID GREENING VENTURES

While the U.N., World Bank and NGO institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation and Clinton Climate Initiative are focused on village electrification via remote microgrids, a parallel effort is being undertaken by the private sector. Many extractive industries also operate off-grid in the developing world. Though historically targets of social and environmental activists, these corporations – among them Chevron and other oil/natural gas companies and gold and metal mines – are investigating incorporation of new technologies to reduce carbon footprints. Declining costs of solar PV, and the rising cost of diesel fuel – the latter the default on-site option for these remote operations – means that these corporations can finally make an attractive value proposition for going green. The challenge is incorporating new software networking technologies to enable an increasing diversity of devices to “talk to each other” and optimize performance. A key business model for this microgrid segment is known as A-B-C: A is for anchor, a large load that banks will finance (a mine or perhaps a cell phone tower); B is for business, the network extends out from the anchor load to surrounding smaller scale enterprises; C is for community, as the network then finally extends out to the general population.

3

INDUSTRIAL GIANTS JUMPING ON MICROGRID BANDWAGON

A long list of large vendors is focused on both the hardware and software solution set for microgrids: General Electric, ABB, Siemens, Alstom Grid, Lockheed Martin, Eaton, Honeywell, Johnson Controls and Boeing, to name a few. These companies see microgrids are a natural evolution of the smart grid, and are currently seeking partnerships with smaller specialists in order to round out their offerings. ABB, for example, has purchased companies such as Powercorp of Australia, the world’s leading purveyor of diesel/wind remote microgrids, and Ventyx, an enterprise software company whose technology could operate fleets of microgrids from a single command center. There may never be a Microsoft or Intel of the microgrid world, but the fact that these powerful corporations are seeking to round out their microgrid offerings today speaks to the legs this market has in the coming decade. Key future challenges include open versus closed technology architectures. Ironically enough, it is the U.S. military that is pushing the hardest on this technology frontier, providing these large multi-nationals an opportunity to test out their offerings at three different scales.

4

ELECTRIC UTILITIES MUST REINVENT THEMSELVES

While the entire electricity utility grid was designed to preclude microgrids, with standard engineering protocols disallowing the ability to “island,” growing numbers of utilities are now recognizing microgrids can also help them do their job better – especially as levels of customer-owned distributed generation increase over time. How? Microgrids help aggregate and optimize various forms of distributed energy resources (DER) so they become more visible and manageable for utilities. As the impacts of climate change, and resulting extreme weather, accelerate, microgrids also offer utilities a platform to increase energy security for vital emergency response facilities (police stations, hospitals, military operations, etc.). Among the handful of utilities that are moving forward with microgrid experiments are San Diego Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, American Electric Power, Duke Energy and B.C. Hydro.

5

PUBLIC VERSUS PRIVATE: WHICH UTILITIES ARE MOVING FIRST?

Though the environmental performance of different forms of electric utility structures varies immensely, it may come as a surprise that it is government-owned utilities that are leading in terms of current installed capacity with microgrid technologies when compared to their investor-owned counterparts. This is especially the case for utilities that serve indigenous peoples in regions of the world such as Canada, Alaska, South Africa and Australia. In these cases, off-grid systems are the only option, and these systems have to be remarkably robust to provide 24/7 power. While historically dominated by fossil fuels, these systems first turned to wind power, and are now increasingly incorporating solar PV into their distributed generation portfolios. Investor-owned utilities, which typically lead on energy technology innovation, have been plagued by safety and customer departing load concerns surrounding microgrids. Since they typically face a 3-year rate case regulatory model governed by state regulations, they cannot move as fast as their smaller, government-owned counterparts. They are still seeking a profit-making business model that can be justified during highly complex regulatory proceedings that may need to be revised with performance-based incentives rather than top-down regulatory edicts.

6

DEMAND RESPONSE AND OTHER WAYS TO DO MORE WITH LESS

Microgrids can also serve as vehicles to reduce the need for polluting fossil fuel plants. The concept of demand response – real-time adjustment in electric loads to help spread out scarce electricity supplies during times of peak demand – is now a burgeoning market on the East Coast of the U.S. Rather than running expensive and polluting power plants just a few days (or even hours) per year, it is far more cost effective (and sustainable) to instead shrink consumption at the precise moments when power costs are at their highest. Increasingly, regulators are providing incentives for demand response. The largest market today is the U.S. due to the sheer amount of energy waste in the system, but Europe and even countries such as India are viewing this new approach to energy service delivery as a promising way to deal with wide swings in renewable energy supply. Instead of having to burn fossil fuels when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, consumption can be throttled back to fill gaps with new smart grid technologies.

7

LINKAGE TO LED LIGHTING AND OTHER FORMS OF SUPER-EFFICIENCY

Along with new technologies enabling timely demand shifting based on market pricing, a distributed energy future also rests on the premise that overall demand for energy shrinks across the board, round-the-clock. This is where the public sector plays a vital role. Government energy efficiency standards for buildings to reduce overall consumption from the grid to “zero” are one approach to prod the private sector to move in the right direction (often referred to as “net zero energy” buildings.) Sometimes special incentives for various energy savings technologies – such as LED lights – can help make these buildings more cost effective in the short-term, enabling longer-term sustainability. Appliance standards, pioneered in California in the 1970s for refrigerators, are now being widely deployed globally and help shrink energy consumption across devices such as computers and other household and commercial devices. A combination of better lights, passive solar energy for natural lighting and heating, on-site power generation and demand response are typically necessary to meet any net zero energy goal. Companies such as Philips are revising their off-grid LED lighting offerings, trying to figure out how large multi-nationals leverage their financing capabilities with local entrepreneurs typically focused on small-scale “pay as you go” business models, whereby customers with limited fiscal resources pay for energy incrementally over an extended period of time.

8

THE VIRTUALIZATION OF OUR POWER SUPPLY

Along with microgrids, another new trend to accommodate this increasing diversity of DER deployed at points of energy consumption and/or production is the idea of “virtual power plants” or VPPS. While still composed of real assets, this term refers to the ability to stitch different kinds of resources , that also include plug-in hybrid vehicles and other forms of energy storage, into platforms that can buy and sell energy services with utilities or upstream to grid system operators. The primary difference between a microgrid and a VPP is that the former is a static set of resources that can disconnect from the larger grid if necessary to ensure reliability. The latter can expand and contract depending upon the needs of the market, but requires a certain level of embedded intelligence within the larger grid, and whose scope can reach out to an entire utility service territory, or the boundaries of an entire state or country. Thanks to the proliferation of DER, interest has grown in smart grid models that build from the bottom up, rather than from the top-down, and those that incorporate customers into solutions in a much more dynamic, bi-directional fashion. The VPP is the epitome of this kind of new thinking in energy markets, but is equally focused on utility and grid performance and the economics of customer energy costs.

9

NET METERING, FEED-IN TARIFFS AND OTHER SUBSIDIES: WHICH WAY FORWARD?

In the U.S., the growth of rooftop solar PV is engendering a backlash among utilities, who worry about cost shifting from those with on-site power to those who still purchase all of their power from the incumbent system. As long as penetration levels of solar PV, small wind and other on-site customer owned generation was small, utilities did not have to worry about the cost or operational impacts of these resources. But as these sources start providing 10, 20 or, in some cases, 100% of customer demand, the existing system no longer works. While net metering is the dominant model used in the U.S. for power supplies operating behind the utility metering infrastructure, the preferred path in Europe has been the feed-in tariff, which provides extremely lucrative incentives for customers to install solar PV, which then sells into the wholesale (instead of retail) market, and is therefore visible to utility operations. Parts of Germany already receive all of their power from solar and wind in Germany, which has led to an effort to scale back incentives, and then instead create a new spot market for these customer-owned assets, where prices instead float depending upon real-time market conditions. Microgrids and VPPs offer a way out of this dilemma, since they can help resolve visibility issues by aggregating small dispersed resources into larger systems. They can also provide customers new value streams based on actual market conditions, such as islanding during times of emergency, providing benefits to both utility grid and customer, simultaneously.

10

DOES A DISTRIBUTED ENERGY FUTURE SPELL DEATH FOR FOSSIL FUELS?

The answer is no. The vast majority of microgrids will include both fossil fueled resources and renewable energy generation, along with energy storage, smart meters, smart switches and other devices. An ideal resource for a grid-connected microgrid is Combined Heat & Power (CHP) plants, which typically burn natural gas. Given today’s record low prices of natural gas, some microgrids, such as at the University of California-San Diego, can save approximately $4 million annually due to on-site combustion of natural gas. The beauty of the microgrid is that it can incorporate such a wide variety of resources into a single system. The goal is usually to reduce reliance upon diesel generation, currently one of the dirtiest and most expensive fuels. The microgrid is a platform that actually allows natural gas to complement, rather than compete with renewable energy. Recent efforts by the fossil fuel industry to dismantle existing renewable energy content laws in U.S. states speaks to a current dynamic that can run counter to long-term sustainability. Microgrids and other forms of aggregation and optimization of diverse DER offers an alternative path forward, one in which resources can be viewed from a systems theory perspective, and not trivialized or analyzed from a narrow silo perspective shaped by the whims of immediate political expediency.

Bitcoin is here baby! And it mystifies many

Relatively early days.
Relatively early days.

I was talking with my wife the other day about how Bitcoin only 3 years ago was an obscure experiment engaged in by cyber-punks and anti-central bank people. It was really an anarchist effort (in the good sense of maximum freedom, not in the bad sense of throwing Molotov cocktails.) Totally on the fringes. It was $3 a Bitcoin back then. Now it’s $758.
Continue reading Bitcoin is here baby! And it mystifies many