Is Smart Grid Answer to GHG?

For two or three years, I, like many others in the industry, have waited for Congress to pass energy legislation, including either cap and trade or carbon taxes. Anticipation of such legislation has been credited with propelling smart grid build out and a law likely would propel it farther. In summer 2009, the Waxman-Markey bill made it through the House of Representatives, but the Senate failed to pass it within one year, which is required for a bill to become law. As I write this editorial, midterm elections are days away and several races are too tight to predict. From an energy legislation standpoint, most experts don’t believe it matters if Democrats retain control of the House or if they lose the majority to Republicans. Either way, the 112th Congress is not likely to pass an energy bill addressing carbon limits. A small bill including energy efficiency and clean technologies incentives is more likely.

For nearly two years, President Obama’s administration and many in Congress have pushed cap and trade, carbon taxes and renewable portfolio standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A Texas public utility commissioner, who asked to remain anonymous, recently told me (along with a small group of utility executives) that if the current administration had been smart, it would have pushed smart grid build out over these other strategies. Smart grid could create jobs and reduce carbon emissions more, he said.

Rather than wait on Congressional direction on how to proceed with long-term growth plans and investments, maybe utilities should consider the Texas commissioner’s recommended strategy. Smart grid is a good investment for utilities and a good way to curb GHG emissions. You and I already understand this; others might not. We must help convince environmental and consumer groups who influence lawmakers and consumers that legislation isn’t the only way to address GHG issues.

Editor in chief TERESA HANSEN

TO THE EDITOR 

Pipe Dreams? – Why Not?

Jonathan Skinner’s “To the Editor” reminded me of Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satire “A Modest Proposal.” Swift’s letter to the English government, protesting the plight of poor Irish women and their children, was an effort to provoke the English government into taking positive action. Mr. Swift proposed letting the poor sell their children as food to feed the world. This would result in fewer unwanted children and would increasse food supply for the expanding population. In addition, the poor would get financial compensation to help them rise out of poverty. Mr. Swift was a satirist. He used his gift of words to highlight a problem.

Perhaps Mr. Skinner is drawing a parallel to illustrate the problems of 2010 in the same way Mr. Swift did in 1729. Mr. Skinner’s proposal of controlling and reducing world population to allow the industry to keep up with global energy demand is similar to Mr. Swift’s proposal, but a little superficial. Mr. Swift thoroughly explained his proposal and its advantages. Mr. Skinner’s proposal seems thin, a little negative and reveals no plans about how to implement his idea. The problems created by Mr. Skinner’s proposal might be worse than the current problems. But, maybe he’s just thinking outside-the-box or trying to provoke a response, as Mr. Swift did in 1729.

Providing energy to an expanding population is a problem and smart grid may be part of the solution. Knowing what people need, as well as when and where they need it, is valuable. POWERGRID International and its related publications draw attention to some problems, both technically and politically. The editorials lean toward the positive. They do not assign blame, but raise questions and state opinions, posturing to solicit readers’ opinions. I like that.

It’s the pipe dreams that make us think; sometimes outside the box. The challenge to provide resources to an expanding world population is daunting, but with enough pipe dreams, I think it will work out. Why not?

J. Edward Gustafson, retired utility worker
Rockford, Ill.

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