Why Energy Experts like Douglas Healy Encourage a More Measured Approach to Energy
Energy policy is complicated, and it’s a subject that never truly achieves consensus. Every business and person on the planet relies on some form of electrical energy, or they have a very rough time surviving.
The current push from policymakers is to change the electrical production grid to one that’s primarily using renewable or sustainable energy sources. That’s a massive task. The network that connects the power plants will undergo a continuous transformation, and consumers will feel the impact all over the world.
Coal and Nuclear Power Plants Are Disappearing
Coal and nuclear generated energy have fallen out of favor, and they won’t find their way back any time soon. Policymakers who churn out energy laws are demanding less polluting and dangerous sources for electrical generation and the industry that supplies the power is going along with the plans. Naturally, some of the industry executives and pundits aren’t happy with the speed of change, and they have a few valid points worth discussing.
Very few experts doubt the need for modernizing and upgrading the country’s energy grid. It’s getting older every day and has been in constant use for decades. Even the technology that produces hydroelectric energy is antiquated. Most of the pumped storage facilities in the U.S. came online after construction in the 1970s.
Change Is Speeding Up
Coal remains in a terminal decline as decommissioning continues in earnest. The culprit is the continuing advancement of natural gas and renewables. Even more intriguing is that since 2015, the decommissioned coal plants were much newer and produced a lot more electricity than those built in the past. That indicates the move towards new energy is happening at a quickening pace.
Not surprisingly, decommissioning nuclear plants is a longer, more complicated process. That process, too, is in full swing, and the writing is on the wall for this form of electricity generation. The old ways of delivering power to homes and businesses are giving way to a new grid that relies much more heavily on wind turbines, solar energy, and natural-gas-fired power plants.
Experts worry, and the data seems to support the idea that the new grid is more prone to outages than the one it’s replacing.
The old grid goes back to the earliest days of electricity and is itself prone to catastrophic failure. The new network will inherit some of its problems and may not bring a solution quickly. Energy experts like Douglas Healy are taking note of this paradox and openly wondering why these issues are not gaining attention. Surely consumers and businesses are not looking forward to a future filled with brownouts and outages.
Natural gas and renewables will continue to dominate the replacement landscape. Renewables are very popular and will likely become the primary form of energy, especially as the ability to store excess energy advances. Therein lies a whole new rub and another reason experts are concerned about the fast change to renewables.
Producing an excess of renewable energy has a profound impact on the market, even to the point where it could cause massive disruptions. California has paid other states to take their excess power.
When that happens, it causes fluctuations in pricing and availability. If the excess capacity builds up too high, it could have a depressing effect on production. That’s a new area of concern that’s taking place. How happy giving away electricity makes the average California electricity customer is unknown. After all, they pay a bill that’s 50% higher than other states on average.
Storing Excess Energy Is a Growing Industry
California shows what happens when a state keeps building natural gas plants to go with renewable ones. Over time, prices rise, and an energy glut ensues, which could impact investment. Environmentalists want the push to solar and wind to move even quicker, but electric utilities are building natural gas plants to ensure redundancy. If the spike in renewables continues, even the gas plants may soon see their end.
In a brave new world, improved batteries hold a unique place for the storage of excess energy. Investors are now pouring money into energy storage startups, and it’s easy to see why they’re interested.
Storage of excess capacity opens a vast new energy aftermarket. Not only that, it’s possible that governments, businesses, and residents will opt to pay for storage. The game changes with these new pieces in play and many people from these emerging industries are unsure of what will happen next.
The renewable energy market may end up looking very different than what it does today. Power producers may deliver more energy to customers using new technology. There’s no guarantee that the old hub and spoke system will remain in effect, especially after 2050. No one knows for sure, but everyone is aware that the changes are fast-paced and far-reaching. Storing the fruits of intermittent energy production opens up vast new areas of research and business.
When energy can be delivered over long distances quickly, customers may end up achieving energy independence with a host of vendors. Now, however, they are still subject to the traditional methods of distribution. Even with the grid changing, how most people consume power is remaining relatively stable.