Monday, June 8, 2009

Energy EcoSystem

By 2040, the world will require three times as much energy as today. To mitigate increased demand, we need to stop wasting energy.

Continued  emphasis on improving efficiency of buildings, office equipment, consumer appliances, transportation and industrial processes can leverage existing technology that provides good ROI. (Bottom-left of matrix)

Likewise, improving efficiency of energy production and delivery will also provide more energy per unit of  fuel. (Bottom-right of matrix)

Strategies on the supply side are to accelerate shift to better fuel sources while leveraging legacy fuels during transition. (Top-right of matrix)

1. Legacy sources – Fossil and nuclear.
Currently 85% fossil and 8% nuclear

  • Pollution (fossil)
  • Extraction - Becoming more costly, difficult and environmentally damaging with higher risk of accidents (fossil)
  • Unstable markets –Increasing costs and fluctuating supply due to pollution abatement, extraction, increased demand, inconsistent government policy / support and market manipulation by nation-states with political agendas
  • Limited supply, but sufficient for transition
  • Public opinion – No new coal plants have been approved in US for several years. Nuclear is unpopular
  • Terrorism – Nuclear, but also smart grid is subject to hacking
  • Long-term waste storage and risk of accidents – Nuclear

2. Emerging – Renewable – Hydro, Wind, Solar, Geothermal, Biomass
Currently less than 7%
  • Costs – Increasing efficiency in production and delivery will drive down costs. Increasing costs of legacy sources makes renewable more attractive.
  • Immature markets increase risks to investors, providers, buyers, consumers and taxpayers. Boom and bust cycles are typical with immature markets and not well tolerated by public in energy markets.
  • Scaling – Require improvements in all aspects of value chain – just not production technology. For example, solar installation – homeowner sales cycle is inefficient and lengthy
  • Inconsistent availability of fuel source with solar, wind, hydro (droughts)
  • Pollution with some biomass options – Burning wood, other biomass or garbage
  • Conflicts over resource use – Biomass – land / water for growing food, Trees as carbon sync, hydro and water use

3. R&D – Cold fusion, biological, etc.
Currently in the lab
  • What is right investment strategy for big bets that could be game changing
  • How to ensure US is leader (unlike nuclear and renewable where other countries took the lead)

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