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    A New Approach to Electric Power
    Posted on Monday, March 26, 2007 @ 21:40:52 MST by vlad

    General March 26, 2007
    Martin Rosenberg, Editor-in-Chief
    EnergyBiz Magazine

    A large group of utility industry executives quietly convened in Kansas City, Mo., on a snowy day in January to sign on to an unprecedented shift in business strategy and corporate culture, entirely rethinking how they keep the lights on in homes and offices across America. The twin goals they hope to reach are a dramatic boost in energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

    It will require a profound shift in an industry that for a century has understood its mission to be encouraging the ever-increasing use of electric power.

    At long last, Thomas Edison is ready to be introduced to Bill Gates.

    Call it a remarkable convergence of political, technological and business trends.

    Al Gore's zealous campaign against global warming and the recent sea change in Democratic power in Congress provide the backdrop.

    The power of the microchip and huge leaps in communications capabilities in recent decades make it possible to take an array of dumb, energy-voracious appliances and machines and forge a coordinated, efficient network that takes a minimal flow of electrons to make our lives productive and pleasant.

    Tens of billions are about to be invested to replace aging power infrastructure and deal with an anticipated surge in power demand. Decisions made today will affect consumers for generations. So the moment is right for utilities to rethink a century-old paternalistic approach to their business and forge a smarter, collaborative relationship with their customers.

    Mindful of the significance of the choices before them, upwards of 50 senior managers and CEOs of investor-owned utilities, rural electric co-ops and public power agencies gathered in response to an invitation from Michael Chesser, chairman and CEO of the local utility, Great Plains Energy. The attendees serve about 60 percent of America.

    Chesser, respected throughout the industry as a soft-spoken visionary, was appointed chairman of new energy technology committees at the Electric Power Research Institute, the research arm of utilities, and the Edison Electric Institute, the political voice of investor-owned utilities.

    For the past year, EPRI has held five regional meetings with utilities to scope out what needs to get done short-term and long-term. The blueprints for a complex, industry wide self-transformation have been drafted. The utilities plan a major communications campaign with their customers and policy makers in the months ahead.

    While revolutionary, the program is not wild-eyed radical. Utilities, genetically risk-averse, are convinced that any investment in new technology made today will not look ridiculously silly to stockholders and regulators a year or two from now. What do they have in mind?

    More: http://www.energycentral.com/centers/energybiz/ebi_detail.cfm?id=299



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    "A New Approach to Electric Power" | Login/Create an Account | 3 comments | Search Discussion
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    Japan's energy wisdom (Score: 1)
    by vlad on Monday, March 26, 2007 @ 21:51:47 MST
    (User Info | Send a Message) http://www.zpenergy.com
    by Renée Loth The Boston Globe /Published: March 26, 2007


    An island nation with no domestic oil supply, Japan offers a glimpse into the world's energy future, when oil reserves decline to unsustainable levels and alternatives are the only alternative.

    Nearly 10 years after the Kyoto global- warming summit meeting, the country still claims a leadership role in reducing carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, Japan's energy consumption as a percentage of gross domestic product is the lowest in the world.

    The national expression of concern for the earth dovetails nicely with the traditional Japanese reverence for nature (Shintoism sees gods in every mountain, rock, and tree), but in fact Japan has no choice: The country imports almost all its oil and 60 percent of its food. It is self-sufficient only in rice.

    However, Japan has managed to drive down energy use dramatically without sacrificing the comforts of an affluent society. The per capita consumption of energy in Japan is nearly half that in the United States, but the per capita incomes are roughly the same. So prosperity alone doesn't explain why the United States burns so much more oil.

    Japan's economy is still the second largest in the world. Its office towers and shopping malls teem with innovation and commerce. Its prowess in innovation and design keeps the Japanese well-stocked in consumer gadgets: cellphones with GPS maps, high-tech toys, the peculiarly appealing new electric toilet.

    How do they do it? Partly, the Japanese have invented their way out of energy abuse. Hybrid cars from Toyota and Honda are just the most obvious examples. Four of the world's five largest producers of solar panels are Japanese, with Sanyo commanding 24 percent of the market. The government's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is busy testing thin, flexible solar panels that, among many other uses, can be carried along to recharge a cellphone on the go.

    "This is a problem of moral dimensions," said Japan's minister of environment, Masatoshi Wakabayashi. With a green feather in his lapel and a copy of Al Gore's book on his desk, Wakabayashi is a bureaucrat with a cause. "I think we are receiving the message that our mother earth is in crisis," he said. "We have a common consciousness of this fact."

    Indeed, Japan's famous insularity and conformity, burdens in other settings, work to its advantage here. On a recent tour sponsored by the Japan Foreign Press Center, I saw a society that has fully internalized the wisdom of restricting energy imports. Businessmen diligently separate their lunch box trash for recycling. Residential recycling is even more intense, with at least 10 sorting categories, including small metal items, bulky refuse, used cloth and chopsticks. Neighbors frown if the wrong items are in the bins.

    Houses, cars, and appliances here are all much smaller than in the United States, but better designed. Even delivery trucks are hardly bigger than the average suburban Hummer. There is a growing movement called "watashi no hashi" ("my chopsticks") that urges people to carry their own into restaurants so as to cut down on the waste of the disposable kind.

    The transportation sector is responsible for 20 percent of Japan's C0² emissions (which overall are the fifth largest in the world). But gasoline is taxed so that a gallon costs roughly $4.50, and the fast, clean, and relatively inexpensive subways (the basic fare is about $1.50) arrive with military precision.

    Long-distance travel by the Shinkansen bullet train, though expensive, is almost space age in its efficiency, and easily competes with air travel, especially for business. At the stations, transit workers greet each train like sentries, holding huge bags for the (sorted!) trash.

    Government campaigns to urge energy conservation are myriad. There are tax deductions for consumers who buy "green tech" appliances and cars; a "top runner" designation for environmentally friendly companies; a "warm biz" and "cool biz" campaign that sanctioned the removal of suit jackets by Japan's decorous businessmen in order to keep air-conditioned offices no cooler than 68 degrees; and a "minus 6 percent team" for citizens to join to help Japan meet its Kyoto goal of a 6 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gases, on the way toward 20 percent below 1990 levels.

    Wakabayashi says that 1.8 million Japanese citizens have pledged to take six steps to achieve the goal, such as turning off the lights.

    It doesn't hurt that Japan is in a race for pride of place with the European Union. Earlier this month, the EU committed itself to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020, with the added challenge that it would achieve 30 percent if the United States agreed to join. But Takayuki Uedo, manager of the New and Renewable Energy Division of Japan's natural resources agency, is scornful of the EU's effort. "We are 20 years ahead of the EU countries," he said, pointing to a program to help homeowners purchase domestic hydrogen fuel cells.

    Can the common consciousness of energy conservation in Japan - a country where commuters form a silent queue on subway platforms and no one jaywalks - ever be translated to the United States? Let's hope so. Sooner or later, we are all Japan.

    Renée Loth is the editorial page editor of The Boston Globe, where this column first appeared.

    Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/26/opinion/edloth.php [www.iht.com]

    Re: A New Approach to Electric Power (Score: 1)
    by Veryskeptical on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 @ 05:00:18 MST
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    The most important benefit of most new energy devices is the possibility of escaping from the power grid. Or at worst if the grid is maintained then abundant power will obviate the need for the proposed restrictions and adjustments mentioned in the article. Perhaps the author of the one comment currently present would enjoy the conservation he mentions but I wonder how many really would. The parsimonious appliances sound clever but living according to the production dictates of the power company seems to me to be just another tyrrany in an increasingly constrained world.

    If free energy has any promise it is the opening of a new and energy abundant age and an escape from the kind of thinking about energy which has been increasingly insistent and demanding over the last several decades. While there may indeed be some sensible use for the technologies being promoted to manage an energy restricted world in an energy abundant one it is likely they would be of secondary importance though, perhaps, still useful. However, it would be better to keep one's eye on the prize. Such concerns as these suggest too much negative thinking for a new energy site.

    Many of the devices discussed here have the promise of opening up the solar system to settlement and the possiblility of moving millions of tons of material among the worlds. In such a solar system the concerns of the present era could seem strange and bizarre indeed. It would be far better to think in terms of bringing such a world into existence than in worrying about the current funk the world has fallen into over energy.

    Make no mistake. If the devices mentioned on this site find wide acceptance the political and social world we currently live in should vanish like ice spilled from a cup on a hot summer's day. The current sense of restriction and limitation should pass away. And I for one will welcome its passing.

    I notice in passing that there is new poll on the desirability of a new organization to promote free energy. With this I heartily concur. The greatest problem with free energy to date is the lack of a political arm to force the the issue in public forums. Let us hope that such organization will come soon. Then the concerns of this article may be blown away.


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