$8 Billion Utility CEO Claims Renewable Energy Will Do To Energy What The Cell Phone Did To Telephones.Sunday, March 4th, 2012
From an article at Yale’s environmental blogsite ‘e360′ , NRG CEO David Crane explains what he thinks is on the verge of happening to utilities across the United States.
David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, is not your typical power company executive, as becomes clear when he calls climate change a “slow-moving catastrophe” and “the fundamental issue of our day.” As head of a Fortune 500 company that produces electricity for up to 20 million U.S. households, he is still neck-deep in hydrocarbons, with more than 90 percent of NRG’s electricity production coming from natural gas, coal, and oil. But the future, vows Crane, will look radically different.NRG Energy
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 senior editor Fen Montaigne, Crane said he believes the U.S. electricity-generating market is on the verge of a profound transformation, not unlike the era two decades ago when the antiquated world of land-line telephones and “Ma Bell” companies was about to give way to cell phones and mobile communications. The electricity future, says Crane, will be transformed by the widespread adoption of three innovations: solar panels on residential and commercial roofs, electric cars in garages, and truly “smart meters” that will seamlessly transfer power to and from homes, electric vehicles, and the grid.
Beezer here. Don’t know if Crane is early, or even right, but his reasoning certainly appears sound, and as the CEO of one of the nation’s largest utilities one can’t say he doesn’t have real world experience backing up his opinions. Later on in the article he breaks down the process he anticipates will happen.
e360: Can you explain your three-pronged approach to transforming the country’s electricity system.
Crane: Democratization of customer choice in our sector begins with two things. One is the electric car and the other is the solar panel on the roof. I think it actually starts with the electric car. You put the electric car in your garage and you really have a mini power plant because these batteries that drive electric cars are quite substantial pieces of equipment. The average car in the United States is sitting still about 22 hours a day. Those are hours where the car can either be accepting power from the grid or selling power through the grid in a phenomenon we refer to as V2G, vehicle-to-grid. That leads to the third leg of the trilogy, which is the smart meter, because between a smart meter in your house, combined with time and use pricing, you essentially want that electric car to be charging between midnight and four in the morning. And you want to have it available to basically drain itself a little between 2 and 6 o’clock in the afternoon. But someone has to tell it what’s going on with the grid at that point. And that’s what the smart meter does.
Right now around the country people are trying to introduce smart meters as just another information device. In our view, no one wants to pay for another information device, particularly when the information being given is about something that people don’t care about, which is their electricity use. So smart meters will only be accepted by the American
Smart meters will only be accepted by the American public when they do something of value.”
public when they do something of value. And the first thing that they’ll do of value is they will sense when it’s expensive to run electricity and they’ll turn appliances off around the house. But the next thing they’ll do, which is the most valuable thing that will actually put dollars in your pocketbook, is that when the smart meter recognizes that the wholesale system is getting tight and there is good pricing, it will actually sell into the grid from the car battery. Or if power from the grid is getting really expensive, the smart meter might just turn the house off from the grid and then run the key appliances in the house off the electric car in the garage.
Then you have the solar panels on the roof. If you tie in a rooftop solar panel with a smart meter, then it’s exactly analogous to the electric car battery. The smart meter could turn off the house from the grid at 3 in the afternoon and rely exclusively on the power that’s coming from the solar panels on the roof, saving the customer a lot of money on their bill from the grid. And if the person puts a big solar panel on their roof, they could sell power from that.
Beezer again. Crane acknowledges that a smart government can help all this along, and he’s discouraged by the partisanship in Congress and elsewhere that’s not allowing that to happen. Nevertheless he sees that transformation as inevitable even without government support–it will just take longer. Oh well.