by David Sweet

One of the key benefits of decentralized energy that is often overlooked is the ability to provide greater energy security and reliability than a system that is more reliant on centralized generating assets. Given the pace of daily life and commerce today, even the shortest interruption in power supplies is aggravating and costly.

Two recent events at different ends of the globe highlight just how vulnerable we are to disruptions in the delivery of our power supplies. In July, India experienced the world’s biggest blackout when 600 million people – half the population of the country – suddenly lost power along with access to a range of essential services and joined the roughly 200 million people in the country that lack access to modern power systems on a daily basis.

Also this summer, the east coast of the US experienced a weather event known as a derecho – a string of violent storms packing near-hurricane strength winds. Millions lost power for days as massive trees snapped like twigs. Even the emergency 911 call system around Washington DC was knocked out of service as power was disrupted, and was not fully restored for another four days. These will not be the last events where power to huge populations will be disrupted, so we can either get used to it or start deploying new decentralized power systems that can help soften the blow.

In another interesting development, US President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order on industrial energy efficiency that included support for an aspirational goal of 40 GW of new industrial CHP by 2020. The order outlined a number of positive steps in the right direction and areas where the federal and state governments can better co-ordinate and work together to pave the way to this goal. While certainly better late than never, this order comes just weeks before the national elections when the country is focused more on political outcomes rather than substance. We will need to stay tuned until after the elections to see if the order will be implemented in an aggressive fashion and lead us down the 40 GW path.

Finally, in the WADE pages at the back of this issue you will see discussion of new startup companies. The advancement of decentralized energy will take greater investment in the existing technologies that have served the industry well for decades, but it is also fertile ground for new technologies and the integration of new technology with the tried and true. Using the global reach of WADE, we can serve as an incubator to bring these technologies forward. As many of these new technologies and projects will require access to clean natural gas supplies to be successful, the launch of the Global Gas Council in Washington, DC, this fall is another step in the right direction. As global gas supplies increase, WADE is working with the natural gas industry to make sure they are aware of the tremendous opportunity that decentralized energy projects represent for natural gas demand for years to come.

David Sweet
Executive Director, WADE
dsweet@localpower.org

More COSPP Articles
Past COSPP Issues