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I recently attended this conference:
at Berkeley on March 4, titled "Envisioning the Future of Global Energy".

The conference content was entirely about creating an energy future that reduces or eliminates carbon emissions.

My extended notes are here:

and they capture these speakers and topics:

  1. Keynote, John Bryson, founder, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council)
  1. Panel, "Energy Storage Integration Hurdles"
  1. Keynote, Philip Moeller, FERC Commissioner
  1. Panel on Smart Grid technology
  1. Panel on energy efficiency startups

The notes should be fairly accessible to a non-technical audience -- I'm not in the energy industry, this wasn't an operational conference for power engineers, and in general the content is accessible to anybody who has a basic understanding of what a kilowatt is and who knows about various types of energy generation.

I'll paste an extract from the notes into the "below the fold" section below to give people an idea of the way that I take notes and communicate the content.  The full document is 8500 words, so I won't paste that below -- please visit the page to read the whole thing.

Yours in carbon reduction,
hahne at io dot com


SAMPLE NOTES (first keynote only)

[Comments in square brackets like this are by Bruce.]

9:15 AM, John Bryson keynote
Speaker co-founded NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), was CEO of Edison International 1990-2008, and served on the California PUC in the 70's (during the oil shock(s))

[Below are some mini-factoids and comments that I pulled out from his talk.]

"There are still power plants running today that were running when Edison was alive.  And Edison would recognize and understand a lot of the [dumb] components of today's grid."

China is largest emitter of carbon today, U.S. is #2.  And U.S. is #1 per capita carbon emitter.

Issue of VALIDATION of emissions reductions - if a nation says they'll reduce, how do you verify this?

Today's energy efficiency measures generally pay for themselves.

Over the next 10 years, how to get carbon reductions:

- 30% from energy efficiency

- 50% needs to come from stopping deforestation and setting better land use policies worldwide, esp. in developing countries.  
[So are we spending too much time looking for technological salvation when we should be saving the trees, or at least spending 50% of our discussion time trying to save the trees?  And what about the issue of slowing population growth, or even reducing it to zero?  None of these tech-focused energy events ever talk about the long-term sustainability issue: we need to stop adding people to the planet.]

Copenhagen and process problems: current polity allows any single nation to block an agreement -- there is no majoritarian or even supermajoritarian process.  Saudia Arabia [and possibly Sudan?  Not clear if he called them out as well] was one nation that blocked an agreement.

In the 1970's, the CA PUC made some major rule changes that decoupled utilities' profit incentive from their total energy sales.  The power companies can make money for their investors by selling LESS power.  Most other U.S. states have NOT done this.  

The results have been significant:

- CA utilities now offer a variety of energy-saving programs because they want you to use LESS power.

[- Presumably this is also why PG&E offers various rebates on low-electricity appliances, etc.]

- The utilities have now become ADVOCATES for additional regulation at the state level - they will stand side by side with the CPUC and others to argue FOR legislation that tightens the energy requirements in building codes, for example.

US DoE grantmaking process is too slow -- taking too long to get this money into the hands of researchers.

Speaker visited CalTech recently and saw a variety of work in the chemistry dept. on what is essentially synthetic photosynthesis.

Q: In his recent book [Storms of My Grandchildren] climatologist James Hansen says we have to kill our coal usage otherwise we're not going to save the planet -- please comment.
A: I'm skeptical on carbon capture / sequestration technology compared to deploying clean non-coal energy sources.  [Speaker didn't really answer the question directly...]

Q: Carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade, please comment.
A: Carbon tax bill is unlikely at federal level right now based on what I've seen; too many officials see it as political suicide [his actual term was "third rail".  So here we can see the real-world impact of hardcore anti-tax ideology in the U.S. -- it's a contributory force preventing us from slowing climate destruction.]  I'm similarly pessimistic on seeing any greenhouse gas legislation pass this year.

In fact all the legislation I'm seeing so far won't have enough of an impact [increase] on the price of carbon to make any economic difference. [i.e. it won't sufficiently shift incentives.]

However, separate from carbon tax or cap-and-trade, the REGULATORY approach happens immediately.  If you pass a law that says "thou shalt have 30% renewables in your power mix by the year 2020 otherwise you'll pay big daily fines", that law gets an immediate response -- the utilities have to respond to meet that law otherwise they're in trouble.


You can read the full set of notes at

Originally posted to hahne on Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 06:17 PM PST.

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