I have a personal passion about our energy policy, thus, this week’s blog is about storage and networking and how we can take the lessons learned from IT and use them to improve our energy policies.
As I read the comparisons on where our presidential candidates stand on energy policy I am a bit perplexed. What confounds me is not where they stand on the standard issues (tax cuts, offshore drilling, etc.) but that neither candidate seems to have thought through the real strategic ways in which our government can truly help to enable an energy independent U.S.
Let me start by drawing a parallel between the energy and IT markets. IT environments require production (computing), distribution (networking) and storage. Energy markets follow the same model.
While politicians and pundits spend most of their time discussing computing (energy production), I believe the real economic potential will come from networking and storage (power distribution and energy storage capabilities).
Herein lies the dichotomy -- although we continue to make great progress in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy, we cannot leverage these technologies to their full extent without significant advances in energy distribution simply because the places where the production of wind and solar energy are most economical tend not to be close to the places where consumption is the greatest.
From a storage standpoint we have a similar problem. The downfall of most of the new renewable energy sources is that they are not continuous or wholly predictable. If we lack the ability to store energy, then the potential for these technologies will simply not be achieved. Therefore, I submit that storage also remains a key to a new state of energy bliss.
I suggest that the real secret to advancing a successful energy policy is the construction of the energy internet – in many ways an initiative similar to creating the Internet. As we build the capability to intelligently distribute power from more sources and across greater distances, more companies and even individuals will be able to generate power and become a part of the overall ecosystem. The wider we can make the grid (energy internet), the more we can balance the peak loads and reduce our dependence on “surge capacity” which is always more expensive and usually has the worst environmental impact.
Energy storage is another area where government investment could yield exponential returns. From improved battery technology to leveraged superconducting, advances in energy storage technology are critical to advancing our energy situation.
There are many parallels between energy and IT and many places where I believe having the right policies, infrastructure, and technology initiatives could dramatically accelerate our ability to become energy independent and generate the bulk of our energy from renewable sources.
This simple fact is that the items everyone (and especially our presidential candidates) are talking about are not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Lowering the gas tax for a few weeks or determining how much extra we tax oil companies are meaningless in terms of solving any long-term issues. It looks to me like the first priority of an energy policy needs to be getting some priorities that will really make a difference.
Simply put, energy creation is in better shape and getting tons of continued investment. Taxation and efforts like offshore drilling are nits – they may matter to the press in an election year but they will not really make any difference. Storage and distribution are the areas where we are lacking because no individual or company can justify the investment. This is where government involvement/investment is needed to advance the current state. I sure hope we can start by setting the right priorities.