Sean Casten

Sean Casten is president & CEO of Recycled Energy Development, LLC, a company devoted to profitably reducing greenhouse emissions.

Utility Policy Reforms

Policy fixes to unleash clean energy, part 5

Now we come to the fun part. If you could build a dream spouse, what would he or she look like? Describe their personality, sense of humor, and relative similarity to Kelly LeBrock. It’s fun to think about, and utterly unrealistic. So too with the question we now build to. If you were king, had a clean sheet of paper and were completely unconstrained by politics, how would you design our energy and environmental policy to eliminate the existing barriers to clean energy? This type of politically-unconstrained question is too often dismissed as naïve. It isn’t. As Yogi Berra said, …


Policy fixes to unleash clean energy, part 4

Thus far, we’ve reviewed the five questions that ought to be answered before addressing any energy policy, identified the key regulatory barriers to clean energy deployment, and reviewed the political obstacles to good energy policy. Let’s now move on to the simplest — but potentially most controversial — question. What principles ought to guide good policy? Controversial because reasonable people may disagree about the relative roles of government and private sector, relative usefulness of incentives vs. penalties to drive human behavior and a host of other matters of political judgment. But as Judge Smails says, “the most important decision you …

Political Barriers to Energy Policy Reform

Policy fixes to unleash clean energy, part 3

In Part 1, I outlined the five questions that we ought to answer before we can have any informed debate on energy policy reform. In Part 2, I provided my answer to the first of those questions: namely, what are the key existing regulatory barriers to clean energy deployment (Answer: utility regulation, environmental regulation and out-dated regulation). Now let’s move onto the next question: What are the primary political challenges to policy reform? It is critical to separate politics from policy. To be sure, setting policy independent of politics is naïve – but setting policy only based on political constraints …

What Are the Existing Regulatory Barriers?

Policy fixes to unleash clean energy, part 2

In part 1, I outlined five questions that ought to be answered before we have any conversation about energy policy reform. Here is my answer to the first question: What are the primary existing regulatory barriers to the deployment of cleaner energy? They are legion. But they can be lumped into three broad categories: utility policy, environmental policy, and out-dated policies. A brief discussion of each: Utility policy: Our utility policy is, in a word, outmoded. Established at the beginning of the 20th century to encourage the rapid, mass electrification of the country, it was never appropriate for the efficient …

Part I: 5 Questions

Policy fixes to unleash clean energy

Suppose you became King tomorrow and your first order of  business was to modernize the U.S. energy system — make it cleaner, cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable. What would you do? Now suppose you’re the King’s subjects, and he has just announced his plan per the above. What will you learn? Clearly, you’ll learn something about the King’s understanding of the energy system, his political courage, and his view of government’s role in society. Whether you learn anything about how to reform our energy system though depends largely on whether you happen to agree with all those underlying beliefs, …

Very smart ... on software

Bill Gates thinks about energy innovation

Bill Gates has written on his blog that we need “innovation, not just insulation” in order to reduce CO2 to manageable levels. His motivation is robust, but his thinking is … far from clear. Because he’s Bill Gates, this is sure to attract attention, but even if he weren’t, this is worth talking about. It illustrates the deep misunderstandings that most of us have about the energy sector, the possibilities for reform, and — at a much larger level — how our economy works. What Gates gets right Let’s start with his core thesis: Gates argues that while we might …

The Nation’s idea for a Clean Power Agency

Lisa Margonelli’s got a great piece in The Nation on the potential for “Gray Power.” The article makes the case for the Midwest to invest in waste heat recovery and other areas near and dear to my self-interested heart. She also puts out a pretty clever idea for a “Clean Power Authority.” She describes it thus: … a federal agency tasked with recycling energy in the South and Midwest–would work like a utility, buying power generated from recycled waste energy and using it to meet federal, state and local government needs. I like it. Power markets are broken. We’ve spent …

How to cut U.S. CO2 emissions by 20 percent ... tomorrow

Natural gas as a near-term CO2 mitigation strategy

Discussions of CO2 reduction tend to start from a presumption of near-term economic disruption coupled to long-term investment in green technology. The presumption isn’t right. The U.S. could reduce its total CO2 footprint by 14-20 percent tomorrow with no disruption in our access to energy services, without investing in any new infrastructure. The Waxman-Markey proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 17 percent over 10 years is constrained only by its ambition. This near-term opportunity would be realized by ramping up our nation’s generation of electricity from gas and ramping down our generation from coal, taking advantage only of existing assets. …

The $9 Billion Man

Clean energy opportunities

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced $155 million worth of grants to clean energy projects -- specifically targeted to CHP, waste heat recovery, and district energy. There's an even better backstory.

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