Discover BrilliantAgain, I babbled away too long in an interview (a great one) and missed the beginning of “Baseload Challenge and the Realities of Renewables.”

  • PIER, California Energy Commission, Gerry Braun, Renewables Team Lead
  • SAIC, Chris McCall, Program Manager
  • Sterling Planet, Mel Jones, CEO

I really wanted to see all of this one. But let’s jump in.

Jones says comparing renewables and existing baseload is apples and oranges. Renewables are hobbled by the its competitors being heavily subsidized. Renewables have to have guaranteed return and guaranteed buyers. Also, most baseload doesn’t pay for transmission costs, which is where renewables have a huge advantage, since most are on-site.

Braun agrees that financing issues are critical. The best thing that could happen for renewables to move forward is for utilities to be able to put renewables in rate base. He says distributed renewable generation is a neglected topic. He says that every state is within 10% to 30% of California’s solar capacity. All the prices for renewables are going to come down, whereas all the fossil fuels are going to go up.

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Moderator Reilly challenges the notion that all renewables will come down. Braun says they certainly will go down relative to other sources.

Well, I attempted to get my anti-coal line out there. The response, from the woman who’s involved in the DOE FutureGen? "It’s naive to think we won’t use coal." WTF?! If it’s more expensive to produce clean energy with coal than from other sources, then why will we use it? Why start with the assumption we will? Jesus. Some day I’d like a straight answer to that question.

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Guy named Todd (not in program): Amount of money spent on efficiency in the last two years dwarfs any investment in generation. But the grid is an accident waiting to happen.

Guy named Gerry (not in program): States are going to start seeing their economic competitiveness depend on boosting renewables. And if states fail, local communities will fill the gap.

Jones: Central generation is like mainframes used to be in the computer world. Everyone said PCs couldn’t compete. You’re going to see the energy equivalent of PCs popping up everywhere in the next 10 years.

What’s going to happen to coal is what happened to cigarettes — it will come to appear unacceptable; it will get priced out of the market; we’ll view it as an anachronism.

Focus is going to turn to local generation.