Cheap, Clean Electricity. Can We Have it All?

The American economy is undergoing rapid change, with innovation and technology leveraging the provision of goods and services most Americans could only have dreamed about decades ago and the electric utility industry is not immune to these forces. Advancements in almost every area of power generation are changing how we do things, from removing harmful pollutants from emissions streams to providing new ways of helping end users have choice in how they use electricity in their homes. However, in addition to these evolutionary technological changes, which enhance the traditional utility business, there are other, revolutionary technological changes that could fundamentally impact the very foundations of that business model itself, by giving consumers the choice to bypass the grid and their local utility itself.

In a talk presented to the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Energy Production Infrastructure Center (EPIC) , Dr. Shankar focused in some inherent, fundamental conflicts that exist between having cheap and clean electricity and maintaining reliability to the high standards. The lack of a strong Federal energy policy underpins the lack of coherence.As more distributed resources come on line the drive for "personalized" energy would militate against traditional "least cost" approaches and the price of carbon may put new value on renewable generation. The grid that has been a staple of the system for over a century may provide transmission of energy as well as serve as an insurance policy.

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