Sunday, February 28, 2010

The View from Early 2010: Massive Energy Changes on the Way

When you watch something closely day to day it's difficult to discern difference. But as anyone who occasionally visits a young niece or nephew knows, those kids are changing rapidly. For some reason, after years of tracking the slow and steady evolution of various energy technologies, I've gotten the feeling over the last few weeks that our relatively static energy sector is in for a major growth spurt.

And for all the great work the DOD Energy community has done trying to help the Department be more proactive with how it manages its energy issues, policy progress will ultimately pale in comparison with the seismic shifts about to hit DOD and the rest of society. You may think this is hyperbole, but ...

I don't think so. While each of these technologies has a boat-load of attendant risk, and that risk comes in multiple flavors (e.g., technological, regulatory, business), all are setting an impressive baseline that's only going to improve and likely accelerate over time.

On top of continuing steady incremental technological improvements in solar, wind, Smart Grid and storage, each of these three categories of systems could dramatically change the energy landscape on its own. Combined, they'd totally remake our approaches to generating, transporting, consuming, and making money from energy:
1. Home power generation (see the Bloom Box)
2. City (and base-sized) power generation (see small nukes)
3. Electric Cars and V2G (see everywhere, including here)
Though we still have a long way to go figuring out how to power aircraft and most tactical vehicles in ways other than JP-8, the implications for rest of DOD are huge. This could be the beginning of the end for the brittle grid problem facing CONUS bases. Also consider the potential for expeditionary energy. Will be tracking it all right here. As we always say, stay tuned!

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