Friday, February 26, 2010

Differentiation vs Importance

Upon re-reading my last post, I realized that I was fairly unclear about a few important points and that it could easily be misinterpreted as saying I was against renewable energy.

To clarify:
  • There is differentiation between traditional grid sources and renewables 
    • There is clearly differentiation here beyond price: CO2 generation, fuel security at the very least.
    • That differentiation becomes more important as regulatory structures (carbon tax or cap & trade), popular opinion, regional politics or peak oil make it so.
  • There is differentiation between various renewable sources (E.g. solar thermal vs solar PV vs wind vs biofuels vs tidal)
    • Each technology has characteristics that differentiate it from other technologies: where it can be located, is it distributable, is it carbon free or carbon neutral, social justice concerns (e.g. does it raise food costs, impacting the poor?), impact on wild life and local ecosystems, etc.
    • Different vendors of a particular renewable source, though, are largely, I think, competing on price / kW. I'm sure there are exceptions.
  • Saving the world as a niche - It is big enough
    • Taking 2009 total power usage as 3297 TWh, 90% of which is from non-renewable sources.
    • A 30% reduction in demand (989 TWh) from conservation, assuming all existing renewable generation stays in place, still leaves 1978 TWh of non-renewable energy that could be replaced by renewables. 
    • Put in terms of solar PV installations, that's $5780 Billion... That's a huge market.
My original point was:
  • I decided I wanted to focus on conservation not because renewables are unimportant or non-viable, but because conservation is a higher leverage route to sustainability.
  • Differentiation between solar PV generation companies seemed, in the long run, to be a commodity situation where price ruled.