Power after Carbon: Building a Clean, Resilient Grid

Power after Carbon: Building a Clean, Resilient Grid

by Peter Fox-Penner


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As the electric power industry faces the challenges of climate change, technological disruption, new market imperatives, and changing policies, a renowned energy expert offers a roadmap to the future of this essential sector.

As the damaging and costly impacts of climate change increase, the rapid development of sustainable energy has taken on great urgency. The electricity industry has responded with necessary but wrenching shifts toward renewables, even as it faces unprecedented challenges and disruption brought on by new technologies, new competitors, and policy changes. The result is a collision course between a grid that must provide abundant, secure, flexible, and affordable power, and an industry facing enormous demands for power and rapid, systemic change.

The fashionable solution is to think small: smart buildings, small-scale renewables, and locally distributed green energy. But Peter Fox-Penner makes clear that these will not be enough to meet our increasing needs for electricity. He points instead to the indispensability of large power systems, battery storage, and scalable carbon-free power technologies, along with the grids and markets that will integrate them. The electric power industry and its regulators will have to provide all of these, even as they grapple with changing business models for local electric utilities, political instability, and technological change. Power after Carbon makes sense of all the moving parts, providing actionable recommendations for anyone involved with or relying on the electric power system.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674241077
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/19/2020
Pages: 456
Sales rank: 287,691
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Peter Fox-Penner is Director of Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and Professor in BU’s Questrom School of Business, Chief Strategy Officer for Energy Impact Partners, and an advisor and former chairman of The Brattle Group. He previously served as a senior official in the US Department of Energy and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. His published works include the widely acclaimed Smart Power.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Abbreviations xv

Part I The Need for Power and the Grids That Deliver It

1 Les Jeux Sont Faits 3

Leapfrogging and Euthanasia 5

Beyond Decarbonization 6

2 The Future Is Electric 11

Deconstructing Electricity Growth 13

Long-Term Efficiency Trends 18

Enter Carbon 22

The AI Wild Card 27

Electricity's Third Act 31

3 La Vida Local 33

Solar in the City, 2016 35

Solar in the City, 2050 40

Local Power versus the Grid, 2050 45

4 Why We Grid 47

The Case for Big 52

Aggregation and Trading 54

Grids and Geographic Diversity 56

Not Quite Case Closed 64

5 The Fragmented Future 65

How to Damage a Grid, Part 1: Summon Poseidon 65

Grid Vulnerabilities and the Climate 68

Grid Coping Skills 71

The Microgrid Revolution 76

How to Damage a Grid, Part 2: Hire a Hacker 82

New Architectural Paradigms 88

The Fragmented Future 92

Part II The Grid and Its Challenges

6 Decarbonizing the Big Grid 97

The Old Design Paradigm 98

The New Paradigm 102

The Clean Power Toolkit 111

From Lab Bench to Toolkit 126

From Toolkit to Reality 128

7 Not in My Backyard-State-Region 132

Planning the No-Carbon Future 134

Not in My Backyard 139

Searching for Supergrids 143

The Future of Grid Expansion 148

8 The Big Grid Bucks Stop Here 149

A Power Plants Early Retirement Package 150

Power Markets and Plant Financing in a Carbon-Free Future 156

Pros, Cons, and Trade-Offs in Long-Term Markets 160

Fixing the Long-Term Markets 165

The Big Grid's Future 171

Part III Running and Regulating Post-Carbon Utilities

9 The Utility Business in Three Dimensions 175

The Business Model Rainbow 178

Public Power and Cooperatives 184

New Products and Horizons 185

Toward Customer Love 188

10 The Really Smart Grid 193

The Prosumer ESCO Marketplace 197

Market Optimum and Public Interest 199

Grid Pricing and "Optimizing" the System 202

Retail Choice's Next Act 207

Machine over Market 211

11 Governing a Really Smart Grid 216

Setting Regulation's Goals 217

Pricing Grid Services 222

The Problem of Fixed Costs 226

Planning and Building the Distribution System 231

Of Elegance and Complexity 233

12 The Business and Regulation of Energy Service Utilities 235

The Case for ESUs 238

Changing Utilities' Cultural Stripes 243

Regulating an ESU 247

Cross-Subsidies and the Space for Political Bargains 249

13 Forces and Fault Lines beyond the Industry 255

Big Tech and Monopoly Power 255

Privacy and the Smart Grid 257

Energy Democracy 260

Political Fault Lines 264

14 Money Talks 267

Wall Street and New Business Models 270

15 Power without Carbon 273

Appendix A Summary of Policy Recommendations 279

Appendix B The Challenges to Energy Spot Markets with Increased Wind and Solar Generation 287

Appendix C Source Notes for Figure 2-2 295

Appendix D Supplement to Table 6-1 301

Notes 303

References 347

Acknowledgments 405

Index 409

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