Are we becoming a nation of crisis junkies? Maybe. America has been the world’s major innovator for well over a century. We began as a motley collection of adventurers, pioneers and, let’s face it, misfits, looking for the freedom to follow diverse paths and beliefs. In modern parlance I suppose we could say those early folks were goal oriented, rather than process oriented. They were problem solvers. They wanted to fix things, particularly human government.
We’ve still got those ‘fixing’ inclinations but maybe they’ve become misdirected.
So, now our nation is trying to fix global climate change (the pseudonym for global warming). But if you believe that the cause of climate change is man-made pollution, then you must also believe (if you follow the ‘science’) that it’s pretty much unstoppable, at least by anything the United States could do. We’re rapidly closing in on the tipping points of greenhouse gas concentrations that make (according to some) extinction inevitable or (according to many) life unbearable.
So, whether it’s mitigating global warming, dabbling in foreign wars, or just jaunting around trying to fix the politics of other nations, our pioneer spirit has somewhat devolved to fixing the unfixable.
So what’s all this got to do with the power business? For one (big) thing, coal plants will be closing as we look to non-polluting renewable resources and less polluting natural gas. That’s an attempt to stop the unstoppable - worldwide contributions to CO2 emissions.
On the other hand maybe the closures will encourage our industry to be more proactive with renewables rather than to continue having them shoved down our collective throats. Already companies such as NRG and Duke are looking at providing rooftop PV to their customers
We can also do something tangible about the impact of storms. And it doesn’t matter whether a storm was initiated or intensified by climate change or not. Who cares? We’ve seen the enormous damage to East Coast utilities caused by super storm Sandy. And now we have increasing governmental and regulatory attention focused on utility security as never before.
That translates to more available funding.
As a result, PSE&G is getting started on its “Energy Strong” infrastructure-hardening project at a cost of $1.2 billion. Con Edison will spend a billion or so on storm hardening. You can bet that other utilities will request funding for “storm hardening” based on the assumption that climate related challenges will increase.
Those are some fixes that will get results. And we’ll end up with systems that are more resilient against all threats.