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David Gaier's picture
Owner David Gaier PR

David Gaier is a communications professional, former spokesman for NRG Energy and PSEG Long Island, and consultant to energy advisory agencies. His 30+-year career includes crisis communications...

  • Member since 2019
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  • Apr 14, 2020

At this moment our nation is dealing with an unprecedented pandemic—causing deaths, illnesses, record ICU hospitalizations, and significant damage to not only our economy but to our very way of life. We’ve found to our dismay that a thin and fragile supply chain makes us unduly and even perilously dependent on foreign governments, companies and factories, and transoceanic transportation. If we’re to prevail, our sources of energy cannot be among them.

Among the most important institutions helping sustain us, save lives, and keep our economy running are America’s investor-owned electric and natural gas companies, regulated utilities, independent power producers, independent system operators and regional transmission operators, and the myriad of enterprises that keep America’s grid delivering safe and affordable energy.

In that same light, the nation is also moving consistently at a moderate pace away from fossil fuel generation, and in the direction of increasingly clean and sustainable energy...but fossil-generation cannot and will not disappear overnight. Still, the realities of climate change and the existential threats presented by scientifically-verified global warming have changed the equation markedly in just the last few years, and the pace of change is increasing. It's also likely that we'll see a national carbon pricing system in the model of RGGI. So, the nation marches on to develop utility-scale sources of grid-connected and dispatchable terrestrial wind, offshore wind, storage, and solar energy, while expanding and hardening our transmission and distribution systems.

The development, permitting, financing, and legal project teams who'll make this happen will need to increasingly turn to regulatory affairs experts, public and media relations professionals, public affairs advisers, digital marketing experts, former journalists, and expert storytellers for experienced and actionable advice, plans, and execution. Let's hope they approach this with acute attention to stakeholders and the general public, and for consideration of ratepayer costs. But let's hope they succeed, buttressed by a more robust and flexible supply chain that today cannot even produce a sufficient supply of medical masks.  

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 14, 2020

Great post, thanks David. 

In that same light, the nation is also moving consistently at a moderate pace away from fossil fuel generation, and in the direction of increasingly clean and sustainable energy...but fossil-generation cannot and will not disappear overnight.

One thing I've wondered-- do you think the current situation at all will serve to hasten the shift to distributed energy? The utilities are doing amazing and essential work to keep the grid humming during this time of crisis, and the workers who are spending their days and nights at the power plants should be celebrated-- but how much of an effect might this have on consumers or businesses deciding to steer even more into on-site generation to avoid any blackouts with unexpected events elsewhere on the grid and in the infrastructure? 

David Gaier's picture
David Gaier on Apr 15, 2020

Thanks, Matt, I think DG will indeed continue to make huge strides in penetrating and to some extent, displacing traditional generation--with, for example, community solar which gets residents a slice of the solar pie without the cost, lease obligations and home installation issues of rooftop installations. Micro-grids will almost certainly continue to grow, perhaps even exponentially in a relatively short time, and I'd like to think that SMRs--small modular nuclear reactors--could play a role in powering microturbines to usher in a moderate renaissance in new nuclear in the US. I'd be interested to hear what Lisa Wood of Microgrid Knowledge and Sonal Patel of POWER would say. In any event, microgrids will be increasing rolled out primarily for emergency response/disaster recovery and military use (even tactical/mobile units), university campuses such Montclair State University in New Jersey, which I wrote about last summer, EV fleets and parking garages, and yes, especially in critical facilities especially hospitals and healthcare systems, large airports and industrial parks. 

Bob Nikon's picture
Bob Nikon on Apr 22, 2020

"Fossil fuel-generation can't and will not disappear overnight" Don't get an impression that as we try to move toward renewable eventually fossil fuel-generation will dwindle and disappear. That will never ever happen guys. As long as we count on "renewable" that we have because all of them can not render the compatible energy that we need like the fossil fuel-generation. Especially our transportation. There is almost nothing can beat liquid-fossil fuels. Anybody would like to argue against that? We absolutely have no way out of this mess guys.

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