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One and only one network

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Apr 1, 2021

By 2050 at the latest, natural gas, and fossil fuels in general will be gone from much of the US (and the EU). Propane will be hard to get and expensive. Coal will be impossible, and wood will be too expensive, unless you grow it yourself.

That leaves electricity as the one network that brings energy to your premise.

Demand is going to at least double (if not triple).

In today’s world we replace less than 1.2 percent of the distribution each year(FERC) or in other words we rebuild the system every 83 years. More than 30% of it is already over firm.

We don’t have 83 years until we rely only on the distribution grid. We have at most 29.

No one at the national level (or even the global level) is talking about the need to fix the distribution system. The whole transition will come apart if people cannot heat their homes, charge their cars, or get to the internet.

One network, 29 years, twice the energy.

This is a social asset, you may be able to afford to escape the network, but 80 percent of developed country citizens can’t.

The clock is ticking.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 1, 2021

"By 2050 at the latest, natural gas, and fossil fuels in general will be gone from much of the US (and the EU)."

Doug, Royal Dutch Shell has a different perspective.

"Here’s a mind-blower: Royal Dutch Shell is the world’s second largest oil producer (by market value). Yet a Shell official recently said his company wants to be “the largest electricity power company in the world in the early 2030s.” Within 15 years Shell wants to be THE world’s #1 electricity producer! And they plan to do it by using natural gas as the fuel to create all that electricity."

Shell Plans to be World’s Biggest Electric Producer, Using NatGas

It's a plan that's been in the works since the 1990s. After GM's EV1 came out in 1996, oil majors realized the future of internal-combustion cars and gasoline was limited, so they set about cornering the market in electricity.

The first step was artificially lowering the price of gas so they could close nuclear plants - their biggest obstacle. The next step was erecting a few wind turbines and solar panels, to create the illusion of "a shift to renewable energy". The public would believe electricity grids could be powered the wind, the sun, and batteries, right? Of course they would.

The final piece of the puzzle was making hydrogen from methane ("natural gas") and hawking it as a clean fuel. "Just a whiff of water vapor is all that comes from your tailpipe" they claim, conspicuously ignoring the substantial carbon impact of manufacturing hydrogen from gas. Though marketing fuel cell vehicles has presented challenges, they're still working very hard to make gas-to-hydrogen the #1 liquid fuel for transportation.

Barring changes in policy, natural gas will be around for a long, long, long, long time (far too long).

Doug Houseman's picture
Thank Doug for the Post!
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