Published on November 2nd, 2012 | by Guest Contributor


Bouncing Back From Sandy: Why We Must Double Down On Advanced Energy

November 2nd, 2012 by  


By Hemant Taneja (@htaneja)

Sandy has moved on and many people are coping with its effects, but the debate over what it should mean has just begun. Recently my Advanced Energy Economy co-founder Tom Steyer found himself in a dust-up on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” over whether Sandy proves that extreme weather – brought on by human actions – is now part of our reality. That conversation will no doubt continue, particularly following Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama for his climate change policies.

Whether this sparks a productive conversation about climate is yet to be seen. If not, inconclusive posturing, a hallmark of the debate thus far, does us no good. We need to look at it instead from a contingency planning perspective. If severe storms like Sandy are becoming a part of life, it just makes business sense to be better safe than sorry. These precautions can in turn grow our economy and make us more competitive on a global stage.

Hurricane Sandy by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Sandy has shown how far we’ve come and how far we can still go. Thanks to technology and better modeling, we had warning about the severity of the storm. And thanks to social media and advanced communications, we could alert people and find out where help was needed. But we can do a lot more. We need to invest in advanced energy – the technologies, systems and energy sources that are developing – to be more capable of mitigating and recovering from severe weather damage. There’s absolutely no reason we need to suffer a $50 billion plus recovery each time, and we certainly don’t need businesses hamstrung for days afterwards because of fragile power grids.

First off, we can limit the damage by investing in distributed and modular advanced energy systems such as microgrids. The failure of our regional grids is still affecting a huge swath of people – millions are still without power in the Northeast. Sophisticated advanced energy systems will let us greatly reduce the duration and scope of down time, enabling our businesses, homes and critical infrastructure like hospitals to bounce back much faster. This is not some far-off fantasy. There are already 11,000 companies in America offering advanced energy solutions that employ roughly 700,000 Americans. Electric and plug-in hybrid cars, natural gas-fueled trucks, high-performance buildings, energy-saving industrial processes, high-capacity wind turbines, on-site solar power, and advanced nuclear power plants are all examples of advanced energy.

It is not hard to envision that in 20 years our ability to track, prepare and bounce back from a storm as powerful as Sandy will be much more effective, thanks to advances in technology and our ability to provide energy sources and systems more effectively.

If we accomplish that, it has a huge impact on America. First off, it makes our economy stronger and more self-sufficient. How many foreign policy decisions over the last five decades were made with foreign oil as a factor? Two, it addresses the ongoing issue of whether we can make our world healthier – not only the earth, but improving prospects for humans with a cleaner economy. And, finally, it improves America’s prospects. With energy demand worldwide expected to grow 40 percent or more the next two decades, it’s America’s business opportunity to seize – or watch as China takes it from us.

Most importantly, let’s not get stuck in the old debate over whether we need to save the earth at the expense of our economy. That debate was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. Sandy is merely a reminder that advanced energy is a way to keep our economy roaring and minimize disruptions in Americans’ daily lives come what may.

Author Bio: Hemant leads General Catalyst’s global energy practice and invests in early stage technology companies. In addition, Hemant co-founded Advanced Energy Economy, a business organization focused on catalyzing regional energy innovation clusters across America. The creation of AEE is modeled after the work he did in founding the New England Clean Energy Council, which received an award from the Department of Energy. He is also an entrepreneur in his own right; before joining General Catalyst in 2002, Hemant was founder and CEO of a mobile software company that was acquired. He is a graduate of MIT. 

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: ,

About the Author

is many, many people. We publish a number of guest posts from experts in a large variety of fields. This is our contributor account for those special people. :D

  • jburt56

    Cranks up solar with an emphasis on building integrated PV.

  • Yes, I can follow all the arguments for advanced energy. NYU Hospital lost its backup power forcing a difficult move of patients to another hospital. And millions of people have no power for their homes and businesses. I get this part.

    But getting the power back on does not help the subways if they are full of water. It does not help those homes that have been flattened or burned from the storm.

    Storms like Sandy were supposed to happen only once every 200 years, now with Climate Change, they may happen once every 5 years. So its not a matter of adapting, its a matter of deciding which areas are worth re-developing or protecting with levies.

    And we have to recognize that carbon emissions are causing the extreme weather and convert our electricity and transportation to green sources so our atmosphere can recover.

    • Breakingwind

      Mike, you say –

      “And we have to recognize that carbon emissions are causing the extreme weather and convert our electricity and transportation to green sources so our atmosphere can recover.”

      What utter rubbish,

      extreme weather events are on a diminishing cycle – ask any competent climatologist… NOT Al Gore (a failed US
      Presidential candidate).

      See –, I don’t like using wiki as a reference but its got all the relevant info in an easy read form.

      A far worse hurricane which whipped up a massive 30-foot
      storm surge killed 4,000 residents of the east coast towns of Norfolk, Hampton and York…in 1775.

      in 1821 the Atlantic tide rose 13 feet in one hour and
      flooded lower Manhattan, causing New York’s East River and Hudson River to converge catastrophically.

      I don’t think there were too many CO2 emissions polluting
      the atmosphere then.

      You also say –

      “Yes, I can follow all the arguments for advanced energy. NYU Hospital lost its backup power forcing a difficult move of patients to another hospital. And millions of people have no power for their homes and businesses. I get this part.”

      How does advanced energy figure in this ???
      it was good old fashion stupidity, the generators were on the roof to prevent flooding. BUT a portion of the hospital’s power distribution circuits, which direct the generated
      electricity out into various areas of the hospital & the fuel tanks …..were located in the hospital’s basement. DUH

      How would solar PV, windturbines or nuclear solve that ???

      • Bob_Wallace

        There’s more to extreme weather than Atlantic cyclones.

        Here’s what is happening on a worldwide level catastrophic events. And it’s helpfully broken into meteorological events
        (storms), hydrological (floods) and geophysical events (earthquakes, etc.) so that one can determine that it’s not due to more widespread reporting.
        Bad stuff, the sort of bad stuff we would expect from a warming planet, is happening a lot more frequently.

        • Breakingwind

          Hi bob, you say

          [ Bad stuff, the sort of bad stuff we would expect from a warming planet, is happening a lot more frequently. ]

          What sort of stuff that we haven’t seen before ???

          In the UK we are experiencing exceptional floods, the worst in 30 yrs, 100s of homes flooded including ones that never flooded before…that’s bad stuff,
          but we have an average rainfall, so what’s happened ???

          Well in the last 30 yrs

          there has been a boom in building ….on natural flood plains !!!

          huge areas have been tarmac’d or concreted over, so runoff is instantaneous,

          they have built flood defenses which moves the problem to somewhere they never had trouble.

          In my lifetime I can remember huge areas being flooded, few people were affected as they lived on the high ground not on flood plains

          So nothing to do with a warming planet, just people living in the wrong place.

          Look in your history books for 100s of recent ‘end of the world’ catastrophes, extreme weather droughts, floods, storm & tempest, then look at the geology for the full story.

          Climate change has been a fact of life for 4 billion yrs, we just happen to be in a docile period, so enjoy it.

          You think we’ve got bad stuff now, just wait for a magnetic pole switch, for which we are several 1000yrs over due….or some BIG solar flares, then you’ll see some bad stuff .

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, the planet has warmed and cooled multiple times over its lifetime. Each occurrence was driven by some physical force, not some “magical cycle” crap. This time it is us. Humans. Burning fossil fuels and releasing some other greenhouse gases.

            The science is settled. Humans have warmed the planet.

            Tolerance for climate change deniers is fairly low on this site. It’s a waste of energy to debate knuckleheads who put politics before facts.

            If you want to play the denier game please find another site.

          • Breakingwind


            If you read my posts you will see I have always
            said the climate is changing & I only deal in facts &
            observations, some may be unpalatable, but then the truth often is.

            Political agendas should have no place in discussions of appropriate technology; years of stupid decisions by corrupt politicians have got us in the mess we are in.

            2- You say [The science is settled. ]

            Some random examples of previous ‘settled science’

            The earth is flat
            The earth is the center of the solar system
            The earth is the center of the universe
            The sun moves around the earth
            Big things fall faster than small things
            Cholera & plague is caused by bad air
            Above 40 mph man is unable to breath
            The atom is the smallest thing in the universe, etc etc etc

            So it seems science is never settled !

            “The cutting edge of science moves rapidly. New
            discoveries and new ideas often turn whole fields of science upside down within a few years.” Freeman Dyson- quantum mechanics physicist.

            3- As for your comment -[ some “magical cycle” crap ]

            Our entire world is driven by magical cycles- tides, day
            & night, 28 day moon cycles, the seasons, the carbon, nitrogen, water & Milankovitch cycles…..

            4- Calling people names & deleting a list of historical
            facts seems a very Stalinist way of getting your message across.

            “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

            5- Back to appropriate technology,

            wind power in the UK has proved to be an expensive joke.
            As I write this, on a bright cold day, the UKs entire 4,136
            wind turbine fleet is producing- just … 0.3% of demand !!! (similar in Holland Denmark France Germany ). So 81% of our energy is being supplied by coal & gas, yet our rivers are full & the tide is still running.

            Colossal amounts of our cash have been thrown at the most intermittent & unreliable resources, but next to nothing for something constant & predictable.

            Political Madness, driven by greed for subsidies.

            Whats it like where you are ??

          • Bob_Wallace

            Your “Some random examples of previous ‘settled science’ ” are examples of one time beliefs which were disproved by science.

            Our world is not driven by magical cycles. All that you mention are physical events. In the same manner, current climate change is driven by physical events and we know what they are.

            Yes, wind is variable. As are the tides. If you cherry pick data for either you will find each of them to produce almost no output at certain times. You could also find times when each produce at full capacity.

            The same is true for coal and nuclear plants.

            The future grid will have to be designed to deal with these variabilities just as our current grid takes increases in supply and demand into account.

            Rant on about the cost of wind generation if you like. But the fact is, the world is installing massive numbers of wind turbines because they produce cheap electricity. Tidal may get down close to their price level, but our tidal/river resources are very limited compared to our wind resource.

            And you can rant about subsidies, but over a 30 year period subsidies for wind have brought its price down by 6x and subsidies for solar panels has brought their price down by 10x.

      • OK, you seem to have a great deal of information on the history of storms and you may be right.

        What I am learning is that hurricanes have not been studied as much as most other aspects of Global Warming because they are so complicated. Everyone agrees that increased ocean temperatures and increased water vapor provide greater energy for hurricanes but there are other complications that they are still trying to figure out.

        But overall the models have been saying for years (well before Katrina) that Global Warming contributes to more extreme weather. I think you would agree that the wild fires in the south west and the crop failures in the mid west are evidence of extreme weather.

        The other aspect is temperature rise which is evidenced by the record melt if the Arctic ice cap this summer. And this in turn leads to sea level rise which is conservatively estimated to be 3 feet over the next 100 years.

        So if you don’t buy the storm angle, do you buy the extreme weather and sea level rise angle? Because even without hurricanes the world is going to be a very inhospitable place.

        The most recent report comes from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I don’t think they are making this up.

        • Breakingwind

          Mike, you say –

          “The most recent report comes from PriceWaterhouseCoopers.… I don’t think they are making this up.”

          I find your choice of Price Waterhouse Coopers to predict climate change very strange !!!

          They are an accounting firm with a long history of multibillion-dollar accounting fraud & who have been banned from operating in several countries
          because of it.

          In 2012, the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) of the UK fined PwC a record £1.4m for wrongly reporting to the Financial Services Authority, It is the greatest penalty ever administered to a professional
          accountancy firm in the UK.

          They also failed to spot the present recession, so much for their predictions.

          To predict climate change – given the choice of PWC or a bunch of dried seaweed, pick the seaweed it’s more accurate.

          You also say –

          “The other aspect is temperature rise which is evidenced by the record melt if the Arctic ice cap
          this summer.”

          Indeed if the record melt of the Arctic
          continues for the next 200 yrs Greenland will possibly return to the state it was 1,200 yrs ago when the Vikings were farming there, before
          being driven out by advancing ice.

          • If you don’t like PriceWaterhouse you could try Bloomberg or the Los Angelas Times,0,5256621.story or Michael Mann or James Hansen–and-worse-than-we-thought/2012/08/03/6ae604c2-dd90-11e1-8e43-4a3c4375504a_story.html?socialreader_check=0&denied=1

            Now about the Norse, we don’t have to wait 200 years to start farming on Greenland, they are doing that already thanks to Global Warming

            The temperature of Greenland is already the same as it was 800 years ago. The only problem is Earth’s temperature is going to continue upward indefinitely thanks to our atmospheric carbon concentration which keeps climbing from our emissions of over 80 million tons of carbon per day.

          • Breakingwind

            Mike thanks for the NIPCC website link, it states my case more eloquently than I could-

            “Since the Greenland summit’s decadal warmth of the first ten years of the 21st century was exceeded fully six dozen times over the prior four millennia, it is clear that it was in no way unusual,
            unnatural or unprecedented; and, therefore, it is clear that none of Greenland’s recent warming need have been caused by increasing greenhouse gases.

            Indeed, it is far more likely that its recent warmth is nothing more than the next expected phase of the natural oscillation of climate that has produced several-hundred-year periods of alternating warmth and cold over the past four thousand years.”

            As it says elsewhere on that site –

            “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

            In the excitement of a record melt of the Arctic ice cap this summer, you may have missed the record freezing of the Antarctic ice this summer –

            Also – A link to southern ocean temperatures-

            If the climate models get Antarctica wrong, the tropics wrong and the mid-latitudes wrong, but warming in the Arctic is “consistent with” AGW theory, that suggests to me that the theory has issues.

            It amazes me the arrogance of modern man. The earth is over 4 billion years old and homo sapiens have been around around 200K years, but “modern” man has only been around for 50K. Modern “science” in which we can record world wide climate(s) and fluctuations is less than 5 decades. Yet we assume that we know what “normal” is even though we’ve been through numerous ice ages, and are technically still in an “ice age” that began 2.5 million years ago during the beginning of the Pleistocene epoch.

            Given we have had about 150 foot rise in sea level since the end of the last ice age maybe over 20,000 year (by memory), There is ample understanding that “man” did not cause that 150 foot rise. That is pure fact.

            If you really want to learn about future climate change…. study geology… it’s all happened many times before & history has an uncanny
            habit of repeating its self.

          • A couple of points.

            Its true that Earth has gone through temperature changes over the eons. Some have been due to asteroid hits, others due to giant volcanoes but most temperature changes have been due to small changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun, called the Milankovitch Cycles. . Unfortunately according to the Milankovitch theory, Earth should be cooling right now toward another ice age but it is not. So it would appear that there is another effect more powerful than Milankovitch kicking in.

            Secondly, your point about the Antarctic temperature trend is true for the East Antarctic ice sheet (higher altitude) but not true for West Antarctic ice sheet (lower altitude). The net effect is a warming trend just like the rest of the Earth.

Back to Top ↑