By John J. Licata
It’s the middle of August and the heart of the 2013 hurricane season is quickly approaching. Instead of feeling confident that sustainable power solutions can keep our lights on, fears of power outages are actually beginning to grow despite a lower forecast for hurricanes provided recently by Colorado State University. So the question beckons, are we really any better off today than we were before Superstorm Sandy, an epic Frankenstorm-type of a weather event which crippled much of the Northeastern US last hurricane season?
In my new e-book, Lessons from Frankenstorm: Investing for Future Power Disruptions, I look at why we can’t remain complacent at the government level and call attention to new opportunities we shouldn’t ignore, as well as the fact that we need to put steps forward to more swiftly regain interest in cleantech from the private sector.
The natural gas “bridge fuel” mentality is flawed, so in the e-book I also outline reasons we should be putting more emphasis on what is on the other side of the energy bridge. Most importantly, I attempt to raise awareness that the next “Frankenstorm” which could disrupt power for millions may or may not come from weather. This is a major point I do hope readers will take away from the book.
I was recently reminded by a colleague that the 2003 Northeastern summer blackout anniversary had just passed and yet the lack of preparations for widespread outages, better crisis management, and communication initiatives still largely remains based on the response by utility and telecommunications companies post Sandy. Collectively, we need to get away from the mentality that the potential for massive power outages like ones regularly seen in India aren’t possible right here at home. Sandy should have turned non-believers into believers, but the jury in some important circles. To make matters more concerning, now we have the increasing threat of cyberhacking affecting power sources, a topic Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, and Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security, have been very publicly vocal about amid fears we could experience a cyber-9/11 event here at home. Think about this — more and more energy infrastructure is controlled electronically and a tremendous amount of data is stored “in the cloud.” Therefore, shouldn’t we be more proactive about guarding a more modernized grid?
We also need to move away from thinking Sandy was the type of storm that only comes once every hundred years, or if we simply build our homes a few feet higher all will be good. We need to accept that climate change is real and we must be willing to adopt change and embrace new ideas, perhaps even consider efficiency from both a supply “AND” demand perspective, something new US Secretary Ernie Moniz has supported. There really is much opportunity to make energy more efficient. Therefore, there really isn’t any reason not think the next Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) or Twitter won’t actually come from within the energy sector. In fact, I explore this idea greatly in the book, including the areas where I see the most opportunity for disruptive energy potential. Leveraging information technology and big data to help do more with fewer resources has me excited about cleanweb solutions that could help us be better prepared when the next storm does come. (Notice I did not say “if.”)
Advances in technology also make me optimistic that the next generation of energy leaders will present compelling investment stories. Some areas I key in on are the future of energy storage, the “Holy Grail” of modern energy, as well as other opportunities such as biofuels, water sustainability, and offshore wind. Speaking of offshore wind, to date, the US is still rather slow to adopt offshore wind as a power source despite some recent progress in the Northeast, and it doesn’t have a single offshore wind farm. That needs to change. The fact that offshore wind could present the opportunity to yield over 4,000 gigawatts of power simply can’t be ignored. That has me thinking that the Energy Department needs to create incentives that will allow investment longer-term, not just one year at a time.
This e-book ultimately calls attention to the need to focus on disaster recovery efforts, crisis management, legislation, planning and strategy AHEAD of the next major storm threat, weather related or not. I truly hope Lessons from Frankenstorm sheds much light on long road ahead of us as well as the innovative technologies and companies I believe can truly move us forward post Sandy.
Lessons from Frankenstorm is now available on Amazon.com for Kindle, Apple iBooks through iTunes, Barnes&Nobles.com for the Nook, and Google Play for Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops, Computers, and eReaders.
About the Author: John J. Licata is the Chief Energy Strategist of Blue Phoenix Inc., an independent research company focused on rethinking our energy future.
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