World Economic Forum Strategy Meeting:
"Fashion, Trend and Behavioral Change –
What are the Implications for Energy Innovation”

Speaker Notes
Michael Powers - May 10, 2007
• Important similarities between growth of internet and newly-emerging global network of electricity transmission lines

• 2006 saw dozens of new international grid connections, from Asia to Africa to Mediterranean and Scandinavia – even Middle East.

• (3) map slides: 1) global view, 2) potential grid, 3) grid now constructed

• Driver: “Net metering” -- utility customers generate their own power (e.g. solar energy) and spin their meters backwards; after a year, they pay net difference.

• Driver: Electricity consumers becoming part-time producers – “pro-sumers” – and utilities shifting from “energy-making business” to “energy-moving business”… analogous to banks or telecom firms.

• Driver: Electricity demand is time-sensitive. When one region is at peak demand, others at a distance are at low demand and have extra generating capacity.

• Driver: Growing popularity of renewable energy, which is not “dispatchable” – can’t be switched on to meet demand. Tends to produce peaks and valleys in power supply. Transmission linkages allow surplus power to reach markets with best ROI.

• Key Fallacy: Power loss makes long-distance power trading impractical. Not true. With UHV and HVDC technology, present limit for bulk power transfers is more than 4,300 mi (7,000 km) -- greater than distance from London to New York or New Delhi.

Unique properties of electricity:
  o Drives standard of living: 2000 kWh per capita per year; 2 billion have none
  o Travels at the speed of light (can circle planet 7.5 times per second)
  o Can’t be easily stored
  o Usage time-sensitive: peak needs are 2-3X higher than average needs

• Multiple trends supporting grid growth and power pools (technical and economical) including growth of carbon markets, “smart grid” technology and superconducting transmission lines.

• Focal point? East-West Energy Bridge connecting Alaska and Siberia across Bering Strait (two 26-mile connections, same as English Channel transmission link)

• Long-Range Vision

  o Analogous to telecom, growth of energy “aggregators” buying and selling blocks of solar, wind and fuel-cell generated “premium power” (low carbon)

  o New IT space: hardware and software for energy management and real-time power transactions

  o Peer-to-Peer energy trading: homeowner in San Diego using solar to capture kilowatts for sale to homeowner in Shanghai, instantaneously

  o Phase-out of most inefficient, carbon-based power generation

  o New strategy for mitigating global warming

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