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⚡ Freeing Energy

CleanTech Talk

Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Michael Barnard
Guest: Bill Nussey | Entrepreneur & Author
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[8:16] “The primary punchline of the book is that small scale energy systems have been set aside. […] They just haven't gotten the attention. They've been an afterthought and an annoyance in some ways for the folks that think about big policy and big grids, and utilities, etc. And that's going to change. […] But there's been patterns in business history, […] that paint a very clear picture that these small scale systems are going to move from being on the side and largely irrelevant to the transition to clean energy to being front and center. They won't in any way remove the need for the growth in the big grid. But they're going to play a much more predominant role.”

[9:16] “Because the [small] systems are largely less regulated […] and because when you put a rooftop on your house, or you build a community solar project in your neighborhood or your town, there's actual, real competition happening. And competition drives innovation and innovation drives risks and investments. And so we're about to see, as a result of the rise of small scale energy systems […] a tsunami of innovation that we haven't seen in a grid business for 100 years.”

[10:27] “I think that the size is a question that people jump to, and it's important, but […] the main thing about what I call local energy is who owns it. And that's the tectonic shift, that's the disruption. You go from a world where the assets are owned exclusively by giant corporations and governments, which is a fine way to build an industry by the way, […] but energy is no longer the exclusive domain of these large companies. So we're going to start to see energy systems, particularly small scale ones, owned by a massive and diverse set of people, including and starting with the rooftop on the homes of people who live in them. But […] it goes much larger than that. And it goes much smaller than that.”

[11:17] “On the small end, you've got hundreds of millions of small solar lanterns that are making a profound difference for the lives of people in Africa or Latin America and India. You go higher in the other direction, and you go to commercial and industrial scale systems that bring the same benefits that rooftop solar does to homeowners, to building owners and companies that work in those buildings. Then the other area that I also put under the local energy umbrella is community solar. You have an even larger project, typically, that sits near the people who are using it most often.”

[15:21] “[Local storage] absolutely is a very large part of the local energy story. And it's a critical part, because of its role in creating resiliency and allowing what people are calling prosumers, folks who generate and consume electricity. It allows them to make more money in […] excess electricity, they want to sell back, because they can sell it at different times when it might be worth more, or they can add additional services like frequency regulation. […] There's a great report from RMI, previously Rocky Mountain Institute that talks about all the places on the grid, where storage make a difference. And they conclude that storage behind the meter is the single most valuable place to put storage when you are thinking about where and how, at what levels to put storage into the power industries grids.”

[28:38] “One area that I think is important when we define local energy, and I mentioned it in a very clinical way, which is, who owns it. But when you go to Africa, you see the human side of what that ownership means. You see how people's lives are transformed with the simple addition of a little bit of predictable and controllable electricity. […] The lighting for most people is by kerosene, which is expensive and dangerous. […] And I met with people and I talked about their stories in the book, a man named Francis who showed me the kerosene, black ceiling in his earthen house where his children had used kerosene lamps to do their homework. And just in what a difference it made for health and breathing and things like that. Many of his neighbors before they had systems would spend an hour, two or three a day walking just to charge their phone. […] So the solar home systems do a lot more than just provide lighting for homework for children.”

[35:52] “If you look at the price declines in solar and the ones that are following with batteries and you it compare to other energy generation, it's really stunning. The price of a solar Watt has dropped 400 times since 1977, when the first solar cells were being put on satellites. […] One of the fun exercises I did was to compare the rate of price decline of solar and batteries to other energy generation sources. So for example, there are about […] 440 nuclear plants in the world today. And the US has built almost none. There's one still being completed. […] And so […] every time you build a new nuclear plant, you can learn how to build the next one better. So nuclear unsurprisingly, has had the lowest cost declines in effect. […] So then you go to coal plants and natural gas plants. And there's tens of thousands of natural gas plants. And that's one of the reasons they are getting cheaper.”

[37:18] “Then you get the wind turbines, and by my math, there's probably half a million wind turbines in the world today. And so you get a lot more innovation, a lot more experience with each new wind turbine that was built, and they get better, the generations improve at a more rapid rate and again, not surprisingly, the price of wind energy has plummeted at a pretty predictable and steady rate over the last 20 years. The core component of solar is a cell. And […] we've built about 120 billion cells over the last 20 years […]. And every time you make another batch of cells, you can learn from it and improve it. So for a variety of reasons, including the learning curve, the price of solar is dropping at an unprecedented rate […]. And that driving force is why it's so disruptive. And the same way that […] the low cost of communications from the internet disrupted so many industries, the same way that microprocessors disrupted mainframes, the same pattern is playing out with solar cells and batteries, because you can make them at massive volumes in highly automated factories and there's no other paradigm like that in energy history.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Bill Nussey is Freeing Energy with a New Book and Real Solar Innovation")
🕰️ 39 min | 🗓️ 12/01/2021
✅ Time saved: 37 min

Additional Links:
Book: “Freeing Energy” (Bill Nussey, 2021)