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Ahead: Debate of the Decade

Misty Young

The recent massive power blackout in the Northeast, which affected over 50 million people in a 9,300 square mile area – in two nations – was just the kind of wake up call we needed.

The blackout was more than an inconvenience – it very quickly demonstrated the dire straits our nation will suffer if we don’t face what has been called the “Debate of the Decade.” We are faced with a choice in this debate: continue our electric business as usual, creating centrally located large power generating plants and distributing that power over a rapidly decaying and nearly over capacity transmission and distribution system.

Or, we could begin to rebuild now – with the urging of an historic blackout, which cost in excess of $6 billion in lost revenues, spoiled food, work stoppages, missed opportunities.

We could use this as the impetus to build a new system – a smarter system – one which uses distributed generation, renewable resources and makes our communities less vulnerable and more wealthy.

How would distributed generation make a community wealthier? Smaller power plants, using naturally occurring – and often free – renewable resources such as wind, geothermal, solar or bioenergy – create power in a neighborhood or district, and sell it in the same area.

The power plants are constructed using local labor and materials; the power plant pays taxes such as property and payroll; the income generated from the sale of power can be kept in the community and, jobs for operation and maintenance of the power plant are homegrown: local jobs for local people.

As Nevadans, we tend to be labeled “fiercely independent” and are described as people with a sense of “rugged individualism.” Distributed generation is nothing new to Nevada – home to one of the most aggressive renewable portfolio standards in the nation.

We have rugged individualists living “off the grid” not only in some of our most desolate desert regions where there is no “grid,” but in towns and cities as well.

Ordinary people – fiercely independent – in tract houses who have made a conscious decision to create their own power using primarily the sun and wind.

Renewable energy can power any electric need.

From refrigerators to televisions, computers, washers, dryers, garage freezers and all the new electricity hungry goodies we add incrementally to our lives such as PDA’s and picture-taking cell phones.

America’s energy consumption is growing at a conservative rate of 2.5 percent annually.

The creaky, outmoded, centralized hub and spoke technology that makes up our generation, transmission and distribution system is taxed to the breaking point and makes us vulnerable.

Glenn Hamer, executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in an op/ed piece recently, “The bad guys are taking notes.” He mentioned the “great blackout of 1965” and indicated that unless our nation’s enemies don’t have CNN or a newspaper subscription, they obviously know we’re in no better shape some 40 years later from a possible economic and social attack through our aging, brittle grid system.

Often, challenges and problems are only opportunity disguised.

The blackout experienced in the Northeast could have easily happened in the West – geographically the largest grid in the country.

The lesson is simple: we have to do now what it takes to reduce strain on the grid by decreasing delivery requirements.

The creation of distributed generation systems to power a neighborhood, a hospital, a school, a company, a home, makes sense economically for communities, and socially for our energy demanding lifestyle.

We are faced with the Debate of the Decade: business as usual, or do it better, different, and with greater economic benefits for the many, while reaping solid environmental rewards as a fabulous side benefit.

Once a renewable energy system is capitalized, the fuel is free.

The sun in Nevada shines nearly every single day.

The wind blows nearly every day.

We boast the best geothermal resources of any state in the nation, our biomass fuels are already being turned into energy and in October, the long awaited high resolution wind resource maps for Nevada will be unveiled by U.S.

Senator Harry Reid at the Western States Renewable Energy Summit.

I say the time is now, opportunity showed up cloaked as disaster.

Counties, cities, neighborhoods, individuals will step forward with new ideas to generate power using resources they already own, creating revenues, jobs, security and energy price stability.

Misty Young is vice president of KPS|3 in Reno and marketing communications director of the KPS|3 Renewable Energy Practice Group.

She also serves as co-chair of the national communications committee for the Washington D.C.

based American Council on Renewable Energy and on the board of directors for Sunrise Sustainable Resources Group.

The Big 3 You say today’s top business issues affecting Northern Nevada are: 1.

Rising premium costs for health insurance.

2.

Cost and availability of liability coverage 3.

Shortage of well-trained labor.

Tell us what’s affecting your business at http://www.nnbw.biz.

We’ll use your input in shaping each week’s updated list.

We are also available to speak to your organization about these issues in detail.

For more information about our speakers bureau, contact John Seelmeyer at info@nnbw.biz.


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