America, and the developed and developing world, face three simultaneous challenges which must be addressed in the next ten to twenty years – peak conventional oil production, climate change, and dependence on outmoded energy architecture. The solution to these three liked problems is a systems approach to developing ‘new energy architecture’ – providing abundant, reliable, and affordable clean energy. Only from a systems architecture approach can an integrated plan and process be developed to achieve the top level requirements of this project, and avoid catastrophic economic and environmental damages resulting from dependence on carbon based primary energy. This program will identify and develop the core dependent subsystems of a new energy ecosystem, and provide a plan and a process for continual innovation and integration of component solutions.
Like Apollo, it comprises a vision and commitment, known as a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to focus and align talents and industry to complete the mission. Similar to the Internet, it provides an overall design goal and process for innovation and integration. The core systems strategy builds out investment in the entire value chain; it does not pick technology winners, but instead will bet on every horse in the race, ensuring mission completion by 2030. A singular BHAG, a goal of zero petroleum use in the United States by 2030, will focus the development and integration of renewable energy systems into a ‘smart energy’ transmission grid, providing electromotive force for a complete ground transportation economy.
Supporting the transition to an electric vehicle infrastructure will include both focused and broad based support for batteries, fuel cells, alternative transportation fuels, and ‘smart energy’ charging infrastructure. Concomitant and parallel to this effort is a commitment to energy efficiency as a design ethic in buildings, transportation, manufacturing, and appliances. A distribution network which supports energy informatics and electron liquidity will drive the emergence of ‘electronomics’ – and business models rewarding energy efficiency and GHG (Green House Gas) reduction. The ultimate goal, and reward, of integrated energy systems architecture is transitioning from reliance on a hunter gatherer ‘harvesting’ of primary energy to a system with ‘energy equity’ – an investment in a sustainable energy foundation for a green economy.
The industrialized world economies are at the crossroads of two eras, the era of carbon, and the era of electrons. For over 250 years, fossil fuels supplied the muscle of the industrial revolution, and expanded the wealth of nations and standard of living for billions of people. A combination of resource depletion, environmental damage, and greenhouse warming now threaten both the health of our civilization and that of the planet. The discovery of electricity and the advent of an electrical grid system brought prosperity to billions of rural citizens, as well as enabling the start of a new epoch – the digital age – and a revolution in information technology.
A similar ‘digital revolution’ is poised to help transform energy technology, from renewable energy to smart transmission grids, transportation systems powered by near zero emission energy, and buildings with net zero energy use. We can live in an era of abundant, affordable, and responsible energy, but only with a systems approach to a ‘new energy architecture’. Just as Apollo required both a vision and a national commitment, we must make the commitment to move away from petroleum and traditional coal technology, and develop both low carbon and zero emission energy solutions for buildings, transportation systems, commerce and industry. ‘Peak oil’ and or climate change could force this decision without warning, and at a time when much of the developing world is growing in both prosperity and thirst for energy. If ever there were a time to move to a new energy infrastructure – the time is now.
This is not a piecemeal plan to simply deploy more renewable energy, focus on energy efficiency, or build higher mileage vehicles. This is a systems approach to developing an end-to-end energy system, with clear design goals, project milestones, and an open process to support both innovation and integration of new technology, and understanding critical interdependencies. This is a vision to build ‘energy equity’, an energy system for a Green Economy.
This paper will outline a ’12 step’ systems approach to building an electron economy, the requirements for infrastructure investment, and the payoff in energy, economic, and environmental security. In particular, job creation and workforce development needs are outlined to show how the community college and workforce development infrastructure can start work, today, in preparing the mindshare and labor force for this sweeping transformation. This is an Apollo style program, requiring parallel activities in eleven (ten plus one) subsystems, which come together to assemble the electron economy over a period of ten to twenty years.
These efforts begin with significant investment in a renewable energy infrastructure, solar, wind and geothermal, a rebuilding of our aging electrical transmission infrastructure, integration of ‘smart energy’ systems and electrical distribution network, developing stationary storage systems to help balance and provide additional energy efficiency to the grid, and undertaking a radical approach to energy efficiency in everything we produce. Perhaps the most sweeping transformation in this program is the electrification of transportation, and a commitment to be completely free of petrofuels by 2030.
Developing batteries, fuel cells, and alternative (mobile energy) fuels is both integral and critical path to this effort. LEED and green building will transform our buildings, combined with new transportation systems for our cities. A fresh look at nuclear power will help keep our investment in this technology healthy until new solutions are found. A parallel program to develop rapid GHG sequestering technology to slow future green house warming will be started. Like Apollo, a successful program to build an electron economy begins with an understanding of the systems dependencies and both a vision and collective commitment to achieve the mission design goals. This is not business as usual, we are ‘on the clock’, and must complete this program in twenty years.
Why do these three challenges need to be addressed in the next ten to twenty years? Robert Hirsch, who researched and wrote ‘The Inevitable Peaking of World Oil Production’ states a lead time of 15 to 20 years of development would be needed to complete a conversion to non-petroleum fuels. To protect the US economy, as well as avoid resource wars, and the cost of conflict preparation, we need to convert to non-petroleum fuels through a combination of aggressive CAFE standards and investment in dependent technologies; batteries, fuel cells, alternatives to liquid fuels (biofuels, hydrogen and methane), and smart grid / charging infrastructure. Climate change will likely become a front burner issue in the years 2012-2017 (mean 2015), as an ice free arctic leads to permafrost degradation and concomitant methane release. Decarbonization on a fast pace will rely on a combination of renewables, energy efficiency and conservation, and a path towards ‘no petroleum in 2030’, decreasing GHGs by 25 and 50% by 2025 and 2030, respectively.
Finally, our energy infrastructure is based on extraction and combustion of carbon atoms rather than harvesting of passive energy (solar, wind, and geothermal) which is more efficiently and environmentally sustainably converted to electricity and electromotive force (EMF). As outlined below, our passenger fleet of automobiles would require just 20 to 25% of the electricity we use each day (2 of 10 billion kilowatt hours), an amount we could recapture through prudent investment in electrical efficiency measures. Further, investment in building energy efficiency (LEED and green building), smart energy systems, and energy storage and conversion, leads to greater and more flexible ‘electron liquidity’, and business models based on energy equity (electronomics).
Significant investment in smart grid technology is occurring today, and investment in renewables is poised to grow steadily as new technologies address both cost and performance. CAFE standards are rising, albeit slowly. However, without a timetable to develop batteries, fuel cells, and alternative fuels for electric vehicles, which meet key performance metrics, we will not replace petroleum by 2030. The project described herein is an emergent plan, requiring a collective vision and a shared commitment, an open standard based process to support innovation and integration, to achieve both sustainable and economically robust energy architecture. The US will lead in power systems competence, and share key innovations to drive global energy transformation – demonstrating leadership through collaboration.