Renewables at the Personal Vs. Utility Scale

My blog at Renewable Energy World continues to garner some interesting discussion. In particular, we have an ongoing conversation about clean energy solutions at the individual (e.g., house rooftop) vs. the macro (utility) level.

As readers know, I favor aggressively implementing one or more renewables technology at the multi-gigawatt level on a regional basis, creating the financial incentive for this by removing the artificially low price associated with fossil fuels. The counter argument to this top-down approach, of course, is that it necessary involves corporate or governmental entities whose interests are not in sync with the health and safety of the common citizen.

Blogger Phil Manke articulates this nicely:

I appreciate your viewpoints, Craig, but why the favoring of concentrated solar thermal over the distributed variety? If individuals employed solar heating for water, space, and process heating over half of energy needs could be rechanneled and under personal control instead of paying utilities to produce and transport it, with attendant losses and profit structure.

It is grass roots and it works extremely well. This country is made up of people who want to control their own sources of wealth and energy. Like a farmer who grows their own food and food for others, solar farmers may well be the shortest route to energy independence instead of large corporate farmers that seem to be dominating the country and polluting it as well, and now you would advocate the same in the energy infrastructure also. Who do you really work for?

Good comments, Phil. I guess I’ve always favored the simplest approach to solving world problems. And, though I impute zero moral goodness to most corporations and government bureaucracies, it’s always struck me that providing energy to 7 billion people is a large-scale problem that needs a large-scale solution.

And here’s another way to look at it. I hate to sound cynical or condescending, but as I wrote the other day, most people really don’t care about this stuff. You and I and the readers of Renewable Energy World, 2GreenEnergy et. al. are simply not representative of the majority of the population. If we’re going to solve this problem, we cannot sit around hoping that masses of people wake up one morning and realize they need to rethink their energy-related lifestyles. I know how arrogant that sounds, but I’m afraid it’s true.

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