Las Vegas Lemonade
ENERGEX’2000 GlobeEx’2000 35th IECEC
Riviera Hotel Convention Center, LAS VEGAS, USA
JULY 23-28, 2000
If ever there was a time to make lemonade (i.e. when the world gives you lemons), this conference was it. One of the worst organized, most jumbled, and light on content imaginable. A great many speakers simply didn’t show up. Attendance was mostly by DOE, 3rd world energy officials, academics, and a few vendors and entrepreneurs. It was also very heavy on Nevada as a great place to do business, most notably development of the Nevada Test Site. (Also, I would not recommend the Riviera Hotel.)
So, for some lemonade. Plenary speeches, which mostly consisted of high level pep talks and very general overviews of the energy situation around the world, did offer a few good points.
– Dan Reicher (DOE Assist. Secty for Energy Effic) gave an optimistic and aggressive account of DOE’s commitments to renewables and efficiency, with emphasis on cost-effectiveness. He noted that in 1999, for the first time, more new windpower came on line than new nuclear.
– Nevada State Senator Randolph Townsend, who spearheaded deregulation in Nevada, actually said–if your legislators ever tell you they think they know what’s best, they’re dead wrong. The whole business of deregulation is one of surprises and unintended consequences.
– Admiral Truly, Director of NREL, suggested that the growth of the petroleum industry in the first half of the 20th century is going to prove to be an excellent analogy for what is starting to happen with biomass refining in the 21st century.
– Richard Sonstelie, recently retired CEO of Puget Sound Power, explained that the utility industry has always known that generation, transmission and distribution are entirely different businesses, and that generation has never been a natural monopoly. He went on to develop the idea that distribution isn’t either, and that it’s been terribly oversimplified. Distribution actually consists of a long list of distinct businesses (e.g., network planning, construction, outage response, call centers, customer research, energy procurement, meter reading, billing and collections, etc.). The only aspect of the pipes and wires business that can even begin to be viewed as a natural monopoly is the ownership of pipes and wires–in that it doesn’t make sense to have more than one set in any given location (there are exceptions to this, as we know, and some would argue the point.). Therefore, it isn’t necessary to treat the entire Disco as a regulated monopoly. Most of its activities can be handled on a competitive business model, with incentives and penalties to assure that service/reliability standards are met. After all, pipes and wires are “transportation” businesses, and their metrics should more like those applied to Federal Express. Utilities are already outsourcing what they’re not best at, and some are doing for other utilities–as new lines of business–what they’re good at themselves.
– Jan Pepper, renewables expert and until recently with APX, in charge of setting up their green power market, outlined the growing scale of green power programs. Eight states have already adopted renewable portfolio standards, and 13 have systems benefit charge used to support green power. Truth in labeling/certification agencies are emerging. An intriguing new trend–the “green” attribute of green power can be traded separately from the actual KWH’s themselves. This enhances the marketability of power from intermittent generators.
Two topics that got a lot of attention: Building Heating, Cooling and Power (BCHP is the new acronym) and geothermal, particularly the local heating and cooling variety. (If there is interest, I can provide more information on these items.)
Building Heating, Cooling and Power (BCHP)
The DOE has gotten very interested in on-site generation which maximizes the use of the waste heat for heating and cooling. The BCHP Initiative has over 70 participants, including government, utilities, ESCOs, manufacturers, vendors, etc. http://www.bchp.org/
The gas industry continues to push hard on gas cooling. The GAX heat pump technology promises 30% higher efficiency than the best gas furnace, and 100 beta units will go into the field next year. There is increasing emphasis on humidity control through the use of dessicants.
Rocky Research is a technology development company in Las Vegas that has a impressive array of work going on in heating, cooling and refrigeration, and is looking for commercialization partners for several of its technologies. http://www.rockyresearch.com
Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium is a non-profit organization advancing the use of “GeoExchange” heating and cooling systems, notably in commercial and industrial applications, in addition to residential. (GeoExchange Systems work by moving heat, rather than by converting chemical energy to heat like in a furnace. Every GeoExchange System has three major subsystems or parts: a geothermal heat pump to move heat between the building and the fluid in the earth connection, an earth connection for transferring heat between its fluid and the earth, and a distribution subsystem for delivering heating or cooling to the building.)
One supplier, ClimateMaster, offers a range of advanced products geared to commerical and residential, including a split system that can be used in combination with a traditional furnace.
The most unusual find–I met a German project developer with a story about a “solar chimney”. They actually built a demo in Spain (with Finosa), with at 200 meter chimney that ran for 7 years. The fullscale design calls for a 950 meter chimney, 135 meters in diameter, surrounded by 4 mile diameter circular heat absorber structure (like a greenhouse roof). Heat rising through the chimney will generate 100 MW by turning a fan blade in the base. Crops can be grown in the covered area, and black tubing filled with water can provide storage to make power 24 hours a day. They already have permitted projects and are raising money. The company also has a number of solar trough programs in Spain, Crete and Jordan.