U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other political leaders offered their take on microgrids and the energy revolution underway last week at a virtual resilience forum with host CNN . Fareed Zakaria.
While the discussion revolved around several energy issues, Zakaria repeatedly asked several panelists about microgrids, questioning the role they can play in preventing the type of blackouts created by California wildfires. , the February deep freeze in Texas, and other examples of what he called “global weirdness.”
“I think it’s an element and an important element to have that kind of redundancy,” said Granholm. “Microgrids are available technology. “
She added that microgrids have special meaning for places like Texas, as they are electrically isolated from the rest of the country and from California, where wildfire-related power outages are leaving swathes of the world. State in the dark.
How to conquer a $ 23 trillion market
But Granholm said she only sees microgrids as part of a larger plan by the Biden administration to strengthen energy infrastructure, meet climate targets and capture clean energy jobs, a theme she repeated over and over when she presented the Biden administration’s US employment plan.
Granholm described the United States as being “at a critical time… of crisis and opportunity. The climate crisis is certainly hitting our coasts and threatening our economy and harming our most vulnerable communities, ”she said. “But on the other hand, the opportunity is that this global cleantech market will create a $ 23 trillion market by the end of this decade, or $ 23 trillion. And this administration wants America to corner this market.
As part of the plan, the Biden administration wants to add 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations – which will create new demand on the grid and provide another good reason to bolster the macro-grid, according to Granholm.
“We need to increase the capacity. We need to add resilience and we need to make sure that happens, which is why the president called for a major investment, ”said Granholm. The investment could also include “the micro-grids you are talking about,” she told Zakaria. “I think micro-grids must exist, but [they’re] not sufficient in themselves.
In total, the Biden administration wants to invest $ 100 billion to revamp the entire U.S. electricity grid, she said.
“Over the past few months, the Department of Energy has moved at lightning speed to mobilize over $ 1.5 billion for research and development and the deployment of clean energy. But the billion and a half that has been released for this kind of technology since I took office is just a down payment for what’s to come, ”said Granholm.
Other people who spoke at the forum were US Senator Chris Coons (Delaware); Rep. the United States Jimmy Panetta (California); Luke Bronin, mayor of Hartford, Connecticut; Cindy Chavez, Supervisor of Santa Clara County, California; Adrian Garcia, a supervisor from Harris County, Texas; Lynn Good, President and CEO of Duke Energy; and KR Sridhar, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Bloom Energy, which hosted the online forum.
Is it India?
Zakaria asked another panelist, Rep. Panetta, on how to maintain resilience, noting, “I hear about power outages in California. I have to admit that the last time I heard of blackouts was when I was a kid in India. And I thought I was leaving what was then one of the poorest countries for the richest country in the world. And here I am, with power outages again. “
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Panetta said he was starting to prevent wildfires by cleaning up dry brush and hiring more forest service workers. But he added that it “also comes down to the question you asked the secretary Granholm – and this concerns microgrids.
He described a town in Salinas Valley, California, which now has a micro-grid after a three-day outage caused by a cut in the only transmission line to the town.
Panetta wants microgrids to be available not only for large entities, such as communities and hospitals, but also for homes.
To this end, Panetta introduced a bill, the Microgrid Act, in Congress which would offer a 30% federal tax credit for microgrids.
“Obviously in order to avoid this type of blackout, whether caused by mother nature [or] being man-made, there must be a way to be more self-sufficient and more resilient. And that’s why it’s important to have micro-grids, ”said Panetta.
Bronin, the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut, described a micro-grid the city installed with Bloom Energy technology and state support in a neighborhood with a median income of just $ 28,000 / year. The microgrid directly serves a library, senior center, neighborhood school, community center and also has the capacity to support a nearby gas station and grocery store during a power outage.
When asked by Zakaria how Duke Energy plans to avoid the kind of blackouts Texas has experienced, company CEO Lynn Good said there was never a solution.
She described vegetation and flood management, visibility on the circuits and better understanding and communication on the bulk feed system. “And we think there will be applications for micro-grids where we think that’s the best situation compared to working with the bulk feed system.”
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