National GRID – National Energy Leadership
August 17, 2009 Leave a comment
Those of us who are soldiers in the Pickens Army are dedicated to promoting and evangelizing the religion of reducing carbon produced by oil, reducing our dependence on foreign energy, and are always on the lookout for initiatives to feed our passion to solve critical energy issues facing America’s economy, the environment, and our national security.” (from the Pickens Plan)
We should aggressively find those jewels of energy leadership, highlight them, and learn from their efforts.
The National GRID is actually a British company, specializing in delivering both electrical and natural gas in the northeast United States (as well as the UK). Serving about 3.3 million electricity users, and around 3.4 million natural gas users, national GRID is taking a leadership role in developing US policy towards energy transmission and use.
“The average home that converts from oil to natural gas heat will cut by as much as 99.9% its emissions of sulfur dioxide, a major contributor to acid rain, and emit up to 28% less carbon dioxide (CO2), which equates to planting 100 trees every year. North America has abundant supplies of this environmentally friendly energy source, so converting from oil to gas delivers double benefits by helping to reduce our carbon footprint while reducing reliance on foreign-sourced fuels.” (Tom King, president of National Grid in the US)
Is it Real, or is it…?
Writing in a blog, news release, website, or marketing brochure is easy. The proof is in the results, and National GRID is holding management responsible for results. Leadership starts at the top, and National GRID has policies in place from the board of directors down to individual employees established to promote a culture of being environmentally conscience and dedicated to both reducing impacts of both energy delivery and usage within the United States.
For the 10th consecutive year, National Grid has received national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for leadership in mitigating the effects of climate change by promoting energy efficiency.
The company received three awards at the EPA-DOE ENERGY STAR awards ceremony in Washington D.C; the ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award; the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award; and, the ENERGY STAR Award for Sustained Excellence in Program Delivery.
However the most interesting part of the National GRID story is just appearing the horizon. More than sharing Pickens Plans promoting the use of natural gas, the National GRID is also now aggressively going after investment in, and production of, wind power. You might ask, “aren’t a lot of companies messing around with wind power?” or “isn’t California already a leader in the development of wind power?” Yes, and Yes.
The problem is that other states are also in wind corridors, and could generate as much or more wind energy as California. There is only one minor problem, how do you get the energy out of Texas and into Chicago? The transmission line infrastructure in the USA cannot current support or carry the power generated in many of our most attractive locations.
The Power of Electrical Transmission
Several complicated factors contribute to power transmission challenges:
- The US has hundreds of separate power companies and independent transmission companies
- Power generation in the US is generally a vertical industry, where power is generated and delivered within a single company infrastructure, or through private supply contracts with power wholesalers
- Most power companies are public, or public utilities, with very little reason for cooperation with competitors in the same region
- The lead time from planning to construction can take many years, with actual electrical delivery in excess of 8~10 years from the initial project start date
- Given the cost of transmission, reliability and redundancy is not always the highest priority in any electrical transmission design
The value companies like National GRID bring to the US are very compelling. In Europe, electrical transmission systems for delivering “green” or renewable energy had much greater government and industry focus than in the US. In the period of 2004~2008, according to the Edison Electrical Institute, the UK invested more than 3 times the amount of money in transmission technologies for renewable energy sources than in the US. Even worse, the demand for power in the US outstripped the transmission capacity on long distance routes by near 2:1.
So, the National GRID brings their experience and investment culture in building electrical transmission technology to the US. They propose solutions ranging from recommending independent regional high capacity transmission lines, to supporting energy transmission trial initiatives such as recently advanced by New York State (Gov Patterson’s “45” by “15” project, which would provide power for 6,500 households, and reduce carbon emissions by 20,000 tons per year).
“The Governor’s aggressive energy agenda is particularly encouraging as it matches National Grid’s equally robust initiatives, including recently proposed smart grid pilot programs in the Albany and Syracuse areas,” said William E. Flynn, vice president of New York government relations for National Grid.
For Those of Us in California
All is not lost in California. While PG&E and SoCal Edison struggle through many of the issues National GRID highlights in the Northeast, both companies (and others of course) do understand and promote the use of clean energy. My Edison bill not only shows how energy is being used, but also my personal usage trends and carbon cost of my use. I can go to any grocery store in Long Beach, and see “Edison Certified” light bulbs for sale. Yes, there are politics involved. Who can forget the lessons we learn from the Erin Brockovich story?
In the coming weeks we will look at several different energy companies and energy initiatives. For today, national GRID gets a strong tip-of-the-hat for efforts in making our energy better, greener, and more sustainable.
John Savageau, Long Beach