Looking to Efficiency to Build Energy Independence


In our current economy, one of the biggest challenges for American lawmakers—at both the state and federal levels—is to do what they can to minimize the impact and shorten the duration of the recession.

A cornerstone of our return to prosperity should be a program designed to establish energy independence, with a focus on improving the efficiency of our electrical grid, reducing energy losses, and speeding the adoption of renewable energy sources.

Grid modernization is critical, but very expensive. A recent report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), estimated that we’ll need $450 billion in grid infrastructure investment between now and 2020 just to keep up with anticipated U.S. electric demand.

A seldom-reported fact is that up to 67 percent of our electricity we generate from fossil fuels is wasted from the point where it is generated and enters the grid to the point where it is consumed by the end-user, according to the Department of Energy. That means if we can save a kilowatt-hour (kWh) on the consumption side by making the grid more efficient, we don’t have to generate 3 kWhs! This equation has potentially dramatic effects on greenhouse gas emissions. We believe that making the grid “smarter,” with digital tools that monitor and manage loads while balancing generation sources, can save energy, lower electricity bills, and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent studies support this view. Department of Energy studies show that if we can flatten the electric grid’s demand peaks, we can avoid spending $50 billion on new generation. Bringing smart technology to the grid can also generate substantial economic benefits, including the creation of tens of thousands of green-collar jobs.

There are hundreds of companies working to expand generation from wind, solar, and other renewable sources. These are a critical component in our quest for energy independence. However, there are relatively few companies working on what we see as the low hanging fruit: improving the … Next Page »

Bruce Lisanti is President and CEO of MicroPlanet, a Seattle company that provides advanced energy conservation technology used in residential, commercial, and industrial environments. Follow @

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  • Melvin Goldstein

    Question: question 12 in “Thinking Physics” – page 259
    Inside a warm damp cave completely sealed off from the outside world could life flourish indefinitely?

    Answer: No life forms could flourish indefinitely. In an isolated system, entropy always increases. Life tries to push entropy in the opposite direction. When life is created, entropy decreases in the cave but nature demands a greater entropy increase offset. The cave, being sealed, would mean that entropy would reach its max, thus energy necessary to sustain and generate new life would be unavailable. Maybe we should learn a lesson from this. Available energy is mandatory. Wealth may equate to available energy. If you want to live in a nation that is prospering make sure that its available energy supply is abundant.

    Entropy is one of “Physics Foibles”