The tide is turning. Are we planning for it – or hoping to stop it?
Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief and is director of Microgrid Institute. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. electricity industry has a less-than-stellar record of planning for long-term changes. With some notable exceptions, energy future plans tend to be built around ideological objectives, rather than engineering realities. Usually policymakers and planners begin by defining a desired outcome - such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent, or transitioning to a 100-percent renewable powered future - and then working backward from that foregone conclusion.
Such an approach is almost destined to run aground, because ideological goals change with shifting political winds. George W. Bush's energy priorities were different from Barack Obama's, and the same is true for commissioners, governors, and mayors.