Internet-like energy system becoming
Oct 9, 2007 - Paul Hanley - The StarPheonix
Several years ago, the futurist Jeremy Rifkin predicted
the world would build an energy system that would
resemble the Internet.
The Internet is, of course, the worldwide, publicly-accessible
series of interconnected computer networks that consist
of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business
and government information networks. People everywhere
can link to the Internet, put information in and take
Along these lines, Rifkin's energy "internet" would
link to millions of energy producers, not just the
few big producers and millions of consumers linked
to today's energy grids. Utilities would become primarily
managers of complex energy flows.
This vision is rapidly becoming a reality, with thousands
and soon millions of people and companies throughout
the world producing power-using solar panels, wind
turbines and other technologies -- and feeding excess
production into the electrical grid. Similarly, people,
co-ops, companies and communities are beginning to
produce their own heating and transport fuels, such
as biogas, ethanol, biodiesel and solid fuels. One
innovative leader is California, with its million
solar roofs program.
Environmentalists have been urging SaskPower and the
provincial government to open up the grid to private
producers for some time. This approach has been gradually
adopted, starting with larger co-generation facilities
and wind farms, as well as several smaller pilot projects.
SaskPower's Small Power Producers Policy was designed
to accommodate customers who wish to generate up to
100 kilowatts (kW) of electricity.
Access to the grid has been opened wider now that
SaskPower will allow net metering. Net metering refers
to offsetting a customer's electricity consumption
against that same customer's production of electricity.
This applies to customers interested in generating
their own environmentally-responsible electricity
from wind, low impact hydro, biomass, flare gas, solar
and heat recovery systems. With a net metering system,
electricity flow is measured through special meters.
Net metering is part of the recently expanded Green
Power Portfolio, which will help Saskatchewan achieve
its goal of producing 30 per cent of its electricity
from renewable sources by 2020. The portfolio includes:
- The expansion of wind generation, with a goal of
an additional 100 megawatts by 2012. SaskPower will
also establish a Wind Power Integration and Development
Unit, to further study wind deployment in the province.
- Delivery of waste heat recovery projects from natural
gas compressor stations, with a goal of 50 megawatts
by 2010. - Delivery of biomass projects using forestry
wastes, with a goal of 20 megawatts by 2010.
- Phase three of the Environmentally Preferred Power
(EPP) Program will be launched, to solicit additional
renewable power projects from the private sector.
- More energy efficiency and conservation programs,
with a target of reducing electricity demand by 300
megawatts by 2017.
All this will be complemented by adding up to 400
megawatts of simple cycle natural gas-fired generation
(SCGT). This method produces up to 50 per cent less
carbon dioxide per megawatt hour than conventional
coal-fired generation. SaskPower will offset the greenhouse-gas
emissions associated with the operation of these turbines
through a carbon credit system yet to be established.
Emissions of sulphur dioxide, particulates and mercury
are near-zero, and nitrogen oxide emissions will also
be reduced compared to coal.
SCGTs will enable the integration of additional wind
power into the electrical system since the ease of
turning production on and off complements fluctuating
SCGTs are flexible with respect to location, helping
to reduce the need for new transmission lines. The
turbines will be installed in areas where electricity
is most needed.
Another related development is the $320 million Green
Future Fund from the sale of the province's stake
in NewGrade Energy. The money is being allocated to
four areas: $100 million for conservation and efficiency;
$125 million for carbon capture and storage in the
oil and gas and electricity sectors; $75 million to
increase the use of renewable energy; and $20 million
to reduce methane and other emissions from the oil,
gas and agricultural sectors.
All these measures are positive moves to a more complex,
diverse, stable and affordable energy system based
on renewable sources. © The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)