GENI has a powerful wish
If it comes true, energy grid would circle
By Frank Green, staff writer, Saturday August
San Diego Union Tribune
The world is a glittering starship, aglow from an oversized,
intercontinental extension cord delivering power to all
points under the sun. Energy is abundant, blackouts are
unknown, and the electricity rates charged by SDG&E
and other utilities are relatively miniscule.
In Peter Meisen's dreams.
But the longtime advocate of a global energy grid believes
that villagers and city dwellers alike one day will read
by the light of the same pulsating planetary current.
"It (will) be a great circle extending for 25,000
miles," says Meisen, president of the Global Energy
network Institute, or GENI, in San Diego. "What
I'm doing is working on a macro problem."
Alternative energy currently is a high-voltage topic
in San Diego County, where deregulation has many consumers
wilting from escalating power bills.
"Everybody could see this crisis coming years
ago," says Meisen, an engineering graduate from
the University of California San Diego. He's been promoting
his idea for a worldwide power line for 15 years.
Meisen says deregulation eventually will bring stable
prices as more companies enter the industry, spurring
competition and pushing down rates.
But the ultimate solution, he believes, is the single
communal electrical wire extending virtually everywhere.
GENI already can see the outlines of that vast hookup in
the regional, cross-border energy pacts in place between the
United States and MexicoSDG&E, for example, imports
some power from a geothermal plant in Mexico.
"We have untapped renewable energy sources in Mongolia
- an enormous breadbasket of wind energy- and, in the
Gobi desert, a major potential source of solar power,"
Meisen says "We have 1,000 times more renewable energy
than we could ever use on the planet."
Meisen acknowledges that GENI's massive project would
cost an estimated $1 million a mile to implement.
Nonetheless, GENI has gained endorsements for it's plan from
an eclectic group of world of the world statesman and celebrities,
including former United Nations Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali and former-CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite.
"The opportunities for cooperation and increasing
international understanding through the establishment
of an international power grid would be substantial,"
says the Rev. Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate,
in a letter of support of the GENI energy model.
The other day, form GENI's wind cooled office at the World
Trade Center in downtown San Diego, Meisen paid tribute to
his primary influence, the late R. Buckminster Fuller, and
recounted his extensive globe-trotting to numerous energy
conferences over the years to plead his case.
Within the last year, he has appeared at three such
gathering at invitation of the Department of Energy,
focusing on energy issues in Africa, South America,
and Asia. The latter meeting was held in San Diego in
GENI, a nonprofit organization founded by Meisen in
1986, works on a shoe string budget-$100,000 or so a
year-raised from monthly donations by about 250 adherents.
Meisen is GENI's sole full-time employee, with some
of the group's projects performed by student interns.
The seeds of the GENI plan can be traced to a lecture
by Fuller that Meisen and his father attended in the
early-1970s at MiraCosta College in Oceanside.
Meisen says he was struck even then by Fuller's quest
to solve the problem of providing a decent, environmentally
stable standard of living for everyone on the planet.
One of the components of Fuller's system was the creation
of a worldwide and renewable energy grid.
Fuller's theories stuck with Meisen while attending UCSD
he graduated in 1975 with degrees in engineering sciences
and applied mechanics- and later while working as a book,
computer, and clothes salesman.
Meisen's altruism surfaced publicly in 1983 when he
co-founded Share San Diego, which distributed packages
of food to families at discounted prices. By the late-1980s,
the program had been re-named Share USA was serving
240,000 families in 16 cities.
It wasn't until he read Fuller's "Critical Path"
in the mid-1980s that Meisen found his calling as an
advocate for renewable energy.
Meisen contends that a voltage-rich cable snaking it's
way across the American continent and through Africa
and Asia would benefit people who presently use about
1,700 kilowatts per capita in the United States.
In Mexico alone there 25,000 villages with 1,000 people
or less without consistent access to electricity, he
"The world is a lot like the nervous system of the
human body," Meisen says. "When the left arm
atrophies, the rest of the body suffers. In Africa, for
example, there is atrophy from deforestation and HIV...
I'm suggesting that the number one enabling technology
essential to the world's infrastructure is the electricity