Chipping Away at Our Power Needs

One of the characteristics of our electricity infrastructure is that much of our power is generated at a relatively small number of capital-intensive facilities. With today’s technology, these facilities generate power at about 30% efficiency.  While this has been the most economical way to generate cheap power, there are also downsides. The plants and the transmission grid are vulnerable terrorist attacks and to storms like Hurricane Sandy.

One potential solution is to bring the power generation closer to the user, especially institutions like hospitals and universities that use large amounts of power within a relatively small area. Such technology exists – it’s called Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

Not only does CHP provide electricity, but as the name implies, it also can supply heat (or air conditioning) to these institutions. CHP plants can operate at up to 80% efficiency.

The downside is that these plants operate using natural gas. As one Blue Jersey writer notes, natural gas is a contributor to global warming.

Nevertheless, until our government is willing to commit to an all-out Apollo-like effort to wean ourselves from dirty fuels (not an impossibility, as Germany is demonstrating), natural gas is a better bridge to the future than coal, and does not have the long-term disposal problems of nuclear fuel waste.

Today, the Assembly Utilities Committee passed a bill on to the full chamber that would give large power users incentives to utilize CHP. I spoke with the committee’s chair, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, about this and also about the governor’s dismal record on renewable energy.

Comments (7)

  1. carolh

    Natural gas is already causing water pollution problems and the fracked water is radioactive too. And they are dumpiing it everywhere. Nuclear plants aren’t even  allowed to do that.

    I am extremely disappointed in this guy.  He is quite wrong. And I think some folks on BJ here owe me an apology for attacking me for stating accurately that he is FOR fracking.

    His comments dissing wind and solar are quite wrong.  We can store heat and energy in water and batteries.  We won’t make any progress on wind and solar if elected officials like him keep pushing fracked gas without thinking of the downside.

    So THIS is where the pro frackers on Blue Jersey are getting their misinformation from. This guy…..

  2. carolh

    endorsed him….

  3. denniscmcgrath

    would it take to eliminate all fossil fuels from the USA energy mix, Carol?

  4. deciminyan (Post author)

    One author contends that we can do this in 20 years. According to Wikipedia, Germany’s goal is a bit less ambitious. They plan to be 100% renewable by 2050.

    Whether it’s 20, 40, or 60 years, if the world economy is to flourish, we will need more power. The bold initiatives like the one in Germany need to start now. Every day we continue to depend on dirty fuels is another day of delay and another day of health issues and severe climate fluctuations.

  5. carolh

    greenhouse gas emissions now. We should not be investing in technology that still uses it. We should be investing in technology that does not. We need to get rid of the crutches now.  Do you know that when I was in college – 25 years ago I learned how to design solar collectors at Rutgers? Twenty five years ago and nothing was done with that until recently because we had the crutches we apparently are still on. We are going to see a second Sandy just months after the first one. We do not have the luxury of time. Even little kids understand this.  See the video that won Yoko Ono’s contest for best video about fracking:… Chivukula is an electrical engineer by training. I am a water resources engineer by training.  We CANNOT sacrifice life giving water to feed the fossil fuel consuming beast. We have alternatives to natural gas.  We need to use them.  We have to get rid of the crutches and stop enabling technologies that poison our neighbors and our beautiful Delaware River – where many of you folks get your drinking water from.

  6. denniscmcgrath
  7. carolh

    You don’t need to frack to get that.  Algea is also a contender.… But if we stay on our crutches we will NEVER make the mental and political leap we need in order to get free of fossil fuels.  We have ALREADY run out of time.


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