The Changing Face of the Electric Industry

An interesting article on Yahoo News (via Bloomberg) titled “Why Elon Musk’s Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company” talks about the potential impact of Tesla Motors’ Gigafactory which is being built in Reno, Nevada, and which is projected to produce 500,000 battery packs per year for Tesla Motors electric vehicles.

Here are a few key points and quotes from the article:

  • “Musk’s so-called gigafactory may soon become an existential threat to the 100-year-old utility business model. The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power.”
  • J.B. Straubel, CTO of Tesla says the company sees utilities as partners, not rivals.
  • Distributed energy coming on the scene is now putting pressure on utilities, e.g. Germany’s EON this week said it will sell it’s fossil fuel plants.
  • Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has a monthly electric bill of $25 from due to a home solar installation, which he also uses to charge his electric car.
  • The Edison Electric Institute, a trade group that represents for-profit utilities, has issued a call to action to convert from gasoline to electric vehicles, saying the move is nearly essential for utilities’ survival, saying, “the bottom line is that the electric utility industry needs the electrification of the transportation sector to remain viable and sustainable in the long run.”
  • SunPower is providing solar and storage systems to buyers of Audi electric cars and rebates for solar-panels to people who buy Ford plug-in EVs. SunPower CEO says the time when people will charge their EVs with excess solar power from home systems “not decades away, that is years away.”
  • Ellen Hayes, a Pacific Gas and Electric Company spokeswoman states, “The electric grid will be just as important in the years to come because the grid is becoming the platform that makes it possible for people to plug in solar panels, batteries and charging stations . . . having a solar panel that isn’t connected to the grid is like having a computer that’s not connected to the Internet.”

While we concentrate on LENR at this site, there are other technologies, trends and business moves afoot which could have important implications for the future of energy. Where it all will lead is hard to say right now, but even without LENR entering the scene there are clear signs that things are changing quite quickly, and the status quo is going to be changing.

When you add LENR to the mix, the solar/wind models that are being discussed in this article could change quite significantly. However that would only happen if LENR can produce electricity efficiently, and it might take some time before we see that happen, as the first commercial plants are likely to be heating plants only.