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Natural Gas Technologies in the Distributed Power Sector

November 21, 2013

A wide number of new – or newly enhanced – natural gas technologies are making cheap natural gas an attractive option for business, landowners and even some homeowners, challenging (or, at least, supplementing) rooftop solar in the increasing de-centralization of power generation.

From the latest IEEE Spectrum:

(E)xperts say the boom in the natural gas supply and memories of large-scale outages are  . . . playing a big role in moving electricity generation out of the hands of big utilities.  Different gas-fueled technologies—fuel cells, microturbines, reciprocating engines, and turbines—are now competing for a spot in the basements of businesses. “People are genuinely waking up to their options,” says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director at Navigant Research. “Distributed-generation technology can be better than the current option of centralized power on the grid.”

This will present a major challenge for existing utilities – and for municipal governments.  Here in Los Angeles, for example, the city uses the Department of Water and Power as a sort of off-the-books piggy bank to hide pension and other costs.  The resulting rate hikes are actually surreptitious (and highly regressive) tax hikes, but if distributed power takes off and undermines the finances of the DWP, the whole house of cards collapses.  Which is why it is important to build out the distributed power system quickly, before the utilities and their politician allies build up legal and policy walls to prevent it.

 

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