Energy systems should be designed and not mandated out of fear

By Robert Seitz

Updated: 4 hours ago Published: 12 hours ago

We have had comments applauding the Inflation Reduction Act. Other comments decried old industries that require clearing land and digging into the Earth to extract it, such as Margi Dashevsky’s August 25 column, “Alaskans are building a next prosperous economy while leaders are stuck in the past.” Dashevsky said Alaska’s economic future lies in renewable energy, agriculture and a variety of non-extractive businesses. Plus, the endless news stories about climate change and greenhouse gases have people so terrified of doing anything that will really help the economy.

While Alaska has been very successful in developing electrical systems around the state with renewable energy systems such as wind, solar, and hydro, as well as energy storage battery systems , the necessary technologies are not advanced enough to develop 100% renewable power systems. and would stop the flow of petroleum products from the Earth. It will be later than 2035 when we can develop these technologies and find other technologies that can help. We cannot build enough solar panels and wind turbines during this time to compensate for the other types of energy sources that would be needed.

It’s time to assess the conflict between the need for fossil fuels and the fear of greenhouse gases. The increased use of natural gas has been shown to have a significant impact on reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Government mandates that impede oil and gas production only increase the cost of energy without actually advancing the amount of renewable energy products. With higher energy costs, the cost of these renewable energy products will be more expensive to produce, both to extract the necessary resources and to manufacture the products.

To fuel an economy, we need extractive industries to create new wealth. We need cheap energy and electricity to manufacture, transport and build. Supply chain issues show that we should produce agricultural products locally, so that we are not so dependent on the outside world to survive – much like it was in Alaska before subsidized freight disabled our local dairy farms.

In comments posted in 2016, I said we need long-term energy storage to be available to support greater penetration of renewables. By that I meant that we need to be able to store energy for at least six months to be truly efficient and beneficial to the networks involved. I also advocated that a development plan for any power grid, micro or otherwise, should be reliable, resilient, and have inexpensive power, while being sustainable.

There’s still no plan, but fanatics think we can produce and install enough solar panels and wind turbines to solve all our power grid problems. The technology says that can’t happen in the near future, and it can’t be done without developing a plan for how it should be done. My observations from the Governor’s Energy Conference and the Isolated Power Systems Conference, both held this summer, show me that we are making progress with our renewables, but to make better progress we will need to maintain the flow of our oil and gas and we will have to extract some minerals to sustain the effort. And then we must encourage our innovators and entrepreneurs to develop as yet unsuspected technologies and methods to fill the gaps. Free enterprise must be allowed to lead the way and good leadership to provide the incentive and coordination – and yes, we need 20th century leadership to get where we need to be.

Robert Seitz, PE, is an electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.

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