The Renewable Revolution and the Death of Coal
Bob Hemphill and Leah Bissonette
We are experiencing a major change in the way electricity is manufactured and distributed. Renewable sources for generating and storing electricity have gotten to the point where in some installations the entire cost of renewable energy (capital and operating costs) is less per Kwh than the operating cost alone of fossil fuel power stations. This remarkable change began in the late 1990’s and has accelerated. It is likely to continue. Technological changes have contributed to this cost decline, as have manufacturing efficiencies and increases in volume. This is likely to continue, increasing the cost advantage of renewables, especially solar, over existing 20th century generation technologies. One particularly helpful by-product of this change is that electric transportation is benefiting from the improvements in energy storage. The change from gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks to ones driven by electricity from renewable sources will not be immediate, but its impact will be crucial especially true as more people in the developing world purchase and use such vehicles. Educating citizens and policy makers to this surprising turn of events is an important mission. The changes in the power system are in the long run inevitable, but bad policy can slow the process, and good policy can enhance it. The more voters are educated to the potential and can press for action, the more likely the political system is to support positive policies. Whether and how much human activity contributes to global warming remains politically contentious, but the change away from fossil fuels and toward a renewables-led energy system is positive in many regards: lower electricity cost, expansion of electricity to areas where it is currently unavailable, lower traditional air and water emissions, lower GHG emissions, more consumer choice, and more system resiliency.
Bob Hemphill has more than forty years of experience in making speeches, presentations, lectures, and sales pitches to varied audiences. His experience runs the gamut and includes management presentations to internal company audiences and Boards of Directors needing progress updates on the company’s strategy, road shows for small groups of bankers and investors considering whether to participate in the company’s IPO, pitches to insurance company managing directors interested in financing large solar projects, explanatory meetings with Google and other non-traditional financing sources seeking tax advantaged investments, and traditional speeches to large energy conference participants curious about the latest accomplishments in renewable energy. Even as a Second Lieutenant in Vietnam, Bob was tagged to make his staff section’s update to the Regimental commander during the Seventh Cavalry’s daily staff meeting. He has spoken successfully to audiences both national and global, often on financial topics or in a quest for investment in his company’s projects. As CEO of AES Solar, he led the numerous presentations that secured financing for fifty one separate solar plants in seven countries, with participation from banks and investment companies in Italy, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, Japan, India and the US. His presentations are invariably interesting, always data filled, and frequently laced with droll humor. Mr. Hemphill is also the author of two business travel books, Stories From the Middle Seat: The Four-Million-Mile Journey to Building a Billion Dollar International Business and Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventure in Culture Cuisine & Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive.
Leah Bissonette is similarly an experienced and dynamic speaker. She has addressed audiences ranging from Fortune 500 Boards, international corporations, and corporate risk managers, to international regulatory panels, think tanks, university forums, and tribal councils. Her experience in the energy field is deep and wide. She has presented on such diverse subjects as energy conservation alternatives, demand management, electric and gas commodity purchasing and risk management, portfolio analysis, regulatory planning and impacts, and environmental assessment for energy generation choices. Her presentations draw on more than 30 years of experience in the trenches of the industry throughout the world and she brings delightful real-world anecdotes from her experiences. Recently she has focused on regulatory changes impacting the utility industry, the renewable revolution, and the surprising environmental side effects of these changes. Her presentations reach deep into today’s critical issues, informed by experience and analysis. Her talks plumb a thorough level of detail while still being engaging and accessible.
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