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THE FASTEST PATH TO CLEANER, CHEAPER ENERGY IS LOCAL

Local Energy means individuals, communities and businesses have the choice to generate their own clean power, to create local jobs and to directly benefit from the rapidly decreasing costs of solar and wind energy.

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Clean energy is one of the largest business opportunities in history. But, in 2011, the US venture capital industry lost over $10 billion betting on it. What led to this cleantech collapse? And what did we learn as funding for cleantech is on the rise again?

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Clean energy headlines from November:
– New renewables pull ahead of coal in cost race
– MorningStar: Coal has an ugly future
– Midterm elections were also about clean energy and clean energy lost
– California utilities under a crushing legal assault
– A radical new approach to electrical storage.

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Nuclear power is the most divisive and debated of all electric generation solutions. Critics say Fukushima and Chernobyl prove it is too dangerous. Supporters say there is no other proven way to generate huge amounts of carbon-free, baseload electricity. So, what is the answer? Should we step up our adoption of nuclear power or shut it down altogether?

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I climbed a 250-foot wind turbine to learn firsthand how wind power is changing the landscape of global energy. But it wasn’t until I got to the very top that I embraced the most important truth of wind power – size matters.

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My recent podcast interview with Suncast’s Nico Johnson covered a wide range of topics including the history of the grid and emerging business opportunities.

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For nuclear power to achieve its promise as a source of global-scale, rock-steady, emissions-free power, new approaches are needed. To understand how nuclear power can rise again, we need to take a look at fusion, small modular reactors, traveling wave reactors and more.

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While a stable grid is essential for the well being of developed countries, nuclear power magnifies the risks and rewards of making electricity to a level of national security. Few types of power generation are more contentious and none have the potential to affect the well being of nations like nuclear power – as both defender and demolisher.

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The biggest clean energy headlines of October:
* The US is about to surpass 1 million electric vehicles. 
* The US Government has written off $500 million in “clean coal” research since 2010.
* The US is on track for record coal retirements in 2018
* California utilities are proactively creating blackouts to avoid more powerline caused wildfires. 
* Chernobyl is once again generating power but this time it’s solar.

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I recently had the honor to keynote the 10th annual Southern Solar Summit. My presentation focused on two points. First, solar and battery will become the largest source of electricity sooner than people think. Second, Georgia is in a unique position to help lead the clean energy transformation.

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There are few more important questions for the 21st century than how we will power our electric grids. Literally trillions of dollars and are at stake, and possibly even the future of the planet. It’s a good bet that wind and solar will make up the majority of the future grid. But, wind and solar are not the same. Wind turbines benefit from economies of scale. As they get bigger, their costs go down; but only up to a point. By comparison, solar’s cost declines are driven by something even more powerful, economies of volume – the more you make of something, the cheaper it gets.

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I recently moderated a panel at the Energy Leaders Symposium called Disruptions in the Energy Industry. This event was hosted by Georgia Tech’s Center for Distributed Energy. To help frame the discussions, I defined a disruption as an industry changing so quickly that incumbents can’t keep up. I listed three drivers threatening to disrupt the power industry: a shift from economies of scale to economies of volumes, a shift from top-down to edge-in, and battery storage.

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Nuclear power plants produce almost no greenhouse gases. If you want a huge amount of steady 24/7/365 electricity that has minimal impact on climate change, nuclear is your go-to option. But the environmental promise of minimal greenhouse gas emissions comes with an environmental cost: nuclear waste. Decades of nuclear power has resulted in 250,000 tons of accumulated waste.

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