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Up Next - Microgrids and More

The energy sector faces profound change, according to Jim Rogers, who has stepped down as chairman of Duke Energy. This is the second of a two-part series outlining his views of what is next in the industry. For the full exchange, please read the current issue of EnergyBiz magazine.

ENERGYBIZ: What will this industry look like in coming years then?

Rogers: There's going to be a continuing battle between central and distributed generation. If we have to retire every nuclear plant and most coal-fired plants by 2050, that's going to translate into significant cost increases to replace them. If we don't build more nuclear, it's going to have a significant impact on our carbon footprint because 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity today comes from nuclear. There will be companies in the industry putting solar on rooftops, deploying energy-saving technologies within the home and supplying 40 percent or more of the electricity utilities historically provided to that home. You'll see the development of a significant number of microgrids that will protect the grid against cyber-attack. 

ENERGYBIZ: What role will China play in the future of electric power?

Rogers: China has moved to the head of the class in production of solar panels and wind turbines. The Chinese have significant environmental problems and they're now attempting to solve them. They will lead the world in the building and operating of new nuclear plants over the next 30 years. They will develop the supply chain and build nuclear plants in a modular fashion. We will have to change our rules and regulations and how we think about the Chinese. They're going to bring us the nuclear technology to replace our existing plants at a lower cost and build new ones faster than we can.

ENERGYBIZ: If you were starting out your career today, where would you want to work? 

Rogers:If I was coming into the industry again, I would come into the industry as David Crane. Maybe I should take that back. I would come into the industry as someone who is an attacker, not a defender. I'd want the solar on the rooftop. I'd want to run that. I'd want the ability to deploy new technologies that lead to productivity gains to the use of electricity in homes and businesses. I would go after the monopoly that I see weakened over the last 25 years.  My goal would be to take customers away from utilities as fast as I could, because I think they're vulnerable. Regulations will not be changed fast enough to protect them.  The business model will not be changed fast enough.

EnergyBiz: How should utilities think about carbon emissions and climate change?

Rogers: Every decision we make today we make with the knowledge that there will someday be carbon regulation in this country. There will be a price on carbon. And since we make decisions for 30, 40 and 60 years, we need to take that into account. Our industry needs to lead on environmental issues. We need to lead on productivity gains in the use of electricity. That's a critical way for us to continue to reinvent ourselves as an industry.

Last week in View from the Top: Monopoly Utilities Doomed.

Jim Rogers contends that microgrids will make the power grid more resilient. The security of the grid will be explored at the EnergyBiz Securing Power Forum in Washington March 3-4.


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