96 Fuel Environmental Considerations and DG

Always a key consideration brought into the calculus of electricity choices is the question of future natural gas prices. Gas prices spike and dip with great regularity as they move along the historic and projected future trend line. Gas prices were so high in the 1970s that the federal government barred gas as a boiler fuel for electric power generation. Yet, today, gas is nearly indisputably the fuel of choice for new electric capacity additions. Gas prices obviously vary according to supply and demand, and it is well known that very strong growth in natural gas is projected in electricity generation. There is also very strong growth projected in electricity generation due to the ever-increasing electrification of the economy, particularly driven by the information economy.* Since the predominance of new generation is gas-fired, it is now conventional wisdom that this will cause upward pressure on natural gas prices. This could affect DG technologies in very measurable ways. If the "dash for gas" does result in high gas prices, it could work to the disadvantage of less efficient DG technologies such as microturbines, and have less of an effect on more efficient DG technologies such as fuel cells.**

If markets behave as many expect, and EUIR really ends up favoring low-cost suppliers, the coal-fired generating stations that supply 55% of electricity in the U.S. have little to fear (except for public concern translated into political action surrounding visibility and global warming). Despite the contingent liability connected to environmental concerns, the market is responding favorably to coal-fired generating stations, reflected by the multiples over book value that coal plants are receiving when sold as part of the grand deal that requires utilities to divest their fossil generating assets. If the fuel, auto, and rural lobbies prevail on Congress to continue to thwart environmental initiatives, this will keep coal-derived electric power at a substantial competitive advantage over DG. The prospect of political success by the

* See the work of Mark Mills, technology strategist, president of Mills & McCarthy Associates Inc. of Chevy Chase, Maryland ([email protected]).

** According to Mike Kujawa, Allied Business Intelligence, Inc., there are now 58 million U.S. households connected to the national gas grid and every one of them has the potential of having a household fuel cell for its electricity, hot water, and home heat.

coal, petroleum, and auto interests makes it all the more imperative that the cost of DG drop substantially.

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.

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