Galvin study forecasts future of electricity


Kurt YeagerWashington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — November 3, 2006 – The Galvin Electricity Initiative was officially launched in 2005, but its genesis dates back to the massive U.S. East Coast blackout of August 2003, which left nearly 50 million people without power. A recently-released report by the Initiative suggests that the electric power system of 2025 will have to fuel everything from robotic home security guards to “tele-immersion” – a next-generation concept for telecommuting that mimics physical presence at a distance.

To meet these needs, the United States electric power system must:

  • Become highly efficient, from generation to end-use.
  • Adapt to allow consumers control of their energy service.
  • Provide perfectly reliable, digital quality power to all users who require it for everything from virtual schools to in-home small manufacturing.
  • Have the capacity to meet increasing plug loads as electricity replaces other uses of fossil fuels.
  • Incorporate smart technologies that mitigate the effect of outages and attacks.

Unfortunately, our electric power system is already stretched to its limits, said Kurt Yeager, executive director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative and former president of the Electric Power Research Institute. “This report presents an alarming picture of the future of our nation without a major transformation of the electric power system.”

The Galvin report, “Forecasting the Future of Electricity,” concluded that the three fundamental drivers of for the evolution of electric energy service will be:

  • Energy efficiency and domestic energy resources.
  • Environmental impacts.
  • Transformation from a mechanical or analog society to a fully digital one that requires perfect power quality.

The Galvin Electricity Initiative, launched by former Motorola chief Robert W. Galvin, is leading a campaign to transform the nation’s electric power system into one that can truly meet the needs of this new century.

To determine these needs, Galvin brought together a team of futurists and experts on energy, business and planning to chart the major trends of the next 20 years; how these trends are likely to play out across the social and economic landscape of this country; and what innovations are necessary in the electric power system to keep up.

The most important clues to our energy future include dramatic shifts in demographics, potentially radical advances in medical science, the continued global threat of terrorism and a growing technological generation gap. Together, these will shape the world served by the electric power system – if the system can keep up.

For example, the report found that by 2025, 50% of the U.S. population will have been born and raised in the digital age. These Americans will not only demand high-quality power, they will have built an economy and lifestyle that literally depends on it.

Based on such factual and trend projections, the authors mapped out four potential pictures of what the United States will look like socially and economically in 2025; the technologies that will play substantive roles in each of these scenarios; and the energy supplies and innovations necessary to fuel them. From each of the scenarios, the team then mapped out the required electric technology to fuel each and the overarching factors that must shape the electric power system of the future if it is to truly meet consumer need.

  1. In the “Wal-Mart World,” corporations hold virtually all the power. Diversity has led to social fragmentation, which results in political gridlock. Big business, in the form of a few major brands, are the only entities left with the wherewithal to get anything done.
  2. The world of the “Wild Party” scenario is even less unified. In this everyone-for-themselves techno-topia, government virtually ceases to function. The wealthy live in enclosed communities and the poor essentially fend for themselves.
  3. In a more positive vein, another potential future could be dubbed “Unity in Diversity,” a world where everyone more or less coalesces around a set of values and technological leaps and bounds, ultimately leading to the development of small-scale, in-home manufacturing.
  4. The final option, “Pleasantville,” envisions a more homogenized version of this scenario, complete with a proliferation of suburban tract housing with specialized rooms for hobbies such as exercise, billiards or electronic entertainment.

While each of these very different scenarios presents varied needs and challenges, all require services our existing electric power system cannot provide, Yeager noted. “Regardless of the scenario, it is time to invest in infrastructure, put innovation to work and plan for our future.”