At a mega-session during POWER-GEN International, a panel made up of utility resource planners, transmission operators and generation technology experts all seemed to come to the same conclusion: when it comes to picking energy generation technologies for the future, there is no standout technology. Each technology comes with a series of pros and cons that must be weighed in order to set a course for the future.
Scott Benson, Manager of Resource Planning and Transmission with Lincoln Electric System explained that for him, a mix of about one-third renewables, one-third gas, and one-third coal makes the most sense for his utility. The small utility serves about 135,000 customers and has a peak load of 786 MW.
He said that when he runs an analysis of generation technologies, the system always recommends coal-fired generation but that’s only if he doesn’t add a cost for carbon emissions. But you have to believe that we will put a price on carbon in the future, he said. How can you plan out 40 years and not expect a price on carbon?
Herbie Johnson, the general manager of hydropower with Southern Company, said for his utility, when you look at dollars and cents, the clear winner is fast-start gas-fired generation.
“But does that matter?” he asked.
If the customers want renewables, you have to give them what they want. Johnson explained that Southern Company helped develop a microgrid around a new community of 64 smart homes – the homes use solar and battery energy storage and have smart interconnected devices that talk to the grid and know when to turn on and off according to the energy supply available.