05 January 2011

Review: The Hidden Cleantech Revolution by John Moore and Toby Shute

An ugly truth of the new green economy is that the energy transition away from carbon-based fuels will be slow and powered by the very fuels from which we're transitioning.  We'll be using coal, oil, and natural gas for many years to come. 

Here at The Green Skeptic we've long made the point that we need to fire on all cylinders during this long transition, but do so in a way that is less destructive, less harmful to the environment and that seeks efficiency and fosters innovation.

John Moore and Toby Shute, authors of The Hidden Cleantech Revolution share this view and extrapolate on it in their slim book subititled "Five Priorities for Securing America's Energy Future -- Without Breaking the Bank."

Moore is Chair and CEO of Acorn Energy, a holding company focused on improving the efficiency and environmental impact of the energy infrastructure, and Shute writes about energy for The Motley Fool

They suggest that alternative generation is "destined to have negligible impact on our energy challenges for at least two decades." (Emphasis theirs.)

Yet already available technologies can get more out of our current energy system.

Improving productivity, in addition to finding efficiencies and reducing consumption, can be accomplished, the authors argue, by using information technology to make our energy better, which means cleaner and safer, as well as less expensive and more reliable.

The authors suggest we need to get more out of the grid, oil and gas, coal, and nuclear while investing in safety, security and resilience in the energy infrastructure. 

They further postulate that our energy portfolio should be diverse, but that there is much "that is happening today without government subsidies to choose the lowest cost, lower risk and highest return investments to secure our future."

The book will anger some -- especially those who just don't believe another nuclear plant should ever be built in the US again or that coal plants can't be re-engineered to burn cleaner and more efficiently. 

But Moore and Shute make a good case in a briefing style format, backed by a deep understanding of some of the latest technologies (albeit it some technologies from companies clearly disclosed as part of the Acorn portfolio).

"Simply maintaining our electrical grid at its current capacity will soon require a $1 trillion capital investment," the authors offer. "The coal-fired plants that supply 50 percent of our electricity, for instance, on average have a 40-year life expectancy. At this writing, 70 percent of them are over 30 years old."

"Even if we set aside the enormous sums of money involved, these are not trivial concerns," write Moore and Shute. "Choices we make in the next ten years may determine the prosperity and security of our nation for the next hundred."

The book is available for free as a PDF at The Hidden Cleantech Revolution

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