A charter member of Benzie Sunrise Rotary, Jack Pope returned as an honorary member to give us an energy update.
As a former board member of several electric cooperatives Jack is well qualified to talk about energy issues in Michigan and beyond.  As he has explained in earlier visits, energy comes in two forms: The liquid form (oil) is the fuel source for transportation.  The invisible form (electricity) is used for heating, cooling, lighting and a multitude of other things. Transportation and electricity are mutually exclusive. Thus, the Keystone Pipeline might reduce our reliance on OPEC, but it will have zero impact on our production of electricity.
There are three steps that must be taken before we can turn on the lights.  The first is generation, the second is transmission to a substation, and the third is distribution to end users.  With regard to transmission Jack reminded us of the blackout that occurred in August of 2003.  Affecting more than 50 million people, it was the largest one in U.S. history.  In response Congress established the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which adopted transmission standards that were made mandatory.  As a result, the transmission system is much stronger today than it has ever been.
With respect to generation Jack analyzed the reliance on various fuels to produce electricity over several years in the past, as well as what is predicted for the year 2020.  Legislation in Michigan now requires power companies to rely more heavily on non-carbon resources, and happily the cost for producing electricity from wind has dropped, while the predictability has increased.  Utilities are no longer building new nuclear plants, but Jack believes that small modular reactors hold promise. Natural gas is gaining favor, but Jack questions the assumption that prices will stay low. Under new EPA rules it will be impossible for utilities to build new coal plants, says Jack.
We hope Jack will return with another lesson next year!