Give-and-Take Power Grid
Kennedy said he envisions a give-and-take power grid, in which users are
also sellers of energy, if they choose to be.
"We need to build a grid that can go both directions-from power sources into people's homes, and from our homes back out to the grid," Kennedy said. "If we have excess power from our solar panels or geothermal exchange, we should be able to resell it on the grid. We need the intelligence in the system to be able to control power flow at peak times and to conserve energy when there is more than is needed at a particular time."
Free-market capitalism is the solution for virtually all the world's environmental problems, Kennedy said.
"The free market is a tool for us to use, and it benefits the community as a whole, but right now the rules that govern the grid system are irrational and are destructive to our community," Kennedy said.
"For example, the way most utilities make money is by selling energy. The more coal and gas they sell, the more money they make. Even if a utility company CEO is green in his heart, his customers are still his shareholders. Every morning he has to wake up and decide where his loyalty is: to our country and the environment, or to his shareholders."
Kennedy pointed out that in 1979 the United States built a national data-exchange grid called ARPANET. By 1980, there were fewer than 500 networks in the entire nation. Nonetheless, this eventually morphed into the Internet.
"Now look at what we have today," he said. "The Internet is a low-cost resource with economies of scale built right into it. The cost of bits and bytes has plummeted to almost zero. The more people who use it, the more valuable it becomes. That's exactly what's going to happen with electrons, as soon as we establish a national grid for electricity in this country."
He also reminded the Green Grid audience of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, that opened the markets to competition by removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to entry.
"We built a unified national telecommunications grid when we told all the Baby Bells that they could no longer restrict access to the [telephone] lines," Kennedy said. "So everybody could participate. That spawned a telecommunications revolution. All these gadgets that we carry are the offspring of that revolution.
"Look what's happened to the cost of telecommunication. Vonage is on TV every 20 minutes offering unlimited overseas and local calls for $24 [per month]. Until a few months ago, a single overseas call could cost you $24," Kennedy said.
The future is essentially free telecommunications-and near-free energy, Kennedy said.
"If we can convert the $3 trillion per year of taxpayers' money that is used to subsidize 'big carbon' coal and oil producers and channel it into other things, like better health care and a new power grid, then we will realize great economies of scale and improve the environment at the same time," Kennedy said.
"You're all very smart people here in the room. You can go out and help lead this initiative."