This is a perennial question for me: what is the biggest impact I could make, say, in the next 5 years by working in electricity? The US power market has in some ways particularly inspired me. At my first internship in 2005, I felt like a fringe zealot hoping and pushing for wind and solar energy, and by the time I am (now) 3 years into my career post undergrad, wind and solar are each is multi-billion dollar industries of its their right – both nationally and globally. Suffice to say – in some ways, the electricity industry is a fast-changing, nimble machine that it is exciting to be a part of. On the other hand, I’m observing first hand that it can take years, or more than a decade in some cases, to get good ideas off the ground – even on the project level, not to mention on the level of sea-changing policy.
So, as I consider the question of how to make the most impact, part of me is excited simply to understand the drivers and nuances that have made the past 7 years in the US electricity industry exciting and green, and I hope that with more time I could apply this accumulated knowledge mixed with some cultivated vision and be a leader in the next chapters of the US electricity market. Could I be part of the crew that comes up with the next tax break to birth an entire industry? Would I have the technical and financial creativity to dream up what it should be? Or would I be level-headed enough to help construct something that can pass muster in this bipartisan world. Perhaps, perchance.
On the other hand, what seems truly exciting right now is applying the lessons of our electric industry, interconnected grid, and semi-functioning capacity markets to new territory. Could Liberia – which had its nascent grid destroyed in years of war when the copper wires became a valuable item to steal – leap frog our ‘modern’ system for something far more elegant, more flexible and more green? Are there game-changers out there, like some imagine, where individual choices to use renewable energy could have the same viral penetration as Facebook, changing the industry from the bottom up?
These are the questions I ponder today. Just how big of an impact would it have to turn on lights for half the country of Uganda (e.g. Sithe Bujagali Hydro plant)? Or is struggling along with the die-hard, red-taped Californians as they work to design an unprecedentedly green market (at the least in the US) the real way to learn lessons that will be applicable and inspiring for the rest of my to-be-storied career?