QUICK TAKE: What I learned about Energy

The below is a personal brain dump, not intended to be coverage of the event. Quick Takes are intended to record questions that deserve futher exploration. For coverage by the professionals and to see video, visit http://http://www.washingtonpostlive.com.

Recently, President Obama visited the U.S. Department of Energy’s roof to see their solar array, which is already in need of upgrade. Secretary Moniz has been at the President’s elbow throughout the Iran nuclear negotiations, putting one of the world’s best energy scientists in the conversation to evaluate the technical merits of the deal.

These were a few of the anecdotes shared by U.S. Department of Energy Deputy Secretary, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall yesterday over breakfast.

April 2, 2015, we (The Washington Post) gathered 100 of our friends for breakfast, and a discussion about energy security. This quick brainstorm was a to get our thinking started for the America Answers: Powering Cities. Sustainable Solutions. project that will culminate in a conference on June 23 in Washington.

Joining us were the relatively new Deputy Secretary of Energy, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall; FERC Commissioner Tony Clark; Eurasia Group CEO Bob Johnston; and David Owens, EVP of the Edison Electric Institute. To follow are three things I learned:

1. We have made great strides toward integrating many power sources into our grid. During the last presidential campaign, rhetoric promoting an “All of the Above” energy policy became almost meaningless due to constant repetition. The pleasant surprise is that there has been a lot of action on this front. We have gotten very good at integrating many different power sources into the grid and distributing it to our cities. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising, but any time a campaign promise is quietly implemented through the hard work of businesses, regulators and cities, it is worth noting.

2. The next challenge is energy storage. Power grids are getting smarter. They are getting more efficient. There is a lot of capacity. At the endpoint, we have a long way to go. In the event of a disaster that results in a power interruption, we need a solution for storing the vast amounts of energy we produce and distribute. Even on a regular ‘ol day, we’re able to distribute more power than we can use, but are not able to store that excess energy in a way that maximizes efficiency. This is as I understand it. Tony Clark calls this the next trend that needs to be addressed quickly.

3. The lessons of Hurricane Sandy continue to be acted upon. As a New Yorker, I remember the four days it took me to get home from Seoul due to Hurricane Sandy, only to sit in my pitch black living room for another three and stare  8 blocks uptown where the power was on. Another surprise was to hear references to follow-up action based on learnings from Hurricane Sandy. The Deputy Energy Secretary rattled a list of things, ranging from drills being conducted in Florida, to think tank-style meetings at Stanford and other evidences of preparation based on Sandy lessons that are coming to fruition. I would love to hear more about the way that Sandy and its aftermath have created much larger changes in the way we prepare and respond to disasters.

We heard the usual discussions about cybersecurity and the grid (scary); the growth of distributed energy solutions (welcome development for large consumers of power) and even a short detour on the limits of China’s demand for Russian oil (it will reach a peak, we’re told). I look forward to continuing the conversation, and hearing some great, tangible grassroots ideas from outside of Washington at America Answers: Powering Cities. Sustainable Solutions. June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The below is a personal brain dump, not intended to be coverage of the event. Quick Takes are intended to record questions that deserve futher exploration. For coverage by the professionals and to see video, visit http://http://www.washingtonpostlive.com.