The Year in Energy

 

It’s the time of year when media outlets and bloggers write year in review lists. 

Forbes recently wrote a great column about the top 5 energy stories of 2012. It’s a great read.

Some are stories you’d expect – the shale gas boom and the patchwork of regulation around it, ongoing efforts to mitigate carbon, etc.

However, I think two of the Forbes top five deserve a little more attention:  employment in solar and the vulnerability of the grid.

Very quietly, careers in solar energy are booming.  Although solar manufacturing didn’t have a great 2012, the jobs in solar mostly come from installation. Solar jobs grew 13% in 2012 – a rate 6 times higher than the national average. 

Since solar jobs are growing, it clearly also means that solar installation is increasing. As noted by the Solar Energy Industry Association, by the end of 2012, 3.2 gigawatts of solar will be installed – a *70%* increase over 2011.

The extreme weather of 2012 illustrated another important energy story – the vulnerability of our grid. After Superstorm Sandy, hundreds of thousands of Americans lost electricity for weeks. In the DC metro area where I live, the June derecho storm resulted in massive power outages during a brutal stretch of 100 degree temperatures. We need to rebuild our electrical grid to reflect 21st century energy realities, yet investment in grid architecture is stunningly low.  

A silver lining in this scenario is increased emphasis on local distribution. As noted by Forbes, some industries are interested in ditching the grid altogether, preferring to get their electricity from local generation that they control. (Perhaps this has something to do with the uptick in solar installation.)

Stay tuned for predictions about possibilities for energy in 2013.