I rarely talk about energy, however today I’m going to transcribe a section of the book “The Last Entrepreneurs” (1979) by Robert Goodman, now a Professor at Hampshire College, MA (I tell you where he’s now because there are many Robert Goodmans). I like the book on how it criticizes many of the strategies taken by local governments. It’s somewhat similar to David Harvey idea on Urban Entrepreneurialism (1989), but if focus a lot on solutions for local governements, and even supports the idea of “Regional Socialism” (I told you similar to Harvey :)   However I’m going to type down this part about energy, because I found it very interesting. It kind of makes me think why we don’t have on the top of the roof here in California a simple solar water heating device.

3000 thousand years ago, the King Solomon was supposed to have said “There is nothing new under the sun” (Bible, Ecc. 1:9). So when we talk about energy, we all know that today’s use of energy comes from an evolutionary process. I remember when I spent the summer as a kid in my grandmas pueblo in Spain, that she put the plastic bath tub during the siesta in the sun. I remember the water was cold when she put it, but it was later quite warm to take a good bath!

Anyways here is these paragraphs:

The Short Life of Solar Energy. The development of regional energy systems was shaped not simply by what most naturally available, but by what was useful to the large energy companies. The “new” solar energy systems of the 1970s actually began to develop in California and Florida as early as the 1890s. But growing private energy companies, exploring for gas and oil in the 1900s, were able to nip that development in the bud.

The technology for present-day systems was patented in 1891 by Clarence Kemp, a Baltimore inventor who put four galvanized iron water tanks in an insulated pine box covered with glass. By the early 1900s thousands of solar water heater users in California were saving about 75 percent on their gas bills for heating water. By the 1910s at least 4000 known solar water heaters had been manufactured, and uncounted others were being produced by local plumbers and tradespeople. By 1920 one small company was selling 1000 units a year. Florida saw an even more impressive boom; by 1941, at least 60,000 solar water heaters had been installed in that state.

In the 1920s, the gas utilities expanded their energy role in California. As the companies made new discoveries, for a time they dropped prices drastically, helped finance the sale of gas units, installed them free, and sometimes even carried the loans of the gas heaters for a few years. A similar kind of promotion was used by the electric utilities in Florida in the late 1940s and 1950s.

With the demise of solar development, the technology for gas and electric heaters improved. Electricity and gas became standard, solar energy as exotic, and increasingly nonexistent, alternative. As people became locked into their electric and gas system, the utilities could raise their prices. The effect of the energy company action was virtually to eliminate the development of solar energy, lock users into fossil-fuel systems, and accelerate our depletion of those fuels.” (Goodman, 1979)

I find interesting that the Home Depot, close of where I live, they have a big banner by the highways that says Go Solar.

Last week I went to a presentation of a book. This was done by my academic supervisor, Birgitte Gregersen, who is one of the authors. The book is JUST published. It’s only in Danish and the original title is: ”Ny energi og innovation i Danmark”. Honestly I have not much idea about energy issues, well, at least compared with many of my close friends who are doing their PhD’s in Energy (in engineering, planning and economics).

I will post some of the policy proposals they suggest for the case of Denmark. The reason why I’m doing it is because I always find very interesting the policy proposals, no matter in what field. It’s always nice to discuss it. And honestly I admire the reports, articles and books, that dare to give policy proposals. I find more interesting these ones, that the ones who are purely descriptive. One of the teachers I had in a Phd class, Andrea Fernandez Ribas, said that the ones who don’t give policy proposals do not really contribute for the society (or something like that).

Here are the policy proposals about how to improve the energy industry in Denmark. Something that probably any country can learn from. Again, I insist, I do not know too much about energy. So here I’m trying to repeat things, like a parrot. This is from the notes I took at the presentation.

1)    Strength Danish framework: collaboration among Danish firms and institutions (I guess this follows the ideas of the theories on National Systems of Innovation)
2)    Policy should be different for each technology (solar, wind, fuel cell, etc.)
3)    Continue strength Public-Private Partnerships
4)    On public money: More transparency (for example clearly show in websites the budgets, etc.). Avoid stop-go policy, that is ensure long term plans, to avoid momentum because of different policy makers in power. Also merge similar support schemes. If there are going to be changes, early warning, avoid surprises.
5)    Stimulate demand for renewable energies. R&D is not enough. (This can be done not only with subsidies, but taxing the use of other energies)
6)    More public innovation procurement as a direct policy. For example for new buildings and renovation of them.
7)    Better coordination of the energy and innovation policy
8)    Strength systematic experiences and learning process. For example, teaching energy efficiency in technical schools.