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AGA Leader Touts Emerging Energy Technologies

AGA Leader Touts Emerging Energy Technologies

The distributed power movement and alternative energy technologies got a boost from American Gas Association (AGA) Chairman David Biegler last week in his remarks at the 17th Congress of the World Energy Council (WEC) in Houston.

"Distributed power is attractive to consumers, especially in facilities like manufacturing plants, laundries and hospitals that need both electric power and thermal energy," the Texas Utilities CEO said. "It can cut costs, provide waste heat for on-site use and improve power quality and reliability." He predicted distributed power could provide as much as 50 gigawatts of power by 2015, compared to less than 2 gigawatts today.

"Fuel cells, which can be powered by a variety of fuels, including hydrogen, methanol, ethanol, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas, are close to being commercially viable for use in supplying electricity for such facilities as office complexes, hospitals, hotels and military installations."

In touting alternative technologies, Biegler picked up on a theme running through the WEC's meeting, which is held once every three years. Many speakers emphasized the role of technology both in meeting future energy demand and in remedying harmful effects on the environment.

"There is no reason why we cannot develop and deploy technologies that virtually eliminate the cause of acid rain and the release of smog-forming pollutants," Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson said during his address to the congress. "Many nations represented here today have first-of-a-kind coal gasification and advanced combustion plants that remove 95% or more of these pollutants before they escape into the atmosphere - all while raising power generation efficiencies above 50%. The task is now to make these technologies more commercially viable."

Despite being a big gas booster, the AGA chairman conceded he recognizes no single fuel or technology can satisfy even the world's near-term energy needs. "And in any case, no matter how objective or authoritative our projections, they stand an excellent chance of being overturned by events geopolitical, technological, or even climatic far sooner than any of us expect."

Biegler cited a 1985 book on energy that labeled as marginally economic enhanced oil recovery, tight gas, and coal seam gas. "Today, just 13 years later, these are mainstream technologies. The same book relegated thermoelectric solar, photovoltaic solar, gas hydrates and fusion to the uneconomic category. In 1998, both solar alternatives are commercially viable, while development work continues in fusion and hydrates."

Joe Fisher, Houston

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