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A -1 Clean Energy Articles by Greg Whiting - Introduction

Copyright 2022 [or 2023], La Conner Weekly News. Reprinted with permission

A -1 Clean Energy Articles  by Greg Whiting - Introduction

Unpredictable gasoline and heating costs. Reliable electricity. Wars in the middle east and Ukraine.
Energy independence. The environment. And more. The energy industry affects almost everything,
from the price of groceries to geopolitics.

People have reacted to energy issues by developing new technologies and policies for the production,
delivery and use of energy. These innovations are being adopted faster than energy professionals
believed possible 20 years ago.

You’re probably aware of solar panels, electric vehicles, and fracking for oil, but there’s more. Far more.
Changes of this magnitude haven’t happened in energy since electricity was introduced on a large scale
in the 1870s, and internal combustion engines in the 1890s.

Energy professionals call these changes, collectively, an “energy transition.”
Hi. I’m Greg Whiting. The La Conner Weekly News has invited me to write about the energy transition,
to help readers make sense of the ongoing, rapid changes in energy technologies, markets and policies.
I’ll address questions like: How will these changes affect me? Are they long-term changes driven by
sustainable economics? What technologies are relevant? Can changes happen faster? What can I do?
What can businesses, communities and governments do?

The question you probably have now is: Who is this guy, and why is he qualified to write about energy?
I’m an energy engineer. In 2019, I moved to Shelter Bay with my fiancée, Jenelle. Although I’m new to
Skagit County, my family has lived in the northwest since the 1850s. I have lived in ten cities throughout
Washington, from Blaine to Pullman. In connection with my father’s jobs, or my own, I’ve also moved all
over the US and Canada. I most recently returned to Washington in 2016.
I’m a good person to write about the energy transition because – unusually among energy professionals
– I have significant experience with a large number of both legacy and new energy systems, on both the
supply and use sides. I’ve worked in fossil and renewable energy; for mining companies and utilities;
and for organizations that want to use less energy. I’ve worked on both electric grid and automotive

I grew up around resource industries. My mother wrote her master’s thesis about the sustainability of
western water supplies. She worked at the Solar Energy Research Institute in the 1970s. My father was
a professor of mining engineering. In 1968, he started working in oil shale, and moved on to gas, coal,
and oil sands. He even worked in nuclear energy, as a consultant on utility fuels.
I paid attention to my parents’ work. I used their energy and mining magazines as source materials for
high school science papers. In college, I took petroleum engineering and resource economics courses
while working towards a degree in materials engineering. My first assignment after graduating was to
research new alloys for deep oil wells.

In 1993, while developing new products at a nickel/cobalt mining company, I was one of the earliest
people to work on lithium-ion batteries in North America. In 1999, I went to work for Florida Power &
Light’s energy conservation group.
Most of my subsequent career, at four utilities and as a consultant, has been focused on developing and
introducing sustainable energy technologies. Some assignments have been in generation: fossil, solar,
wind, geothermal, hydro, and waste-to-energy. Some, in distribution: microgrids, storage and
metering. Others, in hydrogen and electric vehicles. More still, in energy-efficient technologies like LED
lighting, and advanced heating and cooling systems.

There’s a lot happening, including the upcoming launch of a co-op to facilitate innovative energy system
use in Skagit County. I look forward to discussing the energy transition with News readers.

Do you want more control over your electric, heat and fuel bills? More stable energy bills? A more
reliable and resilient power grid? Less dependence on foreign oil? Less acid rain? Reduced emissions of
particulates and carbon soot (which cause lung issues)? Reduced carbon dioxide (which is a factor in
climate and ocean acidification issues)?

Such outcomes aren’t science fiction or an environmentalist’s fantasy. They are attainable now, using
existing, proven, cost-effective new technologies.

For fifty years, energy security and climate issues have been well-publicized. Throughout that time,
much less-publicized development of innovative energy systems has been underway. Thousands of
private companies, universities and government labs have achieved major breakthroughs.
The R&D is paying off, now. Many new energy technologies are available, now. They are cost-effective,
today, in many markets. Their costs are still falling. Their performance is still improving. These
inventions affect electric generation, electric grid management, lighting, heating and cooling, cars, and
many other energy-related systems.

Innovation and policy changes are continuing. More changes are inevitable.
Energy professionals call major changes like these an “energy transition.” We haven’t had a big energy
transition in a long time, but they have happened before. We moved from oars and horses, to sails and
steam, to internal combustion engines, for transportation. We moved from wood, to whale oil, to town
gas and kerosene, and then to electricity, for artificial light.
Don Huberts, a Shell executive, said, in 1999, “The stone age did not end because the world ran out of
stones, and the oil age will not end because we run out of oil.”
We aren’t out of oil, but the oil age is in the process of ending. So is the coal age. Environmental, and
energy security, policies are relevant. They are helping to accelerate the transition, but they aren’t the
only factors. The market has been successful at creating new technologies which can meet customer
needs, and which will reduce the use of oil and coal. Large-scale adoption of new technologies is now
being driven mostly by economics and performance.

A transition away from fossil fuels can’t happen overnight. It takes time to replace existing technologies.
It takes time for raw material sources and factories for new products to be developed, and for workers
to be trained. It takes time for individuals, governments and businesses to learn about, budget for, and
start using new products and services, even when new systems have been proven elsewhere.
Decisions to use innovative technologies, whether in homes or public facilities or businesses are made
by individuals, who must learn about the inventions and then take action to use them.
To help speed up the energy transition in Skagit County, the Skagit Valley Clean Energy Cooperative
(SVCEC) was founded by Terry Nelson, Mary Wohleb, John Leaver, Mary Lee Chamberlain and Bob
Raymond. SVCEC’s goal is to encourage energy innovation, using locally available resources. SVCEC will
become a source of information and resources to help the Skagit Valley’s individuals, businesses and
communities make the local energy transition faster.
As with other cooperatives, like the Skagit Valley Food Coop or REI, people can join as members. I
recently joined as the first non-founding member. A website will be launched soon.

This is the first in a series of columns written exclusively for the La Conner Weekly News. They are
intended to help News readers understand the energy transition. They will address questions like: How
will these changes affect me? Are they long-term changes driven by sustainable economics? What
technologies are relevant? Can changes happen faster? What can I do? What can businesses,
communities and governments do?

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