The dental chair behind the 2nd story window of old Dr. Rydell’s office overlooked Chestnut St. in downtown Burlington. This view was intended to supply a distraction during drilling sessions. Growing up with unfluoridated well water gave me many opportunities to “enjoy“ that view.
Years later the stenciling on the door of his new office read “Dr. Rydell and Son DDS.” My next appointment was with young Dr. Rydell, and when he prepped my mouth for drilling a miracle occurred. I was introduced to the wonders of Novocaine. My teeth began to reap the benefits of a revolution in dentistry - virtually painless drilling!
Today, we energy users are on the cusp of a revolution in energy production and distribution. This month’s “The Economist” states that after “rate hikes” the most commonly used phrase in America’s electricity industry is “death spiral.” The article goes on to note that Barclays bank recently downgraded the bonds of the entire American electric industry.
What’s going on? The Energy Information Administration predicts a less than 1% annual growth rate of electricity usage over the next 25 years. Couple that projection with the phenomenal growth of what’s known as “distributive energy” i.e. home, business and community owned locally produced solar energy. Hence - talk of a “death spiral.”
Here in southwest Wisconsin ratepayers have been receiving mailings and may have seen large color ads in local newspapers concerning the proposed expansion of high capacity power lines through our landscape. These power lines would be similar to those seen along the south beltline in Madison. This plan is an expansion of the status quo - centralized power distribution. But with declining demand and the explosion of local production opportunities, is this the time to expand a model that refers to itself as in a death spiral? We ratepayers will be footing the bill for the construction and maintenance of these lines for years to come.
Like old Doc. Rydell’s methods used on Chestnut St. a centralized system is what we’ve come to accept; it may seem like we have no other choice. But there is an alternative. Increasing efficiency and local solar production might be the “Novocaine” of the future. It could make energy production less painful economically and environmentally. Movement toward a more earth-friendly method of energy production must be part of the equation because this is our only home. We are forever…Earthbound.