If you tuned into President Obama's State of the Union address you may have had mixed feelings when he brought up energy. On one hand, it was great to hear the President say that more needs to be done to cap emissions from power plants and acknowledge the growth of solar here in the U.S. However, I felt a bit empty by the lack of focus on areas such as wind and geothermal power. Why wasn't nuclear also mentioned, especially at a time when the DOE is moving forward with small modular reactor designs? Also, if climate change is a "fact," why didn't the President say he was against the Keystone Pipeline?
I do give props to the President for calling natural gas a "bridge" fuel, but shouldn't we be more concerned about what lies on the outside of the bridge? Why didn't he highlight advanced biofuels rather than highlight the need for compressed natural gas fueling stations? I did very much support the President when he said the $4 billion in tax subsides given to the oil industry needs to be reallocated to new energy sources that actually need them, but is the all-of-the-above strategy for energy really the right approach when it comes to truly combating the war on carbon? I don't believe so. When I look at the future of energy, whether it's wind, solar, fuel cell, biofuels or anything else you can think of that can generate clean power, I keep coming back to a central theme I believe is absolutely vital: namely, without advanced energy storage, the future of energy looks bleak.
Seeing just how scarce power can be, especially during the polar vortex that has gripped much of the U.S. this winter, there is undeniably a lack of energy storage in this country. I continue to look for energy storage to become a much bigger topic this year. Companies know this, and many are looking for ways to fast-track new technologies or find a partner that can help them store power. For instance, Panasonic (OTC:PCRFY) with its lithium-ion batteries/systems and Power-One, a company with a strong inverter presence and acquired by ABB (NYSE:ABB) in July, forged a strategic alliance post-Sandy to produce and market energy storage systems at a time when backup power supplies are greatly needed in the event of future natural disasters and emergencies.
With that said, I'm fully expecting more storage partnerships this year, especially since energy efficiency and financial savings are paramount to the renewables story at a time when surviving in a post-subsidy world is attractive to investors, energy companies and yes, politicians. This is a potentially game-changing area that needs more attention, and that's likely the driver for companies like General Electric (NYSE:GE), which has invested in Stem, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) with its move to store power from cousin SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY.DL), and maybe even soon from China's BYD. One thing's for sure, the time for rethinking energy is now, Mr. President, and we need more focus on energy storage!