Jim Walker remembers when nuclear-energy-generated electricity was going to be too cheap to meter and when a law prevented the use of U.S. natural gas supplies for electricity generation.
Dr. Walker, an energy advisor in the Nixon and Ford administrations, was appointed to the California Energy Commission during the first Brown gubernatorial tenure and helped pioneer the utility-scale wind industry. Former CEO and current Board Vice Chair of wind and solar giant enXco, he was President of the American Wind Energy Association and worked in the geothermal and energy efficiency industries.
A renewables advocate, Walker nevertheless sees the need for a “portfolio” energy policy. “The utility industry and government tend to have these monomanias,” he said. “[But] if we keep wind, solar, natural gas, nuclear and strengthen the grid,” he explained, “that would be a pretty good electricity system.”
There is a place for nuclear but not coal, according to Walker. “You’d want to keep the nukes,” he said, “but you’re going to have a hard time keeping the nuke output where it is. Coal is going to be gradually phased out. I don’t see the breakthroughs coming in CCS (carbon sequestration) that you see in gas and wind and solar.”
Walker said wind and natural gas will lead because they are economically competitive. But with Congress denying the domestic wind industry an extension of its vital production tax credit (PTC), much new wind development will go abroad in the near term.