Lecturer wants end to oil dependency

Man looks to inspire people with ideas for renewable energy

Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2008

Greg Brown has a plan to get the nation off imported oil quickly, which he'll present Friday for the University of Alaska Southeast's Evening at Egan public lecture series.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"I'm not against oil. I just think there are other solutions we need to consider," Brown said.

But Brown is no armchair intellectual.

Brown, now retired, ran a division of Siemens Energy and Automation for the Siemens Corp. He was CEO of divisions of Schneider, the largest manufacturer of electrical distribution and control products in the world. And he ran a company in Orange County that put solar panels on Wal-Mart store roofs.

Brown sees his actions as an energy-company executive as mandated by U.S. energy policy.

"I spent a lot of my career taking manufacturing facilities and moving them into other countries," Brown said.

Locally and nationwide, getting to renewable or locally produced energy requires the catalyst of will, he said.

"I think Alaska's got to decide that there are other things than oil and gas. And I think the U.S. has got to decide that too."

He's hoping to inspire regular people with the idea that renewable energy can be achieved in the future - and in turn, maybe they'll hound their elected representatives.

To that end, he came up with a plan to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil by introducing a feed-in tariff. He's currently working with the Canadian province of Ontario to get one started there. California just implemented one. Germany has the model tariff, and 20 percent of its energy is now renewable.

A feed-in tariff is an incentive for renewable energy: Government pays a premium for renewable-energy kilowatts and reduces the tariff slightly each year to spur the companies toward cost-efficiency.

That costs money. But Brown says it would save overall because the United States could save billions by not having to defend overseas energy interests to the tune of $700 billion a year.

Brown has a magic word for Southeast Alaska, too: intertie.

Instead of focusing only on reducing energy costs in Southeast, Brown would like people to think bigger, in terms of attracting large businesses to the area. This would require a grid with excess energy from Southeast's abundant renewable resources.

"If you have water, and you have energy, you can attract companies," he said. "All of a sudden we'd have a much more healthy economy and a heck of a lot more jobs here."

• Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.

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