Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff
Chapter 23: Energy
The needs of energy technology in the future will track the emphasis on new directions of electric power supply in response to climate change and global warming initiatives. Electricity production will be the focus area for new technology innovation regarding energy. Electricity accounts for less than 5 percent of United States (US) economic activity, yet is held responsible for about one quarter of emission of certain criteria air pollutants. About 40 percent of US carbon emissions contributing to climate change are attributed to coal-fired generation. This historic pattern of fuel sources and emissions is likely to change, in the US with the 2015 Clean Power Plan if it is legally upheld, and elsewhere. The importance of the electric sector to the modern industrial economy is reflected in its changing role and its societal impacts. In 1949, only 11 percent of global warming gases in the US came from the electric sector. Today it is more than one-third. Electricity, unlike all other forms of energy, cannot be efficiently stored for more than a second before it is lost as waste heat. Therefore the supply of electricity must match the demand for electricity over the centralized utility grid of a nation on an instantaneous basis, or else the electric system shuts down or expensive equipment is damaged. The electric power sector offers more cost-effective opportunities for technology to reduce CO2 emissions than in the transportation sector.