Argonne National Laboratory

Upcoming Events

Clean Power: How Far and How Fast Can We Go with Renewables?

Director's Special Colloquium
Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC
October 10, 2013 2:00PM to 3:00PM
Building 402, Auditorium


The electric utility system is in the midst of a fast, and vast, transformation. Several renewable energy technologies, most notably solar PV and wind, have dropped in price, making them near-competitive or fully competitive with market power. As a consequence (and a driver), a number of countries and US states are now well past 20 percent renewables, and expanding quickly. This acceleration of highly variable, clean power supplies requires us to rethink the utility model—in both physics and business terms.

Large penetrations of variable energy sources upend the old paradigm of power supply, which is designed with baseload, shouldering, and peaker plants dispatched to varying demand. Instead, utilities of the future will have to handle the new, complex balancing—with supply more variable, demand more dispatchable, and employing other strategies, such as using the grid as a de facto battery, employing demand response, dispatching fast-ramping natural gas, and more.

All of this also requires rethinking the utility business model: Their economics are threatened as demand is flat to declining, the marginal cost of renewables is near zero (upending traditional wholesale markets), balancing areas are growing, and fixed costs are rising.

Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation LLC, will discuss these trends in technology, highlight the opportunities to rapidly accelerate the transition to a low carbon electricity system, and discuss utility business models that can accommodate this new world. He will discuss developments in Germany and China on this front as well.


Hal Harvey is the CEO of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC. He is also a Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Paulson Institute located at the University of Chicago. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of ClimateWorks Foundation, a network of 13 regional foundations and expert teams who promote policies to reduce the threat of climate change. From 2001-2008, he served as Environment Program Director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

From 1990 through 2001, Mr. Harvey served as founder and President of the Energy Foundation, a joint initiative of six large U.S. Foundations. Mr. Harvey has served on energy panels appointed by Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton, has published two books and dozens of articles on energy and national security issues, and speaks widely on energy topics.

He is President of the Board of Directors of the New-Land Foundation, and Chairman of the Board of MB Financial Corporation, a $10 billion Chicago bank holding company. Earlier in his career, he designed and built solar homes.

In 2005, Mr. Harvey served as Rhodes Chair and Lecturer in Public Policy at Arizona State University. Mr. Harvey has B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford University in Engineering, specializing in Energy Planning.