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I thought "The Grid" needed more scientific and infrastructural background, and perhaps less personal opinion on the motivations of power companies.
From reading the description, my hope had been to learn more about how the Grid came to be, how power distribution works (albeit at a high level), what kinds of challenges face us today, and innovative ideas for how we address them tomorrow. Unfortunately, very little time was spent on how it came to be, and even less on how it really works. Challenges were outlined but not detailed. Tomorrow's technologies were mentioned but not adequately explored. While I didn't expect the book to go TOO deep into these topics, I was definitely hoping for more.
One distraction throughout the book was the continual assertions of nefarious (her word) motivations on the part of electric companies. I have no doubt that some have questionable motives, just as some hospitals have questionable motives. But to put all of them into the same profit-grabbing bucket without supporting evidence does them an injustice and reinforces the "us vs. them" mentality she says is so prevalent today. I'm not saying there aren't bad actors out there, or even that most are good. But evidence backing her assertions would have helped. She did point out evidence against Enron, but even she admits they weren't an energy producer. It would have been good to see more evidence for claiming profiteering was a principal motivator for today's power companies.
As I mentioned, the motivations were a distraction, but if you can listen past them, then I think there's still interesting information regarding how the various entities are set up, how regulations come about, etc. None of it is particularly deep, but it can make for good background listening. And I thought the reader did a fine job with the material.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
After I heard Gretchen Bakke interviewed on Fresh Air, I could not wait to read this book, so I downloaded it the day it was released. The book did not meet my expectations. It was about as non-technical as such a book could get. There were minimal explanations of important concepts such as cutting edge storage technologies, including battery storage. Most of the discussion revolved around soft topics repeated over and over again, such as that people want wireless devices and hope for wireless charging. The book did explain some of the basic problems with the grid, including that electricity cannot be stored and that its supply must always equal its demand. It did make clear that renewables such as solar and wind are a problem when the sun sets or the wind calms and their adapters suddenly need electricity from old forms of generation.
In general, the style of writing alternated between wordy, tedious repetition and trying to be silly or cute. Similar to so many books written these days, this one would have benefitted form some better editing.
During her interview, it came out that the author is an anthropologist, not an engineer. Perhaps she should have collaborated with an engineer or even a science writer. For me, I had hope for much more technical information about the present and future than Bakke provided.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?
Someone with no prior knowledge of the energy sector might find it useful. However, I suspect most readers will be frustrated by the writing style and the complete lack of pace.
Any additional comments?
I purchased this audiobook because it was on Bill Gates's recommended list for 2016 and I have a personal and professional interest in the subject.
I made it 1/3 of the way through the book before abandoning. It is excessively repetitive, full of long, flowery sentences that add little to understanding.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Brilliant book for anyone looking to understand the grid, its history and how electricity markets will look with the threat of utility death spirals.
Although I live in South Africa there are many lessons to lean on and similarities in the story of the American grid and the current state thereof and our own grid and Utilities.