by Tina Olivero

    Revolutionizing Power Security: The Uncharted Synergy of Backup Generators and Renewable Diesel Fuel

    The Engine Technology Forum (ETF) recently hosted a webinar that dissected the challenges facing the nation’s electrical grid. The illustrious panel featured industry heavyweights Greg Lamberg of Peterson Power Systems, Matt Leuck from Nestle, and Tammy Klein from Transport Energy Strategies. Their insightful discussion not only shed light on the vulnerabilities of the electrical grid but also proposed a game-changing solution that marries power security with sustainable practices.

    The webinar delved into the unsettling revelations from recent reports by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), suggesting that a significant portion of the North American power system is perilously close to insufficient electricity supply during peak winter conditions. Adding to the urgency, the panel examined the ramifications of the California wildfires, where damaged grids plunged entire communities into darkness.

    One poignant example of the critical role backup generators play in these crises was shared by Greg Lamberg of Peterson Power Systems. He recounted the pivotal service his company rendered to the 27,000 residents of Del Norte, California, in the aftermath of wildfires and power outages. Lamberg emphasized, “What we do matters. The consequences of losing power can be life or death, and we are able to immediately mobilize resources and keep the lights on—enabling essential operations of hospitals, telecommunications facilities, airports, and more.” In essence, backup generators emerge as the lifelines for critical infrastructures that cannot endure power loss.

    Yet, the narrative takes an intriguing turn as the panelists, recognizing the need for sustainability, spotlight the role of fuel innovation and technology in reshaping the landscape of backup power systems. Greg Lamberg emphasized, “Existing backup generation can run on 100% renewable fuels. Moving from petroleum diesel to renewable diesel (RD) can offer immediate results towards the goal of reducing air emissions.”

    Matt Leuck, representing Neste, the world’s largest producer of RD, chimed in, “By replacing fossil diesel with RD, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by as much as 75%. While renewable diesel is not a ‘silver bullet,’ we need every solution to reduce carbon and emissions while maintaining access to reliable, life-saving power sources.”

    The panel tackled a spectrum of technical queries and explored policy considerations for renewable diesel fuel. Tammy Klein, the mind behind a recent whitepaper on the benefits of renewable bio-based diesel fuels, asserted, “We are in an energy transition, but we are missing policies and strategies to support an actual transition.” She advocated for aligning climate and air quality goals and fostering the use of RD and biodiesel-RD blends for backup generators to drive decarbonization. Klein labeled RD for backup power generation as “the elegant interim solution.”

    The discussion took a practical turn as the group outlined potential policies that could catalyze the adoption of RD for backup generators, including incentives and state tax benefits based on greenhouse gas reduction. Currently, tax credits for renewable diesel fuels are limited to transportation, leaving power generation out of the equation.

    Allen Schaeffer, ETF’s Executive Director, summed up the profound potential of this solution, stating, “Virtually every person, government, and business is looking for the right balance—balancing the demand for reliable electric power for essential uses with the desire for energy to be more sustainable. We have that solution today available to us in the form of renewable diesel that can be used in any diesel engine.”

    As the question and answer session unfolded, the panelists unanimously agreed that an energy transition is underway, though uneven and uncertain. While investments pour into new technologies for power generation, the undeniable insurance against unreliable electric power supplies remains the fuel in the tank.

    The webinar not only dissected the challenges but also presented a tangible, sustainable solution that could revolutionize the intersection of power security and environmental consciousness.


    Engine Technology Forum (ETF)
    Peterson Power Systems
    Transport Energy Strategies

    Tina Olivero

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