Earlier today, we hosted a live chat to field questions about the future of renewable energy, based on the feature we ran on solar energy. To answer these questions, I was joined by Megan Geuss, who’s been handling our coverage of battery technologies and ways of making the grid a bit more responsive to changes in supply and demand.

The gist of our feature was that the expanding share of renewable energy will force changes in the way we manage the flow of electrons across the grid, as well as changes in the way we reward services other than simply supplying the electrons. And our readers asked for some details on these topics that didn’t make it into the feature.

Costs

On the economic side, there were questions about the true cost of electricity. One reader asked about what are called externalities—problems caused by energy generation that we all pay for indirectly. So, to take a simple example, burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, which will exact a cost on society as a whole via climate change. But that cost isn’t priced in to what we pay for electricity generated using fossil fuels; it’s an externality. And right now, we simply don’t pay for most externalities in the US, sporadic talk of carbon taxes not withstanding.

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