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'Moneyball' for the Power Grid: Reid Says Metrics Key

Reid compared utility companies ignoring renewable energy to a baseball team benching Harper. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid kicked off his annual clean energy summit Monday in Las Vegas by comparing utility companies that undervalue renewable power to an ill-managed baseball team.  

"Nevada and electric utilities should learn from 'Moneyball.' Just as Major League Baseball was stuck in the past, electric utilities continue to rely upon business models from past centuries. Companies you will hear today are developing new energy technologies and services of which Thomas Edison never dreamed," the Nevada Democrat said. "This challenge should begin by properly valuing rooftop solar, properly valuing energy efficiency and properly valuing other distributed sources of clean energy. Ignoring these resources or treating them as a burden makes as much sense as the Washington Nationals benching Bryce Harper."  

Reid — a bit of a baseball fanatic — used a protracted analogy that started with a reference to Detroit Tigers legend Ty Cobb, born in 1886 (the same year, Reid said, as the start of the electric grid).  

"For over a century, there was an arms race among the wealthiest baseball franchises to field a team with the best sluggers in the sport. But that all changed just over a decade ago. It changed when the cash-strapped general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane, took a new look at how baseball games were won," Reid said. "Billy Beane ignored conventional wisdom, focused on results, and eliminated waste."  

Reid contrasted Beane's exploits, chronicled in the 2003 Michael Lewis bestseller "Moneyball," with electric utilities like Nevada Energy, saying "utilities cannot remain attached to the past."  

"The Athletics began using an analytical, evidence-based approach to assemble a baseball team. With the help of state-of-the-art computer software, the team analyzed the value of every player; identified how to fully utilize their talents; and maximized the team’s return on investment," Reid said.  

President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote speech to the summit later Monday, with Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz also speaking.  

Among the initiatives on tap Monday, the Federal Housing Administration, together with the Energy Department will announce a proposal to help owners of single-family homes get financing to improve the energy efficiency of their own properties.  

According to the White House, Obama will also announce the availability of $1 billion in new Energy Department loan guarantees, as well as new guidelines for distributed energy projects.  

"Technologies such as rooftop solar, energy storage, smart grid technology, and methane capture for oil and gas wells solve key energy challenges. Catalyzing these technologies and demonstrating the viability of these markets would create economic opportunity, strengthen energy security, transform certain energy markets, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the White House said in a fact sheet.  

Among the other executive actions set to be announced Monday in Las Vegas is the establishment of a new panel the White House is calling an Interagency Task Force to Promote a Clean Energy Future for All Americans, bringing together the Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Labor and the Treasury with the executive office of the president and Environmental Protection Agency to better leverage energy efficiency incentives, especially in lower-income communities.  

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