Topic A: Energy - Analysis, discussion & commentary on energy exploration, development and innovation
Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 1, 2014

The Dawn of Solar Power?

Bloomberg: “Solar power might become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050 as falling costs boost installations, according to the International Energy Agency.”

“Photovoltaic plants may provide as much as 16 percent of global electricity, and concentrating solar facilities could generate another 11 percent, the IEA said in an e-mailed statement today.”

“Photovoltaic installations have grown much faster than the agency expected when it released its first outlook for solar in 2010, when it saw them covering 11 percent of global power by 2050.”

“The cost of electricity from photovoltaic projects will fall by an average 25 percent by 2020, 45 percent by 2030 and 65 percent by 2050 … This implies a levelized cost of power of as little as $56 a megawatt-hour for large plants and $78 on rooftops.”

The Guardian: “The IEA said PV expansion would be led by China, followed by the United States, while [solar thermal electricity] could also grow in the United States along with Africa, India and the Middle East.”

 The Dawn of Solar Power?

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‘Old Energy’ Utilities See Rising Threat from Solar

Brad Plumer: “If you ask the people who run America’s electric utilities what keeps them up at night, a surprising number will say solar power. Specifically, rooftop solar.”

“Solar power provides just 0.4 percent of electricity in the United States — a minuscule amount.”

“But utilities see things differently. As solar technology gets dramatically cheaper, tens of thousands of Americans are putting photovoltaic panels up on their roofs, generating their own power. At the same time, 43 states and Washington DC have ‘net metering’ laws that allow solar-powered households to sell their excess electricity back to the grid at retail prices.”

“That’s a genuine problem for utilities. All these solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that, without policy changes, this trend could soon put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent.”

solar price plummet.0 ‘Old Energy’ Utilities See Rising Threat from Solar

Reuters:  “Although U.S. utilities have yet to feel a financial sting from solar’s rise, they are leery of a future in which the burden of maintaining their delivery systems is spread among a smaller number of customers.”

“Last year, Arizona became the first U.S. state to introduce a solar tax after the state regulator let its main utility … charge 70 cents per kilowatt, or about $5 per month for most households, to those on the grid who use solar … several other states are considering similar proposals, or have pledged to reform electricity rates to address the rise of distributed generation.”

“‘Distributed generation could be the end of utilities as we know them today,’ U.S. investment research firm Morningstar said earlier this year. ‘Utilities’ centralized network monopolies break down when customers become self-sufficient competitors.’”

Event Today: How Electric Utilities Can Respond to Climate Change Challenges

The Brookings Institution hosts an event today called “Re-examining Smart Power: How Electric Utilities Can Respond to Climate Change Challenges.”

The event is described: “As the United States continues its push for mitigating climate change through energy efficiency, the electric utility industry faces new challenges in adapting for the future. In his updated volume Smart Power Anniversary Edition: Climate Change, the Smart Grid and the Future of Electric Utilities, electricity sector expert Peter Fox-Penner considers the role traditional utilities play in a changing market. Now, more than ever, Smart Power illustrates the need for forward thinking about how electricity generation, transmission and distribution can compete in a climate-minded economy.”

“On October 1, the Energy Security Initiative (ESI) at Brookings will host Peter Fox-Penner for a discussion of the future of the electric utility industry. This event serves as a follow-up to Fox-Penner’s initial book launch at Brookings in April 2010. After his opening remarks, Fox-Penner will be joined in a panel discussion by Adele Morris, fellow and policy director for the Climate and Energy Economics Project at Brookings, and Rudy Stegemoeller, staff lead on the New York State Public Service Commission “Reforming the Energy Vision” initiative. ESI Director Charles Ebinger will moderate the discussion.”

The Economic Costs of Climate Change Inaction

Opponents of climate change are focusing on a new tactic: the claim that tackling climate change will be too costly.

Mashable: “That economic argument had gone virtually unchallenged by senior Obama administration officials and other leaders. That is no longer the case.”

“In an unusually blunt policy address on Thursday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called opponents of climate change action ‘sad,’ and portrayed restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions as a net economic winner.”

“McCarthy said avoiding action on global warming will be far more expensive in the long run, compared to reducing emissions and hardening infrastructure to cope with climate impacts.”

McCarthy: “… When it comes to climate change, the most expensive thing we could do, is to do nothing … The bottom line is: We don’t act despite the economy, we act because of it.”

McCarthy’s speech came … more than a week after an international assessment about the economics of climate change showed that taking action sooner rather than later could be an economic boon.

“Another report, this one by a bipartisan group of American business leaders, warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, by 2050, between $66 to $106 billion of existing coastal property in the U.S. will be below sea level. This would grow to up to $507 billion by 2100.”

Working Capital Review: “Lately, the push to connect business and the environment comes not just from environmentalists, but from businesses themselves.”

U.S. to Pass Saudi Arabia, Become Biggest Liquid Petroleum Producer

The Financial Times reports that “the US is overtaking Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of liquid petroleum, in a sign of how its booming oil production has reshaped the energy sector.”

US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.”

“With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991.”

Merkel: Might Need To Rethink EU Energy Partnership With Russia

Reuters reports that “German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday there were good reasons to continue the European Union’s energy partnership with Russia for the time being but that might change if Moscow continues to violate basic principles.”

“Merkel, speaking at a news conference in Berlin with Finland’s Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, said that in the medium- to long-term it might be necessary to reconsider that energy partnership with Russia.”

“‘There are good reasons to continue the energy partnership with Russia,’ she said and noted that within the European Union different countries had different levels of dependency on supplies of Russian natural gas.”

“‘Nevertheless we have naturally to think about what we might have to change in the medium- to long-term as far as energy policies go if there is a continued violation of basic principles,’ she said, referring to respecting national sovereignty.”

Senators Request More Oil Train Notifications

The Associated Press reports that “four West Coast senators are asking the federal government to expand a recent order for railroads to notify state emergency responders of crude oil shipments.”

“The letter, sent Monday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, says railroads should supply states with advanced notification of all high-hazard flammable liquid transports — including crude from outside the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, as well as ethanol and 71 other liquids.”

“The letter was signed by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.”

PA Considers Oil and Gas Regulations

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “environmental regulators have begun to decide what to change and what to leave in a substantial revision to the state’s oil and gas regulations they hope will take effect by the middle of 2016.”

“The hard choices are still to come.”

“Officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection presented their first thoughts Thursday about how they will adapt their draft rules for above-ground activities at oil and gas sites to address thousands of suggestions submitted by citizens, industry representatives and environmental groups during a public comment period this year.”

Commentary: China as World’s Energy Superpower

Nick Butler writes in the Financial Times: “The starting point for anyone wanting to understand how the world’s energy markets will develop over the next 20 years must be China. Companies, bankers, investors and those of us who try to follow the industry will have to shift our attention away from local circumstances in Europe or the US. What happens in both continents is interesting, but on the world scale it pales into insignificance. Even a very radical change in the European market — a real carbon price or a single common energy policy, or indeed the development of French and German shale gas — would be as nothing compared to the transformation that is coming, as China becomes the dominant force in every part of the energy business.”

Renewable Energy: How Utah Wind Could Power Los Angeles

The Associated Press reports that “a proposal to export twice as much Wyoming wind power to Los Angeles as the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam includes an engineering feat even more massive than that famous structure: Four chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, would be carved from an underground salt deposit to hold huge volumes of compressed air.”

“The caverns in central Utah would serve as a kind of massive battery on a scale never before seen, helping to overcome the fact that — even in Wyoming — wind doesn’t blow all the time.”

“Air would be pumped into the caverns when power demand is low and wind is high, typically at night. During times of increased demand, the compressed air would be released to drive turbines and feed power to markets in far-away Southern California.”

Arkansas Senate Candidate: Midterms Will Determine U.S. Energy Policy

RealClearPolitics reports that “Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, running in one of the most competitive and consequential U.S. Senate races this year, said Thursday that the outcome of the midterm elections could determine ‘whether we will actually harness the energy resources that our country has.’”

“Speaking at an event sponsored by RealClearPolitics and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the conservative lawmaker said a GOP-controlled Congress would likely approve the Keystone XL pipeline and review Environmental Protection Agency regulations, among other energy-related policies, and that he would support votes leading to greater gas and oil exploration.”

The event covers additional topics, too, including: Carbon tax, energy strategy, and the energy boom’s impact on the economic recovery.

Video: How Community Groups Generate Their Own Energy

The Guardian (UK) offers a video that visits “the growing community of energy groups to find out how they are changing the way we think about our energy system and our relationship with it. Carbon Co-op in Manchester, Green Prosperity in Hull and Repowering London are three examples of this community energy revolution.”

Poll: Better Communication Needed About Fracking Benefits

Rigzone reports that “The results of a CBC/Radio-Canada poll released in September showed that while those polled were relatively evenly split on whether fracking was important to the economy, most respondents were more concerned with things like growing the economy and creating jobs.

“Given the fact that fracking has been shown to bring about significant job creation and economic development for municipalities nearby, the results of the poll seem to indicate that the energy industry could do a better job of communicating with the public regarding the fiscal benefits of fracking. What is at question, according to economist Karr Ingham, is how they should do that.”

“Currently, the industry seems to be struggling to get the message out, Ingham – who created the Texas Petro Index (TPI) for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers – admitted, adding that it doesn’t help that groups against the oil and gas industry are constantly on the attack.”

Oil industry Group Proposes Standards for Crude-Train Testing

The Associated Press reports that “the oil industry’s lead trade group released new standards on Thursday for testing and classifying crude shipped by rail after prior shipments were misclassified, including a train that derailed in Canada and killed 47 people.”

“As with earlier orders from the federal government, the industry standards leave it to individual companies to decide how often to test crude in order to gauge its danger.”

“The American Petroleum Institute said the standards were crafted in cooperation with regulators and the rail industry.”

Global Carbon Emissions Hit Record High

New York Times: Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels according to a new report released by the Global Carbon Project. It is the “latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming.”

“The emissions growth last year was a bit slower than the average growth rate of 2.5 percent over the past decade, and much of the dip was caused by an economic slowdown in China, which is the world’s single largest source of emissions.”

“In the United States, emissions rose 2.9 percent, after declining in recent years.”

“’You can no longer have some countries go first and others come in later, because there is no more time,’ said Glen P. Peters, a scientist at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, who helped compile the new numbers. ‘It needs to be all hands on deck now.’”

p6ghnvqv 1411008284 Global Carbon Emissions Hit Record High

Chart from The Conversation

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