Good energy news on this cold, snowy day

Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.




5 thoughts on “Good energy news on this cold, snowy day

  1. It would appear that the clean energy forces have gained momentum and are undeterred by those in Washington who would deny their existence!! Good news, indeed. Many thanks, Keith!!

    • Thanks Hugh. The good news continues to build. With cities, states and businesses leading the way, what DC does matters less. I think Perry’s surprise that FERC did not support his recommendation is telling. An article I read over a year ago about the “virtuous cycle,” is utilities are determine that building a new coal plant which will be obsolete before it is finished makes little sense. I guess Perry, Pruitt and Trump missed that briefing. Perry may not even be aware his former state of Texas gets 16% of its electricity from wind energy. Keith

  2. Dear Keith,

    There are those in President Trump’s administration who keep making policy decisions on a fantasy that the coal industry is on its death bed not because of regulations but because of good old fashion US competition. There are cheaper cleaner sources of energy available.

    But mark my words, these guys are so in the pockets of the the fossil fuel industry, that it wouldn’t surprise me a bit, if they are trying to figure out a fix for this that has nothing to do with doing what’s best for our country and its peoples.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, no question about whose pockets they are in. The offshore drilling, roll back on regs related to fracking and polluting rivers, the Paris accord, all show who is driving. I did read that the fossil fuel companies are looking at offshore wind energy which is thriving in Europe. So, that is an indication of where money can be made. Offshore drilling can be expensive, so the question is do they want to spend that money where the ROI is lower and risk is higher. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: Quick news update per Reuters on 1/26/2018.

    “Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has spent over $400 million on a range of acquisitions in recent weeks, from solar power to electric car charging points, cranking up its drive to expand beyond its oil and gas business and reduce its carbon footprint.”

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