For Greentech Media this week, I reviewed some exhaustive recent research on energy trends and forecasts, which showed that the conventional wisdom about renewables and their future is way out of date, and the renewably-powered grid will be here sooner than most people expect. “It’s not 1990 anymore,” the report’s lead author observed at the Pathways to 100% Renewables Conference held April 16 in San Francisco.
For SmartPlanet this week, I reviewed the failure of utility deregulation and pondered what’s next for the utility sector: Capacity markets? Re-regulation? Transformation to a new business model? Creating a renewably-powered grid will be easy compared to crafting a new regulatory framework that will make utility investors whole during the transition.
Read it here: The next big utility transformation
For Greentech Media this week, I discussed how private utilities must either adapt to distributed renewable energy generation or risk being transformed back into public utilities.
For Greentech Media this week, I reviewed a new white paper from the Edison Electric Institute which details the many “disruptive challenges” facing private utility companies as the energy transition to a renewably-powered grid progresses.
I have a new article for Scientific American out today, about a new type of flywheel-based electricity storage device. I have long been hopeful for flywheel storage technology, so when I learned of the Kickstarter campaign for this device, I had to find out more about it. (The Kickstarter campaign ended, fully funded, between the time I wrote the article and its publication today.)
For SmartPlanet this week, I noted that U.S. natural gas prices have already hit my end-of-year target, while wind and solar are growing rapidly around the world. I summarized some excellent work by Giles Parkison at Renew Economy in which he reviewed recent global forecasts for renewables and grid power by a handful of global investment banks, and looked at some other global trends, to conclude that the global transition to mostly renewable grid power may now be unstoppable.
Read it here: The ‘unstoppable’ renewable grid
For SmartPlanet this week, I detailed the woefully inaccurate past forecasts of the oil majors and contrasted their bullish outlooks with their actual production,which has been declining since 1999 despite massive investment. Be sure to check out the links to the posts by Matt Mushalik and Matthieu Auzanneau.
Read it here: Oil majors are whistling past the graveyard
For SmartPlanet this week, I explored the cost data (such as it is) on carbon capture and storage (CCS), and concluded that it will never pay off. Renewables have simply gotten too cheap, and the public subsidies that would be required to get CCS to the point where it’s economically viable are just too huge.
For SmartPlanet this week, I surveyed the latest message from the American oil and gas industry: We either need to pay more for oil to sustain the boom in unconventional production (from tight oil and tar sands), or find ways to do without it.
For SmartPlanet this week, I filed my first report from my trip to Abu Dhabi last week, where I attended the World Future Energy Summit. What I found there was remarkable: Two of the world’s top oil and gas producers transitioning to renewables.
For SmartPlanet this week, I reviewed some of my calls for 2012, and offered my oil and gas price forecast for 2013.
For SmartPlanet this week, I discussed a recent research paper from the University of Delaware which explored how a major grid in the Northeast could be 99.9% powered exclusively by renewables (wind and solar), and how doing so would cost about the same as what we pay today for grid power. I also pointed out some new reports about the rapidly falling cost of solar PV power and the rapidly growing installation of solar in the U.S. A new white paper out of Australia about how that country can mostly power its grid from renewables by 2050 also merited a mention.
Belatedly, here’s the link to a piece I did for Quartz last month on storage technologies, in which I argue that intermittent sources of renewable power like wind and solar could revolutionize our grid power if we had better ways to store it. I think we’ll crack that nut by the end of the decade.
For SmartPlanet this week, I updated the story on U.S. shale gas production and prices, and the increasingly dubious prospect of LNG exports at a large scale. Read it here: The murky future of U.S. shale gas
For SmartPlanet this week, I discussed the European market for North American wood pellets, which they are increasingly using for power generation. It’s a fascinating market that gets very little coverage in the American press, but exploiting our full export potential will require infrastructure investment in freight rail and ports, which in turn will create jobs and enable a more general transport infrastructure that uses less energy and delivers a wide spectrum of ancillary benefits to the U.S. economy. Read it here: The missing link to a $7 billion market
Jeff Goodell has a couple of good recent pieces about shale gas in Rolling Stone. The first, an entertaining close-up of Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon and his company’s business model, appears to have drawn heavily from my recent pieces on shale gas, although without direct attribution. The second, out today, speaks to President Obama’s assertion that we have 100 years of shale gas, and does quote my piece in Slate. Goodell is a fun writer to read, and these are worth a look if you are interested in the subject.
Separately, it seems the unfavorable economics of shale gas production are finally hitting the street, as Russia’s Lukoil announced yesterday that it is pulling out of $1.8 billion shale gas deal in the U.S.
Postscript March 5, 2012: I should clarify that I do not agree with all of Goodell’s representations. I also note that Chesapeake has issued a rebuttal and that Art Berman has objected to some of Goodell’s statements about him.
For SmartPlanet this week I offered a model to demystify oil prices. The most important factor is one you’ve probably never heard of, while the ones you hear about aren’t that important. I also showed why unconventional oil from fracked shales will reinforce, not relieve, the pain of high oil prices. Read it here: A model of oil prices
For SmartPlanet this week, I explored some new academic research on the relationship between the EROI (energy return on energy invested) and ROI of fuels, and what it can tell us about price, profit, scalability, and the economy as a whole. Savvy investors should begin looking at the EROI of fuels as a guide. Read it here: What EROI tells us about ROI
For SmartPlanet this week, I reviewed new data from petroleum geologist Arthur Berman showing that total U.S. gas production has plateaued for the past two years, in sharp contrast to the data offered by EIA. Production is actually declining in major shale gas plays because it has become unprofitable, and the outlook for future production is becoming more dubious. According to Berman, the shale gas gold rush is over. Read it here: Everything you know about shale gas is wrong