Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch

At-a-Glance:

French energy giant TotalEnergies SE expects global oil demand to peak before the end of this decade, as more nations crack down on fossil fuels and promote cleaner power in transport and industry to mitigate global warming. Total’s 2021 Energy Outlook, which takes into account new net-zero pledges made by countries including the U.S. and China, assumes crude demand will plateau before 2030 and then decline. To learn more, read, “Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Total’s Momentum scenario, which is based on environmental targets and policies announced worldwide, points to a 2.2 to 2.4-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
  • This year’s report “considerably” raises the company’s forecasts for global solar and wind investments by the middle of the century to electrify transport as governments increasingly ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles.
  • Meanwhile, natural gas is seen keeping its role as a transition fuel, especially as carbon dioxide and methane emissions are increasingly reined in.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

According to the IEA’s landmark 2050 roadmap, there is a viable pathway to build a global net zero emissions energy sector by 2050, but it is narrow and calls for a transformation in how energy is produced, transported and used globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that to limit global warming to 1.5C°, global CO2 emissions should decline by 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050.

Meanwhile, the price of electricity does not need to increase when power systems move to net zero. Utilities are shifting from a costly operational expenditure (opex) model, where capital is continually drawn into fuelling and maintaining legacy inflexible coal, oil, and gas plants – to a new model where up-front capital expenditure (capex) is invested in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy technology. Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar – and earning rewards from capacity mechanisms.

 

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. would need to quadruple the amount of solar energy it installs by 2035 if it wants to achieve a goal of decarbonizing the nation’s power grid, the Energy Department said in a study released in September 2021. According to the study, solar energy has the potential to power 40% of the nation’s electricity and employ as many as 1.5 million people by 2035. To learn more, read, Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2020, the U.S. installed a record 15 gigawatts of solar power bringing the total to 76 gigawatts or 3% of the nation’s electricity supply.
  • The study, which was conducted by the agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that by 2035, the U.S. would need to provide 1,000 gigawatts of solar power to achieve a 95% emission-free grid.
    • Decarbonizing the grid would require as much as 3,000 gigawatts of solar by 2050, the study said.
  • The study comes as the President called for a 100% clean energy grid by 2035 and a 50% economy-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as part of an effort to combat climate change.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

It is the job of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. As the current population emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments can lay the foundations for a smoother transition to a decarbonized world. To achieve this, utilities must commit to front-loading their efforts and investment strategies. Not only will this unlock a wealth of new commercial opportunities in a transformed power market, but the future of the planet and it’s population depends on it.

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Want to Test Your Carbon-Capture Tech? Head to Wyoming

At-a-Glance:

The prototype for a filter that can pull planet-warming carbon dioxide from industrial smokestacks appeared promising enough to win a $51.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. After a decade of development, Membrane Technology and Research Inc., the California company behind the new carbon-capture technology, finally had the funding to run large tests. And that meant a trip to Gillette, Wyoming, a town of about 32,000 people that remains the only location in the U.S. capable of running trials on carbon-capture devices at close to real-world scale. To learn more, read “Want to Test Your Carbon-Capture Tech? Head to Wyoming.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the media outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • The only alternative to the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, as the facility is known, would have been for the company to build its own demonstration site, at great cost.
  • For more than a decade the global consortium of scientists with the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has endorsed the necessity of carbon-capture technology to avoid the worst impacts of warming temperatures.
  • A recent report by Bloomberg News found that several major power operators in the U.S. with net-zero goals currently justify their plans to build new gas-fired plants by relying on adoption of carbon capture and storage technology that doesn’t yet exist at scale.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Free-market forces are pushing companies, large and small, to address climate change. Accelerating decarbonization efforts is the subject of discussions, research and multiple organizational goals. Carbon capture technology is gaining interest in the energy sector around the world as industries seek innovation, traction and affordability. The innovative technologies being developed and deployed by companies such as Membrane Technology and Research, will go a long way to make carbon capture and storage both affordable and accessible for the entire world. While much more will need to be accomplished before achieving a 100% renewable energy future, these efforts are charting a productive course to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon releases by 2050.

 

Photo by Toan Chu on Unsplash

Airline Industry to Weigh Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

At-a-Glance:

The airline industry’s global trade group will propose eliminating carbon emissions on a net basis by 2050, as pressure builds to improve the climate goals of a segment that’s come under increasing criticism for its use of fossil fuels. To learn more, read “Airline Industry to Weigh Goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) will ask carriers to adopt the target at its annual meeting in Boston in October, according to IATA’s director general, Willie Walsh.
  • While airlines including British Airways owner IAG SA, Delta Airlines Inc. and United Airlines Holding Inc. have all made net-zero commitments, IATA hasn’t updated its own goal since 2009. At that time, airlines pledged to cut CO2 output 50% by mid-century, compared with 2005 levels.
  • IATA intends to hold planemaker AirBus SE to a pledge to produce a hydrogen-fueled aircraft by 2035 and said the model needs to have a size comparable to the top-selling A320 narrow body – carrying 150 people – and a range of at least 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
  • Airlines’ CO2 emissions reached about 915 million metric tons in 2019, according to the Air Transportation Action Group.
  • Based on 2005 levels, IATA’s current target is for carriers to reduce carbon emissions to 325 million metric tons by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing to meet ambitious renewable energy goals will require new approaches and ways of thinking, especially in aviation. Shifting to hydrogen and carbon neutral fuels is one path the industry can take to reduce carbon emissions. This will require investments in technologies such as power-to-gas and carbon capture to produce renewable fuels at scale for the transportation sector.

Photo by Etienne Jong on Unsplash

All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones

At-a-Glance:

In May, the International Energy Agency published a report that details the pathway to net-zero emissions in the global energy system. The IEA was born of an oil crisis and its long-term mandate has been the security of the energy supply, to include enough fossil fuel to run the power, transport, and industrial processes of developed economies. It’s a redefinition of a guiding principle for the global energy system—from securing adequate supply to minimizing, or even zeroing out, the impacts of demand. To learn more, read All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aluminum is one of the world’s most ubiquitous metals, used in everything from consumer goods to electronics to infrastructure.
    • Producing it is energy-intensive, and at the moment, more than two-thirds of its energy consumption comes from coal and natural gas.
    • Aluminum is responsible for about 4% of industrial emissions and 1% of all global emissions.
  • Alcoa, Rio Tinto, Apple, the government of Canada, and the provincial government of Quebec have invested in a developing process that uses inert anodes—which don’t produce CO₂—and zero-carbon power to drive emissions to zero.
  • BNEF ran the numbers and the production costs with this method could be lower than with traditional methods—and significantly lower than with processes that use carbon offsets to cancel out their CO₂ emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Clean energy investments around the world have been growing at more than $300 billion annually over the course of the past five years. McKinsey’s Global Energy Perspective 2019 predicts that by 2035, renewable energy generation will account for 50% of the world’s total generation. That, in turn, is expected to substantially increase the demand for several metals such as copper, aluminium, bauxite, iron, lead, graphite, tin, nickel and zinc which are used to produce renewable energy.

Stockpiles of various metals, to include aluminum, are deplenishing, while the time to find new reserves is increasing. This could lead to a situation where the production of metals will not be able to keep up with increasing demand. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Renewable Resources at Mines tracker, estimates there are 57 mines across 21 countries with a total installed renewable energy capacity of 1178 MW.

 

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says

At-a-Glance:

Global recessions, wars, and pandemics have a way of driving down energy demand. Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the collapse in global primary energy demand brought on by COVID-19 was the biggest drop since the end of World War II, itself the biggest drop since the influenza pandemic after World War I. IEA also reported that renewable power capacity grew at its fastest pace this century in 2020, raising its growth forecast for wind and solar power for this year and next.According to the Paris-based energy watchdog, renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased last year. The addition to the world’s renewable electricity capacity last year was 45% more than in the prior year and the biggest jump since 1999, as wind and solar farms sprang up across the world’s major economies. To learn more, read How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the news outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewable energy installations not only increased during the pandemic, they exceeded even the most bullish of expectations, with wind installations increasing 90% and solar increasing 23%.
  • IEA estimates that in 2022, renewables will account for 90% of new power capacity expansion globally.
  • ​​“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, adding that greater use of lower-carbon electricity was needed for the world to achieve its carbon-reduction goals.
  • The European Union plans to spend $1 trillion to reach its goal of net carbon neutrality by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

U.S. renewable energy adoption continues to rise, in 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for 17.5% of total utility-scale electricity generation, with renewable energy generation reaching 720 TWh. More than 70% of energy stimulus funding is currently allocated to legacy fossil fuels, compared to less than 30% to clean energy. However, reallocating $72 billion in energy stimulus funding could achieve:

  • 107 GW of new renewable energy capacity
  • 6.5 % rise in share of renewable electricity generation (from 17.5% to 24% renewable electricity).
  • 544,000 new jobs in renewable energy, 175% more jobs than if the same stimulus was used to revive the legacy energy sector.

The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company

At-a-Glance:

In late April, a raft of oil majors released their first quarter results with companies like Royal Dutch Shell Plc showing a return to pre-pandemic profit levels. At the same time, some of the majors increased their energy transition commitments. Spanish firm Repsol SA devoted 40% of its capital expenditure to low-carbon projects, and France’s Total SE stated plans to increase its renewable energy capacity five-fold over the next four years. To learn more, read “The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Norway’s state-owned oil producer, Equinor ASA posted more than $2.6 billion of earnings in the first quarter of 2021, 49% of which was from renewable energy.
  • Last quarter, Equinor earned more from renewables than it did from oil and gas exploration and production.
  • Equinor is farming down to two European oil majors: BP Plc is buying into the U.S. projects, and Italy’s Eni SpA is buying into the U.K. projects – they are paying Equinor for the privilege of taking on the early stages of developing offshore wind.
  • One reason Equinor could be an early developer of U.S. offshore wind is that it has decades of experience developing and operating offshore oil and gas assets.
  • Equinor is two-thirds owned by the Kingdom of Norway, with Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global owning another 3.59% of the company via Folketrygdfondet, which expects its portfolio companies to integrate climate change considerations into policies and strategy.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that more than two-thirds of Earth’s population already lives in countries where solar or wind — or both — are the least-expensive sources of new electricity generation. As wind and solar power become increasingly cost-competitive, investments in traditional, inflexible base load plants such as large coal, nuclear, and gas combined-cycle plants are declining. This signals an end to the era of large, centralized power plants that run on fossil fuels. Global financial trends reflect this dramatic shift, with renewable generation attracting more investment dollars than fossil-powered generation year after year. Worldwide investment in renewables has exceeded $230 billion for nine years in a row.

New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases

At-a-Glance:

The new CEO of SunPower Corp. – a veteran of Amazon.com Inc. – wants to make the rooftop solar-buying process easier for homeowners. in an interview Wednesday. “Until we make getting solar as simple as buying a book on Amazon, we’re not going to stop,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Peter Faricy said. To learn more, read “New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interest in residential solar is surging in the U.S. with climate change a threat to the power grid, however, only about 3% of the country’s homes are equipped with panels.
  • Rooftop-solar companies attribute market penetration to lengthy permitting processes and low-tech sales techniques.
  • SunPower’s new CEO, Peter Faricy, who spent 13 years at Amazon.com, thinks the solar business is ripe for digital innovation.
  • SunPower deployed 77 megawatts of residential solar in the first quarter, up from 70 megawatts during the same period last year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050. Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize  power systems fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and future fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.

The Renewable Energy Asset Rotation Cycle Is Stuck

At-a-Glance:

Bloomberg NEF calculates that meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement with a combination of zero-carbon electricity and hydrogen would require more than $60 trillion of power sector investment, plus more than $30 trillion of investment in hydrogen production and transport by 2050. Flex a few technical choices – such as switching over dedicated nuclear power plants to manufacturing hydrogen – and the total price tag is $100 trillion or more. To learn more, read “The Renewable Energy Asset Rotation Cycle Is Stuck.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pumping up the flow of trillions of dollars from giant asset managers to early stage companies looking to make these investments will be a big job for the world’s capital markets and will depend on financial systems functioning perfectly.
  • Currently, some assets aren’t rotating like they used to, particularly in Europe. EDP, Portugal’s major electric utility, rotated 87% of its assets from 2014 to 2016, but intends to only rotate 35% of mostly-renewable assets from now until 2025.
  • There are a number of reasons rotation might be slow.
    • Renewable assets with stable financial returns look attractive on the corporate balance sheet.
    • Green finance allows companies to refinance assets advantageously and increase those returns on their books without cashing out of early-stage assets.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The U.S. is a global leader in renewable energy with the second largest installed capacity in the world. Total private sector investment in renewable energy reached a record USD $55.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 28% year on year. Federal government support for clean energy has been significantly reduced in recent years, with federal energy initiatives primarily being focused on the fossil fuel sector. However, given the scale and depth of its energy market, the U.S. has the economic and technological potential to scale-up renewable energy at an unprecedented rate.

Google Earth Now Shows Decades of Climate Change in Seconds

At-a-Glance:

Google Earth has partnered with NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, and Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab to bring users time-lapse images of the planet’s surface – 24 million satellite photos taken over 37 years. Together, they offer photographic evidence of a planet changing faster than at any time in millenia. To learn more, read “Google Earth Now Shows Decades of Climate Change in Seconds.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Timelapse, the name of the new Google Earth feature, is the largest video on the planet, according to a statement from the company.
  • The tool stitches together more than 50 years of imagery from the U.S,’s Landsat program, which is run by NASA and the USGS. When combined with images from European Sentinel-2 satellites, Landsat provides the equivalent of complete coverage of the Earth’s surface every two days.
  • Timelapse images are stark: warmer Atlantic waters and air temperatures are accelerating ice melt, and tree loss in Brazil surged by a quarter from 2019 to 2020.
  • Google Earth is expected to update Timelapse about once a year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global emissions would need to reach net-zero (or carbon-neutral) by 2050 to prevent severe climate change impacts. Google Earth’s new tool shows that climate change is real and already having an impact. Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving toward 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to increase renewable generation while rapidly reducing the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize our power system fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy, and flexible fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.

 

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Texas Nearly Went Dark Because Officials Misjudged Weather

At-a-Glance:

Texas came uncomfortably close to another round of rolling blackouts on the night of April 13 because grid operators misjudged the weather. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of the state’s grid, had counted on a mild cold front sweeping the state, lowering demand for power. It didn’t happen. As a result, demand on the grid was about 3,000 megawatts higher than anticipated. To learn more, read “Texas Nearly Went Dark Because Officials Misjudged Weather.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The forecasting error came as 25% of power generation was offline for seasonal repairs and served as a reminder of the vulnerability of Texas’s grid.
  • Texas has long taken a laissez-faire approach to its power grid, allowing market forces – rather than regulations – to ensure there’s enough power on hand to satisfy demand.
  • The market is designed to operate with thin reserve margins. Unless lawmakers intervene, weather will continue to beget volatility in the power grid.
  • The summer months will present another test for grid operators. Almost 75% of Texas is gripped by drought and more than 91% of the state is abnormally dry.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The latest close call in Texas shows there is an urgent need to adopt common-sense regulations that lead to grid reliability and ratepayer protection. While extreme weather was not to blame in this case, many believe climate change will make extreme and unpredictable weather more commonplace. There must be adequate, dispatchable power for unusual weather events, especially as global reliance on renewables continues to grow.

 

Photo by Jeremy Banks on Unsplash

California to Test Whether Big Batteries Can Stop Summer Blackouts

At-a-Glance:

With summer’s heat approaching, California’s plan for avoiding a repeat of last year’s blackouts hinges on a humble savior – the battery. Giant versions of the same technology that powers smart phones and cars are being plugged into the state’s electrical grid at breakneck speed, with California set to add more battery capacity this year than all of China. To learn more, read “California to Test Whether Big Batteries Can Stop Summer Blackouts.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet. 

Key Takeaways:

  • By August, California will have 1,700 megawatts of new battery capacity – enough to power 1.3 million homes and, in theory, avert a grid emergency like that of 2020.
  • The state’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 may require installing 48.8 gigawatts of energy storage, according to a report by three state agencies – more than five times the output of all the grid-scale batteries currently operating worldwide.
  • But batteries do have two major limitations – time and cost. Most of the battery packs now available are designed to run for just four hours at a stretch. While that makes them a good fit for California, where electricity supplies can be strained in early summer evenings after solar power shuts  down, batteries would not have prevented the multi-day outage that paralyzed Texas in February. A battery can only operate for so long before it needs to recharge.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California’s current plan without thermal generation would require an investment of $309 billion between 2021 and 2045 to add another 1,624 GWh of battery storage and electricity generation cost would jump to a sky-high 128 $ / MWh. However,  with Power-to-Gas and thermal generation as long-term energy would save the state $176 billion between 2021 and 2045 and electricity generation cost would be $50 / MWh in 2045. More batteries without thermal generation is not affordable and is not enough to create a resilient or reliable grid.

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash