Sunday, January 22, 2017

US cedes leadership on climate change

This NY Times article spells it out. The Obama Administration quickly restored America's position in the world as a leader of a community of nations. The Trump Administration trashed that during the transition and the Inaugural address, with climate change one of many areas where we may have a bumpy road ahead.

Meanwhile China already seized the mantle this week at the World Economic Forum ... with India perhaps not far behind.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

China adds 34GW of solar PV in 2016

China solar additions in 2016 reported at 34 Gigawatts.  That is a huge number.

Meanwhile, Japan's 2016 solar additions are ... well, I do not know since the METI site which tracks FIT projects (the vast bulk of the total) only shows additions through September. Maybe BNEF or RTS has

Over the first 3 quarters, Japan added approximately 600MW of residential solar capacity), and 4.95GW of commercial and industrial solar (in each case measured by AC not DC module capacity. So a nine month total of 5.55GW.

In the months leading up to September 30, monthly completions were running at around 75MW residential and 425MW commercial/industrial, so by year end Japan may have added an additional 1.5GW, putting the total around 7.05GW (AC) --maybe between 8GW and 9GW DC.)

That number would be MUCH lower than the BNEF Japan forecast at the beginning of the year of 13.2-14.3GW. And only about 25% of China.  Japan has likely ceded the #2 solar market position to the US and perhaps also has slipped behind India.  And Japan will fall further in 2017, and in 2018.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Renewables and CO2 emissions under a Trump Administration ... ban wind and solar in Wyoming??

The incoming Trump administration campaigned on bringing back jobs to coal country by ... bringing back coal (!).  Trump threatened (tweeted?) about pulling the U.S. out of the COP 21 accord. Then again, he met with Al Gore and said he has an "open mind" on things related to climate change. And some of his buddies in private equity and finance invest in renewables.  So there was hope. Next, he nominated a bunch of neanderthals to run the EPA, Department of Energy and other posts that might have something to do with U.S. climate change and renewables-related policies. All hope was lost. Or was it?

So like many policy areas, we know that we may be in for a very rough ride with a Trump administration, but do not really know what they will do.

I have drawn comfort from a couple things.

First, the price of renewables (and storage) are dropping so fast that we are beyond the point of turning back.  Likewise, electrification of the transport fleet will continue.

Second, businesses cannot plan based on a 2-year or 4-year election cycle.  A U.S. utility would be crazy to plan a new coal plant starting today just because of the results of the 2016 election -- the asset would probably, very likely, be stranded before it is complete. A total write-off. (Indeed, this is why the ExxonMobils of the world support a carbon tax -- they want a global, predictable price for CO2 emissions that makes it possible to plan long-term investments).

Third, much of the most aggressive policy in the U.S. promoting renewables has come out of state public utility commissions (PUCs) and legislatures, not from Washington.  So even if the EPA's "clean power plan" is dead on day one of the Trump Administration, the states with a healthy share of of the nation's population and energy consumption.

But what I was not counting on was THIS kind of activity (see link). Wyoming has both huge coal and very plentiful wind resources. Now the legislature is trying to ban the state utilities from using wind and solar power. Wow. Talk about interference with the "free market"!

Let's hope this does not pass.

Of course, even if Wyoming does pass this legislation, it will not be such a big thing for U.S. renewables policy. Despite Wyoming's bountiful energy resources, it has a very small population -- less than 2% the size of California.  So a regulation that involves the state's sources of electric power is only a drop in the bucket compared with what major states are doing.  And do not be surprised if certain other states and localities (especially up and down the west coast) do everything in their power to block Wyoming coal shipments for export (if they are not already doing so). There are limits on that kind of activity (under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. constitution, many local regulations of transportation activity are "pre-empted"), but there is often a way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Exxon Supports a Carbon Tax

Several years ago, all the major European oil and gas "majors" (Shell, BP, Total) were publicly advocating for a globally consistent "carbon tax".

But Exxon and Chevron, the two largest U.S. based oil companies, declined to join the group, saying they wanted to retain individual control of their "messages" on these issues. 

So now, as we enter 2017 and Exxon's former CEO is nominated for Secretary of State, what is Exxon's position?  The company supports a carbon tax. You can read it in the NY Times, December 30, 2016 opinion page (below).  And this has been their position for awhile, and for good reason.

As for Chevron, they support ... well, lots of nice vague words on their website policy page about the need for global solutions to complex problems. It looks like a bunch of baloney to me that refuses to face up to a life and death issue. And they are selling their Asia geothermal operations which are the bulk of their global geothermal assets.  I guess they need the cash to complete major natural gas investments, so no place for renewables when the projects being sold represent the bulk of their portfolio?