How I “missed” The Call on Energy Companies of the Future back in 2015, while identifying all the key metrics and underlying trajectories that were bring them to a future fruition – plus how I failed SEO & Marketing 101 calling them something insightful to me, but no mass appeal to our industry or media. Time to back-up, re-read the tea leaves and welcome in… The Energy Companies of the Future. Continue reading Oil, Tar Sands, Coal, Natural Gas & The “Energy Companies of the Future”
Before the natural gas tsunami came ashore of the U.S. energy sector in 2014/2015, it was little more than a rogue wave at sea. This is a story of its impacts on one energy technology while it was still barely discernible from the surrounding waves in which it lurked as it gained momentum and mass.
In 2008 through 2010 I worked with a small diversified “solar” company in Colorado as a Project Manager – “Jack of All Trades.” At the time, we focused on distributed solar thermal at the municipal and residential scales, while engineering a more versatile racking system than that on the market out of Europe.
Within the context of South African energy development, and less so within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), I often find myself being misunderstood as to the role coal plays within the energy economy.
I recognize, on the surface, many observers and colleagues alike, may gather an impression I am advocating for the unequivocal closure of all coal assets and the direct economies they support. Nothing could be further from the truth, and although my knowledge and experiences tell me, coal’s impacts on the global climate are negative, with dire human and economic consequences, I have long since passed the days of being an ‘environmental crusader’, motivated by heart, not facts and reality.
Ending all coal fired electric generation tomorrow, if this was my position, would be pushing for the closure of currently operational power stations and ceasing the capital flow of hemorrhaging new builds under construction, struggling to meet project deadlines and cost projections. My pragmatism steers me clear of any designs that risk a near certain economic collapse regardless some “ideal energy world” I may dream up.
Valentine’s Day can bring out the best and the worst in people.
In this new “love ballad” by the Energy Policy Alliance, we see how the inherent need to be loved is not just a human trait anymore. How certain sectors of the energy industry can take on human emotions of neglect, rejection and the wear and tear of getting older.
Unfortunately, this can bring out the worst in not only humans, but industry as well, and desperation can set in. Such is the case with all relationships, and the choice is ours to decide whether we want to see the glass half-full, or half-empty. To appreciate what we have, or lament what we are lacking.
It looks as though Mrs. Oil has a half-empty attitude, but can you blame her given her long run at the top and being the most universally adored and fought over energy for decades? Changes are bound to happen as nothing lasts forever, and the global energy environment is at its most dynamic position shy Ms. Black Gold’s storming the stage not more than a hundred years ago to claim the spotlight.
Is Mrs. Oil starting to get desperate? Is she seeing the writing on the wall? Is she trying to steal the noteworthy fame of her fellow energy divas knowing full well they frequented the same clubs, but rarely socialized directly with each other all through their history?
Legacy electrical generation technologies; coal, large hydro & nuclear, are falling under their own weight of inflexibility in demand response, costly and time sensitive project delays and a growing public and financial understanding of their long standing dependence on subsidies, an once accepted necessity in meeting “developed world” baseload needs to fuel strong economies. Continue reading Keystone XL, a positive statement to changing global energy dynamics?
We have 3-4 billion in a rush to get energy (China, Africa, India, SE Asia & less so South America), while a billion or so already have it (USA, Canada, a decent part of Europe, South Korea, select Middle Eastern countries, and up until the Tsunami, Japan). The latter fell into the trap of needing to refurbish legacy plants (coal & nuclear) while bringing on national gas (NG) and renewable energy (RE). While the former are building whatever they can, maybe at a 10 to 1 ratio (fossils/nuclear/large hydro to REs).
There is currently much “buzz” about methane releases from Natural Gas Exploration & Production (NG E&P), especially with regards to the buzzword friendly “Fracking” dominating all discussions. The NG industry is clearly “green washing” the public through slick advertisements, as it knocks off its primary competitor Coal, and has already surpassed Nuclear for electrical output in the US.
The fact of the matter is, there are currently NG “Peaker” plants associated with almost all existing Coal and Nuclear plants, often on the same properties, owned and operated by the same generation company. This is really no different than many of our most famous hydroelectric dams being built with coal plants just out of view of the sweeping and magnificent concrete arches. Glen Canyon Dam, on the mighty Colorado River, and the 2,225 MW Navajo Generation Plant were paired in construction under the CRSP (Colorado River Storage Project) to mitigate water storage requirement priority over hydroelectric generation.
My use of the word “competitor”, when we discuss Natural Gas in contrast to Nuclear or Coal, becomes very much a gray area once we dig into the numbers of overall electrical production. But back to the topic of methane releases.
I recently responded to a post on LinkedIn in the “Energy Innovation by Statoil” group about wind turbines being “unappealing” visually within the discussion brought about by a completely wide-open question “How do you feel about wind farms?”
Obviously, that is a subjective question, setting the stage for far ranging arguments lacking substantiated reasoning. This being akin to the common misunderstanding of billowing exhaust plumes at power plants thought to be laden with green house gases, pollution and toxic chemicals. The reality being, most of the visible “offenses” are waste heat removal through water evaporation cooling, not the invisible fossil fuel combustion effluent as commonly believed.
It was also stated, wind farms can be the cause of drought, which initially caught me off guard as I have lived and breathed water issues the past 20 years and it is a major determinant in my self assessed classification as “A Westerner”. Water is in our blood, both figuratively and literally. A transplant, to the western US, can be easily identified based on their lack of understanding and comprehension of where their water comes from and exactly how precious it is to maintaining our lifestyles. “Water Wars” are not just some future post apocalyptic scenario, they have been fought for over a century here in the United States.
I will be traveling around Europe for 3 months starting August 6th. So it is not all “fun and games”, I plan to dedicate substantial time to a personal project focused on energy supply and need, Europe as a case study.
It centers around a theory linking the successes [and shortcomings] in the transition towards more balanced energy portfolios; including renewable sources, as fueled by a home grown cultural “energy awareness”.
This may seem a “no-brainer” to Europeans experiencing it, however it is a significant departure from the realities present in the US and struggling to be realized around the globe.
I also see commonalities in regional scarcities experienced historically throughout the EU, as significant limitations & realities to developing/under developed nations worldwide.
A nice highlight of some of the key differences between the US model and that of the Danes, although this could be said of the European models in general.
How long until we recognize a focus on communal efforts for collective gains as opposed to idolizing individual achievements results in better overall outcome?
What I have seen working with global leaders in their industries here in the US is more consistent with the European business and social cultures, a drive for efficiency and a greater prioritization on accountability.
“Solar”, regardless the generally considered meaning of it, as PV, also includes Wind, Ocean Currents, Hydroelectric and Solar Thermal, to name the primary forms we can harness to supply our needs.
Solar Thermal also has two distinct forms; one for the heating of water for residential and commercial needs, relatively common throughout much of the world and an idea that died during the 80s here in the U.S.; and another, super heating a fluid medium to spin a turbine producing electricity, the giant often circular plants full of mirrors and a central tower, made notable in Spain, Australia & the Mojave Desert of California.
Author’s note: This is a beta format, temporary post. 7/23/14 I find myself needlessly having to explain these limitations countless times, effectively wasting time explaining the reality of PV to those unfamiliar with these real world limitations. Under current implementation trends, and infinite variability, residential solar rarely breaks a threshold of 30% nameplate capacity (adjust for region and day of the year) that can be considered baseload, reliable input to the grid.
Current trends, especially in the U.S., of PV’s effective implementation, are proceeding down a pathway that are counterproductive to maximizing our investments with the overall goal being to significantly reduce our release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
If we do not do this second part with an altruistic twist, those less fortunate will attempt to come up to our standards through whatever means possible. As seen in China, those “whatever” means will be through “cheaper” means, most likely conventional fossils fuels or enormously expensive large scale hydro.