FT: Alistair Phillips-Davies on the day SSE became the first of the big six utilities to raise gas and electricity prices, saying household tariffs would rise by an average of 8.2 per cent from November 15, says in an interview that SSE has been forced to act in part by the rising cost of green policies, such as subsidies for low-carbon power generation and the Eco energy-efficiency scheme. Read more
Guardian: “The UK’s fracking pioneer Cuadrilla was prevented by the Environment Agency from using a hazardous chemical at its drilling site in Sussex, local residents have been told. But permission was granted for another chemical despite concerns over its safety.” Banned: antimony trioxide. Allowed: oxirane. Known as an oxygen scavenger, it is used to prevent corrosion.
Bloomberg: “Chesapeake Energy’s Serenity 1-3H well near Oklahoma City came in as a gusher in 2009, pumping more than 1,200 barrels of oil a day and kicking off a rush to drill that extended into Kansas. Now the well produces less than 100 barrels a day, state records show. Serenity’s swift decline sheds light on a dirty secret of the oil boom: It may not last.” Read more
FT: “After decades as the world’s biggest market for the international oil trade, America is ceding that position, the US Energy Information Administration said this week. The implications for international relations and global security are profound.” Read more
Bloomberg: “California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators.” Read more
REW.com: “In 2009, Jacobson caught people’s attention with his co-authored article A Plan To Power 100 Percent of the Planet With Renewables, which was the cover story of November’s Scientific American.” Read more
FT: “Peter Voser says the failure of Royal Dutch Shell’s huge bet on US shale was a big regret of his time as chief executive of the company. ….“Unconventionals did not exactly play out as planned,” Mr Voser said. “We expected higher flow rates and therefore more scalability for a company like Shell,” he said. Read more
Martin Wolf in the FT: “Is the US a functioning democracy? This week legislators decided to shut down a swath of the federal government rather than allow an enacted health law go into operation at the agreed moment.” Read more
Guardian: “Lord Lawson’s campaign group for climate change sceptics, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, has been executing a carefully co-ordinated campaign with its media and political allies to discredit and misrepresent the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” writes Bob Ward.
Guardian. “The oceans are becoming more acidic at the fastest rate in 300m years, due to carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, and a mass extinction of key species may already be almost inevitable as a result, leading marine scientists warned on Thursday.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett on The Guardian: “While the world digests the IPCC’s 5th assessment of our carbon emissions and changing climate, plans abound for an unprecedented coal export boom in Australia. In the remote, as yet untapped inland Galilee Basin region of central Queensland, the fuse is set to be lit on a carbon bomb.” Read more
FT: “What is not to like about an oilfield that over its lifetime is expected to generate revenue the equivalent of the annual gross domestic product of Austria? Or, whose estimated reserves of 8bn-12bn barrels of oil or equivalent would be enough to more than match four years of US crude oil production at present averages if it was all extracted?” Read more
Jeremy Leggett column in Recharge magazine: “The closer renewables get to becoming the first choice for energy, the more our opponents come out into the open and show themselves as the intransigent incumbency they are at heart.”
“Just as BP and Shell chose a time of plunging PV prices to exit solar completely and dig in for unconventional gas and oil, so now most utilities are giving up their pretences about renewables. In September, nine utility bosses went so far as to tell the European Parliament that renewables are threatening the continent’s energy security.
Speaking for the nine, the chief executive of GDF Suez, Gérard Mestralle, said: “We have to reduce the speed at which Europe is building new wind farms and solar panels. At the moment, it is not sustainable.”
What is truly not sustainable, of course, are the business models of these giants. The march of renewables, energy efficiency and community energy threatens them grievously, unless they change course completely.
A solar-power system is being installed every two minutes in Japan today. The US lags behind, at one every four minutes, but there are already more solar workers in Texas than ranchers. Solar generates enough electricity nationwide for the equivalent of every home in Connecticut. A trend-aware president has installed solar panels on the White House.
In China, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that renewables will equal coal by 2030.
In Germany, where the whole push started, renewables produce almost a quarter of the nation’s electricity, and 40% of that renewable energy is generated by small-scale producers. Farmers alone provide 11%. There are more than 700 energy-producing co-operatives — a fourfold rise since 2009. And not all are small: the city of Berlin plans to buy and operate its own grid.
The big four energy companies produce a mere 6.5% of Germany’s electricity. Herein lies one of their main problems. They may have left it too late to be effective transitioners to the zero-carbon future.
Not surprisingly, German utilities E.ON and RWE were among the nine addressing the European Parliament. In August, E.ON suffered a 42% drop in first-half profits, blaming most of that on renewables. The company announced that it was considering closing or mothballing fossil-fuel power plants in the face of “ interventionist” energy policies and regulations that subsidise and prioritise renewables.
RWE fared little better, professing that “due to the continuing boom in solar energy, many power stations throughout the sector and across Europe are no longer profitable”.
The companies seem to be saying: “We have become unprofitable, and the disrupters that are causing our lack of profitability are therefore bad.”
Nobody matches EDF in this kind of arrogance. In February, chief executive Henri Proglio made the amazing assertion that unless the UK government guaranteed him profit from nuclear operations, he would walk away. “We won’t do it,” he said, if the price for the power isn’t high enough.
The utilities do themselves no favours with their cavalier treatment of the public. In the UK, all the Big Six have been investigated by the regulator for mis-selling electricity and gas to consumers. In August 2011, the Financial Times reported that the companies were so hated by the public, and electricity and gas bills were inflating so fast, that the political backlash threatened the viability of their business models.
It would appear to be true. In August, government figures showed that households in England and Wales had cut their energy use by a quarter between 2005 and 2011. As in Germany, it is easy to see the direction in which this is heading. In a September report, the think-tank ResPublica concluded that community-owned renewables capacity is set to soar in the UK as people power builds.
These companies will imperil the course of democracy, if we let them have their way.”
Guardian: “Senior bankers will face up to seven years in jail if they are found to have committed a new offence of reckless misconduct being proposed by the government as part of a series of measures to clean up the City in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis.” Read more