The Electric Vehicle Takeover


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❝ Do you want the big thing or the new thing?…More importantly: Do you want to invest in the big thing or the new thing?

It’s a question that haunts any industry vulnerable to disruption, which is pretty much all of them these days.

❝ Take the automotive business. Bloomberg New Energy Finance just released its latest long-term outlook for electric vehicles. It posits, startlingly, that sales of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will overtake those using internal combustion engines within roughly two decades…

The late 2030s may sound like a long way away. But they aren’t when put in the context of an automotive industry that’s only been around for a century or so.

❝ Looked at differently, BNEF’s projection suggests electric vehicles account for all the growth in global vehicle sales within a decade from now…

Based on BNEF’s projections, global sales of vehicles will rise by 1.67 million in the year 2026. But sales of electric vehicles are forecast to rise by 2.06 million, while the number of vehicles using internal combustion engines will fall slightly, by around 400,000. To be clear, absolute sales of electric vehicles in that year are expected to be just over 10 million, versus almost 87 million for their traditional counterparts…

❝ And while it is tough for incumbents to pivot to a new business, it is not impossible…it was critical for Facebook that, even as it was launching its IPO in 2012, it was also overhauling its business to focus on smartphones rather than its desktop PC product — despite the latter accounting for 89 percent of the company’s advertising revenue that year…

Facebook’s desktop product dominated its advertising revenue in 2012 — but all the growth potential was in smartphones.

More examples dot the financial map. VW planning on investing $10 billion into electric vehicle manufacture – mostly in the United States for global distribution. The Brits announced, today, legislation to end registration of diesel or gasoline-powered motor vehicles in the UK by 2040.

Those drops of water appearing under your front door look like the beginning of a flood to me.

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar hasten their own doom

❝ Several of the big trends in clean electricity depend, in one way or another, on batteries. How fast batteries get better and cheaper will help determine how fast renewable energy grows, how fast fossil fuel power plants get shut down, and how fast the vehicle fleet electrifies.

The consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently released an analysis noting that batteries, like solar panels before them, are getting cheaper much faster than anyone expected — and the consequences for the power sector are going to be immense…

❝ As they get cheaper, batteries make sense for more commercial applications. As new markets for storage grow, demand for batteries increases. As demand increases, economies of scale kick in and batteries get cheaper. Rinse, repeat…

❝ The whole analysis is interesting, but I want to focus in on the way batteries will affect rooftop solar. Across the country, intense battles are being waged as utilities push back against the rapid spread of rooftop solar….Batteries, McKinsey reveals, are going to scramble those battles, making them effectively unwinnable for utilities. The existential crisis they hoped to avoid by slowing rooftop solar is going to slam into them twice as hard once batteries enter the picture…

❝ When a customer installs solar panels, it hurts the utility in two ways.

One, it reduces demand for utility power. Utilities generally don’t want lower demand. To justify building stuff, they need to be able to project higher demand.

Two, the more solar customers reduce their utility bills by generating their own power, the more utilities have to charge other, non-solar customers more, to cover their costs-plus-returns. This pisses the other customers off. And it incentivizes them to install solar themselves!

❝ …Because batteries allow customers to circumvent utilities’ two primary tools for slowing the spread of solar…timing will differ in different markets, but partial grid defection enabled by solar+storage will spread like a virus, starting in sunnier and more expensive areas and spreading from there. And it’s likely to happen within a decade.

❝ …For power utilities, unlike for so many other decrepit American institutions, simply clinging to the status quo is not an option. Rooftop solar can be staved off temporarily with fees and rate tweaks, but as batteries get cheaper, those strategies will stop working. More and customers are going to generate, store, and manage more and more of their own power.

The VOX article opines that the power utilities will have to come up with “other services to provide, other roles to play in the power system of the future”…and offers no suggestions. I can’t think of any either.

India’s caste system even includes access to cooking fuel and electricity

❝ Among their many privileges, India’s wealthiest households can rely on a consistent supply of electricity and access to cooking gas. The situation is rather different for other social groups, however. My research has shown lower caste and tribal households have 10-30% less access to electricity and clean cooking fuel, even when controlling for other factors like income or education.

This is just one outcome of India’s caste system, which divides the country’s population into rigid and hereditary social strata. Caste discrimination was declared illegal in the Indian constitution – and positive discrimination was introduced to correct historical injustices. Those assisted by the constitution are the “scheduled castes”. They make up about 16% of India’s population and, despite affirmative action, still face many disadvantages.

❝ The “scheduled tribes” are another disadvantaged group. They include tribal or indigenous communities throughout India, and are outside the Hindu caste system. They comprise about 8% of the population.

❝ Despite substantial progress since independence, India still contains the largest number of energy-deprived people in the world, especially among these marginalised social groups. Access to modern energy has obvious direct benefits (lighting, cooked food, and so on), but it can also help micro-enterprises flourish and improve health and environmental quality.

An article worth reading in its entirety. Democracy not only must confront right-wing ideologues from fascists to supposed republicans, a significant part of the problem in many lands is the history of the dominant religion.

California cranked out so much solar power this spring that wholesale electricity ran negative$

❝ The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage—and charge for—electricity.

California is one such a place.

❝ On March 11, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day…

The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity on March 11…

❝ The spikes also have a big effect on wholesale energy prices, which dipped to zero or even to negative territory this spring during certain hours in California…That’s in sharp contrast to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.

Negative prices usually happen because there’s a glut of renewable energy, but non-renewable generators are also producing. They don’t shut them off completely because of the high costs of restarting.

California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.

❝ This doesn’t mean, however, that Californians are paying nothing for their power because wholesale prices don’t translate directly into retail prices, which are based on averages, not single days. But it will mean energy companies start to rethink how they deliver and charge for electricity as the mix of renewables increases.

Unless, of course, you’re a public utility, fossil fuel producer or dimwit politician who hopes and prays that renewable power sources just disappear.

The West’s coal giant is going away


Click to enlargeAlex/Creative Commons

❝ The smokestacks of the Navajo Generation Station rise 775 feet from the sere landscape of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, just three miles away from the serpentine, stagnant blue wound in sandstone known as Lake Powell. Red rock cliffs and the dark and heavy hump of Navajo Mountain loom in the background. Since construction began in 1969, the coal plant and its associated mine on Black Mesa have provided millions of dollars to the Navajo and Hopi tribes and hundreds of jobs to local communities, as well as electricity to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming in the metastasizing cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Yet they’ve also stood as symbols of the exploitation of Native Americans, of the destruction of the land, and of the sullying of the air, all to provide cheap power to the Southwest.

But coal power is no longer the best energy bargain. And…the plant’s four private utility owners, led by the Salt River Project, voted to shut down the plant at the end of 2019, some 25 years ahead of schedule. When the giant turbines come to a halt and the towers topple in the coming years, the plant will become a new symbol, this one of a transforming energy economy and an evolving electrical grid that is slowly rendering these soot-stained, mechanical megaliths obsolete.

❝ Salt River Project officials have been very clear…They note that it’s now cheaper for them to buy power for their 1 million customers from other sources than it is to generate power at Navajo, thanks mostly to low natural gas prices. A November 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the Central Arizona Project pays about 15 percent more for electricity from the power plant — of which it is part owner — than it would if it bought power wholesale from the Mead trading hub located near Las Vegas.

❝ None of this will change even if President Donald Trump rolls back the Clean Power Plan or other regulations put in place by the Obama administration. In fact, if a drill-heavy energy policy is put into place, it will increase natural gas supplies, thus increasing the spread between natural gas and coal.

It’s a sign of the times. We will continues to see pimps like Trump – owned body and soul by the US Chamber of Commerce – run their collective mouths, beat the drums of war and obedience, demand resurrection of backwards methods that will only serve to further slow our national economy.

Science and technology will continue to forge ahead.

Here’s why Trump can’t save jobs in the coal industry?


Completed in 1974, Monroe Power Plant will be the last one standing in 2030

❝ All year, Donald Trump has been promising to rescue the US coal industry by repealing various Obama-era pollution rules and ending the “war on coal.” And all year, analysts have pointed out that he probably can’t stop the collapse of the coal industry — since coal’s woes go far beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you want a perfect example of why Trump will struggle to bring back coal, just look at Michigan.

❝ Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies…

Gerry Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. “I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said.

❝ What’s more, Anderson added, surveys show that most of Michigan’s consumers want to add more renewables “if it can be done at reasonable cost.”

❝ It’s not just Michigan. This dynamic is playing out all over the country, as coal plant after coal plant succumbs to competition from cheap natural gas and wind. Over at Politico, Michael Grunwald estimates that US power plants are now on track to emit 27 percent less carbon dioxide in 2016 than they did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that this is all happening before Obama’s Clean Power Plan even takes effect. That rule, which is still tied up in court, aimed for a 30 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2030. We’re almost there already. So it’s clear that scrapping the CPP, as Trump has pledged, won’t help coal power make a huge comeback.

Not that reason, efficiency and cost mean much to Republicans and other Trump Chumps. The vicarious thrill of turning back regulations designed to make life healthier for most folks is almost as visceral a pleasure as, say, machine-gunning a basket of kittens.

Moored at sea, generating electricity off the island of Texel


Click to enlargeDamen

Taking just six months from the drawing board to realisation, the BlueTEC Texel tidal energy platform was installed in the summer of 2015 and is operating off the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The prototype is producing electricity from the tides into the local grid.

BlueTEC Modular was designed by Damen to be transported and installed all over in the world to provide clean energy in remote areas and small islands, replacing diesel generators.

Just before the end of 2015, the platform was fitted with a more powerful Tocardo T2 turbine and, in early 2016, the platform was commissioned with a larger T2 tidal turbine. Currently the platform generates clean electricity from the tides in the Wadden Sea of The Netherlands.

Six months start-to-finish. Replacing a diesel-powered generator. How long do you think this would take to design, approve through local, state and federal government, construct and put in place — here in the GOUSA?

Uh-huh.

Sounds like Norway may end gas-powered car sales by 2025

An all-electric future may be closer than you think — at least if you live in Norway. The country’s four leading political parties have reportedly agreed to a plan to stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2025…

The details are in some dispute: The two left-leaning parties confirmed the report, but the two right-leaning parties denied it…

Norway was the first European country to get Tesla charging stations, and in April 2015, the country reached its target of registering 50,000 electric cars by 2018, beating its deadline by two years. About one in four cars sold there is electric.

Norway is also one of the world’s top oil exporters, pulling in billions from the production and sale of oil and gas. However, the Norway’s gargantuan sovereign wealth fund has been divesting from fossil-fuel companies over the past few years.

The role model for commodities-exporting nations with brains. Use the profits from geologically-limited resources to build an infrastructure no longer dependent upon those materials, eh?

Looks like a trend to me — louder than the whining from public utility companies

net metering
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Furthermore:

A charitable fund of the Rockefeller family – who are sitting on a multibillion-dollar oil fortune – has said it will withdraw all its investments from fossil fuel companies.

The Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity set up in 1967 by descendants of John D Rockefeller, said on Wednesday that it would divest from all fossil fuel holdings “as quickly as possible”.

The fund, which was founded by Martha, John, Laurance, Nelson and David Rockefeller, singled out ExxonMobil for particular attention describing the world’s largest oil company as “morally reprehensible”.