An oppressive heat wave strained California power plants through the weekend and into Monday, as overheated residents blasted fans and air conditioning to keep cool in record temperatures.
It's the grid's first major test of summer's spiking energy demand, and so far it seems to be passing. Improved grid technology and better communication of energy use have helped prevent any major blackouts so far. But the permanent closing of one major nuclear plant last month and the temporary shutdown of another last week further complicates the stress of summer's high temperatures, and utilities remain on high alert.
"Over time they’ve added transmisson to the grid," Jeff Roark, senior project manager at Electric Power Research Institute, said in a telephone interview, "as well as technology that provides info on what’s happening on the grid. Those devices are providing new information of the type that utilities didn’t have before."
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The improved information technology is helping customers as well. Utilities can now provide realtime demand information to consumers online and send out alerts via mobile phones and social media. That helps spread the call for efficiency during times of peak demand. ( Continue… )
Unique Energy Opportunity if Smart Policies Continue
In the early part of 2008, I began delving into the big story of the day in North Texas and Dallas, the prolific activity from the recovery of natural gas in the Barnett Shale. At the time, other shale plays were being explored as well, such as the Fayetteville play that confirmed the Barnett’s results; the Marcellus was just being sized up. I was challenged with attempting to figure out how to communicate what shale could be physically described as — in essence, a dead ocean from a geologic perspective.
Three things came together that gave tailwinds to today’s “shale revolution.” One was that the government stepped out of the way after many decades of nearly regulating natural gas out of existence. It had created artificially low gas prices, which killed production and confidence in the market until the 1980s and ’90s. The second force was the entrepreneurial spirit in oil and gas exploration, which presides in Texas. A powerhouse of expertise exists here, and these newfound unconventional gas production techniques and know-how spread to the rest of the country and the world. For producers, it was their Google moment.
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And finally, technological advances in drilling technology —hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling— combined in the Barnett with independent producers’ experimentation, the innovators like Trevor Rees-Jones of Chief Oil and Mitchell Energy. Their efforts, and those of other operators in the 1980s and ’90s, paved the way for the U.S. gas revolution and its ripple effects across the globe. It was the right combination of economics, opportunity and efforts coming together. ( Continue… )
Let the original UK shale gas expert, established August 2008, run you through some numbers. There’s an all you can eat buffet of “expert” words special today in the restaurant of ideas.
The average use of a UK gas consumer is 16,500 kWh
There are approximately 10.5 kWh in one cubic meter
The average home thus uses 1,571 cubic meters
UK gas consumption is divided into three equal parts: Electricity generation, heating and industrial use. ( Continue… )
The House Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee voted this week on an energy appropriations bill that decimates federal investment in clean energy innovation in the name of prioritizing funding for national security and economic growth. This bill presents the harshest proposed cuts to energy innovation programs in the last two years, cutting total funding for key Department of Energy offices by nearly 20 percent from already-sequestered FY2013 levels.
To make matters worse, the most significantly impacted programs under the proposal are arguably the most important efforts for ensuring the future growth of clean energy in the United States. The legislation cuts the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget by 43 percent from FY2013 levels under sequestration, or nearly 65 percent from the President’s requested levels for FY2014. EERE’s responsibility as the “connective tissue” of the U.S. energy innovation ecosystem, as well as its efforts to enable and develop an advanced manufacturing sector in the United States would likely be derailed by such significant funding cuts.
The proposal also calls for combining the programs within the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) with those at EERE. Lack of specific details within the legislation prevent a full understanding of which projects within the two offices might be cut or eliminated, however it is clear that the proposal, which funds both EERE and OE at $982 million, would be a 67 percent cut from the President’s FY2014 request for the combined budgets ($2.9 billion). ( Continue… )
The British Geological Survey released a report on Thursday that provided a revised estimate for shale gas resources in the North of England. The new estimate is double the old one.
The shale formation, known as the Bowland shale formation has been calculated to hold around 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Considering that BP reports British consumption as 2.76 trillion cubic feet in 2012, this formation is enough to transform the UK energy market, even though only 10-15 percent of shale gas reserves is generally recoverable.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated that “today’s news from the Geological Survey confirms 1,300 trillion cubic feet of (shale resources), which is double previous estimates.”
Fracking has come under some scrutiny by environmentalists and local communities who are worried that it could lead to earthquakes and contamination of ground water and drinking water supplies.
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To try and appease local communities the government has said that companies must invest £100,000 in communities near to fracking wells, along with a further one percent of all revenues earned from each production site.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon, explained that “this will provide a welcome boost for communities who will host shale exploration and production as well as offering strong assurances that operators will engage with them and work to the highest health, safety and environmental standards.”
Britain’s shale industry is still very young and as it has not been determined whether any gas can be economically extracted, it may never actually grow to maturity.
At its second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report, the International Energy Agency, (IEA) said that by 2016 clean energy will overtake natural gas to become the second largest source of energy in the world behind coal.
In 2012 global renewable energy generation grew by 8%, far exceeding expectations. This rate of growth is predicted to continue, leading to an overall increase of 40% over the next five years, and meaning that they will account for 25% of the global energy mix by 2018.
The IEA stated that Hydroelectric projects will account for the majority of renewable energy growth, but other sources, such as wind, solar, bioenergy, and geothermal, will see their share of the global energy mix double from 4% in 2011, to 8% in 2018. (Related article: Can Obama Lame-Duck His Way to a Greener Future?) ( Continue… )
As the United States contemplates exporting natural gas to the rest of the world, previously energy-poor Israel seems about to jump on the export bandwagon. The current government is seeking approval to export about 40 percent of the production from its newly discovered offshore natural gas fields.
In an era of high volatility in energy prices and supplies and in a country surrounded by unfriendly neighbors, one would think that Israel would want to keep this valuable energy prize all to itself. Current estimates suggest that the remaining 60 percent of production will allow Israel to supply all its needs for 25 years.
My question is: What will the country do after that? Presumably it will need natural gas after 25 years. And, what if estimated reserves turn out to be too optimistic and the supply doesn't last that long? No one really knows what's in a reservoir until it is actually produced. ( Continue… )
This past week I posted the following graphic on my Twitter account (@RRapier) showing the explosive growth of renewable electricity, particularly over the past decade: (see left)
The first response to this graphic was “But…INTERMITTENT!”
It is true that wind and solar power are intermittent — points I have discussed on several occasions. Biomass and geothermal power, on the other hand would be considered firm power (i.e, power that can be counted on to be available whenever it is needed).
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However, we do not have a single energy source that doesn’t have a “but” associated with it. Every one of them. Even renewable energy sources have “buts” associated with them. ( Continue… )
I’ve been looking through a new website developed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to assist consumers in comparing the energy costs of driving an electric vehicle (EV), relative to posted gasoline prices in their state. I heard about this site at the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual energy conference in Washington, DC earlier this week. It sounded like a handy feature for both current EV owners and those considering buying one, but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the context of a presentation I saw at the same conference on the cost effectiveness of federal tax credits for EV purchases. A key question in both instances concerns just what kind of car is being replaced by that new EV.
The website uses simple math, together with the EIA’s continuously updated data on gasoline and electricity prices around the country, to come up with a national and state-by-state price for an “eGallon”. That imaginary construct is essentially the quantity of electricity that would take a typical EV as far as a gallon of gasoline would take the average new conventional car. As the text points out, it’s hard for consumers to do this for themselves. They see gasoline prices everywhere they drive but must dig through their utility bills to find their electricity price–not always obvious–and then might not know how to compare the two.
The site’s documentation indicates the eGallon calculation is based on the average energy usage of five specific EVs, including the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Focus EV, along with the 2012 EPA fleet average fuel economy for what EPA defines as small and mid-size cars. The result is side-by-side postings of the US average gasoline and eGallon prices, plus a drop-down menu to replicate that for each state. The site also includes the chart at left, comparing these two prices over the last decade. ( Continue… )
It’s not mere anecdotal evidence: Visibly melting sea ice is the best evidence that the planet is warming. So prospecting for oil in the Arctic is a tricky endeavor that must be undertaken slowly and with extreme caution, argues Fen Montaigne, senior editor of Yale Environment 360, author of “Fraser’s Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica” and other books, and contributor to National Geographic, The New Yorker and Smithsonian magazines.
So just how hot is it going to get? Hotter than we can handle if we fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, Montaigne tells us in an exclusive interview in which we discuss:
• Why prospectors should proceed with extreme caution in the Arctic
• Just how hot it’s going to get with global warming
• Why science is being side-lined in the climate change debate
• Why oil companies will have to keep their assets in the ground
• Why we need to rethink agricultural subsidies
• What we can expect next from the volatile EV market
• What really concerns environmentalists about natural gas
• The great fossil fuels paradox
• Why natural gas may not only be a bridge to the future, but the future itself
• Why the US government has no business mandating ethanol
Interview by. James Stafford of Oilprice.com
Oilprice.com: We’ll start with the Arctic Sea because so much of your work has focused on this area. Right now, the talk here is of vast opportunities, and vast environmental concern. How can we balance these two, and what is at stake? ( Continue… )