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Energy Brief: Investments in Electricity Overtake Oil, Gas for First Time Ever

The latest edition of Morning Consult’s Senator Approval Rankings are now live. See the full results here.

Washington Brief

  • Backers and opponents of nuclear storage at Yucca Mountain are ramping up their efforts to influence House lawmakers on bipartisan legislation that would restart the permitting for the storage site in Nevada. (The Hill)
  • Private investments will be driven away if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cannot conduct business by August, according to energy industry leaders. The Senate needs to confirm two FERC nominees in order for the agency to have a quorum of commissioners. (CNBC)
  • While the expected Senate vote on budget and healthcare legislation is delayed by a lack of GOP support, lobbyists and staffers anticipate that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have a bipartisan victory with the energy bill introduced by Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and backed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the panel’s ranking member. (E&E News)

Business Brief

  • Investments in electricity last year surpassed those in oil and gas for the first time ever, after crude prices fell and investments in oil and gas plunged 26 percent, or $650 billion, according to the International Energy Agency. (Reuters)
  • Dominion Energy Inc. is planning two offshore wind turbines in partnership with DONG Energy of Denmark. The turbines will be leased by the state of Virginia, and they’re expected to be installed by the end of 2020. (The Richmond Times-Dispatch)
  • U.S. firm AES Corp. and Germany-based Siemens AG announced their joint battery storage venture, Fluence, which will sell lithium-ion battery technologies for larger-scale electrical grid capacities and for individual companies. (The Washington Post)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
National Environmental Health Association Education Conference 8 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
20th Annual Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Expo 9:30 a.m.
Outdoors Alliance for Kids briefing for Parks and Recreation Month on Capitol Hill 12 p.m.
EPA Sustainable and Healthy Communities Seminar for air pollution monitoring on tribal lands 3 p.m.
Wednesday
National Environmental Health Association Education Conference 8 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on infrastructure financing 10 a.m.
House Science Space and Technology subcommittee on research and technology hearing on U.S. Fire Administration grant programs reauthorization 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on offshore drilling and development 10 a.m.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs legislative hearing 12 p.m.
Atlantic Council panels on the Ukraine’s Energy Sector 2:30 p.m.
Roundtable on Consequences of Climate Change on National Security hosted by House Science Space and Technology Ranking Member Bernice Johnson 3 p.m.
Thursday
National Environmental Health Association Education Conference 8 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on the Indian Reorganization Act 10 a.m.
Energy Department’s Better Buildings exchange on resilience and energy efficiency in low-income communities 1 p.m.
Friday
House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands legislative hearing on four bills 9 a.m.
Regional Sea Level Changes and Coastal Impacts Conference 9 a.m.
National Science Teachers Association STEM Forum workshop on EPA research 11 a.m.

 

General

Energy CEOs say investor money and jobs at risk because FERC isn’t functional
Lori Ann LaRocco, CNBC

Rebuilding America’s infrastructure is one of the pillars in President Donald Trump’s plan to generate jobs. But a lack of sitting commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) has sidelined up to 15 energy infrastructure projects valued between $15 billion and $25 billion and an estimated 75,000 jobs.

Siemens and AES team up to make industrial-size batteries
Aaron Gregg, The Washington Post

Transnational engineering giant Siemens is taking aggressive steps to expand into the ­alternative energy market through a new partnership with AES, an Arlington-based power company that operates in 17 countries. The two firms said in a Tuesday regulatory filing that they are forming a new D.C.-based joint venture called Fluence, which will sell industrial-scale batteries to large businesses.

Energy bill on standby with health care, budget in flux
Geof Koss, E&E News

While congressional Republicans struggle to check off big-ticket agenda items from their to-do list before the August recess, bipartisan Senate energy legislation reworked from last year could fill the legislative vacuum in the coming weeks. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set the procedural wheels in motion to bring up S. 1460 directly to the floor, skipping the committee process and expediting the chamber’s consideration of the bill.

Congress Unnerved by Energy Grid Hack
Jeremy Dillon, Roll Call

For months, Sen. Maria Cantwell has been warning in letters to the Trump administration and colleagues that Congress needs to do more to keep the nation’s energy supply safe from cyberattacks. Now it appears she has a widespread attack to bolster her admonitions.

Obama’s Energy Secretary Addresses Trump’s Attacks on His Legacy
James Temple, The MIT Technology Review

In a recent interview with MIT Technology Review, Moniz discussed the impact of the administration’s policies on U.S. leadership, how it feels to have his legacy come under attack, and what’s next for nuclear power.

Oil Prices Fall, Shrugging Off Potential New Output Cuts
Christopher Alessi and Jenny Hsu, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices pulled back Tuesday morning, despite ongoing talk of possible production curbs in Libya and Nigeria and news of shrinking U.S. stockpiles. Brent crude, the global benchmark, fell 0.5%, to $46.63 a barrel, in London midmorning trading. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were trading down 0.5%, at $44.16 a barrel.

Oil and Natural Gas

Energy watchdog warns oil and electricity shortages could develop as investment falls again in 2016
Tom DiChristopher, CNBC

Global investment in energy fell for a second consecutive year in 2016, and an international watchdog is ringing alarm bells about future shortages of oil and electricity. Energy companies and investors last year plowed $1.7 trillion into fossil fuel exploration, new power plants, upgrades to the electric grid and all the other means of powering the world, the International Energy Agency reported on Tuesday.

Reading, Writing And Fracking? What The Oil Industry Teaches Oklahoma Students
Joe Wertz, NPR News

The program centers on teaching math and science through oil-centric lessons and labs. That includes things like calculating the mileage of tanker trucks, or the slope of pipelines. Since the 1990s, the energy board – funded by oil and gas taxes – has spent $40 million on the education program.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Electricity investment overtakes oil, gas for first time ever in 2016 -IEA
Bate Felix, Reuters

Investments in electricity surpassed those in oil and gas for the first time ever in 2016 on a spending splurge on renewable energy and power grids as the fall in crude prices led to deep cuts, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday. Total energy investment fell for the second straight year by 12 percent to $1.7 trillion compared with 2015, the IEA said.

Texas utility formally ends $18.7 billion merger with NextEra Energy
Ron Hurtibise, The Sun Sentinel

With a new suitor at its side, the parent company of Texas’ largest regulated utility has formally ended its merger agreement with Jupiter-based NextEra Energy. In a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission on Monday, NextEra said it received notice on July 6 from Energy Future Holdings Corp., bankrupt parent company of Oncor Electric Delivery Co., terminating the companies’ July 29, 2016 merger agreement.

Trump ‘cannot continue to ignore’ infrastructure, Martin Tuchman says
Sydney DeVoe, Fox Business

As lawmakers return from recess Monday, President Donald Trump is putting pressure on Congress to coalesce around a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, however one manufacturing CEO says infrastructure should be an equally important priority. “You cannot continue to ignore rebuilding the infrastructure … it eventually needs to be replaced and we have been ignoring the infrastructure for a very long time,” Martin Tuchman, co-founder of Interpool and Chairman and CEO of the Tuchman Group, told FOX Business Monday.

In Illinois, cloud computing debate could open next chapter of utility rate reform
Herman Trabish, Utility Dive

A new staff report on cloud computing is putting members of the Illinois Commerce Commission in the hot seat. A new ICC staff report recommends commissioners initiate a rulemaking on how costs for utility-scale data analytics software should be handled by the regulatory process.

Renewables

Dominion announces plan for wind project off coast of Virginia Beach
Robert Zullo, The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Dominion Energy announced Monday that it will partner with a European energy firm to build a long-anticipated offshore wind project off the coast of Virginia Beach. The pair of 6-megawatt turbines are expected to be installed through a deal with DONG Energy of Denmark by the end of 2020 — more than two dozen miles offshore and well out of site from beach-goers, officials said.

Apple to build second renewables-powered data center in Denmark
Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Reuters

Apple Inc said on Monday it will spend 6 billion Danish crowns ($921 million) on a new data center in Denmark, its second in the Nordic country to run entirely on renewable energy. Facebook in January also announced plans to build a data center in Denmark, only its third outside of the United States.

Coal

NAPP market boosted by exports, waiting on domestic deals
Jim Levesque, Platts

The Northern Appalachia 13,000 Btu/lb coal market is continuing to see support for export tons and is starting to heat up with US utilities set to award term contracts, sources said Monday. A producer told S&P Global on Monday that few domestic term or spot deals have been made since springtime but there are “a lot or irons in the fire” with RFPs still open for tonnage through 2018.

Coal-fired plants top polluters in Europe
The Associated Press

Coal-fired power stations are responsible for the most pollution in Europe, with Britain among the top polluters, the European Union says. The European Environment Agency said in a report late Sunday that half of the plants responsible for the largest releases of air and water pollution were in Britain, with a total of 14.

Nuclear

Trump triggers fight over Yucca waste site
Timothy Cama, The Hill

For the first time in at least seven years, the proposed repository for high-level nuclear waste is on the political agenda in Washington, D.C., and lobbyists are dusting off their playbooks to once again advocate for or against the site. President Trump sought $120 million in his budget proposal for fiscal 2018 to restart the licensing process for Yucca, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry has become a vocal defender of the project.

DOE already has red teams. And they don’t always work
Umair Irfan, E&E News

The idea of using “red teams” to evaluate climate science has become fashionable in the Trump administration. But it’s not a new concept for nuclear issues.

French energy minister says up to 17 nuclear reactors may be closed by 2025
Andreas Franke, Platts

France may consider closing up to 17 nuclear reactors by 2025 to achieve its target of a reduction of the share of nuclear in the power mix to 50%, new energy minister Nicolas Hulot said Monday in a radio interview for RTL.

Climate

Banks Heed Carney’s Call to Tackle Risks of Climate Change
Jess Shankleman, Bloomberg

Eleven major banks including Barclays Plc, Citigroup Inc. and UBS AG said they’ll seek ways to address the financial risks of global warming, after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney urged investors to act on the threat. The group started a pilot project to implement the recommendations of a taskforce set up by Carney to increase financial reporting standards on issues related to the environment, according to a statement from the United Nations Environment Finance Initiative on Tuesday.

Cap and trade is alive, and it might grow under Trump
Benjamin Storrow, E&E News

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative once labored in the shadows of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. No longer.

Countries with coral reefs must do more on climate change – Unesco
Michael Slezak, The Guardian

Countries with responsibility over world heritage-listed coral reefs should adopt ambitious climate change targets, aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would keep global temperature increases to just 1.5C, the UN agency responsible for overseeing world heritage sites has said. At a meeting of Unesco’s world heritage committee in Kraków, Poland, a decision was adopted that clarified and strengthened the responsibility of countries that have custodianship over world-heritage listed coral reefs.

Advocates for Methane Rule Dominate EPA Hearing
Iulia Gheorghiu, Morning Consult

Public interest groups and local stakeholders at a public hearing Monday urged the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to enforce methane regulations. The hearing at the EPA’s headquarters in Washington related the agency’s recent moves to delay the Obama administration’s methane rules for two years.

A Message from the Center for Western Priorities:

America protects its most iconic land for all time, from the Grand Canyon to Acadia, and from the Statue of Liberty to Zion. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is planning to eviscerate America’s treasured national monuments, ignoring the more than 9 out of 10 Americans who’ve told Secretary Zinke: Keep your hands off of American public lands. Visit Monuments to America to learn more.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Russia Sanctions Trap
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Congress wants to increase sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, and please go for it. U.S. companies are already prohibited from investing in or advising on oil and gas projects in Russia. But the bill would also bar them from taking part in any project anywhere with sanctioned Russian firms.

Electric cars pose headaches for the oil industry: Steward
Gillian Steward, The Star

Electric cars are having a moment. There are only a few on the road compared to gas guzzlers but recent predictions by reliable sources see battery powered vehicles becoming the rage much sooner than had been expected.

The OPEC Challenge to America’s Energy Dominance: There’s No Free Market for Oil
Ken Blackwell, CNS News

The U.S. shale industry is nothing if not resilient. OPEC—a cartel of petrostates holding the world’s largest and cheapest oil reserves—leverages state control over its oil resources to undermine America’s competitive producers. Thanks to its latest moves, the U.S. energy industry is again under pressure, reminding us that we must take stronger action to ensure our energy security and energy sovereignty.

A Message from the Center for Western Priorities:

By a 9-to-1 margin, Utah residents are telling Interior Secretary Zinke to keep Bears Ears and Grand Staircase–Escalante national monuments. These lands are sacred to tribal nations, enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts, and critical to local Utah economies. Will he listen to Utahns or just special interests? Visit Monuments to America to learn more.

Research Reports

The Carbon Majors Database: CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017
Paul Griffin et al., The Carbon Disclosure Project and The Climate Accountability Institute

This report looks at industrial carbon dioxide and methane emissions deriving from fossil fuel producers in the past, present, and future. In 1988, human-induced climate change was officially recognized through the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).