Energy Brief: Irma Knocks Out Power for Almost 5 Million Customers in Florida

Government Brief

  • China, home to the world’s largest auto market, is preparing to ban the production and sale of gasoline and diesel cars in favor of cleaner vehicles. China’s vice minister of industry, Xin Guobin, said work has begun on a timetable but regulators haven’t decided when the ban will take effect. (CNN)
  • The Government Accountability Office said it will launch an inquiry into the Environmental Protection Agency’s hiring practices and whether certain employees were hired using the Trump administration’s own ethics rules. The inquiry, requested by Democratic Sens. Thomas Carper (Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), both members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees the EPA, won’t start for a few months. (The Washington Post)
  • Sen. John McCain discussed the importance of understanding a change in the climate on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Arizona Republican stressed the need for “commonsense measures,” citing nuclear power as a cheap, clean source of energy. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Almost 5 million customers in Florida lost power due to Hurricane Irma. Utility companies, which said some repairs could take weeks, had warned that the storm could damage electric systems despite the billions of dollars recently invested in strengthening the grid. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. solar installations increased 8 percent in the second quarter due to utility demand, making up for a decrease in residential rooftop systems, according to an industry report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The quarter’s growth comes amid an expected 17 percent decline in market demand for 2017 due to an expiring federal tax credit. (Reuters)
  • Electricity in the UK will be cheaper from new offshore wind than from new nuclear power plants for the first time, based on the low subsidies being accepted by offshore wind companies. Nuclear firms highlighted the importance of low-carbon base load power sources in the UK after two offshore wind firms agreed to subsidies of £57.50 per megawatt hour for 2022-23, compared to the £92.50 per megawatt hour subsidy secured for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear plant. (BBC News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

EESI, NLC briefing on cities and extreme weather 3 p.m.
CSIS, George W. Bush Presidential Center event on NAFTA’s future 9 a.m.
Atlantic Council event on geopolitics of natural gas 9 a.m.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions webinar on companies pricing carbon 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy reliability 10 a.m.
House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on recreation on federal lands, SHARE Act 10 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee oversight hearing on the Department of Energy’s National Labs 2:30 p.m.
House Natural Resources Committee markup 4 p.m.
House Natural Resources Committee markup 10 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on carbon capture, utilization, sequestration 10 a.m.
CSIS event on the future of Japan’s nuclear energy program 1 p.m.
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions event on innovations in carbon capture and use 8:30 a.m.
EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017 presentation 10 a.m.
The Midwest Energy Storage Summit 7:30 a.m.

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Government watchdog to launch probe into EPA’s hiring practices
Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post

A government watchdog agency has agreed to a request from Democratic senators to open an inquiry into whether the Environmental Protection Agency circumvented the Trump administration’s own ethics rules when hiring certain agency employees. GAO spokesman Chuck Young confirmed that the agency will launch the inquiry but said “work won’t start for a few months.”

Will the ethanol industry’s hurricane lobbying pay off?
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

It’s too soon to tell if the ethanol industry’s plan to leverage the federal hurricane response to rush higher blends of ethanol into market actually worked, although the Trump administration’s emergency fuel policies did act in its favor. Shortly after Harvey made landfall last month, the Renewable Fuels Association, representing the ethanol industry, began pressing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for a nationwide fuel waiver that would allow the mid-level ethanol blend, or E15, to serve as a sort of hurricane relief fuel for consumers suffering from high gasoline prices.

EU makes contingency plans to protect carbon market from Brexit
Jim Brunsden and Alex Barker, Financial Times

Brussels has shown its first sign of contingency planning in case Brexit talks with the UK break down, with MEPs taking steps to make sure that a messy British exit does not wreak havoc on the EU’s carbon market. The European Parliament is preparing to amend legislation governing the EU’s carbon emissions trading system over concerns that a sudden UK exit could crash the price of carbon.

Oil and Natural Gas

Crude Prices Diverge After Irma Lands
Christopher Alessi, The Wall Street Journal

Oil prices oscillated Monday morning, with U.S. crude recovering a fraction of its losses from the last session and Brent trending downwards. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 0.3%, at $53.61 a barrel in London midmorning trading.

Mike Coffman targets oil imports to slow Maduro regime in Venezuela
Al Weaver, Washington Examiner

A House Republican introduced legislation last week to bar the U.S. from importing petroleum products from Venezuela in a push to cripple the growing authoritarian regime in the South American country. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., introduced the Protecting Against Tyranny and Responsible Imports Act, or the PATRIA Act, that would target Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he stripped the country’s democratically elected national assembly of its power and authority.

Saudi says it’s accelerating economic reforms, Aramco IPO on track
Andrew Torchia, Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s government is accelerating its economic reforms while revising some of them to give ministries more flexibility in meeting their targets, the information ministry said on Saturday. The Vision 2030 reform programme, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year, aims to free the economy from dependence on oil exports.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Irma Knocks Out Power to Millions of Customers in Florida
Erin Ailworth, The Wall Street Journal

Hurricane Irma knocked out power to close to five million customers in Florida as of late Sunday evening, according to outage maps from the state’s utilities, which warned that some people may not regain electricity for weeks, despite billions of dollars in investments to strengthen the power grid in recent years. While Irma’s path has shifted west, Rob Gould, a vice president for Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc., cautioned customers on the state’s east coast to remain vigilant about downed power lines, the fact their power might still go out and safety issues with home generators.

Power play: Electric grid plan resurfaces at end of session
Jeff McDonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune

With days to go before the close of the legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown and other leading Democrats have reintroduced a plan that would expand the California power grid to five Western states but could also cede control of the vast network of transmission poles and wires. Lawmakers may convene a special hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications — chaired by Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego — as early as Monday.


China wants to ban gas and diesel cars
Sherisse Pham, CNN

China is preparing to put the brakes on gasoline and diesel cars. The Chinese government is following in the footsteps of countries like India, France, Britain and Norway, which have already announced plans to completely ditch gas and diesel cars in favor of cleaner vehicles in the coming years.

U.S. solar installations rise despite drop in residential market
Nichola Groom, Reuters

U.S. solar installations rose 8 percent in the second quarter as robust utility demand offset a sharp pullback in residential rooftop systems, according to an industry report published on Monday. The industry installed 2.39 gigawatts of photovoltaic solar, up from 2.2 GW a year ago, the report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association said.

Offshore wind power cheaper than new nuclear
Roger Harrabin, BBC News

Energy from offshore wind in the UK will be cheaper than electricity from new nuclear power for the first time. The cost of subsidies for new offshore wind farms has halved since the last 2015 auction for clean energy projects.

State Looks to Spark Debate on Electric Vehicles, Infrastructure
Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight

The state is trying to figure out how to adapt to growth in the market for electric vehicles, a policy crucial to its efforts to meet mandates to reduce emissions contributing to global warming. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is convening this week a stakeholders group to begin hashing out basic questions dealing with how the state can build the infrastructure needed to promote the vehicles and how quickly it can be done.

Report: Missouri sees strong growth in ‘clean energy’ jobs
Bryce Gray, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Coal is still king in Missouri, accounting for nearly 80 percent of electricity generation statewide, but a newly released jobs report shows the galloping momentum of clean-energy jobs in the state, and throughout the Midwest. About half of Missouri’s clean-energy jobs are in construction — positions that industry experts touted specifically for the job security that they provide.


Air Products forms $1.3 billion joint venture in China
Andrew Wagaman, The Morning Call

Air Products has signed an agreement to form a $1.3 billion joint venture that will expand its capacity to serve a business partner’s syngas-to-liquids production in Changzhi City, Shanxi Province, China, the company announced Sunday. The new joint venture will own and operate both the ASUs and the gasification and syngas clean-up system.

Poland to treat coal addiction by embracing nuclear power
Sam Morgan, Euractiv

Poland’s ongoing large-scale investment in three new coal-fired power plants may be the country’s last fossil fuel venture, its energy minister said last week, indicating a possible energy shift in the EU’s largest eastern member amid revived plans to embrace nuclear power. Minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski told the Krynica-Zdrój Economic Forum in southern Poland that once the country’s state-run energy firms have finished the three coal projects currently under construction, no more investments are planned.


FPL shuts down one nuclear reactor at Turkey Point
Nancy Dahlberg, The Miami Herald

Because of Hurricane Irma’s threat to the region, FPL announced that it has shut down a reactor at its Turkey Point nuclear plant. This move was anticipated and didn’t impact power to customers, contrary to false reports circulating on social media on Friday.

‘Mini’ nuclear reactors could help solve Britain’s energy crunch and cut a third off bills, ministers hope
Alan Tovey, The Telegraph

Ministers are ready to approve the swift development of a fleet of “mini” reactors to help guard against electricity shortages, as older nuclear power stations are decommissioned. The new technology is expected to offer energy a third cheaper than giant conventional reactors such as the ongoing Hinkley Point in Somerset.


McCain: ‘We have to understand that the climate may be changing’
Rebecca Savransky, The Hill

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said it’s important to understand the climate may be changing. “There is things happening with the climate in the world that is unprecedented,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked a question regarding why Republicans act as if climate change is not real.

Fires, droughts and hurricanes: What’s the link between climate change and natural disasters?
Amina Kahn, Los Angeles Times

With Hurricane Irma smashing into Florida so soon after Hurricane Harvey flooded southeastern Texas — and as wildfires burn through the western United States — extreme events have been hitting the U.S. from all sides. Here are a few ways researchers think that climate change’s effects could play out.

Hurricane Irma Linked to Climate Change? For Some, a Very ‘Insensitive’ Question.
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says it is insensitive to discuss climate change in the midst of deadly storms. For scientists, drawing links between warming global temperatures and the ferocity of hurricanes is about as controversial as talking about geology after an earthquake.

Trump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job
Timothy Cama, The Hill

William Wehrum, an energy industry attorney and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, has been tapped to fulfill one of the agency’s most consequential roles. President Trump formally nominated Wehrum Thursday to be the EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, where he would oversee a massive portfolio concerned with air pollution, climate change, auto regulation and more.

Sen. Tom Carper pitches Trump a deal to soften stance on climate change
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper is willing to meet President Trump half way on his administration’s plans to create a so-called “red team” to debate the science of climate change, but only if he makes it an exercise about “climate preparedness” instead of questioning science. Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a rare letter to President Trump on Friday looking to leverage the record-breaking hurricane season to get the administration to soften its stance on climate change with some minor concessions.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate
Paul Krugman, The New York Times

In a way, we should be grateful to Limbaugh for at least raising the subject of climate change and its relationship to hurricanes, if only because it’s a topic the Trump administration is trying desperately to avoid. For example, Scott Pruitt, the pollution- and polluter-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says that now is not the time to bring up the subject — that doing so is “insensitive” to the people of Florida.

The war on coal communities: strip mining
Jack Doyle, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the coalfields of Appalachia, and in policy circles in Washington, D.C., a popular phrase in recent years used by mine workers, coal lobbyists and President Donald Trump is the “war on coal.” But there is a war going on — a war on coal communities — and it’s called strip mining.

Trump says he cares about people in coal country. So why halt a study on their health?
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

One would imagine that the Trump administration, which swept into power claiming to support the people who live in coal country, would prioritize federal spending on those very people’s health. Instead, the Interior Department has halted a study on how so-called mountaintop-removal coal mining affects people who live around these landscape-stripping operations.

Research Reports

U.S. Solar Market Insight
Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research

Each quarter, GTM Research gathers a complete account of industry trends in the U.S. photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) markets via comprehensive surveys of installers, manufacturers, utilities and state agencies.

Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Aggregations in Wholesale Markets
Emily Fisher et al., The Smart Electric Power Alliance and The Edison Electric Institute

As a result of advancements in technology, customer expectations, and state and federal policy goals, the electric power sector is evolving. Integrating DERs into the wholesale markets could shake up the system and require changes to the way the bulk power system works to ensure that electric distribution companies can continue to provide reliable power to customers and operate the grid effectively.