Energy Brief: Top White House Official to Discuss Climate Change With Ministers From About a Dozen Countries

Government Brief

  • The White House said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will convene a meeting of energy and climate ministers from about a dozen countries next week ahead of the U.N. General Assembly meeting. The event will involve officials from the world’s largest economies for an informal discussion on how they can “move forward productively” on international climate change negotiations. (The New York Times)
  • The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the reassignment of dozens of Senior Executive Service employees amid allegations that the moves were politically motivated. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and seven other Democrats on the panel requested the probe, citing media reports that the reassignments were in retaliation for speaking out about the dangers of climate change. (The Washington Post)
  • The Treasury Department released information that it says shows North Korean coal smuggling operations to China and Russia, despite U.N. sanctions against North Korean coal and other exports. The U.S. intelligence follows June comments from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Russia and China’s cooperation in the U.N. campaigns against North Korea has been “uneven.” (Washington Examiner)

Business Brief

  • Florida utilities are working to bring back service for customers after 5.5 million homes and businesses were still without power as of Tuesday. The chief executive of Florida Power & Light, the state’s biggest utility, called it the largest restoration in company history, with separate estimates saying it will take weeks for some customers to have power restored. (Bloomberg)
  • Production cuts imposed by a deal reached at the end of 2016 by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies have not lifted the global price of oil, but analysts and traders say the impact of those cutbacks was muted by the significantly smaller export cuts by OPEC members. Saudi Arabian officials said they are now pushing to monitor exports in addition to production levels at next week’s meeting of oil producers. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Customers from two South Carolina counties filed a lawsuit against SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper for allegedly taking money without providing a service after the companies abandoned the $9 billion V.C. Summer nuclear power plant project. The lawsuit is seeking class-action status and is one of at least five others filed by customers. (The Charleston Post and Courier)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas 8 a.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.
Green Energy Efficiency Day II 8:30 a.m.
EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017 presentation 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy reliability 10 a.m.
Politico Pro Policy Summit event on energy and innovation in the Trump era 10:30 a.m.
The Midwest Energy Storage Summit 7:30 a.m.

This Is the Future of Brand Reputation Tracking

See how Morning Consult Brand Intelligence is changing the way media, marketing and communications executives are managing brand reputation.


An electromagnetic quirk might change air conditioning
Shane Savitsky, Axios

The Bay Area’s SkyCool Systems is developing a technology that one day might be used to significantly cut energy demands from air conditioning, one of the U.S.’s major draws of electricity, per MIT Technology Review. The panels could cut energy use in buildings by 10 to 70%, depending on conditions.

Oil edges up as IEA sees higher oil demand, shrinking inventories
Fanny Potkin, Reuters

Oil prices ticked higher on Wednesday after the International Energy Agency said the global oil surplus was starting to shrink due to robust global demand and an output drop from OPEC and other producers. U.S. West Texas Intermediate CLc1 was up 11 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $48.34 a barrel at 0944 GMT after dropping earlier in the day.

Oil and Natural Gas

Saudi Arabia Pushes OPEC on New Tack to Curb Oil Supplies
Benoit Faucon and Summer Said, The Wall Street Journal

OPEC has cut nearly one million barrels a day of oil output in the past year. Commodities traders and oil-focused hedge funds have told Saudi officials in private meetings that the surprisingly high rate of exports is helping keep oil prices low.

Global oil markets have ‘started to rebalance’ — IEA
Anjli Raval, Financial Times

Global oil demand is outpacing expectations and excess crude inventories are falling, yet prices will only rise “modestly” the International Energy Agency said, presenting a challenge for global producers seeking to bolster crude through output cuts. Oil consumption will increase in 2017 by an upwardly revised 1.6m barrels a day to 97.7m b/d, the energy body said its closely-watched monthly oil market report published on Wednesday.

U.S. natgas output seen up in 2017, but below 2015 record
Scott DiSavino, Reuters

U.S. dry natural gas production was forecast to rise to 73.69 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in 2017 from 72.29 bcfd in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) on Tuesday. The latest September output projection was higher than EIA’s 73.48-bcfd forecast in August but short of the record high 74.14 bcfd produced on average in 2015.

Natural gas supplies half of ERCOT demand in August; nuclear share rises
Jeff Zhou, Platts

Natural-gas fired generation took up half of the fuel mix in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in August after topping 50% in July, an almost two-year high, with more nuclear generation in the stack due to fewer nuclear outages than in July, according to ERCOT’s monthly demand and energy report. Natural gas-fired generation supplied 50% of the total demand in August, after reaching 50.6% in July, compared with the year-ago level of 49.1%.

Syria Signs Aleppo Power Plant Contract With Iran
Philip Issa, The Associated Press

Syria’s government signed a contract with an Iranian company on Tuesday to import five gas-fired power plants to the war-battered city of Aleppo, in an early sign of the major role Tehran is expected to play in Syria’s reconstruction. The deal, reported by Syria’s state news agency SANA, is part of a broader understanding reached by Damascus and Tehran promising Iranian companies contracts to restore electrical infrastructure in Syria, Electricity Minister Zuhair Kharboutli said during a visit to Tehran.

Utilities and Infrastructure

Built on Air Conditioning, Florida Is in a Race to Restore Power
Michael Smith et al., Bloomberg

The state may have been spared the most horrible loss of life and destruction of property so many had predicted, but it’s hard to overstate the scale of devastation Irma’s fury brought to the power grid and those who depend on it. All told, 10.8 million people, about half of the state’s population, didn’t have service as of 8:59 a.m. New York time.

California utility cancels $75-million solar contract after Desert Sun investigation
Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

The Imperial Irrigation District is backing out of a $75-million contract for a new solar farm, following a Desert Sun investigation that raised questions about potential conflicts of interest involving an influential consultant for the publicly owned electric utility. The Desert Sun reported last month that the developer has ties to Ziad Alaywan, as does the owner of the land where the solar project would be built.


Obama’s Solar Goal Has Been Met, Trump’s Energy Department Brags
Ari Natter, Bloomberg

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that former President Barack Obama’s goal of slashing the cost of solar power has been achieved early, taking credit for milestone even though the new administration is skeptical of renewable power. And President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal called for cutting solar energy funding within the Energy Department by 71 percent to $70 million.

Energy bill could ‘squash’ Coachella Valley’s plans to ditch SoCal Edison, critics say
Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

Coachella Valley governments have been working to give homes and businesses an alternative energy provider to Southern California Edison — but a last-minute bill in Sacramento, scheduled for a vote Tuesday, could bring those efforts to a screeching halt, critics say. The goal is to reduce electricity rates and increase the valley’s use of climate-friendly solar energy, which is abundant in the sunny California desert.

China sets 2020 target for nationwide ethanol use to cut corn stocks
Josephine Mason et al., Reuters

China plans to roll out the use of ethanol in gasoline nationally by 2020, state media reported on Wednesday citing a government document, as Beijing intensifies its push to boost industrial demand for corn and clean up choking smog. It’s the first time the government has set a targeted timeline for pushing the biofuel, known as E10 and containing 10 percent ethanol, across the world’s largest car market, although it has yet to announce a formal policy.


Treasury releases details how North Korea smuggles coal through China and Russia
Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner

President Trump’s team released details of how North Korean smuggling networks run through China and Russia, as part of a public campaign to tighten international pressure on the regime. The public display of images tracking coal-smuggling ships builds a case that Russia and China are undermining international pressure campaigns, despite voting for the sanctions packages at the United Nations Security Council.

US judge cites tribal sovereignty in dismissing coal lawsuit
Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

A U.S. judge is citing tribal sovereignty in dismissing a legal challenge filed by environmental groups over the federal government’s decision to allow continued operations at a coal-fired power plant and adjacent mine near the Arizona-New Mexico border. The groups were targeting the 2015 approval of a lease extension for the Navajo Mine and the Four Corners Power Plant, which provides electricity to customers throughout the American Southwest.


SCANA, Santee Cooper face another lawsuit from customers seeking refunds for scuttled nuclear project
Thad Moore, The Charleston Post and Courier

The utilities behind an abandoned nuclear power plant in Fairfield County face yet another lawsuit from their customers seeking refunds for the $9 billion project. In a case filed last week, SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper are accused of “taking money for nothing.”

Florida Power & Light Co. nuclear reactors still down, but unharmed by Hurricane Irma
Nicole Rodriguez, TCPalm

Several reactors at Florida Power & Light Co.’s nuclear power plants remained inactive Tuesday, despite sustaining no damage from Hurricane Irma. FPL officials declined to disclose when they would power up three of its nuclear reactors — one at the St. Lucie plant on South Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce and both at Turkey Point plant, south of Miami — which were shut down before and after Irma struck.


Top White House Official to Discuss Climate Change at U.N.
Lisa Friedman, The New York Times

Gary D. Cohn, the chief White House economic adviser, is convening senior climate and energy ministers from about a dozen nations in advance of next week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting, the White House confirmed Tuesday. It also comes as the Trump administration is navigating an uncertain position in the international climate change negotiations, having declared it will withdraw from the global Paris agreement while also telling nations it remains open to continued discussions.

Scientists say damage to Florida’s coral reef has made the state more vulnerable to storm surges
Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

As we begin to piece together the damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, scientists are pointing to an environmental factor that may have made the storm’s impact worse: the ongoing loss of coral on the state’s increasingly threatened barrier reef. Now, scientists say these losses may have weakened the reef’s storm buffer.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Interior’s ‘unusual’ transfer of senior executives spurs official probe
Joe Davidson, The Washington Post

It doesn’t smell right, so maybe an official probe will tell if it’s rotten. The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is examining the extraordinary and politically suspect reassignment of dozens of Senior Executive Service (SES) members.

Bill Gates on the biggest bets in energy investing
Bill Gates, Quartz

Breakthroughs in energy technologies could reduce air pollution, help people escape poverty, and avoid the worst effects of climate change. But here’s the tricky part: We don’t yet know which ones will succeed.

After Irma, it’s time to take our power grid underground
Roger Anderson, CNN

Hurricane Irma took a dramatic toll on Florida’s electric grid, with as many as 15 million people losing power. However, Florida’s power grid is largely above ground, 60% in fact, and much of the grid damage was the result of wind gusts toppling trees and power lines strung across poles.

Exxon Mobil’s deal to cut India LNG prices is actually quite good
Clyde Russell, Reuters

Exxon Mobil’s deal to cut the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplied under long-term contract to an Indian buyer has largely been viewed as a bad outcome for producers of the super-chilled fuel. Certainly the trade made by Exxon to supply more LNG to Petronet LNG, but at a lower price, does seem to favour the Indian utility.

Research Reports

The Business of Pricing Carbon: How Companies are Pricing Caron to Mitigate Risks and Prepare for a Low-Carbon Future
Manjyot Bhan Ahluwalia, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Establishing a carbon price across a company can help internalize the cost of greenhouse gas emissions by assigning a monetary value to each ton emitted. The brief describes the business case for internal carbon pricing, the different internal carbon pricing approaches used by companies, and key lessons learned, including: the multiple business benefits of an internal carbon price, the importance of embedding the price in a company’s business strategy, and the benefits and challenges of different types of pricing strategies.