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  • The Future FERCs Me Out // Spring Time for Lignite and Bulldozers // Asia Starves for LNG

The Future FERCs Me Out // Spring Time for Lignite and Bulldozers // Asia Starves for LNG

Happy Monday. Here's what We're looking at today. 

The Future FERCs Me Out

The Federal Regulatory Commission just released its climate and environmental justice strategy. The plan focuses on three areas: rethinking its approval process for gas projects, ensuring reliability for the climate-conscious electricity system, and opening itself up to more democratic feedback. 

Let's focus on the second two because they're the most confusing when put side-by-side.

On the one hand, FERC recognizes that to solve climate change America needs to "green the grid." Now, they can't demand anyone does that because it's not in their mandate. But they can create a world where that's allegedly done fairly and reliably. That's a stiff challenge because in America cleaning up the electricity sector means renewables and renewables only. 

On the other hand, FERC recognizes that climate change will cause extreme weather patterns. That's bad news for weather-dependent energy sources and a weather-dependent grid. This doesn't really jibe. Even if we had more transmission, transmission is still fragile when it comes to extreme weather events. Increasing transmission to send the sun's rays from California to cloudy Illinois only succeeds in turning the electricity system into a Rube Goldberg machine. It fundamentally lacks robustness. As ever, the green demand that we make our electricity dependent on the increasingly unpredictable weather they warn about doesn't add up.

But then there's the political problem of transmission lines, which their desire for more democratic input has a good chance of stymying. Here's how they see the transmission issue:

"The energy resource mix increasingly includes new resources with characteristics that differ from the resources that have traditionally provided the majority of the nation’s electricity supply. For example, the generation fleet is shifting from resources located close to population centers toward resources, such as wind and solar, that often produce electricity most efficiently in areas located far from where that electricity will be used. The rapid growth in demand for such resources also is creating delays and other challenges for new resources seeking to be interconnected to the electric grid. A large amount of additional electric transmission infrastructure is needed to address these issues and facilitate the participation of these new resources in wholesale electric markets efficiently, [sic] while maintaining the reliability of the electric grid."

But what do they do about the fact that no one wants that stuff, not even the greens who demand more renewables? Transmission lines tend to cut through pristine land and string eyesores across state lines. Seems to me like opening themselves up for more public input jeopardizes their plan to a large degree. Yet the Transmission Fetish persists. 

At some point, we're going to have to come to Jesus about the realities of climate policy. The basic idea remains correct: electricity is easier to decarbonize than other sectors. If we electrify more things, then they become easier to decarbonize. So far so good, except that the second part wildly increases electricity demand. Thinking we can meet that demand with intermittency mitigated by efficiency (and storage) is a pipe dream.

Spring Time for Lignite and Bulldozers

Germany's Energiewende--their plan to replace nuclear with renewables and go green--has spent the last few months getting mugged by reality. The plan worked so long as Russian gas stayed cheap. We know how that went. Cheap coal muscled out pricey gas leading to a dirtier grid. For Germany that's meant more lignite coal, the dirtiest of them all. And now they're bulldozing farmland to make way for more coal.

Der Spiegel reported, "In the legal dispute over the land owned by a farmer on the edge of the Garzweiler opencast mine in Lützerath, a court ruled in favor of the energy company RWE. The North Rhine-Westphalian Higher Administrative Court (OVG) in Münster rejected the complaints of the farmer and two tenants on Monday. The group is thus allowed to excavate the affected plots of land and make the necessary preparations."

No doubt many are upset that this will upset Germany's climate ambitions. The obvious solution appears to be to halt the decommissioning underway at several of their nuclear plans and to revoke their plans to decommission the rest. For reasons unclear to all, Germany won't. 

Asia Starves for LNG

Europe's hoovering up as much LNG as it can get, but that's left Asia in the lurch for their own energy needs. E&E reported that "Asia LNG flows have fallen below the 14 million tons per year that companies in the region have contracted to purchase." 

The situation has inspired Japan, a large importer of LNG, to consider restarting more of the nuclear power plants shuttered after Fukushima in 2011. But even if it restarted all 34 of its nuclear units immediately that wouldn't make up for all their LNG needs.

China, meanwhile, has recommitted itself to coal in a big way. It has also ramped up its own gas production while increasing imports from Russian pipelines. 

This will fall hardest on developing Asian countries. E&E reported, "Rising gas prices have stoked an energy crisis in Pakistan and Bangladesh, both of which have greatly increased their dependence on LNG in an attempt to offset the need for imports of fuel oil and coal."


  • French power spikes on cold snap, RTE calls for reduced consumption. (SPG)

  • Russian foreign minister visits India as Moscow seeks alternative crude export markets. (SPG)

  • UK unlikely to authorize big expansion of onshore wind farms. (FT)

  • Food shortage, 13-hours power cuts, and no paper: How Sri Lanka's energy crisis has worsened. (FP)

  • Fuel-stressed households in UK double overnight. (OP)

Word of the Day


1. n. [Drilling]

A long square or hexagonal steel bar with a hole drilled through the middle for a fluid path. The kelly is used to transmit rotary motion from the rotary table or kelly bushing to the drillstring, while allowing the drillstring to be lowered or raised during rotation. The kelly goes through the kelly bushing, which is driven by the rotary table. The kelly bushing has an inside profile matching the kelly's outside profile (either square or hexagonal), but with slightly larger dimensions so that the kelly can freely move up and down inside. (source)

Crom's Blessing