Sierra Club Plunges Into Chaos // Oklo Comes to Ohio // G-7 Navigate Beijing, Natural Gas Issues
Welcome to Grid Brief! Here’s what we’re looking at today: the Sierra Club meets budgetary and organizational turbulence, Oklo plans to bring advanced nuclear reactors to Ohio, the G-7 navigates natural gas investments and its relationship to Beijing, and more.
Sierra Club Plunges Into Chaos
Sierra Club, the largest anti-nuclear environmental group in America, appears to be coming apart at the seams.
Last month, Ben Jealous, the 130 year-old organization’s new Executive Director, announced major layoffs. The Sierra Club, he told employees, was restructuring and needed to cut its budget.
“The Sierra Club says the layoffs—the precise number yet to be revealed—are meant to help fill a projected $40 million shortfall for the coming year. (For context, the Sierra Club spent $151 million in 2022.),” reports The New Republic. “The budget the group’s board of directors approved the day before the call features drastic cuts that would purportedly shrink that deficit to just $2.3 million.”
More than an eighth of the NGO’s workforce lies on the chopping block. The unions that represent the Sierra Club employees argue that the restructuring process has been top-down and unfair. It seems Jealous to have announced the layoffs to E&E News before he told employees, according to reporting from the New Republic.
Part of the restructuring process involves collapsing job descriptions into each other without offering pay raises for the new responsibilities. At an organizational level, this may entrench disorder in the Sierra Club as job descriptions will come to encompass so roles as to be rendered meaningless. Employees have been given their new titles and told if they do not sign their new contracts, it will be registered as a formal resignation.
“I am terrified for the future of the organization,” an anonymous staffer told the Guardian. “I do not see how we survive this.”
The Sierra Club is but the latest major green NGO to experience such hardships. “Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation organization, announced layoffs this month. Climate advocacy group 350.org has in recent years undergone layoffs and has faced budgetary shortcomings, Politico reported last year. And Greenpeace announced layoffs in 2020,” reports the Guardian.
Part of the Sierra Club’s new vision is to establish directors in red states. “Eighty-seven percent of large-scale renewable projects are going into red jurisdictions,” Jealous said. The organization does not have directors in two-thirds of red states, which tend to be rural. Most resistance to renewable energy comes from rural locales.
Oklo Comes to Ohio
Advanced nuclear reactor company Oklo has announced it will construct its second and third commercial 15 MW reactors in Ohio.
“The Portsmouth site is a nuclear enclave that sprawls across 3,700 acres of land attached to PORTS, a U.S. gaseous diffusion plant in Pike County, Ohio, that ran from 1954 to 2001 to produce enriched uranium for support the nation’s nuclear weapons program (and later, to produce enriched uranium for commercial nuclear operations),” reports Power Mag. “The site notably also hosts the American Centrifuge Project, where nuclear fuel firm Centrus is demonstrating the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) with domestic technology under a DOE contract.”
The Portsmouth reactors will be scale-ups of Oklo’s Aurora Powerhouse microreactor, which is 1.5 MW.
“This is an uprate of the Aurora design, and we consider it part of the Aurora liquid metal fast reactor product family. With the same amount and type of fuel but different heat transport mechanisms (flowing sodium versus liquid metal in heat pipes), significantly more heat can be transported from the fuel—hence being able to produce 15 MWe versus 1.5 MWe nominally,” Oklo told Power Mag.
The reactors are expected to be deployed in 2028.
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G-7 Navigates Beijing, Natural Gas Issues
The Group of Seven nations are trying to sort out their relationship to Beijing and how they should approach natural gas investments.
On the one hand, the G-7 want to wean themselves off of dependence on China for critical materials, especially when it comes to the energy transition. China has a lock on the vast supply chains and materials necessary for wind, solar, and mass electrification. On the other, the countries also want to stabilize a harmonious relationship with the rising international powerhouse.
So, the group’s leaders stressed that they had no intention of “decoupling or turning inwards”; rather that they are focusing on “economic resilience” which demands “de-risking and diversifying.” The G-7 also said that they plan to “push for a level playing field for our workers and companies” while combatting economic coercion and “protecting certain advanced technologies that could be used to threaten our national security without unduly limiting trade and investment.”
As for natural gas, which has become a hot button global energy issue since the invasion of Ukraine, the G-7 have stayed their previous course.
“The leaders reaffirmed their commitments to the Paris climate accords and cutting emissions by 2050 but also acknowledged that ‘publicly supported investment’ in gas can be appropriate as a temporary measure if consistent with those objectives, given the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the rapid phasing out of dependencies on Russian supplies,” reports Bloomberg.
Climate groups had hoped that the G-7 wouldn’t take a stand so similar to last year’s position.
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The Golden State goes big on transmission. “California's electric grid operator has approved a plan expected to cost $7.3 billion for 45 new power transmission projects over the next decade and made it easier for new power plants in high-priority areas to connect to the grid,” reports Reuters. “The projects will support the development of more than 40 gigawatts (GW) of new generation resources, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said on Thursday.“
Renewables curtailment is a growing issue Down Under. “Renewable curtailment in Australia has grown by almost 40% from a year ago,” reports PV Mag. “Frustratingly, the revelation came in the same forum where the head of Australia’s green bank warned the nation is not on track to reach its target of 80% renewable generation by 2030.”
Senator Ed Markey continues his legacy of deranged energy policy. “Three U.S. legislators have proposed a bill that would reimpose a ban on U.S. crude oil exports on the ground that this would benefit coastal communities, U.S. energy consumers as a whole, and help the U.S. achieve its climate change goals,” reports Oilprice.com. “Block All New (BAN) Fossil Fuel Exports Act, legislation that would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and ban the export of American crude oil and natural gas abroad to protect frontline communities from dangerous export infrastructure, prioritize U.S. consumers against fossil fuel profiteering, and help ensure the United States meets its climate and clean energy commitments on the world stage,” reads Markey’s release.
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