Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted February 18, 2021
More than 4 million Texas homes and businesses have been without electricity this week as an Arctic air mass left the state coping with temperatures hovering around zero. Electricity and natural gas use spiked and rolling blackouts were ordered as energy systems experienced what the Webber Energy Group’s Joshua Rhodes called a “black swan event” that taxed all parts of those systems at the same time.
I spoke with Dustin Meyer, API vice president of Natural Gas Markets, to find out what happened in Texas, to understand the conditions that left the nation’s No. 1 energy state struggling for power and heat and what resources could help prevent this from happening again.
Bottom line points: Texas’ difficulties represent a failure of the grid across the board, with all generation technologies falling short of expectations; as in California last summer, events in Texas underscore the need for a diverse energy supply and smart planning to support the health of the U.S. power grid; natural gas, unique among energy sources in supplying needed attributes that ensure grid reliability, is and will remain a key in that diverse mix; and natural gas has carried most of the energy load in Texas this week, and without its contributions the energy picture would have been even worse. Expanded infrastructure would help make natural gas systems more resilient.
Posted September 30, 2020
The wild thing about the electricity grid is that you can see when the laws of man succumb to the laws of physics.
California provided a case study in late August. The state’s first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades spotlighted its mandates for how much electricity certain technologies can provide. There was lots of blame to go around and, while there is no single culprit behind the blackouts, what happened showed just how vital natural gas generation is to maintain a fully functioning grid, because of its reliability and unique operating characteristics.
Posted August 20, 2020
Natural gas as the essential partner for renewables such as wind and solar is something we’ve talked about a lot (see here, here and here). Californians have been schooled on this point recently, with millions suffering under rolling blackouts during soaring temperatures because electrical utilities couldn’t keep pace with skyrocketing demand.
The state’s renewables mandate has played a role in their misery. By requiring that 60% of California’s electricity must come from renewables by 2030 and through green energy subsidies, the state has seen the competitive balance tilt away from other, more flexible power sources, including cleaner natural gas.
Posted July 31, 2020
Former Vice President Joe Biden's camp says he wouldn’t completely ban hydraulic fracturing (see the New York Times and here) – the technology most responsible for a domestic energy revolution that has made the U.S. the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil. While Biden’s proposal to end new federal fracking leases is misguided, the fact he wouldn’t try to ban it elsewhere may suggest a recognition that fracking is critically important to the U.S. economy and national security.
This could indicate some important common ground, which API President and CEO Mike Sommers addressed in the Times article.This is especially welcome news for the nation’s electricity grid operators. They’re on the front lines of the twin effort to provide affordable energy to American homes and businesses, while lowering carbon dioxide emissions from power generation. For them, clean and reliable natural gas is the cornerstone for succeeding on both fronts, which is why natural gas is the nation’s No. 1 fuel for power generation.
Posted July 21, 2020
Through the recent COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shocks to energy markets around the world, U.S. natural gas has remained a relatively bright spot.
Record low prices have benefitted consumers, and at the same time many producers dedicated to natural gas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana and East Texas have remained viable as cutbacks in oil and associated natural gas from other regions have taken effect. And now about 90% of U.S. drilling for natural gas is concentrated in these regions, that is Appalachia and the Haynesville areas.
The drilling activity has reflected two fundamental observations. The first is that, according to BTU Analytics, the recent breakeven price – that is, the Henry Hub wholesale market price needed to at least break even in drilling a new well – on average has remained near market prices despite COVID-19, a relatively warm winter and broad financial market concerns. The second observation is that natural gas well productivity, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, were resilient after some unexplained variation at the beginning of the year.
Posted May 19, 2020
Natural gas’ economic competitiveness continues, even amid the highly unexpected market conditions associated with the coronavirus pandemic – outcompeting coal, the No. 2 fuel for power generation.
While consumer electricity use patterns are changing as power demand throughout the country has declined during the coronavirus crisis, natural gas is playing a growing role in meeting that demand.
This shift towards greater reliance on natural gas – along with a corresponding decline in coal-fired generation – has been a key feature of the U.S. power sector for most of the past decade, and the current environment appears to be accelerating this trend. In fact, the coal-to-gas transition is starker during this historic season as lower electricity demand, coupled with low natural gas prices, is providing added incentive for power suppliers.
Posted February 28, 2020
Some welcome news from the International Energy Agency (IEA) this month on global carbon dioxide emissions. IEA’s report finds that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions flattened in 2019 – even as the world economy expanded by 2.9% – in large part due to the increased use of natural gas. And closer to home, the news gets even better. The U.S. recorded the largest emissions decline of any country, down 140 million tons (Mt) from the previous year.
Posted January 15, 2020
Over the past decade, coal-to-natural gas switching in power generation has driven domestic emissions reductions, positioning America at the leading edge of climate and air quality progress. And last year, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.1% – almost entirely due to a decline in coal consumption, according to new analysis from the Rhodium Group.
The increase of cleaner-burning natural gas in electricity production accounts for much of this positive development, as natural gas emits about half the carbon compared to coal combustion. In 2019, coal-fired power generation fell by an estimated 18%, the largest year-on-year decline on record, and related emissions dropped by 190 million metric tons – equivalent to the amount of carbon sequestered by nearly 250 million acres of U.S. forests in one year.
John D. Siciliano
Posted November 26, 2019
The transition to cleaner natural gas-fueled electricity generation is creating new momentum for building out the nation’s energy infrastructure – specifically, new pipeline capacity needed to accelerate the changeover from coal and other older resources.
Not doing so has proven to be detrimental to consumers and clean energy goals alike.
Posted November 21, 2019
Some important data points from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on the country’s emissions of carbon dioxide, a critically important greenhouse gas and a key to U.S. progress on climate goals:
First, as we noted in this recent post, EIA projects U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions this year will go down from the previous year. Broader context: Our nation’s CO2 emissions haven’t been this low since 1987. Second, EIA says the overall carbon intensity of the U.S. economy – the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted per unit of energy consumed – declined in 2018.
This is especially important in electricity generation, a major source of emissions. EIA says that switching fuels for generation, from coal to natural gas, has played an important role in reducing U.S. carbon intensity.