2 top energy execs share why the oil-price rebound won’t derail clean-energy investment

oil derrick

Oil prices have rebounded significantly since last year’s pandemic-driven plunge.

You might think that would be bad for clean energy. But contrary to expectations, energy executives say that it’s actually good news for clean-energy investments.

Oil giants like Shell have turned a close eye to clean energy and created new targets to reduce the ‘intensity’ of emissions over the next three decades.

Other corporations like Facebook are joining in by buying huge amounts of solar and wind power. Smaller startups have in the meantime made progress on breakthrough technologies like batteries that last for days – a key component to transitioning to cleaner energy.

The new administration has also signaled that clean energy is a key priority. President Joe Biden set forth an ambitious climate-change agenda, and investment in clean-tech is booming. Energy executives told Insider they’re watching closely and hope to see alignment of regulatory authorities and support to offshore wind industries among other moves from the new president.

Insider’s Benji Jones gathered four top executives in the energy industry for a live roundtable earlier this month to talk about how Big Oil can make good on its promises, how to generate returns for shareholders while pivoting into cleaner energy products, and which breakthrough technologies are needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Panelists also discussed how rising oil prices may actually benefit investments into clean energy, as contrary as that may sound. West Texas Intermediate crude trades for about $61 a barrel, around pre-pandemic levels. Crude tumbled last year as COVID-19 put a stop to travel and manufacturing, driving down demand for oil.

The panelists included: Urvi Parekh, Facebook’s head of renewable energy; Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s cofounder and CEO; Shell’s EVP for renewables and energy solutions, Elisabeth Brinton; and Francois Austin partner at Oliver Wyman in the UK and head of the group’s energy practice.

Brinton told Jones that Shell – known for being a major oil and gas company – is investing in energy storage well as many other cleaner technologies.

“We’re involved in offshore wind, onshore wind, onshore solar, storage, hydrogen. So green hydrogen for industrial and transport uses,” Brinton said. “We have the largest LNG business in the world, and so we have a lot of experience moving ships and transport.”

Shell is “technology agnostic,” according to Brinton, who added that the company is really focused on use cases and how it can help various sectors reduce their carbon footprints.

Oliver Wyman’s Austin told Insider that the oil-price recovery isn’t putting the investment case for clean energy at risk. On the contrary, Austin said, the rising prices will actually “enable the Shells of this world to finance this transition” to clean energy.

“I think society has shifted. I think COVID has been a wake-up call,” he said. “Momentum is there.”

Austin said that oil and gas are going to continue to be part of the energy mix as far out as 2040 or 2050. The transition to clean energy is expected to take a long time as new technologies develop over time.

Brinton agreed, adding that she believes the near-term price of oil actually helps speed up the transition by funding it.

“That’s a really important point because a lot of people think, ‘Well, that’s bad. It’s going to slow things down,” she said. “Actually, it’s very helpful.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

America’s water infrastructure is a ticking time bomb

Main break water pipe crumbling infrastructure in New York
Workers fix a massive water main break in New York City in 2014.

  • Our drinking water infrastructure is crumbling, underfunded, and not managed with the best tech available.
  • Climate change is making things worse, as evident by the aftermath of the Texas storms.
  • Investing in new technology can help ensure Americans have uninterrupted access to clean water.
  • Carol Browner is the former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under the Obama administration, and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Virtually every part of our lives depends on sophisticated technologies to make things work better – from medical care to online ordering. Yet, in far too many towns and cities, our drinking water infrastructure – which brings clean water to our families – is not managed with the best technology available.

The American Society of Civil Engineers recently rated the US an embarrassing C- in their Infrastructure Report Card. They found that 6 billion gallons of clean, safe drinking water (enough to fill 9,000 swimming pools) are lost every day through leaky pipes, while a water main breaks every 2 minutes, totaling nearly 238,000 breaks per year.

Our drinking water infrastructure system is made up of 2.2 million miles of underground pipes, and unfortunately, as the report’s authors said, “the system is aging and underfunded.”

Collecting water and moving it to where it’s needed most is a colossal, vital job. It’s one that most people take for granted and thousands of municipalities accomplish on shoestring budgets. While federal money previously represented 63% of capital spending in the water sector, that number has plummeted over the years, falling to only 9% by 2017.

And this aging, underfunded water system will now be under additional pressure from the growing impacts of climate change.

Increasing pressure on our water infrastructure

When most people think about climate change, they often think about shrinking polar ice caps or noxious pollution clogging our skylines. People don’t realize how vulnerable our water systems are to climate impacts – something that was made evident this past February when millions of people were cut off from clean drinking water in Texas.

Long-term effects of climate change in the United States are predicted to include changes in precipitation patterns and more droughts and heat waves. Those changes can bring urban flooding, burst pipelines, forest fires, and unpredictable and extreme rainy seasons. We will have water where we don’t normally have it, and not always where we need it.

When temperatures in Texas plummeted into the single digits, a series of infrastructure failures followed, leading to burst pipes that left millions of people without clean water. While Americans watched the news in horror, many found comfort in thinking that it couldn’t happen to them. But that’s simply not true. We are all potentially vulnerable to water scarcity and disruption.

Years of drought, increasing temperatures, and decreasing rainfall turned the entire West Coast into a tinderbox in 2020, a record-setting year for wildfires. A study released in the Geophysical Research Letters journal reported that a later onset of the rainy season in California, along with truncated rainy seasons during spring and fall, could have devastating results.

When a forest fire burns through an area, not only does it destroy all the vegetation, it can also burn a hardened crust into the soil that prevents it from being able to absorb and disperse water. As FEMA points out, those living downstream of these burn scar areas have a higher risk of flooding, which can last for years after the fire.

Crumbling infrastructure, shrinking budgets, and increased pressure from climate change all threaten millions of Americans with the risk of losing access to clean drinking water, contamination from sewer spills, and threats to home and safety from storms and flooding. So, what can we do about it?

Tech solutions

The technological revolution that uplifted so many other industries has been slow to gain traction in the water utility industry. With the emergence of the smart city, municipalities are using sensors to monitor everything from traffic patterns to air quality. However, modernizing a dynamic, labyrinthine infrastructure is much more complex and expensive.

While water utilities do utilize technology – such as creating modeling tools to simulate weather, consumption, and wear and tear – an accurate, realistic simulation is hard to build. Likewise, simulating a storm water system, monitoring the system, and quickly recovering from a system failure are all very different and increasingly difficult scenarios.

One solution is to take advantage of the cloud. By using the cloud, water utilities can enhance their simulation capabilities with artificial intelligence, predictive models, and other innovative technologies without having to hire an entire IT and programming team to develop and maintain their own tools.

Currently, some of the largest utilities are already using artificial intelligence to crunch through their data, letting engineers and operators collaborate to target and manage their risks more effectively. The cloud is the great democratizer, giving smaller municipalities access to similar tools on a subscription and volume basis.

At the same time, adoption of new technologies shouldn’t overshadow the need for greater federal investment in our drinking water system. While the cloud can help us stretch our current budgets to get the most out of the infrastructure we have now, we can’t ignore the crumbling pipes and water mains under our feet.

That investment can’t just be limited to our largest cities, either. Municipalities of all sizes are dealing with added stressors due to climate change. The federal money we allocate to fixing this problem should reflect that.

Ticking time bomb

Make no mistake, there will be many more water utility failures across the country and more families going without clean water. If our water infrastructure – and technology platforms used to manage it – don’t modernize at a faster pace, these failures could result in devastating loss of life and property, along with trillions of dollars in damage. If we invest in cloud solutions that allow the prediction, prevention, and management of water emergencies, we can be better prepared for future emergencies and mitigate a catastrophic aftermath. It’s critical to address these issues now, before they become so widespread that they threaten the health, safety, and livelihoods of millions.

Fortunately, President Biden’s newly unveiled infrastructure plan includes funding for state and local governments to upgrade their water infrastructure. Local entities should use those funds in part to modernize the technology they use to manage their water systems. We have a Texas-sized opportunity to make the investments we need to make sure that what happened there never happens again.

Carol Browner, is the former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under the Obama administration, and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 2001. She is currently a senior counselor in the Sustainability practice at Albright Stonebridge Group. Innovyze board member 2018-2021.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 top energy execs share what they want Biden to do to help move the US toward cleaner energy

Wind turbines produce renewable energy outside Caledon, South Africa, May 20, 2020.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Wind turbines produce renewable energy outside Caledon

Some of the biggest companies in the world have pledged to move toward cleaner energy. They say they want to see support from the US government as they move forward on their promises.

President Joe Biden has set forth the most ambitious climate-change agenda in the nation’s history, and investment in clean-tech has been booming.

But transitioning to renewable energy takes time. Though the US government and large corporations alike agree that clean energy is a key priority, making the transition would require overhauling infrastructure, some of which has been around for decades.

In the meantime, oil giants like Shell have announced new targets to reduce the ‘intensity’ of emissions over the next three decades, while corporations like Facebook are buying solar and wind power. Smaller startups have in the meantime made progress on breakthrough technologies like batteries that last for days – a key component to transitioning into cleaner energy.

Insider’s Benji Jones gathered four top executives in the energy industry for a live roundtable earlier this month to talk about how Big Oil can make good on its promises, how to generate returns for shareholders while pivoting to cleaner energy, and which breakthrough technologies are needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Panelists also discussed what they would want to see from the Biden administration to help the US move toward clean energy.

The panelists were: Urvi Parekh, Facebook’s head of renewable energy; Mateo Jaramillo, Form Energy’s cofounder and CEO; Shell’s EVP for renewables and energy solutions, Elisabeth Brinton; and Francois Austin, partner at Oliver Wyman in the UK and head of the group’s energy practice.

When asked about what she would like to see from Biden, Shell’s Brinton told Insider that she wants the new administration to “continue to lean in with a commitment and a pace.”

Biden could do this, for example, by supporting investment tax credits and providing support to offshore wind to get projects up and running, Brinton said.

Bringing together different environmental agencies is also key to drawing a clear path forward and accelerating clean energy, she added.

Oliver Wyman’s Austin agreed.

“I think it’s about aligning the regulatory authorities,” Austin said, adding that everybody is on the same page about the issue.

“I think the government wants to do it. The administration wants to do it. The consumers want it. Corporates want to do it,” Austin said.

Form Energy’s Jaramillo said that he’d like to see the administration following through on the commitments laid out in its infrastructure plan, which is expected to include spending on clean energy deployment. Form Energy is aiming to build cheaper-long duration batteries.

Facebook’s Parekh said that she would like to see long-term commitments to next-generation decarbonization from the Biden administration.

“I would love to see some high voltage transmission efforts and also continuing the progress on storage,” she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Energy-sector ETFs the only group to see $1 billion in weekly inflows as Suez Canal blockage and coming summer demand create favorable backdrop for oil

oil texas
Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas.

  • Energy-sector ETFs took in more than $1 billion in inflows this week, the only funds from a major sector to do so.
  • Energy inflows accompanied some recovery in oil prices after they dropped into correction territory.
  • Oil prices could stick to higher ground if a cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal remains lodged there for weeks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Energy sector exchange-traded funds were the only group this week to add more than $1 billion in inflows as the cargo-ship blockage in the Suez Canal helped oil prices recover from their slump into correction territory.

Energy ETFs were a standout as flows to sector funds “fell prey to the general uncertainty” that ran through the week ended March 24, said EPFR, a subsidiary of Informa that provides fund flows and asset allocation data.

Four of the 11 major groups — commodities, telecoms, technology and financial sector funds — logged outflows for the week, according to a note issued Friday.

Investors pushed into energy sector funds “during a week when the blockage of the Suez Canal, the prospect of the North American spring and summer driving season and expectations of less investment in new supply helped the price of oil rebound from an earlier correction,” said Cameron Brandt, director of research at EPFR, in the note.

Brent oil, the international benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate crude prices tracking US light, sweet crude this week fell into correction territory, with prices down 10% or more from recent highs.

Prices have since recovered some ground, with Brent and WTI each rising by more than 4% on Friday. Brent traded above $64 a barrel after sliding below $61 this week. WTI hovered close to $61 following its drop under $58 a barrel.

Also on Friday, the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund rose 1.8%, the Vanguard Energy ETF picked up 1% and the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF added on 2.3%.

Oil prices gained on expectations of tighter oil supplies while a cargo ship remains stuck in the Suez Canal, a key trade route that’s used to transport crude and refined products and connects Europe to Asia. Analysts have said it may be weeks before the Ever Given, a nearly 200-foot-wide and 1,300-foot-long vessel, is dislodged from the canal.

The blockage is costing $400 million an hour in delayed goods, according to a Lloyd’s List estimate, with hundreds of cargo ships are now unable to pass through the canal.

“The blockage has impacted over 20 oil tankers and the longer this lasts, it should drive oil prices higher,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note. Meanwhile, “Europe is slowly getting their vaccine rollout in order and that should trigger energy traders to price in an improved crude demand outlook by the summer,” he said.

As the summer driving season approaches in the US, roughly 14% of the population has been vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden on Thursday raised his vaccination goal to 200 million for the first 100 days of his administration after hitting his previous target of 100 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Saudi Aramco loses title of world’s most profitable company to Apple as 2020 profits sink to $49 billion

FILE PHOTO: A view shows branded oil tanks at a Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Branded oil tanks at a Saudi Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq.

  • Saudi Aramco reported a 44% decline in net income for 2020 to $49 billion as the COVID-19 pandemic weighed on results.
  • The world’s largest oil company said it plans to maintain its full-year dividend worth $75 billion.
  • Apple has claimed the title of the world’s most profitable company from Aramco, though that may be short lived.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Saudi Aramco is no longer the world’s most profitable company after the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on oil demand in 2020.

Aramco reported its full-year 2020 results on Sunday, showing a 44% collapse in profits to $49 billion. The world’s largest oil company said that despite the results, it plans to pay out its full-year dividend of $75 billion.

“As the enormous impact of COVID-19 was felt throughout the global economy, we intensified our strong emphasis on capital and operational efficiencies,” Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said.

Demand for oil was hit hard in 2020 as rolling lockdowns to combat the pandemic led to reduced travel across the globe. Oil briefly went negative, hitting $-37 per barrel as an imbalance between oil supply and demand led to limited places for storage of the commodity.

Aramco said its results were impacted by both lower crude oil prices and lower volumes sold, as well as weakened margins for its refining and chemicals business.

The results from Aramco mean Apple can now claim the title of the world’s most profitable company, as it reported $59 billion in income for 2020. But that title may be short lived for Apple and could be reclaimed by Aramco, based on a strong rebound in oil prices so far in 2021 and Aramco’s 2019 profit of $88 billion.

Energy represents the best performing sector so far in 2021, as WTI crude oil prices have surged 30% year-to-date.

In the year ahead, Aramco expects to spend $35 billion in capital expenditures, well below its previous guidance for $40 billion to $45 billion in spending.

“Looking ahead, our long-term strategy to optimize our oil and gas portfolio is on track and, as the macro environment improves, we are seeing a pick-up in demand in Asia and also positive signs elsewhere. We remain confident that we will emerge on the other side of this pandemic in a position of strength,” Nasser said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

AT&T and Cigna are funding Republican groups led by election objectors they had promised to stop supporting

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • AT&T and Cigna gave money to groups run by the GOP election objectors they pledged to stop supporting, Popular Information reported.
  • Some companies paused certain PAC contributions after GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence.
  • Here’s how much each S&P 500 corporate PAC had given – and if they’ve paused or resumed contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

AT&T and Cigna both gave money last month to groups overseen by Republican lawmakers who sought to overturn the US presidential election results in January, despite earlier promises to pause support for those lawmakers, Popular Information’s Jedd Legum reported Friday.

After violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, interrupting the GOP’s last-ditch effort to invalidate states’ Electoral College results, companies faced intense public criticism over their financial support of the 147 Republican members of Congress who backed the effort.

Amid the backlash, dozens of major corporations said they would pause contributions and reevaluate how they determine which lawmakers to support.

Yet barely a month later, AT&T and Cigna gave contributions to Republican groups led by – and benefitting – those same lawmakers.

AT&T’s Political Action Committee (PAC), just 35 days after pausing contributions to the 147 election objectors, gave $5,000 to the House Conservative Fund in February, according to Legum. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana who voted against certifying Electoral College results, sits on the fund’s executive committee – while other objectors are among its membership.

“Our employee PACs continue to adhere to their policy adopted on January 11 of suspending contributions to campaign committees of members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes. Our employee PACs did not adopt a policy to halt contributions to Democratic and Republican multi-candidate PACs, however,” an AT&T spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

They added that while the contribution “was not intended to circumvent the current suspension policy regarding individual campaigns,” the PAC “is requesting that none of its contribution to the House Conservative Fund or to any other multi-candidate PAC go to any member of congress who objected to the Electoral College votes.”

“Going forward, our employee PACs will begin reviewing all multi-candidate PAC contributions for consistency with the policy on individual campaign contributions,” the spokesperson said.

Insider could not immediately confirm whether AT&T’s PAC was aware of Rep. Johnson’s connection to the House Conservative Fund when it made the contribution or when the PAC requested that the funds not benefit him or other objectors.

Cigna, which had said it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power,” continued that support just 22 days later by giving $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Legum reported. The NRSC is chaired by GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, another election objector.

Cigna did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

Following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere – an argument bolstered by AT&T and Cigna’s recent contributions.

Other companies paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens issued public statements or internal memos announcing they would pause contributions while reevaluating how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled (or resumed) their support.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that AT&T’s employee PAC had violated its policy, announced January 11, that it would “suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes,” by giving to a multi-candidate fund that includes such members. AT&T’s PAC did not adopt a policy to suspend contributions to multi-candidate groups, a spokesperson said.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

AT&T, Cigna abandon promises to stop financing Republicans who voted to overturn the election

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • AT&T and Cigna have resumed funding GOP election objectors, Popular Information reported Friday.
  • Some companies paused PAC contributions after GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence.
  • Here’s how much each S&P 500 corporate PAC had given – and if they’ve paused or resumed contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

AT&T and Cigna both gave money last month to groups overseen by Republican lawmakers who sought to overturn the US presidential election results in January, contradicting the companies’ earlier promises, Popular Information’s Jedd Legum reported Friday.

After violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, interrupting the GOP’s last-ditch effort to invalidate states’ Electoral College results, companies faced intense public criticism over their financial support of the 147 Republican members of Congress who backed the effort.

Amid the backlash, dozens of major corporations said they would pause contributions and reevaluate how they determine which lawmakers to support.

Yet barely a month later, AT&T and Cigna have apparently determined that some of those lawmakers are once again deserving of support.

AT&T and Cigna did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

AT&T’s Political Action Committee (PAC), just 35 days after pausing contibutions to the 147 election objectors, gave $5,000 to the Republican Study Committee in February, according to Legum. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana who voted against certifying Electoral College results, sits on the RSC’s executive committee.

Cigna, which had said it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power,” continued that support just 22 days later by giving $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Legum reported. The NRSC is chaired by GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, another election objector.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

Following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere – an argument bolstered by AT&T and Cigna’s recent contributions.

Other companies paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens issued public statements or internal memos announcing they would pause contributions while reevaluating how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled (or resumed) their support.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A message from Insider Energy: We’re going on hiatus

Fairfield Iowa Electricity
Power lines in Fairfield, Iowa

Hello! Unfortunately, I have to share some bittersweet news: I’m leaving Insider, and so the newsletter is going on hiatus.

Of course, I’ll miss working with the talented team of writers and editors here including Zach Tracer, our energy editor. Thanks for subscribing to Insider Energy and for sharing feedback. It means a lot!

If you’d like to keep up with Insider’s journalism, you can subscribe to a weekly newsletter featuring our best business reporting, curated by one of our top editors, Matt Turner.

For better or worse, I’m staying in journalism, and I’d love to keep in touch. You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Oh, and feel free to share your pet photos with me through my personal email. Jumi will miss the spotlight.

Ending on a high note, we hosted a lively panel with four top energy execs on Monday. See more on that below.


ing roundtable 3   2x1 (1)

4 top energy execs dish on Big Oil’s reputation, the breakthrough tech we need, and why surging oil prices are actually good for clean energy

We hosted a live panel with executives from Shell, Facebook, Oliver Wyman, and buzzy battery startup Form Energy. The video and transcript are available on-demand here.

The highlights: Soaring oil prices won’t slow the clean-tech boom, according to Shell and Oliver Wyman. In fact, they could accelerate investments in transition technologies.

  • “This near-term price of oil actually accelerates us to be able to speed up the transition,” said Elisabeth Brinton, EVP for renewables and energy solutions at Shell.
  • Money is pouring into ESG funds, which has made the investment case for clean-energy projects comparable to oil and gas, said Francois Austin, partner and head of energy at Oliver Wyman.
  • Facebook is run on 100% renewable energy, as of last year. The key to getting there was partnering with utilities, which are also trying to reduce their emissions, said Urvi Parekh, Facebook’s head of renewable energy.
  • Electrochemical batteries are the cheapest and most feasible solution to the issue of intermittency, according to Form Energy (Form is developing that very technology).

A happy ending: We ended the panel by asking all four executives if they believed the world would realistically reach net-zero by 2050. Optimisim is in their job descriptions, but it was still nice to here the responses.

  • “Yes, if we get started right now. We really can’t afford to waste any more time. Not another five, not another 10 years. It’s got to get going right now,” said Mateo Jaramillo, the CEO and cofounder of Form Energy.
  • “Yes, because we are firmly focused on it and I believe people are good, have passion, and the capital is pouring in the right direction. But we have to put the pedal to the metal,” Brinton said.
  • “This is the decade for the corporates to really step up and really put the shovels in the ground and build the infrastructure,” Austin said.
  • “Yes. I’ve seen social and political will aligning around climate change in a way that’s unprecedented, and so I think that’s going to carry us a long way,” Parekh said.

Click here to read the full transcript or watch the event.


That’s it for now. Have a great week, and please keep in touch!

– Benji

Ps. Jumi is indifferent to my career (assuming his treat supply is uninterrupted).

Jumi
Read the original article on Business Insider

Tesla is making a giant battery to plug into the Texas power grid, and it could store enough energy for 20,000 homes

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.

  • Tesla is building a giant 100-megawatt battery to plug into Texas’ power grid, Bloomberg first reported.
  • The project in Angleton, Brazoria County, would aim to help stabilize the area’s energy supply.
  • In February, devastating blackouts left millions of Texans without power and clean drinking water.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Tesla is making a giant battery to plug into Texas’ power grid, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Gambit Energy Storage, a subsidiary of the electric-car giant, is developing a battery-energy-storage project in Brazoria County, Texas.

The system is registered with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s power-grid operator. An ERCOT filing from August gave the project an expected commercial opening date of June 1, 2021, and said it has capacity to store 100 megawatts of energy.

That would be enough to power 20,000 homes on a hot day, Bloomberg reported.

The battery is set to charge from the grid when energy prices are low, and then discharge when the electric system has a shortage of energy. The battery could help the local electric system come back online by providing energy to jump-start electric generators during a blackout or natural disaster, local officials said.

The project in Angleton – a town of around 3,000 people, about 40 miles from Houston – was initially proposed by Plus Power. The renewables company told Bloomberg it had sold the Angleton project, without naming the buyer. 

Power Plus and city of Angleton staff held a meeting in January 2020 to discuss the storage park, and accompanying documents show the Tesla logo on a “representative image” of what the site would look like. Bloomberg also reported that a Tesla logo was visible at the site during construction.

Tesla didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment. Insider has also approached Tesla for comment.

In the documents, the Power Plus and city officials said the project would connect to the grid through the existing Angleton Substation and would use “proven, reliable, and safe lithium-ion batteries.”

The facility would be unmanned and remotely monitored “with no emissions of any kind,” they said. It would be located at least 150 feet away from houses and concealed by “substantial natural vegetation.”

“The Energy Storage Park would strengthen Angleton’s energy independence and resiliency for decades into the future,” the officials added.

In a separate filing, Gambit registered a power generator with the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the state’s utilities regulator, on June 30, 2020. The document listed the generator’s service area as the Texas-New Mexico Power Company.

Tesla already has a battery project in South Australia, which it launched in 2017. The site stores surplus electricity from a neighboring wind farm.

The news of Tesla’s energy project in Angleton comes as lawmakers and residents alike continue to scrutinize the Lone Star State’s deregulated energy market in the aftermath of February’s devastating blackouts.

major winter storm that hit Texas on February 15 caused sources of electricity, such as natural-gas plants, to go offline, while simultaneously increasing the demand for energy as people across the state turned on heaters to stay warm.

This caused a huge shortfall in energy, and the wholesale price of electricity surged 10,000%. One Army veteran said he was billed $16,000 for power.

During the storm, Musk tweeted that ERCOT was “not earning that R” – which stands for “reliability” in the nonprofit’s acronym.

Millions in the state also lost access to clean drinking water and were asked to boil their water, after power outages hit treatment facilities. President Joe Biden declared it a “major disaster.”

ERCOT fired its CEO, Bill Magness, Wednesday, just two days after DeAnn Walker, the head of the Texas PUC, resigned.

Musk is also trying to form a new city called Starbase at SpaceX’s launch facilities in Texas.

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Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway scores $1.2 billion gain on Chevron in under 10 weeks

warren buffett
Warren Buffett.

  • Warren Buffett has scored a $1.2 billion gain on Chevron this year.
  • Berkshire Hathaway built a 2.5% stake in the oil major in the second half of 2020.
  • The investment has surged in value by nearly 30% to $5.3 billion.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has racked up a $1.2 billion gain on its Chevron investment in under 10 weeks.

The famed investor’s company owned a 2.5% stake in the oil-and-gas group worth $4.1 billion at the end of December, it revealed in a regulatory filing last month. Chevron’s stock price has surged 29% since then as crude prices have rebounded, boosting the value of Berkshire’s stake to $5.3 billion.

Berkshire began buying Chevron shares in the third quarter of 2020. It secured regulatory permission to not include the stock in its 13-F portfolio update for that period, as it was still building the position.

The company purchased 44.3 million Chevron shares in the third quarter, and another 4.2 million shares last quarter, it disclosed in filings last month. The energy stock ranked among its 10 biggest holdings by market value at the end of 2020, Buffett said in his latest letter to shareholders.

Buffett’s decision to back Chevron is paying off so far, but it remains somewhat surprising. After all, Buffett expressed doubts about the oil sector’s prospects at Berkshire’s annual meeting last year, following his painful bet on Occidental Petroleum.

“If you’re an Oxy shareholder, or any shareholder in any oil-producing company, you’ll join me in having made a mistake so far in terms of where oil prices went,” he said. “Who knows where they go in the future?”

Buffett also stepped in to help Occidental beat out Chevron in a bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum in 2019. His subsequent bet on Chevron suggests there’s no bad blood left over from the clash.

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