One of the key drivers of increasing global electricity demand is urbanization. Although urbanization rates in industrial countries are generally above 75 percent, urbanization is still in a relatively early stage in developing countries. This is especially true in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, where electricity growth is rising rapidly and the share of people living in urban areas is less than 50 percent. India, the third largest electricity system in the world with a population projected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2040, is expected to reach only 46 percent urbanization by that same year.
Russian exports dominate the European energy market. The country is Europe’s single-largest supplier both for gas, of which it accounts for 40 percent of imports, and petroleum, at nearly 30 percent. And the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which continues to progress despite vehement objections on both sides of the Atlantic, threatens to further consolidate Russia’s grip.
But east of the Urals, there is a different story. Kazakhstan, a rising regional power in the midst of economic and political transformation, may prove to be the weak link in Russia’s energy empire.
With the changes in the United States Congress in 2019 and the intensifying presidential primary election campaign, we have seen, in stark contrast to Trump Administration views, considerable attention placed by the Democrats on climate change and the ambitious vision of the Green New Deal. In Europe, the European Union (EU) Parliament has approved more aggressive 2030 energy and climate targets, and most EU-28 countries submitted draft National Energy and Climate Plans at the end of 2018. In 2017, the United States and European Union combined accounted for about 25 percent of world energy-related CO2 emissions.
Rainer Seele, the chief executive officer of Austrian energy company OMV and corporate ally of Gazprom, recently called on Europe to defend itself from the proposed US sanctions aimed to stop Nord Stream 2. It is far from clear to which ‘Europe’ Seele is referring. In December 2018, the European Parliament voted 433 to 105 in favour of a resolution calling for the construction of Nord Stream 2 to be cancelled. Furthermore, in February 2019, twenty-four of the twenty-eight member states were prepared to vote to extend the 2009 EU Gas Directive formally to import pipelines such as Nord Stream 2, creating uncertainty in the current financing, business structure, and commercial logic of the project.
Addressing climate change has become a leading topic of bipartisan discussion within the 116th Congress, with a growing number of Republicans publicly emphasizing innovation and global technological leadership. Both are central factors in the overarching dialogue around vehicle electrification, which should resonate with policy makers from both sides of the aisle. An electrification strategy to help address climate change is particularly relevant given that the domestic transportation sector is now the leading source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, surpassing the electric power industry, which has experienced falling carbon intensity due to market dynamics coupled with modest clean energy policies.
The recently released Atlantic Council Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership report, entitled US Nuclear Leadership: Innovation and the Global Strategic Challenge, represents a year-long effort to examine the national security implications of nuclear power for the United States. The diverse mix of policy, regulatory, industry, utility, university, and environmental interests reflected in the Task Force contributed to a serious and wide-ranging consideration of four main issues: saving the existing nuclear fleet; innovation and the development of a new generation of advanced reactors; challenges in the global market and the US export position; and nuclear fuel cycle and security concerns. Investigation of these policy areas led the Task Force to make three overarching recommendations: 1) maintain and expand the current fleet; 2) create a regulatory environment conducive to technological innovation; and 3) encourage and facilitate exports.
Energy projects have always been a major part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure mega-plan for Eurasia. The enormity of that plan was on display at the BRI Forum last month, where an official report was released estimating that energy investments in BRI countries would add up to $27 trillion by 2050, with $7 trillion alone going to power grid construction, and over 200 million new jobs created in the process.
That report was published by the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, or GEIDCO, a young “international organization” set up by the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC, or “State Grid”) in 2016, under the leadership of its former chief executive, to advance “Global Energy Interconnection” or GEI.
Throughout 2018, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center convened a “Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership,” comprised of civilian and military experts in foreign policy, defense, and nuclear energy, with Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as honorary co-chairs, to address the national security implications of the decline of the US nuclear power industry. Their insights, analysis, and recommendations provided the foundation for this report, US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge.
Natural gas, which consists primarily of methane, accounts for nearly one quarter of global energy production. Although the shale gas boom significantly increased the supply of natural gas, natural gas cannot be transported to processing plants using existing infrastructure for petroleum. Consequently, remote sources of natural gas are in effect “stranded.” Methods to use this “stranded” natural gas productively would be highly beneficial and would reduce unproductive flaring.