Following the tragic weather events of 2017, the state of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure, has been a contentious issue. In fact, even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s electric service provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), had been struggling with mismanagement and teetered on the brink of financial collapse for years. The damage caused to the electric system by Hurricane Maria reflected years of deferred maintenance and the slow recovery exposed the deficiencies of management.

This combination of storm damage and a long history of mismanagement led to bankruptcy, forcing drastic action. While there are key challenges ahead, the government has taken a crucial step, passing the Puerto Rico Electric Power System Transformation Act, which was signed into law by Governor Ricardo Rosello-Nevares on June 20, 2018. 

Read More

In the current tight oil market, where little wiggle room exists between supply and demand, any production outage has the potential to significantly impact the global oil price. And while observers frequently discuss many of the geopolitical risks that could lead to such outages, the potential for outages in Iranian production warrants further consideration—and not simply because of the re-implementation of sanctions. One key threat to Iranian oil production is domestic—specifically intensifying ethnic tensions, the depth of which were recently displayed on the soccer pitch of all places.

Iran’s leaders celebrated the participation of their Milli (national) Team in the World Cup as a symbol of national unity. However, while it is celebrated publicly, below the surface soccer is synonymous with the country’s simmering undercurrents of ethnic tension.

Read More

This post is the first in a two-part series about the importance of space cooling issues in the debate over the intersection of energy and climate change.

When they first cross the Atlantic, Europeans are often perplexed by the omnipresent air conditioners in the United States. Yet when humidity and temperatures reach unbearable levels during the summer months, even hardened naysayers of air conditioners appreciate a cool workplace that allows working without sweating profusely. However, not everything is cool with air conditioning.

Air conditioning is a relevant, but often forgotten, energy topic—one that is likely to increase in importance in the coming years amid temperature changes, climate change concerns, increasing access to electricity and rising population, and competition for markets to sell clean energy technology.

Read More

This piece is the first in a series examining the opportunities and challenges facing the recently launched “Coal Exit Commission” in Germany. It will shed some light on the context surrounding the establishment of the Commission and explain the important role coal still plays in Germany.

Amid political turmoil over migration, last month Germany launched its so-called coal exit commission, designated to determine an end date for coal use in Germany. The Commission, whose membership was formally announced in late June amid a political spat between Chancellor Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer over control of Germany’s borders, will hold its first plenary meeting this Friday.

Read More

The world’s largest single-site solar park and the world’s first attempt at a carbon neutral, self-sustainable city can both be found in what might seem to be an unlikely location: the heart of the Arabian Gulf. Both projects are funded by and located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a geographically small state that holds some of the world’s largest oil reserves. However, regardless of its abundance of oil, the UAE is investing heavily in renewable energy and hopes to diversify its power generation mixture, primarily towards renewable sources, by 2050.

The question is, does this project represent an environmentally progressive plan, an attempt to maximize hydrocarbon revenues, or a mixture of both?

Read More

As the Trump Administration prepares to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran following the president’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), its treatment of Iranian oil sales could dramatically impact both the United States’ Iran strategy and the global oil market. The administration’s apparent decision to compel buyers to zero out their purchases of Iranian oil by November is likely to have dramatic consequences for both the effectiveness of the sanctions and the markets and has the potential to negatively impact both.

On Tuesday, June 26, a senior State Department official told reporters that it was not likely to issue exceptions to US sanctions for countries that were significantly reducing its purchases of Iranian oil.

Read More

A previous blog entry addressed the human role in containing entropy. This post examines real-world examples of addressing design challenges in engineering and architecture.

Unfortunately, many engineering solutions to both past and current architectural and industrial design challenges have relied on abundant and cheap energy for their effectiveness. When energy is cheap and plentiful, using increased amounts of horsepower is a seductive default position when designing industrial systems and processes.

A problem the University of California at Davis (UC Davis) experienced with a drinking water reservoir in 2005, involving a one-million-gallon open-air surface reservoir, serves as an instructive example.

Read More

Despite decades of safe operation at over 100 power stations generating carbon free electricity, nuclear power remains a controversial topic in the United States. Nuclear opponents often remind the public that proponents once promised that electricity from nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter,” a promise that has so far gone unfulfilled. However, a closer look at this claim and ultimate reality is warranted.

The phrase “too cheap to meter” was used in a 1954 speech by the then-Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Lewis L. Strauss. The occasion for the speech was the 20th anniversary of the National Association of Science Writers, held in New York City on September 16, 1954. When Strauss spoke, no commercial nuclear power plant was in service.

Read More

Much has been made of the recent OPEC decision to lift production limits and its impact on US shale producers, with some commentators arguing that OPEC reclaiming its role as a market manager has put US shale in its place. However, others have noted that shale producers in the Permian are potentially sighing in relief that OPEC will manage the price rally, as they struggle to bring product to market.

As Pioneer Chairman Scott Sheffield put it, shale companies share an interest in a more balanced market and “preventing overheated prices.” Unlike OPEC (at least Saudi Arabia), many shale producers are facing limits to their ability to ramp up production. Permian producers are finding themselves constrained, not necessarily by the vagaries of geopolitics and the maneuvering of OPEC, but by takeaway capacity and infrastructure constraints close to home.

Read More

Global Energy Center Deputy Director Ellen Scholl sat down with Atlantic Council Board Director Dr. Helima Croft, managing director and global head of commodity strategy, global research at RBC Capital Markets, for her take on the OPEC meeting and the decision to move away from production cuts and toward increasing production to balance the market (you can read more from RBC on the meeting here). The following is an excerpt of thier interview.

Q: What are the major takeaways from the OPEC meeting that took place over the weekend in Vienna?

Croft: The biggest takeaway is that OPEC managed to hold it together.

Read More