After predicting two weeks ago that America would be achieving energy independence by 2030, the International Energy Agency dismayed everyone this week by prognosticating that coal is poised for a huge surge in demand that will make a shambles of any effort to reduce carbon emissions. The demand will be concentrated in Asia, says IEA, with India (above) surpassing the United States as the #2 consumer in the world by 2017. China, of course, remains #1. US use continues to decline. The prediction is sure to set off recriminations around the world, especially after the failure of last week’s Doha conference to establish any agreement between the developed and developing nations.
The Obama Administration has awarded $28 million for the development of seven major offshore wind projects. Scenic Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine will be the scene of one, along with projects off the shore of New Jersey and Virginia. Lake Erie will get another as well as Texas and Oregon. Special arrangements will be made to avoid any disturbance of the critically endangered Atlantic right whales. None of these projects will produce more than 18 megawatts and reports from the UK say their new offshore wind projects are underperforming.
ARPA-E announced the funding of 66 new small-scale innovation projects but at the same time it lost its executive director, Arun Majumdar, who used the occasion to jump to Google to run its energy initiative program. Majumdar is considered the rock star of energy innovation. The University of Wyoming has opened an energy innovation center and the Christian Science Monitor suggests three ways that utilities can lead in developing new technologies.
In company news, Edison Mission, an unregulated power generator in Southern California, has filed for bankruptcy. The Leclade Energy Group has paid $1 billion to acquire Southern Union Co.’s Missouri Gas Energy and New England Gas Co. BrightSource and Alstom will team up to build a solar plant in Israel and NRG has completed its sixth utility-scale solar installation – the kind that CEO David Crane describes as a no-risk operation of “being paid to put up panels in the desert.”
Finally, the campaign to install smart meters is turning out to be more complicated than anticipated. People don’t like them and fear they will allow utilities companies to spy on their energy use. There are also rumors that they can cause fires. DTE is suing a Detroit couple that refused to have a smart meter installed in their home and Las Vegas has reached an agreement with balky customers that will allow them to install their own meters. But the National Rural Electric Cooperative warns that rejecting smart meters can be a costly move to customers.