Is Brazil having an energy crisis or isn’t it? The subject is under debate. A regional drought has drained reservoirs and left the nation’s abundant hydroelectric dams hanging by a thread. Outside observers say the hot, dry weather has pushed up air conditioning use and may lead to rationing of electric power. But the left-leaning government of President Dlima Rousseff (above) says there is no problem. There’s lots of advice on what’s gone wrong in Brazil. Government price controls on electricity have hurt the utilities while oil price controls have made things difficult for sugar ethanol. Now Rousseff is talking about loosening the financial controls that were imposed in 2002 when the currency hit 2000 percent inflation. Latin American stocks aren’t doing too well these days.
China is doing just about everything and so any crystal-ball gazer can look into the depths of the Middle Kingdom and tell you their favorite form of energy is thriving within. China plans to add 49 gigawatts of renewable energy next year. The oil and gas sectors are ready to roar. Nuclear is blazing trails. Energy-efficient cars are rolling off the assembly line. And China still dominates the world coal market. Let’s face it, it’s a big place.
The Internet’s social networks may be about to mesh with solar energy. Mosaic tried crowdfunding for the launch of four solar projects and sold out the offering in less than 24 hours. It may be the Next Big Things. Or it may be the latest way of fleecing investors. Hawaii is going a little more conservative. It’s going to try funding solar projects through customers’ electrical bills. But if social networkers are going gaga over solar, they’re not the only ones. After a down year in 2012, solar ETFs have exploded in the New Year.
Finally, installing smart meters around the world hasn’t proved to be as easy as expected. In almost every utility district there’s a core of antis who are opposing the effort. Utilities are trying to make installation mandatory – the system won’t accomplish much if too many people opt out. But public service commissions are starting to respond to complaints. The Maryland PUC has carved out an exemption and opponents are now seeking legislation that would make refusal legal. And in Michigan, DTE is suing two customers for removing their meters while a pair of older women are complaining that the electromagnetic radiation from smart meters will make them sick. Is there a Matt Damon movie in the offing here?