A power outage (above) stifled both teams in the middle of the Super Bowl and almost seemed to turn the momentum to give the San Francisco 49ers a huge comeback victory. As things ended, the underdog Baltimore Ravens were able to hang on. Meanwhile, what happened to the lights? The power company pointed its finger at the New Orleans Superdome while dome officials it was the power company. In any case, energy was a central topic at the Big Game as enthusiasts were billing it the “Greenest Super Bowl Ever.” One interesting statistic – power usage dips significantly during the game as everyone quits what they’re doing to watch the game.
In news of the day, Russia is using its natural gas monopoly to bully customers in Lithuania. People are being forced to pay huge penalties to switch away from the gas utility. The Lithuanians were put at this severe disadvantage when the EU forced it to give up the nuclear reactor that provided 75 percent of its electricity as the price of joining the Union. In France, which has lots of nuclear power, red tape is stifling the development of a wind industry. And in the UK, Britain’s hapless former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has pleaded guilty to trying to foist a speeding ticket on his former wife. Huhne lost his job a year ago over the incident.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s coming departure is causing a wave of reviews on his tenure. The New York Times focuses on his record for supporting clean energy. Huffington Post notes he took the time to chastise climate deniers. But Seeking Alpha says his exit could be a boon to natural gas vehicles. For some reason, Chu said he was “agnostic” over NGVs while giving his backing to biofuels. And Kevin Bullis, on MIT Technology Review, isn’t at all flattering. He calls Chu DOE’s “nerd in chief.”
Germany is facing up to the big run-ups in electrical pricing that has resulted from its transition to renewable energy. Berlin is considering limiting the feed-in tariffs that have subsidized wind and solar development. At the same time, it has added an FiT to energy storage. Vattenfall, the Swedish energy company that owned a portion of Germany’s nuclear fleet, is suing under European trade rules, saying the phase-out constitutes a trade barrier. And even though Angela Merkel has won kudos for trying to eliminate nuclear, it looks like Germany’s powerful Greens are going to oppose her in the next election.
Finally, Los Angeles is talking about going the way of Europe by offering feed-in-tariffs for rooftop solar. The term is really just a euphemism for a price support, where the government makes up the difference between the market price and the price it deems appropriate. In this instance, it will be paying solar manufacturers a higher price for rooftop installations. The program has quickly spiraled out of control in Europe and most countries have ended up trying to cut back on their FiTs (see Germany above). Spain created a huge financial drain in only a few years trying to grow a domestic solar industry. Is Los Angeles ready to take on the additional financial burden? We’ll soon find out.