All posts by wluyties

The little bulb that is killing coal

Guest blog by SA Shelley: The amount of energy consumed to light our modern civilization would surprise most people. In the not too distant past, residential and commercial lighting consumed about 20% of all electricity produced. Basically, every fifth coal, nuclear or gas turbine power plant built was used to just to light cities, factories and homes. However, since the advent of the LED, there has been a remarkable drop in the amount of electrical power required to light our modern world. Depending upon where you live and work, recent data suggests that residential and commercial lighting now consumes only between 7% to 12.5% of all the electricity produced. That’s a drop in energy consumption for lighting by almost 1% per year over the last 10 years. The good news is that the energy for lighting continues to decline and will only get better as more LED lighting replaces inefficient technologies (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 Lighting Efficiency
Fig. 2 (Source IEA, https://www.iea.org/tcep/buildings/lighting/ )

The cost for LED lighting has also been falling at an incredible rate (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 (Source https://thinkprogress.org/5-charts-that-illustrate-the-remarkable-led-lighting-revolution-83ecb6c1f472/)

Yet, there is still room for additional drops in energy consumption using LEDs. In the typical U.S. residence, about 10% of total energy costs still go to producing light. For sure, the bulk of residences in the U.S. still rely upon many of those outdated lighting technologies, though folks are adapting, as currently half of all lighting sales in the U.S. are LEDs. Doing a bit of math for the U.S. we can see how much power could still be saved, all other thing equal, if we were to hit 90% LED usage for lighting.

Using households as a proxy for residences, there are approximately 127 million households in the United States. Each household uses an average of about 28.5 kWh of electricity each day. Supposing that by LED sales, at 50%, that we’re already at 50% utilization for LED residential lighting. So if we aim for 90% target, then a household should be able to save another 4% of its total electrical power consumption, or about 1.1 kWh each day. Now, multiplying this number by the number of households in the U.S. yields a total electrical energy savings of about 140,000 MWh each day. The total energy production by all coal fired plants is 3,140,000 MWh per day. Ergo, just by switching to LED lighting in residences it is very likely that about 5% or about 17 of the remaining coal power plants in the U.S. will no longer be needed.  

Bow to the LED, the little lightbulb has become a killer of king coal.

Who is hiding all the oil?

Guest blog by SA Shelley: I try to avoid writing about oil too often for three reasons: 1) the oil markets are well observed by more than enough highly paid analysts, 2) the changes in energy technology and distribution are more interesting (and still largely misunderstood by highly paid analysts) and 3) I try to build anticipation for my oil industry supply and demand blog in January of each year. But because of some recent peculiarities that have arisen in the oil markets, a short blog about oil now seems warranted.

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How good is the OWOE blogging staff?

SA Shelley, WH Luyties: OWOE is a small site, with just a few dedicated and experienced staff who follow energy technologies, economics and policies. Occasionally, OWOE bloggers dare to forecast energy developments that tend to be contrarian, and, much to everyone’s surprise, they have been very good at forecasting trends correctly and ahead of much larger analytical organizations. Are we that good at more quickly analyzing publicly available information along with some insight and soft analysis? Or do we have access to the dark arts such as whiskey and voodoo?

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A Tanker War in the Gulf Will Not Help Anyone

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley: In the past few months, a lot of people around the world have probably wondered about why oil prices have again quickly and significantly fallen. I’ve argued in a prior blog at the beginning of this year that the world is awash in oil supply. Even though oil production is collapsing in places like Venezuela, Iran and Mexico, is in danger of collapsing in more places like Angola and Libya, and is politically constrained in places like North Venezuela (Canada), there still is plenty of oil to supply most global markets. The plentiful supply of course comes from surging production in the U.S., ample production in Russia and new offshore fields coming on stream in places like Guyana and Brazil. If you couple increasing supply with softening global demand for oil, you get such downward pressure on oil prices. So what’s with this nonsensical sport of shooting tankers in the Gulf of Oman?

Continue reading A Tanker War in the Gulf Will Not Help Anyone

Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Increase Electricity Rates?

I live in California. That gives me a front seat to virtually every new initiative and trend related to saving the planet, whether it is about turtles and plastic straws, banning single-use plastic bags, electric vehicles, or green energy. Although not the first state to adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), California has been one of the most aggressive in its timetable for replacing fossil fuel based electricity with carbon-free. In 2018, California updated its RPS to the requirement to achieve 60% of electricity sales from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2045. Of course, California’s aggressive push toward renewables has triggered a wide range of reactions. For example, Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress has been pushing the idea that California’s electricity rates are significantly higher than the rest of the US (see Figure 1) and rising significantly faster because of its dependence on renewables. His culprit is renewable energy and his solution is to keep nuclear plants open. In contrast, Roger Sowell, who blogs about renewable energy issues, argues that California’s unique climate, geography, and large population make such differences to be expected.

Continue reading Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Increase Electricity Rates?

Canada and Energy: Part 3 – It’s Very Ugly

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley In the first blog of this series, I summarized the huge energy resources of Canada. In the second blog, I showed how most of those resources have been or are being squandered and how governments with good intentions, at times more often than naught, deliver bad outcomes. While statistically bad outcomes can be unintentional, in Canada a lot of bad outcomes are actually the deterministic result of government strategy. Coupled with the breakdown of the rule of law at the highest levels, Canada is in bad shape. That unfortunately is the very big ugly in Canada. Other factors resulting in Canada’s bad energy situation are the focused actions by small groups of well-funded opponents and the apathy by the populace who have been habituated to the sweet lucre of government largesse. Canadians are generally kind and polite people, but at the governing level, the plotting and duplicities surpass a Shakespearean tragedy. The Russians probably learn by watching what happens in Ottawa.

The biggest warning that I have is that the path that Canada is on will more likely lead to Canada becoming the next Venezuela – corrupt, ineffective and when in trouble, doubling down on failed collectivist ideas, instead of returning to integrity, order and prosperity.

Continue reading Canada and Energy: Part 3 – It’s Very Ugly

Recent Interesting and Unusual Energy Stories

Guest blog by Mr. R. U. Cirius: Here are some interesting and somewhat offbeat energy stories that haven’t gotten much media attention during the first three months of the year.

California wind turbines contribute to unprecedented wildflower outbreak

This year California has experienced what many are calling a “superbloom” of wildflowers that hasn’t been seen in decades (Fig. 1). While most attribute this to heavy winter rainfall following several years of drought, Dr. Marko Ramius from the National Wind Energy Laboratory (NWEL) has identified another contributor to the phenomenon – California’s ubiquitous wind turbines. Dr. Ramius has released his surprising findings that show the role of what he calls the “turbulence boundary interface”. This is the boundary of the turbulent mass of air downstream of the turbine’s rotor that generally hovers just off the ground. He has found that this boundary traps moisture close to the earth, which then enhances and prolongs the period of flower bloom. He is currently in discussion with major turbine manufacturers to incorporate blade tip misters into their designs that could provide moisture during drought periods and hopefully make such superblooms a more common occurrence.

Fig. 1 – Wildflowers under wind turbines near Palm Springs, CA

Click here to learn more about wind energy.

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Canada and Energy: Part 2 – The Bad

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley In the previous blog about energy in Canada, I presented evidence that Canada has abundance of energy, ranging from hydrocarbon to existing renewable energy supplies. In essence, Canada has similar potential to Norway and even at a larger scale. Norway, like Canada, has been a prolific producer of oil and gas and continues to be so, but Norway is already in a position to be able to transition fully to renewable energy and has undertaken steps in that direction and to curtail fossil fuel consumption (see Independent.co.uk, and Fortune.com).

But where Norway has long term vision and broad social and political consensus, Canada has acrimony, mismanagement and corruption.

Continue reading Canada and Energy: Part 2 – The Bad

Canada and Energy: Part 1 – The Good

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley If there is a poster child in the world for energy wealth, it’s Canada. Folks are dumbfounded by what the Europeans are achieving with renewable energy and decarbonizing, folks quake at the vast untapped oil and gas reserves of Russia, and folks are stunned at how technology and finance combined to bring about the prolific U.S. tight oil and gas production which is upheaving world energy markets. Wow, eh?

Instead, folks should be looking at Canada, that half frozen land of log drivers, curlers and exporter of Hollywood A-listers, and be awestruck by the energy resources that have somehow fallen under the Dominion of Canada.

Continue reading Canada and Energy: Part 1 – The Good

The Great Oil Slump of the 2020s – Part 2b, Demand and Technology

Guest blog by S. A. Shelley In my previous two blogs I have offered views on oil supply and the (macro) social changes that are resulting in a slowdown of growth in oil demand. In this blog, I’ll look at some of the technological (micro) factors that that will contribute further to a drop in demand. This combination of oversupply and drop in demand will have significant and far-reaching impacts on oil companies, petro-nations, and all the companies and people who are a part of the industry.

Continue reading The Great Oil Slump of the 2020s – Part 2b, Demand and Technology