Wholesale Prices Hit New Highs

Gas and commodity prices climb, power follows. Ofgem issues update on its Targeted Charging Review

All power contracts increased last week with commodity prices hitting new multi-year highs. Power for December experienced the biggest gains increasing by 2.9%. Gas and Brent crude oil moved in the same direction, reaching eleven-month to two-year highs! Moving away from wholesale prices, Ofgem released an updated version of their Targeted Charging Review Significant Code Review which assesses new options for how consumers are billed for network charges.


Bloomberg’s Energy Highlights


How should your company position itself for change in the energy industry?

Bloomberg’s invite-only conferences are a useful indicator of the energy industry’s prevailing mood. Last year’s meeting was an optimistic affair which showed how Europe’s enthusiasm for electric vehicles was beginning to register with providers. This year’s get-together was less upbeat, dominated as it was by concerns about shifts in the generating mix, and their implications for the roles of the utility companies. 

Speaker after speaker at Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance conference offered perspectives and solutions, providing plenty for the alert business customer to chew over. A particularly toothsome morsel concerned the cut-throat competition in the renewables sector. Like most industry junkets, these conferences are wide-ranging but generally polite, so it was a shock to hear Irene Rummelhoff of Statoil use her time at the podium to lambast sections of the wind farm industry. 

“The offshore wind industry needs to be careful,” she said. “If they’re not able to build the projects, it will ruin [their] reputation.”



Ms. Rummelhoff was referring to initiatives by Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg and Dong Energy, who upset their peers earlier this year by contracting to deliver cheap wind energy to German consumers *without* the support of green taxes, levies or subsidies. Dong has made similar undertakings in relation to new UK ventures, where it promised prices as low as £57.50/MWhr. 

Compare that with the notoriously steep £92.50 strike price agreed for Hinkley Point output! Whatever is going on?

The reason the EnBW and Dong offers ruffled feathers is that some are skeptical these projects will ever become a reality. Allan Baker of Societe Generale blandly dismissed them as “an option on future capacity.” It was left to Francesco Starace of Italy’s Enel SpA to spell out the kind of gamesmanship in which his competitors were indulging. “You need to have a diversified portfolio, you need to be able to say: No, I don’t like this project, I have another three coming,” he commented. “If you only have one project and that project is everything you need for growth, that is not a good thing.” 

In other words, those particular wind farms may not get built… but try not to let it bother you. They’re still having a positive impact.


Margin: zero

Sig. Starace’s brisk analysis would fit any situation where businesses compete in the absence of decisive technical or financial advantage. But in the context of the London conference, it’s remarkable… because it demonstrates just how thoroughly renewables have entered the mainstream. The same economies of scale which saw solar panels going head-to-head with gas turbines on price-performance ratio are now having a similar impact on wind energy. The cheapest solar and wind contracts may never be realized, but their collective effect is to drive down prices.

“[It’s] the slowest trainwreck in history,” commented Steven Martin of General Electric, in a separate but closely-related discussion. “We’re going to reach some point where the marginal cost of energy is zero.”


All about the base(load)?

Of course, the prospect of a smart grid delivering bountiful free energy is very appealing… provided you *don’t* run a utility company! Mr. Martin and his peers presumably heaved a collective sigh of relief when they realized that the necessary changes to our infrastructure will have to take place in piecemeal fashion, as investment gets diverted from existing forms of generation and distribution.

Indeed, some of Europe’s utilities are likely to enjoy something of a heyday in the immediate future. Bloomberg’s own Jonas Rooze showed why, despite the rapid growth of renewables over the next 15 years, there’ll still be a requirement for fossil fuel ‘despatchables’ like gas turbines. But he also foresaw a breakdown in the prevailing distinction between ‘baseload’ and ‘peaker’ generation. In the near future, local renewables will do the grunt work, with centralized despatchables coming online only when required. That’s a near-inversion of the existing model, and it’s bound to produce winners and losers.

Your business will need new and more flexible energy buying strategies to cope with these conditions… and that’s where we come in. At Planet9 Energy, we help our customers deal with the momentous changes in Europe’s energy markets. Give us a ring to learn more.





Mexico’s cap-and-trade model works with businesses to cut carbon emissions

Mexico has come out on top in the innovation stakes, with a new cap and trade system for dealing with carbon emissions. As a nation that passed the first climate law in the developing world back in 2012, it seems Mexico is becoming somewhat of a poster child for the move away from fossil fuels.


Easing into it

The cap and trade system comes from a rocky start, when subsidies for carbon-based fuels were phased out, and consumers were met with a 20 per cent rise in gasoline prices. Chaos ensued as people staged protests and set fire to vehicles, making it apparent that the shift from carbon-based fuels over to renewables must be a gradual one.

From this, the cap-and-trade system was born. The idea? Companies are provided with permits from regulators allowing them to pollute only a certain amount – their “cap”. The cap typically decreases over time, presenting the company with a choice: stop polluting, or buy permits from other companies – their “trade”.

Business decisions

It is inevitable that some businesses will exceed their cap in the early stages, and will decide to buy additional permits on the stock market. Naturally, this is discouraged and misses the point of the system.

There are great cash flow incentives, too. Companies whose emissions sit below their cap can act as independent business energy suppliers by selling their excess allowance on to other companies. MEXICO2, an organisation that exists within the Mexico Stock Exchange, have also developed sophisticated software to help companies get to grips with the logistics of carbon trading.

More than 80 companies have already signed up to simulate permit trading and the federal government will make participation mandatory for all the country’s biggest emitters by the end of 2018. As a nation with a huge amount of polluting industries, it’s a big step.

Mexico has also set a cooperation agreement with California, which has been trading carbon permits with Canada for a number of years. The North America experience has highlighted that polluters want increased transparency – not only set emissions quantities but also a forecast for permit prices.


Going all in

Mexico is unafraid to set the bar high with their emissions reductions, committing to a 22 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 under the Paris climate agreement. They have also pledged to generate 50 per cent of their energy from clean sources by 2025.

In a country where oil production is major business, you have to tip your hat to their commitment to reduce oil dependence, with major budget cuts in the dominant, state-run petroleum company Pemex.

Major constitutional reforms have allowed for private investment into electricity, including extraction, storage and commercialisation – this offers even greater opportunities for companies to expand their own energy horizons.

Although there’s still a need for major private investment into the energy sector, the cap-and-trade system off to a flourishing start. It also provides a shining example to other countries, of how to work with businesses to tackle the issue of climate change.

electric vehicle

Electric Vehicles are Driving our Future


Rising demand for electric vehicles fuels the renewable revolution

Bob Dylan was right – the times they are a-changin’. Oil has come to a halt on the hard shoulder and electric vehicles have taken its place in the fast lane. Even the world’s biggest oil producers can no longer ignore the impacts of EVs because they are not a passing fad – they are driving towards the future at a rapid pace with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.


Is EV takeover imminent?

Industry bigwigs are adapting their outlook as forecasts paint renewables in a very positive light. OPEC has quintupled its forecast for sales of plug-in EVs and predictions suggest that the impact will reduce oil demand eight million barrels by 2040. The future of the multi-billions currently invested into fossil fuels hangs precariously in the balance, uncertain of its next steps.

As EV popularity continues to grow, it is settling firmly into place in the global auto fleet. Automakers, oil companies, and electric utilities are just some of the areas set to take a hit with the toppling demand for oil. Indeed, the length of time that experts believe EV adoption will take is rapidly decreasing. Demand is high and the change is now.


New EV models set a fast industry pace

Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that EVs will outsell gasoline and diesel models by 2040 to make up a third of the global car fleet. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has increased it’s 2040 EV fleet prediction from 46 million to 266 million – the original predictions were made just 12 months ago. BP has also increased their outlook by 40 per cent to predict 100 million EVs on the road by 2035. There is certainly a theme here and it’s not looking good for oil.

While progress to date has been fairly steady, EVs are now picking up the pace like nobody’s business. Government policy decisions on air pollution and the cost of lithium-ion batteries are just two of several factors that may impact the development and long-term growth of EVs.

However, most major carmakers including Elon Musk’s formidable Tesla are bringing new EV models to market in their droves. Volvo AB are predicting an electric motor for every car in their fleet by 2019. These combined efforts will likely lead to impressive EV market acceleration and current reports suggest that oil demand in Asia may take a hit as soon as 2018.


Wave Goodbye to Oil

But it’s not only the auto industry that looks set to displace oil in favour of renewables. Solar power is fast overtaking oil in terms of employment opportunities – in fact, in the US the solar industry employs more people than the oil, coal and gas industries combined.

This tallies with an increased demand for solar with both businesses and consumers choosing options such as solar panels alongside their fuel-efficient vehicles to do their bit for our smart energy future. Efficient energy management is now very much in the public conscience and people are taking action.

Wind power is another key player in energy efficiency while smart grids are slowly phasing out fossil fuel-focused alternatives. We’d like to refer here to renowned energy academic and Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm – a Planet9 favourite and one of the biggest voices in the “oil is out” argument.

In an earlier blog, Time to say goodbye, Planet9 talked about his views that the oil industry burnout is irrevocable and imminent – that the renewable energy revolution is here, and fossil fuels are out. As a highly respected industry expert, Helm is not one to make bold statements without the evidence to back it up. As the advent of EVs and the displacement of oil just continues to rise, we can only say that he has been proved right once again. And we’re very happy about it, too.




Last Tango in Paris

The impact of Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement


Donald Trump has certainly not held back on fulfilling his campaign promises and his decision for the US to leave the Paris Agreement is just the latest in a string of controversial moves. With all the fake news and media outcry surrounding this decision, we decided it was high time to set the record straight and separate facts from fiction.


It’s Not Yet Time to Go

While it is fairly disheartening to see one of the world’s superpowers and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases back out of the global effort to prevent climate disaster and power sustainably towards a smart energy future, perhaps all is not lost. A key fact is that it’s not all quite as scaremongering as the media would like us to think. No nation is permitted to leave the agreement until three years after it was enforced.

That means Trump cannot even hand in his notice until November 2019, by which time there may well have been some significant peaks and troughs on Trump roller coaster. It’s also worth noting that a country is permitted to leave the agreement one year after it lodges its formal letter of intent, which would mean the US leaving the day after the 2020 Presidential election. If a pro-Paris candidate is nominated in his place, then the nation will never have left at all.

Of course, Trump is known for being rash. He could just go for a unilateral pull out without any regard for procedure but this may mean future Presidents in favour of the agreement will argue this decision was invalid and reverse it.  He may argue that the Agreement needs to be ratified by the Senate, and go down that route but there have not been any clear indications of this route thus far.

An Irrational Decision

The key question here is why does Trump really want to leave? Well, he believes that the US deserves a fairer deal and one that puts them first. He thinks that the agreement disadvantages the US to the benefit of other countries, allegedly resulting in increased costs for taxpayers, job losses and factory closures.

He also believes the agreement “endangers America’s capacity for self-government” but the US has strong global muscles to flex and this argument could be applied just as much to any other agreement. Another of his arguments takes a similar narcissistic route in that the US cannot pursue their growth energy agenda as the agreement makes fossil fuels more expensive. While this is obviously a bid to protect domestic US coal production, it’s also misinformation. The agreement is designed to increase energy efficiency by making all forms of energy cheaper with the creation of a thriving global market.

Making Up the Shortfall

But nothing is set in stone. Trump has already stated that he is prepared to renegotiate going back in on the agreement if there are “terms more favourable to the United States.” But exactly what he wants to discuss is anyone’s guess.

He has not made any clear objections to the legally binding clauses. The US has the freedom to set and amend their own emission targets. Trump has also announced that he will not make any remaining payments towards the nationally determined contribution and green climate fund as it “costs the US a vast fortune”. Therefore, the US has no more set contributions that he must honour.

At this point, we would like to thank Barack Obama for his foresight. The former President transferred $500 million to the Green Climate Fund before leaving office. This is as a final instalment of the $3 billion total pledge from the US to help the poorer nations clean up their economies and protect against climate change.

It’s also worth noting that while Trump has not provided any details on how and when the US will leave the agreement, he has also failed to acknowledge that the Paris Agreement legally “cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party.” It’s almost like sitting in the boardroom ready for a fight when no one else even plans to show up. 

A Strong Road to Clean Energy

So, there is a lack of procedure, a lack of clarity and a lack of any certainty about the how and why of the US plans to leave the agreement. With the current US emission reductions pledge counting for 20% of 2030 targets, their departure means that other nations will have to make up the shortfalls in emissions cuts. This may lead other countries to abandon the agreement altogether but this is looking at the situation at its most drastic.

But we do know that if the US departure takes place, it will not cause too much of a stumbling block in the fight against climate change. Cities, corporations and investors have all been making a steady transition towards a cleaner economy for many years and renewable’s are now a great contender against fossil fuels. The transition will continue and the main impact will actually be felt in the US itself where diplomatic influence may well take a hit. What’s more, many US businesses will likely choose to remain on track to fulfill their own emissions targets and personal pledge towards a cleaner energy management system.

Trump may have the loudest voice in the US but he certainly does not speak for everyone. Surveys show that the majority in nearly every state support staying in the Agreement and that nearly twice as many Trump supporters back the agreement as oppose it. Even major oil and coal companies in the US have spoken out to support the agreement. The world and the Paris Agreement will rein on – and it simply remains to be seen which way Trump chooses to go.


The Road Not Taken

Denmark just passed a smart energy milestone. Is the UK following?

It’s an ill wind, as they say. Recent stormy weather helped boost wind generation at sites across Europe. Denmark’s offshore farms reported a particularly good month, culminating in a 97GWh bonanza on February 22 when the electricity suppliers’ collective output exceeded the country’s total power requirement. Way to go!

When wind power advocates seek to persuade other European nations to follow Denmark’s example, they usually begin with an acknowledgment that the Danish project has benefitted from two important advantages. The country has a long exposed coastline with shallow offshore waters that are ideal for windfarming, and can boast a tradition of excellence in windmill engineering that is traceable to the 19th century polymath Poul la Cour.

While these considerations are undeniably important, we should also take into account other, more prosaic factors. For a clue as to what those might be, look to a rosy pronouncement on Denmark’s February milestone from Europe’s wind lobby. “It demonstrates … that renewables can truly be a solution to Europe’s needs,” said WindEurope spokesman Oliver Joy, going on to list less viscerally impressive results from other community members including Germany, Portugal… and, as we’ll see later, the UK.

Mr. Joy’s choice of examples is telling. Denmark’s consumers have long been accustomed to paying the highest electricity prices in the EU. Germany is a close runner-up, and Portugal, too, is ‘top five’. To put those rankings into perspective: Danish and German households pay around three times as much for their power as the bottom-of-the-table Bulgarians.

Blowing hot and cold

It’s dangerous to rely on generalizations, but we might suggest a correlation between high energy prices and a particular species of government high-mindedness. Thus, Germany’s painful energy bills are symptomatic of its struggles with a serious carbon addiction. The Danish case is similar, but more complex.

The Danish government has steadily pursued a renewables-heavy power mix since the early 1980s, spurred on both by green visions of self-sufficiency and anti-nuke sentiments. The February milestone was no flash in the pan. The country already generates around 45 percent of its electricity from the wind, and looks set to increase that proportion to 50 percent by 2020.

However, those impressive statistics came at a price. The Danish wind energy renaissance was built on the country’s Public Service Obligation (the clue is in the name). The PSO was a longstanding 11 percent government surcharge on energy bills. Until the levy was finally quashed by the European Commission in 2014, PSO revenues were used solely to finance green initiatives. The single largest beneficiary of this massive windfall was DONG Energy, formerly Dansk Olie og Naturgas, which used PSO income to fund its diversification from fossil fuels into renewables.

Viewed in these terms, the Danish outfit starts to bear an odd resemblance to France’s EDF. Both companies built their particular expertise — in wind and nuclear energy respectively — on decades of public subsidy. And both remain firmly under the control of their national governments.

Such musings return us to the last of Mr. Joy’s success stories, that of the UK. Do we belong among such exalted company? You might be surprised to learn that the UK surpassed Denmark in wind generation nearly a decade ago, and that we’ve since managed to build up the largest offshore generating capacity in the world… without government-sponsored price gouging.

Of course, our commitment to private enterprise also means that, unlike Denmark and France, Britain doesn’t actually own those resources. If the government has kept quiet about our wind power successes, perhaps it doesn’t want to dwell on the way that the UK’s liberalized energy regime benefits the state-controlled enterprises of other EU nations? Here at Planet 9, we keep a close eye on the energy markets of the UK and Europe, and we help our customers to benefit from what we see. Give us a ring to learn more.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

For smart energy to become part of the mainstream, it is essential to look at the issue on a global scale. As the first few weeks of the Trump administration have shown us, the world can be far too easily divided. While we know never to discuss politics or religion at the dinner table, climate change is an issue that can no longer be ignored. As UK PM Theresa May sat down last week with Donald Trump, their dinner was certainly accompanied by a side of clean energy and climate change chat.

So what exactly is going on and how do US-UK relations impact on the journey towards smart energy?

Let’s first take a look at the background. Prior to her meeting with Trump, May was being pressed by MPs and the Environmental Audit Committee to challenge the President on his climate change position. Over 100 UK climate experts also wrote to the UK PM in January about their fears that Trump’s threatened cuts to US climate science would leave the world “flying blind” in the fight against climate change.

It’s no secret that Trump is scornful of the climate change issue and has appointed key members to his constituency that defy its very existence. Mysteriously, the Climate Change page on the White House website vanished shortly after his inauguration. Shortly after, it was replaced content detailing his fossil fuel-based energy policy.

Trump has also threatened to remove the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement and its collective energy efficiency targets. This is all despite the fact that the US is the second largest global emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and their decisions would have a huge ripple effect.

He’s not all bark and no bite either. The President has unveiled a whole set of new energy policies which will reverse much of the progress made under Barack Obama. He supports both shale and clean coal, and has already been under fire for pressing forward with extremely controversial plans to construct oil pipelines at Dakota Access and Keystone XL.

It is clear that the US under Trump is making foreboding moves away from global climate change targets and deals.

In a speech to the Republican Party on her US visit, May clearly stated the need for the UK and US to stand side by side as partners in the efforts to combat climate change. She detailed “the need to rebuild confidence in multinational institutions like the UN and NATO that encourage international co-operation and partnership.”

She also emphasised how many of the most pressing global threats – terrorism, climate change – have no respect for national borders and that is essential to involve multinational institutions if we wish to make progress.

There has been some positive movement. At the press conference between Trump and May, the latter said that Trump was 100% behind NATO – a statement that the President did not deny. If this promise follows through, it is a major source of collaboration and relief. However, the President still seems far too focused on advancing America’s interests alone with an energy management system rooted in archaic, climate-damaging policies. He seems to care little for his partner nations and the impact of the US decisions on the world at large.

Further events this week have proved even more disturbing as Myron Ebell visited May at 10 Downing Street. Trump’s former adviser has been outspoken with his sceptical stance on climate change, and fully supportive in Trump following through his promise to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. While the details of the Ebell-May meeting have not been divulged, the former told reporters after the meeting that the environmental movement was “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”.

Thankfully, his influence is less prominent than those far closer to Trump, such as Rex Tillerson, his nominee for secretary of state. Tillerson has acknowledged the risk of climate change and has spoken about maintaining an international dialogue on the issue. Trump himself has ever so slightly backtracked, too, from calling climate change a hoax to admitting that there is a link between human activity and global warming.

While it is such very early days in the Trump administration, the impact of US decisions on climate change are yet to be seen and it’s the small victories that should be acknowledged. Here at Planet9, we stay abreast of the changes that could affect our energy future. To learn more, just give us a call!

Is Your Business Smart Enough?

Running a company is no mean feat, and most CEOs are maxing out every potential opportunity to cut costs. Ensuring that your company has a smart energy policy and energy-buying strategy is one of the most impactful techniques to increase efficiency. So why do businesses still treat it as nothing more than a cost line item?

Energy is a complex topic. Yet there are simple, highly effective ways that companies can measure energy consumption, cut their energy bills and shift workplace mindset towards a more sustainable and pro-active approach. Take Cisco Systems as an example. They deployed 1500 energy and temperature sensors on their equipment to measure performance data. The results? Energy usage was cut by a third and the company is saving up to $1 million annually.

While workplace costs such as paper and ink are often closely monitored, many companies are unaware that energy should be automatically included in the cost calculator. We must start thinking about energy at every level and understand how we use it. Taking a cross-company approach and integrating energy accountability into core operations is the first step.

Why not look to the big guns for inspiration? Google, Apple and Facebook are just some of the huge global brands that have integrated energy into their variable costs calculator. They know that sophisticated energy systems drive innovation and keep them up to speed with the latest megatrends, including climate change, new and emerging energy technologies and the rapid evolution of the energy markets.

Before creating and executing your energy strategy, it is essential to understand how energy affects every aspect of your business, even in ways you may not expect. A sustainable commitment is also important for talent acquisition and increasingly factors into how both customers and investors view your company and brand. A brand with a low carbon footprint and a clean energy attitude will always appear resilient in the face of change.

That’s why energy should be top of the agenda for every single business, regardless of size. It offers a key strategic advantage, impacts on overall performance, offers huge opportunities for cost savings and positive CSR and brand affinity.

Consider your energy roadmap as pro-active not reactive to create business value in the short-, medium- and long-term. When designing your strategy, consider your competitors and always work to create opportunity and identify performance drivers. So now we know what needs to be done, let’s take a look at how to implement best energy practice into your company.

Consider the range of renewable energy. With the markets developing rapidly, it is now far easier to find cheaper easy-to-integrate renewables. Examine energy intelligence software platforms, as well as how deployment of smart grid and energy storage can help to boost cost structure and increase resilience.

Develop a global, cross-collaborative strategy based on energy data, performance management and best practice. Include C-suite and cross-functional accountability and involve all key partners along your value chain for the highest-quality results and a unified approach.

Consider energy as a keystone metric, i.e. a key indicator of business success. Integrate it into your risk management and financial strategies. Involve and motivate employees at every level by using energy goals as a driver of operational improvement.

Set realistic energy efficiency and carbon goals, and create a timeline with key targets. Don’t overestimate your performance ability but do be ambitious. Ensure all energy management goals have a solid scientific basis and are not just boxes to tick off. Consider all energy consumption and procurement activities to best manage overall costs.

Consistently track energy data. Conduct data tracking at every level of your organisation using sophisticated tools, metrics and customised technologies to identify how energy impacts on business performance, cost and operational excellence.

Use the best quality energy management system to identify opportunity and break down barriers. This means advanced financing mechanisms that consider all project options and energy signature data to keep the process in line with the most effective energy related initiatives. Where applicable, consider Power Purchasing Agreements, advanced energy storage, control and generation.

Talk about it. It’s not just crucial to track data and identify gaps; it’s also crucial to track your success. Use energy as a way to engage and network with key policy makers and industry figures, and make the most of development opportunities. Establish a logical reporting infrastructure where targets are tracked in line with current regulations, both company- and nation-wide.

For the tips and tools your business needs to achieve optimal energy management, and to get a fresh perspective on energy, just pick up the phone and give Planet9 Energy a call today.

Fully Charged

Oh, the humble battery. Gone are the days when it was simply used to charge our kitchen scales or power up the radio. 2017 is set to see energy management move in leaps and bounds, with battery storage a main player in the smart energy game.

You may be wondering how it all works. With battery storage units being upgraded from household and individual units to commercial scale usage, there is huge potential to roll out renewables across all areas of public life. Nissan and their electrical partners Eaton are set to sign the deal to install a 4MW battery storage unit in the Amsterdam Arena, home ground of world-renowned football club Ajax, during 2017. Using nearly 300 used batteries from Nissan’s electric vehicles (there’s the full circle of renewable life right there!), the unit will supply back-up power, storing solar and wind generation.

There’s also a profit opportunity in the form of grid balancing services provision. While revenue is always an added bonus, this project earns extra sustainability points as the payback period correlates with the peak price value – if peak prices rise with peak energy demand, the payback period will be shorter.

The Dutch aren’t the only ones getting involved in this promising development however. Nissan is already taking pre-orders for their new range of domestic storage devices, which again use both “second-life” vehicle batteries and brand new units. These are planned for implementation in summer 2017, along a similar time scale as large-scale commercial battery storage solutions. Nissan hopes to sell 100,000 domestic battery units by 2020, and acknowledge that the industry is approaching a tipping point with decreasing payback periods very likely thanks to volatile energy prices.

Of course, innovation in the 21st century would be nothing without Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO and Planet9’s favourite poster boy is right at the front of battery storage development. Tesla’s 4.9 million square foot gigafactory kicked off battery production at the start of the New Year, developing lithium-ion cells that will be used in the brand’s car and energy products – namely the Powerwall 2, Powerpack 2 and upcoming Model 3.

The gigafactory – so-called for its planned annual battery production capacity of 35 gigawatt-hours by 2018 – is set to be the biggest building in the world with a unified, optimization energy production process under one very large roof. Producing the cylindrical ‘2170 cell’ battery – designed for optimal performance and lowest cost across all electric vehicles and products – there’s no doubt Tesla will play a major role in the transformative nature of the battery storage industry. Tesla predicts they will reduce the per kilowatt hour (kWh) costs of their battery pack by more than 30 per cent with the lower price of batteries means that they can be rolled out to more and more people, creating a sustainable product and tangible renewable solution. Their target annual production amounts to almost the entire world’s battery production combined!

In turn, Tesla’s cell developments will cut the cost of electric cars and reduce the price of home electricity with domestic battery packs.

The potential impact on the economy is also significant. Gigafactory is being built in parts and is currently only 30% of its final size. Once completed, it will cover 10 million square feet and house humidity-controlled manufacturing units for Panasonic and Tesla’s other partners. This will create around 10,000 new jobs both locally and in the surrounding areas, showing the far-reaching impact of intelligent energy production.

With bigwigs like Tesla and Nissan on board, the transformative power of battery storage in the wider context of energy management is extremely exciting. Consumers will soon be able to enjoy a more transparent energy cost calculator and swerve peak power prices, as well as a whole new relationship between consumers, business energy supply and energy companies. We can’t wait!

To discuss any of the ideas covered here in more detail or for further insights, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Planet9 team today. We can’t promise a direct line to Elon Musk, but we can promise a transparent, informed and positive outlook on our energy future.

What Trumps a Green Future?

The election is over, the results are in and the US population has spoken. On 20 January 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as 48th president of the United States of America.

Love him or hate him, Trump sure knows how to get people talking, and he’s made some radical promises. One of the most prominent issues facing a world with Trump is climate change, and the impact that his decisions will have on our environmental future.

While it’s difficult to tell just which policies Trump will choose – or have the power – to follow through, one thing’s for certain. Unified Republican control of the federal government means some serious changes are going to take place.

So what could happen?

As federal climate policy looks set to become a thing of the past, the new government has said they plan to destroy Obama’s carefully laid Clean Power Plan. It’s not an easy job but it can be done. How? By downgrading or entirely removing the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, and by making the CPP irrelevant in such matters.

Republican rule could also see the US withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement, otherwise known as the deal that Obama claimed as ‘the moment we finally decided to save our planet.’ Withdrawal would mean the US cancelling their pledge to cut emissions 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and stopping any funding into the development of clean energy in poorer nations. This comes hot on the heels of reports that tens of millions of people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to rising sea levels over the coming decades, with the whole of South Asia at risk due to rising temperatures and the melting Himalayan glaciers.

It remains to be seen how the US withdrawal may impact on the clean future mind-set of other nations, but the huge contribution of the US to global emissions levels means that their withdrawal signifies a huge setback in reaching global warming targets.

The Republicans are also planning to attack the EPA at their very core through ‘green drift’.
Green drift agencies including the EPA are responsible for the majority of positive environmental change over the past few decades, thanks to consistent updates of the nation’s green laws to tackle new environmental issues.

The Republicans want to stop this in its tracks using the REINS Act, which effectively removes EPA’s power to create and implement new environmental rules. This would mark a significant shift in power as the Republicans flex their muscles to put a halt on any new environmental regulations. While the Senate blocked REINS a number of times during Obama’s rule, with Trump at the helm it could be passed over into law.

Eminent philosopher Noam Chomsky had some damning words about the situation, saying that the election of Trump will speed up global warming and humanity’s ‘race to disaster’. His fear is based in Trump’s acute rejection of climate change and that he has appointed climate change denier Myron Ebell to oversee his transition team covering the EPA. This appointment reflects another of Trump’s most foreboding decisions – to fill his cabinet with industry executives sympathetic to his anti-environmental cause. With this type of figure acting as the daily decision-makers through his Cabinet, incompetence is set to be rife.

The new Republican government also plan to reduce federal credits dedicated to wind and solar power. Without this vital source of funding, research and support, the development of clean energy including nuclear power, electric cars and batteries may well implode. Trump also plans to increase the use of fossil fuels and coal in particular. As the most carbon-intensive of fuels, he wants to undo restrictions on pollution from coal plants and mining and “conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.” Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal miner, saw shares prices boom by 50% after Trump’s victory despite their filing for bankruptcy before the election.

With the past five years our hottest on record and sea levels rising like never before, the effects of climate change are undeniable. The power of the Senate could potentially stop Trump, but with the Senate 2018 map looking extremely Republican-friendly that is a faint hope. The Republicans also have significant control at state level and with Trump selecting up to four Supreme Court justices of his choosing, the hope of maintaining positive environmental regulations diminishes.

If the Democrats can maintain a strong enough presence in Senate to block Republican environmental legislation then clean energy may still have a chance, but only if the Republican leaders choose against voting to destroy the filibuster process.

Environmental policy under Trump is potentially catastrophic and the Republicans have immense power to amend, freeze or even destroy all the environmental progress the US have made in the past decades. Only time will tell which way it will go. One thing is for certain however, the rest of the world is going to have to pull together like never before when it comes to renewable energy and going green, if we are to stand a change at staving off climate change. Here at Planet9 we believe smart energy consumption is one of the key elements of a cleaner, brighter future. Get in touch if you would like to know more.