The Changing Face of the Power Sector

Since the discovery by humans that we could harness natural resources to create power, there has been a constant stream of development in this sector. From the earliest cavemen lighting fires to complex technologies that underpin modern power generation, our ingenuity is seemingly boundless. And, this doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon. Scientists are really just getting started when it comes to energy generation and it is truly fascinating to speculate at what might emerge in the near future that will power the world of tomorrow.

 

Here are some of the ways the power sector is expected to change over the next few decades.

 

Electrification

 

There is a huge amount of electrification going on in various sectors of society. Vehicles and heating are two of the main areas where electrification is prominent. However, the rate of early adoption for electric technology is low and the uptake has generally been slow. However, old regulations and legislation are being revised and new infrastructures are being installed with the aim of making electrification more widespread and mainstream.

 

Decentralisation

 

No-one likes the idea of having a central body controlling all of the power. That is why Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have become so popular. There has been a notable shift towards decentralisation in the power sector as more and more individuals are looking at ways to generate their own energy. As the cost of generating solar power has plummeted over recent yeas, this has become one of the most common ways for individuals to create their own power, through the use of photovoltaic panels.

 

Digitalisation

 

As a society we are becoming more and more connected. We can now control our homes through one central remote controller and we can use smart metering to monitor and then reduce our energy usage and expenditure. Automation has also been an important factor in the digitalisation of the energy sector. This has maximised quality and yields whilst keeping energy usage to a minimum. Now, we are seeing the use of drones and other technologies to further enhance the efficiency of the energy sector.

 

The Bid for the Environment

 

The question of how we are going to bring the environment back from the brink of destruction is in the back of everyone’s mind – especially power companies. The public is looking harder than ever at where investment of its money is going and they will no longer tolerate it being poured into fossil fuels. Companies now need to factor the environment into their processes to keep the people happy. Thus, energy companies are looking for the most efficient and least environmentally harmful way to generate energy and this is changing the face of the sector.

 

Changes in Demand

 

We have looked at how the face of the power sector is changing from the supply side, but it is important to also consider the demand aspect. Digital technologies and data analytics are changing the way we consume energy. We can more effectively reduce our consumption on an individual basis. On a corporate level, energy efficiency targets are reducing the amount of energy being consumed by the industry.

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The government shutdown isn’t affecting Wind Generation, oil exploration

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When we think of oil, we don’t tend to quickly turn our thoughts to Venezuela, however, this South American nation’s oil output rivals that of Mexico, Nigeria, and Kuwait. Refineries and importers of oil in the US could see a big hit in their profitability and stability of supply, should sanctions take effect.

Concerns over the political stability of the country, with many foreign leaders weighing in on the subject, have left markets worrying about the price of oil, which has already started to creep up. Supply problems from this OPEC nation would help the cartel achieve its goals of reducing output and raising prices, but political instability is also on the minds of OPEC leaders as they try to calm the markets.

Other factors, too, are pushing oil prices up this week as the trade outlook continues to look bleak with concerns of a global economic slowdown. Politically, the US is poised to impose sanctions on Venezuela which would hit oil markets hardest. A spike in US output has, so far, kept markets in check, however, the question remains if this will continue should demand start to fall.

The government shutdown in the US is also affecting overall demand, domestically, for oil products with money being held from the economy through the salaries of government workers and other private sector businesses affected by the government shutdown.

If that wasn’t enough, China-US relations are still teetering between escalation into a trade-war and de-escalation into a fragile status-quo. Analysts foresee this being a very significant factor for the medium term as far as oil prices are concerned.

Which Countries Have the Most Electric Vehicles?

There is an awful lot resting on the heads of electric vehicles. Scientists and environmental activists alike are banking on this invention to help bring the planet back from the edge of destruction. While Tesla is the name that most people associate with electric vehicles, they are far from the only manufacturer in the game. High-end car makers, such as Jaguar, Porsche, and Audi, have all joined the race to build the best and most affordable electric vehicle on the market.

There are innumerable benefits to using electric vehicles, but the most important is its lack of polluting emissions. The vehicles run on batteries that can be charged up at home or at various charging points dotted around cities. Tesla’s Model 3 electric vehicle is expected to be able to cover 310 miles off a single charge. And, while electric vehicles are not cheap, they are not prohibitively expensive either – and manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to bring the price down and make them more available to the general public.

However, there are some downsides and problems that still need to be tweaked in the electric vehicle world. A charging infrastructure is one of the main concerns. People do not want to risk running out of battery somewhere and not being able to charge up. There is also an air of nervousness among consumers as to being pioneers. Once more people start buying electric vehicles, the market will become saturated much quicker. Nevertheless, early adopters are proving challenging to find.

electricvehicleWith all of that in mind, let’s take a look at which countries are ahead of the game when it comes to electric vehicles.

Norway

Norway has a population of around 5.3 million, so it is very rarely a major player in anything. However, in 2018, almost 50% of all new car sales were electric vehicles. This is a phenomenally large percentage, especially when compared with the USA, where electric vehicles totalled just 2.1 % of new car sales.

China

When it comes to sheer numbers, China is a head and shoulders above anyone else in the game. In 2017 it was calculated that the total number of electric vehicles in the country was around 5.79 million. This accounts for around 30% of all the electric vehicles in the world. Admittedly, China has a lot of people to whom electric vehicles can be sold, but nevertheless this statistic is impressive. China has long been a leader in renewable energy so it will be interesting to see what they do next.

USA

Coming in behind China is the USA, which is home to around 2 million electric vehicles. There is a good chance this number will continue to increase, thanks to tax credits available for the purchase of electric vehicles as part of a government incentive to increase sales.

Japan and Germany

With around 55,000 electric vehicles each, Japan and Germany are playing their part in the campaign to promote electric vehicles. Proportionate to their population, these numbers are promising. We would expect nothing less from such developed and progressive countries.

As you can see, the world of electric vehicles is growing and needs to continue to do so to effect real change.

USA to remain dominant global oil producer in 2019 – IEA

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In the closely watched IEA Oil Market Report, the agency predicts that the USA will reaffirm its position as the world’s leading crude oil producer. OPEC nations together with a number of non-OPEC producers have recently agreed to further reduce output in an effort to maintain oil prices above their recent lows achieved through a pre-Christmas supply glut and weakened demand.

With major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia keeping supply off the market, the US has edged into the top spot in recent months, and it looks as though this will be the case for the rest of 2019. The USA is increasing its production and aiming to reassert itself on the global stage to increase market share. To put the situation into numbers, the US is currently producing at a rate of 11.9 million barrels per day, up over 2 million barrels in recent months.

Demand for oil is growing steadily, however, major economic growth is cooling down which may start to affect the demand side of the market pushing prices even lower should output levels remain unchanged. Consumers are benefiting from the lower prices with reduced fuel costs, however, many companies such as airlines and delivery services are reluctant to pass on any savings to their customers.

NRG Expert does predict that 2019 will be a volatile year for oil prices, but our medium-term outlook remains unchanged that oil will again climb closer to $100 in 3-5 years.

Everything You Need to Know About Geothermal Energy

Believe it or not, we have been using geothermal energy for millennia. That’s right. Before we had cars and planes and central heating, earlier humans were using geothermal energy for cooking and heating. Now, it is time to go back to these simpler times and take a leaf out of our predecessor’s book. It is time for geothermal to make a come back and become a big player in our global energy mix.

 

Geothermal energy is simply energy that is harnessed from the natural heat that comes from the planet. Dig below the surface of the earth and you will find that the temperature gets increasingly hotter until you reach molten rock, known as magma. The thermal energy we want to get our hands on is much closer to the surface than magma and can found by digging less than a mile into the earth’s crust. Eventually we will hit an underground reservoir of hot water and steam and it is from here that we will extract our geothermal energy.

 

How Is Geothermal Energy Extracted?

 

Geothermal energy is a sustainable way to heat our homes and generate electricity and extracting it does very little harm to the environment. First a well is made and then a geothermal heat pump system is used to pump hot water out. The heat is extracted from this hot water and the cool water is then pumped back into the ground. Once it has heated back up again, the process begins again and can go on forever. The constant temperature of the earth makes this one of the most reliable forms of sustainable energy.

 

What Are the Advantages?

 

There are a lot of reasons why geothermal should become a bigger part of our energy mix but here are some of the best. Firstly, the energy can be extracted without the need for burning any fossil fuels. That means you don’t need to worry about carbon emissions being released in the process. Secondly, as mentioned before, geothermal energy is consistent. Unlike wind or solar power, which depend on a windy or sunny day respectively, geothermal energy does not depend on any external factors. Finally, geothermal energy is cheap to produce. Experts estimate that, compared with fossil fuels, direct geothermal energy use can be up to 80% less expensive.

 

Are There Any Negatives?

 

If geothermal energy is so great, why aren’t we all using it all the time? Well, geothermal still has a few environmental side effects. One of the primary concerns over the production of geothermal energy is the release of hydrogen sulphide, a polluting gas that smells like rotten eggs. Not only does this harm the environment, but the unpleasant smell means well cannot be dug near residential areas. Another issue is that while geothermal sites are consistent with the heat they give off, eventually the areas around the wells may cool down. This would mean digging new wells, which uses more energy and money.

 

Widespread use of geothermal energy is very much within the realm of possibilities over the next decade or so. However, there is some fine tuning and problem solving that needs to be done before we can add the sustainable energy into our global energy mix. Until then, let’s just keep an eye on what our scientists are capable of doing.

5 tidal power producing plants around the world

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The tidal flows and ocean currents can produce vast amounts of energy; however, we have very limited means to harness this energy. Despite high efficiency, building the plants and generating electricity has thus far proved being a costly endeavour. Despite this, there have been some commercially successful plants, as well as demonstration and testing plants that provide electricity to our grids. Here is a listing of a few of those plants.

Rance Tidal Power Station, France

Opened in 1966, this was the world’s first tidal power station. At a capacity of 240 MW, it was also the largest tidal power station in operation for 45 years until the Sihwa lake tidal station was commissioned in 2011. Sitting in the estuary of the Rance river, the 24 turbines produce approximately 500GWh per year. With costs fully recovered, the plant is able to produce very inexpensive power and compete with France’s nuclear fleet.

Jiangxia Tidal Power Station, China

Opened in 1980, the Jiangxia Tidal Power Station currently ranks as the fourth largest in the world with an installed capacity of 3.2MW. Taking advantage of an 8.39m maximum tidal range, the plant supplies energy to nearby villages together with an on-site solar generation facility.

Annapolis Royal Generating Station, Canada

The bay of Fundy is known for its great tidal ranges and draws in many tourists to see this unique feature of nature and geography. Harnessing this power has been an engineering dream that was finally realized in 1984 with a 20MW plant. With much more energy potential, it is expected that this area may see a host of other projects come online.

Uldolmok Tidal Power Station, South Korea

This 1MW plant was originally commissioned in 2009, expanded to 1.5MW in 2011, and was built at a cost of US$10 million. Still being built on, the plant’s ultimate design goal is to have 90MW of capacity installed to harness the tidal flows reaching up to 6.5 m/s in the Uldolmok Strait.

Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station

Completed in 2011, this is currently the world’s largest tidal power plant. The tidal barrage boasts an impressive 254MW of capacity. Built in part to better regulate the water behind the seawall in which the plant sits, the plant only harnesses the inflow of tidal water, making it less efficient than other designs or plants, despite its size.

Innovation in the Energy Landscape

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Innovation is everywhere. Information technology has fundamentally changed many aspects of our lives and the energy industry is no exception. Simply, the increased demand for energy to run IT systems has already shown to be a driving force for change and adaptation among market players. For the economy to flourish and thrive, a stable, reliable energy supply is more paramount than ever. So too has the increased demand for energy increased the risk of failure of the system and increased the potential for greater disruption in such events. Innovation of the future will have to address issues of energy shortfall owing to capacity shortages and demand increases.

Shifts in the use of technology are also shaping and guiding the direction of innovation. These shifts can be fostered through regulation and intervention by way of subsidies or tariffs but may also develop organically or in response to a specific need. We continue to see innovation in many areas of the energy industry; none perhaps more prevalent than in the green energy space.

Innovation can be met with resistance, and there will always be varying opinions on where and how to allocate finite resources. Innovation is best fostered when there is wider cooperation and a larger common goal. The desire to reduce carbon outputs and increase the use of green energy has been one of the main driving forces of innovation and it is a great case-study to see the adaptive capabilities of the overall energy markets. One of the next major impacts and innovation spaces will likely be transportation. We are already experiencing a change in the way we transport ourselves and our goods caused in part by rising fuel costs and costs of energy. Electric vehicles and battery technology go hand in hand and innovations in these areas will have cross-sector implications.