Putin/Trump Can’t Stop Renewable Revolution

January 4, 2017

Vladimir Putin may get his preferred US Secretary of State, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, but the laws of economics, and the logic of technological revolutions have not been repealed.
The Universe still is what it is, regardless of how you tweet it.


A record number of oil and gas companies became insolvent last year, according to a new study which environmentalists said highlighted the need for the UK to prepare for the move to a low-carbon economy.

They warned that the loss of jobs in the sector when it becomes clear that fossil fuels can no longer be burned because of the effect on global warming would lead to “desolate communities” unless people were retrained to work in the “new industries of the 21st century”.

The study by accountancy firm Moore Stephens found 16 oil and gas companies went insolvent last year, compared to none at all in 2012.

After oil prices fell from about $120 a barrel to under $50 for most of the past year, smaller firms in the sector were unable to cope, Moore Stephens found.


The oil industry must brace for five energy “tsunamis” that threaten to drag prices as low as $10 a barrel in less than a decade, according to Engie SA’s innovation chief.

The falling cost of solar power and battery storage, rising sales of electric vehicles, increasingly “smart” buildings and cheap hydrogen will all weigh on crude, Thierry Lepercq, head of research, technology and innovation at the French energy company, said in an interview.


“Even if oil demand continues to climb until 2025, its price could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand,” Lepercq said at his office near Paris. Crude last slumped to that level in 1998.

“Solar, battery storage, electrical and hydrogen vehicles, and connected devices are in a ‘J’ curve,” he said. “Hydrogen is the missing link in a 100 percent renewable-energy system, but technological bricks already exist.”

The former French gas monopoly, which is now the world’s largest non-state power producer following a decade of acquisitions, is investing in renewables while selling coal-fired plants and exploration assets to shield itself from commodity-price swings. It plans to spend 1.5 billion euros ($1.57 billion) by 2018 on technologies including grid-scale battery storage, hydrogen output, “mini-grids” that serve small clusters of homes, and smart buildings that link up heating, lighting and IT systems to save energy and cut costs.


Ohio Governor John Kasich is not exactly known as a champion of the environment, but apparently he knows a good deal when he sees one. The Republican governor made his conservative supporters hopping mad last week when he vetoed a bill that would have undercut Ohio’s goals for renewable energy. Adding insult to injury, Governor Kasich went out of his way to explain the importance of renewables to the state’s economy.

Justin Gillis in the New York Times:

So consider what happened in the middle of December, after investors had had a month to absorb the implications of Mr. Trump’s victory. The federal government opened bidding on a tract of the ocean floor off New York State as a potential site for a huge wind farm.

Up, up and away soared the offers — interest from the bidders was so fevered that the auction went through 33 rounds and spilled over to a second day. In the end, the winning bidder offered the federal Treasury $42 million, more than twice what the government got in August for oil leases — oil leases — in the Gulf of Mexico.

Who won the bid? None other than Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, which is in the midst of a major campaign to turn itself into a big player in renewable energy.

We do not know for sure that the New York wind farm will get built, but we do know this: The energy transition is real, and Mr. Trump is not going to stop it.

On a global scale, more than half the investment in new electricity generation is going into renewable energy. That is more than $300 billion a year, a sign of how powerful the momentum has become.

Wind power is booming in the United States, with the industry adding manufacturing jobs in the reddest states. When Mr. Trump’s appointees examine the facts, they will learn that wind-farm technician is projected to be the fastest-growing occupation in America over the next decade.



Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”



20 Responses to “Putin/Trump Can’t Stop Renewable Revolution”

  1. webej Says:

    Not all of these technologies will become winning solutions. Photo-voltaic and wind energy are often complementary, lots of wind from low pressure systems when there is little sunshine, or at night. Passive solar and photo-voltaic are not complementary, although they may eventually find their own niche (utility scale/consumer scale). Battery technology can be complementary to PV or wind, but is unlikely to complement hydrogen vehicles. With vehicles it remains unclear whether the winning cards are for tanking hydrogen, or for chemical conversion/generation, or electrical storage. Everything will depend on the economics implied by future technologies, and is hard to impossible to predict. And that is why we public spending on research should be at the scale of military spending at this stage.
    Smart buildings and using less energy to begin with (insulation, heat exchangers in ventilation, heat storage and use) are obviously permament winners. Unfortunately a lot has been built in the past two generations in which the up front capital costs and the down stream usage costs are often not properly aligned to favor smart investment.

    • andrewfez Says:

      All it would take would be the Feds constructing $500B worth of Li+ storage on the US grid at Musk’s projected $100/kwh, and then there would be an explosion of wind and solar construction; the market would take care of the rest. Adding that much storage would reduce a lot of fossil waste even if there wasn’t any renewable takers reacting to such.

      We’ve already locked in $7T just for the Iraq War and gave $100B to Afghanistan to reconstruct after we leveled the place. They’re fixing to spend another $7T invading Iran. Why not spend that $$ in the US? The $300-500B in health and property damage costs coal pollution causes in the US would be offset, so the program would pay for itself in 1-2 years.

  2. Jim Housman Says:

    Whenever the suggestion appears that hydrogen is part of the transition to renewable energy my cynicism reflex pops up. Where is the renewable energy source that will make hydrogen viable? Currently hydrogen is produced either by steam reforming or electrolysis. Neither are a particulary efficient use of energy, regardless of the source.

  3. Canman Says:

    This is the best post that I’ve seen on electric vehicles lately. The author, Rud Istvan is not one to over-hype new technology:


  4. vierotchka Says:

    Russia offers first ever subsidies for renewable energy

    The world’s largest oil producer plans to develop its renewable energy sector – which currently produces just 0.8% of the country’s power – and has hosted its first clean power auction, with 39 ventures securing subsidies.

    OCTOBER 1, 2013

    Russia has offered its first ever state-backed support for renewable energy, offering subsidies for 39 clean power ventures with a combined capacity of 504 MW.

    Solar power won the day, with 399 MW secured, while the wind power sector won just one-tenth of the 1,100 MW of wind capacity offered in the auction. By contrast, solar developers bid for nearly 1,000 MW, winning 32 projects to be built between 2014 and 2017.

    “The tender has been quite successful for solar energy, showing that the Russian market can attract developers,” the head of the Russian Solar Industry Association, Anton Usachev, told Bloomberg. Because developers are required to use at least 50% of materials sourced from local contractors, the wind power sector may have been reluctant to invest, he believes.

    Solar bidders, on the other hand, were evidently confident in their ability to satisfy local content requirements.

    Russia’s president Vladimir Putin ratified the subsidy program, which is intended to wean the country off its reliance on fossil fuels. As the largest producer of oil in the world, Russia’s renewable energy sector produces just 0.8% of power. By 2020, Putin wants that share to increase to 2.5%.

    More at https://www.pv-magazine.com/2013/10/01/russia-offers-first-ever-subsidies-for-renewable-energy_100012889/

  5. vierotchka Says:

    Russian Resources Start to Flow Into Renewable Energy

    09/29/2015 05:31 pm ET | Updated Sep 29, 2016

    Putin makes his crafty strategies about Syria in public at the United Nations. Back in Russia, he is shrewdly pursuing many of the economic modernization policies initiated by his predecessor, Russia’s third president Dmitry Medvedev (2008-2012). For example, Putin is continuing Russia’s move into renewable energy that began several years earlier as part of Medvedev’s effort to diversify Russia’s economy away from natural resources.


  6. vierotchka Says:

    Putin Strengthening China-Russia Ties for Renewable Energy Development

    The Russian government is embracing Chinese plans to develop solar in the country.

    October 16, 2014


    Etc., etc.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      fossil and renewable development not mutually exclusive.
      Deniers always tell you they favor an “all of the above” strategy.
      What Exxon/Putin/Trump strategy is to slow-walk renewables and maximize profits on fossil holdings over coming 30 years or so.
      Shareholders will be served.
      If the planet burns, so be it.

      • vierotchka Says:

        I think your assessment is mistaken. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies cannot be done overnight, after all, and Putin has on several occasions been clear that he wants to wean away from fossil fuel. Meanwhile, of course he will continue to sell fossil fuels and use it in Russia, until that transition is done.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          If it can’t be done overnight, how long would/should it take?

          More importantly, why do we really have no answer yet to such a basic question? Answer: because no government is truly serious about the issue.

          • vierotchka Says:

            Actually, it appears that there are some eleven governments that are truly serious about this issue:


          • Gingerbaker Says:

            Ok – I stand corrected. A couple of countries have made great strides, especially Nicaragua and Uruguay. But these exceptions prove the rule:

            A transition to 100 RE could be done in a few short years – but virtually no country is trying to do that. It would take a GIGANTIC concerted effort merely to coordinate the construction of hundreds of PV assembly plants to accomplish such a goal.

            It’s simply incredible to me. The world has known about AGW for three decades. And where is the conversation at this point? Billions of words spent arguing with liars and morons, millions of words spent touting for -profit commercial PV. And yet, we still have not even begun to talk about the actual nuts and bolts of fixing the problem through the construction of enough RE.

            How many PV panels would the U.S. need to erect to replace fossil fuels, and how many new PV manufacturing plants would be needed to construct them fast enough to keep AGW to 2C? Why doesn’t every single person know the answer to those questions?

            Answer: because we are still not serious about fixing this problem.

          • andrewfez Says:

            Elon Musk thinks he can make 1,000,000 90kwh batteries per year at around $100/kwh in the GigaFactory by 2020. That’s 90,000,000kwh or 90GWh per year. PJM, an east coast grid (WV, PA, NJ, MD, VA, OH, a few western satellites) that represents about 1/5th the US grid needs about 145GWh Li+ storage to run 90% of the time on renewables (onshore/offshore wind, PV) so theoretically a GigiFactory could put enough storage on this grid in 2 years to do this. My thesis is if the Feds bankroll this at $100/kwh, costing $14.5B, there would be a market driven explosion of wind and solar in response to this. All it would take is 90GW offshore wind and 55GW inland wind and that 145GWh storage to run at 90% renewables. It would save about $80B/yr in health related costs secondary to coal mining and coal pollution that Appalachia incurs per year, so it pays for itself.
            It would involve inland wind undercutting coal in next day bids to PJM, then once those plants were destroyed, building large offshore wind plants, though I really haven’t thought out how penetration would play out.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    Who won the bid? None other than Statoil, the Norwegian oil company, which is in the midst of a major campaign to turn itself into a big player in renewable energy.

    I think Total also owns a large stake in SunPower, the US’s largest manufacture of solar panels. All these solar stocks took a hit this year secondary to a 25% drop in the price of solar and everybody putting razor thin margin bids in for utility scale projects. SunPower is still hanging in there with its rooftop sales (used to hear and see commercials in Los Angeles) and I think Total even gave them a contract to build something for them to help them get through the market being flooded with panels.

    Here I found some info on them:


    Big oil can invest profitably in green energy

    There is historical precedent that big oil can invest profitably in renewable energy. The French major Total (NYSE:TOT) took a majority position in the solar manufacturer SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and has helped provide financing on SunPower’s latest unsubsidized utility projects. Total is a large integrated oil firm, and its profit margin of 4.8% and EBIT margin of 10.8% are thinner than Statoil’s, but Total’s revenue is so large that it has no trouble financing medium size solar plants.

  8. webej Says:

    Policy in the Netherlands calls for electric only new vehicles in 2035 and a ban on fossil-fuel vehicles in 2050. Starting in 2018 they will drop the obligation to run natural gas pipes into new neighbourhoods, followed by a ban in 2025, and phasing out of fossil fuels for home heating by 2050.

    The Dutch parliament adopted a resolution in December to move the date for electric-only new vehicles forward to 2025, as has done Norway, and Germany for 2030, which may lead to an EU-wide policy.

  9. Alec Sevins Says:

    Here we go again with poser environmentalists, eager to obliterate rural ambiance with colossal, noisy machines, and sneer at anyone who doesn’t appreciate the ruined scenery. Like robots, they smugly pigeonhole wind power opponents as “climate change deniers.”

    Did you people ever care about scenery? There are growing footprints besides coal mines and fracking that actually matter. You’re not real environmentalists, just tunnel-visioned electricity zealots who ignore the physics of energy-density and the dependency of these machines on fossil fuels.

    Despite his ignorance on climate change, Trump has correctly identified industrial wind turbines as an ugly non-solution to the problem. They depend on fossil fuels, ruin scenery, kill birds & bats and force people to leave their homes. The fact that Trump is against them is a red herring in the context of their serious environmental impact.

    Objective environmentalists shouldn’t portray the wind industry as a righteous enemy of what Trump stands for and pretend that vast stretches of scenery aren’t being industrialized by huge machines, at odds with the original purpose of environmentalism. Can’t you see that wind power is the same old destruction, rebadged as green? Is it so big that you’re blinded by the sight of it?

    These images show what wind power is actually doing to nature. Don’t fall for industry handouts that portray it as something benign and always far away.

    Below is a better cover for Bill McKibben’s famous book, The End of Nature. He now wants to industrialize nature to “save” it (rather, modern society). One wonders what he and others ever really stood for.

    • vierotchka Says:

      There are helix and other vertical wind turbines that don’t have that effect on birds and bats, you know (or maybe you don’t know). Also, the smaller models of these could and should be placed on top of all buildings and houses so as to supply the electricity used in them. As for landscape and views, global warming will destroy them soon enough through droughts, floods, landslides, etc.

    • vierotchka Says:

      There are helix and other vertical wind turbines that don’t have that effect on birds and bats, you know (or maybe you don’t know). Also, the smaller models of these could and should be placed on top of all buildings and houses so as to supply the electricity used in them. As for landscape and views, global warming will destroy them soon enough through droughts, floods, landslides, etc.

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