Essays, Blogs, and Stories

This opinion article offers insights into the geopolitics of the ongoing global energy transition. In doing so, it draws heavily on a workshop in Berlin in late 2018, and a subsequent paper in the journal Nature. Four scenarios are presented. By comparing and contrasting the different scenarios, the article highlights the potential winners and losers of the different scenarios, and the geopolitical consequences. It also sketches the implications for policy, theory, and scenario thinking more broadly. November 3, 2019.

The risk of wildfires in California prompted what may be the largest deliberate power cut in U.S. history. The growing frequency of such precautions could incentivize residential and commercial customers to turn to on-site power generation.  Such a shift could mean a boon for solar energy systems, but also a comeback for gas-powered generators in areas bearing the brunt of extreme dry weather exacerbated by climate change. October 29, 2019.

Payne Fellows argue that due to aerospace innovations like usable rocketry and growing international space participation, the global space sector is on the verge of a renaissance. Proposed NewSpace activities, like space tourism, space mining, or orbital manufacturing, seem to come straight from science fiction but could now arrive within a decade. However, the space technology with the biggest potential may be one that benefits all of humanity: production of solar power in outer space for use on Earth. October 21, 2019.

SAVING LIVES AND GENERATING ENERGY FROM NATURAL GAS IN RWANDA’S LAKE KIVU

Payne Scholar Jusse Hirwa travels to Rwanda and reports on Saving Lives and Generating Energy from Natural Gas in Rwanda’s Lake Kivu. There are two problems, and one solution: an eruption can be prevented by extracting the gas, discarding the CO2, and using the methane gas — thus, turning a potential disaster into a tangible benefit. September 30, 2019.

EPA’S RELAXED METHANE REGULATIONS COULD COST NEW ENERGY JOBS

The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to roll back regulations on methane emissions not only poses environmental risks, but also jeopardizes new leak-detection technologies that could create high-paying jobs nationwide.  September 13, 2019.

URBAN ELECTRIFICATION: KNOWLEDGE PATHWAY TOWARD AN INTEGRATED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AGENDA

This paper outlines a vision for advancing a research and development (R&D) agenda to thoroughly examine the characteristics and relationships among urbanization, electrification, and cities, including the imperative of shifting renewable sources for electricity. It uses a systems approach to trace current knowledge and identifies knowledge gaps on diverse and not yet connected elements of this emerging field, while calling for a more active collaboration among engineering, and physical and social sciences in the development of an integrated R&D agenda. August 22, 2019.

ENERGY TRANSITIONS AND LOCAL ACTION: THE CASE OF COLORADO’S COAL TRANSITION

The energy transition is underway. While this transition is occurring across many dimensions of the energy value chain having a dynamic impact on consumers and producers alike, it is often simply described as a move to a cleaner, low- or zero-carbon system. The contours of the pathway remain unclear, but certain aspects are already visible. The dramatic rise in solar and wind power generation in electricity systems and the rise of electric vehicles are occurring in multiple economies across the globe as is an increased focus on energy efficiency. August 21, 2019.

GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSPORT SECURITY

 A series of attacks and detentions for oil cargo ships this year have made the Strait of Hormuz a geopolitical hotspot once again, harkening back 35 years to the so-called “tanker wars,” part of the Iran-Iraq War. And while Hormuz’s role as the world’s primary most important oil transit route has not changed, much else about the energy security landscape has – especially growth in liquefied natural gas markets. The concerns around disruptions to oil markets are now salient for natural gas markets as well. August 20, 2019.

ELECTRICITY AS COERCION: IS THERE A RISK OF STRATEGIC DENIAL OF SERVICE?

Increasing the interconnection of electricity systems both within and between countries has much promise to help support clean energy power systems of the future. If the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing in one place, an electricity grid with high voltage transmission lines can move electricity to where it is needed. This shared infrastructure and increased trade can possibly serve as a basis for peace between neighbors in conflict, but it may also serve as a tool of coercion if the electricity can be cut off by one party. August 20, 2019.

GUSHING MONEY, STAYING GREEN

Guyana has struck oil but intends to stick to its low-carbon path, even if it is a oil hotspot. August 1, 2019.

THE UNITED STATES’ GAS FLARE-UP: WHY AN ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC PROBLEM THAT WAS ON THE DECLINE IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE

When companies drill for oil, the process can also release natural gas (primarily composed of methane) as a byproduct, called associated gas. For safety reasons and to release pressure in the system, the associated gas needs to be removed. Typically, this has been done by venting (releasing) or flaring (burning) the gas. Of the two, flaring is preferable, since it converts methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas to carbon dioxide, a less powerful one. But natural gas flares are still wasteful and environmentally harmful.  July 28, 2019.

ESSAY ON THE ROLE OF NATIONAL OIL COMPANIES IN THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Payne Institute initiative on the Future of Oil and Gas partnered with Natural Resource Governance Institute on an essay on the role of National Oil Companies in the energy transition in Foreign Policy – the Global Magazine.  June 5, 2019.

ENERGY AND THE MILITARY: LEADING BY EXAMPLE

The world is on the cusp of energy transition, and the military innovates with energy efficiency, technology and renewables.  May 21, 2019.

FOUR META-CHALLENGES TO POWER SECTOR REFORM IN SUB-SAHARAN MARKETS

Sub-Saharan African countries urgently need more electricity services to foster economic growth and job creation. While plugging the energy gap is not sufficient to address all the region’s economic woes, it is a fundamental building block to the wider aspirations of these societies. Still, reforming power sector regulations and governance across the region continues to be fraught with problems. May 17, 2019.

POWER-TO-X IN GERMAN EXPERIENCE: ANOTHER IN THE LIST OF GROWING ENERGY TRANSITION STRATEGIES

Winds of change continue to blow across the global energy landscape as firms, the general public, and policymakers shift strategic directions to address goals of environmental sustainability that also recognize economic priorities. May 8, 2019.

WE NEED A SPACE RESOURCES INSTITUTE

The moon and other bodies will ultimately be exploited; it’s crucial to do so in a thoughtful and organized way. April 19, 2019.

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON POWER SYSTEMS

Climate change threatens all industries with storms, wildfires, droughts, heat waves and rising seas, and the energy industry has no special standing. “Together, these risks can lead to power outages, increased electricity prices and increased maintenance, and capital costs – along with damaging economic, environmental, and public health consequences,” explain Debabrata Chattopadhyay, Morgan Bazilian and Mohar Chattopadhyay. “Growing evidence now suggests the entire energy supply chain, particularly power generation transmission and distribution, is vulnerable to climate change and disaster events. February 5, 2019.

REENVISIONING THE ROLE FOR NATURAL GAS IN A CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

To meet climate goals, enormous changes to the world’s energy systems are required. The impacts will no doubt be significant for fossil fuels ranging from coal, to oil, to natural gas. With regard to natural gas, various regional and national pipeline systems represent important and large infrastructures with long life spans. February 1, 2019.

FOR AFRICA, IT’S GRID + OFF-GRID, NOT GRID VS. OFF-GRID

Can Africans increase their access to energy faster and more broadly through an on-grid or an off-grid approach? November 28, 2018.

 

ENERGY’S CHANGING ROLE IN RELIEF AID

With record numbers of forcibly displaced people, international aid agencies aim for an energy efficiency upgrade with renewables. November 20, 2018.

 

Colorado Oil And Gas Development And A Politically-Charged Ballot Proposition

Passing of 112 could set off a chain of tax and expenditure policy discussions rife with political sentiment, not to mention the employment impacts state-wide. October 30, 2018.  

 

THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS BLACK MARKETS

The oil market value is larger than the world’s valuable raw metal markets combined, with an annual production value of USD 1.7 trillion (compared to USD 660 billion for other commodities like gold, iron, copper, aluminum, and zinc). October 9, 2018.

Alex Gilbert and Morgan D. Bazilian explore how the USA can support European energy security. September 26, 2018.

THE PEACE DIVIDENDS OF THE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE – NORTH KOREA, IRAN AND BEYOND

This essay in explores how shared energy infrastructure and markets can serve as a basis for peace building and economic development. August 8, 2018.

SIMPLE PAYBACK – THE DEATH OF MOST COST-EFFECTIVE CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS

How many of you out there reading this article choose your retirement investment options based on the simple payback method? June 19, 2018.

COAL DEMAND, MARKET FORCES, AND US COAL MINE CLOSURES

Declining labor productivity has caused more Appalachian coal mine closures and employment losses than has low natural gas prices or electricity demand. April 4, 2018.

SHELL – YES, THAT SHELL – JUST OUTLINED A RADICAL SCENARIO FOR WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO HALT CLIMATE CHANGE

Morgan Bazilian, executive director of the Payne Institute, contributed to the story written bChris Mooney and Steven Mufson in the Washington Post. March 26, 2018.

HOW MINI-GRIDS CAN POWER DISASTER RECOVERY: NEW ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITARIAN AID

The NGOs and international organizations in charge of the refugee camps rightly prioritize immediate needs—food, water, shelter, medical care—but, just as in Puerto Rico, even the most basic services are reliant on energy. As a result, the sustainable and reliable provision of energy services needs to be at the top of first responders’ list of priorities. November 9, 2017.

 

The Payne Institute experts are regional, national, and international leaders in applied research in natural resources, energy, and the environment. Our team is involved in a wide variety of research projects in these fields, and are committed to sharing these results with academic and professional audiences.

 

DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, or official policies of the Payne Institute or Colorado School of Mines.