Jul 1, 2014

Top 7 Energy-Related Takeaways from Risky Business Climate Change Report

Renewable Energy
Climate Change
6 min
On June 26, a bi-partisan group consisting of politicians, investors, and several former Treasury Secretaries released the “Risky Business&rdqu...

On June 26, a bi-partisan group consisting of politicians, investors, and several former Treasury Secretaries released the “Risky Business” report, an economic risk analysis of climate change extrapolations. While the report focuses specifically on the major regions in the U.S., it covers a lot of territory from agriculture, to business, and of course, the energy sector.

Here are the top 7 energy-related takeaways from the report, organized by region.

  1. Sea level rise will threaten energy infrastructure along the Northeastern seaboard. In Northeastern U.S., rising sea levels will directly impact the energy infrastructure currently in place. According to the report, roughly 88 percent of the region’s population resides along the coast and 68 percent of the region’s GDP is generated in these counties. Also, if the U.S. is to continue on the path projected in the report, damages from hurricanes and other coastal disasters can potentially total in the billions. Combine this with increased heat, and you have a perfect storm for a strained and insufficient energy infrastructure.
  2. While the sea level rising is a factor in the Southeast, the biggest problem is the heat. Since several of the major cities in the Southeastern region of the U.S. are coastal, sea level rise will also threaten a large portion of the energy infrastructure. The report makes the startling claim that there is a “1-in-20 chance that more than $346 billion in current Florida property will be underwater by the end of this century, and a 1-in-100 chance that more than $681 billion in property will be below mean sea levels.” They also note that “an additional $240 billion in property will likely be at risk during high tide that is not at risk today.” And while that’s already a major concern, the biggest concern for this region’s energy infrastructure is the projected dramatic increase in temperature. For this region, the report claims “if we continue on our current emissions path, the average Southeast resident will likely experience an additional 17 to 52 extremely hot days per year by mid-century and an additional 48 to 130 days per year by the end of the century.” This, of course, means more energy infrastructure will be needed, though there may not be the land available and current infrastructure may fall victim to rising tides. On top of all of that, the projections show there could be a 3.2 percent decrease in labor across high-risk sectors, of which energy is one.
  3. Current emission trends in the Midwest could lead to deadly combination of heat and humidity. The Midwestern U.S. is dominated by agriculture and the industry would be gravely affected by rising temperatures. The biggest threat, however, is the dangerous combination of heat and unprecedented humidity. If “business as usual” continues with regards to emissions, by 2200, there will be an estimated 30 to 45 days per year where it is unsafe to be outside based on the humid heat stroke index (HHSI). As the report points out, farmers are known for their adaptability and could probably keep the operations stable, though it could potentially mean an exodus from the region to more welcoming climes. Since agriculture is so closely tied to energy—as well as other major industries in the region—its departure from the Midwest would mean big ripple effects to other related sectors.
  4. Effects on will be varied across energy-rich Great Plains region. The largest of the report’s regions, the Great Plains region is defined as stretching from Montana to Texas, encompassing a wide swath of the country in between. However, one thing the states included in this region is their major production of the nation’s energy. The report notes that “Texas and Wyoming alone produce half of U.S. energy (primarily from crude oil and natural gas in Texas and coal in Wyoming), and North Dakota has recently become a major oil and gas producer.” Also, “power generation facilities in the region currently meet about 17% of the nation’s overall electricity needs.” Energy is big business in the Great Plains, and it could soon be extremely strained with demand on track to greatly outpace supply, especially in electricity. The report predicts that in the immediate future (5 to 25 years from now) national power consumption is likely to increase between .8 and 2.2 percent. The Great Plains region is expected to consume far more than that, however, with a projected increase of 8.4 percent for the same time frame. The report suggests that to meet the demands of the region, “construction of up to 95 GW of additional power generation capacity over the next 5 to 25 years, the rough equivalent of 200 average-size coal or natural gas power plants” will be necessary. This will dramatically increase energy costs and shift the whole economy of the region. Construction of new plants may not be an option, though, as many of the region’s coastal facilities could also be directly affected by extreme weather and rising sea levels.
  5. In the Northwest, change will be less dramatic. The report points to the Northwest as an example of how climate change will be felt differently around the nation. In the report’s analysis, they suggest the major impact will be felt on the region’s forests, with temperature increases leading to a higher risk of wildfires. Sea level rise will also be more varied here than the rest of the regions because of the Alaskan glaciers. Near future predictions show a sea level decrease, while projections a hundred years out show a potential increase. The energy sector here is stable, and despite increasing temperatures, looks as if it will stay that way. Still, the ripple effects of potentially wildfire danger could be felt.
  6. The Southwest’s biggest problem is drought, and rising sea levels and increased heat aren’t helping. As the report notes, this region includes California, which automatically lumps in a massive coastline. For this region, the biggest concern is drought. Future projections show things only getting worse as water begins to dry up as temperatures increase. Also, sea level rise is another major factor. For the energy sector here, these are major concerns as supply could outpace demand and the ripple effects of the drought will be felt. Air conditioning is heavily reliant on water supply, and if there isn’t any to go around, the problem will only be exacerbated. While this is all certainly troubling, the report notes the region is “ripe for further analysis.”
  7. Alaska and Hawaii’s energy sectors are in difficult positions as climate changes. The report separates Alaska and Hawaii from the rest of the U.S., though they have their own share of potential problems. The report hails Alaska as “ground zero for U.S. climate impacts” as 80 percent of its GDP comes from oil and gas production. As energy demand increases across the U.S., Alaska’s energy sector will be heavily impacted. While Alaska produces much of the nation’s energy, Hawaii imports almost all of theirs. Nearly across the board, energy demand will increase greatly and this means rising energy costs. For Hawaii, this is especially difficult since importing energy is already costly. The state is attempting to invest in renewable sources on the islands, but this is proving difficult as the area needed for these ventures are along coastlines that would suffer greatly from rising sea levels. 

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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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