Energy Transition Highlights From CERAWeek

Energy experts and government representatives met this week in
Houston to discuss the state of the energy industry at IHS
Markit’s annual CERAWeek. The conference has historically been a
convening of thinkers in conventional fossil fuels, but this year
the industry also grappled with a theme that’s gaining more
attention across the sector: the energy transition. 

Greentech Media rounded up the highlights. 

Oil and gas wrestles with emissions reductions

Oil and gas majors are now talking a big game on the energy
transition:
rebranding
,
buying
up clean energy companies and
positioning
to “thrive through” the changes. CERAWeek was
no exception. But right alongside their recognition that the
transition is happening, companies doubled down on commitments to
their core business.

In a
conversation
with CNBC, BP CEO Bob Dudley said the company
expects renewables to play a key role moving forward, “in
combination with natural gas.” The oil major sees a way to make
money in clean energy, but said it’ll balance that with its
traditional markets. 

“There is a business model there, but it’s one of margin
rather than homeruns,” Dudley said.   

This week the company also
announced
it will team with the Environmental Defense Fund on a
three-year effort to identify and develop technologies to curb
methane emissions in oil and gas production. The atmospheric
warming potential of methane is tens of times that of carbon.

That effort got a boost when the U.S. president of Royal Dutch
Shell, Gretchen Watkins, implored
the Environmental Protection Agency to uphold methane
standards. 

Shell also
pledged
this week to reduce emissions of its operations and
product sales by 2 to 3 percent from 2016 to 2021.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Maarten Westelaar, director of
Shell’s Gas & New Energies Division, expanded on the
company’s
ambition
to build the “utility of the future.” Westelaar
said Shell sees electrification as the biggest trend in energy in
the next decade and believes it can grow to become the largest
electricity power company in the world by the early 2030s.

“We are not interested in the power business because we like
what we saw in the last 20 years, we are interested because we
think we like what we see in the next 20 years,” Westelaar said.
Like its peers, Shell sees a future containing renewables alongside
natural gas. 

Onstage at the conference, Eldar Saetre, CEO of Equinor,
recognized
climate change but also said the Norwegian company’s business
will remain the same. 

“We are still proud to produce oil and gas,” he said. 

In its annual sustainability report,
released
Friday, Equinor said it would also continue scaling up
“new energy solutions” to meet growing demand.

Though oil and gas majors say they’re working to lessen their
environmental impact, it’s worth reminding that they’re still on
the member list for the American
Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association that’s
lobbied
against protections like methane regulations. 

Equinor’s Saetre recognized that tension, but ultimately
sidestepped it, in a
conversation
with Axios this week. 

“There are dilemmas with API, but we also feel we can have
different views on specific themes and agree on other themes,”
said Saetre. “As long as we can do that, we find that it’s an
association we can be a part of.” 

Discussing the Green New Deal 

The controversial resolution from Representative Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey was also on the lips of many
CERAWeek attendees. 

Reuters
reports
that BP’s Dudley said the major can only play a part
in developing a cleaner energy system if it also engages with
activists — he referenced the mass-school “climate strike”

walkouts
planned for Friday — and policymakers, like those
behind the Green New Deal.

“We need to demonstrate that we share the common goal of a
low-carbon future and that we are in action toward it,” Dudley
said. 

Energy Secretary Rick Perry also
expressed
interest in a conversation on the plan, but he
cautioned against excluding certain energy sources. 

“If we are going to be serious about the climate we have to be
realistic,” he
said
. “It’s the transition to LNG, it’s using nuclear,
it’s using our renewables in a combined way.”

Mike Sommers, president at API (of which BP America is a member)
went further in his criticism,
calling
the deal “unrealistic.” 

“I think for most of our members, yes, they take it seriously
from a public relations perspective, but you look at what it
actually means, and more than anything, it’s a plan to have a
plan right now,” Sommers told CNBC

Disruption in the car business

The executive chairman of Ford Motors, William Clay Ford Jr.,
recognized
at CERAWeek that “every bit of our business is being
disrupted.” Last year, Ford said it was
moving
away from making sedans and
announced
it would drop $11 billion into developing electric
vehicles.  

For now, car manufacturers like Ford are working to balance
demand for the cars that consumers want now, namely SUVs, and the
electrified vehicles they’ll look for in the future.

To help get there, General Motors (GM)
told
Axios it’s working to increase the charging companies
involved in an already-announced partnership that includes
ChargePoint, newly-Shell-acquired
Greenlots and EVgo. 

At CERAWeek, CEO Mary Barra also said the company would increase
production of the Bolt to meet global demand. GM
announced
a corporate restructuring in November to focus on
SUVs, crossovers and trucks, as well as electric vehicles.

“We are in the midst of a transportation revolution,” Barra
said. “There is more to come, because the Bolt EV is our platform
providing a window into our all-electric and self-driving
future.” 

Resilience, meet Jell-O 

The resilience docket is back, folks. At CERAWeek Perry
said
he’s “thrown a lot of Jell-O at the wall” to try to
find solutions to support coal and nuclear plants, to no avail. The
energy secretary said federal negotiations are ongoing as he
encouraged states to pursue their own plans. 

It’s now been over a year since the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission (FERC) officially
rebuffed
Perry’s efforts on a lifeline for coal and nuclear.
FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee dug into the ongoing resilience
debate at the conference as well,
reports
Utility Dive’s Gavin Bade.

The Chairman noted that it might not be possible to gird the
grid against disruptions from every extreme event, but Chatterjee
suggested transmission investment might help.   

“I believe it is more reasonable for us to consider additional
transmission investments as an insurance policy to help reduce the
size of disruption and enhance the grid’s ability to bounce back,”
he said.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Energy Transition Highlights From CERAWeek