Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Big Six On The Run

How renewables are disrupting big energy firms everywhere

The biggest story you’ve never been told An energy revolution is underway across the globe,and the old order is running scared. Big energy firms, once the greatest beneficiaries of liberalised electricity markets, are suddenly seeing their profit margins slump, their very futures imperilled. The traditional privatised utility model that has reigned supreme for twenty-five years is being rapidly undermined. The effects are being felt most
strongly in Germany and the US – but increasingly Britain’s Big Six energy firms are also under threat.
In short, the Big Six are on the run. What’s causing them to take fright is the disruptive power of renewable energy – particularly small-scale renewables owned by lots of people. The reasons for this are actually quite simple, but seldom explained.
The first reason is that the Big Six are facing a growing army of competitors. When the utilities were first privatised in the 1980s, they portrayed themselves as the face of a new popular capitalism.The famous ‘Tell Sid’ adverts of the Thatcher years caught the mood as thousands of people bought up shares in the new energy companies. But as the electricity market developed the number of shareholders and firms dwindled and ossified into the small oligopoly of suppliers that exist today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Nuclear power constitutes the world’s most subsidy-fattened energy industry, yet it faces an increasingly uncertain future. The global nuclear power industry has enjoyed growing state subsidies over the years, even as it generates the most dangerous wastes whose safe disposal saddles future generations.
Despite the fat subsidies, new developments are highlighting the nuclear power industry’s growing travails. For example, France — the “poster child” of atomic power — is rethinking its love affair with nuclear energy. Its parliament voted last month to cut the country’s nuclear-generating capacity by a third by 2025 and focus instead on renewable sources by emulating neighboring countries like Germany and Spain.
As nuclear power becomes increasingly uneconomical at home because of skyrocketing costs, the U.S. and France are aggressively pushing exports, not just to India and China, but also to “nuclear newcomers,” such as the cash-laden oil sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf. Such exports raise new challenges related to freshwater resources, nuclear safety and nuclear-weapons proliferation.
Still, the bulk of the reactors under construction or planned worldwide are in just four countries — China, Russia, South Korea and India.
Six decades after Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, claimed that nuclear energy would become “too cheap to meter,” nuclear power confronts an increasingly uncertain future, largely because of unfavorable economics. The just-released International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2014 report states: “Uncertainties continue to cloud the future for nuclear — government policy, public confidence, financing in liberalized markets, competitiveness versus other sources of generation, and the looming retirement of a large fleet of older plants.”