Welcome back! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,188 words, 4.5 minutes
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And this weekend will mark 40 years since Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released "Damn the Torpedoes," which provides today's intro tune...
How much research and development big oil companies are putting into cleantech is one of the few concrete metrics to gauge the industry’s varying shifts toward cleaner energy, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Between the lines: Pinning that figure down is tricky. Many companies don’t disclose, and the ones that do lack a uniform definition of clean or low-carbon energy.
The big picture: Just 2 out of 8 of the world’s biggest publicly traded oil companies (ExxonMobil and Total) are spending more on overall R&D today than nearly a decade ago, according to the research firm BloombergNEF.
One level deeper: The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an industry-led coalition of 13 of the world’s biggest oil companies, says in a new report that R&D spending on low-carbon energy rose by 38% in 2018, reaching $1 billion.
That figure represents only 9 companies that disclosed their spending to OGCI, and OGCI does not publicly identify them.
The intrigue: I just spoke with Bill Farris, an associate laboratory director at the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for my recent column on Exxon’s expanding external research funding, including with NREL.
He said NREL works with other oil companies too, albeit with distinct focuses, illustrating their differing approaches.
“Whether it’s biofuels for Exxon or smart grids for Shell or offshore wind for Equinor, we try to make the R&D capabilities available.” — NREL's Farris
What I’m watching: BloombergNEF analyst David Doherty said he expects oil companies' R&D spending on low-carbon energy to rise again this year.
California regulators and the state's governor are not happy — at all — with how PG&E executed its power shut-offs last week aimed at preventing wildfires.
Why it matters: The preemptive shutdowns affected roughly 2 million people and, as we explored here, show how power companies will need to confront risks heightened by climate change.
Driving the news: The California Public Utilities Commission CPUC yesterday ordered PG&E to take a series of "corrective actions."
“Failures in execution, combined with the magnitude of this [Public Safety Power Shut-off] event, created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated,” CPUC president Marybel Batjer said in a letter to the company.
What's next: The wide-ranging letter demands steps aimed at better communications (such as ensuring its website doesn't crash again); faster power restoration after such events; better information sharing with local governments; more transparent decision-making, providing better maps showing the boundaries of outages, and a lot more.
Meanwhile, per The Los Angeles Times...
"Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday urged Pacific Gas & Electric to provide $100 rebates to residential customers affected by last week’s unprecedented power shut-offs, asserting that the company’s communication failures 'put lives at risk.'"
Go deeper: ‘Unacceptable’: State orders PG&E to reform outage program (San Francisco Chronicle)
The VC firm Clean Energy Ventures (CEV) today announced the close of a $110 million funding round aimed at backing a wide-range of climate-friendly energy startups.
Why it matters: Managing director Daniel Goldman tells Axios that the drop-off in clean energy VC a decade ago hit early-stage investing especially hard.
The big picture: The Boston-based fund was initially supposed to be $75 million, but investor interest led to the $110 million closing figure, a company representative said.
What's next: Funding areas of interest "include energy storage, grid connectivity, renewable energy production, clean transportation and the water/energy nexus," the announcement states.
Members of the companies strategic advisory board include former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
A new International Energy Agency analysis finds that governments account for nearly one-fifth of global spending on electric vehicle purchases.
Why it matters: "The ability of governments to stabilise and then reduce their share of total EV spending will be a key test of the sustainability of the EV market in coming years," two analysts write in the Oct. 10 commentary.
"Unless government incentives adjust as the market increases, considerable pressure will be placed on public budgets," they add.
The big picture: Governments accounted for roughly 18% of total EV spending last year — a tally that includes both direct support and tax incentives.
That's roughly the same level as 2017, but the share generally rose between 2012 and 2017 and "could very well rise again in [the] future."
Threat level: They note the EV market is growing at "whirlwind speed" even though they remain a tiny share of overall sales.
"But because it relies on government payments that cannot rise indefinitely, this growth raises risks and uncertainty even as battery costs come down," it states.
The intrigue: Government support is falling in 2 key markets, and the early signs show that it's affecting sales.
Deals: The Houston Chronicle has the latest from the shale patch...
Climate: Via Reuters, "The European Investment Bank, the world’s biggest multilateral lender, has postponed a decision on whether to stop financing fossil fuel projects to November, a senior EIB official said on Tuesday, to work out final details of the move away from coal."
Exports: A new analysis from the consultancy Rystad Energy sees U.S. crude oil exports roughly doubling to 6 million barrels per day by 2022 amid "domestic refineries already maxing out capacity to absorb shale growth."
The point out that there's a "flurry of new pipeline and export terminal infrastructure coming online in the coming years."