Good morning and welcome back. Let's head into the weekend . . .
Late this morning the U.S. International Trade Commission will make a hotly anticipated ruling about whether cheap imports of solar panel equipment from Asia and elsewhere are a major cause of "serious injury" to domestic manufacturers.
Focus shifts to Trump administration: If the ITC rules in favor of the financially distressed petitioners Suniva and SolarWorld, the White House will decide in coming months whether and how severely to impose import penalties to protect the struggling domestic panel industry.
Pro-tariffs: "President Trump can remedy the industry's injury with relief that ensures U.S. energy dominance that includes a healthy U.S. solar ecosystem and prevents China and its proxies from owning the sun," Suniva said in a statement.
Anti-tariffs: The wider solar sector, including the Solar Energy Industries Association, has urged the ITC to reject the petition, warning that new tariffs and price floors would cause project costs to soar, badly hindering solar energy's growth in the U.S. and the jobs that come with it.
What we're hearing: The industry and its allies are preparing to ramp up their efforts to make their anti-tariff case to White House officials if the decision lands in Trump's lap.
"The imposition of tariffs would...likely affect the pace of decarbonization in the U.S. by delaying investments in solar generation and, in turn, extending the life of some coal plants," Moody's said in a note.
Ministers from OPEC nations and allied producers are meeting in Vienna today to take stock of the production-limiting deal that's aimed at taming the glut of crude oil in global markets.
One big question: Observers of the committee meeting will be looking for hints of whether the deal will eventually be extended beyond the first quarter of next year, when it's currently scheduled to sunset.
Where it stands: There has been progress cutting excess supplies, mainly due to compliance with the deal by the cartel and its allies, combined with strong global oil demand growth and the currently modest pace of U.S. production increases, Goldman Sachs points out in a note Friday.
Yes, but: Despite the progress, another WSJ piece this morning delves into one of the big challenges facing OPEC, Russia, and other countries seeking to tighten the market. OPEC, they note, is "scrambling to contain output from its strife-torn members Libya and Nigeria, where surging production could threaten to derail the oil cartel's efforts to withhold crude supply and raise its price."
Also in play: One issue they're discussing is whether stepped-up tracking of producers' crude oil export levels is needed. Via Reuters: "OPEC officials have said exports have become a key metric tracked by the market because they have a more direct impact on the international supply than production."
Be smart: Platts OPEC reporter Herman Wang has a front row seat to the action. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters yesterday that the Trump administration hasn't ruled out blocking crude oil shipments from Venezuela. "It's not off the table, I can tell you that," she said.
A new Deloitte report scans the horizon of green power purchase deals among companies and concludes that "corporate procurement now rivals policy as a driver of growth in the sector."
A few takeaways:
Why it matters: Corporate decisions on low-carbon energy are poised to take on an increasingly important role at a time when the Trump administration is rethinking or backing off policies that can help speed commercial deployment.
Apple's latest moves: The tech behemoth yesterday announced the latest steps in its efforts to bolster renewables at its facilities worldwide and in its massive supply chain. Apple said that its facilities in Japan are now supplied by 100% renewable energy, and the worldwide total is 96%.
Fracking: The Hill reports that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed litigation over an Obama-era Interior Department regulation of hydraulic fracturing on public lands, ruling that the lawsuit is unnecessary because the Trump administration is working to repeal the rule.
White House huddle: Via Politico, "Trump administration officials huddled at the White House on Wednesday in a bid to chart a more cohesive energy and environmental policy strategy, including a game plan for communicating its position on climate change."
Efficiency: The Rocky Mountain Institute released a series of podcasts related to the annual Climate Week NYC. RMI's Iain Campbell has some useful comments about buildings and energy in this one, including:
Behind the scenes: Let's send another moment with a good podcast I flagged yesterday, the latest episode of Grid Geeks. I didn't mention that one key author of the high-profile DOE grid report, the energy consultant Alison Silverstein, dishes a little starting at 29 minutes in.
Takeaways . . .
No interference: Silverstein bats aside the idea that higher-ups at DOE sought to bend the analysis and research toward a pre-ordained conclusion or outcome. The report ultimately placed less blame for baseload plant retirements on pro-renewables policies and environmental regs than some had feared.
"DOE management had a lot of warning about where the facts were going, but no one ever tried to interfere, no one ever tried to deny the facts, no one tried to tell me what to write," she said.
Yes, but: Silverstein gently critiques how DOE summarized the findings of the lengthy and detailed analysis she helped craft of what's driving power plant retirements, noting that they downplayed a couple of factors, including:
As for environmental regulations and subsidized renewables, "both of those causes came late to the party."