Mar 16, 2018

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Happy Friday! And happy birthday to Public Enemy's Flavor Flav, so that pioneering act brings today's intro tune . . .

U.S. says Russia's cyber war targeted the grid

The big story: U.S. officials on Thursday accused Russia of a wide-ranging campaign of cyberattacks that targeted energy infrastructure, citing a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors."

Why it matters: Reuters notes that it's the "first time the United States has publicly accused Moscow of hacking into American energy infrastructure."

"Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors...targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors," the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement.

Threat level: "United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict," the New York Times reports.

The context: The information came alongside a Treasury Department announcement of sanctions against 5 entities and 19 individuals in Russia over meddling during the 2016 U.S. election — as well as for destructive cyberattacks, including the NotPetya malware attack.

On my screen: Aramco IPO, energy tech, pipelines

Aramco IPO: Bloomberg reported Friday that one reason Saudi Arabia has apparently delayed the massive Aramco IPO could be tepid interest from some big U.S. investors.

  • Their piece says Aramco execs and other Saudi officials have held private meetings in recent weeks with large mutual funds and hedge funds, and that investors questioned several aspects of the plan.
  • Of note: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will meet with President Trump at the White House on March 20. Trump is pushing for the international listing of Aramco to occur in the U.S. Other suitors include London and Hong Kong.

FERC and pipelines: The Wall Street Journal unpacks an important tax decision yesterday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that hits some key pipeline companies.

  • "The decision Thursday...to disallow certain income-tax allowances could hasten the demise of many so-called master limited partnerships, which were already on a lengthy losing streak," the WSJ reports.

Climate: Via NPR, "The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government's first responder to floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, has eliminated references to climate change from its strategic planning document for the next four years."

Big picture: BP released a wide-ranging report on how technological development will shape energy production and use in the decades ahead.

  • It looks at how a suite of forces such as advancements in digital tech and battery development will shape the future of renewable power, transport and traditional fossil energy.
  • One takeaway: While there's lots of focus on declining costs of solar, batteries and other low-carbon tech, don't forget that advancements also enable access to more hydrocarbons.
  • BP estimates that evolving technology could increase the recoverable volumes of oil-and-gas by a third over the next three decades.
Report: Utilities are slow to get moving on EVs
Expand chart
Reproduced from the Smart Electric Power Alliance survey of utilities conducted between July and October, 2017; Note: ESVE is electric vehicle supply equipment and V2G is vehicle to grid. Chart: Axios Visuals

The nonprofit Smart Electric Power Alliance is out with a new analysis of utilities that finds the sector is not moving aggressively to prepare for wider adoption of electric vehicles.

Why it matters: Widespread EV adoption will create new demands on the power sector but also provide new opportunities, such as using their batteries to send energy back onto the grid.

The bottom line: The survey of 486 utilities demonstrates that utilities have "generally taken a conservative approach" to EVs despite projections that the vehicles' combined power use will rise by orders of magnitude in coming decades.

Check out the chart above. It shows that of the utilities that do have EV-related programs, most are still in the early stages.

* * *

Speaking of utilities and EVs: This piece in Quartz provides another look at how EVs are a good opportunity for power companies as overall electricity demand has stagnated.

  • They report that 36 companies wrote a letter to Congress this week asking lawmakers to expand the $7,500 consumer credit for buying EVs by lifting the 200,000 vehicles-per-manufacturer cap.
  • GM's CEO is calling for the same thing, but it's an uphill climb.
Getting the newest petro-state its fair share

A new analysis by the consultancy OpenOil concludes that the government of Guyana will see a relatively small share of profits from Exxon-led production from massive oilfields off the country's coast.

  • "Guyana’s first...major oil deal, with ExxonMobil, produces results for the government which are outlier low, an OpenOil financial model reveals. Over the life of the project the government should expect to see from 52% to 54% of profits, compared to well over 60% in a cluster of comparable projects signed in other frontier countries," writes Johnny West, the Berlin-based group's founder.

Why it matters: Guyana is slated to join the ranks of the world's important producers in the coming years. Exxon has announced over a half dozen discoveries — totaling several billion barrels of oil-equivalent — and plans to begin production in 2020, ramping up to 500,000 barrels per day by 2025.

The stakes: "The gap could cost the small South American country billions of dollars, as successful drilling continues apace in the Stabroek field, and recoverable reserves figures climb into the billions of barrels," West writes.

Exxon's response: Spokeswoman Suann Guthrie notes the OpenOil analysis only compares eight countries.

  • She points to a much broader study by Wood Mackenzie about governments' share from oil development, noting it's generally lower in frontier plays because "governments need to incentivize companies to undertake high-risk exploration in the absence of a proven hydrocarbon system."
  • Guyana lies in the middle of that study's range, she says.
Latest in lobbying

A few disclosure filings that surfaced lately...

Puerto Rico: Shell subsidiary Shell NA LNG has brought on the Alpine Group to work on "issues related to Puerto Rico energy, and electricity generation and delivery."

The company Bridge Fuels has tapped Think Policy Consulting for work on electricity grid recovery.

Oil-and-gas: ExxonMobil has tapped Brian Kelly as an outside lobbyist on topics including the ethanol mandate and pipelines. Titan Oil Recovery has brought on Upland Strategies.

Mining: Teck Resources has tapped Cassidy & Associated for work on mining-related legislation, but the filing doesn't specify which bills.

Oil chart of the day
Expand chart
Data: Energy Information Administration; Chart: Axios Visuals

My Axios colleague Amy Harder explains what's behind that chart, noting that America is exporting its oil at a record never before seen in history.

Why it matters: That straight line upward, highlighted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration Wednesday, reflects one of the most dramatic turnarounds of an industry that affects so many corners of the American and global economies, from trade deficits to everyday drivers.

By the numbers:

  • Fueled by fracking and horizontal drilling, America is on track to produce a record 10.7 million barrels of oil per day this year, surpassing its 1970 record of 9.6 million and more than double the production levels of a decade ago.
  • The EIA, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, predicts America is on track to become a net energy exporter in just four years.

One level deeper: The chart shows yearly averages, and we can already expect 2018 to be another record-breaking year, with exports in the 1.5 million barrel-per-day range in recent weeks. Some weekly averages of oil exports in 2017 and this year have already broken the 2 million mark.

Check out Amy's full story here.

Quote of the day and good weekend listens
“It’s like, let’s throw the dog out the window and see if he flies.”
— Former FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff

The context: He's talking about DOE chief Rick Perry's failed effort to have FERC rewrite wholesale power market rules to boost coal and nuclear plant revenues.

  • FERC, including several Trump appointees, rejected the much-criticized plan unanimously. The comment is part of Wellinghoff's wide-ranging chat with Off The Charts, a podcast of the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute.

Speaking of podcasts, here are a few other good weekend listens...

Offshore wind: The very slow-to-develop U.S. industry is finally getting going, with a number of commercial-scale projects planned on the East Coast.

  • This recent episode of More Power to You is an interview about the state of the industry and policy with Liz Burdock, executive director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind.

Renewables: The latest episode of Grid Geeks explores the state of project financing in light of the tax overhaul and new tariffs on solar panels, steel and aluminum.

Climate: On the latest International Monetary Fund podcast, economist Gordon McCord explores how higher temperatures can be a factor behind violent behavior.

Big picture: The latest episode of Chris Nelder's Energy Transition Show features energy expert Eric Gimon answering a range of listener questions. You can listen to a nice chunk of it here, or buy a subscription to access full episodes. (It's worth it by the way.)

Ben GemanAmy Harder