Evolving Energy Supplies
As a reader of this journal, you know that you work in the largest energy-consuming sector of the U.S. manufacturing economy. You should also know some of the details and nuances of what this can mean.
For example, the public likes “politically correct” electricity (renewables like solar and wind), but, in actuality, citizens revere their pocketbooks more than what these very expensive and unreliable “green” sources provide. Less than one-fifth of U.S. electricity comes from these sources and only with outrageously expensive financial support to keep the prices down. Don’t get me wrong. Renewable sources are nice, but they are not yet very practical compared to traditional electrical power supplies. Folks working on alternatives other than the feel-good options are hard at it and deserve a look.
Mitsubishi Hitachi, in partnership with Magnum Development, is using an enormous underground Utah salt dome to store hydrogen to be burned as fuel. New hydrogen combustion methodology can improve efficiency from 30% (currently) to 100%. Yet another process in development uses stored ammonia that is then burned with very high efficiency.
In the field of solar photovoltaics, installed global capacity is expected to grow from 495 GW (2019) to 3,142 GW by 2040. The share of this source worldwide grows from 2% today to 11% by 2040 upon completion of an estimated $20 trillion investment. All of this is projected to require $360 billion for renewable plants plus $400 billion for networks and $15 billion for battery storage. What a lot of greenies do not like to hear is that global carbon emissions from the power sector are expected to remain stable through 2040, even though total electricity output on-grid should expand from today’s 225 TWh (terawatt-hour) to over 900 TWh by 2040.
Offshore wind-power generation should expand from today’s installed 23 GW to 345 GW by 2040. This prediction for worldwide use is staggering at 7,200 TWh of annual generation by 2040, or nearly double total current American usage.
What must never be forgotten in all of these predictions is the lack of storage options, which is viewed by most experts as “the inhibitor of renewable-energy growth.” Technology is moving in the right direction as battery storage prices, which were above $1,100 per KWh in 2010, have fallen 87% to $156 per KWh at the start of this year. They are predicted to be below $100 by 2024. To make all of this work the right way, electric utilities are now installing smart grids using the latest in storage and distribution processes for enhanced efficiency.
Here is an overall summary of electric power generation type and domestic capacity (in MW) at the beginning of 2019.
- Coal – 242,786
- Natural gas – 470,237
- Wind – 94,418
- Solar – 51,426
- Nuclear – 100
- Hydro – 80
All the above is interesting but does not address the everyday practicality of getting corporate sales in this ever-changing energy-supply sector. Let’s look at 2020 planned global pipeline construction, which is what your companies make and is more of your focus. Here is a list of total planned miles of new pipeline construction worldwide.
- North America – 24,092
- Africa – 12,932
- South/Central America – 12,753
- Asia Pacific – 12,697
- Russia – 7,727
- Europe – 5,006
Readers know how to follow their market interests, but it is suggested that this growing, evolving world of energy supply and storage is quite different than what was expected a few years ago. It is worth the effort to enhance corporate understanding of what is happening and why as the world of renewables evolves. To assist the total energy-supply process, it is important for industry to inform government at all levels that all resources that are routinely and extensively subsidized undermine market forces that provide this nation’s energy.