For so many, how they get power is just as important as the amount of power they consume. Given today’s environmentally conscious consumers and the movement to stop or slow global warming, there is a growing concern that traditional sources of power are no longer sufficient to stop the spread of climate change. Consumers and business leaders are turning to new, innovative, and, most importantly, renewable sources of power which replace traditional sources of power. This pivot to new sources of power can and has been accomplished by hydro and wind power but also has success when solar power is involved. Below, we’ll discuss how solar power can be a significant contributor to creating power as it stands and what new, exciting developments have come about.
What is solar power and how does it work?
Solar power is, simply, energy harnessed from the sun’s rays which is then used to power cells via solar panels. Panels are often placed on top of buildings in order to absorb as much of the sun’s rays as possible. This then creates an electrical process that allows the panels to transfer power to the building they are placed on. Any excess power after the building has consumed all needed power can then be sent to the power grid for use by other buildings or for other endeavors.
Notably, this isn’t the only way to place solar panels. There are large areas with many solar panels (known as solar farms) in sunny places throughout the country that do not have the typical “drain” associated with panels feeding a building. This allows for power to be sent to the power grid from a renewable source and ensure that homes, businesses, and industry is powered by an environmentally friendly source.
What new methods can help improve solar power?
Recent studies have given lift to the idea that solar power can get even better and more accessible in the years to come. One method is incorporating oxygen into solar panels to be able to create an electrical process by capturing what is known as “invisible light,” which is light that the human eye is unable to capture unaided. Additionally, new materials may make the manufacture of solar panels cheaper, so they can be used in a more widespread manner not just on solar farms but more frequently in residential dwellings or in other ways that we may not have yet considered due to the sometimes cost prohibitive nature.
What does this mean for the future of renewable energy?
Renewable energy, specifically solar, now has the potential to play an even greater role in our country’s energy supply and power grid. No matter whether a community or state decides to use traditional solar panels or a newly improved solar panel setup, we can be assured that the future with solar power will be bright.
Renewable energy use is on the rise and can create long-lasting benefits for not only our environment, but our long-term energy needs as well. This energy plan, Governor Cuomo’s own “Green New Deal,” aims to revolutionize the way that New Yorkers consume energy and make the state less dependent on fossil fuels and other types of non-renewable energy sources over time. This plan, while not unique to New York, is unprecedented throughout the state’s history, and may well revolutionize the energy industry in New York like the New Deal revolutionized America in the 1930s.
What does Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal plan include?
Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal plan includes plans to boost the state’s clean energy standard to 70 percent from 50 percent by 2030. There are a variety of ways the Governor proposes to do this which include:
- Increasing the offshore wind target from 2,400 megawatts by 2030 to 9,000 megawatts by 2035
- Doubling solar deployment from 3,000 megawatts by 2023 to 6,000 by 2025
- Maximizing large scale renewable energy contributions already in place from New York’s resources
- Striving toward more than double the land-based solar and wind resources based on the Clean Energy Standard
Are there any financial incentives to spur the private sector in the Green New Deal?
Governor Cuomo also included $1.5 billion in awards for more than 20 solar, energy, and wind projects in New York. These projects are slated to power more than 550,000 homes in addition to creating more than 2,500 jobs that will help New Yorkers in the short and long-term.
Has there been anything recently announced since the 2019 rollout of the plan?
The Governor’s 2020 state of the union address specifically addressed 21 awards that will help create more than 2,000 jobs and helps propagate more than $2.5 billion in private investment. Notably, projects received bids that were 23% lower than three years ago, saving taxpayers money and allowing for more work to be done toward renewable energy solutions. The implementation of these projects are the energy equivalents to helping take 300,000 cars off the road each year and reduces carbon emissions by 1.3 million metric tons annually.
What does this mean for New York and renewable energy?
This is a boon for New York and renewable energy across the state and, hopefully, nation. Using this as an example, energy may be able to be revolutionized across the United States so that older, more inefficient, and more expensive ways of producing energy are phased out so the consumer can benefit. This can help pave the way for increased productivity from energy sources, in addition to cleaner air and water that makes cities or other areas more attractive for short and long-term investment. No matter what the specifics of Governor Cuomo’s proposal are, the long-term trend toward more renewable energy in New York is a positive for clients who may be able to see the financial and ecological benefits sooner rather than later.
For hundreds of years, humans have found different and novel ways to produce energy. Those innovations, such as oil and gas, were revolutionary for their time, but created unparalleled pollution which impacted our environment immediately and over time. While helpful during a time in which these energy sources seemed limitless, these energy sources, such as coal, ended up becoming a noose around the neck of energy producers and consumers. With the advent of renewable energy, there was another alternative and, now, for the first time in 130 years, renewable energy has surpassed coal. This striking milestone reveals much about the future of energy and why even improbable energy sources can become major producers of the electricity we consume.
What is coal-powered energy?
Located mostly in a nation’s mountains, coal is a resource that has been used for around 200 years for a variety of purposes, from home heating and power to helping drive railroads forward as the primary fuel for locomotives. This then-abundant, cheap resource powered our nation’s industry and countless homes, factories, and office buildings. It also created thousands of jobs for coal miners and those who had to service all facets of the industry, from mining coal to transporting and packaging it for use around the country. This energy source, when burned, caused heavy pollution in cities and other places and was creating a problem when it came to the long-term health and environmental impact. While cheap and abundant during a time, this energy source doubled back on its users and may have created more problems than it solved.
What is renewable energy?
Quite simply, renewable energy is any energy source that can be renewed, replenished, and will not be exhausted like conventional energy sources such as coal, oil, and other finite energy sources. Wind, solar, hydro-electric, and other sources which are sometimes more expensive to create at the outset may be better long-term investments in energy production in addition to environmental protection. It also is the wave of the future, given the diminishing amount of certain energy resources that have previously been mined or tapped. Given this backdrop, it is no surprise that as an ascendant energy source, renewable energy would eventually eclipse coal in the amount of use.
How has renewable energy surpassed coal as an energy source for the first time in 130 years?
In 2019, according to Electric Power Monthly, renewable energy surpassed coal as an energy source for the first time in 130 years with renewable energy comprising 23% energy usage and coal comprising 20% of energy usage. While some of this change can be attributed to higher temperatures in certain parts of the nation, which allows for less energy generation in areas that rely on traditional energy sources in the winter. In addition to the lessening of usage of traditional energy sources, there was heavy generation of energy from wind-based sources in addition to solar sources. Hydroelectric generation was also helped by seasonal changes to help drive the energy produced from this source up. No matter whether seasonal changes were to be credited for renewable energy sources eking out coal, it shows that the next generation of energy sources is quickly beating out the previous generation’s energy sources.
What does this mean for me and my clients?
This is a net positive for us all. Cleaner, more reliable energy sources can help ensure that prices are more uniform, we have a pristine environment, and a power grid that is less subject to disruption from imported fuels. Working to create more predictable energy sources that will last longer will hopefully lead to lower fuel prices for us all.
As energy brokers, our role is to help educate, and below are a few facts on why more than 50% of electricity in the U.S. will be generated by renewable energy by 2030.
Older forms of energy production rely on finite resources
In the U.S., many of the older forms of energy production were adequate to their time, but did not fully take the future into account. They were based on then-abundant resources which were cheap to harvest and convert into energy. These resources were also relatively nearby and, at least at the beginning of energy conversion history, were not known to cause the devastating, environmentally harmful impacts. Over time the energy industry, like many Americans, began to realize the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy.
Why do renewable energy sources make sense for energy companies and consumers?
Although some criticize renewable energy sources as costly to create, they are undoubtedly a long-lasting resource that benefits both energy companies and consumers. There is no theoretical limit to the amount of sunshine, wind, water, and other renewable energy sources that can be harvested and used again and again. For example, the same stream can help produce power for generations instead of “running out” or depleting the amount of water in it. Additionally, there are often various federal, state, and local tax incentives that help defray the cost of using renewable energy sources, which not only help energy companies afford renewable energy sources, but also help them keep prices low for consumers. This contributes to the ability of renewable energy sources to be invested in and proliferate for years to come.
What reason is there to think we’ll reach such a high number of renewable energy sources by 2030?
In an optimistic prediction, NextEra Energy has put down a marker regarding high renewable energy growth in the next decade. Even without delving into the numbers, it makes sense that renewable energy is the wave of the future. Unlike some older forms of energy production, they don’t suffer from worry about a date they will run out. Additionally, governments and populations are much more likely to support the building of a clean energy plant due to its environmentally-friendly nature and lack of output such as smoke, smog, or a derisive smell, which can send property values plummeting and some neighbors’ health issues into a tail spin. No matter what the exact number or percentage of renewable energy sources ends up being in 2030, you can be sure that renewable energy will only be growing over time.
COVID-19 has changed the way we look at many facets of life. From how and where we work to where we go and, in some cases, even what we eat. To say that this seismic shift is anything less than revolutionary would be a gross understatement. For many, this also raises questions regarding how and in what way we will begin to plot and choose our energy future. Will we go back to the ways of the past, with heavy reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources, or will we plot a new course with renewable source that are good for our environment and our pocketbooks?
COVID-19 and the Energy Environment
COVID-19 brought much of our world’s economic activity to an abrupt halt save for certain essential activities such as medical care, grocery stocking, food delivery, and other services that were crucial to the basic functioning of society. As people stayed home and traveled less, there was a noticeable impact on the ecology and the environment of local areas and globally. Everything from CO2 emissions from air travel and vehicles, both commercial and private, to other sources of emissions and pollution were curtailed dramatically. This began to lead to the clearing of air, water, and other parts of the environment which had previously been adversely impacted by human and industrial activity. Some environmentalists and others celebrated this turn of events.
What Does Less Personal Contact Mean for Clean Energy?
For generations, labor intensive energy sources have been prevalent and cheap ways to provide cars the fuel they need, homes and office buildings the heat and air conditioning they need, and power to an array of other projects that drive our society and consume energy. However, COVID-19 made gathering in one place without proper ventilation and less than six feet apart not only less than hygienic, but potentially life-threatening for those who do. Given the fact that the contagion can not only impact those who are initially exposed but can spread exponentially, these tight conditions are nothing but a breeding ground for potential death or serious injuries, with life-long consequences – which most energy workers do not have the health insurance or personal funds to cover. Personal contact has proven to be arguably more dangerous than the environmental impacts of the energy sources themselves.
Where Does Clean Energy Come In?
Clean energy sources are often not as labor-intensive as other energy source. They don’t require a packed mineshaft with little ventilation, an offshore oil rig, or other close personal contact to the extent or level that other energy sources do. This is a net advantage as the energy sources are not only environmentally friendly, but also qualify for various tax credits at the federal and state level, which can help offset the initial set-up cost or any personnel costs. Additionally, clean energy may now be seen as an appreciating instead of depreciating asset, as there is a finite amount of oil, coal, and other resources but there is an arguably infinite amount of air, water, and sunshine.
Does This Mean Clean Energy Will Be the Norm?
A completely clean energy future is still a long while away. However, given the definite downsides of some legacy energy production processes, some energy producers will be taking a closer look at clean energy now and in the future. Any savvy energy broker should keep an eye out for how this will impact the industry and how this can potentially save clients money.
During trying times, many businesses – including energy brokers – work to retain customers with incentives while trying to recruit new customers. This is done to help combat the drop-off which happens with a variety of situations, but especially with an economic downturn. One of the more important functions that an energy broker can do to retain a level of client loyalty and trust, is to constantly communicate that you’re working for your clients on a daily basis – whether they realize it or not.
Updating your clients via mail and e-mail
Now that in-person meetings are either still prohibited, or, even in states with looser orders, highly discouraged, energy brokers have to find socially distant ways to stay in touch with their clients. One free, convenient way is a weekly newsletter detailing your activities. This can touch on what you’re doing, developments in the energy market, and how working with you continues to save them money in a volatile market. You can even run raffles or invite clients to be featured in your next newsletter along with testimonials. For older clients or, for a more personal touch, you can hand-write notes thanking clients for their continued business and insert energy market updates for them. These personal updates and touches can go a long way to keeping your clients’ loyalty and business for years to come.
Create a presence on social media
If you’re not already on social media, now is a great time to get on a variety of social media platforms so you can communicate with clients and potential clients on what you do as an energy broker and how you’re working for them. Many professionals focus on Twitter and LinkedIn with some forays into Facebook and Instagram to keep clients updated and track what’s going on in the energy market. You can also incorporate some personal yet professional photos and anecdotes so clients get to see another side of their energy broker. Given the right tone, style and attention, this could increase your business substantially and propel you into the “thought leadership” arena where you are looked to as an expert in the field on social media. This could even lead to media mentions of you and your business. For a good example of how to balance a personal and professional Twitter voice on the same account, look to Disney CEO Bob Iger who maintains a personal voice while advancing professional priorities.
Use substantive communications to get your value across
While clients appreciate the occasional check in regarding how you personally are doing, they are more interested in the value you are providing them and how you’re saving them money in the short and long term. Comparing the performance of your work compared to them not using an energy broker is a great way for them to know that you’re saving them money they hadn’t even considered. Invest in and learn a good graphics program and how to make charts and comparison tables. Pictures are often much more effective than a long soliloquy that comprises of multiple paragraphs. Additionally, using words that reinforce your value such as savings through experience or through exclusive relationships will ensure clients understand why you are the top pick for their energy needs.
Tailor your communications to your clients’ concerns
No matter when you send a communication to your clients, make sure it is appropriate for the moment and for their concerns. During an economic downturn, lean into how you save them money. During a good economy, lean into efficiencies and how they might be able to upgrade some energy appliances in their home to be more energy efficient, which is good for the environment and the pocketbook. It’s always a good time to let your clients know what you do for them as long as the communication is appropriate to the moment and is likely to reflect favorably on you.
Like many industries, energy brokers are working with a new reality when it comes to business during the time of coronavirus. COVID-19 has diverted many people’s attention away from the task at hand and has instead focused them on their own lives, health, and imperatives. Today’s economy is a new place for many people who just months ago believed in a totally different economic reality. While this has placed a burden on thousands of businesses and individuals, this creates an opportunity for energy brokers to innovate insofar as how they present themselves to potential clients and make sure to re-emphasize the value they offer. After the pandemic, following these tips will help ensure that you and your business stand out from the pack when the energy market is on the road to recovery.
Customer service is paramount. No matter the economic timing, good customer service is never out of style. In fact, during a recovery, the business that makes life easiest for their customers will more likely than not see their customers’ loyalty to the broker who ensures the best deal with the smallest wait time on prices. Knowing and anticipating your customer’s needs not only helps you stand out from the pack but it helps you keep up a steady cadence of contact so your customer knows you as the go-to energy broker and refers their friends and business colleagues to you.
Be Transparent About Savings and What Your Business Does. So many wonder what an energy broker is and how you can save them money. You should be transparent about how you can save consumers money and what your business does to ensure they get the best price and treatment possible when it comes to making their energy decisions. While you are an expert at the energy broker business, you should be prepared to ensue you have the answers for the questions they will ask. No matter the consumer, keeping their interests top of mind will help ensure that you’re seen as a reliable and trustworthy partner.
Be Sensitive to Business’ Immediate and Long-Term Needs. Following the pandemic, individuals and businesses will be in various states of needed and receptivity to energy broker services. While the first impulse would be a hard sell of saving money immediately, only some may be receptive to that as they may be unwilling to change from a provider who they may have an outstanding debt with during the pandemic or who they felt was there for them during a time of economic and health uncertainty. Although everyone is a potential client, there is a time and place to pitch them. Ensure that your pitch and information is calibrated to their economic situation and state of mind. Sometimes, just opening the door to working together in the future is a win.
Ensure That You’re Apprised of All Industry, Regulatory, and Legal Developments. Above all, clients will be looking to you as the expert on how exactly using your services can benefit not only their bottom line when it comes to energy bills but how they can leverage your services to benefit them in other parts of their business such as through government or other tax rebates or incentives. Being the master of each piece of information in your world and how it can benefit your clients in a multitude of ways will distinguish your services from the rest.
No one can predict when or how the pandemic will end but energy brokers and be prepared for the next steps both clients and the economy overall take so when we’re back on the road to recovery, you can be at the front of the pack.
It’s no surprise to anyone that COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, has roiled the energy markets and the economy worldwide. With general economic activity and consumption going down, there have been many who pessimistically view the energy market as another victim of this global downturn and urge consumers, business leaders, and others to hoard cash and not take any steps until there is absolutely 100% certainty about the future. While this advice may hold true for some markets, it certainly does not hold true for energy markets. Below, you’ll see why now is an ideal time to help secure cost savings in the face of declining revenue for some and new opportunities for others.
What is COVID-19 and how has it impacted the global economy?
COVID-19 is a viral disease which is transmitted through person to person contact which causes severe symptoms in those it impacts, in particular the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Most anyone can be impacted and be a carrier, even if there are only mild symptoms, a person who carries the disease may have a disproportionate impact on the health of others. Given the amount of commerce that is conducted in person from meetings to individuals patronizing restaurants, gyms, spas, and other establishments to the drop in travel, COVID-19 has hit almost every sector of the economy. This has had the ripple effect of causing layoffs, making businesses and consumers slash their spending, and resulting in a general downturn of economic activity no matter the kind of business to the point that governments around the world have had to bailout or provide certain monetary support to individual businesses or sectors of the economy.
What does COVID-19 and the economic downturn mean for the energy sector in particular?
During this time of economic uncertainty, demand has dropped for a wide variety of services. For better or worse, this includes the price of energy that both businesses and consumers will pay. Energy prices are now at their lowest level in more than 15 years due to the lack of demand from those who use energy on a daily and reliable basis. Additionally, the increase in production from key energy suppliers overseas has led to a large surplus related to normal demand and an even larger surplus of oil related to the current global demand. As energy is produced from a variety of sources, including oil, when there is a glut of supply in the market then overall energy prices go down.
What does this mean for those who are watching energy prices?
For those who are watching energy prices and the energy market, the low prices continue to be a boon for consumers who may be suffering operational losses elsewhere or may need to save money. Locking in a lower rate today is the first step to helping those who need to cut costs identify a center of cost savings. With the uncertain economic climate, any place that can help lower total expenditures should be under serious consideration.
Climate change and global warming have gone from a niche political issue 20 or more years ago to front and center topics, which impact a wide variety of industries and much of our public discourse. From the Green New Deal to other plans to combat the spread of climate change and other ecological impacts, a wide variety of solutions have been proposed to help reduce the economic impact of any plan that might constrain industry in addition to promoting Earth’s long-term well-being. For many, one of the more business or market-friendly solutions is a carbon pricing plan. Below, we’ll explore what it is, how it works, and what it means for industry going forward in uncertain economic times.
What is Carbon Pricing?
Carbon pricing is when carbon emissions themselves are calculated and a cost is associated with the emission. For example, carbon emissions are created when coal, natural gas, and oil are used to create energy. These energy sources, known as fossil fuels, create the carbon emissions which are primarily responsible, if not heavily contribute, to climate change. Proponents of carbon pricing argue that climate change, including rising sea levels and temperatures, is mainly caused by industries and activities which disproportionately produce these outputs, and, therefore these effects.
By working to assign a price to these carbon outputs, businesses will become more conscious of creating these outputs and will, in turn, find a way to create less of them. This burden shifting from those who have to deal with the impact of climate change and find a solution, namely government and taxpayers, to those who create the carbon outputs, energy producers and other industries, is just one goal of carbon pricing. The other goal is to help ensure that more climate-friendly technology will be introduced and used in the fight against climate change by businesses as they look to reduce their overall carbon usage.
How Do Carbon Pricing Plans Work?
The first way to implement a carbon pricing plan is through a plan which has received its fair share of news coverage and is commonly known as cap-and-trade. This system would impose a cap on the amount of carbon emissions that could be used in a year and use a market-based system so manufacturers, energy producers, or others could obtain more. For example, if 100 carbon units are divided among qualifying businesses in whole or in part, some businesses can pay others or go to an open market to bid on carbon units which help ensure they make their energy or production quota. This incentivizes many businesses to 1) invest in more efficient ways to produce their product or energy and 2) invest in more environmentally friendly ways for these actions to happen. This also helps reward energy efficient businesses by allowing them to sell their share of the carbon unit to recoup the cost of installing and investing in environmentally-friendly technology and eventually profiting from such a decision in the short or long term.
The second way to implement a carbon pricing plan is through a carbon tax. A much more straightforward way to implement a carbon pricing plan, the carbon tax would penalize those who use carbon more by taxing them more. The incentive for any carbon producer would thus be lowering their tax burden by investing in energy efficient and environmentally-friendly technology. Some have also proposed a rising carbon tax over time so even the largest firms are not immune from the direct cost of producing carbon without taking steps to improve their energy efficiency. Finally, there are several hybrid models that take both plans into account which have been proposed and may be workable.
What does this mean for energy producers and other carbon-heavy industries?
Many individuals and business leaders have been watching the evolution of the carbon pricing plan and the different proposals surrounding it with interest for what it could mean for both the economy and the environment. While there are many proposals under discussion at various levels of government, Congress has yet to pass a bill which would mandate a definitive carbon pricing plan scheme. For now, the national debate will continue as to the best way to implement a carbon pricing plan, if one is implemented at all.
It’s no secret that the climate is changing. In various parts of the world, we’re now seeing new types of weather; whether its higher temperatures, less frequent occurrences of winter weather, and dynamic shifts that foreshadow a worsening of global temperatures. For so many, questions abound on how this will impact our personal lives, businesses at large, and other crucial components of society and our economy. However, one of the lesser questioned parts of climate change and extreme weather is its impact on energy consumption.
Does climate change have an impact on extreme weather and energy consumption?
Many times, there is an open question as to whether climate change has an impact on creating extreme weather which, in turn, creates a higher demand for energy consumption. Changing needs have created changing consumer habits. Extreme weather events for some areas may not even be something as dramatic as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. They can be as predictable as a heat wave or cold snap meaning more energy will be required for a longer amount of time.
What are some examples of the impact extreme weather can have on energy consumption?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are very real costs to extreme weather events such as a warmer climate. The agency cites data which indicates that a 6 to 9 degree rise in summer temperatures could increase the need for energy output and production by 10 – 20% by 2050. For some, this may not sound like much but it represents hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in infrastructure and output mechanisms. Additionally, some of our existing structures may be rendered less efficient due to the need for cooling water to efficiently run most of these power plants. With warmer water, plants will have to work harder to produce the same amount of power at less efficiency.
What other indirect impact could occur as a result of energy consumption?
One of the unheralded issues that could arise is the competition for natural resources that occurs when there are impacts as a result of relatively extreme weather. For example, power plants sometimes require large amounts of water to ensure they operate within safe, not even efficient, parameters. As water is a necessary and desired resource, power companies will be in competition with local governments and reservoirs to be the first to use the diminishing supply of water available to keep pace with traditional demand. Additionally, given the rising temperatures, power companies will not only have to keep pace with traditional demand, they will have to somehow compensate for increased demand to cope with the rising heat.
Are there any other vulnerabilities that could impact energy consumption or availability?
Given the amount and severity of hurricanes, it is entirely possible that oil-producing platforms which may have been previously considered safe will now be in the path of terrible storms. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged hundreds of platforms which had negative impacts on oil distribution and availability, for example, hurting not just local energy concerns but impacting global supply as well. For many, it may well be time to take some stock on distribution channels and construction suitability for extreme weather events.
Will an extreme weather event impact energy consumption soon?
Although there is no way to know when or how an extreme weather event can or will impact energy consumption, it is likely that we will again see energy consumption impacted by extreme weather in the years to come.