The Impact of the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown
As our nation has seen increased gas prices and shortages, so many have realized that our energy supply is vulnerable to attacks. One of the concerns for energy supply disruption has long been traditional attacks like a bombing of a pipeline or the disruption of a traditional energy supply route via land or sea. Confidence in backup systems also ran high, and the belief that reserves or that the government would release some of the strategic supply also tempered fears that any disruption would be disastrous. However, the recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline demonstrates that a cyberattack can be just as disruptive and hurtful to the economy as a traditional attack.
What is the Colonial Pipeline?
The Colonial Pipeline is a 5,500 mile gas pipeline from New Jersey to the Gulf Coast in the United States. It transports nearly half the gasoline used by the East Coast and is the largest pipeline for gas in the country. The pipeline transports over 100 million gallons of gas each day and it reaches 50 million Americans. This means that Americans in North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and other states were impacted by shortages that hampered their ability to get to the grocery store, necessary medical appointments, and get to work for those who are commuting again.
What were the impacts of the cyberattack?
Besides the obvious shortage at the gas pump and cash crunch that came from higher prices, a few other impacts were felt. Airlines had to tap emergency reserves and some even had to alter flight routes to add refueling stops to keep their planes going. The federal government was forced to declare an emergency in 17 states and the District of Columbia in order to make the transportation of fuel easier to ease the shortage.
What was the purpose of the cyberattack and how did it happen?
The cyberattacks were carried out by extortionists who were looking for a quick payoff after breaking through the security systems. Colonial paid millions of dollars to the ransomware extortionists who compromised their security systems. As a precaution, Colonial then shut down the pipeline.
What does this mean going forward?
While gas prices have stabilized, and supply appears to be normalizing, the impact of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown is more far-reaching than the immediate availability crisis. Companies like Colonial will have to install better countermeasures against cybercriminals while ensuring that a backup supply is available should tragedy befall them yet again.
How Businesses Use an Energy Broker
For so many in the energy broker business, the focus of a brokerage is on the residential side, where there is sometimes more familiarity and a more straightforward way of doing business. Relatively few individual families worry about their carbon footprint and don’t have the time or sometimes the wherewithal to inquire as to where their energy comes from. Families also usually don’t care about round the clock customer service as long as an energy broker is reasonably accessible and there is a low price on their bill for the energy they consumed. However, businesses can be more demanding customers and ask for more services given the larger amount of energy they consume. Below are some ways businesses determine how to use an energy broker.
Your track record of success
Like last quarter’s sales figures, your track record of success for other clients will have a direct impact on how future clients perceive you. Your ability to respond to a current client’s needs will very certainly have an impact on whether or not they keep you on. Insights into the market and the ability to stay one step ahead of trends will help nail down client loyalty when they begin to evaluate how their business uses an energy broker.
How many suppliers you have access to
You’re only as good as your last deal, and how many suppliers you have access to will help provide the diversity you need to make deals happen for your clients. The ability to find the best contract for your clients is key, and the more suppliers you have access to, the better price and contract you can offer up. Supply and diversity of supply are the key to offering your clients the best possible deal, so they remain your clients and not someone else’s.
If you provide good, prompt customer service
Sometimes, competing on price isn’t enough, especially when the differential between suppliers and the brokers that work to connect clients is relatively small. For many, the difference in making the pick in an energy broker is customer service that takes needs into account, responds quickly, and helps them make accurate decisions that save the company time, money, and efficiency costs. Customer service is key in many businesses, and that’s no different when it comes to how businesses use energy brokers.
Can you clearly explain any fees or conditions?
Sometimes, energy brokers and others get involved in sales talk that doesn’t mean much to the customer and leaves them feeling confused and unsure about what they signed up for. Clearly explaining any obligation the customer is taking on will leave them feeling reassured about you and your ability to be an honest broker.
As in any businesses, the needs and requirements of every customer vary per business or family. However, by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be exactly what every business needs when they’re looking for and using an energy broker.
Tips to Become a Successful Energy Broker
Embarking on a career as an energy broker is exciting and challenging! For so many, looking to industries that will not only survive but thrive in the future is a priority, especially in a post-pandemic economy where things can change immediately and unexpectedly. Work as an energy broker allows you to be at the forefront of ensuring families, businesses, and others are able to get the best possible deal on their energy, while promoting how energy is leaning into 21st century methods and processes for a more sustainable future. Below, we’ll detail some important tips on how to become a successful energy broker.
Communicating with your clients and others
Communication is key to ensure that you’re aware and responsive to the needs of your clients, companies, and the community as a whole. Without the ability to communicate value and timeliness to a client, you may lose out on that potential opportunity. Without communicating what you need from energy companies, you may be left unable to answer a question at a crucial moment. Being able to get the information you need and convey it to a client to close the sale is crucial to becoming a successful energy broker.
Being able to identify clients and ensure their needs are met
Also known as prospecting, identifying clients and then ensuring their needs are met to close a transaction is a hard skill to learn for some, but one that is crucial to becoming a successful energy broker. Identifying the kind of service, amount of money, and expectations of a client will go a long way to formulating a pitch that will resonate with a client and convince them – or at least provide you the opportunity to convince them – to work with you. Catering to their preferences and needs will set you apart from the competition and will endear you to your clients, and may create more business by word of mouth.
Having a customer-first mentality
Customers can choose to go anywhere and with anyone they want barring a binding contract. Finding ways to innovate and bring your customers the best deals will breed a loyalty and affinity that allows you to keep and expand your customer base in a way that the competition may not be able to match. You should always wake up wondering what matters to a customer and how you are filling a need, because once you stop filling a need, someone else will.
Congratulations again on joining the exciting world of energy brokers. We hope these tips on how to become a successful energy broker will serve you and your clients well into the future.
What would a green economy look like?
As the world continues to combat climate change and promote sustainability, there are more and more calls for a green economy, to help ensure that we do not continue contributing to environmental damage. From cutting waste and leaks to building smarter homes, a green economy could revolutionize how we live and improve our environment and planet for generations to come. Below, we’ll detail what a green economy would look like and what steps are being taken to get there.
Waste has often been rightly criticized as one of the principal offenders when it comes to the processes that create global warming or otherwise damage pristine environments. However, waste reduction has become a priority for many localities and governments in an effort to combat climate change. For many, a circular economy, where resources are recycled once used is part of the answer. For example, a plastic bottle in addition to being used for single-use drink could be recycled into part of a permanent multi-use water bottle instead of creating more plastic.
Creating more energy-efficient homes
Millions of Americans spend a considerable amount of time at home using appliances and heating and cooling systems that use energy in a sometimes wasteful way. One of the first tactics that can be used to control heating and cooling costs is insulating homes, offices, and other businesses in order to keep the ideal temperature in. This process has an added benefit of creating jobs for those who will install insulation, and encourages a shift to more energy-efficient systems for home heating and cooling, drawing less energy from power systems. Additionally, energy-efficient appliances can help promote a green economy by reducing electricity and water use as we wash and dry our clothes and do our dishes.
Policy incentives for the green economy and sustainability
Policymakers and large businesses also play a key role in promoting the green economy, sustainability, and combating climate change. Creating a green economy will involve a pivot to alternative energy sources, as we’ve seen through the Biden administration’s urging and the introduction of various new plans in Congress, in addition to working to change various materials used in the production of certain items. In order to speed the transition to a green economy, both federal and state policymakers will also likely provide tax or other incentives to individuals and businesses in order to replace existing appliances, cooling and heating systems, and, in the case of some businesses, even fleets of vehicles from gas to electric powered.
What’s next for a green economy and what can we expect?
As energy-efficient appliances, vehicles, and other tools become more affordable, we can see some of this green economy reorientation happen naturally through consumer choice. Undoubtedly, policymakers have a role to play in accelerating any change that will pivot our economic system to one that focuses on sustainability. However, immediate change is unlikely and we can expect to see these types of initiatives continue to progress over the next few years.
Learn more about the Net Zero by 2050 plan
Many are wondering how and when carbon emissions will continue to be cut, in order to help ensure our environment is preserved and we combat the effects of climate change. Over the past few decades, the energy industry, regulators, and policymakers have been grappling with how to transition to a carbon emission-free world without unduly impacting jobs and economic growth. Throughout the recent presidential campaign, reducing carbon emissions was also a point of contention for the candidates, and it seems the newly sworn-in Biden administration will be focusing on this more than previous occupants of the White House have.
In addition to the United States, dozens of countries in Europe and Asia have made a pledge to be net zero by 2050. The crux of this pledge is that any greenhouse gas emissions emanating from their nations will be offset by reforestation initiatives or direct air capture. In order to achieve a net zero by 2050 carbon emission goal in the United States, the electric grid would have to expand dramatically with new solar, hydrogen, and other clean forms of energy to eliminate older carbon producing plants that use oil and coal. Forests and farms will also need to be able to capture more carbon emissions either through expansion or more efficient use of technology.
In the 2020s, work to replace old infrastructure and create new methods of producing energy is expected to create between 500,000 to one million new jobs. Importantly, many of these new jobs will replace roles that are no longer relevant at older energy producers, thus enabling a significant amount of people to remain in the same industry. Health benefits to this change include 100,000 premature deaths being prevented as a result of no longer using coal as a power source.
How companies, regulators, policymakers, and others will respond to the need to get to net zero by 2050 is an open question. It is likely that the new administration will work to pass legislation or create and implement regulations promoting the use of clean energy and encouraging sustainability efforts throughout the country. Internationally, a concerted effort for countries to establish a carbon emissions baseline is likely to continue as time goes on and we get to 2050. Finally, private sector companies will likely continue to drive innovations in sustainability given the relative prominence of the issue on Wall Street and some of the tax and cost savings available provide strong incentives to make changes to their carbon output structures.
The Carbon Pricing Plan and What It Means
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.
What changes could happen in energy in 2021?
From policy changes to changes in how individuals and businesses consume energy, below are just some of the changes that could happen in 2021 relevant to energy so you can be prepared.
Renewables will experience a resurgence
Due to the pandemic, some solar and wind projects were postponed as we learned how to live in the new normal. In 2021, we should expect to see a resumption of those projects, with some coming online this year leading to more renewable energy capacity likely approaching 2019 levels. Unfortunately, growth may still lag previously anticipated growth, so room for improvement in renewable energy growth will likely still be a priority into 2022.
Oil production will continue to decline throughout 2021
Due to the COVID-19 related lockdowns, the demand for oil dropped precipitously as individuals and businesses no longer used their cars, public transport, or airplanes to get to where they needed to be. This sharp decline for an already-battered oil industry does not look to be getting better, and production may not ramp up to pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future.
Liquified Natural Gas and Coal will feel 2021 impacts
Liquified natural gas will likely continue to be lower than pre-pandemic levels up until the second half of 2021. However, this is dependent on the industrial sector’s economic recovery, given that it is the primary driver of demand for liquefied natural gas. Similarly, demand for coal has followed a similar path due to the COVID-19 related economic slowdown that has plagued our world. If in 2021, there is increased electricity consumption and the use of natural gas increases to fuel the demand for more energy, it is likely that coal prices will increase as well.
Electric power generation may remain relatively low through 2021
Given continued economic uncertainty throughout various sectors, electric power generation may remain relatively low as businesses and industries scale up to meet potentially more demand if the COVID-19 vaccines enable a return to workplaces across the world. Additionally, the ability of the construction industry to add new capacity to power generation will play a role in if and how electric power generation is ramped up this year.
Global energy demand will continue to rise despite pandemic-related economic uncertainty
Leading the way on global energy demand, developing nations will continue to demand more energy as they bring power to places that were not connected or lacked sufficient power. Additionally, higher standards of living worldwide will increase the demand for consistent, reliable energy even if developed nations’ energy demands remain relatively stable or even decline.
What can we expect for 2021?
2021 promises to be a tumultuous and uncertain year for energy given the uncertainty surrounding an economic recovery and the speed at which the global population can get vaccinated against COVID-19. Given some governments’ vaccination targets, the second half of 2021 could be markedly more certain than the first.
Why Burning Iron for Fuel Could Be the Next Big Thing in Renewable Energy
However unlikely, recent work regarding iron as a clean energy source has been encouraging and demonstrates that in areas where solar, wind, and hydrogen power aren’t possible or are too expensive, there can be an alternative renewable power source. Below, we’ll detail why burning iron for fuel could be the next big thing in renewable energy.
What is iron?
Iron is commonly thought of in two ways: as a vitamin and as a mineral that is converted to metal. It is found throughout our lives, most often in kitchen implements such as cast iron skillets and other metal implements. Iron can also be found in powdered form. In this form is how it is useful to creating renewable energy.
How does burning iron for fuel create renewable energy?
Referred to as the “circular economy of iron burning,” iron is burned and creates and improves combustion processes through a variety of means, including electrolysis. Following the successful high-heat combustion process, there is waste comprised of oxidized rust that can be recycled to create new energy in this circular energy creation process.
What are the advantages of iron and why hasn’t this been tried before?
Iron may be thought of as bulky and heavy but, as a powder, it is light and easily transportable. Iron as a source of renewable energy is possible almost anywhere with the right facilities. Although iron as renewable energy has been available for quite a while, traditional fossil fuels such as oil and coal have been more plentiful and cheaper, thus not requiring new ways of creating energy. Only with the need for renewable energy for both environmental and practical purposes has iron become another possible energy creator to meet the world’s energy needs.
Is iron as a renewable energy source possible in the short term or is this a longer-term strategy?
Iron as a source of renewable energy is a promising idea that is feasible for a small number of energy producers but, as of now, requires much more planning and a larger supply chain to make this a reality. As it stands, many facilities are not yet equipped to convert iron into energy and thus cannot take advantage of it.
Is this a positive development for renewable energy?
Although many do not immediately associate iron with renewable energy, burning iron for fuel could be the next big thing in renewable energy. The more good options governments and localities have, the more likely they will be to choose renewable energy going forward.
What Can Green Hydrogen Do for Renewable Energy?
With the renewed emphasis on climate change, many states and municipalities are exploring every possible option to increase the amount of options they have when producing renewable energy. For many years, solar and wind have been the dominant forms of renewable energy, and the first thing many people think of when they think of clean energy. Now, green hydrogen, which was previously prohibitive due to cost and infrastructure, is another renewable and reasonable alternative to wind and solar. Below, we’ll detail what hydrogen power and green hydrogen are and what it can do for renewable energy.
What is hydrogen power?
Hydrogen power is created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, leaving only water as a by-product, making it a great clean energy solution for states and municipalities. However, the traditional manner to create hydrogen is not even close to environmentally friendly due to the exposure of hydrogen to fossil fuels. It also requires a large amount of energy to split atoms and create hydrogen power, creating another environmental harm. This process proved to be unwieldy and impractical, not to mention the environmentally unfriendly impact this process would have.
What is green hydrogen power?
Green hydrogen, in contrast, is produced in a much more environmentally friendly way. Green hydrogen, although not a recent invention, has just recently become a practical alternative to traditional hydrogen power. Given the fact that a large amount of energy is returned to the grid from other renewable energy sources – such as wind and solar – the amount of energy expended to create green hydrogen energy and its potential to cause more pollution is no longer a significant consideration. Another consideration to the value and ecological proposition of producing green hydrogen power is that electrolyzers, the machines that split water into hydrogen and oxygen, are becoming much more efficient than their predecessors.
What can the potential impact of green hydrogen power on renewable energy be?
Green hydrogen power can potentially have a revolutionary impact on renewable energy and how it is produced, given the advances in both the power grid and electrolyzers. This new way to create renewable energy can help shift more resources into clean energy, reducing overall negative environmental impact and causing long-term investment in more reliable energy solutions. Some companies are already working to integrate green hydrogen power into their existing operations or plans, so they can reap its benefits early and often. For some sectors of the economy that are so far untouched by wind or solar power, green hydrogen can provide a clean energy alternative given the requirements of more concentrated energy. No matter its uses per industry, green hydrogen power will help propel clean energy forward and provide another way to power homes, businesses, and other important locations.
Renewable Energy Hits Record Level in 2020
Renewable energy has taken the world by storm and has contributed to powering homes and businesses in addition to helping clean up our environment. From its inception, renewable energy has continued to grow by leaps and bounds year after year. Although many have known anecdotally that there has been an increase in renewable energy levels, a recent study by the International Energy Agency confirms that renewable energy created electricity has hit record levels in 2020. Additionally, the fossil fuel industry declined due to COVID-19.
Investments in new energy throughout 2020 have radically skewed to renewable energy. According to the International Energy Agency report, almost 90% of 2020’s new electricity generation is from renewable energy sources. In contrast, only 10% is powered by gas and coal sources. Renewable energy is on track to only keep growing, with some experts believing that it will be the world’s largest power source by 2025. This would eclipse the current electricity power leader of coal, the leader for the past 50 years which has supplied around a third of the world’s electricity.
Among the renewable electricity sources, the pack is led by hydropower which supplies around half of renewable electricity and is then followed by wind and solar electricity generation sources. Since 2010, solar power capacity has increased 18 times over and wind has increased four times over. This has eaten into the percentage of hydropower as a percentage of renewable electricity which dropped from 77% in 2010 to 45% in 2020.
Driving renewable energy growth in 2020 were the U.S. and China, which added a total of four percent more capacity in total renewable energy output. However, the U.S. and China are not expected to be the nations that will continue to power the growth of renewable electricity over the next year in 2021. Instead, India and the nations of the European Union are supposed to be the countries that will be driving the growth of renewable energy. The European Union and some of its member countries have already set aside billions to help promote and implement renewable energy solutions.
2021 will be a crucial year for renewable energy in the U.S. given that the incoming administration may implement policies that encourage the creation, installation, and deployment of renewable energy solutions across the country. This could especially be true of easier to deploy renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Much of the progress will also depend on how cooperative Congress is with the incoming administration’s energy agenda.
No matter what happens in 2021 and beyond, it is incontrovertible that 2020 set records in the area of renewable energy. Through long-term and consistent investment, these energy sources were deployed in record numbers while their more traditional counterparts – coal and gas – declined and do not seem on track for recovery to their pre-2020 numbers. Renewable energy sources are part of our present and are the wave of the future.