10 min read

November 2022 - Energy Market Letter

By Jon Moore on November 2, 2022

On behalf of the team at 5, I am pleased to forward our November market letter. This letter discusses: (i) the upcoming Mid-Term Elections, and how the results could impact energy policy; and (ii) the challenges facing grid system operators in Texas, New England and New York as they work to integrate large volumes of intermittent resources into the grid mix.

The Mid-Term Elections

Recent polls favor Republicans to take control of the House and perhaps the Senate as well. As a result, several clients have asked what such a change in Washington could mean for energy policy. The question is particularly interesting because the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which allocated some $369 billion to the energy sector, was passed by the Senate and the House without a single Republican vote.

The Inflation Reduction Act: The short answer is that the election results will probably have little effect on energy policy. While a change in control of the House or the shift of a single Senate seat would have doomed passage of this legislation, since it was passed and signed into law by President Biden, it will be difficult to repeal it. Even if the House and Senate pass legislation to repeal or amend portions of the IRA, President Biden has veto power, and overriding a veto requires a vote of two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate. This is good news for developers of renewable power, energy storage, electrical vehicle manufacturers and others that will benefit from the incentives found in the IRA. But this does not mean that the IRA and its various energy incentives are immune from challenges in the courts.

There are some interesting parallels between the IRA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Like the IRA, the Democrats used budget reconciliation to get the ACA approved by the Senate, and all Republicans in the House and Senate opposed the ACA. President Obama signed the ACA in March 2010, and in the November 2010 mid-term elections, the Democrats lost control of the House, in part, because of opposition to the ACA. The new congress did not reverse or upend the ACA, in part because politicians have little appetite for taking benefits away from voters. Yet the law became the subject of extensive legal challenges, one of which ended up in the Supreme Court.

While there is considerable opposition to the IRA, and it will undoubtedly face legal challenges, even though the law does not appear to be subject to the same serious constitutional challenges (for example, the constitutionality of the insurance mandate) that faced the ACA. In addition, as in the case of the ACA, we expect that in the two years remaining in the Biden Administration, a significant amount of the benefits will be granted to various energy projects. Once grants are made, it will be difficult if not impossible to reverse them.

Congressional Oversight: While the IRA may be safe from legal challenges, we expect that a Republican controlled house will use its oversight powers to review almost all aspects of the IRA and other programs that address climate change. This could certainly cause some delays in the implementation of the IRA’s programs and slow or halt other efforts to address climate change such as the SEC’s plan to require ESG reporting. For example, comments from Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr of Kentucky, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, indicated that ESG principles, “will be one of the major focuses of oversight of a Republican majority” adding that “My view is that ESG investing is a cancer within our capital markets,” Barr said. “It is a fraud on American investors.”

On the state level, we have already seen several states, pushing back against BlackRock and other investment firms that prioritize ESG principles. Texas has passed legislation that restricts the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with firms that “boycott” the oil and gas sector. Echoing this approach, Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder recently pulled $794 billion in pension fund money from BlackRock funds due to their use of ESG criteria in making investment decisions. “Your blatantly anti-fossil fuel policies would destroy Louisiana’s economy,” Schroder said. “In my opinion, your support of ESG investing is inconsistent with the best economic interests and values of Louisiana,” Schroder said.

Other than some minor changes to the approval process to FERC commissioners, we cannot think of other ways that a change in House or Senate leadership will impact federal energy policy – but as noted above, there is no shortage of ways in which the House and Senate can investigate the energy industry.

Looking past the mid-terms, if a Republican candidate is elected President in 2024, we might see an effort to pass legislation repealing the IRA. When President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016, Vice President Mike Pence stated, “President elect Donald Trump will prioritize repealing President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law right ‘out of the gate’ once he takes office.”

But as I expect will be the case with the IRA, once the energy community is offered the $369 billion in incentives, it will be very difficult for a future administration to repeal these benefits.

Permitting Reform: While repealing the IRA may be top of mind, the fate of Sen. Manchin’s effort to expedite permitting of critical energy infrastructure is equally important. In the run up to passage of the IRA, Senate Majority Leader Schumer agreed to support Manchin’s permitting bill (which included a requirement that Federal Agencies approve the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline that Manchin supports) in exchange for Manchin’s support of the IRA. The bill seemed to be a good compromise, angering both Republicans who said it did not do enough for the fossil fuel industry and Democrats who said it did too much.

After the mid-term elections, it will be interesting to see if the Manchin bill can form the basis of bipartisan legislation that addresses the need to upgrade the nation’s energy infrastructure. As we note in the last section of this letter, there is a growing consensus among all participants that the grid envisioned by the energy transition does not yet exist. A recent Washington Post story is emblematic of the issue faced by new generation and transmission projects across the nation.

In this case, nearly ten years into the permitting process, a geo-thermal company had started construction of a plant that would provide carbon free energy to California residents. Late into this process, developers found out that: (i) the warm water drawn from the earth to power generation may threaten a rare toad, and (ii) the project’s location impinges on a sacred healing place for the Shoshone Tribe. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered the project stopped, while the Bureau of Land Management has pointed to the project as one of the ways the Biden administration is successfully confronting the climate crisis. This is just the kind of permitting delay that the Manchin bill was designed to address.

Intermittent Resources and The Energy Transition

Intermittent resources are generating assets that are not continuously available such as electricity that comes from wind farms and solar arrays. The growth of intermittent generation continues to challenge system operators who are responsible for ensuring a reliable supply of electricity. In the balance of this letter, we discuss ways in which intermittent supplies are challenging three markets, ERCOT, the New England ISO (NEISO) and New York ISO (NYISO).[1]

ERCOT: In ERCOT, the state in the country with the highest volume of wind and solar generation, we are clearly seeing the challenge that intermittent generation places on the system operators responsible for managing the reliability of the grid. As shown in Figure 1, on one day in Mid-October, wind resources generated approximately 18,000 MWs in the morning and only 1,200 MWs in the afternoon. The variation of solar output is equally dramatic. The chart below shows the combined hourly output of wind and solar over the last several weeks.

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Topics: Markets Natural Gas NYISO ERCOT Sustainability Newsletters Education Renewables
2 min read

Client Spotlight: Shriners Children

By 5 on August 31, 2022

Shriners Children’s began out of the polio epidemic in the late 1910s, with the first hospital opening in Shreveport in 1922. Today, they operate locations throughout the US and in two other countries, all with the same mission: to change and improve the lives of children. In addition to top-of-the-line treatments for children, Shriners also excels in research and physician education. With specialties in orthopedics, burns, craniofacial conditions, and many more, the hospitals follow the vision of the Shriners Fraternity to serve mankind through the care of children.

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Topics: Clients Procurement Sustainability Resiliency
4 min read

The Inflation Reduction Act

By 5 on August 31, 2022

The Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law this month. As a budget reconciliation law, it impacts federal income and spending. For 5 and our customers, this law provides increased incentives for on-site renewable projects that support the energy transition.

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Topics: Markets Sustainability Education Renewables Resiliency
8 min read

July 2022- Quarterly Market Letter

By Jon Moore on July 26, 2022

On behalf of the team at 5, I am pleased to forward our market letter for the second quarter of 2022. The dramatic increase in the price of electricity and natural gas noted in our Q1 letter continued its upward climb in Q2, fueled primarily by the war in Ukraine and its impact on the price of LNG. This dramatic increase is shown in Figure 1.

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Topics: Markets Natural Gas Sustainability Newsletters Education Renewables
4 min read

Gimme Three Steps to Zero Emissions

By 5 on June 29, 2022

A greenhouse gas (GHG) is any gas in the atmosphere that absorbs thermal energy (heat) emitted from the earth’s surface and reflects it back to the earth’s surface. Certain gases serve as a trap for this thermal radiation which warms the atmosphere. GHGs include water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3). While all these gases are naturally occurring, human activity since the advent of the Industrial Revolution has significantly added to the GHGs that are generated through various machines and industrial processes. Today, businesses and other organizations are trying to do their part to fight climate change by limiting and reducing the GHGs that are produced and released into the atmosphere.

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Topics: Sustainability Education Renewables

Client Spotlight: Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT)

By 5 on April 29, 2022

For the second year in a row, 5 is spotlighting one of our most innovative and iconic clients, Empire State Realty Trust. Earlier this month, ESRT announced their groundbreaking Empire Building Playbook: An Owner’s Guide to Low Carbon Retrofits. This publication, co-supported by NYSERDA and the Clinton Global Initiative, will help existing commercial buildings implement step-by-step carbon reduction processes with proven methodologies. 5 is proud to be among the core project team that helped ESRT with this game-changing playbook.

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Topics: Clients Sustainability Education Renewables Resiliency
1 min read

Client Spotlight: MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church

By 5 on March 31, 2022

MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church is a large church community in Irving, Texas with many families throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The church campus consists of two large, interconnected buildings that support worship services and many other activities related to both youth and adult faith formation. Energy expenses are a significant operating expense, given the large campus and the numerous services offered by the church.

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Topics: Clients Procurement Sustainability Renewables
2 min read

The Beyond Zero Texas Tour

By Jeff Schiefelbein on February 28, 2022

A Special Opportunity for Texas Educators to Teach Sustainability

The feature-length documentary film, Beyond Zero, tells the story of Ray Anderson and his visionary leadership as the founder and CEO of Interface, a publicly-traded company in the carpet tile industry. In 1989, Ray had a conversion of heart and vowed to take Interface on a journey to become a sustainable enterprise in every way possible. He was ahead of his time in many ways and his heroic leadership is truly a model for companies that are aiming for true stakeholder impact. The best part about Beyond Zero is that it is not only inspirational and entertaining, but it also moves people into action.

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Topics: Culture Sustainability Education
11 min read

January 2022 - Quarterly Market Letter

By Jon Moore on January 25, 2022

“Few things will impact capital allocation decisions – and thereby the long-term value of your company – more than how effectively you navigate the global energy transition in the years ahead.”  - Larry Fink, Blackstone CEO Letter 2022

On behalf of the team at 5, I am pleased to forward our market letter for the fourth quarter of 2021. This letter continues our focus on the conflict between regulations that promote low carbon energy production, and the strain that this energy transition puts on utility systems that must: (i) accommodate intermittent energy sources, and (ii) ensure reliable electric supply at a reasonable cost. California and Europe have taken aggressive regulatory action to reduce carbon emissions. Perhaps because of their early mover status, these markets are also good examples of the challenge faced by regulators overseeing the energy transition.

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Topics: Natural Gas Demand Response Sustainability Newsletters Education Renewables Resiliency
4 min read

Renewable Natural Gas is Garbage (Literally)

By 5 on December 21, 2021

Natural gas, also commonly referred to by its chemical name, methane, is one of the single most controversial topics of the energy transition so far. On the one hand, natural gas is an energy commodity that is far cleaner than coal as a feedstock for power generation and it is a fuel for which there is no alternative in terms of its load-following characteristics. It can be dispatched on very short notice, ramp up and down quickly and easily, and can stay on-line for days on end, as long as the gas delivery network is functional (which, as we learned in Texas in February 2021, is not always the case).

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Topics: Natural Gas Sustainability Education
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