In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Energy CFOs believe green energy is the future, and that solar will lead the pack.
  • The federal government has proposed drilling for oil and gas on Moab, Utah’s Slickrock biking trail.
  • How the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality actually encourages residential solar.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Energy CFOs predict solar will dominate

Assurance, tax, and advisory services firm BDO has released a new CFO outlook survey called, “Energy Goes Green.” The 2020 BDO Energy Outlook Survey polled 100 chief financial officers (CFOs) at US energy organizations with revenues ranging from $250 million to $3 billion in October and November 2019.

The overall finding is that energy CFOs agree that green energy is the future. 38% of oil and gas CFOs felt the most dominant alternative energy by 2023 would be solar, followed by 28% choosing hydroelectric, and 16% choosing wind. 38% of power generation CFOs agreed about solar, but 22% chose wind, and 20% chose geothermal.

Drastically lower production costs, growing concern around climate change, evolving global energy policies, and increased pressure from investors on companies to adopt environmental social governance (ESG) polices are pushing renewables into the mainstream.

But the industry has a long way to go — according to energy CFOs, renewables aren’t projected to make up a significant part of their businesses for a few years.

BDO described US movement toward green energy as “slow and steady.” When Electrek asked BDO why the US lags behind so many other countries in the adaptation of green energy, Clark Sackschewsky, BDO’s national natural resources practice leader, replied:

The difference between the US and most other countries, particularly those in Europe, is that the US has a readily available source of energy that is cheap and abundant.  Most countries, like those in Europe, do not have that luxury, and therefore the cost/benefit analysis outside of the US is completely different.

The cost per MWh has been dropping significantly, but it won’t be until we get to the point where energy storage for when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining has improved dramatically that we will see a large conversion to alternative energy.

We are seeing the shift and it is moving in the right direction within the US, [but] a dramatic turn to renewables has a lot of headwinds to overcome.

As BDO put it: “One thing is certain: The energy industry in 10 years will look completely different than it does today, and our world will be better off for it.”

Oil could spoil the Moab Slickrock trail

The world-famous, nearly 11 mile-long, mountain-biking Slickrock trail near Moab, Utah, takes riders over stunning petrified sand dunes and sea bed remnants.

And now, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed leasing two-thirds of Slickrock for oil and gas drilling, even though it has very low potential to produce.

Under a plan to be opened for public comment on February 20, the agency would auction two parcels on Sand Flats, one of which is barely a mile form Arches National Park, and five others in Grand County.

The June offerings are puny, covering about 5,000 acres. Yet they will likely court controversy — as was the case a few years ago, when the BLM proposed offering parcels for leasing near Zion National Park. It withdrew those patches after taking heat from Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Washington County leaders.

Oil prices are down mainly because there is plenty of oil — Donald Trump likes to announce that at his rallies regularly — so it’s pointless to even consider destroying unique natural beauty that so many people enjoy.

Copy your neighbors: Get solar

A study by economics researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, which was published in the journal Environmental and Resource Economics, explored what happens to attitudes about climate change when people see their neighbors putting solar panels on their roofs.

The study analyzed five years of survey data collected between 2010 and 2014 in Australian communities.

It found that for every additional 1,000 solar panels in a neighborhood, the share of neighbors that believe climate change is primarily caused by human action increased by seven percentage points.

Graham Beattie, assistant professor of economics at Loyola Marymount University, who worked on the study as a post-doctoral researcher at Pitt until 2018, said:

They see their neighbors install solar panels, so they get interested and read more on them and climate change to update their beliefs. Maybe they receive government funding to install panels, or maybe they just believe their neighbors more than scientists. There’s all kinds of possibilities as to why.

There’s a lot more solar installation in Australia than there is in the U.S., but conjecturally speaking, there’s no reason why this relationship wouldn’t also exist in the US.

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