For the next 20 years, U.S. power companies have a clear vision as they’re planning to retire most of their coal-fired power. They’re doubling, even tripling, if at all possible, their wind and solar potentials. Most are extending the licenses of their existing nuclear plants to keep that carbon-free power online.
Beyond that, plans get a little hazier. They’re counting on emissions-cutting, long-term battery storage, and other power technologies now in the planning stages, to become available in the near future.
Nonetheless, the uncertainty of how entities such as Michigan’s Consumers Energy will reach emissions goals raises questions about investment and policy in the next decade. One of the biggest questions power companies will face is what to do about natural gas plants, which have been key to carbon-cutting so far.
Most utilities’ net-zero or clean energy targets don’t include plans to shut natural gas facilities. Some are building even more natural gas capacity to help balance the wind and solar power they plan to bring online in the next decade.
Utilities see natural gas as a pillar for their plans to add more renewable power, which is relatively inexpensive to build. However, building renewable energy power plants is even less expensive.
North Carolina-based Duke Energy also sees natural gas as a significant segment of success, and complements its ability to expand power generation through wind and solar, making it easy to increase capacity.
After 2030, though, the cost of adding new renewable energy starts to climb dramatically. Top industry executives indicate that even such success is outweighed by renewable buildup at its initial stages. No utility sees a silver bullet, as yet. They’re keeping an eye on many emerging technologies, such as natural gas with carbon-capture. Dominion Energy, a Richmond, Va.-based investor in renewable natural gas, is using captured methane and bio-mass from agricultural production.
Some utilities, however, say they are faced with hurdles at the state and local levels, forcing them to re-evaluate the total cost of renewed power capability.
Of even more concern is political pressure by left-wing Democrats, who are already fighting against some of the current technical power capability being used.
There is even fear among top utility executives that the election of a Democratic president, along with a Democrat-controlled Senate and House of Representatives, would force back even some of the power capability that is keeping energy entities on top of the needs of current segments.
Is Fed a U.S. Financier?
For the first two years as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), Jerome Powell had to fend off President Trump’s continued demand for lower interest rates to generate a faster comeback from the eight years of recession that had preceded his 2016 election. But lo and behold, the Federal Reserve President’s tightwad position has turned into a gung-ho financial surge never before seen in any previous Federal Reserve Banking System since its original position as the No. 1 bank of the United States.
But what is unique about the current Fed’s approach to the pandemic is two-fold.
Its two-trillion dollar approach to overall investments is not only the largest by any previous Fed, but it has reached far above its standard policy of buying only highly rated bonds It has taken strong positions in the U.S. stock market, a move to make sure that the record unemployment and investment negativity would not create a negative financial disaster. This awesome expansion from a low of well under $1 trillion in April 2008 to a current record of $6 trillion in April 2020.
This has included large gobs of Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities and a strong position in the stock market. One of Powell’s main objectives in this unprecedented outburst into America’s financial markets has been the reassurance necessary to prevent a major “stock and bond market crash,” such as has happened in previous economic disasters, whatever the genesis behind their downfall.
Already having been perceived late in April 2020 is that the financial markets have solidified, after an early drop-off early in March. This is when the novel coronavirus and its incredible depressionary results could have turned into a depression matching that of the early 1930s.
The Fed even showed previously unknown flexibility by not only spreading its wealth into Wall Street favorites, but into mainstream public favorites in stocks and bonds.
Powell, who has been transformed from miser to progenitor, is modest when praised worldwide for his shrewdness. He claims that the Fed had no choice at all; it was a necessity. In a recent speech, he seemed to reflect on the U.K.’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who saw that Britain had no choice but to stand up to Adolph Hitler’s Germany after the three-week collapse of France.
Conventional monetary policy seemed to have reached its limit when the Fed lowered the Federal Fund Rate to 1.5 percent. This seemed aggressive for the stringent Fed chairman. Powell’s unprecedented and notable action was seen as very remarkable. But he knew bold action was necessary to keep the U.S economy liquid.