Themes coming out of this week’s CERA conference: Global refiners will have to invest significantly in coming years to handle feedstocks other than conventional crude oil. Hess Corporation CEO John Hess says there’s still plenty of oil, but the question is whether investments are meeting demand growth. Natural gas is poised to become a global commodity in the next couple of years because of growing capacity to liquify and transport it. And the cost of building power plants has risen 76 percent over the past three years.
But there’s public pressure to embrace clean energy strategies, for economic and environmental reasons. Alstrom’s Phillipe Joubert says nuclear energy is becoming more attractive.
“The challenges are numerous–we have already seen some. Political acceptance, legislation, permitting, the size of the equipment is tremendous, and the delay to put a nuclear plant online is great. Despite all that, no matter what, we will come back to nuclear. It will take some time, some public acceptance. There is no other solution.”
But MIT’s John Deutch notes the great expense of nuclear power generation.
“We’ve attrracted a lot of attention here this morning and elsewhere because it indeed is a carbon-free technology. However, the challenges facing nuclear are quite considerable. The nuclear renaissance that we all want to see may not be so quick in coming. Capital costs may be in excess of $3,000 per kilowatt installed.”
Whatever the resource, Michael Morris of American Electric Power says technology can bring cleaner approaches.
“There’s no question that there’s a technological answer that can bring us clean energy as we go forward.”
The mix has to include energy efficiency, as EnerNOC’s Tim Healy points out.
“An increase in the demand side efficiency aspect can potentially address up to 50 percent of the new resources and new infrastructure that we need.”
The approach to resources depends largely on geography, according to NTR’s Jim Barry.
“Your approach if you are a huge coal resource is different than if you have a huge solar resource. It’s different if you have a huge installed nuclear fleet. This is a real challenge for the policymakers, to try and shape an answer.”
CERA speakers say corporations and governments will continue to study the investment outlook for clean energy technologies, as well as cost and performance.
Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.