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Good News From The Parallel Energy Sector

As someone who also anchors a weekly television programme I should say that despite the endless debate around correct measuring of TV ratings, they do reveal certain trends. The first conclusion to be made based on the results of these weeks is that when people are at home, they are once again turning on their “old-fashioned” TV sets. Ratings are on the rise worldwide.

A second conclusion is drawn on the basis of the so-called “minute-per-minute” chart of the  programme entrusted to me: last Saturday the leaders of the viewing turned out to be a special report on the history of the fight against pandemics in 14th, 17th and 18th centuries (the only thing that actually worked back then was the quarantine, too) and a package about the conversion (or rather not so much of a conversion) of the OPEC + into an OPEC ++.

Of course, there is a still a long way to go before the names of the members of the Saudi royal dynasty are referred to as easily as the actors of popular soap operas, but what’s to stay with us is the growing interest of the wider audiences towards the current “twists and shouts” in the global oil prices saga. But then, collectively, everyone is aware of the impact of those prices on the state of government budgets and currency exchange rates in most countries.

That said, even more surprising is the contrast of all of this with the rather differentiating reflections upon the current trends by those, with whom I communicate in my parallel life. On the one hand, energy gurus, of course, actively participated in the survey after the events in Vienna (by the way, nobody pushed the non-Russian experts to talk his way, but they’ve made a couple of revealing comments regarding the true role played by the Saudis).

On the other hand, however, ever more willingly, they discussed with me (perhaps, because of their open-mindedness) the sort of changes that are occurring with the consumption of electricity due to self-isolation.

Admittingly, this other news about the energy industry is probably no less important for the future, especially when you consider the fact that, most likely, the forced temporary remote work from home may well develop into a new production culture (especially given that the increased television viewing is just a part of an ever more increasing involvement of computers and other gadgets with instant messengers at home).

Adnan Amin, a Senior Fellow at Harvard, noted in a recent online exchange: “People are rediscovering what life indoors is like.” William Byun, Managing Director at the Asia Renewables in Singapore, adds that demand for electricity on weekdays will be more like demand for electricity on weekends as people stay at home. But what does that mean for the sector?

Former Siemens representative in Russia Dietrich Moeller believes that a slowdown in the global economy and a decrease in the electricity consumption especially in the industrial production, cannot be easily compensated by an insignificant increase in private consumption on a global scale. He is confident that energy companies will face lower electricity prices. Thus, a lower turnover.

Steven Griffiths (Vice President for Research and Development, Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi), suggests that declining demand will change the distribution of generation resources in competitive electricity markets and its overall structure. A decrease in demand will lead to a decrease in the revenue of producers, and some of them may be squeezed out of the market. The question is, of course, is whether electricity-producing companies will offset lost revenue by raising tariffs.

Another curious question is what people do if they’ve got to consume more energy at home, and the cost of that electricity goes up. Perhaps, the most entertaining forecast has come from the mentioned above Mr. Byun. As he lives in the sunny Singapore, it is easier for him to reason like that, but he predicts that the massive transition to the remote work will spur the development of systems for generating electricity at home using solar panels. Let us leave out of the brackets the question of the production of silicon, which is necessary for the manufacturing such batteries. In fact, that may be as dirty from the point of view of its impact on the environment, and may, in fact, only partially compensate the overall pollution caused by the conventional energy sector. But then Mr. Byun also adds something that sounds logical for any geographical areas and cultures: after the current coronavirus helter-skelter people may well begin to unite to create micro-energy systems and, of course, energy-saving devices will become more and more popular. And this is an entire new industry.

While this debate is gaining momentum, let us in the meantime take a look at another unexpected angle.

Due to the coronavirus, very good news went unnoticed last month. Scientists from the Moscow Radiotechnical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences patented a system for transferring energy from a space-based solar power station to the Earth, primarily to remote areas, where it is impossible to lay ground power lines.

David Faiman from the Israeli Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, considers generating electric power from the sun in space in an earth orbiting satellite to be a very exciting prospect. First of all, because there is no atmosphere to dilute the sun’s rays, the satellite actually sees sunlight about 50% stronger than earthbound solar panels would see it. Secondly, satellites see the sun 24 hours a day except for the few minutes every day when the Earth passes between the panels and the sun. And thirdly, such satellites generate a constant flow of energy.

However, one important issue needs to be resolved. Namely, a reliable mechanism that can prevent possible passage of the microwave beam on its way from such satellites to the Earth through civilian aircraft.

Hence, the “little” issue, which is left, is for the planes to start flying again. Here, however, something depends on both, how the coronavirus keeps spreading and on the OPEC ++.

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