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Google, Amazon and Apple ‘set to enter’ energy supply business

Alternative Energy

Giant tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple, along with major car companies, are set to move into the energy supply business over the next decade due to a technological revolution that has already begun. That is the prediction of Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at University of Oxford.

Speaking at a seminar hosted by the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin on Tuesday, Prof Helm said this technological change would also help decarbonise the world – a process that in his view would not be achieved by the Paris Agreement on addressing climate change.

The gamechanger was technology and “the digitisation of everything”, he said. The obvious manifestation of this were robotic technologies; artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing but people were forgetting energy in this context and electricity in particular. With digitization, there would be “the electrification of everything” from an energy perspective.

The relationship between digitization and electricity demand was already evident. The trend had already been seen in cities and their information infrastructure, in buildings, offices and factories. Robotics, AI and 3D printing were the key components of the future of manufacturing. “Transport is going the same way,” he added.

‘Peak oil’

All notions that the world would reach “peak oil”– the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum – were proven wrong, and yet conventional fossil fuels were being forced out of their main markets. The electricity market that would emerge would realise zero marginal cost.

How to produce electricity in a secure, cost-effective way, while lowering carbon levels, would be the priority. Energy in bulk was required to serve a global population of 10 billion people, and likely to grow by 2-3 per cent a year, he said.

Wind energy would not do this, though he was not against it; solar power could play a key part. Without the combination of digitization, electrification and large input of solar power “we are facing an extremely hot world”, added the economist who has advised the European Commission and British government on energy policy – his book Burn Out: The Endgame for Fossil Fuels was published earlier this year.

The new energy supply business would be provided with bundled services combined with smart metering and sold thorough a broadband hub arrangement, he added. This would attract new players and a new corporate landscape, where data-focused businesses would be to the fore. That was why Google and Apple are all over the move to driverless cars, as these vehicles were just data points with sofware contained in robotics.

While oil companies were slowly shifting from oil to gas and making even more tentative steps in the direction of low-carbon energy, he was not entirely convinced that oil companies have grasped the speed with which the industry was undergoing irrevocable change, nor had “the incumbents” the obvious skills in renewable energy required.

Irish Times

20 Comments on "Google, Amazon and Apple ‘set to enter’ energy supply business"

  1. Davy on Wed, 17th May 2017 6:21 am 

    Techno optimism rubbish is all this is. Google, Amazon and Apple are right now in lofty market heights that are unsustainable and deceptive. The S&P is now primarily a matter of companies like these being bid up. This then bids up the optimism underlying these companies allowing for them to move into other non-core areas. It is more of the Ponzi bubble mentality of global business and finance. If you look at the core of these companies it is all hype and “soft” accounting “goodwill”. The real brick and mortar of growth and productivity is fantasy with companies like these. The part in this article about Peak Oil being proved wrong in no way addresses peak oil dynamics which are alive and well and worsening daily. There is no winning with peak oil. All we did is extend our sentencing for our catch 22 day of reckoning.

    This fake green optimism that is so pervasive today with modern humans is part of our evolutionary dead end of being an animal obsessed with fantasy and the future. It is the cake and eat it mentality and the get out of jail free card. Something for nothing is so appealing. Happy endings are what we want to believe in. We think if we hope hard enough they happen. We have a huge bill to pay and the bill is increasing not declining. Techno optimism is delusionals crap that is keeping the herd calm. In that respect it is good but if you care about the truth then it is a blatant lie. Techno optimism is an existential lie plain and simple. This article is a lie if one cares about wisdom and the truth.

  2. Cloggie on Wed, 17th May 2017 7:05 am 

    Google, Amazon and Apple have a luxury problem: where to invest their seemingly endless amounts of cash. They have noticed the sharp price decline of solar panels and know that more price decline is likely with economy of scale kicking in.

    And all of a sudden they know the solution to their problem.

    It begins with these companies setting up solar and wind parks for themselves to give themselves a hip, green image. Next they could invest in wind and solar as utility.

    Techno optimism rubbish… fake green optimism

    You are using these words as mantra’s, without elaborating why alt-energy won’t work. The truth is that people like Heinberg, Davy and Greg are social romantics, who deep in their hearts want a different society, away from industrialism, over-population, consumer-totalitarianism, “back to nature”. A bit like the “Indians” (but with a car, smartphone, internet connection and iMac).

    That is a valid personal choice, but not necessarily an argument against the potential success of alt-energy.

    The truth about Heinberg is that he wanted the party to be over. His predictions were in reality program.

  3. CIA-MOLE on Wed, 17th May 2017 7:25 am 

    When I had my Bill Joy moment, someone reminded me that I was getting old. Then they said I’m Ted Kaczinsky wanna be and I realized that it seems to be the norm for a lot of people. I began to do some thinking and I realized I’m the new Winton Smith – I love technology!

    I’m tired of the tyranny of the patriarchy (the manual labor class). Every single manual labor hand I’ve encountered inevitably seek control and power. I failed to insist and instill in them that labor must be done through willingness and cheerful attitude.

    I want machines to do the manual labor. I’m not seeking to replace the human factor because I am one.

    We are a creature of duopoly. We can either work hard or think hard or both. Thinking hard gives us science and technology so I can’t just write off techno optimism. I learned to be happy. I learned to love technology.

    There’s a price to pay for sticking to the simple and time-tested mentality. Some French general paid dearly for the Marginot line when Hitler’s PEACE pantzer divisions rolled into France.

    One has to embrace all that is humanity and the products of our mental and manual efforts. We have to embrace technology.

  4. CIA-MOLE on Wed, 17th May 2017 7:28 am 

    I don’t blame manual hands who seek control. I empathize with them. I think they have to control the situation because it’s one way to ensure small incremental progress and quality, because progress is extremely hard.

    I want to relegate manual labor to a museum somewhere so to speak, as in photographs of early English efforts in industrialization using children.

  5. Go Speed Racer on Wed, 17th May 2017 9:36 am 

    LOL they will put an app onto your iPhons.
    The gasoline will come out the USB port.
    Gas stations all obsoslrre. Why didn’t I think of this.
    When Apple has an &800 Billion marker cap,
    of course they will make it happen.

  6. Davy on Wed, 17th May 2017 11:41 am 

    “You are using these words as mantra’s, without elaborating why alt-energy won’t work.”
    Show me where I said it won’t work? I am simply pointing out to you the likely limits of this technology and proposed energy transition. They have an envelope of wonderful functionality but with limits. How would I know if they will work or not at the extremes. I am criticizing you who are absolutely convinced they will work and that translate into a future “will work” now. I am saying you have a lot to prove and a long way to go to be patting yourself on the ass.

  7. dave thompson on Wed, 17th May 2017 12:21 pm 

    Cloggie yes as you so aptly point out; ” It begins with these companies setting up solar and wind parks for themselves to give themselves a hip, green image. Next they could invest in wind and solar as utility.” Green image is the tell here. An image you so imagine is all about making up BS to perpetuate the lie of this destructive system of industrial civilization.

  8. rockman on Wed, 17th May 2017 1:22 pm 

    “It begins with these companies setting up solar and wind parks for themselves to give themselves a hip, green image.” In Texas the primary motivation, like all our other alt energy projects, has little to do with being green and focused on profits:

    “In September 2016, Amazon announced the plan to build its largest wind project to-date, Amazon Wind Farm Texas. A 253 MW project will generate 1,000,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind energy annually – enough to power almost 90,000 U.S. homes.”.

    Apple has taken advantage of the major Texas grid upgrade: its data centers in Texas are now fully powered by renewable energy. Data centers that house computing infrastructure for services like iTunes, Siri, Maps and the App Store now get 100% of their power from a combination of renewable energy the company buys and on-site generation capacity.

    And a nice assist from Google: “Google’s Project Sunroof demonstrates the power of Texas solar irradiation. Google reported that three Texas cities are among the top 10 in the United States for rooftop solar potential. Houston ranked #1 as the city with the highest solar potential, San Antonio and Dallas hold the #4 and #9 spots, respectively. Project Sunroof is a free program developed to help consumers make informed decisions about adopting solar. Most recently, areas of Texas were added to the coverage. The program uses imagery from Google Maps, Google Earth and additional modeling software to estimate how much sunlight individual rooftops receive and how much solar power the rooftop is capable of generating.

    And one company is already taking advantage:
    Mission Solar Energy is the only Texas-based solar panel manufacturer currently in operation. The projecting is for Texas to move from 9th to 2nd place in solar generation in the US over the next five years. A Google gets some credit.

    And a reminder why Apple, Amazon et al see the profit potential of Texas alt energy: a very similar dynamic of solar compared to wind is unfolding now. The state’s solar resource is far better in West Texas and the Panhandle than in our more populated areas. Solar power is benefiting from the fact that Texas has already invested heavily in transmission line build outs. And solar power will increasingly be competing with wind power and other resources for available transmission capacity to wheel power from the sunniest areas of the state to the largest population centers. Unlike other states that lack the grid capability to handle any major expansion of alt energy.

  9. green_achers on Wed, 17th May 2017 1:54 pm 

    Because the grid just isn’t vulnerable enough to hacking.

  10. Cloggie on Wed, 17th May 2017 2:39 pm 

    Cloggie yes as you so aptly point out; ” It begins with these companies setting up solar and wind parks for themselves to give themselves a hip, green image. Next they could invest in wind and solar as utility.” Green image is the tell here. An image you so imagine is all about making up BS to perpetuate the lie of this destructive system of industrial civilization.

    I see it more positive, they all invest billions in alt-energy and I couldn’t care less about their motives. What needs to be done, gets done.

  11. CIA-MOLE on Wed, 17th May 2017 3:10 pm 

    I told you guys the mechanical engineer dudes, I don’t have anything against them. But the computor dudes can be exceptional too. This is how I explain the techies branching out to other areas outside of their traditional domains.

    Computer dudes has a lot of information and money so they can make things happen.

    Don’t be so doom gloom because that’s cow dung to teh ALT-shitlords dung beetles.

    I told u i’m a techie and it’s wrong to just rebuild Oroville damn like that. that’s waste of money.

    U see, objects falling gains kinetic energy. But mechanical engineer dudes make the spillway the same dimension top to bottom.

    This would make the Kunsler mad.

    One minute energy equal 1 year use. Let’s assume 60 minutes

    7 billions * 60 = 420 billions.

  12. deadlykillerbeaz on Thu, 18th May 2017 6:01 am 

    I dunno, but a coal-fired power plant isn’t as vulnerable as a solar park or some wind farm.

    Hail and tornadoes can wreak havoc on a solar park and a couple of wind turbines in the path of a tornado just don’t stand up to the power of the tornado’s fury.

    It has happened, then they might not work as well as anybody thought they could.

    And we know that wind turbines are subject to failure also.

    Best to keep those electricity generators on line and pumping out electricity. Hydro, nuclear and coal-fired power plants lift the barges and tote the bales.

    Coal-fired power plants produced 1746 billion kilowatt hours in 2009. Natural gas is half the amount.

    Wind power hit 194,000,000 kilowatt hours in 2009.

    To have wind power reach 194 billion kilowatt hours you would need one thousand times more wind turbines.

    You are going to consume a lot of fossil fuels to build another two million wind turbines.

    And a lot of steel, cement, and neodymium will be required and a lot of fuel to go out to sites to erect the wind turbine farms.

    Might want to stick with coal, it is primary and doesn’t really need that much material and maintenance to achieve the power it can deliver.

    Google and Apple and Amazon might want to think it over a couple of more times.

    Coal and hydro and nuclear carry the weight, have the capacity, in the most concentrated mix you can have.

    Nikola Tesla built the hydroelectric power station at Niagara Falls, all 400,000 horsepower. J.P. Morgan, who helped finance the project, looked at Tesla and quipped, “Where’s the meter?”

    Best to stick with what works the best and has the most to offer.

    Right now, it is not wind and it is not solar.

    Sorry, Charlie.

  13. CIA-MOLE on Thu, 18th May 2017 6:57 am 

    @dead u don’t use permanent magnets in the big alternators bro. U energize the coil. If u know the relationship between elec and magnetic fields then u create one from another

    fundamentally i see a wind turbine as solar panel the size a few sq. miles. there’s no comparision in term of scale between the two.

  14. rockman on Thu, 18th May 2017 7:28 am 

    “Best to stick with what works the best and has the most to offer. Right now, it is not wind and it is not solar.”

    It always amazes me when folks talk about the alts inability to replace ff powered generation. Texas has one of the largest wind power generating infrastructures IN THE WORLD and not once have I ever seen a politician or alt energy promoter mention “replacement”. It has always been put forward as a supplement. And as such it has worked very well. For instance economic analysis doesn’t include the loss of power of an EXISTING ff fired plant but the cost of a new one vs an alt facility.

    IOW Texas alt power was never planned to replace any of our conventional generation capability so arguing its inability to do so is pointless. We were going to build new plants either way to meet our booming demand. Perhaps that has been our big advantage: building new power generation wasn’t optional but necessary.

    Texas alts have nothing to do with “saving the environment”…it’s just business. LOL.

  15. Davy on Thu, 18th May 2017 7:33 am 

    I like to make comparisons based on decline scenarios that focus on the scale of the equipment size per differences in applications. I am highlighting these alternatives by type with pluses and negatives in relation to a decline of modernism. Solar can be dispersed or utility size. Wind is centralized and utility sized but not very good dispersed. End users who are looking for backup and resilience are choosing solar. If you are a techno optimist then wind and solar are both very fashionable because decline is dismissed. From my decline point of view then large utility size renewable may become stranded assets in an economic shock that produces a downsizing of economic activity. Complex centralized grids will be vulnerable to failure by their nature as complex and centralized. Such an event may impact dispersed end user solar applications also because replacement may not be availed if equipment fails. On the other hand those dispersed solar systems that survive will be highly valuable to the end user in an environment of decline where the grid goes unstable. Utility solar might be a very good source of equipment salvage for end users where large scale wind farms are going to be problematic because of their industrial sized.

  16. Apneaman on Thu, 18th May 2017 11:02 am 

    I’m going to open a flood recover business.

    Sea level rise will double coastal flood risk worldwide

    Small but unstoppable increases will double frequency of extreme water levels with dire consequences, say scientists

    “The research takes in to account the large waves and storm surges that can tip gradually rising sea levels over the edge of coastal defences. Lower latitudes will be first affected, in a great swath through the tropics from Africa to South America and throughout south-east Asia, with Europe’s Atlantic coast and the west coast of the US not far behind.

    The most vulnerable places, including large cities in Brazil and Ivory Coast, and small Pacific islands, are expected to experience the doubling within a decade.”

    “It is pretty much inevitable that we are going to see increased frequency of extreme water levels – there is no way around this,” said Sean Vitousek, at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the research.”

    Doubling of coastal flooding frequency within decades due to sea-level rise

  17. onlooker on Thu, 18th May 2017 12:54 pm

    Sorry, Tesla owners, but your electric car isn’t as green as you think it is

  18. Sissyfuss on Thu, 18th May 2017 3:31 pm 

    Rock, as you continue to look more and more hospitable to the huddled masses, don’t be surprised when they go full Eurozone on you. And when the next AGW drought sets in as you’re being overrun, don’t try building any second generation pipelines to the Great Lakes. We won’t just protest, we’ll blow it up real good.

  19. rockman on Thu, 18th May 2017 11:04 pm 

    Sissy – What draughts? For 5 of the last 10 years we’ve run above the 50 year average rainfall in Texas. Likewise for 10 of the last 20 years.

    Of course we’ll still have “drought years” like 2011:

    “2011 was the driest year in Texas’ recorded history — crops failed, herds were sold off and lakes and reservoirs literally went dry. Some communities, like Spicewood Beach in the Hill Country or Robert Lee in West Texas, had to scramble to find new water supplies”.

    But fortunately we have a $10+ BILLION ” rainy day” fund that has come from production taxes and royalties levied against the petroleum industrty. From 2013…a couple of years after that dry 2011:

    “Texans overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday to jump-start financing for water projects in the state: Proposition 6. The plan will take $2 billion in surplus state money (from the Rainy Day Fund) to start a low-interest loan program for water projects in Texas. The measure had widespread support from both sides of the aisle as well as business”.

    As far as “blowing up pipelines between Texas and our Yankee cousins you might run a search of nasty comments made back during restricted fossil fuel periods when such comments were also made. But not about pipelines carry water south to Texas but petroleum pipelines leaving Texas. LOL.

    BTW we’ve been developing a plan that might give us a tad more drinking water as well as taking greater advantage of our solar and wind resources:

    “During the last legislative session in 2015, Zerrenner helped to create a bill mandating that the General Land Office (GLO) and Texas Water Development Board study how wind and solar energy can be used to power the desalination of water. Otherwise known as Senate Bill 991, the piece of legislation was sponsored by both a Republican and Democratic legislator.”

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