Over the summer, something truly incredible occurred in Brooklyn, USA.
Over 50 homes stopped using the centralised grid…and created their own micro grid. This enabled each home to generate solar energy…and trade it back and forth with their neighbours using the blockchain (we have discussed blockchains before). This is the same tech that makes bitcoin so powerful.
Anyone heading out for the day, and not needing any energy, could simply sell their energy on to anyone else on the grid. This trade would be very quick, safe and of course, cheap.
No one had to pay a centralised power station to supply them with dirty, ‘old’ energy. This is important. There is a huge decentralised energy revolution happening right now.
There is a similar experiment going on in the UK, in Salford to be precise. Again, hundreds of homes have decided to try going ‘off grid’ and created their own micro grid. It’s happening all over the world in fact. The advantages to a decentralised micro grid are huge. Necker Island, the private island owned by Richard Branson is a great example.
For decades, it has generated most of its energy from diesel generators. But now, it’s built its own dedicated micro grid. It is planning to disconnect from the ‘mains’ and use solar, wind and other renewables to power itself.
This technology is bigger than any single installation or energy source. Whether its solar, wind, geothermal or battery tech. It is really about how they all come on-stream as part of a decentralised system with thousands of smaller energy sources.
It’s an idea that is catching on across the world, including right here in the UK. Imperial College London are exploring the possibility of moving the UK train network off the national grid…and building a micro grid to power our trains. The project rolls out in early 2018. I will be watching their conclusions and suggestions with interest. In San Diego, the US military is investing heavily in its ‘Miramar Microgrid’, a joint project between energy giants Schneider Electric and Black and Veatch. Google, Walmart, Siemens, Microsoft, Facebook and the US Government have stumped up billions to fund new micro grids.
Apple has just registered itself as an energy supplier, ready to sell and trade solar energy. They have the cash after all.
By James Sanders
Opec, the oil exporters cartel has never been very good at sticking to deals which are designed to rein in output. They recently agreed to cut production to mop up a glut and boost prices, but it turns out they are not doing a very impressive job this time around either.
According to the International Energy Agency, some producers are showing signs of ‘weakening their resolve’. In July, the compliance rate amongst Opec members was just over 75%, overall production rose however. You should expect the cheating to continue, and don’t be surprised if some withdraw from the deal altogether.
Opec states have become more dependent on oil revenue this decade. As The Wall street Journal pointed out recently.
They have used a $100 oil price to boost spending in order to ‘pacify restive populations during the Arab Spring’ in 2011, and now they don’t dare to cut state spending too harshly. Of course, they are tempted to cheat and go for ‘jam today’, over ‘jam tomorrow’, but the situation is not sustainable in the long term.
They need the oil price to be higher to balance their budgets, and this shift has coincided with the advent of US shale oil, which has become increasingly cost efficient on the exploration front. Opec’s market share has declined to 40% from 55% in the 1970’s.
US shale is coping with lower and lower prices, producing more oil and thus capping any oil price rallies, just as Opec has begun to need the highest oil price of anyone in the market. The US government estimates that American production will hit an all-time high in 2018. No wonder the oil price is doomed.
Any price rises are likely to be short lived and I would recommend short selling into any strength for active traders.
By James Sanders
James Sanders is a London based trader and investor. He founded the UK’s largest independent derivatives broker in 2001 and left the City in 2009.