Newsletter: Shell’s gotta do what now?

It’s Friday, it’s Memorial Day weekend, so we’re going to keep this short and sweet.
By Julian Spector

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A Shell gas station neon sign lit up in orange at night
(Marc Rentschler/Unsplash)

It’s Friday, it’s Memorial Day weekend, so we’re going to keep this short and sweet. And we’ll give your inbox a break on Monday.

But when you see your friends and family at the barbecue, tell them to subscribe to Canary Media so they know what’s cooking in the world of clean energy. And here’s a few topics you can mention to show that you’re in the know.

Climate comes for Big Oil

These three actions were forced onto major oil companies within a 24-hour span this week, Jason Deign reports:

  • Chevron had to accept a shareholder resolution compelling the company to reduce its Scope 3 emissions, which are those caused by the consumption of its products, not just from its internal corporate operations.
  • Environmentally minded shareholders took over two seats on ExxonMobil’s board. Investment behemoth BlackRock joined the push, part of its effort to demand climate accounting and decarbonization from businesses it invests in.
  • A Dutch court ordered Shell to slash its carbon emissions by 45 percent in a decade’s time, including its Scope 3 emissions. 

All these companies have said they’re working on low-carbon initiatives. Shell actually is investing considerable dollars into these efforts. But fossil fuels remain the core of all three businesses. This week, they were taken to task for not going far enough to change that.

Offshore wind goes bicoastal

Running around L.A., you occasionally meet bicoastal” people who split their time between film sets in Southern California and New York City. They may soon be joined by a cadre of bicoastal offshore wind developers.

The federal government took a crucial early step toward opening up wind development off the coast of California, Jeff reports. This requires buy-in from the Defense Department (to work around military operations) and the Interior Department.

  • There could still be resistance from the fishing industry and environmentalists. This being California, that’s more likely than not.
  • The steep drop-off along the geologically young West Coast requires floating turbines, which are still quite new and expensive. Analysts expect steep cost declines in the coming years.

Don’t expect bustling offshore wind in Cali soon, but it could potentially happen within the decade. Meanwhile, wind development in the shallow New England seas is well underway.

Arizona’s 100 percent clean energy rule is back!

Arizona is creating the utility regulatory equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Every seemingly climactic battle leaves room for a sequel, and characters that seemed to have died spring back to life.

Thus, the Southwestern state’s recently scuttled plan to eliminate fossil fuels from the power grid is back, with a twist: The regulators extended the ultimate deadline from 2050 to 2070, Emma reports.

That’s a less ambitious timeline than any other states with similar requirements. But this does include short-term deadlines, like a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2032 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050, as well as other interim obligations.

The state’s utilities already support the plan, but Republican state legislators may try to meddle again. It still needs a few procedural steps for ultimate completion.

The important thing to remember is that clean energy took off in Arizona with minimal state policy support because the economics in the Southwest’s deserts are so darn attractive.

It’s likely the grid will clean up considerably faster than the 2070 timeline. But passage of the rule will add to the drumbeat of states passing 100 percent rules ahead of the federal government.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.