- Trends in Energy
- That's A Wrap On 2023
That's A Wrap On 2023
As 2023 draws to a close, thank you for being a loyal Trends in Energy subscriber. Whether you’re a client, partner, or other friend of Delve, we’ve enjoyed providing you with a weekly look at the key trends shaping the policy and political landscape across the energy value chain. Stay tuned for some exciting new offerings for the Trends in Energy community in 2024!
As we wrap up 2023, here are the top five Trends you engaged with the most this year, in case you missed them or want to give them a second look. You can read these and the latest trends notes at Delve.Energy.
1. Power Plant Ping-Pong
May 18 — EPA’s power plant proposal is just the latest reminder that the energy industry is perpetually stuck in a game of regulatory ping pong.
Last week EPA announced its much anticipated proposal to limit emissions from power plants.
The proposal already faces significant judicial scrutiny, and there are major questions as to whether it could survive a conservative Supreme Court.
Even if the proposal does survive judicial scrutiny, with the 2024 presidential election just 18 months away, electoral politics could also spell the rule’s demise before it even goes into effect, and it remains unclear whether the rule is even technically feasible.
Still, the proposal may feel like Groundhog Day to many public affairs professionals, who have seen now seen three iterations of power plant rules put forward over the past decade, with the previous attempts falling to lawsuits from whichever side – industry, activists, or state officials – felt the rule did not meet their interests.
This perpetual state of regulatory ping-pong, in which electoral whims and judicial rebuffs abound, leaves energy industry leaders without the certainty they need to make smart investments to build a cleaner, more reliable energy future.
2. A Particulate Problem
Nov. 30 — As Biden works to cement his environmental legacy before the 2024 elections and fire up his progressive base, his administration is set to release a number of aggressive environmental rules despite industry opposition and activist disappointment.
Before the New Year’s ball drops, Biden is expected to drop stricter rules on particulate matter over objections from the oil and gas industry, Congress, and manufacturers that the proposed rules are economically damaging and scientifically unnecessary.
The “PM2.5” rule is a preview of what Biden has in store for 2024 as he seeks to fire up his progressive base for the election and ensure his environmental legacy is in place in case he loses in November, but this rule won’t stand alone.
Biden’s regulatory agenda for 2024 includes plans to finalize rules on a range of environmentalist priorities, including methane and power plant emissions as well as gas stoves and ethylene oxide.
Yet environmental activists are not satisfied with the PM2.5 rule and will likely object to the others for not going far enough, meaning the Administration will stay face activists’ ire in the lead up to next November.
As the new year approaches, companies will need an information advantage to understand these dynamics and how they can shape the debate as it continues to unfold.
3. Down Ballot Downsides
Dec. 7 — When Americans head to the ballot box next November, most eyes will be on marquee races like President and Congress, but energy public affairs professionals should focus further down the ballot for races that could have weightier implications for the regulatory landscape across the country.
6,477 elections are on next November’s ballot for federal and state positions, plus tens of thousands more for county and municipal offices, including nine states that will vote to elect new public utility commissioners and two states that will elect Governors who will be able to appoint new members of their commissions in their first year in office.
While many these of races – particularly those for obscure regulatory bodies like PUC – get little attention from media and pundits, climate activists are highly attuned to the impact they can have on the energy industry’s ability to operate.
Not only are these environmentalist groups endorsing and funding candidates, they are getting their own members elected or appointed to key state and local positions like PUCs as well as county and municipal offices that oversee permitting, utilities, and other key interests of the energy industry.
Energy industry public affairs professionals cannot wait for their opponents to shape these key down ballot races and appointments, but must engage early to assess the candidates and understand how they will impact the industry, then take action to ensure the best results on Election Day.
4. Orca-nized Narrative
Feb. 2 — Offshore wind developers find themselves facing a media-hyped challenge familiar to many renewables builders: balancing needed infrastructure with wildlife impacts.
Since December, at least nine whales have been stranded on the beaches of New Jersey and New York, at the same time as preconstruction work begins on offshore wind farms.
While there is no evidence the offshore wind development is causing the whale deaths, local and even national media, as well as some environmental groups, are linking the two.
The burgeoning fight over endangered whales and offshore wind is reminiscent of past media reporting of onshore wind and solar developments’ (often overstated) impacts on wildlife, particularly endangered species.
As the U.S. looks to become a leader in emerging climate technologies, industry participants need to get ahead of the media hype with the facts and also expose where the hype is being driven by opposing interests – be they environmentalists or other industries.
5. Sequestering Skepticism
Apr. 27 — As climate interests and policymakers send divergent messages on carbon capture, industry could be caught in the middle of an untenable regulatory and stakeholder environment.
Even as President Biden prepares to bet big on carbon capture technology in his EPA’s forthcoming power plant rule, there are growing challenges and pressures to bringing carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to life.
The technology is dividing policymakers and regulators as well as climate policy advocates in ways that are emblematic of the modern environmental movement, as some activists and officials stoke unsubstantiated fears about technologies other policymakers and advocates say are essential to reach aggressive emission reduction targets.
As this divide emerges, those seeking to adopt, build, or invest in CCS infrastructure risk finding themselves caught in an untenable regulatory middle ground while facing professionally-backed opposition within the communities in which they operate.
To navigate these risks and challenges, CCS supporters need to ensure they can effectively communicate the benefits and safety of CCS infrastructure while fully understanding the range of stakeholders and policymakers they will have to navigate if they are going to bring projects to fruition.
With 2023 almost in the rearview mirror, continue to follow along with Trends in Energy and stay on the lookout for more ways to stay ahead of the curve with the competitive intelligence experts at Delve.