• CybersecurityWestern energy sector target of sophisticated attack by Russian-linked group Dragonfly

    The energy sector in Europe and North America is being targeted by a new wave of cyberattacks that could provide attackers with the means to severely disrupt affected operations. The group behind these attacks is known as Dragonfly. The group has been in operation since at least 2011 but has re-emerged over the past two years from a quiet period following exposure by Symantec and a number of other researchers in 2014. This “Dragonfly 2.0” campaign, which appears to have begun in late 2015, shares tactics and tools used in earlier campaigns by the group.

  • Energy security139 countries could be powered by 100 percent wind, water, and solar energy by 2050

    The latest roadmap to a 100 percent renewable energy future from twenty-seven experts is the most specific global vision yet, outlining infrastructure changes that 139 countries can make to be entirely powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050 after electrification of all energy sectors. Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over twenty-four million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs.

  • Nuclear powerU.S. advanced nuclear program unlikely to deliver on its mission

    Despite repeated promises over the past eighteen years, the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) is unlikely to deliver on its mission to develop and demonstrate an advanced nuclear reactor by the mid-twenty-first century. That is the conclusion of a new study which used data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to reconstruct the program’s budget history.

  • Energy securityWind energy: Technology advancements, improved project performance, low prices

    Wind energy pricing for land-based, utility-scale projects remains attractive to utility and commercial purchasers, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy. Prices offered by newly built wind projects in the United States are averaging around 2¢/kWh, driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.

  • EarthquakesHuman-induced and natural earthquakes in central U.S. are “inherently similar”

    Between 1980 and 2000, Oklahoma averaged about two earthquakes greater than or equal to magnitude 2.7 per year. That number jumped to about 2,500 in 2014 and 4,000 in 2015, then dropped to 2,500 in 2016. On Sept. 3, 2016, a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck Oklahoma, the state’s largest earthquake to date. According to USGS, many earthquakes in Oklahoma and other parts of the central U.S. have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection associated with oil and gas operations.

  • Nuclear powerNuclear power project abandoned as energy landscape changes, costs escalate

    On Monday, after working nine years to expand a nuclear power plant in South Carolina, Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced they were pulling the plug on the $14 billion reactor project in Fairfield County. The companies cited rising costs, falling demand for energy, construction delays, and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. SCE&G customers have paid $1.4 billion through higher monthly utility bills – customers saw their rates increase nine different times over the last four years – and consumer groups in the state say they would demand that the money be refunded to consumers.

  • Energy securityClimate change threatens European electricity production

    The vulnerability of the European electricity sector to changes in water resources is set to worsen by 2030 as a consequence of climate change. Thermoelectric power stations—including coal, gas, and nuclear plants—use significant amounts of fresh water for cooling purposes. A large gas power station can use an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water per minute. If water is not available, or if it is too warm, power stations have to reduce electricity production, or cease production completely.

  • Energy securityStrategic threat: Russia’s use of the “energy weapon” against Western Europe

    In 2016, Russian gas imports equaled 23 percent of total U.K. gas demand, 25 percent in France, 40 percent in Italy, 55 percent in Denmark, 58 percent in the Czech Republic, 62 percent in Germany and Hungary, 64 percent in Poland, 70 percent in Austria, and 84 percent in Slovakia. Although it has not been widely successful to date in the former Soviet zone, Russia’s use of the “energy weapon” against Western European countries in various forms still constitutes a strategic threat that warrants close attention from policymakers, experts say.

  • Energy securityAging power plants provide U.S. with environmental risks, economic opportunities

    When it comes to the current plans to retire U.S. power plants, researchers believe we are “running towards a cliff with no fence.” The researchers examined more than a century of power plant construction and retirement data. They found that power plant retirement trends will complicate achieving long-term carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction targets and require a significant increase in capital investments. Additionally, a shift in investment emphasis from adding megawatts of generating capacity at low cost to reducing tons of CO2 emissions is creating an imbalance that may pressure grid reliability over the next two decades.

  • Water securityTreated fracking wastewater may pollute Pennsylvania water sources for years

    Given Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, it’s no surprise that the Commonwealth has become a mecca for hydraulic fracturing. Researchers, however, have recently discovered that releasing millions of gallons of treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater each year into area surface waters may have longer-lasting effects than originally thought.

  • Smart grid“Smart” transformers could make reliable smart grid a reality

    The idea of a smart grid that can handle power flows not just from the power company to our homes, but also back from our homes to the power company has been around for years. Among other benefits, such a grid would improve efficient use of renewable energy and storage. But, to date, the smart grid has been mostly conceptual. The new study indicates that it could move from concept to reality in the near future, using technology that already exists. The key technology is solid-state transformers (SST).

  • InfrastructureMaintaining the safety of California’s natural gas system

    California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are about 350 active wells at those fields, many of which are used currently for natural gas but were designed for oil and gas production and constructed prior to 1970. The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon shined a light on California’s aging natural gas infrastructure. And five years of extreme drought also exacted its toll on transmission pipelines.

  • Oil spillsOil spill puzzle solved: Oil-eating bacteria consumed the Deepwater Horizon oil plume

    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 is one of the most studied spills in history, yet scientists have not agreed on the role of microbes in eating up the oil. Now, a research team has identified all of the principal oil-degrading bacteria as well as their mechanisms for chewing up the many different components that make up the released crude oil.

  • Man-made earthquakesFracking-induced earthquakes in Oklahoma

    Oklahomans are no strangers to Mother Nature’s whims. From tornadoes and floods to wildfires and winter storms, the state sees more than its share of natural hazards. But prior to 2009, “terra firma” in Oklahoma meant just that — earthquakes rarely shook the state. Then, after decades of seismic quiet where the state averaged less than two quakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year, Oklahoma suddenly saw a sharp uptick, to twenty such quakes in 2009. NASA says that the earthquakes were human-induced, resulting from wastewater injection, rather than a naturally caused quakes.

  • Energy securityAir pollution hobbles solar energy production

    Global solar energy production is taking a major hit due to air pollution and dust. According to a new study, airborne particles and their accumulation on solar cells are cutting energy output by more than 25 percent in certain parts of the world. The regions hardest hit are also those investing the most in solar energy installations: China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula.