Hedge fund Bridgewater Associates believes that almost half of the jobs in the next two decades will be replaced by artificial intelligence. CEO Ray Dalio said:

“By in large, the world is going to largely consist of people who can take language and put it into code, which then allows the computer to operate like a brain or people who are going to be displaced by that. Something like 40 percent of all jobs are going to be replaced over the next twenty years by these algorithms in various forms. Everybody has to learn to code. It’s like not knowing how to read and write in the new age.”

Sunlight to Electricity: What Makes a Solar Cell Work?   Solar energy now accounts for over 1% of the world’s electricity each year, and the industry is continuing to grow. Behind all of the solar installations are small pieces of silicon that turn the sun’s energy into usable electricity. This article tells us how solar cells work.

The future of solar power in the US was thrown into question by a ruling from that country’s International Trade Commission (ITC) which concluded Chinese solar panel imports threaten American solar manufacturers, The decision gives the President of the US the authority to impose a tariff on imports of Chinese solar panels. Such a measure would dramatically increase the cost of solar panels in the US, making solar less competitive with natural gas and coal. The case was brought by two US solar panel manufacturers — Suniva and SolarWorld — that were struggling to compete in recent years as Chinese manufacturers slashed solar panel prices. Some believe a tariff would threaten jobs across the US solar power industry, with some estimates as high as 88,000 jobs related to installing, repairing and operating solar panels. The ITC will hold a hearing to consider tariffs and other remedies on October 3rd and their recommendations for remediation are to be reported to the President by November 13.

Professor Vaclav Smil tells us nuclear electricity is a successful failure. The success part is the rapid growth of the technology worldwide over the past 60 years and the high operating efficiency of the reactors. Today the world has 448 nuclear reactors, many with capacity factors of better than 90%. Nuclear produces more than twice as much electricity as solar PV panels and wind turbines combined.

Professor Smil tells us what history teaches us about energy transitions as the world embarks on radical changes in the 21st century.

In Japan, companies are rushing into wood-burning biomass projects to take advantage of generous government subsidies. More than 800 projects have won government approval, offering 12.4 gigawatts of electrical power capacity—equal to 12 nuclear power stations. The sheer number of projects has raised questions about how they will all find sufficient fuel, mostly shipped in from countries like Canada and Vietnam. The projects approved to date that use wood fuel would need the equivalent of up to 60 million tons of wood pellets, compared with a global output of 24 million tons in 2014, said Takanobu Aikawa, a senior researcher at Japan’s Renewable Energy Institute.  Biomass plants generate energy by burning fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. They qualify as a renewable energy source because plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, with a lifespan of years.

A study by the Centre for Climate Finance & Investment at London’s Imperial College finds residential renewable power generation and storage will become profitable for London households by 2030. This could cause a major disruption to the UK utilities sector. The disruptive force of cheaper battery storage will enable customers to gradually leave the national electric grid and cause problems for the economics and operation of the utilities. The mass adoption by consumers of a cheaper alternative may provoke a price hike on remaining consumers, prompting even further reductions in demand creating a feedback loop called “the utility death spiral”. Directror of the Centre, Dr. Charles Donovan said:

“The UK government has a big problem on its hands: solar and storage technologies are advancing rapidly and will bleed revenues from the utilities sector, yet we need a financially healthy industry to enable large-scale investments in smarter, more flexible electric power networks.  The transition ahead is going to be messy. For example, the expensive baseload nuclear power to be generated by Hinkley Point C may not even be needed if consumers make the profitable switch to onsite solar and storage indicated by our model.”

A new study by energy consultant Wood Mackenzie says growth in shale oil production could come to an end in three or four years with the US Permian Basin (in the state of Texas) peaking at about 3.5 million barrels per day unless there new technological breakthroughs in drilling for oil.

Australia’s eastern states face an energy shortfall three times higher than forecast, with natural gas supply predicted to fall well short of what is needed unless action is taken, potentially meaning further export controls on gas. The Australian Energy Market Operator said next year’s gas supply shortfall could be “higher than expected” which could lead to even higher energy prices for eastern and south-eastern Australia, particularly for industry, which accounts for almost 40% of gas usage. The federal government has a mechanism which would restrict exports and keep more gas onshore for domestic use. Earlier this year the country started the process to enact it including working with the natural gas producers. The government has until 1 November to enact the mechanism, which would come into effect on January 1st, 2018.

The Japan Times tell us of the quiet revolution underway in Japan as dozens of towns go off the national electric grid. Following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, many cities and towns in northern Japan have opted to move to microgrids and distributed energy for their electricity sources. Their goal is to make them partly self-sufficient in generating electricity. Independently distributed micro-grids can sustain power even if the surrounding area is having a blackout. This reduces municipalities’ dependence on large power plants. Distributed generation uses small-scale power generation fueled by natural gas or solar- and wind-power arrays. Smart energy systems use the internet to connect appliances and meters to better direct electricity where and when it’s needed. Takao Kashiwagi, professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology said:

“We are moving toward a day when we won’t be building large-scale power plants. Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas.”

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