Michael E. Webber Profile picture
Author of "Power Trip", "Thirst for Power" & https://t.co/7p6UWOgR8q @ENGIEGroup, @UTAustin, @WebberEnergy, Father, Husband, RT≠E & opinions my own 🇺🇸 🇫🇷
3 May
Texas vs California 2009 & 2019 @TheEconomist

TX today is like 1980s CA in terms of population (~30M) & politics (Republican).

Other than stints in Paris & Lausanne, Switzerland I have lived in TX or CA my entire life so this tension between their two examples fascinates me.
NOTE: California is symbolized with a surfboard in both instances. Texas with a cowboy hat. And, Texas has a petroleum-fueled jetski for transportation while CA's mode is propelled by renewable wave energy.
I've lived in TX for 3+ decades and in CA for 1+ decade. Both are amazing states.

A key difference: Texans are obsessed w/ CA, but Californians don't think about TX at all.

TX politicians rant about CA all the time for example w/slogans like "Don't California My Texas"
Read 16 tweets
30 Apr
Looks like someone made enough money from high gas prices over a few days during the Texas energy crisis to reduce debt and increase dividends.
BTW, buried in this story is that Chevron raised its dividend and Continental Resources reinstated its dividend. It's heartwarming to know that Texans freezing to death is good for business.
I'm reading through the filings for Continental Resources. They swung from a Q1 2020 loss of $200M to a Q1 2021 profit of $400M DESPITE producing 15% less energy. Keep in mind that Q1 2020 was barely touched by COVID. This shows how profitable the Texas Energy Crisis was.
Read 10 tweets
23 Apr
The Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA) paid ENVERUS to prepare a report.

The report says gas = good & wind/electricity = bad

Are you surprised that a consulting company gave its customer a report that makes them look good?

The report is highly flawed. Let’s dig in. [THREAD]
Main problem: It says that gas supply disruptions were because of power outages rather than the other way around.

But that doesn’t make sense from an engineering perspective: gas supplies started to fail Feb 10-12 & load shedding in ERCOT didn’t begin until 1:20 a.m. Feb 15.
The report makes a fundamental mistake, confusing OUTAGES for LOAD SHED. There are always outages, but rarely load shed.

This mistake undermines the entire logic of the report's conclusions. This sequence (gas failed first, power failed second) is critical, yet they missed it.
Read 13 tweets
21 Apr
In 2009 TX had <7 MW of total installed solar capacity, almost entirely rooftop PV and 0 MW utility-scale.

In 2021 installed solar is 8+ GW (up >1000x) of utility-scale alone, not including rooftop PV.

That TX would eventually dominate the solar market was entirely obvious.
Here is an article I wrote for @ASES_Solar "Solar Today" magazine in November/December 2009 where my co-author Erin Keys and I explain the positive fundamentals of the TX solar market and predicted "don't be surprised if Texas takes the lead in solar generation."
What are the fundamentals that make Texas such a hotspot for solar farms?

*Lots of cheap, flat sunny land

*Robust transmission infrastructure

*Competitive markets that reward low marginal cost generators

*Ease of permitting/construction

*Weak enviro opposition (cont'd)
Read 7 tweets
25 Mar
Winter Storm Uri 5+ weeks ago knocked out power, heat & water to millions of Texans, including me.

I installed several technologies at home to make it resilient. I thought you be interested to hear how they performed through the energy crisis. [THREAD]

Image: @weatherchannel
B/c of the 2011 TX freeze that knocked out power I installed several solutions to make my house robust against shortages:

1) super-efficient windows, insulation, etc.
2) electric heat pumps
3) natgas backup to the central heat pump in case the power went out
4) large solar array
#1 was very helpful, but items #2, 3 and 4 all failed.

This chart shows the last three months of consumption (in red) and solar panel generation (in green) for my house.
Read 13 tweets
12 Mar
A year ago today my wife @JuliaCWebber and I evacuated France. Our daughter called us at 2:30 am Paris to say President Trump was shutting down the borders. We got up, packed a duffel bag for each of us & our 14 yo son, shut down the house and left for the airport. It was scary.
The Trump Administration did not coordinate with airlines, airports, or border officials. It was mayhem. It didn't have to be.

It was unnecessary. Trump's announcement misrepresented basic facts about his policies, which made evacuations of returning expatriates more expensive and difficult than they needed to be.

Read 12 tweets
27 Feb
I keep thinking about the interdependencies of the gas and power networks in Texas.

The natural gas system depends (partly) on power.

The power system depends (heavily) on natural gas.

This creates a risk of cascading failures from one to the other. [THREAD]
These two interdependent have two asymmetries, both of which benefit gas:

1) The power system has a price cap of $9000/MWh for generators in the wholesale market.

The gas system does not have a cap.
2) The power system is isolated in Texas and cannot lean on neighbors for help.

The gas system connects to national and international markets. Out-of-state providers can help fill in shortfalls of gas.
Read 8 tweets
23 Feb
Please consider this a public thank-you letter to @AustinEnergy for working around the clock to get the power back on and prevent an even bigger catastrophe.

People are mad. But believe me, it could have been worse. Their good decisions staved off a complete disaster. [THREAD]
In May 2020 I wrote for @ASMEdotorg that I considered utility workers to be society’s hidden heroes – after the Texas energy crisis I believe that is even more true today than before.

asme.org/topics-resourc…
I know people are frustrated with the power outages-- I lost power for 2.5 days – I know what it was like.

Read 10 tweets
22 Feb
The Texas Energy Crisis makes me think of thermal energy storage for system resilience.

Can storage reduce electricity consumption? An equation for the grid-wide efficiency impact of using cooling thermal energy storage for load shifting doi.org/10.1088/1748-9… via @IOPscience
With a battery for energy storage it's an energy loser: 90% charging efficiency & 90% discharging efficiency gives 81% round-trip efficiency.

But with thermal storage, the system efficiency can actually be greater than 100% compared w/ baseline. How is that possible?
Power plants, transmission lines and A/Cs all have lower efficiency when it's hot. By using thermal storage we can charge the system (such as making ice or chilling water) at night when it's cooler and when those systems have higher performance.
Read 4 tweets
7 Feb
I know there’s a lot of #EnergyTwitter discussion about electric heating as part of a society-wide decarbonization strategy. Let me share with you some details about how this might look in France.

In brief: it will be hard to electrify heating in France. [THREAD]
Here is the rate of energy use across all sectors for the entire country of France in a year with typical weather. The peak demand occurs in the evening of January or February and is driven primarily by the need to heat buildings.
The peak demand of ~280 GW in France is met by:

~85 GW electricity
~105 GW gas
~50 GW biomass & district heating/cooling
~45 GW of oil/coal

The lowest demand in the summer holidays is ¼ of peak demand.
Read 10 tweets
7 Feb
I teach Entrepreneurship @UTAustin w/ @ATI_UT so I think about biz models.

Viral videos have their own biz model but I never knew the details until I had my own. My video of Paris traffic had ~5M views and I earned $495.01 from news orgs to show it.

I earned ~$0.0001/view, which is a good data point to have. Generally speaking for other social media platforms of content creators I estimate the monetizable value to be ~$0.01 to $0.10 per follower/subscriber, 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than a random one-off viral video.
I also discovered there is an entire cottage industry of media companies that reach out to owners of viral videos to help manage licenses for a cut of the fees. As my video was taking off about a half dozen companies DM'ed me saying they can handle licenses for a cut of the fees.
Read 8 tweets
13 Jul 20
Hey #EnergyTwitter – Tulsa is in the news for many reasons. The 1921 race massacre, Trump’s rally last month, and the recent Supreme Court ruling. But Tulsa and Oklahoma are important to the history of energy and have been featured in Hollywood films. [A Thread]
If you want to read a fascinating book about how Native Americans in Oklahoma were murdered for their oil, then read “Killers of the Flower Moon”

amazon.com/Killers-Flower…
The Osage Murders overlapped with the birth of the FBI. The book is in development for a movie directed by Martin Scorsese @scorsesemartin and starring Leonardo Di Caprio @LeoDiCaprio and Robert De Niro

imdb.com/title/tt553700…
Read 11 tweets
21 Jun 20
Remember in 2016 when Trump made coal miners 1 of 2 campaign causes along w/ building a wall along the border?

Those were 2 sides of the same racist coin: Of the 300+ industry classifications in the USA coal mining is the single whitest. BY FAR. [THREAD]

Photo @dominickreuter
A key Trump slogan was “Trump Digs Coal”. Many news articles justified it as part of a broader play for “working class voters”. Sometimes they would color their wording to clarify “white working class voters.”

But is coal really that white? Answer: yes.
nytimes.com/2016/11/10/ups…
The assumption was that he was looking for $$ from coal mine owners. But is that really it? The coal industry only supported his campaign with $223,000 in donations, which is a drop in the bucket for a multi-hundred million dollar presidential campaign.

theguardian.com/us-news/2016/n…
Read 13 tweets
23 May 20
In 1999 I was about a year from graduating with my PhD at Stanford University. I applied for a job at McKinsey. Sentences 2-4 nail it. [Thread]

"The power industry fascinates me because, in my opinion, energy is the most fundamental commodity in modern society." Image
Before developing countries can access the internet, pave roads, or efficiently harvest crops, they require energy. Moreover, the combination of deregulation and active investment in developing regions of the world make for an exciting industry that should be enduring...
...significant growth over the next decade."

I still agree with what I wrote 21 years ago. Oh, McKinsey rejected me. Thank goodness. My life would have been so different. [END]
Read 4 tweets
28 Mar 20
A few thoughts on lessons learned from early in the COVID-19 pandemic [THREAD] :

1) We need universal broadband. Sending people to work from home, homeschool, etc. is only possible if everyone has reliable, high-speed access to the internet.

2) We should listen to scientists..
...when they tell us we need to get prepared for disaster ahead. Scientists have been warning us about our lack of preparedness for pandemics (and climate change) for a while.

3) Early action is cheaper and less impactful than late action. As problems compound...
...solutions become more severe and costly.

4) We should use this "downtime" to make improvements to our infrastructure. The @Hyatt where I stayed used its <5% occupancy rate as an excuse to upgrade the internet access in each of its rooms. If they can...
Read 9 tweets
22 Mar 20
Hey #EnergyTwitter!

Many of you are in the throes of preparing to teach your energy courses online or homeschooling. Well, it turns out I’ve spent much of the last 7 years creating a variety of online energy literacy resources, the vast preponderance of which is FREE. [THREAD]
The primary collection of online educational content I created is Energy101. We made it for a MOOC that had 40k+ students globally. It covers energy basics, fuels, sectors, & cross-cutting topics. Here are 30 video lectures; they are dated, but FREE: youtube.com/playlist?list=…
We also made an online curriculum (w/embedded quizzes for tracking progress!) as an outgrowth of that course. It costs $75-95 & has been adopted at high schools and universities (Stanford, Duke, UMD, Colorado State, UT Austin, Princeton, and Penn State): energy101.com
Read 19 tweets
20 Mar 20
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the economic shock of our current conditions are worse than many people realize and will last longer than most people expect. [THREAD]
For context, I'm a hotel refugee for a few weeks: I left France on short notice before flights were cancelled and made it to Austin to be close to family. But I can't move in my house for 3-5 weeks because there is a family living in it. Meanwhile, I'm staying at a major hotel...
....chain. This is a prominent hotel in the heart of one of America's hippest, fastest-growing cities. The SXSW cancellation and travel bans mean this hotel is at 5% occupancy. Just 20+ rooms out of ~400+ are occupied. They laid off the entire restaurant and bar staff...
Read 7 tweets
15 Feb 20
I read this piece by @drvox w/ great interest. As always, his pieces are well-written & -researched. I thought I would provide a thread in response w/ some of my observations. And, yes, I realize that writing a 1500-word thread in response to a 4000-word article is OTT. [THREAD]
@drvox Yes, I will repeat some of the points made by @drvox and agree with almost everything he wrote. Two departures: 1) I think RNG can play a bigger role than he thinks, and 2) it’s a good thing for gas companies to be part of the solution.
@drvox For background, I serve as the Chief Science & Technology Officer at @ENGIEGroup so I run the corporate research program. We have one of the largest non-nuclear clean energy R&D programs in the world ($200M/yr, 900 people). Green gases are the largest part of the program I lead.
Read 37 tweets
7 Feb 20
Big news: the CEO of @ENGIEgroup @isabelle_kocher will not have her contract renewed.

About two years ago she asked me to move to Paris & serve as ENGIE's Chief Science & Technology Officer. I agreed to do so because I was inspired by her vision & impressed by her leadership./1
@ENGIEgroup @isabelle_kocher It was as great decision and I am pleased to have joined her team.

She is one of the world's leading voices on the moral and business imperative of a low-carbon future. And she is an impressive woman: smart, tough, focused, sincere.

We need more CEOs who are as bold./2
@ENGIEgroup @isabelle_kocher She turned ENGIE around, starting the shift towards an asset-light, services model.

She sold our dirty assets and invested aggressively into renewables and new business ventures.

She recognized the importance of a digitalized and decentralized energy future./3
Read 8 tweets
5 Feb 20
[THREAD] Are energy companies serious about climate change?

Today, the top 50 executives @ENGIEgroup spent 2.5 hours focused purely on how to internalize our central philosophy of achieving zero carbon as a company and for our customers.
@ENGIEgroup Today's session of executive workshops and brainstorming was on top of the significant actions we've taken to reduce our CO2 emissions by 50% in the last 3 yrs: selling coal plants, building renewables, investing aggressively in zero-carbon gases, deploying efficiency at scale...
@ENGIEgroup Executive time is expensive; to dedicate that many hours from top executives is a non-trivial amount of money.

Our solutions are mixed because we will need every tool in the toolbox: low-carbon power (especially wind, solar, hydro, geo), green gases, new biz models, offsets...
Read 7 tweets
14 Dec 19
Hey #EnergyTwitter….here’s a thread on the electrification of oil and gas. #oilandgas #electrificationofeverything /START
There’s been a lot of chatter about “electrification of everything” as a way to tackle climate change & re-invent our energy system. One part of this electrification trend that receives less attention is the electrification of oil and gas./1
There are many motivations for the extractive industries sector to electrify. And that electrification shows up in multiple ways./2
Read 21 tweets