The US Between Oil&Gas and Green Sources

Published on Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The United States have been pursuing energy independence since the 50's, when Barack Obama wasn't even born and his predecessors Clinton and Bush were starting primary school. But today, what for years had seemed an utopian objective is described as a possible goal: the US energy scenario has been transformed in a way that for many observers is a renaissance, achieved by mixing new technologies in the fields of both traditional fossil fuels and renewable sources.  

The revolution brought about by shale gas, tight oil and tar sands has driven the USA into a new dimension and has disrupted the global energy scenario even in terms of glossary. Next to the traditional oil and gas, the so-called non-conventional hydrocarbons have appeared, extracted from clays,  bituminous and tar sands. Production technology has rapidly evolved and among the upstream activities we now find the so-called  freaking, hydraulic fracturing, alongside the classical techniques of drilling and extraction. The result is a war, also as regards prices, between old and new hydrocarbons, a growth with continuous unprecedented US strategic oil stocks and a new central role in gas and oil export.

Green energy has not lagged behind in this transformation. In fact, the United States produces 13% of its energy from green sources – mainly solar photovoltaic and wind – and aims at further increasing its low carbon share in the domestic generation mix: according to the Energy Information Administration this country a renewable capacity of 77GW could be achieved by 2040.

The US geography of renewable energy unites the West Coast, East Coast and Bible Belt: if solar is a development driver mainly in States like California, Nevada or Arizona, wind power leads this growth in the central belt that goes from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, biomass show a potential practically everywhere and geothermal characterises the eastern half.

Enel has participated in the contest for renewables in the USA for many years and today has an installed capacity exceeding 2GW and a diffusion in 21 States in the USA and Canada, with more than 90 generation plants using four technologies: wind, geothermal, solar and hydropower. At the end of March the worksite was launched for the construction of a new wind farm in Oklahoma – one of many in this State - where Enel Green Power North America is already operating 534MW of wind power and is building plants for additional 350 MW. And where it has created best practices at plants such as Stillwater, which combines solar and geothermal power and has led the US Energy Agency to invest almost one million dollars to study its operations and technologies.

EGP's growth in the USA is building up through technological diversification and is also reinforced by industrial partnerships such as that with General Electric Energy Financial Services that "joins two complementary market leaders with a common view regarding the future development of renewable energy in the United States", emphasised Enel Green Power's CEO Francesco Venturini, adding that it is "a further step forward in achieving an active management strategy of our asset portfolio and strengthening Enel Green Power's global growth opportunities".