Four Energy Questions We’ll Be Watching In 2017

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Inside Energy is launching a new feature with our partner radio station, KUVO in Denver, kicking off each Monday with a brief yet electrifying (pun intended, of course) discussion on energy. This week, we looked at some of the big questions we’ll be keeping a close eye on in 2017:

  • Xcel Energy, one of Colorado’s electric utilities, will be experimenting with new pricing models for electricity…will they work? You know how an Uber is more expensive during peak travel times? Xcel is trying the same thing with electricity. At 2 a.m., could cost about a third of what it does in the middle of the afternoon. If the pilot programs, which will start with 10,000 customers, go well, Xcel could roll out these programs more broadly across Colorado in a few years.
  • Could 2017 be the year of the electric car? Tesla just began rolling batteries off production lines at its Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada. It’ll need those batteries to meet the thousands of pre-orders it has for it’s “affordable” Model 3, which could appear on roads later this year. But will the economic and political climate be ripe for electric vehicles and home energy storage? Musk and Trump actually form a logical, if odd, partnership when you consider how the purported thousands of jobs the Gigafactory will create fit into Trump’s goal of revitalizing American manufacturing.
  • What’s the outlook for government funding on research and development for renewable energy technology? This question is particularly important for Colorado, home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. While we don’t yet know exactly what Trump’s goals are when it comes to research spending, we do know that he has influence. NREL gets 80 percent of its funding from the Department of Energy, which puts together a budget that must be approved by Congress and the President. For a historical look at federal spending for energy research and development, take a look at Inside Energy’s data dive.
  • Trump made downsizing federal government a priority…will states pick up the slack when it comes to regulating energy? This week, hearings start for some of Trump’s cabinet picks. Who will have the most sway over how everything from oil and gas to electric vehicles are regulated? We’ll be watching former Texas governor Rick Perry, tapped to head the Department of Energy, Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency and Ryan Zinke for the Department of the Interior. Flagship rules like the Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions at power plants, are in the Trump administration’s crosshairs. But we’ve seen a lot of states, including Colorado, come out ahead of the CPP with their own state-level legislation. Will state level action be enough to tackle an issue as huge, and as blind to geopolitical boundaries, as climate change?

Listen to us talk energy on KUVO’s morning show, “First Take With Lando and Chavis” on Monday mornings at kuvo.org. Have an energy topic you’d like to hear us take on? Let us know by submitting your questions below.