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Kenan Institute 2022 Annual Theme: Stakeholder Capitalism
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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues

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UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Finance Professor Stephen Arbogast discusses why embargoes on Russian oil aren’t working, why renewable energy sources aren’t the fix and how the missing link in increasing production could stabilize Europe’s energy outlook.

Further embracing renewable energy sources can help in the long term, but short- and medium-term solutions will require other answers. Join us for a virtual discussion at 11 a.m. June 20 as Stephen Arbogast, Kenan-Flagler Business School Finance Professor and director of the Energy Center, talks with Chief Economist Gerald Cohen about how focusing on the global energy supply can help Europe select the best options for creating a more stable energy outlook.

Mark Little, executive director of the Kenan Institute-affiliated center CREATE, provided expert testimony in a process that resulted in a May 11 settlement agreement regarding contracting and hiring practices for Dominion Energy’s $9.8 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind renewable energy project.

First, the good news. Given what we know about current economic conditions, it is likely that the consumer inflation rate has peaked in the U.S. for the current cycle. Recent inflation reports on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Implicit Price Deflator, which is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure, show a jump to new 40-year highs in March but signs of moderation in coming months. For example, consumer goods with very large 12-month cost runups such as used cars and food away from home are starting to see prices moderate. Likewise, prices of important household goods like apparel, furnishings, prescription drugs and recreation commodities (think TVs and Pelotons) are flattening. Furthermore, some important energy prices such as crude oil and gasoline have stabilized in April after jumps in the first quarter. So, while inflation will surely remain elevated for some time, it is unlikely to get much worse.

Much attention is being focused on energy supply security issues, especially for European oil and gas supplies. The latest Russian decision to halt natural gas sales to Poland and Bulgaria has reinforced that continent’s awareness of the perils of unreliable suppliers. Europe’s short-term focus is on sanctioning Russia and then backfilling the forgone oil and gas from other sources.

Mar 15, 2022

The World Has Changed

Out of the rubble of World War II, we collectively and deliberately built an institutional order that established norms of acceptable behavior and placed constraints on powerful nations. While work remains to create broader economic opportunity and some regions have suffered terrible conflict, the economic and financial globalization that this order fostered nevertheless yielded the greatest period of peace and economic prosperity that humanity has ever known. The more than 70 years since the war’s conclusion are, however, very atypical, and we are now returning to a setting far more familiar to any student of history, where strength and power supersede norms and rules. The world is characterized by a renewed struggle between illiberal autocracy and liberal democracy.

Inflation hit a 40-year high of 7.8% in February. We estimate energy prices will raise inflation by another percentage point in March. If sustained, the runup in gas prices will take a $100 billion-sized bite out of households’ wallets, weighing on consumer spending – and ultimately, inflation.

Stakeholder Capitalism

Together with many business and economic leaders around the globe, we at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise support the harshest feasible sanctions against Vladimir Putin in the immediate interest of Ukraine and its people. More broadly, we view such measures as vital to the long-term survival of democratic values. But as the Russian invasion continues, seemingly unabated by unprecedented economic and financial sanctions, we must ask: what more is feasible? And for how long can such restrictions be sustained?

Despite extensive empirical evidence of the economic and financial benefits of green buildings, energy retrofit investments in existing buildings have not reached widespread adoption.This paper empirically estimate returns to energy retrofit investments for multifamily and commercial buildings in New York City, using a novel database of actual audit report recommendations and permitted renovation work extracted using natural language processing.

The UNC Energy Center and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise hosted a conference on "Meeting the Renewables Intermittency Challenge" on April 13-14, 2018. The conference, and resulting white paper, examined the true cost of integrating renewable energy generation into the electric grid and explore ways to address the challenges posed by wind and solar energy intermittency.

Electricity end-users have been increasingly generating their own electricity via rooftop solar panels. Our paper studies the implications of such “distributed renewable energy” for utility profits and social welfare under net metering that has sparked heated debates in practice. The common belief is that such type of generation significantly decreases utility profits because (i) distributed generation reduces utility’s market size, and (ii) under net metering, utilities must buy back the excess generation of their customers at a rate typically larger than their procurement cost.

This study, sponsored by the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and the Kenan-Flagler Energy Center, analyzes the economic cost of renewable energy’s ‘last frontier’, providing reliable baseload power. The analysis utilizes five financial and energy models to examine the cost of replacing baseload power with various energy sources to achieve fully decarbonized utility scale electricity generation.