Monday, July 3, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: 1600 New Coal Power Plants Being Built Around The World








Solar Panels Generate 300 Times More Toxic Waste Than Nuclear Reactors

In this newsletter:

1) Forget Paris, Forget G20, Forget Trump: 1600 New Coal Power Plants Being Built Around The World
The New York Times, 1 July 2017
 
2) Coal On The Rise In China, US And India
Associated Press, 26 June 2017 


 
3) North America Is Making OPEC Irrelevant
The American Interest, 2 July 2017
 
4) Solar Panels Generate 300 Times More Toxic Waste Than Nuclear Reactors
Daily Caller, 1 July 2017 
 
5) The "Unstoppable" Renewable Energy Revolution Keeps Faltering
Forbes, 29 June 2017 
 
6) John Constable: The Curse of Hinkley Point
GWPF Energy, 27 June 2017


Full details:

1) Forget Paris, Forget G20, Forget Trump: 1600 New Coal Power Plants Being Built Around The World
The New York Times, 1 July 2017
Hiroko Tabuchi

1,600 new coal-fired power plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries.



 
When China halted plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants this year, even as President Trump vowed to “bring back coal” in America, the contrast seemed to confirm Beijing’s new role as a leader in the fight against climate change.

But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.

Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.
 
The fleet of new coal plants would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord, which aims to keep the increase in global temperatures from preindustrial levels below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
Electricity generated from fossil fuels like coal is the biggest single contributor globally to the rise in carbon emissions, which scientists agree is causing the Earth’s temperatures to rise.

“Even today, new countries are being brought into the cycle of coal dependency,” said Heffa Schücking, the director of Urgewald.

The United States may also be back in the game. On Thursday, Mr. Trump said he wanted to lift Obama-era restrictions on American financing for overseas coal projects as part of an energy policy focused on exports.

“We have nearly 100 years’ worth of natural gas and more than 250 years’ worth of clean, beautiful coal,” he said. “We will be dominant. We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe.”

Full story

2) Coal On The Rise In China, US And India
Associated Press, 26 June 2017 

BEIJING — The world’s biggest coal users — China, the United States and India — have boosted coal mining in 2017, in an abrupt departure from last year’s record global decline for the heavily polluting fuel and a setback to efforts to rein in climate change emissions.

Mining data reviewed by The Associated Press show that production through May is up by at least 121 million tons, or 6 per cent, for the three countries compared to the same period last year. The change is most dramatic in the U.S., where coal mining rose 19 per cent in the first five months of the year, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.

Coal’s fortunes had appeared to hit a new low less than two weeks ago, when British energy company BP reported that tonnage mined worldwide fell 6.5 per cent in 2016, the largest drop on record. China and the U.S. accounted for almost all the decline, while India showed a slight increase.

The reasons for this year’s turnaround include policy shifts in China, changes in U.S. energy markets and India’s continued push to provide electricity to more of its poor, industry experts said. President Donald Trump’s role as coal’s booster-in-chief in the U.S. has played at most a minor role, they said.

The fuel’s popularity waned over the past several years as renewable power and natural gas made gains and China moved to curb dangerous levels of urban smog from burning coal.

Whether coal’s comeback proves lasting has significant implications for long-term emission reduction targets, and for environmentalists’ hopes that China and India could emerge as leaders in battling climate change.

While the U.S. reversal is expected to prove temporary, analysts agree that India’s use of coal will continue to grow. They’re divided on the forecast for China over the next decade.

Full story

3) North America Is Making OPEC Irrelevant
The American Interest, 2 July 2017

A coalition of OPEC members and other petrostates agreed to reduce its collective production by 1.8 million barrels per day through next March, but surging North American crude production is threatening to effectively cancel out those cuts. As the FT reports, oil output in Canada’s oil sands is set to jump as projects funded well before the decline in crude prices come online over the next year and half:

A forecast released this month by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers sees the country’s output increasing by 270,000 barrels a day in 2017 and another 320,000 b/d next year. That combined two-year Canadian increase is equal to almost a third of Opec’s production cuts that it made with allies like Russia at the beginning of this year in an effort to raise prices.

Canada isn’t even the sharpest North American thorn in OPEC’s side, though. The United States has seen its own oil output jump 550,000 barrels per day since last November, when these petrostate cuts were first announced. American production has dipped slightly in recent weeks as producers have scaled production back slightly due to flagging oil prices, but the outlook for shale over the rest of the year is still quite strong.

Combined, Canadian and U.S. oil production is set to grow more than a million barrels per day next year, as compared to where these North American countries were when the petrostate cuts first went into place. That nullifies more than half of that petrostate production draw down.

And it’s important to note that, going forward, OPEC will be the victim of any success it manages with these cuts. If prices do start to rise—a very big if, given current market conditions—then shale producers will quickly be able to take advantage of the rebound by ramping up their own production.

This all adds up to a truth that the oil historian Daniel Yergin hit on last year: ““[t]he era of Opec as a decisive force in the world economy is over.”

Full post

4) Solar Panels Generate 300 Times More Toxic Waste Than Nuclear Reactors
Daily Caller, 1 July 2017 
Andrew Follett

Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of electricity generated than nuclear power plants, according to a Thursday report from the pro-nuclear group Environmental Progress (EP).



The report found that solar panels use heavy metals, including lead, chromium and cadmium, which can harm the environment. The hazards of nuclear waste are well known and can be planned for, but very little has been done to mitigate solar waste issues.

“The problem with waste from solar is that it isn’t handled as well as nuclear waste,” Dr. Jeff Terry, a professor of nuclear physics involved in energy research at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“There are two types of waste from solar. Waste from the manufacturing scene and waste from the solar panel after it has gone through its useful life. There are materials in those that if they leached out, it wouldn’t be good.”

Terry said that waste from solar panels will quickly become a far bigger problem than nuclear waste, because power grids need dramatically more solar panels to generate the same amount of electricity as a nuclear reactor.

“The magnitude of the waste problem from solar is a lot larger than nuclear just because of energy density,” Terry said. “Per pound of waste generated, you get so much more power from nuclear. You need a lot more material to generate from solar and wind than you do from nuclear.”…

Some research indicates that solar panels aren’t even an effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which is the entire justification to promote the technology.

The net impact of solar panels actually temporarily increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, due to how much energy is used in their construction, a study published in December 2016 concluded.

Full post
  
5) The "Unstoppable" Renewable Energy Revolution Keeps Faltering
Forbes, 29 June 2017 
Michael Lynch

Solar, wind and electric vehicles are now said to have such momentum that they are going to cause a peak in oil demand within as little as five years, according to the most optimistic projections.  Solar and wind represent the bulk of new power capacity globally, the Chinese electric vehicle industry is booming, and India has embraced both solar and electric vehicles.  “The electric vehicle revolution is now as unstoppable as the renewable revolution. China understands that fact better than any other country.”  Joe Romm 9/1/16 while the BBC says, “India is embracing solar power.”

Costs have come down to the point where the Financial Times published an article titled, “The Big Green Bang:  How renewable energy became unstoppable.”  This has been much cited around the web, especially by advocates of “green” energy, of whom there are many, but others as well.  One typical article was titled, “Futurist Ray Kurzweil Predicts Solar Industry Dominance In 12 Years –Trajectories Are Exponential” which looked at growth rates and the effect of compounding on market share over the long term.

Others have talked about falling costs which is encouraging ever more investment. “2015 has been a great year for solar... And the estimates for the next years are even better as the total installation cost of utility scale PV are expected to decrease by a further 20% over the next three years.” And lower oil and gas prices are said to be irrelevant. “Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable. While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving.”

Support at the local level is touted, particularly as the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. “Pueblo, Colorado and Moab, Utah, this week became the 22nd and 23rd cities in the U.S. to commit to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.” A number of states, led by California, have pushed their own programs and Andrew Winston in the Harvard Business Review noted “the business community does not want to leave the Paris climate agreement.”

It all sounds like Dorothy and her friends skipping gaily along towards the Emerald City while “Optimistic Voices” plays in the background (“Step into the sun, step into the light”). Unfortunately, reality is the wicked witch and the flying monkeys are starting to descend.

As the professors say, compare and contrast with the earlier quotes: “New investment in clean energy fell to $287.5bn in 2016, 18% lower than the record investment of $348.5bn in 2015 and 9% lower than the $315bn invested in 2014.” And where one story notes, “We are convinced China will become the leading market for electromobility,” Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess told Reuters at the Shanghai show, it also explained “In China, credits and rebates are driving impressive EV sales.” A recent report indicated market weakness in Chinese EV sales, although it is too early to say whether this is a trend. “The Chinese market had 6,260 new EVs registered in January, far from the 15,275 units of January 2016."

Which highlights the importance of why: “One suspected strategy involves manufacturers selling faulty or incomplete cars to related parties who pocket the subsidies and then return the cars. That could explain why wholesale shipments of electric cars between January and November were 56% above retail sales, according to LMC Automotive data. By contrast, in the broader car market, wholesale was 6% higher than retail.” Similarly, the IEA noted that wind power installations soared in China as builders rushed to meet a deadline for high priced power contracts, and then fell by nearly half in 2016.

Overall, the embrace appears to be of subsidies, not green technologies. In case after case, where subsidies or support is removed, sales suffer. “Sales in Denmark of Electrically Chargeable Vehicles (ECV), which include plug-in hybrids, plunged 60.5 percent in the first quarter of the year…. electric car dealers were for a long time spared the jaw-dropping import tax of 180 percent that Denmark applies on vehicles fueled by a traditional combustion engine.” The state of Georgia rescinded electric vehicle rebates and sales dropped by 80%....

New European solar installations dropped by one-third in 2016 as several countries reduced high prices for purchased power.  An end to heavy subsidies and mandates might not cause the near-disappearance of these industries as in the past, but some serious retrenchment is a real possibility and it’s puzzling that so many are treating that as impossible.
Full post 

6) John Constable: The Curse of Hinkley Point
GWPF Energy, 27 June 2017
Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor

The contract for the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station is so heavily loaded with penalties that the UK government is unlikely to cancel. Rising costs and other project risks, on the other hand, mean that EdF is in no hurry to build it. This results in a stagnant uncertainty that further clouds prospects for what would otherwise be the technology of choice, Combined Cycle Gas Turbines, and even for renewables.


One of the UK government’s subsidiary aims in supporting EdF’s proposal to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley, in Somerset, was, in the words of the National Audit Office’s new and extremely critical appraisal, “to generate wider investor confidence and pave the way for other new nuclear projects” (p. 6). In this ambition the government has not only failed comprehensively, but already produced outcomes that are likely to be  counterproductive. With only preliminary works completed, the Hinkley project already deserves its own chapter in the record of government mishandling of nuclear energy. Indeed, if Greenpeace moles had been manipulating Departmental policy with the aim of scotching a nuclear future, they could not have been more successful.

This matters, not because Hinkley C itself is essential to UK energy security – it simply isn’t and Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGTs) are a much better bet in the medium term – but because nuclear energy is very likely in the far future to be the only attainable means of replacing fossil fuels and at the same time maintaining very high levels of global wealth. Nuclear fuels are extremely dense, low entropy stocks of energy, and they have the potential, so far only imperfectly realised anywhere in the world, of yielding a very high Energy Return on Energy Invested. The higher that return, the larger the rest of the non-energy sector economy, making for general prosperity. Renewable energy has no such prospects.

Paradoxically, therefore, with an eye on the long term welfare of the United Kingdom, government should have cancelled the obviously misbegotten Hinkley scheme before issuing a contract. This was clear in June last year (see my blog “Hinkley C and the UK Power Market”), but unfortunately Mr Clark allowed himself to be hustled into granting a contract and, crucially, a very detailed Investor Agreement setting out terms for compensation in the event of changes of policy. The two parties, the British government on one side, and, in effect, the French government on the other, now find themselves locked into a project for which neither has any enthusiasm.

What should the UK’s Secretary of State do? Thanks to the absurdly generous Investor Agreement it seems that he cannot now cancel the project, even at this early stage of construction, without paying EdF compensation for lost profit over its lifetime (the calculation is complicated, see p. 46-7). The National Audit Office estimates this compensation at £22 billion (in 2012 prices, see p. 7).

Alternatively, one might think that Mr Clark and his successors could simply sit on their hands and wait for for EdF’s problems at Flamanville to come to a head, for Hinkley’s costs to steadily escalate and its timetable to slip, all in the hope that the French state will eventually blink. However, that is unlikely to happen. EdF is in no hurry to complete the scheme, and has generous allowances for time overruns. Furthermore, the escalating construction cost estimates (reported as an additional 3 billlion Euros, for example in The Times 27.06.17) are probably not of overwhelming concern, since Her Majesty’s Treasury is under an obligation to guarantee a £2 billion bond issue in 2018, to finance construction. With just the faintest perceptible irony, the NAO comments on this bond issue that “EdF has said it does not expect […] to use this facility” (p. 6). Perhaps EdF meant this when it was said, but in the current situation it would not be surprising if the board see things differently.

Thus, neither party is likely to bail out. The British government is tied down by the contract that it foolishly granted, and even if EdF has secretly abandoned realistic expectations of ever generating electricity at Hinkley in the foreseeable future, or ever, it will probably be easier on the balance sheet to maintain the appearance of proceeding with construction. This marriage will go on, not for the sake of the children, who will be paying for this mess, but for the sake of appearances.

There are two undoubted casualties from this debacle. The first I have already noted, the harm to the long term future of nuclear energy. Organic growth and refinement in this sector is highly desirable, but all over the world it has suffered from governmental mishandling. Hinkley makes this problem worse.

The second casualty is the development of a new generation of Combined Cycle Gas Turbines. These are fundamentally economic, and are, in truth, the benchmark by which to measure the bad value both of Hinkley and its almost identically evil twin, the renewables programme. In an undistorted market investors would be building more modern CCGTs, with very high thermal efficiencies, low fuel consumption and low emissions. But while Hinkley remains even a vague possibility, and so long as the UK continues to pretend to adhere to the renewables targets, the future market for electricity in the United Kingdom will appear so uncertain in scale and unattractive in character that there will be little appetite for investment in CCGTs.

This grim mess may yet result in a third casualty, and far from celebrating this outcome, supporters of wind and solar should be worried. The need for low cost firm generation is not yet quite acute, but will become more pressing. With the market hemmed in by the punitive Hinkley contract on one side, and commitments to EU renewables targets on the other, government will choose to clear space with least effort. This could easily mean abandoning renewables to their fate by loudly declaring them a glorious success while quietly cancelling further support and allowing nature to take its course. 

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.

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