Tuesday, March 9, 2021

GWPF Newsletter - China’s 5-Year Coal Plan: Build Back Blacker


Wind and solar reliance threatens to black out the US

In this newsletter:

1) China’s 5-Year Coal Plan: Build Back Blacker
AFP, 5 March 2021

2) China's addiction to coal clashes with carbon neutrality pledge
Nikkei Asia, 8 March 2021

3) Russian coal set to replace Australian exports to China
The Australian, 7 March 2021
4) Wind and solar reliance threatens to black out the US
Jonathan Tennenbaum, Asia Times, 8 March 2021
5) Low paid Brits and renters risk being left behind in green car revolution
The Sun, 7 March 2021
6) Andrew Montford: The hidden cost of Net Zero
The Spectator, 8 March 2021

7) Liam Deacon: The dangerous rise of climate censorship
Spiked, 8 March 2021
8) John Constable: A Complete Confusion of Ideas: Climate policy, energy efficiency and energy conservation
GWPF Energy, 5 March 2021

Full details:

1) China’s 5-Year Coal Plan: Build Back Blacker
AFP, 5 March 2021

China will invest more in coal to power its economy over the next five years, according to a government plan released Friday that only modestly increased renewable ambitions.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the opening session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China 5 March 2021. REUTERS – CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS
Environmentalists had been hoping China’s five-year national development plan, unveiled at its annual parliamentary session, would give a roadmap for its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. However the plan, announced by Premier Li Keqiang, had few details and signalled little urgency in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
The lack of a cap on total energy consumption was one of the notable exclusions.
“Without the energy consumption control target, there’s even less in this five-year plan to constrain emissions growth than in the previous ones,” Lauri Myllyvirta, from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, told AFP.
“As a result, there’s no guarantee that emissions growth will slow down, let alone stop, by 2025.” Instead the plan aims to reduce the amount of carbon emitted per unit of GDP by 18 percent. However this is the same target as for the previous five years, and economic growth was set for six percent in 2021 — meaning a net increase in carbon emissions for this year.
The blueprint sets a target of generating just 20 percent of energy from non-fossil fuels by 2025, up from 15.9 percent in 2020. There were no specific targets for increasing wind, solar or hydro capacity, although there have been pledges to invest more in renewables.
China is the world’s biggest polluter, spewing out over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. As part of the plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, Beijing had previously pledged to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030.
Researchers say this needs coal-fired power to be cut almost immediately. However the economic blueprint does not ban the development of new coal power stations. Instead China’s cabinet last month issued a directive to “increase the share of large capacity coal power units”.
“The contradiction between targeting low-carbon development and continuing to invest in coal and fossil fuels still seems stark in China’s plans,” Myllyvirta said. The country’s strong post-pandemic recovery has been boosted by heavy infrastructure investment, and environmentalists are concerned this could stem the shift towards greener policies.

Full story
2) China's addiction to coal clashes with carbon neutrality pledge
Nikkei Asia, 8 March 2021

New plant construction exceeded shutdowns by 30 GW last year

A coal-fired power plant in China's Gansu Province began commercial operations in November. (Photo from plant operator's website)

BEIJING/TOKYO -- China's inability to crack its dependence on coal power threatens to undermine the country's pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Last year, China built enough coal-fired power plants to provide 38.4 gigawatts of electricity, data from U.S. think tank Global Energy Monitor shows, far surpassing the 8.6 GW from plants that were retired. This net gain in capacity, the equivalent of 30 nuclear facilities, suggests that coal will remain king in China for the foreseeable future.
Industry group China Electricity Council in a February report called coal-fired energy a cornerstone in maintaining a stable power infrastructure. Despite the growth of renewable energy, coal thermal power "can contribute hugely," said Yu Chongde, the council's vice president and secretary general.
A state-of-the-art coal plant in the inland province of Gansu began commercial operation in November, using equipment made by Harbin Electric, a state-owned enterprise.
The plant vastly reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide and other particulates, and it replaces an old, defunct facility, so the station is deemed a contributor to decarbonization. Its location in a coal-mining region eliminates the carbon dioxide that would be produced by transporting the fuel.
China's government has determined that domestically produced coal is indispensable for meeting the country's power needs. Electricity output from renewables remains less than reliable, and China's electricity demand climbed 3% last year despite the pandemic-induced economic slowdown.
Full story
3) Russian coal set to replace Australian exports to China
The Australian, 7 March 2021
Russia is gearing up to take advantage of Canberra’s poor relationship with China to expand its coal exports, analysts say, as Chinese authorities allow some of the millions of tonnes of Australian coal stranded off its coast on dozens of ships to be offloaded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last week met industry executives and government officials to plan ways to increase Russian coal exports to Asia by up to 30 per cent over the next three years, suggesting an increase to output of 34 million tonnes a year by 2024, according to a recent Wood Mackenzie report.
WoodMac analysts said Mr Putin ordered officials to draw up plans for the expansion of rail routes to carry coal to ports that export from Russia’s main coal district in Kuzbass to Asia, suggesting government funding could be available for a rethink of its export strategy.
“Until the meeting on March 2, the consensus in the industry was that eastbound coal exports from Kuzbass will remain flat in 2021 and then grow very little, if at all, until 2024,” WoodMac said.
“The President’s announcement on March 2 suggests a major departure from the current status quo. A 30 per cent increase would mean Kuzbass’s eastbound coal exports would grow from 53 million tonnes in 2020 to 69 million tonnes in 2024. If extra quotas are made available in 2021, we could see a 4 million tonne increase each year through 2024 of just Kuzbass eastbound coal exports.”
Other Russian coal hubs were planning to lift production, WoodMac said, pointing to a lift of about 34 million tonnes a year of coal exports to Asia over the next three years.
Prices for Australian thermal and coking coal have both risen in recent months as global trade flows around China’s bans on Australian output, with the US lifting shipments to China and Australian cargoes heading to South Korea, Vietnam, Japan and other parts of world.

But the Russian move suggests President Putin is planning a longer-term push into the Chinese market to replace Australian coal amid ongoing tensions between Canberra and Beijing.

Full story
4) Wind and solar reliance threatens to black out the US
Jonathan Tennenbaum, Asia Times, 8 March 2021

The very prospect of a nation basing its entire energy security on intermittent, weather- and climate-dependent power sources ought to frighten any sane person.

A doctrinaire green energy program risks blacking out the US. Image: Facebook
[…] Instead of the promised nirvana of 100% renewable energy, the overhaul would inevitably end in chaos with exploding electricity costs, frequent blackouts, rationing of electricity consumption and repressive measures to cut energy consumption. Many power plants would most likely still be burning fossil fuels, as the country would not be able to get along without them.

Long before that, a powerful political backlash would likely have swept the Democratic Party out of power – along with anyone else identified with the plan. So what is so problematic about the “100% renewable” scenario?
First: the output of wind turbines and solar cells fluctuates over a wide range on time-scales of minutes, depending on weather conditions. Solar cell output varies depending on cloud cover and time of day, being zero at night.
Due to the erratic variations in wind strength, the average output of an onshore wind turbine is generally only about a third of its maximum rated capacity (the figure is about 38% for an offshore turbine). About 2000 typical-size 1.5 megawatt wind turbines are needed to generate as much average electric power as a standard one-gigawatt nuclear power plant. Unlike wind turbines, nuclear plants generate a constant, controllable flow of electricity.
To obtain a dependable supply based on wind and solar, supplementary electricity sources are needed to step in when their output drops. That costs money. In most present-day practice – where fossil fuels have not yet been banned  – this is done mainly with the help of auxiliary gas turbines, diesel generators or –  when nuclear plants are available – by “load-following” that constantly adjusts nuclear plant outputs. Load-following can work as long as the ratio of nuclear to wind-plus-solar is large enough.  
Otherwise, the only alternative is to import electricity from somewhere else, assuming it is available when you need it, or to store part of the output of wind and solar sources and inject stored electricity back into the grid when their output falls. The most-cited option is to use batteries – a lot of them.
The second basic problem is the low power density of wind and solar energy. Aside from hurricanes and tornadoes, wind is a diffuse form of energy that requires large areas to “harvest” it. The same applies to sunlight on the surface of the Earth.
Compared to nuclear plants or state-of-the-art fossil fuel plants, wind and solar require hundreds of times as many individual units, hundreds of times more land area and tens of times larger amounts of steel, concrete and other materials to produce a given average power output….
We are constantly told that the cost of wind and solar energy has dropped dramatically and that they are already the cheapest power sources.

Common sense, and the electricity prices in California, Germany, and Denmark – which have all gone big on renewable energy – tell a different story, as do many independent studies. See for example the detailed study by Gordon Hughes of the University of Edinburgh, “Wind Power Economics – Rhetoric & Reality.”
The real costs of wind and solar are obscured by subsidized prices, renewable energy credits, production tax credits, green bond discounts, accelerated depreciation, property tax exemptions and tax credits.

Full post
5) Low paid Brits and renters risk being left behind in green car revolution
The Sun, 7 March 2021

LOW paid Brits will be unable to switch to green vehicles without significant financial support, a new study shows.


Plans to force drivers over to electric cars risk being fatally undermined if low-income families are unable to pay for the charging points needed, according to the Social Market Foundation.
From 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned as ministers try to accelerate the switch to electric vehicles - currently one in ten cars sold is electric.
But the plans will need 600,000 charging points installed across Britain outside homes, on streets in car parks and at workplaces.
But renters and the lower paid look set to miss out without support. And resentment to the high price of going green could derail the whole agenda.
The SMF think tank say: “The perception of unfairness is a grave threat to the mass adoption of electric vehicles.”

And they argue “if the costs and disruption of the EV transition fall too heavily on people who feel no benefit – because they cannot afford an EV or access convenient and affordable charging for one – public consent for Net Zero will be dangerously weakened.”
They cite polling from Opinium that shows while 35pc of richer voters object to meeting the cost of charging points, that soars to 47pc of the lowest paid voters.
57pc of rich back the petrol and diesel ban, compared to 43pc of lower social class voters.
Industry chiefs warn going green will remain the preserve of “leafy suburban avenues” without a major rethink.
Full story
6) Andrew Montford: The hidden cost of Net Zero
The Spectator, 8 March 2021

‘We cannot allow debt to keep rising’, the Chancellor said to Parliament last week, repeatedly emphasising the need to ‘level’ with the public about the size of the national debt. Strange then that just days later it was revealed that ministers have been doing the opposite when it comes to the costs of the fashionable cause of ‘Net Zero’.
Instead government officials deliberately hid ‘more realistic’ estimates which showed Net Zero would cost billions more than publicised, while agreeing amongst themselves that the predicted costs were ‘highly uncertain’. 

These revelations came about after the Treasury was finally defeated in a two-year battle to prevent me seeing documents I’d requested under the Freedom of Information Act. I’d asked for the calculations behind their claim that the cost of decarbonising the UK economy was going to be around £1 trillion.

In the event, after two years, they eventually handed over what was essentially a short memo, discussing two competing estimates of the cost, one from the Department for Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the other from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The amateurishness of the Treasury analysis is extraordinary: a few figures are jotted down, as if on the back of an envelope, and a crude graph is sketched out, after which a picture to present to the public is decided on.

But more importantly, the memo appears to show that the Treasury set out to deceive the public. The mandarins involved felt that the higher BEIS estimate was more credible than the lower figure from the CCC, but shamefully decided to publicise the CCC number anyway.

This kind of behaviour by Whitehall officials has become all too common, but the public may not yet be aware of the extent of the deception regarding Net Zero. The two competing estimates were in the vicinity of £1 trillion pounds, give or a take a few hundred billion here or there. But a moment’s reflection shows that this cannot even be close to the true cost. For example, the Energy Technologies Institute estimates that retrofitting insulation to the UK housing stock will cost in excess of £2 trillion on its own. And you need to decarbonise transport, the power generation system, industry and agriculture too.
At GWPF, where I work, analysts have been building up a more realistic picture of just how much you are going to be required to fork out, and we’ve already reached a total over £3 trillion – or more than £100,000 per household. By the time we are done, it may well be half as much again.
Do you have £150,000 to spare? Coming in the wake of the pandemic, I’m pretty sure most people will not. Forcing taxpayers and consumers to spend sums like this seems the height of economic and social foolishness. To do so only to deliver a world in which you will not know from one moment to the next whether there will be any energy to heat your home or even to keep the lights on defies comprehension.
Do politicians have any idea of where they are taking us? Or does their thinking on energy policy only extend to posturing and pandering to environmental pressure groups? They can’t keep on like this forever. Eventually, as the bills mount and the reality of energy rationing hits home, the public will turn on them. And this could be sooner than you think. BEIS hopes to clear the way for the grid to control appliances in homes by 2025. The next election could be a good one to lose.

see also: Brits were misled about ‘true £70bn cost’ of Theresa May’s net zero carbon target

7) Liam Deacon: The dangerous rise of climate censorship
Spiked, 8 March 2021
Stop Funding Heat has pressured a newspaper to delete a series of eco-sceptical articles.

Six retweets. That is all the censorship campaign, Stop Funding Heat, needed to have a series of articles taken down by a major British news website and erased from the web. The activists also extracted a groveling apology from the paper’s editor, who promised not only to join the campaign, but also implied his journalists would stop reporting negatively on their cause and would no longer hold them to account.

Stop Funding Heat is a spinoff of campaign group Stop Funding Hate, which pressures advertisers to withdraw funding from newspapers and media outlets which publish articles it disagrees with. Stop Funding Heat is a mysterious outfit which appeared online in 2019. According to its Facebook page, it aims to ‘defund’ and de-platform its ideological opponents in order to make criticisms of green politics ‘unprofitable’. It has no official website and only a Gmail contact address. Yet it has managed to solicit a swift response from a major newspaper.
‘As soon as I became aware of these stories I removed them as they fail to reflect our direction of travel in pursuing a greener, environmentally friendly agenda’, Gary Jones, editor-in-chief of the Daily Express and Express Online, told the DeSmog climate blog after he was contacted by Stop Funding Heat. ‘The Express is committed to promoting green issues and reporting on developments in the ongoing battle to combat climate change, and bring real, sustainable change to the way we all lead our lives. I am absolutely determined to report positively on efforts not only to make Britain greener, but to look at the global picture which impacts on us all’, he added.

That is, the Express will be ‘pursuing’ Stop Funding Heat’s ‘agenda’. Never have I seen such an astonishing statement from a newspaper editor in a democratic society. And never have I known a campaign to win such an easy victory over our supposedly free press.
It is, of course, hard to know what was in the censored articles. One, which has been archived, is about Naomi Seibt, a critic of Greta Thunberg. It says that Seibt ‘argues people should “think before panicking”’, although she ‘agrees carbon dioxide… does affect climate change’. Hardly climate ‘denial’.

The campaigners didn’t even need to leave their bedrooms to get results. A few tweets were directed at a prominent Express advertiser, saying ‘Is this really a message that @Octopus_Energy wants to endorse?’. Six retweets and 17 likes later, Octopus Energy replied, causing the Express to back down immediately.
Just six months ago, people from across the political spectrum rallied around  the Spectator after the Co-Op – prompted by Stop Funding Hate – attempted to influence the magazine’s editorial line on trans issues by joining an advertising boycott. Spectator chairman Andrew Neil promised to ban Co-Op from placing ads in future. More than 1,000 people subscribed to the magazine in a single day in a show of force and solidarity. Co-Op promptly apologised and a victory for the free press was declared. That victory, however, now appears to be just a minor battle in a longer war that is rapidly being lost.

Wherever one stands on the issue of climate change, it should concern us all that it is now, in effect, only possible to cover and report on this issue in one light. All those who support the Net Zero agenda should welcome scrutiny if they are confident in their policies and ideology. Either that criticism is debunked and ridiculed, and their case is strengthened, or it can expose some weakness in their policies and ideas, which can then be corrected. But if all your critics are silenced, we can and should conclude that you have things to hide.
The difference between the Spectator and Express Online cases is that the latter is reliant on advertisers, rather than subscribers, and is financially struggling generally. This is the case for almost all of our newspapers and news websites. As a result, they are much more responsive to the views of advertisers, even though these are notoriously out of step with the views and economic interests of working people.

Nearly every paper in the country is now either backing the government’s campaigns on climate and Net Zero, or is calling for it to go harder and faster. The Express has its ‘Green Britain Needs You’ campaign, which claims green policies will generate £21 billion for the economy. And the Sun has its ‘Green Team’ campaign, which promises to save readers’ money and the planet.
Reaching Net Zero may or may not be a worthy cause. But is it really true that suddenly abandoning fossil fuels, on which all modern civilisation has been built, can be achieved with no adverse economic effects? Who is scrutinising these claims if once sceptical papers like the Express are now committed to ‘campaigning’ on the issue and rather than reporting on it?

Big Tech is compounding the problem, too. Open online debate around the proper policy response to climate change is becoming all but impossible. Videos on YouTube come with a health warning and a link to the Big Tech-approved stance. There has also been widespread ‘shadow banning’ of articles on Facebook, even those based on peer-reviewed science, which counter the accepted climate narrative. No doubt newspapers, already fearful of advertisers, will self-censor in turn to avoid losing the 36 per cent of people who now get their news on Facebook.

Things will only begin to change when we see new online platforms and publications, representing a real diversity of views, and when readers begin to pay for the journalism they support. We cannot continue relying on Facebook moderators and advertisers, or Octopus Energy and other corporations with a commercial and ideological agenda, to decide what news gets funding and exposure.
During the coronavirus crisis, we have grown used to the media, often at the behest of the government, framing everything in the most alarmist terms possible – while shaming those who dissent from government policy. I fear this is also the case with climate. The public are not trusted to read or hear criticism of green policies or positive news on climate because elites think that they know better and believe the cause is more important than the truth.
If this settlement becomes the norm – upheld by big corporations, a cowardly media and monopolous Big Tech firms – we will have shut down debate on one of the most important issues of our time.
8) John Constable: A Complete Confusion of Ideas: Climate policy, energy efficiency and energy conservation
GWPF Energy, 5 March 2021

Dr John Constable, GWPF Energy Editor

The Paris Agreement targets rely on energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand and so deliver the bulk of emissions reductions. The effects of the global pandemic have thrown these expectations into disarray, with the deployment of efficiency measures faltering across the world. Still worse, academic analysts are now concluding that W. S. Jevons was right and that even if deployed successfully efficiency improvements will not deliver as much energy conservation as is required, and may actually increase demand.
Global emissions reduction policies aimed at delivering the Parish Agreement rely on the timely arrival of a very large number of highly improbable things, for example, lower-cost renewable energy, cheaper electricity storage, globally synchronised carbon pricing, a viable “hydrogen economy”, carbon capture and sequestration that works, and practical and affordable electric vehicles, to name a few of the better known.
Behind all these, though much less salient to the general public, is the central enabling assumption that gives the aura of reality to the ambitions in all other areas. Namely that improvements in the energy efficiency of end-use conversion processes, such as buildings and industry, will greatly reduce energy demand, bringing it down to manageable proportions. I last wrote here about this assumption in August 2018 (Energy Efficiency, Smart Meters and Climate Policy[ [1], illustrating the point with a chart from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that summarised the aggregated ambition of the “stated policies” of the various nations.

The chart, slightly revised, was reissued in December last year when the IEA published its annual study of progress on the implementation of energy efficiency measures in the global economy, Energy Efficiency 2020.

Figure 1: International Energy Agency projection of Energy Conservation to Deliver Climate Goals. Source: IEA.

The fundamental assumptions in the figure remain the same, with a reduction in energy consumption delivering over 40% of the emissions reduction required by 2040, a larger share even than renewables.

However, the prospects of this historically unprecedented reduction in demand materialising were already poor, but are evaporating due to the effects of the global pandemic. The IEA itself comments: “Energy efficiency’s weakest progress in a decade threatens international climate goals.” Grave and realistic though that may seem, the chart illustrating this point reveals it as an understatement.


Figure 2. Primary energy intensity improvement rate, 2015–2020. Source: IEA.

It is obviously true that Coronavirus has not helped, but it is equally obvious that the strong downward trend in the rate of energy intensity improvement predates the pandemic. Indeed, even in 2015, the improvement rate was barely adequate to deliver the 3% per year that would, in the IEA’s view, reduce demand to levels where decarbonisation policies realisable in practice and tolerable in their cost. Energy efficiency uptake wasn’t working to plan; coronavirus is simply the coup de grâce.
But could it ever have worked, or was the whole endeavour mistaken? Was the IEA guilty of what W. S. Jevons notoriously referred to in 1865 as a naïve “confusion of ideas” that misleads one into supposing that “the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption” when, in fact, “The very contrary is the truth.”?
If you had not examined Jevons for yourself and had only read or heard about his criticism, you might be inclined to give the IEA the benefit of the doubt and imagine that Jevons was speculating and that he overestimated the actual strength of “rebound” effects, whereby an improved process is used more because it is cheaper.
But those who have engaged directly with Jevon’s steel-trap logic will know firstly that he is not principally referring to parochial phenomena, he is much more concerned with the entire economic system, and secondly that his “paradox” is not an empty speculation awaiting empirical testing, but itself an empirical historical observation.
What Jevons claims is nothing less than that “the whole of our present vast industrial system […] has chiefly arisen from successive measures of economy” of fuel.
Jevons was not speculating, but making an historical observation, namely that improvements in energy efficiency are seen to be the cause of economic growth and thus of increased energy consumption:
No one must suppose that [energy] saved is spared – it is only saved from one use to be employed in others, and the profits gained soon lead to extended employment in many new forms. The several branches of industry are closely interdependent, and the progress of any one leads to the progress of nearly all.

Academics and others have been slow to follow Jevons’ lead, which is to a degree understandable, the remarks in the Coal Question being telegrammatic in their brevity. But in the last few months, several researchers well-known in the field, Paul Brockway of the University of Leeds, and Steve Sorrell, at the University of Sussex,  Gregor Semieniuk at the University of Massachusetts, Matthew Kuperus Heun of Calvin University, and Victor Court at the Institut Louis Bachelier have published a  substantial joint paper, “Energy efficiency and economy-wide rebound effects: a review of the evidence and its implications”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews that this is changing.
Full post

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

No comments: