Global Energy Demand Stumbles Again — Coal Is Dead


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❝ Global energy demand continued its sluggish rise last year as growth in Chinese consumption fell to its lowest in nearly two decades, while renewables flourished, BP said in a report…

Slower demand growth helped stall the acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions for a third year to levels not seen since the 1980s, but emissions remained well above targets set out globally under the 2015 Paris accord on climate change.

❝ Coal’s share in the energy mix declined to its lowest since 2004 at around 28 percent, while production of the highly polluting fossil fuel saw its largest ever annual drop at 6.2 percent…

❝ China’s energy demand growth in 2015 and 2016, 1.2 and 1.3 percent respectively, although still the strongest in the world, marked its lowest over a two-year period since 1997-98…

❝ Cheaper and abundant gas supplies in the United States and China’s drive to switch to cleaner feedstock for its power plants led to a 1.7 percent drop in demand for coal, the most pollutant fossil fuel.

“It feels to me like we are seeing a decisive break in coal relative to the past,” BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said…

❝ Renewables such as solar and wind power were the fastest-growing source of energy, rising by 12 percent and accounting for a third of the overall growth in demand…China, meanwhile, overtook the United States for the first time as the largest producer of renewable power.

The slowing growth in energy demand, the shift to cleaner fuels and energy efficiency meant carbon emissions grew by 0.1 percent last year, similar to the prior two years, making it the lowest three-year average for emissions growth since 1981-83.

Dullards like Trump, his peers, his followers, are fighting a vain and wasteful retreat – while blathering all the while about returning 19th Century glory to rustbelt industry. The only exportable segment of our traditional industrial base – capital goods – was sold off by conglomerate profiteers decades ago. The mostly foreign-based companies who bought up the companies whose machines make other machines – are rolling in profits while the backwards-looking crowd whines. Perish the thought they should notice it was the American one-percenters who sold them out.

Here’s a link to the whole report.

China Switches On World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm — On A Lake Over A Closed Coal Mine


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❝ Last week, workers switched on a solar energy plant capable of producing 40 megawatts of power, which floats on a manmade lake in China’s Anhui province near the city of Huainan…The array is the largest floating solar project in the world, though at the brisk pace China is building new renewable projects it’s unlikely to hold that title very long.

❝ Built by the company Sungrow Power Supply, the power plant will produce enough energy to power 15,000 homes…While the company has not revealed the exact size of the operation, it produces twice as much energy as the previous holder of the largest-floating-solar-plant title, which is located in the same area and was launched by the company Xinyi Solar in 2016.

❝ Anhui province is a coal-rich region, and the Sungrow plant is located on a lake that was once the site of intensive mining. Heavy rains filled the area with water…

So why build solar plants on top of lakes and reservoirs?…Building on bodies of water, especially manmade lakes that are not ecologically sensitive, helps protect agricultural land and terrestrial ecosystems from being developed for energy use. The water also cools the electronics in the solar panels, helping them to work more efficiently…

❝ While the floating solar plant is the largest in the world, it pales in comparison to some of China’s non-floating solar projects. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park on the Tibetan plateau hosts 4 million solar panels that produce 850 megawatts of energy. Even that will soon be eclipsed by a project in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, which will have 6 million solar panels and produce 2 gigawatts of power.

If Trump’s chumps continue to keep the Republican Party in power, say, until 2024 — we may yet see coal become the cheapest source of mediocre construction stone in the United States. Keeping fewer people employed than Arby’s just to maintain welfare checks flowing into certain corporate bank accounts is an important part of the 18th Century lifestyle so beloved of today’s conservative politicians.

Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline-Burners by 2025


I could be tempted

❝ Battery powered cars will soon be cheaper to buy than conventional gasoline ones, offering immediate savings to drivers, new research shows.

Automakers from Renault SA to Tesla Inc. have long touted the cheaper fuel and running costs of electric cars that helps to displace the higher upfront prices that drivers pay when they buy the zero-emission vehicles.

❝ Now research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicates that falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025. Batteries currently account for about half the cost of EVs, and their prices will fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030, the London-based researcher said…

❝ Renault, maker of the Zoe electric car, predicts total ownership costs of EVs will by the early 2020s equal conventional internal combustion engine vehicles…according to Gilles Normand, the French company’s senior vice president for electric vehicles.

If I could justify buying a new vehicle to replace my 24-year-old pickup truck it probably would be from whomever offers me a smallish EV pickup, say, a quarter-ton AWD.

Still, I just don’t drive enough to justify a second new or newish vehicle in our family. My wife’s 4-year-old Fiesta is still very low accumulated miles – our go to town shopping-mobile – averages 40+ mpg.

Electric Supercar sets fastest production car lap record at Nurburgring

❝ You’re probably tired of hearing about the Nurburgring Nordschleife at the moment. Hot hatches have been battling relentlessly for the front-drive lap record, and Mercedes now owns the rear-wheel drive record. One intrepid soul even did a lap on two wheels. But these records all pale in comparison to the time laid down by Chinese newcomer NIO. The company has claimed a blistering new lap record at the Nordschleife with its EP9 supercar.

All the records mentioned in the intro are class-specific. The Honda Civic Type-R is the fastest front-wheel drive car to lap the North Loop, and the AMG GT R is the quickest rear-driver. But the NIO EP9 clocked a 6:45.900 lap, topping the Radical SR8LM by 2.1 seconds and Lamborghini’s Huracan Performante by 6 seconds to become the outright fastest production car around the Nurburgring.

Here’s the rest of the article from newatlas.com. But, here’s the home site for NIO – which features gorgeous photography of the EP9 and even their soon-to-be-on-the-roads of China 7 passenger SUV.

The EP9 is definitely the more expensive of the two. $1.48 million. 1300+ DC electric horsepower.

Trumpy flunky says replacing coal-based energy with renewables and natgas threatens grid stability


Cathy

❝ Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered a review of electricity markets and reliability late last week, saying that “certain policies” have hindered the development and use of baseload energy sources like coal. Although Perry never mentions renewable energy explicitly in his letter, he references “significant changes within the electrical system.” That seems to be a direct allusion to the record amount of renewable capacity that has been added to the grid in recent years.

❝ The Obama administration had supported initiatives to increase renewable energy on the US grid given the urgency of climate change and with a mind to mitigate the health problems that come with pollution related to coal burning and mining. Although wind and solar power are intermittent resources…government agencies including the DOE have funded research to improve renewable energy efficiency and energy storage. The idea has been that adding renewable energy to the grid makes it more resilient, because power generation doesn’t rely on shipments of natural gas, coal, or oil. It also decreases the grid’s reliance on large fossil fuel-burning facilities and allows more distributed energy generation.

The Trump administration, on the other hand…lies about climate change science, with the president even falsely claiming that climate change is a hoax made up by China. In March, the president killed the Clean Power Plan and ordered agencies to ignore climate change. Perry, too, spent most of his early career rejecting climate change science, but during his January Senate confirmation hearing the former Texas governor said he now accepts science showing that the Earth is warming…

❝ Of course, Perry’s history isn’t purely boosting fossil fuels. He also led a massive expansion of renewable wind power during his time as governor of Texas. But the Trump administration that Perry works for has promised to bring back coal jobs, something that industry analysts and even coal industry executives have been skeptical of due to the fact that coal’s struggles stem from competition with the low price of natural gas…

❝ Perry said that the results of the review would help to establish policies from the Trump administration, with a focus on “reliability, resiliency, affordability, and fuel assurance.”

Believe that one and you deserve the long-term increase in your energy bill…and the shortened lifespan you’re gifting your children and grandkids.

Foreign Energy Giants Flee Canada’s Tar Sands

❝ When ConocoPhillips signed a $13.3 billion deal last month to shed many of its Canadian assets, it became the latest in a growing list of foreign firms to sell tar sands holdings to a Canadian company…

All told, five American and European companies have sold nearly $25 billion worth of Canadian oil and gas projects over the past 12 months, the vast majority of them in the tar sands. This week, Reuters reported that Chevron is exploring a sale of its major oil sands stake.

❝ Tar sands projects are among the most expensive sources of oil, and the extraction produces more greenhouse gas emissions than most conventional drilling. With oil prices remaining low, multinationals are shifting investment to higher-return projects like shale in the United States. When Marathon Oil announced the sale of its tar sands projects for $2.5 billion in March, for example, it also highlighted a $1.1 billion purchase in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas. While economics is the leading factor in the sales, some advocates argue that climate change is playing a role, too…

There is one notable exception to the trend: ExxonMobil. The company has been a leader in exploiting the tar sands for half a century, largely through its Canadian affiliate Imperial Oil. Even before the sales, it pumped more oil from Alberta than any foreign company. And despite Exxon’s recent announcement that it had wiped off its books all 3.5 billion barrels of reserves at one of its tar sands projects — a move forced by financial reporting rules — the company has said it remains committed to the resource. That position is now looking increasingly isolated.

I’m really not certain why anyone is carrying tar sands projects forward. It will always require producers to expend more energy per BTU-capability of product and natural gas just keeps getting cheaper to produce. Even our so-called President with his plans to cut environmental requirements for coal can’t beat the lower cost of natgas and renewables like solar.

I guess Canadian companies figure they can always get bailed out by the Canadian government if and when the projects flop. Conservative government or otherwise.

California cranked out so much solar power this spring that wholesale electricity ran negative$

❝ The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage—and charge for—electricity.

California is one such a place.

❝ On March 11, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day…

The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity on March 11…

❝ The spikes also have a big effect on wholesale energy prices, which dipped to zero or even to negative territory this spring during certain hours in California…That’s in sharp contrast to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.

Negative prices usually happen because there’s a glut of renewable energy, but non-renewable generators are also producing. They don’t shut them off completely because of the high costs of restarting.

California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.

❝ This doesn’t mean, however, that Californians are paying nothing for their power because wholesale prices don’t translate directly into retail prices, which are based on averages, not single days. But it will mean energy companies start to rethink how they deliver and charge for electricity as the mix of renewables increases.

Unless, of course, you’re a public utility, fossil fuel producer or dimwit politician who hopes and prays that renewable power sources just disappear.

A German coal mine might be primed to become a pumped storage electricity generation station

❝ In the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, a coal mine will close in 2018. Aging coal infrastructure, low wholesale power prices, and a move away from the highly polluting power source all make renewable energy the political darling of the day.

But that doesn’t mean the Prosper-Haniel coal mine will be shutting down completely. According to Bloomberg, North Rhine-Westphalia State Governor Hannelore Kraft recently confirmed that a project to turn the coal mine into pumped storage will move forward after mining activities have stopped.

❝ Pumped storage has been used for decades, but placing a pumped storage scheme at a retired mine is somewhat new. Here’s how it works: when electricity is plentiful and cheap — say, on a windy day when the Sun is shining and solar panels and wind turbines are working at their maximum—a pumped storage facility pumps water from a lower reservoir up to an upper reservoir. When electricity is scarce, the facility can release the water back down to the lower reservoir through a turbine, creating renewable hydroelectric power.

❝ Traditionally, pumped storage has required fairly specific terrain. But a used coal mine can offer the right environment for pumped storage without natural elevation differences and reservoir capabilities, although mines do require extensive analysis to make sure they’re geologically fit for pumped storage. The University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is working with mine owner RAG AG to complete the project, and…UDE professor André Niemann said the mine site is “suitable for the infrastructure to implement an underground pumped-storage power station as a closed system.”…

❝ …Support seems to be growing for such projects. Renewable Energy World reported last week that Virginia’s legislative bodies have passed bills this year to spur development of pumped storage facilities, which could be situated at abandoned coal mines. A combined bill now awaits the signature of Governor Terry McAuliffe.

So perhaps pumped storage using a retired mine has some maturing to do, but with the right political will and some good investment, maybe this kind of creative reuse could be possible in the future.

Of course, if Virginia had a Trumpublican governor unemployed miners would be put to work painting stones black in hope of somehow fooling coal-burning plants into producing electricity.

Coal Industry has a pulse — Someone tell Trump job prospects still suck


Click to enlargeLuke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

❝ The battered U.S. coal industry is showing flickering signs of life. Yet the prognosis for Big Coal remains dim.

Coal prices are about double what they were a year ago. Rail car deliveries of coal are up 16 percent this year. The more than 50 coal mining companies that went bankrupt over the past couple of years have unloaded billions of dollars of debt. And President Trump has vowed to roll back environmental regulations that the industry says are part of a “war on coal.”

❝ But the obstacles on the other side of the ledger remain daunting: Coal-fired power plants continue to shut their doors. Bountiful supplies of U.S. shale gas are keeping natural gas prices low and competitive, and renewable sources of power generation are growing rapidly. Though most experts expect U.S. coal sales and output to top last year’s levels, they also expect the decline to resume in 2018.

“The coal industry is saying it’s back. It’s not back,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. “This is a fool’s errand.”

…Metallurgical coal will be needed to make steel in India and China and in the United States, especially if there is a boost in infrastructure spending. And thermal coal will still be used to generate electricity for years, even if at lower rates.

But to show profits, coal operators will have to trim output from the oldest, least-efficient mines in Appalachia (where Trump garnered crucial votes in the election) and shift their focus to the Illinois Basin and the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

Those big open-pit mines need fewer workers — doing nothing to help Trump bring back jobs for “our great miners.”

And if you’re shipping open-pit coal to China and India, there are operations in existence – and/or getting ready to come onstream in Australia – that will have a lot less freight added into costs than the black stuff from North America.

Wind Overtakes Coal Power in Europe — Turbines Increase Offshore


Dong Energy

❝ Wind farm developers installed more power than any other form of energy last year in Europe, helping turbines to overtake coal in terms of capacity…

European wind power grew 8 percent, to 153.7 gigawatts, comprising 16.7 percent of installed capacity and overtaking coal as the continent’s second-biggest potential source of energy, according to figures published Thursday by the WindEurope trade group. Gas-fired generation retained the largest share of installed capacity.

❝ With countries seeking to curb greenhouse gas emissions that causes climate change by replacing fossil fuel plants with new forms of renewable energy, investment in wind grew to a record $29.3 billion in 2016, WindEurope’s annual European Statistics report showed.

Wind and coal are on two ends of the spectrum,” said Oliver Joy, a spokesman for WindEurope, in an e-mail. “Wind is steadily adding new capacity while coal is decommissioning far more than any technology in Europe.”

❝ The group underscored that wind, which only produces power intermittently, hasn’t yet overtaken coal share in total power generation.

And, so, good sense marches hand-in-hand with a positive commitment to better living.