Lessons from Germany’s Transition from Coal to Renewables

❝ Seventy-seven-year-old Heinz Spahn—whose blue eyes are both twinkling and stern — vividly recalls his younger days. The Zollverein coal mine, where he worked in the area of Essen, Germany, was so clogged with coal dust, he remembers, that people would stir up a black cloud whenever they moved. “It was no pony farm,” he says — using the sardonic German phrase to describe the harsh conditions: The roar of machines was at a constant 110 decibels, and the men were nicknamed waschbar, or “raccoons,” for the black smudges that permanently adorned their faces.

Today, the scene at Zollverein is very different. Inside the coal washery where Spahn once worked—the largest building in the Zollverein mining complex — the air is clean, and its up to 8,000 miners have been replaced by one-and-a-half million tourists annually. The whole complex is now a UNESCO world heritage site: Spahn, who worked here as a fusion welder until the mine shut down on December 23, 1986, is employed as a guide to teach tourists about its history. “I know this building in and out. I know every screw,” he says fondly.

Zollverein is a symbol of Germany’s transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy — a program called the Energiewende that aims to have 80 percent of the country’s energy generated from renewables by 2050. That program has transformed Germany into a global poster child for green energy. But what does the transition mean for residents of Essen and the rest of the Ruhr region — the former industrial coal belt—whose lives and livelihoods have been dramatically altered by the reduced demand for coal? The answer to that could hold some useful lessons for those undergoing similar transitions elsewhere…

The trade unions are stronger in Germany than in the United States. Progressive politicians are often voted into office – locally and nationally – in Germany. There has been legitimate, strong pressure exerted upon government and corporations alike in Germany. RTFA and see what a difference that has made in the transition away from the most polluting energy sources.

The World’s Largest Coal Company Is Shutting Down 37 Mines


Channi Anand

❝ Coal India — a government-backed coal company – is reportedly closing 37 of its “unviable” mines in the next year to cut back on losses.

India is primed for an energy revolution. The country’s ongoing economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels in the past, making it one of the top five largest energy consumers in the world. But it has also invested heavily in renewables, and the cost of solar power is now cheaper than ever. In some instances, villages in India have avoided coal-powered electricity altogether, and “leapfrogged” straight to solar power…

❝ India’s energy situation is changing so fast that even expert predictions about its switch to renewables are wildly off: A study from last year claimed India would be building more than 300 coal plants in the next 10 years, but experts said the data was already outdated by the time the report was published, and that India would be moving toward renewables instead.

The decline of Coal India, which produces 80 percent of the country’s domestic coal output, is more evidence that we are collectively moving away from fossil fuels as cleaner, renewable technologies become more widely available. This reality is important to grasp in every country where coal used to be king. Even as Donald Trump promises coal jobs, let’s remember that those jobs aren’t likely to come back.

❝ And for countries like India, where companies like Coal India employ more than 300,000 people, training people to work in more viable energy markets will be increasingly important to provide sustainable livelihoods. Luckily, it looks like the solar industry will have some job openings.

The same is true in the United States on a smaller scale. US mines are highly automated compared to India. Still, the possibilities for new jobs are at least as strong – if we only had state and federal governments in place that cared more about retraining workers for new jobs than guaranteeing profits for out-of-date lobbyists and corporate CEOs.

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.

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.

The West’s coal giant is going away


Click to enlargeAlex/Creative Commons

❝ The smokestacks of the Navajo Generation Station rise 775 feet from the sere landscape of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, just three miles away from the serpentine, stagnant blue wound in sandstone known as Lake Powell. Red rock cliffs and the dark and heavy hump of Navajo Mountain loom in the background. Since construction began in 1969, the coal plant and its associated mine on Black Mesa have provided millions of dollars to the Navajo and Hopi tribes and hundreds of jobs to local communities, as well as electricity to keep the lights on and air conditioners humming in the metastasizing cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Yet they’ve also stood as symbols of the exploitation of Native Americans, of the destruction of the land, and of the sullying of the air, all to provide cheap power to the Southwest.

But coal power is no longer the best energy bargain. And…the plant’s four private utility owners, led by the Salt River Project, voted to shut down the plant at the end of 2019, some 25 years ahead of schedule. When the giant turbines come to a halt and the towers topple in the coming years, the plant will become a new symbol, this one of a transforming energy economy and an evolving electrical grid that is slowly rendering these soot-stained, mechanical megaliths obsolete.

❝ Salt River Project officials have been very clear…They note that it’s now cheaper for them to buy power for their 1 million customers from other sources than it is to generate power at Navajo, thanks mostly to low natural gas prices. A November 2016 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that the Central Arizona Project pays about 15 percent more for electricity from the power plant — of which it is part owner — than it would if it bought power wholesale from the Mead trading hub located near Las Vegas.

❝ None of this will change even if President Donald Trump rolls back the Clean Power Plan or other regulations put in place by the Obama administration. In fact, if a drill-heavy energy policy is put into place, it will increase natural gas supplies, thus increasing the spread between natural gas and coal.

It’s a sign of the times. We will continues to see pimps like Trump – owned body and soul by the US Chamber of Commerce – run their collective mouths, beat the drums of war and obedience, demand resurrection of backwards methods that will only serve to further slow our national economy.

Science and technology will continue to forge ahead.

Milestone: In 2016, wind generated more power than coal in the UK

❝ During most years since the industrial revolution, the UK has relied on coal to produce the lion’s share of its energy (in the past 10, gas has been top some years, and coal others). But in just three years the dominance of the most polluting energy source has declined to such an extent that full-year figures for 2016 show it was overtaken by wind power for total power generation…

❝ The change is momentous, and by no means accidental. European policy has mandated for the closing or retrofitting of many coal plants, with the UK recently announcing all its plants would close by 2025. Some plants, like the UK’s Drax, the biggest coal power station in Europe, have responded by moving to the burning of wood — which has its own issues. The replacement of coal with cleaner ways of generating power is a key part of the global effort to fight climate change.

❝ In most countries with large populations, renewables still can’t provide enough constant “baseload” power to allow them to replace older technologies. Many countries, the UK included, are therefore moving heavily from coal to gas. Gas is still a fossil fuel, but it’s much less damaging to the environment than coal, so planners hoping to deploy more renewables can use it as a “bridge” to an even cleaner future. Other countries, like France, have invested heavily in nuclear as a means to move away from emissions-heavy power…

❝ And for its part, China is investing massively in renewable energy. It’s still heavily reliant on coal power, but it overtook all other countries to become the biggest spender on renewable technology in 2014, and recently pledged to spend $361 billion on the technologies by 2020.

Advancing such progress in the United States will come to a halt for the next four years – as far as federal projects and the Trumpublicans are concerned. That doesn’t mean a halt to progress. Cities, states and individuals will continue to demonstrate good sense – both in terms of environment and common $ense.

Some facts take a really long time to sink in. Some bought-and-paid-for politicians never get it!

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Our latest creepy Republican liar-for-president is appointing one of the sleaziest and most corrupt public officials in the United States to head the Environmental Protection Agency. This is like appointing B’rer Fox to oversee hen-house construction. Backdoor guaranteed.

Scott Pruitt is known to take press releases from his Oklahoma oil and gas buddies and reprint them on his official letterhead as state attorney general – as if they were the product of his own research. Scumbag politician of the worst sort.

BTW, Snopes.com has already verified the article and searched deeper finding an article in Popular Mechanics that preceded newspaper coverage.

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Renewables capacity for energy passes coal in US, Europe

Click to enlargeSteve Braund

According to the International Energy Agency, 2015 was a banner year for renewable power, marking the first time that total installed renewable capacity passed coal. The agency just released its analysis of the medium-term prospects for renewables, which includes a look at the state of the global market in 2015. The report predicts that 2015 is only the beginning; by 2021, renewables will generae enough electricity to handle all of the demand in the US and Europe.

As of 2015, hydropower remained the largest global source of renewable electricity, accounting for just over 70 percent of it. But wind power is now 15 percent, and solar has grown from negligible to four percent. The new additions of capacity, however, indicate that these two power sources are just getting started.

…The addition of renewables will account for more than 60 percent of the new generating capacity and add up to 800GW over the coming five years, keeping them well ahead of any other power source. That’ll be driven in part by continued drops in the cost of renewables; while wind is expected to drop by low double digits, photovoltaics are expected to be 25 percent lower than they are already.

RTFA for regional differences, rates of change. The direction remains progressive and positive; but, economics demand independent patterns.