The German government plans to give financial compensation to electric power utilities which agree to mothball coal-generation plants and maintain them in standby mode. Terms of the compensation are not yet known.

200 out of 535 US coal power plants have closed since 2010 or about 40% of that country’s electricity production from coal. Over this period coal power plants have found it difficult to compete with cheaper natural gas, driven by the shale gas revolution in the US. It is estimated that this year alone, 12 gigawatts (GW) of coal-generated electricity will be shut down. Between 2012 and 2022, a total of 46 GW of coal production are expected to disappear.

European power utilities are being forced to make cost saving cuts as well as write down the value of their assets as European wholesale electricity prices continue to fall. The decline in electricity prices (as much as a 20% drop in the first quarter of this year) is due to a number of factors including the continuing impact of the ongoing recession in Europe which has kept demand low, low international coal prices being pushed down by the rapid growth of cheaper US shale gas, and the addition of new electrical generation capacity in Europe from firms who expected a pickup in demand by now or received government incentives to expand their renewable power-generation operations. One of the utilities hit hard by these changing market conditions is Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall AB which said this week that very low electricity prices are putting pressure on margins for conventional generation from gas, coal, hydro and nuclear power facilities.

By 2017 China is expected to become the world’s third largest country to generate electricity from nuclear energy, surpassing South Korea and Japan, reports the US Energy Information Administration. At that time, only the US and France will have the capacity to generate more electricity from nuclear than China. China plans to increase its nuclear capacity to 58 gigawatts (GW) and to have 30 GW of nuclear capacity under construction by 2020.

In 2014, the US generated about 4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.   Two-thirds of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum). Renewables supplied 13% of US electricity, with half of this from hydro power. Together solar and wind accounted for 5% of all electricity produced in the US last year.
  • Coal = 39%
  • Natural gas = 27%
  • Nuclear = 19%
  • Hydropower = 6%
  • Other renewables = 7%
    • Biomass = 1.7%
    • Geothermal = 0.4%
    • Solar = 0.4%
    • Wind = 4.4%
  • Petroleum = 1%
  • Other gases < 1% 

US Energy Information Administration: Monthly Energy Review: Electricity

 

A global glut of diesel fuel is developing. With China and Saudi Arabia opening large new refineries in the last two years, these countries are now producing considerably more diesel than can be absorbed by their domestic markets. Saudi exports of refined fuels have climbed to the highest level in 13 years. Oil product inventories at Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp have climbed to a 20 year high of 6 million tons. Some fear a major price crash is coming as Europe runs out of storage capacity.

Russia will face economic recession or stagnation if crude oil trades near $50 a barrel next year. If oil is trading near $40 a barrel, Russia is likely to face a 7% decline in its GDP next year.

A study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is the first to quantify the relationship between human population growth and energy use on an international scale. The study compiled 450 years worth of data from Great Britain, the United States and Sweden to profile the dynamics between a quickly rising population and its consumption of energy from fossil fuels and renewable sources. During this period the Earth’s population skyrocketed from 500 million to 7 billion. The data showed that energy use has generally outpaced population growth over the last few hundred years. Each generation has thus produced more energy per person than its predecessor. However, the study did find per capita energy yields fluctuated during times of socio-economic and environmental upheaval: the Little Ice Age, the Industrial Revolution, World War I and II, the oil crises of the 1970s. (See here)

 

with h/t Tom Whipple

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