The US has shut down 39 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired electrical generation capacity since 2012 while the UK has closed 8.4 GW in the five years through 2015. (1 GW is the size of a typical nuclear power plant.) Construction on new coal plants fell by nearly two-thirds globally in 2016.
US carbon emissions dropped 3% last year as cheap abundant natural gas displaced coal as the country’s primary generator of electricity. ((Natural gas burns roughly half as much CO2 as coal). At the same time, that nation’s carbon intensity, a measure of how much carbon dioxide is emitted per unit of economic activity, fell 3.3% in 2016, and 5.3% the year before that. According to the US Energy Information Administration: “These recent decreases are consistent with a decade-long trend, with energy-related CO2 emissions 14% below the 2005 level in 2016.” The EIA and the International Energy Agency noted that the largest change in the American energy landscape — the shale boom — has coincided with this drop in emissions and carbon intensity.
Electric utilities across the European Union have agreed not to construct any new coal plants after 2020. Apart from Poland and Greece, all countries said they would be moving toward cleaner methods of generating electric power. By 2050, Eurelectric predicts that the European Union will be entirely carbon-neutral.
India’s Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said coal will continue to remain his country’s main domestic raw material for producing electricity. He added that there is nothing in the Paris Agreement to prevent India or any other country from meeting their energy needs from whatever sources of energy they may choose.
Russian oil company Gazprom Neft said it finished drilling a new production well in the Novoportovskoye field above the Arctic Circle. The field is located far away from any pipeline infrastructure and shipping the crude oil to port requires the use of icebreaking-vessels. Development of the fields above the Arctic Circle is costly, with most Russian operators waiting for the price of oil to move above $75 per barrel before it could be commercially profitable. World oil prices are currently in the $50-$55 range.
Rwanda recently opened the first peat-fired electric power plant in Africa. The facility is located at Gishoma, in the far west part of the country. A second peat plant is under construction in Gisagara in the east part of Rwanda. Gishoma will start feeding 15 megawatts of electricity into the national grid imminently while Gisagara will supply 80 megawatts by 2019. The Rwandan government is hoping to achieve its goal of connecting 70% of the country’s 11.7 million people to the national grid by 2018. This would reduce the country’s reliance on expensive imports of diesel oil for electric power generation. Peat power has the potential to contribute nearly 20% of Rwanda’s national energy supply 5 years from now.
Kenyan’s are learning to cook with solar power, even when the Sun is not shining. In recent years families in Kenya have started to use solar cookers, which trap sunlight to heat food. Now they are coming up with ways to use them when there is no sunlight. This includes insulated baskets that hold onto heat after the Sun disappears as well as using back-up fuel-efficient charcoal and firewood stoves. The insulated solar basket conserves enough heat to cook food even when there is no sunshine and is also affordable and easy to use. For example, box cookers trap sunlight that shines through the box’s glass top, using it to heat food placed inside. The device retains heat and can cook for an additional three hours after the Sun has disappeared. The switch to more efficient cooking has the benefit of reducing deforestation in Kenya as well as the health problems related to cooking over smoky fires. Those who have bought the new systems say another attraction is that they require only about a third of the usual time to cook food or heat water – a big savings of women’s time.
China’s wind and solar sectors could attract as much as 5.4 trillion yuan (US$782 billion) in investment between 2016 and 2030 as the country tries to meet its renewable energy targets, according to a research report published on Tuesday. China has pledged to increase non-fossil fuel energy to at least 20% of total consumption by the end of the next decade. To do that, it would need to raise wind and solar power’s share of primary energy consumption to 17% by 2030, up from 4% in 2015. The report was prepared by the China Wind Energy Association, the National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute, Tsinghua University, and an environmental research group called Draworld.
There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether the price of unsubsidized solar and wind electric generation has reached grid parity. Breaking Energy examines the many facets of dealing with this complex and controversial topic in Are Renewables as Cheap as We Think?