The Journal Star reported that coal demand in the US is falling as natural gas prices plummet. Power companies are substituting the cheapest natural gas in a decade for coal to generate electricity. “Use of coal to generate electricity will drop 2 percent this year to the lowest since 1992, while gas-fired consumption rises 5.6 percent, according to the Energy Department.” The lack of demand for coal has seen its price drop 26% since last year while natural gas prices have dropped 35%. Natural gas is now $1.00 per BTU below coal. Currently coal accounts for about 45% of the country’s electricity generation, while gas totals about 24%.

Forbes told us that the shift to new natural gas and oil technologies has just begun. “Remarkably – and almost abruptly – it now appears that the enormous challenge of satisfying a doubling in world energy demand by 2050 will probably be met.  But it won’t be through renewable energy sources like solar and wind…The lion’s share of the new energy production will come instead from shale oil and shale gas, deepwater drilling, oil sands and other unconventional sources of fossil fuel.” The winners will be spread across the globe: Canada, the US, Europe, India, China, Australia, and many countries in South America and Africa. The reason for this renaissance in fossil fuels are the new technologies like hydraulic fracking, deepwater drilling, horizontal drilling, steam assisted gravity drainage, and coal-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid. Suddenly transportation has new fuel options in the form of compressed natural gas and liquid natural gas. These “tectonic” changes have led some to suggest that the Peak Oil crisis is over. See also here.

In a related piece, OILPRICE focused on the new trends that are shaping the world’s energy markets. The post identifies five trends.

1. Global competition for energy resources from emerging economies like China
2. Struggle over energy policy and greenhouse gas emissions around the world
3. Growth in unconventional oil and gas from shales and oil sands
4. Uncertainty of environmental regulations forcing power plant retirements
5. Game changing technology is turning the energy industry on its head

Bernama told us that 33 million people living in poverty in Africa and Asia will have access to low-cost solar energy by 2016. Under a UN program, solar power provider ToughStuff plants to expand access to low-cost, durable solar panels and solar battery packs to low-income communities in 10 African countries— Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, South Sudan,  Zambia and Zimbabwe— and four Southeast Asian countries—Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal in the next four years. The company expects to help consumers who previously relied on kerosene or biomass fuel to save a combined total of US $520 million on lower energy costs while reducing carbon emissions by up to 1.2 million tonnes by 2016.

We learned from truthdive that energy poverty kills nearly 2 million people worldwide every year while The Hindu said that coal and wood burning kills more people than malaria.

Deutsche Welle talked about the downside of hydropower. Hydroelectric power is a clean climate friendly energy source and accounts for the highest amount of renewable energy on Earth. Yet it has its negatives. “…many big dam projects develop into ecological, economic and social disasters, becoming far too intrusive on nature and society.” Big dam projects have almost come to an end in the developed world.  They continue to be built in the developing world such as the Three Gorges Dam in China, India’s Sardar Sarovar Dam, and the planned Belo Monte Dam in Brazil’s Amazon. To many these projects symbolize environmental destruction and disregard for human rights. Dams that result in the flooding of forest areas leave behind large quantities of methane from rotting plants – a greenhouse gas that is considered worse than carbon dioxide.

Renewable Energy Magazine reported on the inroads of renewable energy into Latin America. Nicaragua is now meeting half of its power demand from renewable sources – wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal. Panama is starting on the construction of 5 large wind farms. And Mexico is looking at bringing wind farms to its rural and remote communities.

Deutsche Welle said that solar energy is becoming competitive with traditional electricity in Germany without the need for subsidies as China drives down the cost of solar panels. Bloomberg noted that those German solar subsidies may soon be cut by a third in the next month with further cuts planned through 2016.

CleanTechnica told Americans how much solar costs and how much they can save on electricity by using solar in their state. There are some useful infographics here.

The French government issued a warning about the use of renewable energy reported Wind Power Monthly. A French government committee said “intermittence” associated with wind and solar could cause problems “which should not be underestimated”.  The Energy 2050 report found increased deployment of wind and solar will require electricity storage on a “massive” scale alongside demand management. The commission regards pumped storage as “useful but limited” and believes that even a Europe-wide grid does not exclude the possibility of several days without wind. While France should continue to develop renewable energies, the commission recommends that “the optimal path” is to extend the life of its nuclear plants and continue working on the next generation reactors.

Bloomberg noted that Germany’s offshore wind parks are headed to miss construction targets because of delays in connecting turbines to the power grid. These wind farms are crucial to Germany’s new energy policy as they are being relied upon to replace Germany’s nuclear reactors which are being closed in light of the Fukushima tragedy. The government wishes to have 10 GW of sea-based turbines, or the equivalent of about nine nuclear plants, installed by the end of this decade. About 0.2 GW were in place at the end of last year. There is a difference of opinion in the country as to whether the 2022 deadline can be met when the last reactor is set to close.

 

 

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