The Week discussed why carbon-free energy is still struggling to make an impact. Contrary to popular belief, the carbon-free share of total global energy production has not grown for the last 15 years and, in fact, its share has declined slightly since 1999.
Despite a significant investment in wind and solar energy over this period, there was also an upsurge in nuclear, coal, and natural gas, particularly in 2012. As Earth’s Energy noted in earlier posts, coal demand exploded in the early 2000s in response to China’s industrial growth. Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado, commented:
This stagnation provides further evidence that the policies that have been employed to accelerate rates of decarbonization of the global economy have been largely ineffective.
RTCC believed that the collapse of Desertec will not impact Europe’s energy plans. Because Desertec’s renewable energy project in North Africa and the Middle East was a high risk proposition from the outset, many energy experts did not factor it into their analysis of Europe’s renewable future. Desertec’s long-term goal was to meet about 15% of Europe’s electricity demand by 2050 from wind and solar energy locations south of the Mediterranean Sea. The project failed over technological change (solar PV becoming cost competitive with Desertec’s focus on concentrated solar), and the high financial and political risks associated with investing in a highly unstable part of the world. See also smartplanet, Renewable energy’s desert brawl.
The Globe and Mail introduced us to a new generation of natural gas power plants: small and local. One near the Canadian city of Toronto is quite compact and its 4 MW capacity will be used during power outages mainly to provide electricity to a nearby hospital. The other, located near Calgary, produces 800 MW and will generate enough power to light and heat more than half of that city. Canada’s National Energy Board expects the natural gas share of the country’s electricity generation to grow to 15% in 2035 from 9% in 2010. It will grow the most in the 3 provinces that do not have access to large hydro resources – Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“The notion of small distributed-power generation is rising up to the top of many mayors’ agendas,” says Bruce Anders (CEO of Markham District Energy), citing not only the economic and environmental benefits of small systems but also their resilience during storms and other events that disrupt the mainline power network.
OILPRICE reminded us of the staggering global energy potential of shale.
The global shale oil and gas potential is a staggering 345 billion barrels of oil and 7.2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas…Topping the list for shale oil is Russia, with 75 billion barrels—compared to the US’ 48 billion—and China with 32 billion barrels, trailed by Argentina in third with 27 billion barrels and Libya. For shale gas the line-up has China on top, followed by Argentina, Algeria, US, Canada and Mexico.
The International Energy Agency says we are living in “the golden age” of natural gas. UPI Energy Resources noted that gas will not only be used to generate electricity around the globe, but will also increasingly be used as a transportation fuel (compressed natural gas and liquified natural gas).
“Gas is already a major fuel in power generation, but the next five years will also see it emerging as a significant transportation fuel, driven by abundant supplies as well as concerns about oil dependency and air pollution,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said.
The worries of Russia’s Gazprom was highlighted by UPI Energy Resources. In 2007, prior to the US shale gas revolution and the Great Recession, the company was valued at $360 billion and its CEO said it was headed to $1 trillion. Six years later its value has tumbled to $77 billion. While still a major natural gas company, controlling 15% of global reserves and producing more natural gas than any other company, its sales growth has stalled. This is due to the US no longer importing liquified natural gas (LNG), driving down the world price of this commodity and making it cheaper for Europeans to import and bypass expensive Gazprom gas.
The fact that the US was no longer importing as much LNG meant that there was a surplus of cheap LNG on the international market that then made its way to Europe, stealing more of Gazprom’s precious clients. Europe has always been Gazprom’s most prominent market, where natural gas is supplied by a huge network of pipelines, and contracts work off a natural gas price linked to expensive oil.
Meanwhile Iran’s plans to sell LNG to the world may be stymied by North American shale gas surpluses. The Vancouver Sun observed that over the next decade Iran hopes to build the facilities to export 40 million metric tons a year of liquefied natural gas. However, energy analysts says a surge of Canadian and US shale gas could push LNG prices down by one-third and thus make the Iranian project uneconomical. The U.S. and Canada together may add as much as 77 million tons of LNG capacity by 2020, an amount equal to the entire output of Qatar, the world’s biggest producer. Energy experts expect North America to supply Asian markets for $11 per million British thermal units by 2015, compared with long-term contracts tied to the price of crude oil that are now at about $17 per million Btu.
Der Spiegel wrote about Mutiny in the Land of Wind Turbines where plans to add another 60,000 wind turbines in Germany is getting blowback from local residents where the wind farms are slated to go. With most of the coastal locations already full of wind farms, the plan is to build them in forests, in the foothills of the Alps, and even in protected environmental areas. This has enraged local residents who are already complaining bitterly about rising electricity prices and the massive overhead electrical distribution network being planned to move energy from the north of the country to the south. Germany plans to increase its production of wind power from 31 GW to 45 GW over the next seven years. By the middle of the century, it hopes to be generating 85 GW in wind power
Knowledge Wharton Today summarized a seminar on Africa’s Role in the Future of the Global Energy Sector.
Tags: Africa, Canada, Central Asia, China, CNG, CO2, coal, electricity, energy, Europe, fossil fuels, Germany, LNG, natural gas, nuclear, renewable, Russia, shale, shale gas, shale oil, solar, transportation, wind