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#COP21: New Coal – Is There Really A Market?

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Real-world market conditions make it unlikely that plans to expand the use of coal around the world will come to full fruition, according to several reports presented at the UN climate summit in Paris (COP21). While the potential of new coal investments to take the world well past 2C of global warming has been noted at the summit, the real world experience of coal’s decreasing viability has been less well discussed.

Coal’s future poses an important question to these climate negotiations and beyond. To what extent will emerging and developing economies continue to rely on coal to fuel their energy needs? How fast and to what extent will industrialized economies transition away from coal to cleaner energy sources?

The context for decisions about coal are changing. Two coal plants are shelved or cancelled for every one plant built worldwide, according to a forensic bottom-up analysis by specialists CoalSwarm, which examined every plant around the world planned, permitted, built or cancelled from 2010 to the present day. In India, the figure jumps to six shelved or cancelled for every one built.


In countries with existing coal capacity, the conditions for rapid retirement of coal plants are becoming more favourable, as new technologies emerge.

“Recent history confirms that coal is a risky and expensive investment for any nation,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, which collaborated with CoalSwarm on the Boom and Bust report.

“All over the world, people are demanding clean air and clean water as we move away from dirty fossil fuels toward the clean energy solutions that are increasingly powering communities in a reliable, cost-effective, and healthy way.”

The Sierra Club – which operates the Beyond Coal grassroots organising campaign in the United States to lead the transition from coal to clean, renewable energy – notes that more than 200 coal plants across the US have announced their retirement since 2010. The share price of Peabody Energy, the biggest privately owned coal-mining company in the world, is worth 1.5% of its 2011 value.


According to a recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Arch Coal, the second biggest US producer, is considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, while Patriot Coal, Walter Energy and Alpha Natural Resources have filed already for bankruptcy this year.

Analysts speaking at the Paris climate summit said that coal assets are stranding with increased frequency, presenting investors with financial risks that they are progressively more reluctant to take.

Around half of the world’s coal is burnt in China. But here, too, the market is fading.

“China has taken enormous steps to begin to transition its energy structure from coal to cleaner energy, with coal consumption falling since mid-2014 for the first time this century,” noted Dr Fuqiang Yang of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing.

“As China’s economy transitions from heavy industry to services, air pollution policies and regional coal caps are implemented more deeply, and China continues to lead the world in new wind and solar power installations.”

Indian researcher Dr Navroz K Dubash, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, said: “India is placing its bets on renewable energy as the primary energy source for the future.

“The challenge is how to minimize additional coal. India is aggressively pursuing energy efficiency measures, which can also bring gains like less air pollution. To keep global coal use in check, it is also essential that other countries retire coal plants faster.”

Recent reports like those of Carbon Tracker make it clear that there is no place for new coal in a 2 degree world.

“The only inevitable conclusion we can draw on the future of global thermal coal is that it has none; not in the developed world or rapidly industrializing countries like India. Our latest work shows that no new coal mines are needed in the next decade if we are serious about 2 degrees, putting at risk a whopping $200 billion of potential investments,” said Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

It is clear that the world is driving a low carbon transformation. Governments and investors across the world fully understand that coal is no longer a low risk option. A combination of substitution to cleaner energy, more energy efficiency to keep demand down, and retiring of existing plants is needed, depending on country context. It is for this reason that it is vital that the final agreement in Paris both reflects the progress towards the energy transition that is currently underway, and secures it for the future.

Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.


1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.


3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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Economy

IEMA Urge Government’s Industrial Strategy Skills Overhaul To Adopt A “Long View Approach”

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IEMA, in response to the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, have welcomed the focus on technical skills and education to boost “competence and capability” of tomorrow’s workforce.

Policy experts at the world’s leading professional association of Environment and Sustainability professionals has today welcomed Prime Minister Teresa May’s confirmation that an overhaul of technical education and skills will form a central part of the Plan for Britain – but warns the strategy must be one for the long term.

Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Advisor at IEMA said this morning that the approach and predicted investment in building a stronger technical skills portfolio to boost the UK’s productivity and economic resilience is positive, and presents an opportunity to drive the UK’s skills profile and commitment to sustainability outside of the EU.


Commenting on the launch of the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Baxter said today:

“Government must use the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to accelerate the UK’s transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for the UK’s future outside the EU.

We welcome the focus on skills and education, as it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce has the competence and capability to innovate and compete globally in high-value manufacturing and leading technology.

There is a real opportunity with the Industrial Strategy, and forthcoming 25 year Environment Plan and Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, to set long-term economic and environmental outcomes which set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.


We will ensure that the Environment and Sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in responding to the Green Paper.”

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