Australian Coal Industry ‘on Life Support’

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Guardian:For a glimpse into the future of coal power in Australia, go west. The country’s last major investment in coal-fired electricity was in Western Australia in 2009, when Colin Barnett’s state government announced a major refurbishment of the Muja AB station about 200km south of Perth, far from the gaze of the east coast political-media class.The plant was 43 years old and mothballed. Reviving it was meant to cost $150m, paid for by private investors who would reap the benefits for years to come. But costs and timeframes blew out. An old corroded boiler exploded. The joint venture financing the project collapsed; a wall followed suit. The bill ultimately pushed beyond $300m, much of it to be stumped up by taxpayers – and once completed, the plant was beset with operational problems. It ran only 20% of the time.By April 2016, the government acknowledged it was subsidising more generation capacity than it needed and predicted demand for coal power would fall over the coming decade. In May this year the new Labor administration confirmed Muja AB would shut early next year.This spectacular failure had unique elements but underpinning it was a faith in the longevity of coal-fired electricity. Though it rated little mention in the east – mainly because WA is out of sight and has its own grid separate to the mislabelled national electricity market – it is a pointer to what lies ahead.About a fifth of the country’s coal capacity has disappeared since 2012; Muja AB will be the 13th station to shut in that period; no new ones have opened this decade. For all the talk of new coal-fired power plants, none are in development.If closures continued at the current rate, the nation’s coal fleet would be gone before 2040. It’s a pace that could put Australia within striking distance of what scientists say is necessary in the electricity sector for the country to play its part in combating climate change. It is far beyond what the government believes possible if the country is to maintain a reliable and affordable electricity supply, and slower than what some energy analysts think could happen given the extraordinary advances in renewable energy cost and technology.“The coal-fired power sector is in free fall, and wind and solar are competing on cost with fossil fuels,” says Simon Holmes à Court, senior adviser at the federally funded Energy Transition Hub at the University of Melbourne. “Every single panel and turbine installed reduces the market size for inflexible baseload plants.”Industry insiders stress the scale of the transformation being discussed shouldn’t be downplayed. Coal still provides about three-quarters of our electricity. In the short term, its withdrawal is likely to slow. Demand for power unexpectedly fell at the start of the decade, leading to an oversupply that suppressed the wholesale price of electricity. But with competition reduced and expensive natural gas-fired plants being called on to carry more of the load, the price is now as much as eight times the cost of generation. The remaining coal plants are making hay.That will inevitably change. After an investment strike a couple of years ago, wind turbines and solar panels are going up in a rush to meet the national 2020 renewable energy target. Once they come online by mid-2019 competition will increase and, for a while at least, the skyward rush of wholesale electricity prices should ease. What happens to existing coal power plants at that point is an open question.In a report on investment trends, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected that by 2040 small-scale solar power will have replaced coal as Australia’s largest source of energy. They found 45% of electricity capacity would be “behind the meter”, rather than from the traditional grid. Photovoltaic panels, battery packs and demand response programs – cash incentives offer to those who volunteer to cut use at peak times – would take over.As Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Australian chief, Kobad Bhavnagri, acknowledges, modelling in this area will inevitably be wrong – but it indicates the direction. Holmes à Court believes the system is at a turning point that few have appreciated.Here is what else we know: there is little to no interest in the business community in building new coal plants to replace those that shut. The 2015 Paris climate agreement triggered a step change in thinking about the long-term viability of fossil-fuel investments. Action towards meeting the Paris goals is fitful but financiers are operating on the assumption policies will escalate, including a probable eventual return to some form of carbon pricing. They are in no mood to make a decades-long bet against it.The Australian Energy Council chief, Matthew Warren, representing most generators, summarised: “I don’t think the banking sector and the industry are looking to build coal-fired power stations for the foreseeable future.”Coal is on the outer in other ways. As more variable renewable generation is introduced into electricity grids, market operators are increasingly favouring flexibility over the traditional baseload model. They see the future in generators that can swing in quickly on demand, rather than run all the time. The government has agreed new wind and solar photovoltaic farms will need to have “dispatchable” backup that can be called on at any time, but coal is not as nimble as batteries, gas, demand response or concentrated solar thermal with storage.The most regular argument made in response to this is: other countries are building new coal stations and if the new technology is good enough for China, Japan and Germany, why not Australia? The Minerals Council of Australia is pushing hard for government funding for next-generation technology, known as ultra-supercritical coal which, according to a 2016 World Coal Association report, creates emissions that are 23% lower than the black coal plants of NSW and Queensland but is also 40% more expensive to build. Few fossil-fuel proponents still use the term “clean coal” – mockery has stolen its promotional punch, “clean coal” is a mirage – but when deployed it is applied to new technology that reduces emissions.While it’s true that new generation “clean coal” plants are being built elsewhere, it is not a straightforward story of bold investment. The overwhelming majority are in China, where they make up nearly 20% of its huge coal fleet (and the fleet is massive – 20 times the capacity of Australia’s national grid). China’s extraordinary growth as it developed this century spurred unprecedented spending on all energy technologies, but its coal consumption has been in decline for three years. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found the Asian giant’s coal plants last year ran at only 47.5% of their capacity, and estimated it could have US$200bn in stranded coal assets.More: Coal in decline: an energy industry on life support Australian Coal Industry ‘on Life Support’last_img read more

High coal stockpiles in Europe an indicator of region’s transition to gas, renewables

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Stockpiles of coal are surging at some of Europe’s largest ports as utilities from Germany to Spain are increasingly favoring cleaner gas in power generation.Reserves at ports in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Vlissingen last week rose to their highest levels since July. The uptake after the summer has slowed because of mild weather so far this autumn. Crashing natural gas prices have also made it more attractive for utilities to burn the fuel, just as solar and wind continues to eat into the overall share of fossil fuels.The latest statistics is yet another sign of how energy economics is supporting nations weaning themselves off the dirtiest fossil fuel to curb emissions to slow climate change. For most of this decade it was more profitable to burn coal in Germany, but that relationship was turned on its head early this year because of a glut of gas.“With the flood of gas in the global markets, it has made it harder for coal generators to compete economically against gas,” said Joe Aldina, head of coal analytics at S&P Global Platts in New York.Stocks are well-above average levels for the past five years, even if they have declined from multiyear highs this spring, said Aldina. The pace of thermal coal imports should continue to slow and keep stockpiles in check, he said.In the gas market, a record number of liquefied natural cargoes to Europe this year, coupled with stable flows from both Russia and Norway helped fill up storage levels much earlier-than-usual this autumn. Benchmark prices have plunged almost 60% in the past year.More: Coal is piling up in Europe as utilities prefer natural gas High coal stockpiles in Europe an indicator of region’s transition to gas, renewableslast_img read more

Navajo Nation president says NTEC is on its own in purchase of Powder River Basin coal mines

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Salt Lake Tribune:The Navajo Nation will not financially back bonds a tribal energy company needs for a trio of newly acquired coal mines off the reservation, the tribal president said Tuesday, explaining that it’s too risky and his administration wants the company to move away from coal.The Navajo Transitional Energy Co. recently bought Montana’s largest coal mine and two mines in Wyoming at auction after Cloud Peak Energy declared bankruptcy. The mines can keep operating for now because more than $370 million in reclamation bonds posted by Cloud Peak remain in place, state officials said.Tribal President Jonathan Nez said he canceled agreements the energy company might have relied on to seek the Navajo Nation’s financial backing for the bonds. He said he wants to protect the tribe’s finances as revenues decline from the loss of a coal plant and mine on the reservation. Tribal lawmakers had been considering legislation to do the same thing.The development marks the latest turmoil to hit the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producing region, where bankruptcies and declining demand have put a pall over a once-vibrant industry. Hundreds of people in the region were put out of work for months after another bankrupt company, Blackjewel, drastically scaled back operations at two of the biggest coal mines in the U.S.The tribal energy company was created in 2013 to buy a coal mine in New Mexico on the reservation. It also owns a 7 percent stake in the nearby Four Corners Power Plant. While it was organized under the tribal government, it operates independently. Nez said the legal documents creating the company gave the tribe’s executive branch unilateral authority to administer what are known as general indemnity agreements. He said the bonds in place for the Navajo Mine and the Four Corners power plant won’t be affected by his decision.The Cloud Peak deal made the Navajo company the third-largest coal producer in the U.S. The deal covers Wyoming’s Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines and Montana’s Spring Creek mine. About 1,200 people are employed at the mines, which combined produced almost 50 million tons of coal last year. Antelope is the third-largest coal mine in the U.S., while Spring Creek ranks eighth and Cordero Rojo is 11th.More: Navajo leader: Tribe won’t back energy company’s new mines Navajo Nation president says NTEC is on its own in purchase of Powder River Basin coal mineslast_img read more

South Korea moving forward with world’s largest floating solar project

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Recharge:The Saemangeum Investment Agency of Korea (SDIA) together with Amsterdam Capital Partners (AMSCAP), G8 Subsea (G8), and Saemangeum Offshore Wind Power (SOWP) have agreed to cooperate towards a giant renewable energy mega-development of up to 3GW in the Yellow Sea off Korea.Plans for the near-shore Saemangeum Industrial Complex include a vast 2.7GW floating solar array and 300MW of offshore wind.The floating PV plant would be located behind the world’s longest seawall at Saemangeum that encloses 409km2 of reclaimed area, AMSCAP and G8 said, without giving further details about the coastal complex.AMSCAP said it will work together with G8 alongside SOWP on the offshore wind development, on both financial and a technical elements of the project. SOWP has already developed a 100MW offshore wind project that is in final development stage, with all permits and regulatory approvals secured.South Korea has earlier said it aims to develop 13GW of offshore wind capacity off its coast by 2030 to drive toward a target of having at least 30% renewable energy in its national mix by 2040.SDIA is a central government agency of South Korea responsible for the Saemangeum Project, a grand national development project established in 2013 by executive order. The agency is in charge of administrative services and support, from master planning and coordination to investment attraction and promotion. [Bernd Radowitz]More: South Korea plans world’s largest floating solar plant in Yellow Sea South Korea moving forward with world’s largest floating solar projectlast_img read more

Report says India could install 280GW of floating solar PV

first_imgReport says India could install 280GW of floating solar PV FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ET EnergyWorld.com:A new report by [The Energy and Resources Institute] has found that India’s reservoirs have 18,000 sq km of area with the potential to generate 280 GW of solar power through floating solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, TERI said in a statement.The findings of the report, which was released during the recently held World Sustainable Development Summit 2020, have the potential to help in planning out strategies for achieving overall capacity addition in solar energy in India.The report has calculated the potential for floating solar photovoltaics (FSPVs), or ‘floatovoltaics’, on the basis of 30 per cent of the water surface area of the country’s medium and large reservoirs.The report provides state-wise details of floating solar potential in the form of a web-based interactive tool called India Floating Solar PV-Tool, which has also been developed under this study. According to its findings, Maharashtra has the highest floating solar potential and can generate 57,891 MW of electricity on 3,173 sq km of water surface area in reservoirs.At present, ground-based installations form 93.1 per cent of India’s grid-connected solar PV sector.The installation cost of utility scale solar PV in the country has reduced by 84 per cent between 2010 and 2018, making India the country with the lowest installation cost for utility scale solar PVs. However, it said solar PV deployment is quite land intensive and scaling up projects requires large chunks of contiguous land parcels, which has its own set of challenges.More: India’s 18K sq km reservoir surface area has potential to generate 280 GW solar energylast_img read more

Morgan Stanley tightens restrictions on coal-related financing activities

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):Morgan Stanley will no longer directly finance oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, new coal-fired power plants, or thermal coal mines, it said in an updated energy policy statement. However, Morgan Stanley did not rule out future funding for tar sands drilling and exploration projects.In the updated energy policy statement, dated April 22, Morgan Stanley said, “Our firm seeks to facilitate an orderly transition to a low-carbon economy through policies, activities, products and services that support the mitigation of climate risks and catalyze emerging opportunities in the market. We view this as a journey that will evolve over time.”Regarding coal, Morgan Stanley said it will decline financing transactions globally that directly support the development of new or physical expansions of coal-fired power projects unless carbon capture and storage or equivalent carbon emissions reduction technology is involved. And the bank will conduct “enhanced due diligence” on other transactions involving coal-fired generation.Furthermore, “we will engage with companies that derive a significant portion of their revenue from coal power generation to understand their strategy to diversify away from coal and reduce their carbon emissions,” the bank said.Morgan Stanley said it also will not finance mountaintop coal mining or companies that rely on mountaintop mining “for anything more than a limited portion of their annual coal production.” Moreover, Morgan Stanley will no longer provide financing for any company that does not have a plan to eliminate existing mountaintop mining operations in the foreseeable future. Other financing transactions for thermal coal mining companies will require escalation and senior management approval, the bank said.The bank also pledged to phase out financing for coal mining companies that do not have a diversification strategy “within a reasonable timeframe.”[Esther Whieldon]More ($): Morgan Stanley to stop directly funding Arctic drilling, new thermal coal Morgan Stanley tightens restrictions on coal-related financing activitieslast_img read more

Clips of the Week: February 22, 2013

first_imgOur favorite video clips of the week:1. Tenkara, Short of…Our first video this week comes from BRO reader Robert Gibbes and his “Brookie Buster,” what looks to be half an old school bamboo rod used in a tenkara fly fishing style for native brook trout in the North Carolina high country. Not quite fly fishing, not quite tenkara, this is a unique style, but it proves effective as he brings many beautiful fish to hand.Native from Robert Gibbes on Vimeo.2. Get Some AirFrom the same group that brought you “Strong,” here is “The Joy of Air” a stunning look at human thirst for adventure and risk through poetry, both auditory and visual.The Joy of Air from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.3. Sick NicAbsinthe Films profile of Nicolas Muller, one of my favorite riders of all time, right after Terje. “He has bird bones.”4. Ping PongJust a casual behind the back in tournament play. Opponent reaction is classic.5. Walk on WaterInspiring look at Greg Mallory. Paralyzed in a skiing accident in 1994, he turned to kayaking and is now an accomplished Class V boater. Even if you don’t kayak, this one is worth your time.That’s it for this week. If you have a video you would like to submit to clips of the week, please let us know in the comments. Thanks and have a great weekend!last_img read more

Fat Bikes: Large and In Charge

first_imgOur BRO sister publication Elevation Outdoors‘ contributor Wendy Booher penned this piece on the surge of fat biking during the winter months. It’s been a while since mountain bike season had a beginning or an end. Clever, desperate cyclists have been adapting their equipment for some time in order to extend the riding season year-round, and the latest result has been a cartoonish rig that looks more fit for clown college than Colorado. Fat bikes, if you hadn’t already heard, are all-terrain bicycles with a tire width of up to five inches, which can handle tire pressure in the single digits. Low pressure increases the size of the tire’s “footprint,” which makes it easier to ride over soft surfaces like snow and sand.Fat bikes have already become fixtures on groomed, public multi-use trails and mining roads throughout the country during the winter, but this year a few Nordic ski centers will cautiously try out fat bikes on their trails and even host races. The question is whether including fat bikes on traditional ski trails will grow the sport, or cause a clash of skiers versus cyclists.“We are counting on an educated user group to be responsible about when to ride, realizing that conditions need to be right for them to enjoy the trails and not damage them,” said Craig Robinson, Howelsen Hill Ski Area’s facilities supervisor.Robinson added that Howelsen will be working with local bike shops to have them help educate new riders about opportunities for riding on the groomed trails, how to purchase a required Nordic ticket, and other riding opportunities in town. Will it work?Hansi_Photo_121230__MG_6220To Boldly Go… Photo: Hansi JohnsonFat Bike Haters gonna hate?“Fat biking is so new that not that many Nordic centers currently have trail use now for us to have much anecdotal information to study,” said Chris Frado, executive director of the Cross Country Ski Areas Association. “We are currently surveying our membership as to their present policy in regard to fat tire bikes on the trails in the winter. It’s certainly on our radar but there’s no consensus and, for many operations, it’s not even on the radar. That’s our job—to pave the way, to embrace new user groups while still serving the skier market. I anticipate that more areas will experiment with fat bikes in the next 3-5 years. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.”Since the courtship between fat biking and Nordic ski centers is just starting, strong dissent has yet to emerge, but if haters are gonna hate, then concerns include destructive behavior that will ruin trail conditions and a lack of respect for other trail users. Frado explained that snow conditions have to be hard enough so that the tires don’t damage the trail by making deep tire ruts on the groomed surface or obliterating the groomed tracks. She added that there also has to be good communication between the Nordic center and the bikers so that the trails can be used responsibly. This means that tire pressure maximums will need to be communicated according to conditions, and that trails that are off-limits to bikes are respected.”Trail conditions are key for fat biking. This isn’t a powder sport.“Ideal conditions for fat biking would be packed or groomed trails,” said Nate Bird, sports and outdoor sales manager for Honey Stinger in Steamboat Springs. “If there’s more than a few inches of snow, it’s pretty dang tough to move. Or, and this is more in the springtime with consistent freeze/thaw cycles, crusty conditions where you’re not sinking through the snow can also be ideal.”Of course if you can ride it, then you can race it and, since sometime in the mid-90’s, mountain bike racers have been heading to Leadville each winter for the Winter Mountain Bike Race Series put on by Leadville’s Cloud City Wheelers (CCW). But Chris Plesko was the first rider to race a mass-produced fat bike when he showed up on a purple Surly Pugsley at a CCW race back in January 2008.“The Pugsley was the only real production snow bike at that point,” Plesko said. “I was running 3.7-inch wide Surly Endomorph tires at about 10 psi, sometimes down to two or three psi if the snow was really soft.”Plesko finished second in that race but went on to win the other two plus the series title. The other racers, who were equipped with so-called fat tires that measured at most 2.7 inches in width, couldn’t match Plesko’s performance and, whereas they sank in the snow and lost all momentum, Plesko, an already formidable racer, virtually floated over the surface to land on the podium over and over again.Fat is hot. Hansi JohnsonFat is hot. Hansi JohnsonSaturated fatFat bikes have certainly infiltrated winter races. The CCW race series, set to kick off this January 18, 2014 at Copper Mountain with the Copper en Fuego, has been compelled to feature a category for racers not on fat bikes. Alaska has its famous Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350- or 1,000-mile bike-foot-ski race across Alaska’s southwestern region. The 2014 edition, which starts on February 23, sold out of entries in early May 2013 and 41 of the 50 racers will be on fat bikes. The Midwest, which most people agree is the epicenter for fat biking in North America, features an eight-race fat-bike series spread across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. New England is getting into the game with the recently announced Moose Brook Fat Bike Race, scheduled for January 26 in Gorham, New Hampshire.Back here closer to home, the Abominable Winter Fat Bike Race on January 25 in Como has been selected as the 2014 Colorado Fatbike Championship, and two of the four Leadville races plus the Abominable race were chosen to be part of the Mountain Fatbike Series, which feature events in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Crested Butte’s second annual fat bike race will fall on the same weekend as the annual Alley Loop Nordic Marathon.Embracing the FatThe Borealis YampaThe Borealis YampaThe biggest driver for the trend, though, may, oddly enough, be its accessibility. “Fat bikes aren’t very expensive,” explained Sterling Mudge, chair of the Cloud City Wheelers and one of the race series organizers. “You can get a good fat bike for $1,300 or $1,400 so a lot of people are investing in fat bikes, and it’s quadrupled since the whole thing started.”Increasing numbers of bike manufacturers offer some version of a fat bike, from a stock frame in steel, titanium, or carbon fiber to full custom. In Colorado, Moots has found success with its “Frosti” and exclusive manufacturers of fat bikes, like the Fat Bike Company in Colorado Springs, whose debut model, the Borealis Yampa, rang up sales to the tune of $1 million in its first three months, will be launching its fatbikesupply.com website next summer. 2014 marks the first year in which big brands like Trek and Specialized have bought into the trend.Beyond the bikes, though, it’s the riding itself that fuels the fat bike craze. Extending the bike season opens up the joys of exploring the wild in winter to more than skiers. Now having legitimate places to ride, like Colorado’s Nordic centers, seem to confirm that the trend’s traction may just go big with the mainstream.–Wendy Booher is moved by mountain biking, literally. She left her New England roots (and rocks) to move to Spain, where she writes about mountain biking in English and Spanish.last_img read more

Missing Sailor Rescued off Cape Hatteras

first_imgA sailor, missing for 66 days, was rescued 200 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Louis Jordan’s 35-foot sailboat capsized two months ago. He survived for 66 days at sea on the upturned hull of his boat, drinking rainwater and catching fish, before finally being rescued by a passing German container ship.Jordan had been presumed dead. He had last been seen leaving a Conway, S.C., marina in January after he had told family he was heading out to open water to fish.Read the full story here.last_img

Powder Day

first_imgPowder day. The local hill is reporting 11 inches of fresh so I drop the kids off at school and head straight for the mountain. I do a shot of Wild Turkey 101 to make sure I’m awake and I’m skiing powder by 10am. I’m on super light touring gear with soft boots so there’s no chair lift in my future, just constant up and down loops. I focus on a couple of out of the way slopes that don’t get groomed and rarely get ridden because of how they sit on the mountain. If you want to ski them, you have to traverse a couple of short road sections and nobody wants to traverse, so I have them all to myself. It’s cold and the wind is blowing the top layer of snow up the mountain and dropping it into this little bowl tucked between the trees–one of my little powder stashes. It’s knee deep and steep in there, making for perfect, slow arcing tele turns. I hit the bottom of the stash, connect to a little road and ski up to my next powder field, where it’s not quite as deep, but still ripping fun. At the bottom, I climb the main, groomed slope back uphill. Every once in a while, someone will tell me I’m going the wrong direction. At the top, I cut through the woods and catch my breath at the beginning of that first steep, deep section, then start the process all over again. All in, it’s maybe 350 vert up and 350 vert down. I do lap after lap, trying to pace myself on the uphill, but wanting to get as many laps in as possible before I have to pick up my kids from school. It’s one of those perfect days. It’s midweek so it’s not that crowded, and everyone on the hill seems to be riding with their own sound system blaring. The snow is still falling–big ornate flakes like something out of a movie–but the sun is shining so all the women are skiing in their bikinis. Okay, I made that last bit up. But it’s still a perfect day. Everyone I run into is giddy, smiling and talking about how awesome the conditions are. We don’t get these days often, so we appreciate them. We savor them. We’re all strangers but still connected by these beautiful, rare circumstances. In my head, I’m singing Lou Reed, “Perfect Day,” over and over. “It’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you…” It doesn’t matter what you drink in these days. Wild Turkey at 10am is good though.[divider]related content[/divider]last_img read more