Month: December 2020

The ‘Long-Term Problem’ Facing U.S. Coal

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Pittsburgh City Paper:Economic experts warn that coal will continue its long-term, steady decline. Pennsylvania coal-industry advocates are optimistic about coal’s future, and say coal production will remain steady and an important part of the area’s energy portfolio. But even with these diverging views of the overall future of coal, everyone seems to be in agreement about one thing: The coal jobs are not coming back. “I suggested that [Trump] temper his expectations. Those are my exact words,” said Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, the country’s largest coal-mine owner, in a March 2017 article in The Guardian newspaper. “He can’t bring them back.”Pittsburgh City Paper analyzed U.S. Department of Labor data on jobs at coal-producing sites in Southwestern Pennsylvania, including Allegheny, Butler, Washington, Greene, Fayette, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties. (Beaver County had no coal mines, according to the data.) In 2017, the average number of workers at coal-producing sites, like underground and surface mines, in this region was 2,767, an increase of 26 workers compared to 2016, or a growth rate of less than 1 percent. Nationally, coal jobs ticked up by 771 to 54,819 jobs, an increase of 1.4 percent, according to news organization Reuters.  With the projected 370 jobs lost at the 4 West Mine, this means the region will have to add more than 344 coal jobs to have positive job growth in 2018. Seth Feaster, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a Cleveland-based group that advocates for a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy, says this will be an extremely difficult feat. Feaster says there was a positive jolt to the coal industry with the election of Trump, but adds that enthusiasm for coal has since waned, because the demand hasn’t really recovered. He notes that the fourth quarter of 2017 saw a drop-off in coal-industry hiring compared to early in the year.Feaster also says job numbers over the last several years indicate a bleak future for coal employment. “If you take a slightly longer view of the coal industry, just to 2015, there was still a 13,000-job loss compared to 2017,” says Feaster. “Go back to 2012, you are talking about a loss of 35,000 jobs. Coal is facing a long-term problem.”The Trump administration has made many policy changes to attempt to boost coal. Trump’s administration has rolled back several environmental regulations, many of which were specially requested by Murray and his company. On Jan. 9, The New York Times reported that just weeks before the inauguration, Murray, who owns coal mines in Washington County, provided Trump with a wish-list of environmental regulations he wanted ended. Murray told PBS’s Frontline that Trump has already enacted many of his suggestions. Trump’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, proposed a plan to subsidize struggling coal power plants, but the plan was rejected by a mostly Trump-appointed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC cited that the current tariffs on these coal mines were not unjust or unreasonable. Feaster says that Trump’s attempt to subsidize coal and his acquiescence to a coal CEO’s request shows that coal is facing intense competition in the energy market.“It plays really well to stand up for coal, there is cultural resonance in all of Appalachia,” says Feaster. “But there is a difference in politics and economics, and that is the problem with the coal industry. There are huge coal reserves … you could burn them for the next 150 years. But if it is not [economically viable], it doesn’t matter.” Feaster says that in the Pittsburgh region, coal is getting beat out by natural gas. Drilling for natural gas, particularly through hydrofracturing, experienced huge growth from 2012-2017 in Appalachia, including areas in southwestern and northern Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural-gas production in Appalachia increased by more than 14 billion cubic feet per day from 2012 to 2017. Dozens of new fracking wells have been drilled in Southwestern Pennsylvania during this time.“The coal industry has intense competition, and that is not likely to change,” says Feaster. “Its most direct competitor, natural gas, has seen a big growth in production in the Appalachian region.”  And even though many recognize that coal jobs are unlikely to return in large numbers, the coal industry is still upping its production and profits. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, mines produced more than 2.1 million tons more in 2017 compared to 2015. However, the region lost 185 coal jobs over that time span.  Feaster says even if coal companies do better in terms of production, thanks to fewer regulations and government agencies helping them, coal-mine owners are still going to focus on profits over hiring more workers. Feaster says this is typical behavior for the coal industry. “As they talk about coal mining, they are also laser-focused on efficiency and cutting jobs. People … are going to focus on the efficiency.”More: President Donald Trump said coal miners in Southwestern Pennsylvania would be put back to work. One year later, is that happening? The ‘Long-Term Problem’ Facing U.S. Coallast_img read more

On the blogs: billionaire Houston oilman is the winner in Canada’s rescue of Trans Mountain pipeline project

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Sightlines Institute:In his continuing bid to earn his country the title of most corrupt petro-state, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau just committed his government—or, rather, all of the country’s citizens—to a Can$4.5 billion bailout for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.Trudeau’s government has agreed to buy the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, along with associated assets, from the current owner, a subsidiary of Houston-based Kinder Morgan, Inc. And despite fierce opposition from the provincial government of British Columbia, First Nations groups, local municipalities, environmental activists, government watchdogs, and any sensible person concerned about the integrity of the Salish Sea, Trudeau plans to move forward with building a second pipeline that would nearly triple flows of heavy tar sands oil to the BC coast.The big winner in all this is Houston’s richest billionaire, Richard Kinder—the executive chairman of Kinder Morgan, a multinational pipeline giant that rose from the ashes of Enron and succeeded in playing the Canadian government like a fiddle throughout the years-long Trans Mountain saga.Canadian government bails out Houston billionaire On the blogs: billionaire Houston oilman is the winner in Canada’s rescue of Trans Mountain pipeline projectlast_img read more

TVA’s coal generation now just 20% of total, down from 60% in 2005

first_imgTVA’s coal generation now just 20% of total, down from 60% in 2005 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:The chief executive of the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Tuesday the U.S.-owned power generator expects to get more than 60 percent of its energy from non-carbon-emitting sources by 2020, compared with over 50 percent in 2018.Bill Johnson, who turned 65 in January, announced his retirement as CEO at TVA in November. His last day is Friday. He is expected to be named as the new CEO of California energy company PG&E Corp, which sought bankruptcy protection in January amid potentially staggering liabilities related to wildfires, according to a source familiar with the matter.Since Johnson became CEO of TVA in 2013, the company has spent about $15 billion to modernize its generating fleet, reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal units and cut debt by $3.5 billion, all while keeping consumer electric prices basically flat.“Our generating fleet is now very diverse and clean,” Johnson said, noting the changes were driven by the mandate in the TVA Act “to produce energy at the lowest feasible rate.”TVA’s energy mix is now about 40 percent nuclear, 20 percent natural gas, a little over 20 percent coal, 11-13 percent hydro and the rest renewables and energy efficiency. That compares with 60 percent coal, little gas, 30 percent nuclear and the rest hydro in 2005.In February, TVA’s board voted to shut two more coal plants – Bull Run in Tennessee by 2020 and Paradise in Kentucky by 2023 – for economic reasons despite strong opposition from the Trump administration. When those plants shut, Johnson said coal will only represent about 17 percent of TVA’s energy mix.More: TVA to get 60 percent of energy from non-carbon sources by 2020: CEOlast_img read more

Foreign investors selling their stakes in Canada’s oil industry

first_imgForeign investors selling their stakes in Canada’s oil industry FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Capital keeps marching out of Canada’s oil industry, with Kinder Morgan Inc.’s sale of its remaining holdings in the country on Wednesday adding to more than $30 billion of foreign-company divestitures in the past three years.Pembina Pipeline Corp., based in Calgary, is snapping up Kinder’s Canadian assets and a cross-border pipeline in a $3.3 billion deal. For Houston-based Kinder, the deal completes an exit from a country that has frustrated more than a few companies – from ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to Marathon Oil Corp.The drumbeat of exits, rare for such a stable oil-producing country, adds an extra layer of gloom for an industry that accounts for about a fifth of Canada’s exports. The energy sector — centered around Alberta’s oil sands — has struggled to rebound since the 2014 crash in global oil prices, with capital spending declining for five straight years and job cuts pushing the province’s unemployment rate above 6%. Alberta is forecast to post the slowest growth of any region in Canada this year.The situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon, with key pipelines like TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc.’s expansion of its Line 3 conduit bogged down by legal challenges. The lack of pipelines has weighed on Canadian heavy crude prices for years, sending them to a record low late in 2018.“If they thought things were getting better in Canada, they might hold on, but they don’t see things getting better,” Laura Lau, who helps manage more than C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) at Brompton Corp. in Toronto, said in an interview. “The pipeline situation is getting worse; everything is getting worse.”Other recent major exits include ConocoPhillips’ $13.2 billion sale of its oil-sands and natural gas assets to Cenovus Energy Inc. in 2017, and Shell’s and Marathon’s sales of their stakes in an oil-sands project to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. for about $10.7 billion that same year. Canadian Natural also bought Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp.’s Canadian heavy oil assets this year for $2.79 billion. Norway’s Equinor ASA pulled out in 2016 after facing pressure at home to invest in lower-emission projects.More: The $30 billion exodus: Foreign oil firms are bailing on Canadalast_img read more

Despite China slowdown, IHS Markit expects 129GW of new solar capacity in 2019

first_imgDespite China slowdown, IHS Markit expects 129GW of new solar capacity in 2019 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享PV Tech:IHS Markit has reiterated its global solar demand forecast for 2019, despite lower expectations for China.The market research firm said that faster than anticipated growth in some international markets such as the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, Turkey, or Ukraine had reduced the growth risks associated with weaker demand in China. IHS Markit also remained bullish on the APAC region outside of China and several South American markets having greater upside potential for solar installations in 2019.As a result, global solar installations are expected to be around 129GW in 2019.However, the market research firm has become increasingly concerned about the lack of visibility for strong global demand in the second quarter of 2020, compounded by the additional manufacturing capacity (cells and modules) expected to start ramping production in the first half of 2020.More: IHS Markit: Despite China decline global solar growth in 2019 to hit 129GWlast_img read more

French developer sees opportunity in using U.S. coal plant transmission infrastructure for solar projects

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Energy News Network:A utility-scale solar developer is acquiring land rights near U.S. coal-fired power plants, hoping the facilities will close sooner than expected and open up lucrative transmission connections.Photosol US, a subsidiary of a French company, has purchased options near plants in Nebraska and Kansas, as well as the San Juan Generating Station in northern New Mexico. While the San Juan plant has approval from state regulators to shut down in 2022, the Nebraska and Kansas plants, completed in the early 1980s, do not have retirement dates.Josh Case, Photosol’s chief executive officer, intends to develop two arrays — one with 400 megawatts and one with 250 megawatts — on 5,000 acres he has under lease option near Nebraska’s Gerald Gentleman station. He pays an annual fee to maintain the option to lease the acreage.Photosol has applied to the Southwest Power Pool for interconnections for those projects as well as two 125-megawatt arrays near the Holcomb power plant in western Kansas. He has options to lease 2,400 acres near the Holcomb plant. The Nebraska arrays would include 325 MW of battery storage.Case has purchased lease options on about 30,000 acres across the country, including 4,200 near the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico. The state’s utility regulators in April gave the plant’s owners permission to shutter the remaining two units, with a capacity of about 850 MW, on June 30, 2022. Two other units were closed in 2017.Karl Cates, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, called Photosol “a small but serious company.” Case said it has developed 382 MW of solar power in France. The company’s current U.S. business model — which effectively leapfrogs electricity production from coal to renewables without a natural-gas stopover — is right on the cutting edge, Cates said. Utilities in Arizona, Colorado and Florida are trying to develop renewable generation resources to replace coal plants they want to close. And in New Mexico, regulators a couple weeks ago urged the majority owner of the coal-fired San Juan plant to replace any needed generation with solar and storage rather than natural gas.[Karen Uhlenhuth]More: Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission French developer sees opportunity in using U.S. coal plant transmission infrastructure for solar projectslast_img read more

Indian Railways moving toward a solar-powered future

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Clean Technica:Indian Railways has taken some significant measures over the last few weeks that will cement its place as one of the single largest clean energy users in India. These steps include the issuance of tenders for large-scale solar power projects and the commissioning of a first-of-its-kind project to use solar power for trains’ traction systems.These measures are part of Indian Railways’ long-term sustainability goals. According to a 2017 study, Indian Railways has a potential to set up 5 gigawatts of solar power capacity, which will be sufficient to meet all its power demand in the coming years.India’s minister for railways recently announced that Indian Railways has commissioned a 1.7-megawatt solar power project. Power generated from this project will be supplied to trains’ traction system. This project is the first of its kind in the world, Indian Railways has claimed. The project is located in Madhya Pradesh and was commissioned by a public sector company, BHEL. According to Indian Railways, the project is expected to generate 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year, resulting in annual savings of around $180,000.The 1.7-megawatt project has been implemented on an experimental basis and will form the foundation for gigawatt-scale solar-powered train operations. Railways Energy Management Company Limited (REMCL) has been assigned the responsibility to set up 3 gigawatts of solar power projects across the country to ensure solar power supply to Indian Railways’ vast network. These large-scale solar power projects will be commissioned over the unused land that Indian Railways owns across the country.Last year, REMCL issued two tenders to procure 140 megawatts and 109 megawatts of solar and wind power. These projects will be spread across multiple states. The Railways has put more emphasis on wind power capacity in these tenders, possibly to ensure the round-the-clock supply power necessary to operate trains.In June, REMCL issued a 400-megawatt solar power tender. This capacity will be distributed across six states. Three of these six states do not have any significant solar power capacity operational. Project developers are mandated to use Indian-made solar cells and modules for these projects. Earlier this month, another tender was issued by REMCL with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Again, developers will be required to use only Indian-made solar cells and modules. Developers will supply power at a fixed rate for 25 years.[Smiti]More: Indian Railways accelerates toward a solar future with new tenders Indian Railways moving toward a solar-powered futurelast_img read more

Renewable generation sets new records on consecutive days in Australia’s main grid

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:Output from wind and solar have surged to two new record highs in the National Electricity Market over the past 24 hours, with sunny and windy conditions combined to push their combined output towards 12 gigawatts, or nearly 50 per cent of total demand.The Australian Energy Market Operator, which recently released its 20-year blueprint mapping a path to up to 94 per cent renewables by 2040, celebrated the first record with a Tweet that noted the combined output of wind farms, and small and large-scale solar generation, exceeded 11,700MW for the first time. That smashed a record set back in November 2019, where combined wind and solar output hit 11,300MW.But it has taken less than 24-hours for the record to be broken yet again.According to OpenNEM, the combined output from wind and solar sources surged to a new high shortly before 11am, pushing past 11,830MW of combined output. It might have been even higher, given the delays and constraints that have had a heavy impact on wind and solar developers, and by industry estimates has reduced the anticipated output by an average of more than 700MW.At noon on Friday, renewables (including hydro) supplied 48.6 per cent of all electricity generated in the National Electricity Market, which covers New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. The prevailing conditions could see the market share of renewables surpass 50 per cent for the first time since 2019 over the coming weekend as demand reduces.Renewable energy output across the entirety of the NEM has averaged more than 33 per cent over the last 24-hours, with windy yet sunny conditions prevailing across Australia’s eastern states, and is approaching a new daily record, which was set on 12 November 2019 at 34.3 per cent.[Michael Mazengarb]More: Wind and solar output surge to new record high in main grid Renewable generation sets new records on consecutive days in Australia’s main gridlast_img read more

IEA’s Birol: Solar soon to be the ‘new king of the world’s electricity markets’

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Renewables are set to overtake coal this decade as the world’s favorite fuel to generate electricity, the International Energy Agency says.Solar photovoltaics are now cheaper than plants fired by coal and natural gas in most nations, the Paris-based researchers concludes in its annual report on global energy trends. Those cheaper costs along with government efforts to slash climate-damaging emissions will increasingly push coal off the grid and give renewables 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030, the IEA says.The findings mark a profound shift away from fossil fuels in the world’s energy supply at a time when governments everywhere are looking for ways to rein in the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. While hydroelectric plants will continue to be the biggest source of renewable power, solar is catching up quickly because the cost of manufacturing and installing panels has come down so much.“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, says in a statement with the report on Tuesday. “Based on today’s policy settings, it’s on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.”It also anticipates natural gas demand slowly easing in developed nations, especially Europe, and coal dropping everywhere. About 275 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity worldwide, 13% of the 2019 total, will be shut off by 2025, mostly in the U.S. and European Union. That will more than offset increases in coal demand in developing economies in Asia.Coal’s share of the global power supply is set to fall to 28% in 2030 from 37% in 2019. By 2040, the fuel that once was a staple of utilities will fall below 20% for the first time since the industrial revolution, the IEA concludes. That decline could be even sharper if governments pick up the pace on decarbonization.[Will Mathis and Jeremy Hodges]More: Solar pushes aside coal as the cheapest fuel for power, IEA says IEA’s Birol: Solar soon to be the ‘new king of the world’s electricity markets’last_img read more

Life Lessons

first_imgI recently did a 60-mile road ride that included a climb to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Richland Balsam, 6,053 feet). In the process, I learned a few important things about road biking I’d like to pass on to BRO readers.1) 60 miles is a long way. I don’t care what your neighbor who gets up at 5am to ride the steepest mountain outside of town says. 60 miles is far.2) Whenever possible, plan to ride early in the morning, particularly during a record breaking heat wave. Then stick to that early-riding plan. Don’t hit the snooze button three times. Don’t eat a leisurely breakfast, then saunter over to the coffee shop for a series of leisurely lattes. 1pm is no time to start a 60-mile road ride that climbs 6,000 feet in the middle of summer.3) Don’t drink too many beers before you ride 60 miles. This one should be obvious, but then again, you may find yourself in a situation where someone has a really great microbrew they want you to try. Then another. The next thing you know, you’re doing keg stands in your super-snug road kit. Don’t do this.4) Don’t bring 32 ounces of that beer with you to the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It sounds like a good idea when you finish that last keg stand, but 32 ounces of beer is heavy in your pack, and warm when it’s time to pop the top.5) Bring food. Again, this is probably obvious, but after such a late start and several beers, you might forget to stop by the bike shop to pick up some bars and gels. You might find yourself at the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 miles from the nearest sandwich, forced to drink 32 ounces of warm beer for the calories and splitting a bag of jelly beans with two other grown men.Just a handful of lessons I learned on my bike this past weekend.last_img read more