April 18, 2017
A reality check of Eurelectric’s no new coal pledge
April 18, 2017
As we reported earlier, Eurelectric has made a promise that its members will not build new coal power plants after 2020 – with the exception of Poland and Greece. As our EU correspondent Sonja van Renssen wrote: “The problem is that the only new coal projects planned in the EU after 2020 are in Poland and Greece.”
A more detailed fact-check on the Eurelectric pledge was carried out by Zachary Davies Boren from the Energy Desk of Greenpeace in cooperation with the CoalSwarm plant tracker.
The “plant tracker” shows there are currently 22 new coal units in the pipeline in Europe, some of which are likely to be built well into the 2020s:
And even though these projects run on after 2020, since they started before that time, “they will go ahead as planned, Eurelectric confirmed to Energy Desk.”
That “includes 4 coal units under construction in the Czech Republic, 2 units currently at the pre-permit stage in Germany, and 1 in Hungary that’s nearly a decade away from being finished.”
But it gets worse: “ utilities can also announce new coal projects in the next three years to be built after the 2020 threshold”, writes Davies Boren.
Then there are Poland and Greece of course. “On its own, the 10GW in Poland’s pipeline represents well over half of the planned 16.8GW of new coal capacity in Europe”, writes Davies Boren. “Not only will Poland build those 8 new units, and Greece go ahead with its 2 coal power stations, but both countries reserve the right to approve, permit and build new units in the years after.”
Outside of Poland, notes Davies Boren, “the thrust of Europe’s coal conundrum isn’t over new build — it’s the pain of closing old plants and mines. In 2015, for instance, the German government’s attempts to introduce a climate tax on heavy industry was met with massive resistance from utilities and unions.
In the end, Merkel created a ‘lignite reserve’ that pays coal power plants more than €200 million a year for staying idle in case of emergency.”
NGO CAN Europe has produced a map highlighting the extent of state support for Europe’s coal sector.
Climate Analytics has also published an important study showing that the EU must cancel all coal projects in the pipeline and close all existing coal plants by 2031 in order to achieve its Paris Agreement emissions target.
One way that the EU has tried to push coal to get out or clean up is through pollution standards, such as the IED or BREF, notes Davies Boren. “But, according to a Greenpeace/Energydesk investigation, Eurelectric and the utilities they represent were deeply embedded in the process of shaping the BREF coal pollution standards — and weakened them At the behind-closed-doors negotiations, Spain’s environment ministry and Ireland’s EPA argued for weaker emission limits using statements virtually identical to Eurelectric’s. German and British delegates made anti-regulation arguments eerily similar to those voiced by Eurelectric.”
Conclusion: “The Eurelectric statement … doesn’t really mean that much in real terms; it’s riddled with loopholes, doesn’t include the continent’s coal giant, and doesn’t address the old coal dilemma.”
CCS in industry: progress report
April 18, 2017
To really make a transition to a low-carbon energy system, the most important thing, as everyone knows, is to get rid of coal – above all, to NOT build the 600 coal power plants currently being planned in the world.
Unless of course carbon capture and storage (CCS) can come to the rescue? It doesn’t look like it in the power sector at the moment – but in industry a lot more is going on in CCS than most people realise, at least according to Jeff Erikson, General Manager for the Americas region of the Global CCS Institute.
Erikson gives an example. “On April 7, Archer Daniels Midland, the food processing and biofuels company, began permanently storing carbon dioxide 7000 feet underground, adjacent to its Decatur, Illinois corn ethanol plant. At full capacity, the Illinois Industrial carbon capture and storage facility will prevent one million metric tonnes per year of carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere. That is equivalent to taking more than 200,000 cars off the road, or eliminating emissions from more than 100,000 typical American homes.”
The Illinois Industrial facility represents the most recent example of the hidden success story of carbon capture and storage, notes Eriskon: “While the current focus of the media and policymakers is on CCS applied to coal-fired power plants, CCS on industrial facilities has been successfully practiced for more than 40 years. Illinois Industrial is the 17thoperating large-scale CCS facility around the world – each capturing and storing more than 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. Cumulatively these facilities capture and permanently store about 35 million tonnes per year of CO2. Most of the operating facilities capture CO2 from industrial processes, such as natural gas processing, hydrogen production, fertilizer production, synthetic natural gas production, and most recently steel and ethanol production. Twelve of the 17 operating facilities are located in the US and Canada, and at present there are just two on coal-fired power plants.”
“Both the physics and the economics favor CCS on industrial facilities over power plants”, Erikson argues. “In addition, CCS is the only way to achieve deep decarbonisation in the production of cement, steel, fertilizer, and ethanol, and in refining and natural gas processing.”
CCS on biofuels plants such as the ADM facility is particularly intriguing, as it paves the way for net negative emissions, i.e. removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere – in this case by growing corn that is then converted into a useful product (ethanol) – and then permanently storing CO2 generated in the conversion process. “Many scientists think that CO2 removal from the atmosphere in one form or another will be essential to meet climate change goals.”
Erikson reminds us that “the International Energy Agency, in its 2016 Energy Technology Perspectives report, has concluded that CCS should contribute 12% of cumulative CO2 emission reductions required through 2050 in order to limit warming to 2-degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees fahrenheit). Of that, 45% of the opportunity for carbon reductions associated with CCS lies in the industrial sector.”
In North America, writes Erikson, “where we aren’t building very many new coal-fired power plants, the opportunity is even higher. The Alberta Carbon Trunk Line, which is about to commence construction in Alberta, Canada, is a model example of CCS applied to the industrial sector. It envisions transporting CO2captured from multiple industrial sources to depleted oil fields, to be sold for use in enhanced oil recovery. Similar initiatives are under development in Europe and the US.”
In November 2016 the Global CCS Institute published its latest annual report on the status of CCS. “One of the conclusions of that report is that carbon capture is at a crossroads: It is essential, but not inevitable. Essential in order to achieve the climate change goals agreed to by leaders of 194 countries in Paris in 2015. But not inevitable due to a lack of adequate government policy support in many countries, divided public sentiment, and challenging project economics.”
The natural gas comeback
April 18, 2017
After at least five years of declining gas demand in Europe, many people were ready to declare gas dead. But 2015 saw a turnaround and now 2016 has solidified this.
According to the latest statistics from industry association Eurogas, “natural gas consumption in the EU-28 increased by 4% in 2015, compared with 2014, and by another 7% in 2016.”
As the winters of 2015 and 2016 were colder, more gas was particularly used for heating in EU households. “This shows the flexibility of the gas system, compared with the limitations of the power grid, to cope with large differences in demand”, notes Eurogas.
Gas demand also grew in power generation, industry and transport “in some countries in 2015 and more widely in 2016. A lot more electricity was produced from gas in France (+61%), where combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) became more competitive, and in the Netherlands.”
As a result of the increased gas use, “CO2 emissions in the EU’s power generation sector dropped by 4.5% in 2016, mainly due to a large switch from coal to gas. In the UK, power sector CO2 emissions even decreased by as much as 18.7% thanks to gas, and its potential to reduce CO2 emissions in all sectors is still large: 66% in power generation, 42% in heating and 25% in transport. Blend in renewable gas over time and emissions can go towards zero.”
For country-by-country details, see the Eurogas press release here.
Gas takes on diesel in Europe
April 18, 2017
A sign of the times? French oil major Total opened its first French natural gas filling station in Nantes, reports Natural Gas World. It wants to open another 15 this year and 10 next year in France.
France is actually behind: Total already has 450 CNG and LNG filling stations worldwide – in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Egypt and Pakistan. Its rival Engie is also investing heavily in CNG and LNG stations in Europe.
The gas suppliers are smelling an opportunity now that diesel is getting out of favour in Europe. As MIT Technology Review reports from the U.S.: Europe is dead serious about killing off diesel cars.
Ever since 2015, when Volkswagen’s “clean diesel” automobiles were found to be nothing of the sort, European officials have taken a strong stance against cars that use the fuel, writes MIT – a bit optimistically. It notes that “the latest move came on 6 April, as the European parliament voted to introduce new regulations that will allow it to fine car manufacturers more than $30,000 per vehicle if they’re found to have been cheating on emissions tests.”
Large European cities are taking the lead in combating diesel cars: “London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, also announced today that the city will begin to enforce steep levies on the most polluting diesel vehicles. Ars Technica has a very thorough description of the new rules, but the upshot is that some cars will have to pay the equivalent of $30 to enter the city on a weekday starting in April 2019 and no new diesel-powered taxis will be licensed for use on the streets as of January 2018. Initially the scheme will apply to central London, but the plan is expected to quickly spread to cover the rest of the city.”
“Meanwhile, the British government is expected to announce new plans to curb diesel use in 35 other towns and cities around the country. It’s thought that those plans will completely limit access in some locations and charge drivers for using their vehicles in other urban centers.”
The UK is not alone: “The U.K.’s initiatives follow a clampdown announced late last year by the mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City, who all committed to banning diesel cars and vans from their centers by 2025. That decision was motivated mainly by air quality, but officials also noted at the time that it would have positive impacts on the climate.”
On the back of the European parliament’s vote, the European Union’s industry commissioner said that she expects diesel cars to “disappear much faster than we can imagine”, notes MIT.