End of an Era: Coal Investment Drying Up

Now a new report by environmental NGOs is out that shows a huge change in the global energy investment profile. Some key conclusions:
"After a decade of unprecedented expansion, the amount of coal power capacity under development worldwide saw a dramatic drop in 2016, mainly due to shifting policies and economic conditions in China and India, according to a survey by CoalSwarm’s Global Coal Plant Tracker. The drop occurred in all stages of coal plant development, including preconstruction planning, construction starts, and in-progress construction. Key developments include: ■ A 48% drop in pre-construction activity, a 62% drop in construction starts, and a 19% drop in ongoing construction. As of January 2017 the amount of coal power capacity in pre-construction planning was 570 gigawatts (GW), compared to 1,090 GW in January 2016. (A typical coal-fired generating unit is 500 MW, or 0.5 GW, in size, with most power stations having two or more such units.) ■ In China and India, 68 …

Energy Storage and Demand Management Offer a Solution to the Problem Polish Officials Keep Raising: They Just Don't Want to Face it

The constant complaint of all Polish politicians has been that renewable energy is intermittent. Besides the fundamentally fact-challenged premise that this is a problem with Poland's relatively low mix of renewables,*  the best solutions to this problem with a higher portion of renewable energy in the mix (as well as unreliable coal-fired plants like in Poland) is demand management (differential rates that push more users into non-peak periods) and energy storage.

Near the Polish border, a new German project will create a 16 MW energy storage facility to manage the even flow of electricity to the local grid. "W Chemnitz powstanie duży magazyn energii,", March 8, 2017. Nothing like this is even in planning stages in Poland. 

For misplaced political reasons, Polish politicians continue to think that coal is both reliable and cost-effective to produce electricity. They are alone in Europe in this viewpoint. It may not be realistic to switch off the coal plant…

Pushing Electric Cars Will Do Little to Fight Air Pollution in Poland

We have now seen a real PR blitz on "electro-mobility" in Poland. It seems on the surface that the Polish Government finally gets that it has to address air pollution problems. The data on the air in Poland is appalling, maybe they will take it seriously now?

Maybe not. The problem is automotive emissions is old cars. One old "smoker" will easy emit more junk into the air than several hundred new cars. Even in countries, like Canada, will much newer average cars on the road, most of the emissions come from less than 25% of the vehicles. In Poland, with much older autos in common use and with no vehicle emissions inspection program, the older cars will have a much, much greater impact on total emissions.

So enter the electric emissions. Solution? Not really. First, the people buying new electric cars will not be the people driving "smokers."  So it is easy to see how replacing even 20% of the current cars with electric cars would have a very no…

Polish Auction Not Exempt from Typical Problems

The first Polish auction had, of course, major technical problems. But it is worth looking at whether it avoided the classic failures of RES auctions elsewhere (as discussed in numerous posts on this blog). See also Mott, "The European Commission's Mismanagementof State Aid Rules for Renewable Energy" (2015).

First, the problem for small projects is that much of the costs of initial development is actually about the same as for projects fifty or a hundred times as large. The front-end costs must be absorbed by the developer before the auction and before he is assured of getting any support. This typically has killed small projects in auctions. Often there are no bids at all. Poland experienced this in some degree as the bids made for small projects were lower than the allocated volume of RES support offered.

Second, projects are under-bid. The developer puts in a price that is very low and then hopes that the financing will be there and that the costs by the time of cons…

First RES Auction in Poland: Problems and Opportunities

The first RES auction in Poland had problems and bidders could not complete their offers online. But the Ministry has decided to go ahead and award support from those bids that were received. Some issues arise since the bidding was arbitrarily cut-off due to technical problems and because the number of bids seems to be less than the support that was awarded. See European Commission, State Aid Guidelines for environmental Protection, 2014,Sec. 1.3(19)(43). Bidders had to consider state aid density in their bids and count any grants received to avoid a total amount of support that exceeded the EC guidelines. This is a complex calculation, but the results of the auction seem to reflect that it did not constrain bids by very much. Seven biogas plants bid and won with prices from 502-504 PLN/MWhr. The reference price is 550 PLN. PV plants bid and won many more awards in the up to 1 MW general category. Prices for those winning bids are not yet clear from the published information. My take…

Polish RES Auction Starts Today: Observations to Follow

Today the Polish Government starts its first auction for renewable energy support. The principal focus will be existing installations that now have an option to opt for a contract-for-the-difference to replace green certificate support (now special blue certificates for biogas). Some new facilities will also bid in another category.
Most of the facilities participating with have grants for their projects - either already built or already contracted. This means that their bids must be lowered to meet state aid ceilings imposed by the EU. Accordingly, the bids today may not be very predictive of future bids in auctions where far fewer projects will have this condition. 
I do expect that the number of projects bid will be lower than the government predicted. The hurdles of going into a project without a guarantee of support are quite significant and everywhere else they have reduced participation levels of small project developers. 
The "competitive" nature of the process unde…

Improving Hazardous Waste Management in Africa: Creation of Regional Markets to Create New Infrastructure

My paper was just published in the Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa. 

There will also tentatively be a two-day conference on the subject in Cape Town on October 15th (to be confirmed). The goal is to bring together stakeholders for a detailed frank discussion of what the barriers are to improving waste management and what solutions might work.

Thanks to Readers

My blog is approaching 270,000 views.  I want to thank all readers and encourage people to pass on the links to stories that interest you. I will continue to call the shots as I see them and try to provide links to good information, facts and actual data.