World The world's slow transition to cleaner energy
Could China’s power crisis help or harm its green energy push?
China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of coal, and right now its inventories are at record lows. To ensure adequate energy supplies as winter sets in, China has loosened restrictions on coal mining operators in its coal belt region stretching from Shaanxi to Inner Mongolia and prioritised shipments to regions in need. As factories are idled to comply with power restrictions, analysts are trimming their estimates for China’s economic growth. Goldman Sachs this week slashed its forecast for China’s full-year economic growth to 7.8 percent from its earlier call of 8.2 percent.
The transition towards cleaner energy has made progress but not quick enough to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
While the Covid-19 pandemic initially caused a drop in greenhouse gas emissions as economic activity dropped, the pandemic may not have accelerated the shift to renewables:
Looming closure of Lithgow coal mines fuels concern over transition plans for hundreds of workers
The end of coal-fired electricity is clearly on the horizon, but for Australian townships dependent on the fossil fuel industry, the future is looking more hazy.The New South Wales city of Lithgow, nestled on the western edge of the Blue Mountains, was established to extract the surrounding coal-rich earth in the early 1900s.
- Renewables boom -
Renewables are now the number two source of electricity in the world with a 26 percent share in 2019 -- behind coal, but ahead of natural gas and nuclear.
Wind and solar power have grown at annual rates of 22 and 36 percent, respectively as their prices have plunged since 1990.
Even during the pandemic, 26 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added last year, setting a new record, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
But the use of fossil fuels in final consumption (electricity, transportation fuel, heating and factory production) has held steady.
At 80.3 percent in 2009, it was still 80.2 percent in 2019, as overall energy consumption increases thanks to population growth as well as rising incomes in Asia.
National energy program would boost economy and save power bills, ACOSS report finds
A report assessing the economic impact of a multi-billion-dollar proposal to improve energy efficiency in more than 1 million homes says the program will create thousands of jobs, boost Australia's GDP and improve the quality of life for the country's most financially disadvantaged people.Until recently, much of her 1950s home in Geelong became uninhabitable when temperatures rose.
- Sharp turn by automakers -
Pushed by tighter pollution regulations, leading automakers are aiming to scrap internal combustion engines within the next decade or sharply cut their production as they shift towards all-electric futures.
Roads are still crowded with polluting cars: Electric vehicles only make up five percent of new units sold.
The International Energy Agency says consumers continue to prefer big SUVs -- they accounted for 42 percent of sales in 2020 -- that pollute more than smaller models.
- Hydrogen -
Video: 'Please put a price on carbon' (Reuters)
From Australia to China to the EU, more and more nations are setting their sites on green hydrogen for lorries and factories.
While burning hydrogen as a fuel emits just water, most of the gas is made in a process that produces harmful emissions.
Finding cost effective ways to produce hydrogen cleanly and developing the infrastructure for its use will require more effort, with the IEA urging a quadrupling of investments in the sector.
Energy bills could rise by hundreds of pounds
Consumers should be prepared for volatile gas prices and more suppliers collapsing, analysts say.Consumers should be prepared for further volatile gas prices and more suppliers collapsing, analysts from Cornwall Insight said.
- Carbon pricing -
In mid-2020 some 44 countries and 31 cities accounting for 60 percent of global economic output had carbon pricing (taxes or quotas) schemes in place, according to the I4CE think tank.
Carbon prices aim to make polluters pay for some of the social costs of emissions such as health care costs due to poor air quality and crop damage due to climate change.
Experts say the price needs to be between $40 and $80 per tonne of CO2 to push polluters to increase efficiency or shift to renewable energy sources.
However, the price is under $10 for 75 percent of covered emissions.
- Pandemic investment -
The Ren 21 think tank said the coronavirus pandemic provided an opportunity to shift public policy, but countries provided six times as much investment money to fossil fuel than renewable energy projects in their economic recovery plans.
After dropping by seven percent thanks to the pandemic, CO2 emissions are expected to hit new records by 2023 if those investments are not shifted.
- Emerging difficulties -
Investment in renewable energy has been sliding for several years in emerging and developing nations except for China, and the coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to change the situation.
These countries hold two-thirds of the world's population and are responsible for 90 percent of the growth in emissions, but they are receiving only 20 percent of investments into clean energy, according to the IEA.
- King coal still reigns -
Long ago baptised "king coal" for its outsize role in powering the world economy, the fuel remains in wide use in Asia to meet the growing needs for electricity in the region.
The global economic recovery means that coal demand is likely to surpass its 2019 level and thus also retain its crown of being the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions.
China, which has been a major financer of coal projects in other nations, announced in September it is halting the practice.
EDF not ready to take on customers from bust firms .
Firm says it is "big question" whether the energy regulator can force more people on to large suppliers.Two more firms collapsed on Wednesday, but EDF's Philippe Commaret said it was already working on moving customers from failed company Utility Point.