Use of Coal Power to Shrink Regardless of Politics

Coal producers can’t keep up. Coal used to be the cheapest form of energy, but that was before cheap renewable technology and more efficient gas plants came along. What’s more is that there are social, health, and environmental costs to using coal that makes it hard to argue for.

The future of coal is not looking good, which means that the future health of our planet is looking good. Despite the subsidies coal industries get around the world the end of their profits is nigh. Renewable energy is here to stay and it’s only getting more competitive.

But even without the CPP, coal already can’t compete with other energy sources in most of the country when it comes to building new power plants, suggests a new computer model from researchers at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin.

The work is part of a broader initiative at the institute, aimed at tallying all the costs that come with keeping the lights on, from environmental impacts to building transmission lines or responding to regulations. Snazzy online calculators and mapping tools that accompany the new model enable users to tweak a number of variables, including gas prices and environmental costs, and see how the nation’s energy future might change, at the level of individual counties.

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Thanks to Stephanie!

47 Developing Countries Leapfrogging to Renewables

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At the tail end of the Marrakech UN conference on the climate 47 countries formed the Climate Vulnerable Forum to share the one goal: getting to 100% renewable energy as fast as possible. Previously, economists and politicians argued that developing countries will need to use coal or other destructive carbon-based energy before upgrading to renewables. With the cheap price of solar panels and other non-carbon intensive electricity it looks like these countries can skip coal. They are hoping to replicate the infrastructure “leapfrog” that mobile phones created in much of the world with renewable power.

Members of the CVF hope to perform the same kind of ‘leapfrogging’ with regards to energy.

The 47 members of the CVF – which includes nations like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Haiti – say they’ll “strive to meet 100 percent domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances”.

The goal is to have all of these systems in place some time between 2030 and 2050, and the members have committed to presenting a detailed plan to the UN by 2020.

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Clean, Renewable Energy Continues Amazing Drop in Costs

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The cost of installing solar energy systems of every type has seen double digit decreases in cost since 2008. This reduction is astonishing because it means that solar becomes competitive with coal (which we’ve already seen) and that arguments against using solar get less powerful every year. There’s also a compounding effect too. The more solar gets supported by institutions that more widespread the technology becomes and the spin of effects of that technology will spur more renewable production. The same is true for other forms of clean energy.

This makes it much clearer that the trends are not “flattening.”
Again, this is no surprise. The International Energy Agency released a whole report on this subject back in 2000, titled, “Experience Curves for Energy Technology Policy.” In it, the IEA explained that accelerated clean energy deployment policies were creating economies of scale and bringing technologies rapidly down the learning curve. As long as those policies continue, the price drops would continue.
And they did continue — with especially large investments by Germany and China. The result is that over the past four decades, for every doubling in scale of the solar industry, the price of solar modules has dropped roughly 26 percent.

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Portugal Joins Other Countries by Running Only on Renewable Energy

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Portugal reached a very significant milestone on its path to being fully powered by renewables by consuming energy only from sustainable resources for four days. Other countries are on similar paths. In 2012 Germany got 50% of it’s power from renewable sources, Scotland powered itself exclusively on renewables for a week earlier this year, but the most impressive is Costa Rica. In 2015 Costa Rica went at least of a quarter of the using only renewables and improving this year.

Portugal joins those countries (and others) that are looking forward to a future that isn’t dependent on finite energy sources. More countries should be joining this renewable revolution.

Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday, the analysis says.

News of the zero emissions landmark comes just days after Germany announced that clean energy had powered almost all its electricity needs on Sunday 15 May, with power prices turning negative at several times in the day – effectively paying consumers to use it.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Scotland Generated Enough Renewable Energy to Power Itself

This past weekend Scotland generated enough electricity from wind turbines to meet all its power demands. A day of strong winds and low demand combined to make this the first time Scotland has achieved this renewable milestone. For a compression, in 2012 Germany got 50% of it’s electricity from renewable sources, and today Germany gets almost all of its power from renewable sources on a regular basis. In a couple years Scotland could be 100% powered by renewables. The cost of solar and wind installations continues to fall so it’s likely more regions of the world will be able to follow Scotland’s lead.

“It should also be remembered that wind power is not the only renewable power source Scotland has at its disposal.

“If we continue to take steps to reduce our energy demand, invest in storage, and increase our use of renewables we can hopefully look forward to many days that are fully powered by nature.”

The figures showed that wind turbines in Scotland provided 39,545 megawatts per hour (MWh) of electricity to the National Grid for 24 hours on Sunday. Scotland’s total electricity consumption for that day was 37,202MWh. It is unclear whether demand at any single point in the day exceeded the amount supplied by the turbines.

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