Britain set for first coal-free day since Industrial Revolution

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  1. hmscott

    hmscott Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    Energy Transitions Begin to Leave Out Natural Gas Power
    02/01/2018 | Sonal Patel
    http://www.powermag.com/energy-transitions-begin-to-leave-out-natural-gas-power/

    "The world’s energy transition took an interesting turn at the end of 2017 as global power firm Engie announced it would switch all its gas operations to biogas and renewable hydrogen, the UK slashed its outlook for gas-fired generation, and California regulators rejected proposed natural gas plant plans.

    Engie’s CEO Isabelle Kocher told reporters in early December that the firm will look to expand investments in biogas and industrial-scale hydrogen production, eventually switching all its current natural gas operations to 100% renewable gas by 2050. Engie recently moved to sell its upstream oil and gas business as well as divest its liquefied natural gas (LNG) production, shipping, and trading division as part of a wider restructuring effort.

    In December, meanwhile, the UK Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published projections that envision renewables overtaking gas’s share of power generation by 2020. Significantly, BEIS said in its annual energy and emissions projections that half as much new gas capacity will be needed by 2035 compared to what was expected last year. The forecast factors in much more renewable capacity additions as well as energy storage, and it also relies on timely completion of proposed nuclear plants, though the government has approved only one to date—Hinkley Point C.

    In California, where natural gas–fired power plants generated about half of the state’s in-state power in 2016, state regulators were scheduled to vote in January on a proposal that would require Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to replace three natural gas plants owned by Calpine with energy storage and other carbon-neutral “preferred resources” like demand response. The state, which has ambitious renewable energy targets, has pushed utilities to replace natural gas power plants with renewables and other resources. The urgency to pare down the state’s reliance on natural gas mounted in 2016 after the leaking Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility was shut down. Last fall, the California Energy Commission said it planned to reject NRG Energy’s proposed Puente natural gas plant because “feasible alternatives” that avoided or reduced environmental effects were available, forcing the company to withdraw its application.

    The developments point to an interesting trend for gas-fired power generation, which has expanded globally by 20% since 2010, with nearly three-quarters of new capacity additions being flexible and highly efficient combined cycle gas turbine units. The expansion has been fueled by low natural gas prices as well an increasing availability of LNG from multiple producers.

    A number of countries have also embarked on large-scale coal-to-gas switching recently, driven by a number of factors. Most prominent among them is the U.S., whose share of coal-fired power generation fell from 50% in 2006 to just over 30% in 2016, as natural gas’s share rose to nearly 35%. While dramatically lower gas prices were the key catalyst for that change in the U.S., in the UK, a similar transformation, albeit on a smaller scale, was driven by different factors.

    For the UK, which in April celebrated its first day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution began, gas has gradually overtaken coal’s share of primary energy supply since 2000. Between 1970 and 1985, natural gas replaced coal to meet energy demand in buildings and industry sectors. Gas use for power was only permitted in the early 1990s. A subsequent “dash-for-gas” resulted in the construction of around 20 GW of new gas capacity. The UK’s recent embrace of gas stems from a 60% drop in coal consumption in 2016, driven mainly by a fall in gas prices but also by a relatively robust carbon price and a commitment to phase-out all coal power by 2025.

    According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a factor common to both the U.S. and UK is that both countries have established liberalized electricity markets, allowing for a smooth transition in the power sector. “Most developing economies with large coal-fired power fleets do not have liberalised markets that would allow a quick response (in terms of generation mix) to economic conditions favouring the use of gas, nor (with the notable exception of China) is a CO2 price on the horizon,” it said in its recent World Energy Outlook 2017. “Switching is therefore more likely to occur because of an explicit decision to favour the use of gas and to invest in new gas infrastructure (as seen, for example, by the coal-to-gas switching that occurred in the United Kingdom between 1970 and 2000).”

    China, for example, will nearly triple its natural gas consumption through 2040, the IEA forecasts, owing to stringent measures to reduce air pollution for coal-fired power plants. India, though stricken by gas shortages, has also proposed raising the share of gas generation from 6.5% to 15%. This January, the government urged state-owned gas firm GAIL to focus on building gas pipelines in eastern India.

    The world’s power sector is, however, witnessing prospects where some renewable technologies will fall below the level of thermal generation, the IEA points out. Under a scenario that factors in current and proposed policies, the IEA estimates that for now, gas-fired power generation is set to increase by close to 60% through 2040, mainly because “gas-fired capacity also plays an important additional role in helping integrate variable renewables in power systems.” Still, gas’s share of total electricity supply will hold steady at about 23%, any gains sliced away by renewables and nuclear (Figure 2).

    [​IMG]
    2. Ups and downs for gas power. Current and proposed policies could reshape the power mix, nearly doubling the share of renewables and driving down coal’s contributions by 2040, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects. Several regions around the world will boost their natural gas share—including the Middle East, North Africa, Mexico, and Caspian countries—but gas’s share will diminish or remain steady in other regions like Japan, which is planning a re-introduction of nuclear, and in the European Union, which is committed to a low-carbon future. Courtesy: OECD/IEA, World Energy Outlook 2017, Figure 6.14, “Share of total generation by type worldwide and in selected regions in the New Policies Scenario.”
    Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor."
     
  3. hmscott

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    The U.K. Just Went 55 Hours Without Using Coal for the First Time in History
    By Jesper Starn and Lars Paulsson, April 19, 2018, 3:56 AM PDT
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/arti...-55-hours-without-coal-as-clean-power-expands

    "Coal, which fueled the world’s biggest economies for more than a century, is increasingly losing out to renewables.

    The latest example of how one of the dirtiest fossil fuels is being squeezed out of the market came this week in Britain, which went for a record 55 hours without its any of its power plants producing electricity by burning coal.

    No coal was used for power generation by stations in the U.K. between 10:25 p.m. in London on Monday until 5:10 a.m. on Thursday, according to grid data compiled by Bloomberg. At the same time wind turbines produced more power.
    [​IMG]
    The U.K. was an early adopter of renewable energy and has more offshore wind turbines installed than any other country. It also has fields of solar panels that are meeting more and more demand as old traditional power plants close permanently. The government aims to switch off all coal plants by 2025 and has given renewables priority access to the grid.

    The previous record of 40 coal-free hours was set in October 2017."
     
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    Britain powers on without coal for three days
    BBC, 24 April 2018
    http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43879564

    "Britain has not generated electricity from coal for more than three days - the longest streak since the 1880s.

    The new record comes just days after the last record of 55 hours was set, National Grid said.

    The coal-free period began on Saturday at 1000 BST and has continued into Tuesday afternoon.

    Power generated from wind and gas dominated the mix of energy for users in England, Scotland and Wales.

    Just last week the UK grid recorded its first two-day period without using any power from the fossil fuel, which the government has pledged to phase out by 2025.
    Coal accounted for less than 7% of the power mix last year, according to official figures.

    In April, 2017 Britain went its first full day without coal since the 19th century.
    However, experts warned that power generated by coal was largely being replaced by gas, another fossil fuel, rather than renewable sources.

    Andrew Crossland, of the Durham Energy Institute, said gas generated 40% of the UK's electricity and fuelled the vast majority of domestic heating: "As a country we consume nearly eight times more gas than coal."

    The daily consumption of gas was outstripped by wind on just two days last year, while all sources of renewable energy - including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower - beat fossil fuels for just 23 days of 2017.

    A reliance on gas made the UK vulnerable to the whims of international markets and was "nowhere near clean enough" to meet the UK's legal targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Crossland said.

    The 2008 Climate Change Act requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% compared with 1990 levels by 2050.

    Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, called on the government to provide more support for onshore wind and solar power - the "cleanest and cheapest energy sources".

    "Offshore wind has proven to be popular and able to provide affordable clean energy, as well as skilled jobs and fair bills," she said.

    "As we have more and more days without coal, we need to make sure it is replaced with the renewable technologies of the future."

    Mr Crossland also called for more investment in renewable technologies, such as solar panels and batteries, to store power for homes and businesses, along with better energy efficiency to reduce power use.

    UK runs without coal power for three days in a row
    Demand lower following recent warm weather, making it easier for gas, renewables and nuclear to cover UK’s needs
    adamvaughan_uk, Tue 24 Apr 2018 05.12 EDT
    https://www.theguardian.com/busines...r-generation-coal-free-gas-renewables-nuclear

    "The UK has been powered without coal for three days in a row, setting a new record and underlining the polluting fuel’s rapid decline.

    Coal has historically been at the cornerstone of the UK’s electricity mix, but last year saw the first 24-hour period that the the country ran without the fuel since the 19th century.

    New records were broken last week when zero power came from coal for nearly 55 consecutive hours.

    That milestone in turn was smashed on Monday afternoon and the UK passed the 72-hour mark at 10am on Tuesday. The coal-free run came to an end after 76 hours.
    Without the fossil fuel, nearly a third of Britain’s electricity was supplied by gas, followed by windfarms and nuclear on around a quarter each.

    The rest came from biomass burned at Drax power station in North Yorkshire, imports from France and the Netherlands, and solar power. Drax said it expected to go without coal on Tuesday.

    UK electricity generation graph
    The coal-free records are a reversal from the recent highs that coal plant owners experienced during the so-called “beast from the east” cold snap.

    During cold weather in February and early March, demand for gas to use in heating pushed up the price of gas for power, which brought coal power stations online.

    However, overall power demand is now much lower following the recent warm weather, making it easier for gas, renewables and nuclear to cover much of the UK’s needs.

    National Grid has forecast electricity demand this summer will be lower than last year, with minimum demand at 17GW and peak at 33.7GW. Demand on Tuesday is expected to peak at about 35GW.

    Experts said to expect more milestones this year. “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two,” said Jonathan Marshall, an analyst at the Energyand Climate Intelligence Unit.

    However, one observer cautioned that the shift away from coal could be a “false dawn” if it was just replaced by gas.

    Andrew Crossland, who tracks electricity generation on the MyGridGB site, said: “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.”

    A carbon tax, the cheaper price of gas and the rise of renewables have all hit coal operators. The government has set a deadline of October 2025 for phasing out coal entirely.

    Two coal plant owners have said they will shut this year, which will leave the UK with six coal power stations including Drax, which has hinted it will cease burning coal before the 2025 target."
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018

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