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Asia is set to support global coal demand for the next five years

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Global coal demand is expected to decline in 2019 but remain broadly stable over the next five years, supported by robust growth in major Asian markets, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest market analysis and forecasts.

The weakness in coal demand this year results mainly from coal-fired electricity generation, which is set to experience its largest ever decline – over 250 terawatt hours (TWh), or more than 2.5%. This drop is led by double-digit falls in the United States and Europe, according to Coal 2019, which was released today and contains forecasts through 2024.

It is too soon to say whether the expected global decrease in coal power generation this year will be the start of a lasting trend. The IEA forecasts that renewable sources will supply a major portion of the increase in global electricity demand over the next five years. Electricity generation from coal will rise only marginally over that period, at less than 1% per year – and its share will decline from 38% in 2018 to 35% in 2024. This means coal remains by far the single largest source of power supply worldwide.

Ultimately, global trends will depend largely on China, where half of the world’s coal is produced and consumed.

In Europe and the United States, coal power generation is sinking to levels not seen in decades. Growth in solar PV and wind, low natural gas prices and stagnating electricity demand have created a perfect storm for coal in both regions, where coal plants retirements continue to take place. These trends will continue through 2024, although the speed of the declines is expected to slow unless coal comes under additional pressure from stronger climate policies or lower-than-expected natural gas prices.

“Wind and solar PV are growing rapidly in many parts of the world. With investment in new plants drying up, coal power capacity outside Asia is clearly declining and will continue to do so in the coming years,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s Director of Energy Markets and Security, who is launching the report in Johannesburg today alongside Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s Minister of Mineral and Energy Resources.

“But this is not the end of coal, since demand continues to expand in Asia,” Mr Sadamori added. “The region’s share of global coal power generation has climbed from just over 20% in 1990 to almost 80% in 2019, meaning coal’s fate is increasingly tied to decisions made in Asian capitals.”

The report highlights that countries in South and Southeast Asia – such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam – are relying on coal to fuel their economic growth. Natural gas and oil have traditionally been the main sources of power generation in Pakistan, but the country has commissioned 5 gigawatts (GW) of coal power capacity since 2017, and another 5 GW is set to come online in the next few years. In Bangladesh, where natural gas has long generated the bulk of electricity supply, coal will gain share in the coming years, with 10 GW of capacity in the pipeline.

“In 2019, global coal power generation will experience the biggest drop ever and coal power generation in India will probably decline for the first time in 45 years,” Mr Sadamori said. “The global picture, however, has not changed much. Coal is disappearing in many advanced economies, but it remains resilient and is even continuing to grow in developing Asia. The low coal power generation in India this year was due to unusually low growth in electricity demand and exceptionally high hydropower output. It is not at all clear that it will be repeated.”

The IEA forecast for global coal demand in this year’s report is very similar to those in previous years, but Coal 2019 warns that potential threats to the sector are increasing. Public opposition to coal is building, many countries are mulling stronger climate and environmental policies, and renewables and natural gas are becoming more and more competitive.

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Battery Storage Paves Way for a Renewable-powered Future

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photo:IRENA

Battery storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrate high shares of solar and wind renewables in power systems worldwide. A recent analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) illustrates how electricity storage technologies can be used for a variety of applications in the power sector, from e-mobility and behind-the-meter applications to utility-scale use cases.

Utility-scale batteries, for example, can enable a greater feed-in of renewables into the grid by storing excess generation and by firming renewable energy output. Furthermore, particularly when paired with renewable generators, batteries help provide reliable and cheaper electricity in isolated grids and to off-grid communities, which otherwise rely on expensive imported diesel fuel for electricity generation.

At present, utility-scale battery storage systems are mostly being deployed in Australia, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States and other European countries. One of the larger systems in terms of capacity is the Tesla 100 MW / 129 MWh Li-ion battery storage project at Hornsdale Wind Farm in Australia. In the US-State of New York, a high-level demonstration project using a 4 MW / 40 MWh battery storage system showed that the operator could reduce almost 400 hours of congestion in the power grid and save up to USD 2.03 million in fuel costs.

In addition, several island and off-grid communities have invested in large-scale battery storage to balance the grid and store excess renewable energy. In a mini-grid battery project in Martinique, the output of a solar PV farm is supported by a 2 MWh energy storage unit, ensuring that electricity is injected into the grid at a constant rate, avoiding the need for back-up generation. In Hawaii, almost 130 MWh of battery storage systems have been implemented to provide smoothening services for solar PV and wind energy.

Globally, energy storage deployment in emerging markets is expected to increase by over 40% each year until 2025.

Figure 1. Stationary battery storage’s energy capacity growth, 2017-2030

Currently, utility-scale stationary batteries dominate global energy storage. But by 2030, small-scale battery storage is expected to significantly increase, complementing utility-scale applications. 

The behind-the-meter (BTM) batteries are connected behind the utility meter of commercial, industrial or residential customers, primarily aiming at electricity bill savings. Installations of BTM batteries globally is on the rise. This increase has been driven by the falling costs of battery storage technology, due to the growing consumer market and the development of electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), along with the deployment of distributed renewable energy generation and the development of smart grids. In Germany, for example, 40% of recent rooftop solar PV applications have been installed with BTM batteries. Australia aims to reach one million BTM batteries installations by  2025, with 21 000 systems installed in the country in 2017. 

Figure 2. Services provided by BTM battery storage systems

Overall, total battery capacity in stationary applications could increase from a current estimate of 11 GWh to between 180 to 420 GWh, an increase of 17- to 38-fold.

Read IRENA’s full Innovation landscape briefs on Utility-scale batteries and Behind-the-Meter batteries

Find more information about enabling technologies in IRENA’s Innovation Landscape briefs: Enabling Technologies

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Organic waste has huge untapped potential to provide clean energy around the world

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The world’s biogas and biomethane resources could cover 20% of global gas demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to new IEA report.

The world is only using a fraction of the potential to produce gas from organic waste, which could cover around 20% of today’s global demand for gas, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency released today.

Modern societies and economies produce increasing amounts of organic waste – such as agricultural residues, food waste and animal manure – that can be used to produce biogas and biomethane, clean energy sources with multiple potential benefits for sustainable development. Biogas offers a local source of power and heat for communities, and a clean cooking fuel for households. Upgrading it to biomethane brings all the energy system benefits of natural gas without the associated net emissions.

“Biogas and biomethane can play major roles in a sustainable energy future, but for the moment we’re missing out on this opportunity to cut waste and cut emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “A push from governments can give biogas and biomethane the necessary momentum, with benefits across energy, transport, agriculture and the environment.”

Every part of the world has significant scope to produce biogas and/or biomethane. The availability of sustainable feedstocks for these purposes is set to grow by 40% by 2040, according to the IEA report, The Outlook for Biogas and Biomethane.

The largest opportunities lie in the Asia-Pacific region, where natural gas consumption and imports have been growing rapidly in recent years. There are also significant possibilities across North and South America, Europe, and Africa.

Most of the biomethane resources examined in the IEA report are currently more expensive to produce than the prevailing natural gas prices in their region, but the cost gap is projected to narrow over time. Recognition of the value of avoided carbon dioxide and methane emissions goes a long way towards improving the cost-competitiveness of biomethane.

The production and use of these gases embody the idea of a more circular economy in which resources are continuously used and reused – and in which rising demand for energy services can be met while also delivering wider environmental benefits.

“As governments seek to accelerate their clean energy transitions, they should not forget the importance of low-carbon gases such as biomethane and biogas,” added Dr Birol. “Among other benefits, biogas and biomethane also offer a way to bring rural communities and industries into the transformation of the energy sector.”

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AfDB’s Facility for Energy Inclusion attracts $160m in commitments for small-scale renewables

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The African Development Bank, the European Commission, KfW, the Clean Technology Fund, Norfund, and other investors have committed nearly $160 million to the first close of the Facility for Energy Inclusion or FEI.

FEI is a targeted $400 million fund to improve energy access across Africa through small-scale renewable energy and mini-grid projects. Spearheaded by the African Development Bank, FEI serves as a financing platform to catalyze financial support for innovative energy access solutions. The Bank, as the Facility’s anchor sponsor, has put up $90 million in financing. That sum includes $20 million that the Bank is providing in its capacity as the implementing agency of the Clean Technology Fund.

“After three years of hard work, we are pleased to see the second and larger piece of our energy access debt funding platform FEI up and running on the back of very significant commitments from our partners. We look forward to seeing FEI catalyze financing for new energy sector business models and accelerate our efforts to electrify Africa,” said Wale Shonibare, African Development Bank Acting Vice-President of Power, Energy, Climate & Green Growth.

In addition to the Bank’s commitment, the European Commission committed €25 million to the Fund, the Norwegian Investment Fund — also known as Norfund — committed $23 million, and German Development Bank KfW committed €25 million. FEI will also include a $10 million Project Preparation Facility (PPF) from the Global Environment Facility that will provide reimbursable grants for transaction advisory to facilitate financial close.

“Norfund is pleased to participate in this new facility which makes debt financing available to smaller scale renewable power projects in Africa. We anticipate that the facility will be successful in attracting private capital to this segment of the market”, says Mark Davis, Executive Vice President, Clean Energy at Norfund.

“With our investment in this flagship fund, KfW on behalf of the German Government emphasizes its commitment to work with other development finance institutions to improve access to clean energy in Africa. Our junior equity investment aims at mobilizing public equity and private debt investors to scale up the financial means available for innovative renewable energy projects like new mini-grids to electrify Africa” said Babette Stein von Kamienski, Head of Division Infrastructure, Southern Africa at KfW.

The Facility supports small-scale Independent Power Producers (IPPs) delivering power to the grid, mini-grids and captive power projects. Projects in sub-Saharan African countries where electricity access rates are comparatively lower receive priority. Other eligibility criteria include the requirement to use renewable energy technology, to have capital expenditure of less than $30 million and generation capacity below 25MW. Initial pipeline projects have been identified in Burundi, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.

FEI is managed by LHGP Asset Management, part of Lion’s Head Group, a fund manager focused on bringing innovative financial solutions to emerging markets and selected through an international competitive process. “As Fund Manager, we are excited that the limited partners have given us a flexible mandate to provide tailored financing solutions to this exciting industry which has the potential to make green growth a reality in Africa. By focusing on smaller renewable energy producers, FEI will contribute to the electrification of Africa, in particular in more remote and traditionally neglected parts of the continent,” says Clemens Calice, Co-CEO of LHGP Asset Management, the Fund Manager of FEI.

The Facility’s first close was reached on 3 December 2019.

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