Saturday, March 02, 2013

Coal has surged despite destroying environment for wind energy

Wind Wise Radio (,, has recently posted a few news items about the increase of coal use around the world, despite (or in part because of?) the huge expansion of industrial-scale wind energy.

China's Wind Farms Come With a Catch: Coal Plants

‘To safeguard against blackouts when conditions are too calm, officials have turned to coal-fired power as a backup. ... More coal is being burned in existing plants, and new thermal capacity is being built to cover this shortfall in renewable energy. ... Officials want enough new coal-fired capacity in reserve so that they can meet demand whenever the wind doesn't blow’

China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined

‘Coal consumption in China grew more than 9% in 2011, continuing its upward trend for the 12th consecutive year, according to newly released international data. China's coal use grew by 325 million tons in 2011, accounting for 87% of the 374 million ton global increase in coal use. Of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82%). China now accounts for 47% of global coal consumption—almost as much as the entire rest of the world combined.’

As China Burns More Coal, India Needs More

‘It has now been estimated by the International Energy Agency that India may be importing as much coal as China by 2017. ... India has large reserves of coal, however, its economy is growing at a rate where domestic production is unable to meet consumer demand. India currently relies on coal-fired power plants for the majority of its electricity production. However, strict environmental regulations make it difficult to increase the output of the power plants. Importing large amounts of coal is also not always an efficient alternative, as it is difficult to pass on the costs to consumers, many of whom live on less than two U.S. dollars a day. India is thus commonly faced with power outages due to the slow supply of coal. Cities are commonly plagued with blackouts that last for hours, especially during the summer months when air-conditioning is needed. In response, India now aims to build at least 16 more power plants, referred to as ultra-mega power projects.’

Most U.S. coal exports went to European and Asian markets in 2011

‘In 2011, total annual coal exports were up 31% compared to 2010, reaching 107 million short tons, due largely to rising exports to Europe and Asia. ... In general, coal use abroad continued to grow. ... Falling domestic coal consumption (down 4.6% in 2011) along with a slight increase in U.S. coal production (0.9%) freed up more coal to export. ... Rising spot natural gas prices in Europe, up about 35% in 2011, prompted European electricity generators to use more coal.’

Coal resurgence threatens climate change targets [U.K.]

‘Coal is enjoying a renaissance, with the highest consumption of the fuel since the late 1960s. ... The controversial use of shale gas in the US, where it now makes up a quarter of electricity generation, has brought down carbon emissions there – but the greenhouse gases have simply been exported elsewhere, meaning no net gain for the planet. As gas power has replaced coal in the US, the excess coal has pushed down prices on world markets, sparking a bonanza for the high-carbon fuel. Last year, coal had its best year in more than four decades. Its global share of primary energy consumption rose from about 25%, where it has been for years, to 30% – the highest level since 1969, long before governments made any efforts to tackle climate change. ... In the UK, between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, coal consumption rose by nearly a quarter. Europe overall has burned more coal in the past year than any time since it pledged steep emissions cuts, and China and India have also been burning more. Cheap coal, caused by weakening demand in the US where power stations have switched fuels to use gas, has been the biggest factor. ... Fracking has cut the US's greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level since 1992, as power stations across the country have switched to gas from coal.’

Germany to Add Most Coal-Fired Plants in Two Decades, IWR Says

‘Germany will this year start up more coal-fired power stations than at any time in the past 20 years as the country advances a plan to exit nuclear energy by 2022.’

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