If you are wondering why I am spending so much time on this topic, its because COP 26 in Glasgow is getting very close and if ever there was a time when world leaders could change our trajectory, it's now.
Much of the following comes from Climate Change think tank E3G's report 'No New Coal.' To reiterate why this is a key theme let me quote from the introduction.
"The consumption of thermal coal for power generation accounts for around a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, making the continued operation of the existing global fleet of coal power plants the biggest single risk to keeping below the 1.5c threshold set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015. Adding new coal power plants makes no sense: when in a hole the first task is to stop digging."
By June 2021, 44 countries had committed to no new coal power plants, and had thereby avoided adding another 56% to the global fleet or 1,047 GW (That's a lot!). Another forty countries have no new plants in progress and thus could easily commit. Over two thousand of the world's scientists, the Dalai Lama and 100 Nobel laureates have urged governments at the UN General Assembly to tackle climate change and adopt the Fossil Fuel Non -Proliferation Treaty (see previous post).
News from Asia
Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has advised the UN that it will be using international offsets as part of its plan to cut emissions by 46% between 2013 and 2030. Projects currently in development in Thailand include green heating for a chicken slaughtering plant, floating and rooftop solar power projects and energy efficient lighting. However, the plan has been criticised for using carbon offsets abroad rather than Japan reducing its own emissions. Climate Institute researcher Takeshi Kuramochi said: "It is problematic that the Japanese government still expects a rather high 19% coal share in the 2030 electricity mix. Equally problematic is the 20-22% nuclear share target, which I find to be unrealistically high." Since Japan's emissions have in fact been increasing it will do little to stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5ᴼC.
On the plus side, Japanese trading company Mitsui and Co will be divesting itself of Indonesian coal plants in order to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. It‘s not all about the environment either. With renewables now cheaper to produce including their infrastructure, it also makes economic sense.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group announced their exit from coal projects in April and May 2021, as did the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
South Korea and Switzerland have also said they intend to use carbon trading to achieve their targets. Switzerland has reached an offset agreement with Peru and has other developments planned in Africa.
South Korea's $774.1 billion National Pension Service, the third largest pension fund in the world, will stop investing in coal -fired power stations at home and abroad. That's the 51st coal exit policy from a financial institution announced this year, 61% more than in 2020.
The advantage of renewables for countries without their own reserves of coal, oil or gas is that they reduce dependence on expensive imports or costly nuclear installations.
By December 2020 Vietnam's rooftop solar increased from 378 MW to 9.8 GW -equivalent to six coal fired plants in six months. This was the result of well -planned government initiatives such as generous feed -in tariffs, tax incentives and waivers of land leases. It now has the highest installed capacity of solar in Southeast Asia and has scrapped plans for 9.5 GW of coal-fired power.
Bangladesh is scrapping ten of its coal fired power plants, but will still have an estimated 17,000 MW of surplus energy by 2030 even if these are closed.
In June 2021, Malaysia announced that it wouldn’t be
proceeding with 12 coal – fired plants and will be retiring its existing fleet in the 2030s.
Sri Lanka has ruled out new coal fired power stations and wants to ramp up rooftop solar for homes as well as industry from 35% to 70%. This is not just about becoming carbon neutral and energy independent, but also because the existing coal plant pollutes the water and has negative health effects on its people.
The Philippines have put a moratorium on new coal-fired plants and had scrapped 65% of proposed developments by July 2020. It is now investing heavily in renewables.
still has some small coal generation capacity under construction, but
has cancelled 4GW of development since 2015. Thailand and Cambodia only
have one project left each.
still has over 100 coal fired projects in the pipeline but will not be
building any more coal – fired plants after 2023. It is however, having
difficulty attracting investors who fear that they will not get a return
on their investment.
Egypt’s giant 6.6GW coal fired plant - which was to have been the largest coal fired power plant on earth has now been cancelled due to fears around overcapacity.
Over the past decade, over a billion people around the world have gained access to electricity for the first time and much of this was in Africa. While some of this was achieved through the addition of new power lines, 420 million people did so through the through the installation of small solar systems, large enough to power villages, farms or single homes. According to Bloomberg, 180 million such systems have been sold worldwide. See for example Mozambique which makes it an excellent role model for rural, low income or decentralised communities.
Between 2010 and 2014, Mozambique had already supplied 3.7 million of its citizens with off -grid solar at a 6th of the cost of providing grid connected power. It now plans to provide off grid solar to the remaining 70% of its population which lives in rural areas. In that respect it looks as if it will leapfrog over older technologies burdened as they are with existing power plants and networks in the same way that Vanuatu was able to achieve much cheaper and better mobile phone coverage than Australia had, when I visited some years ago, making it an excellent model for other less developed countries.
In Sub -Saharan Africa solar kit distributor BAOBAB + has connected 200,000 mostly rural households (1.2 million people) to solar and digital services in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Madagascar over the past 5 years. It has now received a 10 million Euro grant from the Norwegian government’s investment fund for developing countries to expand into Nigeria and the DRC.
Nigeria has committed to Net Zero and begun its largest electrification project ever, with an ambitious initiative that will give 25 million Nigerians access to cheap solar power. Access to affordable energy is a big part of the government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The rollout will begin with communities who are off the national power grid and eventually cover all 36 states.
Under pressure from environmental groups, The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has withdrawn funding for a $3 billion, 2800 MW coal power project in Zimbabwe.
The ICBC has also withdrawn from a similar project in Kenya. Approval for the Kenyan project had already been refused by Kenyan authorities and by the African Development Bank.
Good news from the Middle East
Unlike most other OPEC nations which have sought to undermine the Paris Agreement with alleged secret deals with Russia and China, the United Arab Emirates stand out because they have committed to net zero by 2050, despite high per capita emissions and a strong reliance on oil. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund of $165 billion has invested heavily in renewables and its major bank, First Bank of Abu Dhabi (FAB) is joining the Net – Zero Banker’s Alliance. It has already financed over $10 billion in sustainable projects.
Ali Allawi, the deputy prime minister and finance minister of Iraq, a founding OPEC member has made an unprecedented call to fellow oil producers to move away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy, ahead of a key OPEC meeting. "Renewable energy offers the ability to build a cleaner and more efficient electricity sector."
Egypt and Jordon already have sizeable renewable programs.
Turkey has just announced tenders for 76 solar projects with a combined capacity of 1.5 GW as part of its strategy to have 15 GW of renewable energy by 2027.
Good news from Latin America
In Latin America, the rapid rollout of solar has resumed especially in Mexico, Chile and Brazil. In Brazil it has received an extra boost due to a generous net metering policy.
Under pressure from its coal industry, Brazil still has three coal fired plants in operation, but had been unable to secure contracts for its electricity since 2014. However on October 26, Portuguese Company EDPR announced that it would be building seven plants to make a solar park in Monte Verde, which together with its original plant in Sao Paulo, would increase Brazil’s capacity 10.8 GW of renewable energy. Thanks to the earlier project, Brazil has been able to avoid the emission of 12.4 million tonnes of CO2 over the last ten years.
In August Argentina announced that is building its first solar park (3GW) and it has held its first auction for 1000 MW of renewable energy.
By the 27th of October, Columbia had awarded 11 solar PV contracts which would generate 2.8 GW by the end of 2022 and create 4, 800 jobs. Once Columbia, Brazil and Mexico close their last coal fired plants, there will be no more in the whole of the Americas. Columbia currently still has two and Mexico has one.
As you can see, things are literally changing every day and
this post could go on forever. However, I want to move on to Transport and
the uptake of Electric Vehicles, so I
shall leave it at that for now, but it should give you an idea how quickly
things are moving.
As EU Commission Vice President, Franz Timmermans, warned “Whatever the cost of switching now, we will have social unrest if we allow climate change to run untackled. Populations will run out of food. The sooner Europe switches to renewables, the less we'll be exposed." However it's not just about changing to avoid the downsides. There are also advantages to be gained.
Next Up – Good news in Transport and Electric Vehicles