Arquivo da tag: Energia eólica

We’re Finally Catching a Break in the Climate Fight (The Crucial Years/Bill McKibben)

As a new Oxford paper shows, the incredibly rapid fall in the cost of renewables offers hope–but only if movements can push banks and politicians hard enough

Bill McKibben – Sep 19, 2021

This is one of the first solar panels and batteries ever installed, in the state of Georgia in 1955. At the time it was the most expensive power on earth; now it’s the cheapest, and still falling fast.

So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.

            But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.

            Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.” Short and muscular, the paper begins by pointing out that at the moment most energy technologies, from gas to solar, have converged on a price point of about $100 per megawatt hour. In the case of coal, gas, and oil, however, “after adjusting for inflation, prices now are very similar to what they were 140 years ago, and there is no obvious long-range trend.” Sun, wind, and batteries, however, have dropped exponentially at roughly ten percent a year for three decades. Solar power didn’t exist until the late 1950s; since that time it has dropped in price about three orders of magnitude.

            They note that all the forecasts over those years about how fast prices would drop were uniformly wrong, invariably underestimating by almost comic margins the drop in costs for renewable energy. This is a massive problem: “failing to appreciate cost improvement trajectories of renewables relative to fossil fuels not only leads to under-investment in critical emission reduction technologies, it also locks in higher cost energy infrastructure for decades to come.” That is, if economists don’t figure out that solar is going to get steadily cheaper, you’re going to waste big bucks building gas plants designed to last for decades. And indeed we have (and of course the cost of them is not the biggest problem; that would be the destruction of the planet.)

            Happily, the Oxford team demonstrates that there’s a much easier and more effective way to estimate future costs than the complicated calculations used in the past: basically, if you just figure out the historic rates of fall in the costs of renewable energy, you can project them forward into the future because the learning curve seems to keep on going. In their model, validated by thousands of runs using past data, by far the cheapest path for the future is a very fast transition to renewable energy: if you replace almost all fossil fuel use over the next twenty years, you save tens of trillions of dollars. (They also model the costs of using lots of nuclear power: it’s low in carbon but high in price).

            To repeat: the cost of fossil fuels is not falling; any technological learning curve for oil and gas is offset by the fact that we’ve already found the easy stuff, and now you must dig deeper. But the more solar and windpower you build, the more the price falls—because the price is only the cost of setting up the equipment, which we get better at all the time. The actual energy arrives every morning when the sun rises. This doesn’t mean it’s a miracle: you have to mine lithium and cobalt, you have to site windmills, and you have to try and do those things with as little damage as possible. But if it’s not a miracle, it’s something like a deus ex machina—and the point is that these machines are cheap.

            If we made policy with this fact in mind—if we pushed, as the new $3.5 trillion Senate bill does, for dramatic increases in renewable usage in short order, then we would not only be saving the planet, we’d be saving tons of money. That money would end up in our pockets—but it would be removed from the wallets of people who own oil wells and coal mines, which is precisely why the fossil fuel industry is working so hard to gum up the works, trying to slow down everything from electric cars to induction cooktops and using all their economic and political muscle to prolong the transition. Their economically outmoded system of energy generation can only be saved by political corruption, which sadly is the fossil fuel industry’s remaining specialty. So far the learning curve of their influence-peddling has been steep enough to keep carbon levels climbing.

            That’s why we need to pay attention to the only other piece of good news, the only other virtuous thing that’s happened faster than expected. And that’s been the growth of movements to take on the fossil fuel industry and push for change. If those keep growing—if enough of us divest and boycott and vote and march and go to jail—we may be able to push our politicians and our banks hard enough that they actually let us benefit from the remarkable fall in the price of renewable energy. Activists and engineers are often very different kinds of people—but their mostly unconscious alliance offers the only hope of even beginning to catch up with the runaway pace of global warming.

So if you’re a solar engineer working to drop the price of power ten percent a year, don’t you dare leave the lab—the rest of us will chip in to get you pizza and caffeine so you can keep on working. But if you’re not a solar engineer, then see you in the streets (perhaps at October’s ‘People vs Fossil Fuels’ demonstrations in DC). Because you’re the other half of this equation.

Wind blows away fossil power in the Nordics, the Baltics next (Reuters)

Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:13am EDT

* Rising wind power output pushes Nordic prices down

* Low power prices cut gas, coal power profitability

* Denmark, Finland seen shutting abt 2,000 MW of condensing power

* Norway mothballs 420 MW Kaarstoe gas-fired power plant

By Nerijus Adomaitis

OSLO, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Wind power is blowing gas and coal-fired turbines out of business in the Nordic countries, and the effects will be felt across the Baltic region as the renewable glut erodes utility margins for thermal power stations.

Fossil power plants in Finland and Denmark act as swing-producers, helping to meet demand when hydropower production in Norway and Sweden falls due to dry weather.

The arrival of wind power on a large scale has made this role less relevant and has pushed electricity prices down, eroding profitability of fossil power stations.

“Demand for coal condensing power in the Nordic power market has decreased as a result of the economic recession and the drop in the wholesale price for electricity,” state-controlled Finnish utility Fortum said, booking an impairment loss of about 25 million euros($31.67 million).

Nordic wholesale forward power prices have almost halved since 2010 to little over 30 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) as capacity increases while demand stalls on the back of stagnant populations, low economic growth and lower energy use due to improved efficiency.

Short-run marginal costs (SRMC) of coal generation were 28.70 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), the Nordic power regulators said, while costs of gas-fired power generation were much higher, at 53 euros/MWh in 2013.

“The Nordic system price will likely more often clear well below the production cost for coal fired power production,” said Marius Holm Rennesund Oslo-based consultancy THEMA.

“This will, in our view, result in mothballing of 2,000 MW of coal condensing capacity in Denmark and Finland towards 2030,” he added.

Adding further wind power capacity at current market conditions could lead to power prices dropping towards as low as 20 euros per MWh, the marginal cost for nuclear reactors, Rennesund said.

PART OF A PLAN

Denmark and Finland have about 11,000 MW of coal, gas and oil-fired generating capacities, Reuters estimate shows.

Pushing fossil-fuelled power stations out of the Nordic generation park is part of government plans across the region.

Denmark wants to phase all coal use in power generation by 2030 and to generate all power and heat from renewables by 2035.

Wind power is expected to meet half consumption in Denmark by 2020, up from 33.4 percent in 2013.

In neighbouring Sweden, wind meets about 8 percent of total consumption, and installed capacity has more than doubled to about 5,000 MW in 2014 from 2010. Its wind power association predicts the capacity to rise to some 7,000 MW by 2017.

In Norway, the government has pledged to change tax rules to catch up with Sweden.

These plans are beginning to bear results.

Naturkraft, a joint venture between Norway’s Statoil and Statkraft, said this month it would put its 420 megawatt (MW) Kaarstoe gas-fired power plant in “cold reserve” from January.

Mothballing the 2 billion crowns ($302 million) plant, which had operated for only a few days per year, would help to save 50-80 million crowns per year, Naturkraft’s chief executive John Terje Staveland told Reuters.

Earlier this year, Finnish utility Fortum shut its 695 MW Inkoo coal-fire power plant.

Sweden’s Vattenfall said in May it will shut down its 409 MW coal-fired Fyn power plant in Denmark from May 2016.

The state-run utility sold its 314 MW coal-fired Amager power plant in Copenhagen to a Danish utility HOFOR, which plans to replace coal with biomass.

The developments in the Nordic countries is also beginning to affect utilities in the Baltic states as their grids get more integrated.

Estonia’s energy group Eesti Energia saw its power sales to drop by 30 percent during the first half of the year after a 650 MW link to Finland came online at end-2013.

Cheaper power imports from the Nordics have halved Eesti Energia’s profit margin to 12 euros per MWh in the second quarter, the company said in its quarterly report.

Lithuania, which expects to have a 700 MW interconnection to Sweden by end-2015, has said it would shut 900 MW of gas-fired capacity by 2016 due to negative margins. (1 US dollar = 6.6199 Norwegian krone) (1 US dollar = 0.7895 euro) (Editing by Henning Gloystein and William Hardy)