The Death Of Fossil Fuels

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Bird on a Fire
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:03 am

But, with a likely downturn/recession on the horizon thanks to pandemic+brexit, a sensible government would be investing in skilling up the unemployed and building infrastructure for the future. The kind of thing Biden's talking about, for example.

Charging points, energy efficiency of buildings, more mass transport, renewable energy, etc etc. Studies suggest those would be the most efficient areas for government investment for the covid recovery on purely economic grounds.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by lpm » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:20 am

You'd think, but it appears few people want to be trained up in a job that involves going out in a white van, digging up a bit of road, pulling cables and wiring stuff up. The critical issue for the UK economy right now is shortage of nurses, lorry drivers, electricians, builders and the like.

The British indigenous people are workshy and we've got away with it for a couple of decades by importing eager workers from abroad. Britain has far too many people in pointless jobs like pouring coffee and too few in long term investment jobs.

Obviously if you increase the pay of, say, nurses you will eventually get more of them after a few years. But these sorts of skills have long lags. You can't just turn a petrol station retail worker into a charger safety tester overnight.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 1:44 pm

IRENA has released it's annual report on the cost of renewable generation.

Briefly...
  • Concentrating Solar Power dropped by 16% year on year,
  • PV dropped by 7% year on year,
  • offshore wind dropped by 9% year on year,
  • onshore wind dropped by 13% year on year,
  • globally 800GW of existing coal generation now costs more to operate than it would to build and operate brand new PV and onshore wind.
They have a nice interactive infographic.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm

bjn wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 1:44 pm
IRENA has released it's annual report on the cost of renewable generation.

Briefly...
  • Concentrating Solar Power dropped by 16% year on year,
  • PV dropped by 7% year on year,
  • offshore wind dropped by 9% year on year,
  • onshore wind dropped by 13% year on year,
  • globally 800GW of existing coal generation now costs more to operate than it would to build and operate brand new PV and onshore wind.
They have a nice interactive infographic.
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.

By a happy coincidence, coal is 46% of global CO2 emissions - pretty much the exact percentage we need to get rid of by 2030. Surely we can roll out enough renewables by then?

Zero lifestyle changes needed for any consumers, just some logistical investment to swap energy-generating technology. It's so easy.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 4:59 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
bjn wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 1:44 pm
IRENA has released it's annual report on the cost of renewable generation.

Briefly...
  • Concentrating Solar Power dropped by 16% year on year,
  • PV dropped by 7% year on year,
  • offshore wind dropped by 9% year on year,
  • onshore wind dropped by 13% year on year,
  • globally 800GW of existing coal generation now costs more to operate than it would to build and operate brand new PV and onshore wind.
They have a nice interactive infographic.
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.

By a happy coincidence, coal is 46% of global CO2 emissions - pretty much the exact percentage we need to get rid of by 2030. Surely we can roll out enough renewables by then?

Zero lifestyle changes needed for any consumers, just some logistical investment to swap energy-generating technology. It's so easy.
Now that the economics are in renewables' favour, and continuing to improve, there isn't a substantive argument to be had anymore. The money people won't invest in coal unless subsidised to, that is what is going to kill it.

Yes, renewables aren't dispatchable, yes we need something else to handle long periods of intermittency. But we don't need to do that right now, what we need to do right now is get as much out there as quickly possible to kill coal deader than a dead thing that has been dead for a very long time.

To that end, that same report is very up beat about hydrogen in the near term in specific (ie: very sunny) markets, with it becoming more than cost competitive with H2 from steam reformed methane. Something to squirrel away spare electrons

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by monkey » Tue Aug 10, 2021 6:05 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
But would the change come quick enough? The power round my way is generated and supplied by a profit making monopoly*. They invested in very large fossil fuel plants** and the oldest probably has a couple of decades of life left. The behavior of this company (anti renewable, lobbying for the coal industry, etc.) seems consistent with not wanting to make *any* new investment until they have to. I think they would build wind farms or whatever if they thought it would make them money, but they want to squeeze every cent out of what they already have first and replacing the coal early does not do that.

You're going to need the Feds to force them to close those plants early - either by environmental regulation, or making burning coal cost its true price***




*One thing I've learnt living here is that you know when a monopoly has been Up To No Good And Got Caught Doing It because you start seeing their adverts on TV.

**Including the US's biggest CO2 emitter.

***Which is more than what it costs to dig it out of the ground and transport it.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 10, 2021 7:39 pm

monkey wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 6:05 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
But would the change come quick enough? The power round my way is generated and supplied by a profit making monopoly*. They invested in very large fossil fuel plants** and the oldest probably has a couple of decades of life left. The behavior of this company (anti renewable, lobbying for the coal industry, etc.) seems consistent with not wanting to make *any* new investment until they have to. I think they would build wind farms or whatever if they thought it would make them money, but they want to squeeze every cent out of what they already have first and replacing the coal early does not do that.
The point above is that you can make more money by building wind turbines and selling the power than you do by squeezing every cent out of coal plants you are already operating.

If you really want to squeeze every cent out of your existing coal plant, you stop buying coal, spend the money you'd have use to buy coal to build wind turbines and solar while you burn what coal you have in stock/already committed to buy, and then shut the plant down and sell it for scrap, even if it's not at it's expected lifetime yet. Oh, and strip down the owning organization at the correct rate so that decontaminating the site is on someone else.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:09 pm

Renewables are still more expensive than operating coal in some markets. The report states that ‘only’ 61% of coal fired generation is more expensive than renewables in the USA. So there are still chunks of the world that aren’t there yet, monkey may live in one of those spots.

Also, it takes effort and it is a financial risk to invest money into new generation, something may go wrong. It is easier to lobby to keep squeezing your assets for just that little bit longer.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bolo » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:14 pm

Most U.S. power companies are heavily regulated by state utility commissions, so how they can make the most money is not necessarily determined by mundane considerations like economics and engineering.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:17 pm

bolo wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:14 pm
Most U.S. power companies are heavily regulated by state utility commissions, so how they can make the most money is not necessarily determined by mundane considerations like economics and engineering.
Except Texas. They don’t believe me all that communist stuff like not letting your citizens freeze to death by regulating your electricity providers.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by monkey » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:29 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 7:39 pm
monkey wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 6:05 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
But would the change come quick enough? The power round my way is generated and supplied by a profit making monopoly*. They invested in very large fossil fuel plants** and the oldest probably has a couple of decades of life left. The behavior of this company (anti renewable, lobbying for the coal industry, etc.) seems consistent with not wanting to make *any* new investment until they have to. I think they would build wind farms or whatever if they thought it would make them money, but they want to squeeze every cent out of what they already have first and replacing the coal early does not do that.
The point above is that you can make more money by building wind turbines and selling the power than you do by squeezing every cent out of coal plants you are already operating.

If you really want to squeeze every cent out of your existing coal plant, you stop buying coal, spend the money you'd have use to buy coal to build wind turbines and solar while you burn what coal you have in stock/already committed to buy, and then shut the plant down and sell it for scrap, even if it's not at it's expected lifetime yet. Oh, and strip down the owning organization at the correct rate so that decontaminating the site is on someone else.
Future money is worth less than present money.

You need up front captital to build the wind farm. Even if you are building the wind farm on a loan, you don't start getting money to pay that off until it is built and working. So you have to eat into your current profits, either because you are reinvesting them, paying off the loan, or both. The company has the choice of profits now, or profits later. They are choosing profits now, even if the future profits might be larger, and it is a very low risk option for them*.

And Bird might still be right that there is no excuse for this, but because of how corrupt politics is round here, no one is asking them to make one.


*Monopoly remember, you can't even put solar panels on your house round here without paying the power company, let alone have anyone compete with them on large scale generation.
Last edited by monkey on Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by monkey » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:30 pm

bolo wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:14 pm
Most U.S. power companies are heavily regulated by state utility commissions, so how they can make the most money is not necessarily determined by mundane considerations like economics and engineering.
Especially if the company basically buys their way onto the commission.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by IvanV » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:49 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
When I started reading your second sentence, I thought you were going to talk about coal-dependent communities in the sense of Poland. Coal-dependent in the sense that so much of their electricity comes from coal, they can't just close it all down in a hurry and replace it with wind and solar. Because coal is the only thing they've got when the wind isn't blowing and sun isn't shining. They never built a material gas-powered sector, nor any nuclear power stations. And their big neighbour to the west got themselves in a fairly similar, if less extreme, pickle by thinking that environmental exigence was more about closing down nuclear than coal. So they can't even rely on the neighbours of a calm dark evening.

But no, you were talking about the miners. Silly me.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:52 pm

bjn wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:09 pm
Renewables are still more expensive than operating coal in some markets. The report states that ‘only’ 61% of coal fired generation is more expensive than renewables in the USA. So there are still chunks of the world that aren’t there yet, monkey may live in one of those spots.

Also, it takes effort and it is a financial risk to invest money into new generation, something may go wrong. It is easier to lobby to keep squeezing your assets for just that little bit longer.
The question then is how many more years of reductions like those currently seen does it take until squeezing doesn't seem like a good idea any more (and as the decommissioning costs get closer in time).

There's also the economic issue that renewables need different kinds of investments. Wind needs access to land (although not exclusive use of it - lots of Texas wind shares land with oil fields and grazing or cotton), solar occupies land. I believe that monkey is somewhere where land is less expensive than much of the US (certainly compared to Massachusetts).

One economic advantage renewables have is that build out is more amenable to gradual build-out - instead of building one large thing that has to be completed before you get power out, a wind farm or solar farm starts producing early and gradually.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:07 pm

Cost of finance is one of the major factors that people often overlook in these discussions. One of the reasons nukes are so expensive is that you’ve got to pay back not only the multiple billions you’ve invested in making the thing (“overnight cost”), but also 10+ years worth of interest payments as well, where you’ve sold a single kWh. As you say, incremental roll outs help with that, on top of being faster to build in the first place.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:30 pm

Governments should be lending the money at, or below, cost. Public-private partnership ftw. Given the urgent need to roll out this tech it seems silly to rely on teh free meerkat to eventually sort itself out.

Plus taxing coal etc to fully cover the externalities of pollution and climate change, of course.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:32 pm

IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:49 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
When I started reading your second sentence, I thought you were going to talk about coal-dependent communities in the sense of Poland. Coal-dependent in the sense that so much of their electricity comes from coal, they can't just close it all down in a hurry and replace it with wind and solar. Because coal is the only thing they've got when the wind isn't blowing and sun isn't shining. They never built a material gas-powered sector, nor any nuclear power stations. And their big neighbour to the west got themselves in a fairly similar, if less extreme, pickle by thinking that environmental exigence was more about closing down nuclear than coal. So they can't even rely on the neighbours of a calm dark evening.

But no, you were talking about the miners. Silly me.
Yes, unusual edge cases like Poland would need a bunch of batteries and/or international interconnectors before they could fully shut down all coal. No time like the present to get started, though.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:32 pm

IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 8:49 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
This is excellent news - it ought to be a no-brainer for all governments to be planning to shut down coal plants as fast as they can build renewables. They'll need to do something for coal-dependent communities, of course - reskilling and/or compensating workers - but there's no longer any technological or economic argument for not shutting down coal immediately.
When I started reading your second sentence, I thought you were going to talk about coal-dependent communities in the sense of Poland. Coal-dependent in the sense that so much of their electricity comes from coal, they can't just close it all down in a hurry and replace it with wind and solar. Because coal is the only thing they've got when the wind isn't blowing and sun isn't shining. They never built a material gas-powered sector, nor any nuclear power stations. And their big neighbour to the west got themselves in a fairly similar, if less extreme, pickle by thinking that environmental exigence was more about closing down nuclear than coal. So they can't even rely on the neighbours of a calm dark evening.

But no, you were talking about the miners. Silly me.
Most people in the world aren’t in Poland, but live well to the south of it and have much better year round insolation. Poland may be harder to decarbonise than India and similar places, but those other countries have way more people and better solar potential which is rapidly being exploited. 45GW of planned coal power generation was cancelled in 2020 across south east asia. Significantly because investors have started to starve the projects of capital because they fear that coal plants will shortly become worthless stranded assets. Stop worrying about the hard cases, there is plenty of low hanging fruit to be got at first.
Last edited by bjn on Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:39 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:30 pm
Governments should be lending the money at, or below, cost. Public-private partnership ftw. Given the urgent need to roll out this tech it seems silly to rely on teh free meerkat to eventually sort itself out.

Plus taxing coal etc to fully cover the externalities of pollution and climate change, of course.
They have effectively been doing that via a range of renewables subsidies in the past. The great thing is that even without subsidies renewables are now the economically sane choice for the bulk of generation. That gets the capitalist machine interested and it all takes on an accelerating momentum of its own. Any subsidy should now go to the harder problems, such as longer term storage and efficient long distance interconnects.

Also PPP are horribly inefficient ways to fund things (the government is effectively borrowing money at commercial rates, which is insane).

And yes, all externalities should be taxed to f.ck and back again.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 10, 2021 11:54 pm

Economically sane yes, but as noted upthread the fossil industry is held on life support by (economically insane) political corruption. Something is needed to get over the additional hump.

Given that it's mostly post-truth populists pushing them (generally right-wingers, but Mexico's AMLO is an interesting leftist counter-example), being factually accurate doesn't matter. Something has to dramatically shift the power balance, and cheap credit might be a way to do it. Interested in hearing why not, and other suggestions though.
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Aug 11, 2021 1:51 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
By a happy coincidence, coal is 46% of global CO2 emissions - pretty much the exact percentage we need to get rid of by 2030. Surely we can roll out enough renewables by then?
So we can forget about switching vehicles from petrol/diesel, insulating buildings, switching to heat pumps etc if we just get rid of coal? Surely not!!
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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Wed Aug 11, 2021 6:29 am

:ugeek:
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Aug 11, 2021 1:51 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:02 pm
By a happy coincidence, coal is 46% of global CO2 emissions - pretty much the exact percentage we need to get rid of by 2030. Surely we can roll out enough renewables by then?
So we can forget about switching vehicles from petrol/diesel, insulating buildings, switching to heat pumps etc if we just get rid of coal? Surely not!!
Who the f.ck said any of that? Avoiding usage is the best way to reduce emissions, which is why it’s one of the cornerstones of the EU’s green beans plan is to drastically improve energy efficiency.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by bjn » Wed Aug 11, 2021 6:46 am

I have no idea how autocorrect turned “green recovery” into “green beans”.

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by jimbob » Wed Aug 11, 2021 7:44 am

lpm wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 9:58 am
Martin Y wrote:
Tue Aug 10, 2021 9:48 am
Solving the charger problem by flooding the country with chargers will also solve unemployment by creating an army of people manufacturing, installing, regularly safety testing and repairing a hundred million chargers.
The UK has got a major problem here because there isn't any unemployment in this arena. There's a shortage of people with the interest/aptitude in building out this network.

Mainly because there's simultaneously a rollout of fibre cable networks that's a similar skill - BT etc are being significantly slowed by recruitment/training problems. And there's other major electrical projects like Crossrail. Smart meter rollout, which is linked to home charger rollout. New housing, especially London.

And we expelled loads of eastern European hard workers in this sector.
I assumed that Martin Y was ironically pointing that out
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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Re: The Death Of Fossil Fuels

Post by lpm » Wed Aug 11, 2021 8:23 am

In the early 80s the National Front made the argument that Britain had 3 million black people (not the word they actually used) and 3 million unemployed. Therefore we would solve unemployment by sending them "back where they came from".

Nonsense economics of course.

I never expected Britain to actually try it. But it's nice to see we're proving it is indeed nonsense economics.
What ever happened to that Trump guy, you know, the one who was president for a bit?

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