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Fossil Fuels May Not Dwindle Anytime Soon

The U. S. Energy Information Administration foresees continued dominance for coal, gas and oil

Based on its latest projections, EIA said global carbon dioxide emissions from energy activities will rise from 36 billion metric tons in 2012, the baseline year used for the 2016 outlook, to 43 billion metric tons in 2040.

Rapid economic growth in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and other emerging countries will drive global energy consumption to nearly double by 2040, according to new projections released yesterday by the Department of Energy.

But the associated rise in carbon emissions will not keep pace with overall energy consumption, thanks to a shifting global energy portfolio that relies less on coal for power generation and more on natural gas and renewable energy resources, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its 2016 International Energy Outlook.

Based on its latest projections, EIA said global carbon dioxide emissions from energy activities will rise from 36 billion metric tons in 2012, the baseline year used for the 2016 outlook, to 43 billion metric tons in 2040.
That’s a 34 percent increase in energy-related CO2, compared to a 48 percent increase in overall energy consumption from 2010 to 2040, when EIA says the world will consume a record 815 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy.

But some critics of EIA’s methodology say the projections on global energy use and CO2 emissions failed to adequately account for major international policy initiatives, including last year’s pledge by nearly 190 U.N.-member countries to make sharp reductions in energy-sector greenhouse gas emissions.

In a public rollout of the data at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said that the agency used more sophisticated modeling tools for the 2016 report than previously available, especially in the transportation sector, and that the world’s demand for fossil fuels will continue to grow.

“Even in the aftermath of Paris, I think that our numbers suggest that growth and need for petroleum in transportation and industry is still going to be pretty strong,” he said. “Those numbers could come down over time, but it’s still really hard to compete with the energy density that’s in oil.”

Don’t count out fossil fuels

Among other things, the new report portends continued rising demand for natural gas, along with sustained growth in wind, solar and nuclear energy production. Renewables, led by wind and hydro power, are projected to be the fastest-growing energy resource over the next two decades, according to EIA, expanding by 2.6 percent annually through 2040.

Nuclear will also see solid growth, at 2.3 percent annually, underscored by China’s commitment to add 139 gigawatts of nuclear capacity to its grid by 2040. Natural gas, long the No. 3 source of global energy behind oil and coal, will by 2030 become the world’s No. 2 resource as coal consumption plateaus with the onset of new international carbon regulations.

Consumption of oil and other forms of liquid petroleum will fall modestly over the next 24 years, from 33 percent of total marketed energy consumption in 2012 to 30 percent in 2040. Oil will continue to be a primary fuel for the transport sector, as well as a key fuel for industrial uses in emerging countries.

But experts cautioned against the idea that fossil fuels will become 20th-century energy anachronisms by the middle of the 21st century. In fact, fossil fuels will still account for 78 percent of global energy use in 2040, even as the growth in non-fossil fuels exceeds that of oil, coal and gas.

“Abundant natural gas resources and robust production—including rising supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane—contribute to the strong competitive position of natural gas,” EIA said in the outlook.
While considerably diminished from a decade ago, coal-fired power generation is expected to grow by 0.6 percent annually over the coming years and will account for between 28 and 29 percent of global power generation by 2040, compared to 40 percent in 2012.

Natural gas and renewables, including hydropower, are also expected to claim between 28 and 29 percent of total global power generation by 2040, with the remainder coming from existing and new nuclear plants.
“This is going to happen in many places around the world, and it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a significant amount,” Sieminski told energy policy experts and journalists gathered at CSIS’s granite-and-glass headquarters on Rhode Island Avenue.

In one of the first high-level analyses of how U.S. carbon regulation will affect global energy markets, EIA projects that U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan would further shave coal consumption by roughly 1 percent after 2020 while driving a comparable increase in renewable energy deployment.

“It changes the global numbers a little bit, it changes the U.S. numbers more, and it particularly changes coal in the U.S. by more,” Sieminski said. “You can see coal plateauing.”

Critics slam projections

Among the world’s three largest coal users—the United States, China and India—only India is projected to see an overall increase in coal consumption by 2040. China is expected to begin reducing its use of coal after 2025, while the United States is already seeing a downward trajectory in coal use, one that could grow steeper if the Clean Power Plan is upheld in court.

While U.S. markets and policy will continue to be critical benchmarks for global energy, the United States will not be among the fastest-growing energy markets going forward, EIA found.

In fact, by 2040, nearly two-thirds of all of the world’s energy use will be in developing countries outside the 34-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Among non-OECD members, Asian countries like China, India and Indonesia will account for 55 percent of all new energy use through 2040, the analysis found.

Increasing oil and liquid fuels consumption for industry and transportation will be particularly strong in countries like China and India, Sieminski said, where rising incomes and a proliferation of privately owned cars and trucks has led to significant increases in vehicles miles traveled (VMT).

But critics like David Turnbull of the climate-focused nonprofit group Oil Change International said EIA should have given stronger consideration to shifting national and international climate policies, especially over the last several years.

“We all know that we’re moving in a different direction now,” Turnbull said. “The Paris Agreement was a clear indication that the fossil fuel era was ending. To make a projection that ignores some of these major shifts in public opinion, in energy markets, in renewable energy policy, is leaving out a big piece of the picture.”

A spokesman for EIA stressed in an email that the agency did not ignore the Paris accord or other international agreements in its analysis.

In fact, the report makes clear that EIA “has tried to incorporate some of the specific details,” such as renewable energy goals put forward in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, in its 2016 IEO reference case. “However, a great deal of uncertainty remains with regard to the implementation of policies to meet stated goals.”

In his comments at CSIS, Sieminski acknowledged that long-term projections like those in the IEO are imperfect and that policy and technology changes can lead to radically different outcomes than the best analysis can predict.

“There’s probably a lot of flex in these numbers,” Sieminski said. “Does that mean that we are wasting taxpayer dollars doing it? The answer is no. It’s hugely valuable to policymakers, it’s hugely valuable to the public.”

Widening scandal over vehicle emissions threatens climate accord

Governments are counting on regulatory action and voluntary pledges by companies to meet climate targets. The scandals and shortcomings involving carmakers show the pitfalls of the strategy.

Goals set by governments that signed the Paris climate change agreement last month were based on figures determined to be attainable. A widening scandal involving carmakers that cheated on testing to make their vehicles appear more environmentally friendly than they actually were could weaken the accord or even make it meaningless.

About one-fifth of greenhouse gases causing global temperatures to rise come from emissions related to the transport sector. Confidence and trust have been shaken, which is reason for increased oversight and research into better mobility solutions.

Millions of cars, most of them diesel, are likely to be recalled for buybacks or repairs.

Volkswagen in the US and Mitsubishi in Japan have so far been the biggest casualties, but investigations are now also under way in Europe into diesel vehicles manufactured by Daimler, GM and PSA Peugeot Citroen. About 630,000 cars made by Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Porsche and VW are voluntarily being recalled to tweak software involved in emissions of nitrogen oxide. There is good reason to suspect that petroldriven vehicles that produce carbon dioxide gases, the main cause of global warming, will be next.

VW has been the face of the scandal, its admission last September after US investigations that it had installed software in 11 million diesel cars worldwide to deceive environmental regulators causing outrage. It has set aside US$18.2 billion to deal with the fallout and its share price has plummeted. Mitsubishi Motors’ stock value has also plunged, hit by last month’s revelation that the firm falsified test results to overstate the fuel efficiency of 625,000 vehicles produced for the Japanese market by between five and 10 per cent. What that means for emissions in Japan is unclear, but the US Environmental Protection Agency is more certain about the impact of VW’s cheating; it contends the firm’s diesel cars were emitting up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide than they were supposed to. In Europe, carmakers deny wrongdoing, although a British study has found 37 models, while meeting legal limits in the laboratory, exceed levels by up to 12 times when on the road.

Governments are counting on regulatory action and voluntary pledges by companies to meet climate targets. The scandals and shortcomings involving carmakers show the pitfalls of the strategy. Watchdogs have a crucial role in keeping authorities and firms on track. Encouraging the development of better technologies and more sustainable transport systems is as important.

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insightopinion/article/1942170/widening-scandal-over-vehicle-emissions-threatens-climate

Stricter air pollution rules for machinery agreed

Emissions from non-road mobile machinery are a significant source of air pollution, especially nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The non-road mobile machinery (NRMM) directive – which dates back to 1997, but has been amended and extended several times since then – regulates emissions of the major air pollutants from diesel and petrol engines in a wide variety of off-road applications, including bulldozers, trains, chainsaws, larger inland ships and many other forms of machinery.

Despite the emission limits set by the NRMM directive, emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particle matter (PM) pollutants from this sector are still high and have grown in relative terms. This is explained by the steep increase in the number of non-road machines put into service and by the fact that the emission limits set for NRMM are less strict compared to those mandated for similar engines used by road vehicles.

In 2010, the NRMM sector was responsible for around 15 per cent of the total NOx emissions and 5 per cent of the total PM emissions in the EU. While the PM share is expected to decrease, the NOx share is expected to increase to nearly 20 per cent in 2020.

Against this background, in September 2014 the Commission proposed a new regulation to strengthen the emissions standards. According to the Commission’s impact assessment, the stricter standards would bring benefits of between €26.1 and 33.3 billion by 2040, while the costs would be in the range of €5.2 to 5.8 billion in the same time period.

Negotiations between the EU’s decisionmaking institutions resulted on 6 April in a deal on new pollution limits and an implementation timetable that is largely in line with the Commission’s original proposal. The main exception is a weaker emission limit for NOx from barges.

The new harmonised type-approval conditions, including emission limit values, for new engines installed in non-road mobile machinery will start to apply gradually from 2018 up to 2020 depending on the category of the engine.

Added to the agreement is the possibility of retrofit requirements for existing engines to reduce their emissions. The Commission is tasked to assess the possibility of establishing EU-wide rules in this regard by 31 December 2018.

Moreover, a review to establish whether further emissions reductions are needed is to take place by 31 December 2020, with a particular focus on barges and trains.

Environmental groups criticised the weaker rules for barges and the fact that no particle number (PN) limit had been adopted for diesel locomotives.

Julia Poliscanova, air pollution manager at Transport and Environment (T&E), said: “More diesel machines will now be required to clean up their act with diesel particulate filters. But diesel trains and inland barges shouldn’t be allowed to belch toxic fumes while the technology to clean up the emissions is available and routinely fitted to modern trucks.

Moving more goods and people by rail and water shouldn’t result in a trade off for higher air pollution.”

Regarding the possible retrofitting of existing diesel off-road machinery, Julia Poliscanova said: “The Commission should present an ambitious proposal to clean up existing trains, barges and construction machinery, which will continue to be used for decades.”

Diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and diesel machines are a major local source of urban air pollution near some railway stations and construction sites. Every year air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths and over 100 million sick days, costing society hundreds of billions of euro.

Before being finally adopted, the first-reading agreement will have to be confirmed by the Parliament and the Council, in accordance with the EU’s ordinary legislative procedure.

Christer Ågren

Sources: Council press release 168/16, 6 April, and T&E press release, 7 April 2016.

World’s first waste incinerator with carbon-capture tech

http://eandt.theiet.org/news/2016/jan/carbon-capture-waste-incinerator.cfm

Carbon-capture technology has been deployed for the first time as part of a waste incinerator in Norway’s capital Oslo.

The experiment at the Klemetsrud incinerator will remove climate-warming carbon dioxide from fumes created by burning industrial and household waste. If successful, the technology could represent a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions if deployed on a larger scale.

“I hope Oslo can show other cities that it’s possible,” said the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, at an opening ceremony.

So far, carbon capture and storage technology has been experimented with in some fossil-fuel-fired power plants, but development has been hindered by high cost.

The Klemetsrud waste-to-energy incinerator, which generates heat to warm buildings in the city, produces 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – about 0.6 per cent of Norway’s man-made emissions.

The experimental carbon capture and storage removal system consists of five containers with a series of pipes and filters through which the exhaust gas is fed. It captures carbon dioxide at a rate of about 2,000 tonnes a year.

The experiment will run until the end of April. If the results are positive, a full-scale system could be built by 2020. Operators of the system say the carbon dioxide captured could be shipped to the North Sea and used for enhanced oil and gas recovery.

“We see potential in this market across the world,” said Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business, which runs the test.

The operators have admitted that at the current price of carbon credits, the technology is nowhere near cost-effective. However, they claim that as the incinerator burns largely organic waste from food and wood, it actually removes CO2 from the natural cycle and not only that industrially produced.

“It won’t be possible to achieve goals set in the Paris agreement without wide use of negative emissions,” said Frederic Hauge, head of environmental group Bellona.

Development of new technologies capable of offsetting the devastating effects of rising temperatures globally was also in the heart of the UN climate talks in Paris in December.

Earlier this week, climate scientists confirmed that 2015 was by far the warmest year on record – another extremely hot year in a string that started at the beginning of the 21st century. There is no doubt, the scientists said, that the situation is getting worse and is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite its potential, carbon capture and storage is still on the fringe. A 2015 report by the Australia-based Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute said there are just 15 big CCS projects in operation worldwide, including a coal-fired power plant run by Canada’s Saskatchewan Power.

China’s long-awaited C02 market to cover 10,000 firms

Nationwide system on course to be the world’s biggest when it launches in 2017, official says

China’s long-awaited nationwide carbon market will cover as many as 10,000 firms and regulate nearly half of the country’s total emissions once launched in 2017, a senior official said on the sidelines of the Paris climate talks yesterday.

Jiang Zhaoli, vice-head of the climate office of the state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, said China’s carbon market would become the world’s biggest, and its targets would be higher than those set by the state “in order to guarantee it had sufficient effect”.

“When the market begins in 2017 it will already have almost 10,000 firms,” Jiang said. “After 2020, the size will be bigger and will involve more enterprises.”

The market would cover 31 provinces, six industrial sectors and 15 sub-industries, and would involve 4 billion tonnes of annual carbon emissions at its launch, amounting to almost half of the country’s total, he said.

President Xi Jinping pledged during his visit to the United States in September that China would roll out a nationwide carbon trading scheme by 2017, building on the seven regional pilot markets first introduced in 2013.

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Jiang’s comments suggest the market will begin more ambitiously than expected.

Previous estimates from market designers suggested it would regulate 3-4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by the end of its first phase in 2020.

While China has included the promotion of “market mechanisms” in its pledges to combat climate change, they remain controversial and were unlikely to be included in a final agreement in Paris, said Su Wei, China’s top climate negotiator, at a briefing in Paris on Saturday.

As far as market mechanisms are concerned, we think the market could play a very important role in achieving actions to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change

Su Wei, China’s top climate negotiator

“As far as market mechanisms are concerned, we think the market could play a very important role in achieving actions to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change,” he said.

“But as to whether there is going to be inclusion in the text of the Paris agreement, we think that that is not the priority,” Su said.

“There are a lot of different views about whether we should rely more on non-market mechanisms … and I don’t think that sort of difference should stand in the way of having a successful outcome in the Paris [climate] negotiations.”

China’s central government pledged last year to peak carbon output by around 2030, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and offer help to poor countries adapting to the impact of global warming.

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1888831/chinas-long-awaited-c02-market-cover-10000-firms

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

In less than 10 years the country has slashed its carbon footprint and lowered electricity costs, without government subsidies. Delegates at the Paris summit can learn much from its success

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/03/uruguay-makes-dramatic-shift-to-nearly-95-clean-energy

As the world gathers in Paris for the daunting task of switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, one small country on the other side of the Atlantic is making that transition look childishly simple and affordable.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez.

In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

Despite its relatively small population of just 3.4 million, Uruguay has earned a remarkable amount of global kudos in recent years. It enacted groundbreaking marijuana legalisation, pioneered stringent tobacco control, and introduced some of the most liberal policies in Latin America on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Now, it is being recognised for progress on decarbonising its economy. It has been praised by the World Bank and the Economic commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the WWF last year named Uruguay among its “Green Energy Leaders”, proclaiming: “The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.”

Cementing that reputation, Méndez – formerly the country’s national director of energy – has gone to this week’s UN talks with one of the world’s most ambitious national pledges: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 compared with the average for 2009-13.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, he says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

As a result, energy investment – mostly for renewables, but also liquid gas – in Uruguay over the past five years has surged to $7bn, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP. That is five times the average in Latin America and three times the global share recommended by climate economist Nicholas Stern.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

The effects are apparent on Route 5 from Montevideo to the north. In less than 200 miles, you pass three agroindustrial plants running on biofuel and three windfarms. The biggest of them is the 115MW Peralta plant built and run by the German company, Enercon.

Its huge turbines – each 108 metres tall – tower over grasslands full of cattle and rhea birds.

Along with reliable wind – at an average of about 8mph – the main attraction for foreign investors like Enercon is a fixed price for 20 years that is guaranteed by the state utility. Because maintenance costs are low (just 10 staff) and stable, this guarantees a profit.

As a result, foreign firms are lining up to secure windfarm contracts. The competition is pushing down bids, cutting electricity generating costs by more than 30% over the past three years. Christian Schaefer, supervising technician at Enercon said his company was hoping to expand and another German company Nordex is already building an even bigger plant further north along route five. Trucks carrying turbines, towers and blades are now a common sight on the country’s roads.

Compared to most other small countries with high proportions of renewables, the mix is diverse. While Paraguay, Bhutan and Lesotho rely almost solely on hydro and Iceland on geothermal, Uruguay has a spread that makes it more resilient to changes in the climate.

Windfarms such as Peralta now feed into hydropower plants so that dams can maintain their reservoirs longer after rainy seasons. According to Méndez, this has reduced vulnerability to drought by 70% – no small benefit considering a dry year used to cost the country nearly 2% of GDP.

This is not the only benefit for the economy. “For three years we haven’t imported a single kilowatt hour,” Méndez says. “We used to be reliant on electricity imports from Argentina, but now we export to them. Last summer, we sold a third of our power generation to them.”

There is still a lot to do. The transport sector still depends on oil (which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix). But industry – mostly agricultural processing – is now powered predominantly by biomass cogeneration plants.

Méndez attributed Uruguay’s success to three key factors: credibility (a stable democracy that has never defaulted on its debts so it is attractive for long-term investments); helpful natural conditions (good wind, decent solar radiation and lots of biomass from agriculture); and strong public companies (which are a reliable partner for private firms and can work with the state to create an attractive operating environment).

While not every country in the world can replicate this model, he said Uruguay had proved that renewables can reduce generation costs, can meet well over 90% of electricity demand without the back-up of coal or nuclear power plants, and the public and private sectors can work together effectively in this field.

But, perhaps, the biggest lesson that Uruguay can provide to the delegates in Paris is the importance of strong decision-making. As has been the case at countless UN climate conferences, Uruguay was once paralysed by a seemingly endless and rancorous debate about energy policy.

All that changed when the government finally agreed on a long-term plan that drew cross-party support.

“We had to go through a crisis to reach this point. We spent 15 years in a bad place,” Méndez said. “But in 2008, we launched a long-term energy policy that covered everything … Finally we had clarity.”

That new direction made possible the rapid transition that is now reaping rewards.

Small nations, renewable giants

Uruguay gets 94.5% of its electricity from renewables. In addition to old hydropower plants, a hefty investment in wind, biomass and solar in recent years has raised the share of these sources in the total energy mix to 55%, compared with a global average of 12%, and about 20% in Europe.

Costa Rica went a record 94 consecutive days earlier this year without using fossil fuel for electricity, thanks to a mix of about 78% hydropower, 12% geothermal and 10% wind. The government has set a target of 100% renewable energy by 2021. But transport remains dirty.

Iceland has the advantage of being a nation of volcanoes, which has allowed it to tap geothermal sources of 85% of its heating and – with the assistance of hydropower – 100% of its electricity. This has made it the world’s largest green energy producer per capita.

Paraguay has one huge hydropower dam at Itaipu, which supplies 90% of the country’s electricity.

Lesotho gets 100% of its electricity from a cascade of dams that have enough spare capacity to export power to South Africa.

Bhutan’s abundant hydropower resources generate a surplus of electricity that accounts for more than 40% of the country’s export earnings. But over-reliance on one source can be a problem. In the dry season, it has to import power from India.

• This article was amended on 4 December 2015. An earlier version described Ramón Méndez as Uruguay’s national director of energy; he was formerly, but Olga Otegui now holds that post.

As Paris climate conference nears, Hong Kong’s environment chief confident on emissions blueprint

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1881874/paris-climate-conference-nears-hong-kongs

As global conference in Paris approaches, Wong Kam-sing points to city’s blueprint for reaching peak emissions by around 2020

Hong Kong may not be directly involved with state-to-state climate negotiations but Wong Kam-sing, the environment secretary, is heading into next month’s United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris with a degree of confidence.

He said Hong Kong’s total emissions will peak around 2020, when a shake-up in how the city gets its electric power is slated for completion and a cluster of coal-fired plants are retired to make way for relatively cleaner gas-fired ones – roughly a decade earlier than the mainland’s pledge to peak emissions around 2030.

By “around 2020″, Hong Kong will be on track to reduce its carbon intensity – emissions per unit of GDP – by 50 to 60 per cent and energy intensity by up to 40 per cent. By that year, it will have already met its 2010 target of reducing total emissions by 19 to 33 per cent from 2005 levels, he said.

“The road forward is clear but we won’t see immediate reductions daily or even annually. It’s not necessary,” Wong said. “We are nearing peak emissions. It will happen when the coal-fired power plants are retired and when we are using cleaner fuel for electricity generation.”

He was quick to list a basket of measures under his energy-saving blueprint that would help achieve the intensity targets, including cutting energy use in government buildings further and tightening the buildings energy code.

“By 2025, this [tightened code] will help Hong Kong save 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 3.5 million tonnes of carbon,” he said.

But the latest government data showed that the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions have been rising since 2000, amounting to some 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2012. More than two-thirds of it still comes from electricity generation.

The first coal-fired plant to have been built since the 1980s will be retired only in 2017 and the rest are scheduled to be completely retired by the early 2030s.

Hanging in the balance will also be negotiations with the city’s two power companies on the electricity-supply regulatory framework after 2018.

Wong will brief the legislature’s development panel on the latest results of the public consultation on the future electricity market today and will discuss market readiness and future changes to the regulatory regime with the two suppliers before January.

Greenpeace had calculated that under a “business as usual” approach”, only 31 per cent of emissions could be cut in the next two decades.

It called on the government to stop nuclear imports when the contract with the Daya Bay nuclear plant comes to an end in 2034 and to boost renewables in the fuel mix.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Frances Yeung Hoi-shan said the government needed more aggressive schemes to cut emissions given the city’s high per capita annual generation.

Cheung Chi-wah, WWF Hong Kong’s senior head for climate, said the government urgently needed a climate plan that would go beyond 2020.

Wong said the government would keep an “open attitude” on the nuclear question post-2034, but any post-2020 climate and energy policy would need further discussion.

“Our current targets only go up to 2020. As to how we can set longer-term goals, we will have to come back to Hong Kong [from Paris] and discuss this with the community on how we can undertake this process.”

EPRI says with R&D, coal power can be clean without carbon capture

http://www.elp.com/articles/2015/11/epri-says-with-r-d-coal-power-can-be-clean-without-carbon-capture.html

Carbon capture with underground storage is considered by many to be the best option to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. But development and application of CCS systems face technology, policy and cost challenges.

The Electric Power Research Institute looked at several technologies available or in development that have the potential to enable power plants fueled solely by coal to reduce CO2 emissions through more efficient combustion and use of heat. The results of EPRI’s study have been published in a new white paper, Can Future Coal Power Plants Meet CO2 Emission Standards Without Carbon Capture and Storage?

EPRI’s paper analyzes current and anticipated U.S. and global CO2 emission standards for coal plants, identifies key challenges associated with CCS deployment, and provides detailed descriptions of coal-only technologies that are not ready for commercial deployment but that present opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions.

Today’s most efficient coal-fired plants are the ultra-supercritical plants that produce steam at high temperature (above 593 degrees C or 1,100 degrees F) and emit about 800 kg (1,760 pounds) CO2/MWh. EPRI looked at several technology options for increasing the thermal efficiency of the processes for generating electricity with coal, including:

· Rankine cycles (used by most of today’s coal plants) with higher steam temperatures;
· Combined heat and power applications (also known as cogeneration); and
· Coal gasification integrated with one of four systems — combined cycles (gas turbine plants), supercritical CO2 Brayton cycles (which use the CO2 instead of water or steam as the working fluid), solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), and “triple cycles” (a combination of combined cycles and SOFCs).

However, none of the options considered in EPRI’s analysis are currently commercially available, economically viable, and suitable for broad deployment.

National R&D programs in the United States and elsewhere are making progress, but additional public-private R&D investment is needed to accelerate the deployment of many of these technologies.

“It’s critically important for the electric power industry to have as many generation technology and fuel options as possible,” said EPRI Vice President of Generation Tom Alley. “Reducing emissions will be one of the key drivers as the industry makes decisions about existing assets and about the designs and fuels used in the next generation of power plants. EPRI research like this can be invaluable in informing those decisions.”

Methane emissions fall for 3rd consecutive year — EPA

EnergyWire: Wednesday, October 7, 2015, http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060025987

Greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector are on the rise, but methane leakage continues to fall, according to new U.S. EPA data.

Petroleum and natural gas systems emitted 236 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere in 2014, up from 228 million metric tons CO2e in 2013, yesterday’s update to EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) shows. Methane emissions ticked down from 77 million metric tons CO2e in 2013 to 73 million metric tons CO2e last year, marking the third consecutive year that measurement has declined.

“The EPA expects that the GHGRP will be an important tool for the Agency and the public to analyze emissions and understand emissions trends,” EPA wrote in its oil and gas emissions profile.

It could also serve as the basis for regulations like EPA’s proposed methane rule (Greenwire, Sept. 29). The agency’s latest numbers seem to undercut its own claims that emissions could rise more than 25 percent without new federal controls, said Steve Everley, spokesman for North Texans for Natural Gas.

“EPA has claimed that without new regulations, methane emissions will go up,” he said. “What’s that based on?”

Reductions in methane emissions appear to be the result of existing regulation, and further cuts will be made possible only by additional rulemakings, said Matt Watson, associate vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate and energy program.

A table toward the bottom of EPA’s energy industry profile indicates that the bulk of emissions reductions between 2011 and 2014 came from gas well completions and workovers, a regulated source, he said.

“This data shows that regulations work, and promises of voluntary action don’t,” Watson said in an emailed statement. “The largest methane reductions come from a practice that is subject to national standards, while the biggest increases come from sources that remain largely unregulated.”

EPA cautioned that its data are limited. By the Environmental Defense Fund’s estimation, the data set covers about half of U.S. wells.

US court blocks key pollution change

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33320271

The US Supreme Court has blocked a key government attempt to limit pollution from the country’s power plants.

In a 5-4 split, the court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to factor in the full financial cost to industry of the changes.

The government introduced new rules to restrict emissions of toxins, including mercury, three years ago.

But several US states and companies challenged the changes, and the issue now returns to the US Court of Appeals.

The government has made several attempts to strengthen the Clean Air Act, but the court said this latest move must include costs as well as health risks.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing on behalf of the majority, said the EPA “must consider cost – including, most importantly, cost of compliance – before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary”.

The new rules began to take effect in April. The EPA said it was disappointed by the court’s decision, but added that many companies have already invested in upgrading operations so that they complied with the latest provision.

Deaths

The court challenge was brought by industry groups and 21 Republican-led states. The objectors had argued that the cost of installing equipment to remove pollutants would have cost the power industry up to $9.6bn (£6.1bn) a year.

About 600 power plants are affected, most of which burn coal, with many in the South and upper Midwest. Among companies opposing the rule was Peabody Energy, the largest coal producer.

The EPA had argued that the benefits would have been much greater – between $37bn and $90bn annually – due to the prevention of thousands of deaths, illnesses and lost days off work.

Vickie Paton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund, which backed the Obama administration, said the EPA should be able to address the concerns raised by the court because it has “already analysed the economics showing that the health benefits for our nation far outweigh the costs.”