China green energy projection of the day

China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.

Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.

…Of the world’s 20 biggest coal plant developers, 11 are Chinese, according to a database published by Urgewald.

Here is the full NYT piece by Hiroko Tabuchi. Furthermore, China’s electric cars aren’t actually all that clean.

Keep this all in mind the next time you hear someone tout China as the new leader of the global green energy movement.

Comments

Perhaps they'll help keep another Little Ice Age at bay?

We have already pushed back the next ice age by around 100,000 years.
That's how long it will take for natural processes to remove the extra 43% of C02 and other heat trapping gases we have already added to the atmosphere.
Our immediate problem is whether or not we can reduce emissions enough to prevent the collapse of global agriculture and our civilisation along with it. We are exactly on track for 4C of warming in the next 80 years. The fossil record shows that no large mammal has ever survived that amount of warming in such a short time.
If you are as young as you sound then you might live long enough to find out.
Good luck.

Here's a question about energy use: Many cars have seen major improvements in EPA MPG ratings in recent years. For example, the upcoming Toyota Camry Hybrid LX model is said to average 52 MPG (51 city, 53 highway), which is a lot for a traditional family sedan with over 200 horsepower among the various engines.

But after the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal and other lesser scandals involving gaming metrics, I'm wondering whether real world fuel consumption in the U.S. is tracking the EPA ratings. Or is some sizable fraction of the putative gains due to the car companies outsmarting the ratings?

My experience driving cross country in a 2011 family sedan rated at something like 36 MPG on the highway is that I could get 36 MPG in a flat state if I held it to 65 mph. So that one EPA rating seemed pretty legit. On the other hand, the car didn't seem to have the horsepower the manufacturer claimed.

I know MPG ratings were redone a few years ago (well, maybe a decade ago, I'm getting old) to more accurately reflect real world performance, but I couldn't tell you how accurate they really are

A friend recently reported what he got on a 2008 Prius that he bought last year and his older 2003 Prius. The 2003 Prius had a 52 city / 45 highway rating, and he got 51.3 mpg over the time he owned it. With the 2008 Prius, rated at 48 city / 45 highway he is getting 54.9 mpg, an improvement of 3.6 mpg.

He said the 2008 Prius would have had a rating of 60 city / 51 highway under the old rules. He added that he is a non aggressive driver.

The reviewers at Car and Driver almost never get the combined rating, bu of course the drive aggressively. They also have a "test loop" on the highways of suburban Detroit where they set the cruise to 75 and see what mileage they get. Again, they almost never get the highway rating, they're always a few mpg short.

So, yes, I do think the automakers are gaming the system to a certain extent. In particular, these very high gear count automatic transmissions with multiple overdrive ratios seem to improve the EPA mileage far more than the real world mileage. And downsized turbocharged engines (like Honda's 1.5l turbo that replaced their 2.4L 4 cylinder) almost never result in ANY real world mileage improvement, despite what the EPA says.

Did he measure those numbers from fillups compared to the odometer, or use the car's built-in measurements?

I've been consistently comparing my Ford and it's getting about 1.0 mpg less (based on gas going in divided by miles driven) than the MPG reported on the infotainment console.

He measured fillups with the odometer and kept track every time.

Maybe the obsession with MPG is due to the simple arithmetic required. In reality, what's important is the cost per mile of driving the car, purchase price, insurance, maintenance and so on. But coming up with that would mean a little more complicated calculation. While everyone knows the price of gasoline, since it's posted in huge letters on every street corner, the average schlub can't tell you how much he's paying per kilowatt/hour for the electricity his home uses.

You know, the batteries currently in your phones and laptops are considerably different from ones that were studied for a paper published in October 2012. I figure there might have been a few efficiency improvements involved in their roughly order of magnitude decrease in price.

We keep hearing that renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuel energy production. Why do the Vietnamese, for example, still want to build coal fired generators, then? Honest question.

I think some of it has to do with constant underlying baseload vs. variable peak loads. Current storage tech does not permit 100% variable production such as wind/solar. I've read that current grids can only sustain about 20% variable production like solar/wind before they become unstable.

Here's a link discussing problems of getting to 40% renewables in Germany
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601514/germany-runs-up-against-the-limits-of-renewables/

Storage is an important next step, imho.

"I’ve read that current grids can only sustain about 20% variable production like solar/wind before they become unstable."

20% is the rule of thumb, but it was really designed to capture the intermittency of wind. Wind and solar together can thus reach a higher number (because they are often complimentary) than they would independently. From what I have read, a well run grid can probably get closer to 30% solar/wind assuming that the mix is somewhat equal. Obviously, if it's 29% wind and 1% solar, it's pretty much wind.

In going higher than 30%, there will be increased costs and inefficiencies, such as a reliance on peaking natural gas plants, expanding the scope of the grid by selling it to connected grids (often at lower costs), power management (getting users to curtail usage), etc.

This might change over time, perhaps well managed grids might hit 40% without drastic and costly measures. However, the only way to truly hit much higher numbers is either a) to except the down side of intermittency or b) to build significant amounts of energy storage.

Some people think that using grid-wide car fleets to solve much of the storage problem could work. They can charge at night when average usage is lower, and for users who do not require their full charge for their daily usage, their batteries can serve as storage which they can sell back to the grid at peak times.

"...and for users who do not require their full charge for their daily usage, their batteries can serve as storage which they can sell back to the grid at peak times."

That would be an extremely bad deal for them. Car batteries are always going to be more expensive than stand alone batteries. They'll be designed for crash survivability, car level heat conditions, low weight, etc. The Utility will never offer more than the value that a stand alone battery would provide. Because the utilities can always install stand alone batteries. Therefore, the payments offered to electric car owners to "use" their battery will be less than the cost of the battery.

It would be an extremely good deal for the utilities of course.

"Some people think that using grid-wide car fleets to solve much of the storage problem could work"

tl;dr; response. Those people are idiots who don't understand economics.

Where there is an electricity market wholesale prices can go above $10 US a kilowatt-hour during critical peaks. Even if electric cars only provided power to the grid for one dozen hours a year, that would still be a very useful asset to have. And profitable for the vehicle owner.

In addition, very low power output results in insignificant battery deterioration. One million electric cars supplying half a kilowatt adds up to a substantial half a gigawatt of power.

Also, car battery packs could provide ancillary services to a grid, which are valuable, but utilize them at very low average capacity.

Whatever situations would involve it being a bad deal, those are not the ones I'm talking about.

It involves arbitrage between market prices at night and peak usage times.

While most of Vietnam's electricity is generated from hydroelectricity, it is a significant coal producer and exporter. I think they have something like 10 coal power stations. Continuing building coal power stations would be situation normal for them. The large fall in the price of coal from its peak and the 70,000 to 80,000 people employed in coal mining means a lot of players are very interested in Vietnam continuing to burn coal.

Cost competitive for mwh loads, or rated mwh?

A local auto component manufacturing plant recently put in a rather large diesel generator so that the frequent power outages don't slow production. The costs of installation, maintenance and operation are not trivial, but uninterrupted power is worth more.

Wind and solar renewables have suitable applications, but nothing beats reliable base load generation based on technology almost a century old. Especially when you want to build an economy on making things.

Geography matters. The American Midwest is great for wind power but not necessarily for solar. The opposite is true of New Mexico. Canada apparently could get more power from hydroelectric than it does now but don't expect solar to be very cost-effective in the winter. Etc.

If the sun would shine without interruption 24h per day, then solar panels would be an option. But as long as these things esp here in the north produce close to nothing in winter, they are useless, even if costs were zero.
The same goes for windmills, but they are even more useless since their power generation fluctuates even more widely.
("useless" of couse only if you want to industrialize and this is what Vietnam obviously wants. A hunter and gatherer society might be able to subsist on electricity only being available every now and then).

"But as long as these things esp here in the north produce close to nothing in winter, they are useless, even if costs were zero."

That's not true. At the very least, solar power can be seen as a gas savings measure for Natural Gas plants. To some degree, with current technology, that's what they are.

If always focused on downsides and caveats with zero consideration of benefits side of an equation, things would tend to look worse than they are.

Indeed, solar is more cost effective in Saudi Arabia than at the north pole.

Johann, I'm pretty sure Vietnam would use its hydroelectric capacity if its solar output was not sufficient to meet demand.

Thay will always lie.

It's the nature of tham Brazilians I suppose.

Elements of the Chinese business community must feel that there will be an increased demand for electricity in the near future and that it's wise to be able to supply this demand with existing, proven technology.

Either that or they think that if you're closing 20 coal plants a month, that some of them will need to be replaced.

Never forget that the Chinese are Communists. Their economy is still planned to a certain extent, dominated by state owned enterprises that are not market oriented.

What do Communists love? Heavy industry. What do Communist economies excel at? Wild overproduction on one hand and terrible shortages on the other.

Why can't China lead both solar and coal energy sectors? Makes sense to me. Energy discussions invariably devolve into either/or silliness. We will have all these technologies for quite a while in varyng mixes around the globe.

Yeah, Hiroko Tabuchi wrote: "The frenzied addition of coal plants underscores how the world is set to remain dependent in coal for decades" doesn't make sense. It's pretty easy to not use a coal plant when other alternatives become cheaper in the future.

The other problem part was her writing writing that the goal of the Paris accord is to keep the temperature from rising 3.6 F degrees over pre-industrial levels, yet even if adhered to would only lower the temperature by 0.3 F degrees, not close to the amount she states as that assumes far more CO2 cuts than the treaty itself would do if adhered to.

Bjorn Lomborg clarifies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3vhm2HGnUw

BP's latest Statistical Review of World Energy shows a remarkable increase in Chinese coal reserves over the previous year, and the reclassification of many fields formerly thought to contain lignite to higher quality anthracite reserves. The same goes for many other countries. A very under-reported story. The world is awash in cheap coal.

Don't forget to subtract the older and less efficient plants that will be taken offline in the meantime.

If you take your old car off the road and put a new one on the road, is the net change in cars on the road +1 or 0?

Please, let us exceed grade 1 mathematics in considering such important global issues.

That is beyond the New York Times, as we saw with their reporting on Fukushima as well.

Cars are a bad example. They mostly stay on the road until they are undriveable. When I upgrade my vehicle I sell or trade in the old one. A new car on net will add to the number of cars on the road at a rate of less than +1.

No, they are taken off the road when it costs more to get the safety and emissions papers than you can get for selling it, not when they are undriveable.

I still hold that if you close 10 coal plants and open 10 coal plants, this is the equivalent to zero new coal plants, not 10.

Chinese coal consumption appears to have peaked around 2014. This is something we are keenly aware of here in Australia for some reason.

https://phys.org/news/2017-02-china-coal-consumption-falls-year.html

China coal production peaked in 2013 in million tons of oil equivalent:
2013 - 1894.6
2016 - 1685.7
source: BP

The Atlantic published an article about Chinese coal plants in 2010, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/12/dirty-coal-clean-future/308307/

The big picture was that China can build plants that are more or less efficient in terms of carbon dioxide production. It would be useful to know how efficient the 1600 new plants will be, and what, if anything, they replace.

Evidence that Trump is right about global warming being a Chinese conspiracy.

Two facts that seem contradictory but are really complementary - China is building coal plants because they need electricity. China is a leader in green energy because they have so much pollution.

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