The Chinese government continues to expand its clean energy production plans, to replace increasingly expensive coal power that is shutting down coal plants and causing power shortages of at least 16 GW. China’s twelth five-year plan unveiled this week plans for 70 GW for wind, and 5 GW of solar by 2015.
A new development, peak coal, has shaken up the plan. Coal prices have risen 75% since 2007, while electricity prices have only been allowed to rise 15%. Shortages of Chinese coal as local mines are depleted are driving up prices for imports (US Coal Companies Reap Windfall From Australian Climate Catastrophe) and China’s coal power plants are now under real financial stress. “Many coal plants have shut down their generators because the more they produce, the bigger the losses they will suffer,” Li Chaolin, a coal and energy industry analyst at Anbound Group told the Global Times. As a result, as much as 30 GW of power shortages are forcast as struggling coal power plants in China are unable to stay in business. China intends to build at least 75 GW of new clean energy to help supply new energy demands as its economy grows. But the dramatic loss of coal power was not factored in several years ago. China’s first CSP tender generated an average solar power price of CNY0.96 (US$15) per kWh. The price being offered for CSP solar is about double the price of its conventional coal power. Wind is also more expensive, but now increasingly competitive.
As recently as June, an environmental website declared former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman the “greenest” of the Republican presidential candidates. But the “jobs plan” Huntsman released Wednesday may put an end to that kind of talk. Huntsman’s 12-page outline detailing his plan cements the former U.S. ambassador to China as a full-fledged energy-production hawk. “Energy independence” is the third of four objectives in the plan, behind tax reform and regulatory reform (trade is the fourth), but the plan has the most amount of detail in its energy section. It gets a full three pages, far more than any of the three other subject areas. Huntsman’s platform aims to reduce the leverage that oil-producing nations in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, have over U.S. government policies. “To free ourselves from OPEC’s grasp, we must end our heroin-like addiction to foreign oil,” Huntsman said in a speech to announce his plan in New Hampshire.
For centuries, water has been a potent weapon between warring states. When Pisa was at war with Florence, Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli planned to divert the Arno and leave Pisa dry. For at least as long, water has been a casus belli. India and Pakistan have contested one another’s access to the Indus River system; a 2006 study commissioned by the Defense Department said, “for over a half century, bitter rivalry over river resources” has arguably “been one of the leading causes of full-scale warfare between them.” Meanwhile, while India and Bangladesh have had standoffs over the Ganges. In the last 50 years, Israel and Syria have fought over the rights to the Jordan River, and Brazil and Paraguay have argued over control of the Paraná. Such conflicts and uses of water as a weapon are now controlled by hundreds of international agreements. But climate change could increase the possibility of new water wars as some flows become anemic and others become unusable torrents. But as a new study by Heather Cooley and Peter H. Gleick of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute pointed out, “Most trans-boundary water agreements” are “based on the assumption that future water supply and quality will not change.” Oops.
BP Plc on Wednesday became the first major oil producer to say it was evacuating some workers from Gulf of Mexico oil and gas platforms because of a tropical disturbance that could become a named storm this week. Later on Wednesday, Anadarko Petroleum Corp joined BP saying it has evacuated non-essential workers from three platforms in the Gulf. Royal Dutch Shell also was preparing to evacuate some workers and expected to decide whether to move forward with that during the day, spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said. Shell was monitoring the system over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and the eastern Gulf. The National Hurricane Center said the weather formation had a 30 percent chance of becoming a cyclone in the next two days. Chevron Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp, ConocoPhillips and Apache Corp also said they were monitoring the system.
Conservation groups deeply involved in the resource acquisition planning process for Westminster-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission say they’re very concerned the state’s second largest power supplier behind only Xcel Energy is planning to build an 895-megawatt conventional, coal-fired power plant just across the state line in Holcomb, Kan. “Their resource plan shows no need for that plant of that size during the entire 20-year period of their plan,” Bruce Driver, a consultant and former executive director of Western Resource Advocates, told the Colorado Independent recently. “At the same time, they are pouring money into Holcomb 2, which they will own if it gets built.” The plant has been approved by Kansas regulators but stalled by a Sierra Club lawsuit and Tri-State’s lack of clarity on whether it plans to actually go ahead with the plant. Opponents estimate Tri-State has already spent between $50 million and $100 million of ratepayer money on the facility. Driver fears the company that supplies power to 44 member-owned rural electric associations in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nebraska is planning to become a regional power wholesaler – something WRA would strongly oppose.