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The week of the white elephants


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The UK, US, and Canadian governments all tried to bail out uneconomic and / or stranded fossil fuel and nuclear projects with many billions in public funds. This short true-story-of-the-day looks at the extent of the waste.

Published in: Environment
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The week of the white elephants

  1. 1. The week of the white elephants The UK, US, and Canadian governments all tried to bail out uneconomic and / or stranded fossil fuel and nuclear projects with many billions in public funds
  2. 2. They hope to sell the Trans Mountain pipeline later. Analysts doubt they can. Protestors label PM Trudeau a climate criminal. Canadian government bails out a stranded Kinder Morgan oil pipeline system for US $3.5 bn 7th Jan 2016 29th May 2018 Future Today
  3. 3. Proposals in a leaked memo include forcing utilities to buy electricity from coal and nuclear operators for 2 years. Trump orders emergency federal action to stem coal and nuclear plant shutdowns 7th Jan 2016 1st Jun 2018 Future Today
  4. 4. Total cost of Wylfa, to be shared with Hitachi and Japanese government: £16bn. Price of power: £75-77 MWh …more than solar & wind. In remarkable U-turn, UK government agrees to £5bn public stake in a Welsh nuclear power station 7th Jan 2016 4th Jun 2018
  5. 5. All very strange things to do, really, when…. to take just two examples for each act from among the many such on Future Now
  6. 6. The Spanish oil company “is the first among its peers” to do this, Bloomberg reports. Production will be limited to current levels. Repsol decides to end pursuit of oil and gas growth and chase energy transition instead 7th Jan 2016 15th May 2018 Masayoshi Son, Softbank founder and CEO
  7. 7. 7th Jan 2016 16th Nov 2017 Norwegian Central Bank, manager of the oil fund, tells government it should divest from oil and gas Biggest holding end 2016: $5.3 bn in Shell
  8. 8. Wind and solar tariffs have fallen to around Rs 2.4 per unit. Coal averages Rs 3.7. Of India’s 197 GW of coal plants, c. 40 GW are stranded. “Cheap renewable energy is killing India’s coal- based power plants” – 20% of plants are stranded 7th Jan 2016 9th May 2018
  9. 9. Good news stories from Kentucky show that “mine work today requires mechanical and technical skills that are transferable to new industries.” US wind, solar, & storage companies are “recruiting coal miners for their work ethics & high-tech skills” 7th Jan 2016 9th May 2018
  10. 10. 150 more weld failures mean the nuclear plant scheduled online in 2012 at €3.5bn is now probably delayed to 2020, at €10.5bn and counting. Nuclear regulator fears “epidemic” safety-culture collapse at Flamanville: disaster looms for EDF 7th Jan 2016 31st May 2018
  11. 11. 7th Jan 2016 6th Aug 2016 “Hinkley Pointless” “Britain should cancel its nuclear white elephant and spend the billions on making renewables work”
  12. 12. And that is before we even consider climate imperatives….
  13. 13. Michael Mann et al’s temperature reconstruction from 1999 in blue. PAGES2K temperature reconstruction 2013 in green. Data record in red. The “hockey stick” of global average temperature 20 years on: when being right must hurt 7th Jan 2016 20th Apr 2018
  14. 14. So an international group of scientists warn, after the most comprehensive study yet: geographic ranges of 31,000 insect species. Climate change will cause “major insect wipeout” with “far-reaching disruption to life on Earth” 7th Jan 2016 17th May 2018 Future Today
  15. 15. So estimates a Stanford University economic study published in Nature. The cost of action to hit the target would be $0.5 tn globally. Hitting 1.5˚C Paris target will save the world c. $30 trillion in climate-related damages this century 7th Jan 2016 23rd May 2018 Future Today
  16. 16. “Especially storms of previously unobserved strength.” Very bad news for the insurance industry, and all who live in the cyclone belt. “Global warming is making tropical cyclones stronger”, renowned climatologists conclude 7th Jan 2016 30th May 2018 Future Today
  17. 17. The effect of current policies has the world heading for around 3 degrees of global warming by 2100. The Paris challenge: current policies come nowhere close to the target, and pledges fall well short 7th Jan 2016 1st May 2018
  18. 18. They are solar, lighting, data centres and networks, and EVs. Particularly problematic is that energy efficiency improvements have slowed. IEA publishes a new monitoring tool showing only 4 of 38 energy sectors are on track with Paris targets 7th Jan 2016 29th May 2018 Future Today On track: 4 Much more effort needed: 23 Significantly off track: 11
  19. 19. “Because so much energy comes from coal, slight fluctuations from year to year can wipe out massive gains in renewables.” The Paris challenge: renewables growth and retreat from coal too slow …& oil & gas continue to grow 7th Jan 2016 1st May 2018
  20. 20. Renewables must be scaled up at least six times faster to meet the Paris Agreement target: IRENA 7th Jan 2016 17th Apr 2018 Additional costs: $1.7 tn p.a. in 2050. But savings from < air pollution, < environmental damage, & > health = $6 tn p.a. in 2050. Source: IRENA’s “Roadmap to 2050” (85% in power sector)
  21. 21. Rana Adib, exec secretary of REN21, warns of “complacency” …“we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t.” REN21: Renewables growth in heating, cooling, and transport well behind electricity generation sector 7th Jan 2016 4th Jun 2018 Future Today Renewable energy in total final energy consumption, by sector, 2015 Source: REN21 Renewables 2018 Global Status Report
  22. 22. This is 3x the investment in fossil fuel generating capacity and more than 2x fossil-fuel and nuclear power capacity combined. ….But not enough. Investment in renewables in 2017 was less than it was in 2011 …it has essentially been flat since then 7th Jan 2016 4th Jun 2018 Global investment in renewable power and fuels Source: REN21 Renewables 2018 Global Status Report excluding hydro >50MW …at least $310 bn if included
  23. 23. Just the 3 sad acts by the US, UK and Canadian governments considered here, with conservative assumptions, would be set to waste the equivalent of some 10% of the global renewables investment pool Which is difficult indeed to understand when you consider, for example, that….
  24. 24. 66% would be happy to have a large renewables project locally. 74% are concerned about climate change. UK Government poll finds a record 85% public support for renewable energy, and 87% for solar 7th Jan 2016 26th Apr 2018 Onshore wind: not so unpopular after all
  25. 25. The conclusion of an international group of scientists systematically working through the counter-arguments of a pro-nuclear group. “There are no roadblocks on the way to a 100% renewable future”: all issues solvable at low cost 7th Jan 2016 17th May 2018 Future Today
  26. 26. Please follow the ongoing drama in this, the most important story in the world, on Future Today