Thursday, February 03, 2022

Europe’s gas demand declining, coal demand rising

Coal power is now a lot cheaper

Europe’s natural gas demand is set to decline this year as buyers begin to favor lower-priced coal, the International Energy Agency said in the latest edition of its quarterly gas market report.

According to the IEA, gas demand on the continent is seen declining by 4 percent this year, after rising by more than 5 percent last year. The decline will be partially driven by a reduction in gas burning in the power sector, the agency said, which is seen declining by 6 percent this year.

The decline will be partially compensated by renewables, according to the IEA, which should see a “strong expansion” this year, but also “high gas prices continue to weigh on its competitiveness vis-à-vis coal-fired generation.”

“Exceptionally high gas – and by extension electricity – prices have hurt consumers, utilities and wholesalers, and are likely to have a lasting negative impact beyond the current seasonal tension,” the agency warned, adding that the adverse effects of the gas shortage were not limited to Europe.

The report noted that developing markets were particularly vulnerable to energy supply shocks that they were already experiencing. On top of this, there was also concern for food supply due to tighter availability of gas-based fertilizers, the International Energy Agency also said.

Global gas supply is seen remaining tight, the IEA also said, citing production outages, project delays, and a slow pace of new investment decisions on new production capacity.

“In the absence of strong policies to curb demand growth to achieve net zero emission targets, gas supply adequacy could emerge as a concern for the medium term on a combination of recent LNG project delays, the relatively small number of new LNG final investment decisions (FIDs) in 2020-2021 and a structural decline in upstream spending since the early 2010s,” the IEA said in the report.


Net Zero push could bankrupt Church of England, Archbishop Welby is warned

Worried clergy say new rules on boilers would hit rural churches hardest and could bankrupt struggling parishes

Justin Welby’s push for net zero could force churches to close and leave congregations shivering in the pews, clergy have warned.

The Church of England is proposing to cajole vicars into replacing traditional boilers with green alternatives, a move likely to pile excessive costs on parishes when some are already close to collapse.

Those that insist on a gas or oil replacement will be faced with a lengthy and bureaucratic process.

It means churches whose boilers break down and cannot afford a climate-friendly alternative could go for months without heat.

Bankrupt struggling parishes

Worried clergy have said that the rule, which will be presented at next month’s General Synod, would hit rural churches hardest and could bankrupt struggling parishes.
It echoes increasing concern across society about the costs to ordinary people of carbon-reduction targets.

The Church of England’s drive to reach net zero by 2030 is more aggressive than that of the Government, which has an overall target of 2050, with a pledge to ban gas boilers in new buildings from 2025 and to prevent them being sold at all from 2035.

In November Archbishop Welby likened climate change to the rise of Nazism, although he later apologised for the comparison.

The new proposal comes amid warnings about the future of the parish, fuelled by the pressures of the pandemic.
A leaked document last year suggested that the Church of England might need to do away with the current grassroots model to stay financially viable.

Church attendance outside London has declined 40 per cent over the past three decades, and countryside parishes are increasingly struggling to pay their priests.

Father Marcus Walker, rector at Great St Bartholomew’s in London and part of the Save The Parish campaign, said: "This is a policy designed by people who won’t actually have to implement it.

“It will increase the difficulties of those struggling to keep their parishes open and it will certainly tip some over the edge.”

The Church of England says that replacements for fossil fuel boilers should include heat pumps, biomass boilers, or an electric boiler run on renewable electricity.

Heat pumps are considerably more expensive to install, more expensive to run, and would be unsuitable to spacious, poorly insulated buildings such as churches, according to experts.

Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, applauded the church for trying to tackle climate change, but added: “It is potentially misguided advice at this stage, partly because swapping a traditional gas boiler for a heat pump is going to mean an upfront cost far in excess of what a replacement boiler would be.

“Parishes are not awash with cash, so how on earth can they afford to put in heat pumps?”

According to government figures, the average cost of replacing a fossil fuel burning boiler in a domestic home is roughly £2,500 compared with £10,000 for installing a heat pump, while the running costs for a heat pump are about £200 higher per year.

Biogas is not carbon neutral

Mr Foster said waiting for hydrogen to be blended into the gas network, expected to begin next year, would be the most viable option for reducing carbon as it would not necessitate equipment change.

Meanwhile biogas is not carbon neutral.

“My advice to any vicar is to replace what you’ve got with what you’ve got,” he said.

The Church of England allows vicars to apply to their archdeacon for permission for non-major changes to their church, including a like-for-like boiler replacement.

However, if the General Synod adopts the new proposal, named GS2245, to get permission for a replacement gas or oil boiler they will have to apply for a Faculty, a process which requires extensive documentary preparation and often legal and architectural advice, akin to making a planning application to a local council.

Decisions frequently take months to come back.

Father Walker said: “When a boiler goes down it will take forever to get a new one in.

“Will churches have to close over the whole winter or ask parishioners to worship in freezing conditions?”

“This is going to hit rural parishes the hardest - it’s going to make life really difficult.”


Why is it that climate change on Earth is supposed to be due to recent human emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas of life?

Ian Plimer

There is a well-documented record of billions of years of climate change in our planet’s geological past well before humans existed. Why is this ignored by climate activists? There is validated evidence of climate change on planets and moons in our Solar System in places that humans have not visited. This is also ignored by climate activists.

We now have hints of climate change on distant exoplanets which will be validated with new space science. Whether we look into the past, the present or the future, there is climate change in our galaxy and it never has been shown that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming.

I follow the science about this planet and others. It is exciting, always changes and is certainly not settled. Never has been. Never will be.


How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future

Book review by Prof Michael Kelly:

This is a hugely important and very timely book. At a time when thinkers in the developed world are split between environmental catastrophism and unbridled techno-optimism, here is a firmly grounded analysis of the present day, informed by the previous history that got us here, and the likely short-term future. This history includes many failed predictions of the future which are quickly forgotten, as exemplified by population explosion fears on the one hand and unlimited nuclear power on the other just 50 years ago.

Most of what we hear and read about today by way of prognostications and nostrums for the future will simply not come to pass. The complexity and inertia of the systems of the modern world – energy acquisition and use, food production, materials requirements for contemporary living – place strong constraints on the pace of change in any preferred direction. This is true even if all the world leaders should agree to move in any particular direction, say on a net-zero global economy by 2050, with a global command economy.

Vaclav Smil is an internationally acclaimed scholar, and has been working on energy, food and materials for decades: he has an encyclopaedic knowledge and penetrating insight. When one talks about decarbonisation, what to make of the following facts about everyday life? A medium sized (125gm) tomato put on an English table out of season has involved the consumption of 75mL of oil to get there, not much short of its own volume! The same ratio applies to a chicken (up to 1L of oil per kg of meat) and bread (0.6L of oil per kg of loaf). The four materials pillars of modern living are ammonia (half the world is fed on foods that have had the benefit of artificial fertiliser), plastics, steel and cement: the annual production of these are 150 million, 370 million, 1.8 billion and 4.5 billion tonnes respectively. Note that silicon comes a long way down at 10 thousand tonnes per year!

The key sentence from the introduction is:
The gap between wishful thinking and reality is vast, but in a democratic society no contest of ideas or proposals can proceed in rational ways without all sides sharing at least a modicum of relevant information about the real world, rather than trotting out their biases and advancing claims disconnected from physical possibilities.”

The author is at pains to point out that he is not a pessimist or an optimist, he is a scientist: there is no agenda in understanding how the real-world works.
The seven chapters explain energy, food production, materials, globalization, risks, the environment and the future. Each and every chapter serves as a reality check on public discourse, and anyone armed with the contents of this book will be able to detect arrant nonsense dressed up as gospel by the ‘experts’.

Globalization is not inevitable, but has led to greater efficiencies, but also greater risks – 70% of rubber gloves in the world were made in one factory in China. COVID-19 will have long-term effects on humanity, not available to the futurists of the past, and onshoring jobs from offshore may proceed in the cause of greater resilience.

Our perception of risks had always been very irrational. We are many times more likely to die in a road accident or a fall at home than in a terrorist incident.

On matters of the environment, there is no free lunch in human living, but a reduction in the vast levels of food waste, and a more modest diet in the developed world for example could do more good than rapid decarbonization. Meanwhile the UN rightly prioritised the elimination of human poverty and hunger over environmental protection in their ordering of the sustainable development goals. In fact, it is wealthy countries who are repairing the environment.

The future will be neither a nirvana nor a hell on earth, but an evolution of the past, a combination of our best endeavours hindered by obstacles and aided by serendipity.

What is also of great concern is the extent to which knowledgeable people are meretricious (my word) in misleading the less knowledgeable. Why are the extreme scenarios (for good or evil) focussed on to the extent that they become taken up as the mostly likely future? This is particularly bad in the case of climate science studies and the way the results are portrayed in the media.

This book is a very strong antidote of realism against both the relentless pessimism and the blithe optimism of our day.


Corporates face climate crackdown from big investors

Australia’s biggest polluters face a crackdown from a powerful group of climate investors who have vowed to push for new executive leaders if companies fail to move to net zero emissions or signal enough ambition on green transition plans.

Climate Action 100+, a global investor group which controls $65tn in assets, plans to boost its focus on how big business and emitters are responding to the threat of climate change amid concern a flurry of net zero announcements may not be followed through with significant action in the short and medium term.

Integrating climate risk into financial accounts will be among the focus areas in 2022 annual general meetings, according to Climate Action 100+ which includes Australia’s biggest superannuation funds including AusSuper, Cbus and UniSuper.

“In 2022, investor signatories expect more climate-focused shareholder resolutions and higher votes, including a laser focus on how company net zero goals are being met with short, medium and long-term emissions reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement,” the group said in its 2021 progress update.

“An increasingly critical and hot topic, they also anticipate more resolutions on integrating climate risk into financial accounts and oversight of such risks by audit committees and auditors.”

Australian corporates are increasingly under pressure on climate change as institutional investors such as Climate Action 100+, backed by domestic superannuation funds, use their power to hold companies to account.

Companies in the spotlight in Australia include AGL Energy, BHP, Rio Tinto and Origin Energy while globally 111 of the 165 focus companies have now set 2050 net zero targets.

The group last year started probing the credentials of non-executive directors serving on Australian energy companies, questioning whether stacking boards with oil and gas veterans was appropriate given escalating climate pressures. It’s indicated it will step up that focus into 2022.

Investors “have made it clear that if companies aren’t willing or able to respond to the challenge of moving towards a net zero transition, they will look for new leadership. Where signatories don’t see required progress from companies, the next step is to ask board directors to respond to these challenges and bring about required change.”

Some 70 new investors joined the Climate Action 100+ group in 2021, marking 170 per cent growth since 2017.

One of the world’s biggest money managers, State Street Global Advisers, put Australian companies on notice earlier in January that they need to come clean on how they intend to hit net zero targets, arguing that climate change represents a “systemic risk” that has the potential to destroy value.




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