By  Nicholas Newman

Nic’s round-up of forecasts on global energy.  The big theme of coming years will be the growth in smaller scale energy projects and new entrants.

Growth in  renewables: wind  and solar power

The Global Wind Energy Council forecasts that wind power could generate 2,110 GW and supply about 20 % of global electricity by 2030.

Solar energy panels and wind turbines in spring landscape

IRENA forecasts that the solar will grow from supplying  2% of today’s global electricity to at least 13% by 2030.  A basket of forecasts suggest that by 2050, solar will be the largest source of electricity in the world shared by solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power contributing 16 and 11 percent, respectively.

Much of the significant growth in solar will be in emerging economies such as India and South Africa to satisfy their extensive rural electrification programs as falling costs, rising productivity and new storage technologies favour.

Growth  in wind  and solar power  will be largely due to:

  • Continuing falls in costs of equipment
  • Improved productivity
  • Declining cost of electricity produced
  • Increasing uptake in developing economies in  Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Improvements in energy storage technology which increases the viability of renewables in the energy mix.

 

HYDROPOWER  REMAINS A  MAJOR RENEWABLE POWER SOURCE

 

Hydropower plant in Borgo Tufico, Italy

In 2016, hydropower capacity reached  3,975 TWh  supplying around  16.4 percent of the world’s  total electricity from all sources. By 2050  installed hydro capacity should reach over  7,000 TWh forecast the IEA. There are a variety of hydropower solutions available for operators, ranging from mega- dam projects to mini- hydro schemes incorporated into river weir schemes.

 

Amongst the options being considered are:

  • The construction of mega- hydro dam schemes is likely to continue especially, in regions with projected growing power demand and along major rivers such as the Mekong in South East Asia, the Orinoco and Amazon in South America and the Congo and Zambezi in Africa.
  • Upgrading of existing dams, especially of dams over 40 years old suitable for modernisation and additional capacity of Europe’s river dams could create an additional 200 MW of new installed capacity per year.
  • Mini-hydro schemes have worldwide potential. In the UK, for example, new entrants such as community co-ops and businesses are exploring ways to reduce their reliance on the grid.
  • Offshore, pilot projects involving wave machines and tidal lagoons are underway and subject to commercial viability could prove effective in maritime countries.

Pumped storage hydro remains important

Worldwide there was around  127 GW of pumped storage hydro capacity last year which, according to the IEA could triple by 2030. Pumped storage is a type of hydroelectric energy storage used by electric grid operators for load balancing and energy storage. An increasing number of combined pumped storage hydro schemes are being built or planned worldwide in  Europe, the US and Africa.

 

Increased use in battery power

 

Likewise, the demand for energy storage in the form of batteries is likely to grow from 2.9 GWh in 2016 to 21 GWh by 2025 according to IHS Markit.  DNV GL,  predicts that energy storage costs will fall by 70%  by 2030 due to incremental improvements, rising competition and technological innovations driven by entrepreneurs seeking to make electrically powered cars, trucks and cycles ubiquitous.

The dash for natural gas

Gas industry infographic explains how the gas gets from the field to consumers.

The IEA foresees a near doubling of demand for natural gas to reach 203 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)  in 2040. Much of the growth in demand will arise in non-OECD countries at a rate of  2.5%/year compared with just  1.1%/year in the OECD countries. As a result, non-OECD country’s  share of gas consumption will rise to 62% in 2040.

Gas will be the beneficiary of:

  • The  legal and cultural shift towards  cleaner fuels and technologies
  • The de-indexing of the price of gas from oil.
  • A  global gas surplus caused by new gas discoveries in such countries as Australia, Canada, the United States and Argentina.

 

The rise of LNG

Worldwide trade in LNG has grown in response to increased sources of supply, rising production and growth in demand for LNG as both a cheap feedstock for power generation and as a transport fuel.  Already,  forecasters expect global LNG demand to have almost doubled by 2030 from the 244.8 metric tons (MT) traded globally in 2015.

Drivers behind LNG

  • New demand from China and India.
  • New LNG exporters in North America and East Africa, who are competing with established producers in Qatar and Australia.
  • A long-term world surplus in LNG.
  • Advances in technologies which help smaller scale projects for small markets such as Malta and Jamaica.
  • The need for new, quick and affordable power generation solutions to stimulate economic development in countries such as South Africa, India and Brazil.
  • The low price of LNG.
  • Maritime regulations requiring cleaner vessel fuels favour LNG and development of a worldwide network of bunkering facilities e.g.  the GATE LNG bunkering facility. There are currently around  70  LNG-  fuelled vessels worldwide according to DNV GL, which certifies ships for safety. By 2020, the number may pass 1,000.
  • Onshore, LNG fuelling stations could be created to service land transport including trains, buses and trucks.

Increased  need for gas storage

LNG tanks at the port of Barcelona

More countries are expected to rely on storage facilities to store surplus gas to balance supply and demand, protect against currency fluctuations and above all energy security.  Storage facilities can include old gas fields, salt caverns or LNG terminals. For example, Mexico ‘s wide scale adoption of gas-for-power requires greater storage facilities either underground or in an LNG facility.  The trouble is,  the best geological position is right by the Texas border. The best operational location is near Mexico City but the local volcanic geology makes such a location dangerous.

The same problem of finding a suitable location for gas storage will be faced by South Africa amongst other countries as they adopt gas-for-power and national gas distribution.

The Rehabilitation and decommissioning IMPERATIVE

There are many hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines, oil and gas wells. In Texas alone, there are thought to be around 1.5 million abandoned or plugged wells. It is expected to cost operators in the North Sea some £30 billion to decommission oil and gas field, reports the Financial Times. As for Australia, there are around 50,000 abandoned sites on record. Experts suggest it could cost a minimum of $17.8 billion to start the process of filling in the holes in Australia. As a result, a pioneering new industry is being established,  pushing the boundaries of technology, equipment and human resources to earn many billions of dollars.

 

The deposition of king coal?

A coal miner displays a lump of coal as a power and energy source.

Despite recent environmentally friendly regulations, coal will remain an important source of power, especially in non-OECD countries.  Between 2012–2040, the IEA predicts that total coal consumption in the non-OECD countries will increase by 0.8%/year, compared with an average increase of just  0.1%/year elsewhere and, in countries with  Clean Power Programs demand for coal is likely to fall by 0.3%/year.

Demand for coal is being affected by long-term trends such as:

  • The underperformance of the global industrial sector.
  • A reduction in the power intensity needed for economic growth.
  • Increasing power plant efficiency caused by the adoption of super-critical technology.
  • The shift towards cleaner fuels.
  • Phasing out of coal use in Canada, Finland and the UK.
  • Expansion in the use of coal in such countries as South Africa, Nigeria, India and Indonesia.

 

On-site generation

Green eco factory building with green trees and electric car charging in front of the factory

The cost of on-site generation has crashed in recent years, and as a result,  worldwide interest is rising both in developing and developed countries.

For  adopters the advantages include:

  • greater cost control
  • energy security.
  • a new source of income.

Given such factors, for example in the UK, on-site generation currently accounts for 14% of the UK’s energy needs and it is predicted that decentralized energy will grow by 130% or more by 2030.

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