Chinese authorities have mandated power producers in some regions to return to burning coal, responding to acute gas shortages. Coal imports rebounded from a three-month low in November as utilities seek to replenish stocks prior to the period of peak winter demand.
Toning down its green energy ambitions, the Government of South Korea has backed away from plans to convert four out of nine planed coal-fired power plant projects to run on natural gas. Instead, only one coal-to-gas conversion is now likely to go ahead, the country’s energy minister said over the weekend.
In the South of the United States the intensity and speed of gas replacing coal in the power mix has been greater than anywhere else in the country. Over the course of the past ten years, southern states used natural gas for 42% of their electricity generation – substantially more than the U.S. average of 34% – while the share of coal power plunged to 29%.
South Africa’s national utility, Eskom, would benefit its ratepayers and investors by decommissioning its older coal-fired power units and scaling back construction of the controversial 4,800-MW Kusile coal power plant project, said Grové Steyn, lead economist at Meridian Economics in Cape Town. In his view, “South Africa does not for the foreseeable future need a new national nuclear-, coal- or gas-to-power construction program.”
The board of TransAlta Corp has approved additional elements in the company’s strategy to transition to gas and renewables generation. This includes a letter of intent to build a 120km gas pipeline from Tidewater's Brazeau River Complex to TransAlta's generating units at Sundance and Keephills, eventually supplying up to 340 million cubic feet of gas per day.
US regulators have reached a settlement with Mississippi Power on the split of the remaining costs associated with the troubled $7.5 billion Kemper County power plant – once intended as a pilot coal gasfication plant before developers pulled the plug over technical issues. After months of quarrels at court, Southern Co. agreed to lower the price tag on the project by $85 million to $853 million, lowering the burden on ratepayers.
Speedy approval of new mines in China has the potential to lower demand for seaborne coal imports by up to 50 million tons (Mt), sending down coal prices from levels above 80$/t towards to just 60$/t in 2018. EnergyAspects cautions, however, that such a dramatic fall in prices, caused by replacing higher-priced imported coal with cheap domestic production, is highly unlikely given that the government in Beijing had been content with higher prices as a driver for electric utilities to replace coal with cleaner-burning natural gas.
China’s new'2+26' cities policy – a pledge to cut emission in the country’s 28 northern cities by 15% year-on-year in the winter months – is limiting the use of coal for power generation and in industries. As an alternative to coal, gas demand could rise by 23 bcm this year compared to previous winters, according to WoodMackenzie projections. In fact, Chinese LNG imports almost doubled last month, surging 95.7% compared to October 2016, to reach 3.57 million tonnes, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
Controversy is mounting in Australia over whether the lifetime of AGL Energy’s 2,051-MW Liddell power plant should be extended – as proposed by the Turnbull government – even though the operator wants to shut down the “costly and unreliable” unit in 2022. A new report finds the government’s stipulated lifetime extension would cost around $3.6 billion over five years, compared to $2.2 billion for a combination of wind power, demand side-response and energy efficiency measures.
Differences on energy policy and migration have brought down lengthy and difficult coalition talks between Germany’s Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberals (FDP). Shortly before midnight on Sunday, FDP head Christian Lindner abandoned negotiations, stating: “The four discussion partners have no common vision for the modernisation of the country, and lack a common basis of trust.”