Europe Exits Fossil Fuel, will hit 30% Renewables by 2017

by Zachary Shahan

Following up on a Credit Suisse report stating that ~85% of US energy demand growth would come from renewables by 2025, we thought it would be good to take a look at the energy trends in Europe as well.

Actually, one of our readers pitched this idea prior to the publishing of that article, and did most of the research for this piece. I then had the pleasure of putting it together to create the primarily positive (with one notable hiccup) non-fiction story below. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the broad overview. UBS analysts in 2013 reported that utilities in Europe need to shut down 30% of their gas, coal, and oil-fed power capacity by 2017 — not necessarily to fight global warming, cut pollution, or cut fuel imports, but because the renewable energy revolution is pushing fossil fuels off the grid.

In other words, increasingly cheap and fast-growing renewables are killing fossil fuels in Europe

“Producers must close 49 gigawatts of capacity to stabilize profits at 2012 levels, analysts led by Paris-based Per Lekander wrote in an e-mailed report,” according to Rachel Morison of Bloomberg.

“That includes 24 gigawatts of ‘mainly cashflow positive capacity’ on top of the 7 gigawatts that utilities already plan to shut and an additional 18 gigawatts of closures expected to be announced.”

“The most important driver has undoubtedly been the remarkable increase of renewable capacity, and in particular solar, mainly in Germany,” Per Lekander said.

Image Credit: Nuclear Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, via @SamHamels
Image Credit: Nuclear Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development, via @SamHamels

Unfortunately, the most closures are projected to be of natural gas power plants. Coal power’s big exit is projected to get rolling in 2015.

However, that’s not to say no coal power plants are being closed or kept off the grid until 2015. Back in August 2013, it was announced that a coal power plant in Finland would shut down due to its failing competitiveness.

“Finland’s largest utility, Fortum, is closing a coal-fired power plant in Inkoo, west of Helsinki,” yle wrote.

“Built in the mid-1970s, the 750 MW plant has rarely been used in recent years, only supplying backup power to the Nordic grid during periods of peak demand. It has long been a loss-maker. This is partly due to falling electricity prices in Europe, driven by Germany’s shift toward renewable energy.”

The Finnish government, in the meantime, has committed itself to transitioning to a clean, renewable energy future — only logical, right?

And in the center of much of the clean energy revolution, Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years.

In Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years, with others 'walking the plank'.
In Germany, dozens of coal power plants have been canceled or closed in recent years, with others ‘walking the plank’.

It’s true that coal power production increased in Germany in 2012, but you have to put that into some context to understand why. What many people don’t know is that many coal power plants were previously planned for Germany.

The renewable energy revolution hasn’t increased the need for coal power plants, as many misinformers would have you believe, but has resulted in the majority being dropped. Closing of nuclear power plants, combined with high natural gas prices in Europe, however, did result in a slight rise in coal power production.

Natural gas is clearly the fossil fuel getting hit hardest in Europe at the moment. As Tino Andresen and Tara Patel of Bloomberg wrote in March 2013.

“Three years ago, Germany’s largest utility spent 400 million euros ($523 million) building a natural gas-fired power station. Later this month, the company may close the plant because it’s losing so much money.”

EON’s Irsching-5, the power plant in discussion, only operated 25% of the time in 2012!

The factors for the quick death of such an expensive plant were varied, though: “As Europe’s weak economy holds back electricity demand, cheaper coal, requirements to buy renewable energy and the collapsing cost of carbon permits are undercutting gas-fired plants.”

But it’s not only happening in Germany

“Gas-fired plants are stopped three days out of four,” Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive officer of GDF Suez, France’s former gas monopoly, said at a briefing on Feb. 28.

“The thermal industry is in crisis. There is overcapacity.”

The story is essentially the same in the Netherlands, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other European countries.

In the end, the story is actually rather simple: as more renewable energy comes on line, something has to go off line.

Aside from nuclear power plants that are being shuttered due to old age and citizen demand, the big loser at the moment is natural gas. However, coal is on its way out too, just a bit more slowly. Of course, if there was a higher price on carbon, or other fossil fuel market dynamics changed, we could see those two switch places on their way out the door.

Anything more you’d like to add? Chime in below.

Keep up to date with the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our main cleantech newsletter, or by stalking our homepage. We’re not Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed, but I think we’re more interesting.

This article, Europe’s Fossil Fuel Exit — 30% Of Fossil Fuel Power Capacity To Close By 2017, UBS Analysts Project, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Zachary ShahanZachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

Architecture Contest At Solar Decathlon Won By Prague Team

by Amber Archangel

Solar Decathlon 2013
The Czech Republic deck where visitors could write on the blackboard walls. | Photo credit: Jason Flakes | U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Originally published on 1Sun4All.

Czech Technical University took first place in the highly competitive Architecture Contest and Vienna University of Technology received top honors in the Communications Contest on the morning of October 11, at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013, reports Solar Decathlon. The following is from the Solar Decathlon blog:

European Teams Top Architecture and Communications Contests

A jury of professional architects determined the Architecture Contest winners by assessing each house’s architectural elements, environmental compatibility and occupant comfort, design inspiration, and construction specifications.

Solar Decathlon 2013
Photo credit: Jason Flakes | U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The interior of  Czech Technical University’s AIR House, which won first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 Architecture contest, incorporates warm and natural wood finishes to create a comfortable place to dwell and reenergize.

Solar Decathlon 2013
The sleeping area in the Czech Republic AIR House. | Photo credit: Jason Flakes | U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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Solar Decathlon 2013
The bathroom in the Czech Republic AIR House. | Photo credit: Jason Flakes | U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Architecture Contest juror Richard N. Swett of Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions LLC:

The first-place winner, AIR House from Czech Technical University, provides a multitude of wonderful architectural experiences despite its simple and uncomplicated design. Using light and materials, this house creates a warm and inviting cocoon where indoor and outdoor living are intertwined with the elements of sun and nature.

Solar Decathlon 2013

The wooden shower floor in the bathroom of the Czech Republic AIR House | Photo credit: Michael Batori

There were many audible ”oh’s” and “ah’s” when visitors who toured the house in our group, saw the bathroom in the AIR House. The combination of the team’s use of spruce — which is a native resource in the Czech Republic, with the clean, sleekness of the glass is very appealing. As in many of the competition houses, the floor of the shower is made from wood and is a greywater collection point.

Stevens Institute of Technology won second place in the Architecture Contest for its house, Ecohabit. Third place went to the University of Southern California for fluxHome.

For the Communications Contest, a jury of communications professionals evaluated each team’s website, public exhibit materials, public tours, and audiovisual presentation for clear and consistent messages, representative images, and creative audience engagement.

Solar Decathlon 2013
Photo credit: Stefano Paltera | U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Sandra Violand, architecture student at Vienna University of Technology, which won first place in the Communications Contest, offers the team’s handout to visitors at the entrance of the LISI house. Voiland also wears the handout, which not only offers information about the team’s Solar Decathlon entry but can also be folded into a wearable crown.

Communications Contest juror Mark Walhimer of Museum Planning LLC.:

As a second-time juror, I was blown away by the amount of work and creativity the 2013 entries showed in their communications efforts. The top teams represented a very high level of sophistication in their brand building.

Second place in the Communications Content went to University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Middlebury College took third place.

Walhimer said that the most successful teams in the Communications Contest were able to portray a lifestyle brand rather than merely conveying the technical features of their houses.

Engineering Contest results and the overall winner of Solar Decathlon 2013 will be announced tomorrow, Saturday, October 12.

The Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO are both taking place in Irvine, California through Sunday, October 13.

It’s FREE! Public hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily:

  • Thursday, October 10 – Sunday, October 13, 2013

Repost.Us - Republish This Article

This article, Architecture Contest At Solar Decathlon Won By Prague Team, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Amber Archangel is an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, constant student of many studies and founder of 1Sun4All.com. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing, the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, she helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Archangel is fond of private aviation, would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in her yard. She is a peaceful, courageous soul who believes that clean energy is helping our economy and helping our world; she enjoys contributing to this effort.

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Top 20 Utility Scale Solar Countries Graph Of The Day

by Giles Parkinson – Special to JBS News

This article originally published on RenewEconomy

The latest update of utility scale solar developments round the world shows that the US has just joined China as the second country to have installed more than 3 GW of “big solar” and will soon be joined by Germany.

But Australia still does not make the big solar top 20 list compiled by Wiki-Solar – although countries such as Ukraine, Portugal, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Peru, Romania and Bulgaria do.

Screen-Shot-2013-09-03-at-8.09.45-AM

[Although there are thousands of small rooftop installations in the country] Australia has only one utility-scale solar installation at present — the Greenough River solar farm in WA — that meets the 10MW qualification for inclusion in the table, although four other projects are due to be built over the next two years. One, the 20MW Royalla project, reached financial close last week and will be the first to obtain bank finance in the country.

Two others are to be built in the ACT under that government’s solar auction program and the other, the 155MW AGL Energy project at Broken Hill and Nyngan, will begin construction next year.

Wiki-Solar says it is thinking of redefining the cut-off for “big solar” to 5MW, given that many projects in Germany and other countries are being built in that range.

If that were to happen,  China, Germany and the USA would still be the only three countries in the 3-4GW range, and India and Spain would rank next with between 1 and 2GW. It would double the number of projects world wide to be included in the table, but would not change Australia’s ranking. It doesn’t have any projects between 1.5MW and 1.0MW either.

This article, Top 20 Utility Scale Solar Countries – Graph Of The Day, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

is the founding editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia’s energy grid with great interest.

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