Royal Dutch Shell ‘New Lens Scenarios’ Energy downloads
Shell has been developing scenarios to explore the future since the early 1970s. Scenarios are stories that consider “what if?” questions.
Whereas forecasts focus on probabilities, scenarios consider a range of plausible futures and how these could emerge from the realities of today. They recognise that people hold beliefs and make choices that lead to outcomes.
Our scenarios team considers changes such as in the global economic environment, geopolitics, resource stresses such as water, greenhouse gases, and energy supply and demand to help business leaders make better decisions.
Fossil fuels have dominated the global energy market and even the global economy for a long time. You would think that such mature industries wouldn’t need government subsidies — their annual revenue and profits are mind-boggling. However, with money comes power. And that money-power has a stranglehold on governments of the world such that it convinces governments to give them even more money in subsidies.
Another recent study comes to the conclusion that the total annual subsidies fossil fuel companies get from governments in the developed world comes to about half a trillion dollars. This follows a 2010 study from the International Energy Agency that found fossil fuel industries got $550 billion in annual subsidies.
It almost sounds like a joke — some of the richest companies in the world get $500 billion in government handouts. Just picture the rich, old, white men laughing their buns off about the way they have the most powerful governments in the world wrapped around their pinkie finger… or at least wrapped around the fingers that sign checks for our politicians’ election campaigns.
The latest study on this matter, Time to change the game, finds that the average resident of the world’s richest countries donates $112 a year to fossil fuel companies in the form of subsidies.
What are those subsidies for?
Well, as a press release about the new study notes, “these subsidies create perverse incentives favouring investment in carbon-intensive energy.” Yep, we’re encouraging the use of fossil fuels that harm our health, our climate, and our environment rather than using that money to transition away from these harmful sources and towards a truly clean energy economy.
The proposal from study author Shelagh Whitley is that G20 nations phase out fossil fuel subsidies completely by 2020. Whitley states:
The rules of the game are currently biased in favour of fossil fuels.
The status quo encourages energy companies to continue burning high-carbon fossil fuels and offers no incentive to change. We’re throwing money at policies that are only going to make the problem worse in the long run by locking us into dangerous climate change.
The average subsidy provided by rich governments for every tonne of carbon is $7. This is the same as the current cost of carbon in the EU carbon trading system – meaning the carbon price may as well not exist.
Domestic subsidies in rich countries outstrip international climate finance provided to help address climate change in developing countries by a ratio of 7:1.
In some countries – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – fossil fuel subsidies are more than double the level of spending on health services.
In countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco and Bangladesh, fossil fuel subsidies outweigh the national fiscal deficit.
Yep, you’ve got coal in your stocking, thanks to subsidies that have no place in a free market. Oddly, “free market idealists” never seem to complain about this matter.
Notably, G20 countries have agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, with leadership on this matter actually coming from President Obama. An agreement made in September regarding the methodology for a new peer-review process of evaluating fossil fuel subsidies. This followed a 2009 agreement to phase out such subsidies. Obviously, though, they aren’t rushing through the process… 4 years and we’ve got an agreement on a peer-review process?
Around 90% of city dwellers in the European Union (EU) are exposed to one of the most damaging air pollutants at levels deemed harmful to health by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This result comes from the latest assessment of air quality in Europe, published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
“Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment, according to current standards. To get on to a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation.” — Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director
Vehicles, industry, agriculture and homes are contributing to air pollution in Europe. Despite falling emission levels and reductions of some air pollutant concentrations in recent decades, the report demonstrates that Europe’s air pollution problem is far from solved. Two specific pollutants, particulate matter and ground-level ozone, continue to be a source breathing problems, cardiovascular disease and shortened lives. New scientific findings show that human health can be harmed by lower concentrations of air pollution than previously thought.
Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “Air pollution is causing damage to human health and ecosystems. Large parts of the population do not live in a healthy environment, according to current standards. To get on to a sustainable path, Europe will have to be ambitious and go beyond current legislation.”
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik added: “Air quality is a central concern for many people. Surveys show that a large majority of citizens understand well the impact of air quality on health and are asking public authorities to take action at EU, national and local levels, even in times of austerity and hardship. I am ready to respond to these concerns through the Commission’s upcoming Air Policy Review.”
Between 2009 and 2011, up to 96% of city dwellers were exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations above WHO guidelines and up to 98% were exposed to ozone (O3) levels above WHO guidelines. Lower proportions of EU citizens were exposed to levels of these pollutants exceeding the limits or targets set out in EU legislation. These EU limits or targets are in certain cases less strict than WHO guidelines. See EEA data on EU exposure in 2011.
It is not just cities – some rural areas also have significant levels of air pollution, the report notes. National differences across Europe are presented in a series of country fact-sheets accompanying the main findings.
There have been several success stories in cutting emissions of air pollutants – for example sulphur dioxide emissions from power plants, industry and transport have been reduced over the last decade, reducing exposure. Phasing out leaded petrol has also reduced concentrations of lead, found to affect neurological development.
Alongside health concerns, the report also highlights environmental problems such as eutrophication, which is when excessive nutrient nitrogen damages ecosystems, threatening biodiversity. Eutrophication is still a widespread problem that affects most European ecosystems.
Emissions of some nitrogen-containing pollutants have decreased, for example emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia have fallen by 27% and 7% respectively since 2002. However, emissions were not reduced as much as anticipated, with eight EU Member States breaching legal ceilings a year after the deadline for compliance. To address eutrophication, further measures are needed to reduce emissions of nitrogen.
The nations of the Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf are blessed to have access to unfathomable amounts of sunlight and salt water. With growing populations and scarce water reserves, governments, public or privately-held power companies and water utilities can capitalize on these national assets — when the economics work.
Even when the economics don’t work, human beings still need water! Growing cities need water for domestic use and industry needs water to produce the goods that we buy, or that they export.
The question for Oman is; How much of Oman’s oil and gas is burning up at desal plants — instead of being exported to add to Oman’s GDP?
In previous decades, the power-hungry desalination plants widely-used throughout the Middle East were powered by electricity created from burning vast amounts of fossil fuel. The economics barely worked when the oil prices were low – but now, with oil once more approaching $100. per barrel, they are costing a king’s ransom to operate. Even oil-rich kingdoms are feeling the pinch nowadays.
A cogent case can be made for adopting alternative energy to power existing and future desalination plants – thereby allowing that oil and gas to be sold at export instead of being burned up. Why burn your money?
At $96.80/barrel for oil (April 2/13) and the natural gas price passing $4.08/MMBtu (April 2/13) the annual fuel cost to produce electricity with fossil fuel is unimaginably high. Really, you don’t want to know.
Fossil fuel exports power the economies of rapidly growing Middle East and North Africa (MENA) nations. Each barrel of oil burned for local desal operations, is one less barrel contributing to the national GDP. A similar situation is at play with regards to natural gas in Oman and the other GCC nations.
Modern solar power plants, such as Masdar’s Shams 1 solar power plant can produce 100 megawatts of clean power for 30-years or more, powered only by sunshine. These modern electrical energy power plants are powerful enough to run; (1) a desalination plant, with enough energy surplus to run (2) a nearby town, or (3) a rural area – or, perhaps all three!
There are two basic types of solar power;
Photovoltaic solar, properly called ‘PV-solar’ or ‘PV-solar modules’. The solar panels only produce power when the Sun is shining. Which is fine, because the highest electrical demand occurs during daylight hours.
Thermal solar, known as ‘Concentrated Solar Power’ or ‘CSP’ produce power 24 hours a day, by storing excess daytime heat in liquids such as molten salt or oil, to run a steam turbine/electricity generator.
PV-solar (panels) have increased efficiency from their 1980’s-era, 11% efficiency rating — to today’s +33% efficiency rating units. Panels with much higher efficiency ratings (perhaps as high as 100%) will hit the market within 20-years. And through all this, PV-solar panel prices have been falling dramatically, to the point that PV-solar utility-scale power plants are now price-competitive with other kinds of power – assuming similar subsidy levels are in place.
As PV-efficiency continues to increase through the next few years, just as it has been doing thus far, PV-solar ‘scaling up’ will be very easy. For example, solar panels are size-standardized, so simply unbolting the ‘old’ 11% efficiency panels and replacing them with the ‘new’ 22% efficiency panels, effectively doubles the power output of the solar power plant — practically overnight! (e.g.; 100 MW to 200 MW)
A few years later, when PV-efficiency increases, those (by then) ‘old’ 22% panels can be replaced with ‘new’ 45% efficiency panels – thereby doubling (again!) the total output of the solar power plant. The ‘old’ solar panels will still work fine, and they can be sold to developing nations, or traded-in against the cost of the new panels, just the same way you would trade your old car for a new one.
In fact, PV-solar power now costs less than comparable coal-fired power — and that’s not factoring in the costly ‘externalities’ of coal-fired electrical power generation, which range from huge water usage by coal-fired power plants, to toxic airborne emissions, to adverse health effects on citizens – which prematurely killed 1.2 million people in 2007-2010, in China alone!
CSP solar technology has advanced remarkably and several different designs have proven themselves viable in Spain, the United States and the UAE, although CSP costs are still high when compared to PV-solar and conventional power. This is changing as CSP production ramps up around the world. The one great advantage of CSP solar, is that these power plants produce power 24-hours per day, 365-days per year – and, no harmful emissions.
“Holding nearly half of the world’s renewable energy potential, the Middle East and North Africa are poised for unprecedented growth in renewable energy.” — Masdar
“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East. With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity. In fact, the Middle East is poised for major investments in renewables, and Shams 1 proves the economic and environmental advantage of deploying large-scale solar projects.” — His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar. (Read Masdar Shams 1 Press Release here)
It’s safe to say that MENA nations should be planning a long-term switch to solar energy, starting with PV-solar now, and CSP solar starting within the next ten years.
Financing these new, pollution-free power plants could be assisted by GCC government investment (sovereign wealth funds) financed through increased oil and gas exports – as oil and gas will be ‘freed-up’ for sale to international buyers.
It must be said that in areas of the country that make the switch from fossil fuel to solar, the cost of externalities will fall and residents will notice better health and enhanced ‘quality of life’ due to lower airborne emission levels and governments will notice lower health care costs. Not to mention plenty of clean, low-cost water for citizens and industry.
Why are Environmentalists excited about the Natural Gas boom? | 18/03/13 by John Brian Shannon
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the cleanest fossil fuel of all?
You guessed it! Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel – and by significant margins as data from the Environmental Protection Agency illustrates in the chart below.
Natural gas, as the cleanest of the fossil fuels, can be used in many ways to help reduce the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.
Burning natural gas in the place of other fossil fuels emits fewer harmful pollutants, and an increased reliance on natural gas can potentially reduce the emissions of many of the most harmful pollutants. — naturalgas.org
After investigating the externalities associated with conventional sources of energy and cognizant of their commitments towards clean air, many nations have begun to embrace natural gas as a stepping stone towards a cleaner energy future.
In the U.S.A., as far back as 2003 when coal supplied more than 50% of America’s electrical power, coal-fired plants have been retired more quickly than new ones have come online. By 2012, coal supplied only 38% of U.S. electricity.
Nine gigawatts of U.S. coal-fired power generation was shut-down in 2012 alone, and replaced by an almost equal amount of natural gas power generation. Emission levels from those comparably-sized replacement natural gas power plants are less than half of those retired coal-fired plants!
Many more U.S. coal-fired power plants are scheduled for complete shutdown, or conversion to natural gas over the next few years totalling 35 GigaWatts (GW) according to the experts.
The largest reductions appear to be due to the Electric Power and Transportation sector’s emissions, followed by the Industrial, Residential and Commercial sectors.
[Of all sectors] “the largest reduction to carbon emissions is due to coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ and construction of higher efficiency power plants.
Expansion of renewable power, overwhelmingly due to expanded wind power, has been the second largest factor to reduced Power Sector carbon emissions.” – theenergycollective.com
Many expert studies show CO2 emissions dropping as a result of the combined effects of many countries switching from coal to natural gas and/or renewables, 1990-2100.
The change-up to renewable energy will vary by country as OECD nations continue to take the lead in renewable energy between now and 2100. Even so, total worldwide emissions will drop dramatically and the switch from coal to natural gas is one big step towards a cleaner environment.