Energy Central Professional


All against coal but with coal

CE Noticias Financieras  


    The whole planet wants to be green and carbon-free, like Europe by 2050. This fuel is the largest source of electricity generation, the second largest source of primary energy and the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions, but more and more voices are emerging that moving away from it will not be easy. Asia dominates the global coal market, with China accounting for more than half of global demand, or two-thirds if India is added.The pledges to achieve net zero emissions made by many countries, including China and India, should have very strong implications for coal, but they are not yet visible in the view of experts, reflecting the wide gap between ambition and action. Japan, Korea and China have also pledged to stop public funding for the construction of new coal-fired power projects abroad. Despite good intentions, some measures continue to add fuel to the fire rather than mitigate the problem. For one thing, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), countries spend $400 billion a year on subsidies, mostly on oil, but also on gas and electricity. "It is possible to decarbonize the entire planet by 2050, but it is increasingly difficult, especially if we want to do it in an orderly manner. But if we don't, we will continue to suffer increasingly severe natural disasters, with serious economic, social and environmental impacts," says Ricardo Pedraz, Consultant at AFI (International Financial Analysts).Are we ready for the transition? Russia's invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the challenges countries face in securing sustainable and affordable energy supplies in a complex and uncertain geopolitical environment. The ongoing turmoil in global energy markets threatens to derail efforts to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Just this week, the European Commission launched the Repower EU Plan to permanently cut off Russian gas supplies by 2027, a package of measures that will involve an investment of 300 billion euros. However, the EU plans also include some unexpected measures such as increased coal-fired electricity production and extending the life of Belgian and French nuclear power plants. "The Russian war makes us more dependent on fossil fuels. To consider decarbonization policies, especially in the energy sector, we need three objectives: sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply, and now we are not meeting any of the three. The war has blown them out of the water," explains Mateo Rosales, Public Affairs consultant specializing in Climate and Energy Transition at Atrevia.Decarbonizing will also have a cost. Bank of America estimates that it will cost the world investments worth $5 trillion (4.7 trillion euros) over 30 years: a total of $150 trillion (142 billion euros), roughly double the world's GDP. The consumer will have to contribute through taxes. Bank of America estimates that the bill for decarbonizing is equivalent to 25% of current global tax revenues ($20 trillion).While mitigating climate change could boost economic growth by an additional 0.4% per year until 2030, limiting fossil fuel supply could also cause inflation to rise from 1% to 3%, Bank of America warns. Accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy too quickly could hurt growth, shutting down sectors at the expense of others. Still, the latest IEA report argues that pushing for net-zero emissions will reduce employment in the traditional energy sector by 5 million people by 2030, but would add another 14 million jobs in the clean energy sector. Other research services, such as BloombergNEF, put the cost of decarbonizing at $174 trillion by 2050, nearly 3 times the amount invested in the energy system today.But change will not happen overnight. In Europe, the energy dependency rate remains high. In 2019 it was 61%, with almost two thirds corresponding to crude oil and petroleum products, followed by natural gas (27%) and coal (6%). Santiago Carbó, Professor of Economics at the University of Granada believes that Europe has not done enough and "does not have a common climate or energy strategy. For many years policies have been focused on gas and meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement is now more than ever a major challenge".Nobody said it would be easy adds Lara Lázaro, researcher at the Real Instituto Elcano. "Obviously, any transition from a fossil fuel model to an emissions-neutral model has costs, but we must also put on the table the cost of not doing so. Not limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees could mean a drop in GDP in 2030 of between 11% and 18%," he says. "We are not decarbonizing because we want to lose money, but because the economy of the future is digital and emission-neutral and we want to be positioned in that economy. Fortunately, in Spain we have a lot of solar resources and great energy champions in all sectors, established internationally, and providing job opportunities in this new economy," adds Lázaro.Many companies are adapting their production processes in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. But most green technologies require significant amounts of metals and minerals, such as copper, lithium and cobalt, especially during the transition period. Electric vehicles, for example, use six times more minerals than conventional cars and an offshore wind plant requires more than seven times the amount of copper compared to a gas plant. "There are still industries that are difficult to decarbonize. For example, we cannot electrify a ship, they cannot run on batteries, airplanes need fuels, cement is essential for millions of infrastructures, and cement at the moment requires a lot of heat for its production process" notes Pedraz.Meanwhile, renewable energy and electrification become the backbone of the transition and must be accelerated immediately, and hydrogen, carbon capture and new modular nuclear plants are emerging tools that must be developed and deployed as soon as possible. That is why the EU Repower Plan will allocate 86 billion euros for solar and wind, 37 billion for biomethane and 27 billion for hydrogen. But it won't be easy either. To decarbonize our planet we will need 88 times more wind, solar and battery capacity by 2050, and even then only half of the emissions reductions could be covered, warns Bank of America.The transition will leave more price hikes on the way, so monetary policy will have to play an important role. The ECB announced that it will align its policies with the goals of the Paris Agreement as "quickly as possible" so that all actions taken contribute to the greening of economies and do not "undermine" incentives to accelerate the green transition. And vis-à-vis investors, the bank also wants to be a benchmark in driving the sustainable transition. "Decarbonization is a challenge of necessary global ambition," defend CaixaBank sources and as proof of its commitment to decarbonization offers its data. Last year CaixaBank mobilized 31,375 million euros in sustainable financing, 150% more than the previous year. The entity beat its historical record both in sustainable loans, with 11,595 million euros, and in the issuance of ESG bonds, with more than 19,780 million euros.


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