Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clean Development and Coal : Boosting Health by Fighting Coal

The Worldwatch Institute have just released 'Powering China's Development', a report on Chinas renewable energy status and policy environment.

Here are two issues from the books introduction:
1. Coal and Health as a national emergency
2. Coal as a global emergency.

1. Earlier in the year a world bank report was not released because the Chinese govornment felt it would build social unrest. What did it say? More that 400'000 people a year are dying prematurely due to air pollution. As >70% of Chinas primary energy (c.f. 20% in the US) comes from coal most of these deaths are due to old fossil fool (sic) technology. Clean development is therefore attractive from both local and global perspectives. In cold economic terms, ill health and environmental degredation are placing strain on the economy. It is estimated that just one percent of all Chinese urban dwellers breathe air within EU permissible standards!


2. The Chinese government have many problems in the area of sustainability. In the area of Energy however, things are rather one dimensional. The question is one of coal. How can the exponential growth in coal powered fire plants be limited or the effects ameliorated? First the good news. The Chinese government released a report in June 2007 stating categorically that climate change was a great threat to the nation, and the worlds, development. Perhaps a couple of years ago this wouldn't have happend in the US and China are at the car ownership levels of the US when the Model T Ford was on forecourts! The debate is advanced for the nations state of development. This is reflected by the fact that central government has ordered vast closures of small inefficient coal fired power plants which are being replace with larger more efficient ones: would the US government, or European governments do this?

The bad news is that during 2006 China built 101GW or 101,000MW of power plants (mainly coal). That is more grid capacity than the whole of France! Equivalent to more than two 600MW coal fired power plants per week.

Which leads to my conclusion: we don't have enough wind, solar, biomass capacity in the world to replace this much incremental installed capacity if we wanted to. It cannot go on: we need carbon capture and storage to be rolled out. A global top priority for governments and NGO's must be to make sure that all new coal is CCS enabled and as efficient as possible.

We have a global carbon budget, if China continues building Coal power plants then to meet that budget it will have to decommission them again. This would be an economic nonsense. I can't stress strongly enough how badly the developed nations are failing in allowing this to happen. Funding, technology transfer and a real commitment to anything but coal without CCS must be international priorities and must receive funding commensurate with the global scale of the challenge.

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3 Comments:

At 11:37 PM, Blogger HL said...

Research on how to reduce the captured carbon to carbonate forms or some similar stable compounds is nearly as important. The US should work to develop a coal low carbon emission power system that gives it a hegemonic position that can be shared (imposed) on all nations. The investments are more important than any other investment and certainly much better than war materials for sustaining the world environment and economy as well as the nations dominance in the world affair. Many of the Western allies would be willing to be part of a coalition that changes the world to low carbon future.

 
At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

coal is not a sustainable or renewable energy source. so called 'clean; coal will not be around for sometime and then is still not renewable and has emissions and problems related to the carbon storage (ie the emissions being released at some stage).

investment in renewable energy and efficiency is far better and more important to invest in. coal and oil companies have stalled action on climate change and both (along with gas companies) are largely responsible for a large percentage of emissions.

clean energy is needed, coal is not a clean energy.

 
At 11:25 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

In terms of emissions to the atmosphere: mercury, suplur, particulates etc. plants with ccs are clean as these are not emmited.

Certainly not renewable, never claimed it was.

 

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