NEWS RELEASE SEPTEMBER 2013
Major Variables Make Precise Forecasting Of Future Energy Supply Mix Impossible
More money will be spent on new coal-fired power plants in the next decade than on all other energy generation technologies combined. But the mix in the 2023-2033 timeframe is less predictable.
It takes years to plan and then construct a new coal-fired power plant, so near-term predictions for new coal capacity can be made with confidence. Nuclear power plants take even longer. Wind and solar construction cycles are much shorter.
Renewable energy is turning out to be more expensive than proponents had hoped. As a result, new construction relies on subsidies rather than competitive pricing. So future use depends on progress in cost reduction or continuation of subsidies. Both are fraught with uncertainty.
Gas-fired power recently has been expensive in Europe where some power plants are being temporarily shuttered. Meanwhile gas-fired power is relatively inexpensive in the U.S. The price disparity will disappear if large scale LNG and gas-to-liquids plants are built in the U.S. The ability to export gas will raise the price to world levels.
The political turmoil in the Middle East is another major variable. The shale gas production in the U.S. is sufficient to blunt some of the impact, but since gas and oil prices ultimately rise and fall together, this turmoil is a significant potential factor in future energy production.
The attitude toward global warming is another factor. It has been strong enough in the U.S. to ensure that few if any new coal-fired power plants will be built. The attitude in China is to spend lots of money to clean up all the direct air emissions from burning coal. The argument can be made that the potential harm from SO2, NOx, mercury and fine particulate is significantly greater than from the emission of CO2. So the harm reduction is substantial if the pollutants are removed.
McIlvaine has created a common metric to measure all harm and good. A ton of mercury is as harmful as ten million tons of CO2. So a campaign to eliminate the 100 tons/yr of mercury from Chinese coal-fired power plants would be the equivalent of a one billion ton/yr reduction in CO2 emissions.
An analysis of the future of the various energy generation technologies is found in:
Fossil & Nuclear Power Generation: World Analysis & Forecast: http://home.mcilvainecompany.com/index.php/markets/2-uncategorised/113-n043
Renewable Energy World Markets: http://home.mcilvainecompany.com/index.php/markets/28-energy/473-n042
Information on the common metric to measure all harm and good is found at: Sustainability Universal Rating System