Asia Global Energy Solutions - Why Coal Industry is Still Growing in Asia
Jun 19, 2013
Why Coal Industry is Still Growing in Asia
Japan Today reported that while public events like Earth Day or Earth Hour with their large numbers of participants may seem to indicate strong public support for climate change mitigation, the reality is that the growth of new coal plants has outpaced that of clean energy in terms of capacity especially in Asia. This means that the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions is still growing despite what seems to be a growing public clamor for environmental protection. With the recent milestone of the 400ppm CO2 level in the atmosphere announced by the U.S. NOAA, we need to reexamine if what we are doing is working.
The reason for the unchecked growth of coal is simple cost. People are willing to shutoff a light for an hour because that is not much of an inconvenience, but ask them to pay a slightly higher electric bill and a significant portion of the populace will balk. This is especially true in underdeveloped economies, and those struggling to catch up.
While the Kyoto Protocol Carbon Development Mechanism helped make many renewable energy installations like wind and solar viable around the world, coupled with some sort of feed in tariff, this has still not dampened demand for coal plants percentage wise, the amount of renewable energy vis a vis fossil fuel based power is miniscule. The CDM credits only pay for a small percentage of the cost of a new solar or wind farm and the feed in tariff remains high relative to the cost of coal. This situation will remain in effect until economies of scale and R&D for renewables force a significant drop in price like it did for personal computers and semiconductors. Although manufacturing in China has contributed to a large price decline, for example in solar photovoltaics, the recent bankruptcy of Wuxi, China based solar manufacturer Suntech has shown that much work remains to be done.