POWER & UTILITIES
The long-term goal of the Power & Utilities team is to provide data and asset-level analysis to support a power system that stays within a 1.5˚C global average temperature rise. Through our research, we demonstrate that this would require:
no unabated coal power by 2040
no new unabated coal by 2021
Our power sector research also aims to provide clarity on the short and long-term implications of gas and to demonstrate the competitiveness of renewable energy based on a global economic analysis, with special attention on some of the main East and South East Asia markets.
Building on the success of the November 2018 “Powering Down Coal” report, between May to December 2019, the Power & Utilities team produced a series of analyst notes which looked specifically at the economics of renewable power sources in South and East Asia, namely Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan. The analyses found that, independent of carbon pricing and additional air pollution regulations, new coal investments are already becoming high cost and thus are destined to become stranded assets.
For example, we found that in Vietnam by 2020 it could be cheaper to invest in new solar PV than new coal and by 2021 for new onshore wind. Japan, meanwhile, could face US $71 billions of stranded coal assets without policy reform and South Korea could waste over US $100 billion on outdated coal technology. This work was picked up by top-tier media including, Bloomberg News Agency, The Economist, Reuters News Agency, AFP, and S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The team embarked on a roadshow in these regions and engaged with local governments, investors and civil society, with support from the UK Foreign Office, BEIS Department, IEEFA and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC).
Our October 2019 report “Apocoalypse Now” focused on Europe and showed that currently 79% of EU coal generators are running at a loss and could lose €6.5 billion in 2019. This report garnered significant European press interest and a response from RWE itself.
The power team received a grant from the Tides Foundation, on the recommendation of the Google.org Charitable Giving Fund, to continue their ground-breaking satellite research tracking coal plant emissions, in collaboration with Google AI and Watt Time. The results of this research collaboration will be published in 2020-2021.
Our coal power data helped inform the financial services company Storebrand in its decision to divest from RWE. Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO of Storebrand directly cited Carbon Tracker in his explanatory statement on the Storebrand decision to exclude investment in RWE.
Carbon Tracker was also heavily referenced in audit hearings in South Korea. Solution For Our Climate testified at the KEPCO hearing about the power market issue, and Carbon Tracker’s Korea stranded asset report was referred to several times during the hearings. (KEPCO Hearing at Trade, Industry and Energy Committee / SFOC testimony on power markets (October 11)).
Carbon tracker data, along with a couple of other analyses, were pivotal in providing intelligence to the SG on the global coal situation and country’s climate performance which resulted in his decision to ask G20 countries for specific actions, and a global call to end coal plant approvals by 2020.
Additionally, using our modelling expertise, we modelled the project finance economics of a new power plant under construction in Poland, Ostroleka C, and testified against its construction in a case brought forward by legal NGO ClientEarth on behalf of Enea shareholders. In addition, Carbon Tracker wrote to mobilise many of the international institutional investors in ENEA and Enera, to highlight the financial report and its detailing of the investment risks. In August 2019 the court ruled the project should be suspended, pending appeal. Our report “Burning more money than coal” documents the results of this modelling.
"Dark clouds & death spirals
The award-winning think-tank, Carbon Tracker, which mainstreamed terms like stranded assets and the carbon bubble, has demonstrated that half of Europe’s coal plants are in fact losing money. Closing them would avoid €22 billion in losses by 2030. I’m excited by the prospect of their new global fossil fuel plant portal, which will be ready in ahead of the climate talks in Poland in December, and will show utilisation rates and profitability of coal plants in much greater detail. There really is nowhere to hide for coal plant operators and investors."
Jan Erik Saugestad, CEO,
Storebrand Asset Management