Record amount of renewable energy capacity added in 2016 | DW.COM

Global renewable energy capacity jumped eight percent last year despite a 23 percent drop in investment. Falling renewable energy prices are driving a build-up of capacity.

The world added a record amount of renewable energy in 2016 despite a sharp drop in investment, the UN said Thursday, largely due to falling costs of clean energy.

New renewable energy, excluding large hydro projects, added 138.5 gigawatts of power in 2016, up eight percent from the previous year. The new capacity came despite investment falling to $241.6 billion (227 billion euro), 23 percent lower than the previous year and the lowest since 2013.

….Not all the drop in investment was due to reduced costs, with China, Japan and some emerging markets cutting renewable investments. China’s investment in renewables dropped 32 percent to $78.3 billion, the first time in a decade it bucked a rising trend. Japan’s investment tumbled 56 percent.

What is encouraging is the 29% reduction in cost per KWh of renewable energy.

Levelized Cost
A 2014 study by Lazard, an international financial advisory and asset management firm, shows onshore wind has the lowest average levelized cost at $59 per megawatt-hour, and utility-scale photovoltaic plants weren’t far behind at $79. By comparison, the lowest cost conventional technologies were gas combined cycle technologies, averaging $74 per megawatt-hour, and coal plants, averaging $109. These numbers are the average of low- and high-end estimates….

Levelized Energy Costs

Wind and solar costs falling
The levelized cost of some wind and solar technologies has plummeted in recent years. The graphic below shows that the average cost of onshore wind has fallen from $135 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to $59 in 2014. That’s a 56 percent drop in five years. The cost of utility-scale photovoltaic technology has plunged from $359 per megawatt-hour in 2009 to $79 in 2014, a 78 percent decline. [source: Energy Innovation]

Lazard: Solar & Wind Energy Costs

The cost of large-scale solar continues to fall rapidly. In August 2016, Chile announced a new record low contract price to provide solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour (MWh). In September 2016, Abu Dhabi announced a new record breaking bid price, promising to provide solar power for $24.2 per megawatt-hour (MWh). [source: Wikipedia]

Wind prices are also falling. In 2016 the Norwegian Wind Energy Association (NORWEA) estimated the LCoE of a typical Norwegian wind farm at 44 €/MWh, assuming a weighted average cost of capital of 8% and an annual 3,500 full load hours, i.e. a capacity factor of 40%. NORWEA went on to estimate the LCoE of the 1 GW Fosen Vind onshore wind farm which is expected to be operational by 2020 to be as low as 35 €/MWh to 40 €/MWh. Offshore wind prices are also falling. In November 2016, Vattenfall won a tender to develop the Kriegers Flak windpark in the Baltic Sea for 49,9 €/MWh. [source: Wikipedia]

The IEA says “The share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption climbed to 18.3%, continuing the slight acceleration of trends evident since 2010. However, progress is nowhere near fast enough to double its share to 36% in 2030. As highlighted in IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2016, the challenge is to increase reliance on renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors, which account for the bulk of global energy consumption.”

Source: UN: Record amount of renewable energy capacity added in 2016 | News | DW.COM | 07.04.2017

3 Headwinds facing the ASX 200

The ASX 200 broke through stubborn resistance at 5800 but is struggling to reach 6000.

ASX 200

There are three headwinds that make me believe that the index will struggle to break 6000:

Shuttering of the motor industry

The last vehicles will roll off production lines in October this year. A 2016 study by Valadkhani & Smyth estimates the number of direct and indirect job losses at more than 20,000.

Full time job losses from collapse of motor vehicle industry in Australia

But this does not take into account the vacuum left by the loss of scientific, technology and engineering skills and the impact this will have on other industries.

…R&D-intensive manufacturing industries, such as the motor vehicle industry, play an important role in the process of technology diffusion. These findings are consistent with the argument in the Bracks report that R&D is a linchpin of the Australian automotive sector and that there are important knowledge spillovers to other industries.

Collapse of the housing bubble

An oversupply of apartments will lead to falling prices, with heavy discounting already evident in Melbourne as developers attempt to clear units. Bank lending will slow as prices fall and spillover into the broader housing market seems inevitable. Especially when:

  • Current prices are supported by strong immigration flows which are bound to lead to a political backlash if not curtailed;
  • The RBA is low on ammunition; and
  • Australian households are leveraged to the eyeballs — the highest level of Debt to Disposable Income of any OECD nation.

Debt to Disposable Income

Falling demand for iron ore & coal

China is headed for a contraction, with a sharp down-turn in growth of M1 money supply warning of tighter liquidity. Falling housing prices and record iron ore inventory levels are both likely to drive iron ore and coal prices lower.

China M1 Money Supply Growth

Australia has survived the last decade on Mr Micawber style economic management, with something always turning up at just the right moment — like the massive 2009-2010 stimulus on the chart above — to rescue the economy from disaster. But sooner or later our luck will run out. As any trader will tell you: Hope isn’t a strategy.

“I have no doubt I shall, please Heaven, begin to be more beforehand with the world, and to live in a perfectly new manner, if — if, in short, anything turns up.”

~ Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

China: Cement Production

Lowest cement production in more than 10 years reflects the decline in infrastructure investment. Not good news for Australian resources stocks. Where cement production goes, iron ore and coal are likely to follow.

The Catch-22 of energy storage | On Line Opinion

John Morgan questions whether wind and solar are viable energy sources when one considers energy returned on energy invested (EROEI).

There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society. An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded. For countries like the US and Germany, Weißbach et al. estimate this minimum viable EROEI to be about 7……

The fossil fuel power sources we’re most accustomed to have a high EROEI of about 30, well above the minimum requirement. Wind power at 16, and concentrating solar power (CSP, or solar thermal power) at 19, are lower, but the energy surplus is still sufficient, in principle, to sustain a developed industrial society. Biomass, and solar photovoltaic (at least in Germany), however, cannot. With an EROEI of only 3.9 and 3.5 respectively, these power sources cannot support with their energy alone both their own fabrication and the societal services we use energy for in a first world country.

EROEI with and without storage

Energy Returned on Invested, from Weißbach et al.,1 with and without energy storage (buffering). CCGT is closed-cycle gas turbine. PWR is a Pressurized Water (conventional nuclear) Reactor. Energy sources must exceed the “economic threshold”, of about 7, to yield the surplus energy required to support an OECD level society.

These EROEI values are for energy directly delivered (the “unbuffered” values in the figure). But things change if we need to store energy. If we were to store energy in, say, batteries, we must invest energy in mining the materials and manufacturing those batteries. So a larger energy investment is required, and the EROEI consequently drops…[to the buffered level].

Read more at The Catch-22 of energy storage – On Line Opinion – 10/3/2015.

Solar Is Going To Change The World Much Faster Than Anyone Expects | Business Insider Australia

Michael Sankowski writes:

My calculations show that if solar maintains 5 more years at current 23% rates per year price drops, solar power will be cheaper than using existing coal plants. That’s right – it will be cheaper to build new solar plants than to use existing coal plants. It sounds absolutely crazy.

But it seems true looking at the data.

It is often inaccurate to extrapolate price decreases over a long period, but I hope that he is right.

Read more at Solar Is Going To Change The World Much Faster Than Anyone Expects | Business Insider Australia.

Exploding Australia’s nuclear delusion | Business Spectator

Geoff Russell writes:

France has been producing most of its electricity using nuclear power stations for an average carbon dioxide intensity of about 80 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour (gm-CO2/kWh) for two decades. In that time, Australia’s electricity has just gotten dirtier, rising from 817 in 1990 to 841 gm-CO2/kWh in 2010.

….Switzerland and Sweden have been using a mix of hydro and nuclear to achieve even lower carbon dioxide intensity than France.

Read more at Exploding Australia's nuclear delusion | Business Spectator.

Correlation Breakdown as Proxies for Risk Boost Aussie, Kiwi – Bloomberg

The strength of the Aussie is increasingly driven by reasons other than raw materials as growth slows for exports to China, its largest trading partner. Prices for iron ore delivered to the port of Tianjin have dropped to the lowest level since December 2009, according to Steel Index Ltd., and contracts for coal used to make steel may fall 11 percent to the lowest price in two years, according to a Bloomberg survey of seven analysts and industry officials.

via Correlation Breakdown as Proxies for Risk Boost Aussie, Kiwi – Bloomberg.

Why the RBA should cut rates – macrobusiness.com.au

Nominal house prices are falling. Not collapsing, certainly. But falling very consistently, roughly 6% peak to trough. 8.5% in real terms. This has had a number of well documented effects including high savings rates, historically conservative levels of retail sales and stalled services sector investment.

…..Now, in August, the latest month for which we have data, coal and iron ore earned Australia $12 billion in export income. Assuming the price falls we have seen get no worse (or better), by the time new prices filter through the various contract systems, those same commodities will earn us roughly $9 billion in January next year (all things being equal with the currency).

via Why the RBA should cut rates – macrobusiness.com.au | macrobusiness.com.au.

Here’s What Will Happen When China’s Bubble Bursts

What would a China slowdown mean for the rest of us? In the main, three things will become evident.

  • First, China will remain committed to letting its currency, the yuan, rise in international foreign-exchange markets. A stronger currency will encourage companies to rely less on exports and more on goods and services consumed domestically.
  • Second, Chinese products will no longer be the cheapest on the shelves in years to come because China’s inflation rate will rise along with its wages. This is natural when any nation climbs a rung on the development ladder, which is what China is now doing.
  • Third, the Chinese market for raw materials and heavy equipment—cranes, bulldozers, factory machinery—will slow….

via Here’s What Will Happen When China’s Bubble Bursts.

Terms of trade shock brewing? – macrobusiness.com.au

As a simple exercise to give you some idea of where we’re headed, let’s refer to Rumplestatskin this morning, who shows that iron ore alone represents almost 30% of the export basket that makes up the terms of trade. Coal makes up another large component above 20%:

……So, if we use the conservative Westpac projection of a 16% fall in the value of iron ore and a 5% fall in value of total coal exports (which is obviously a very conservative guess because we don’t know the coking coal weighting), that would translate to a terms of trade fall around 12% in January next year.

via Terms of trade shock brewing? – macrobusiness.com.au | macrobusiness.com.au.