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Coal subsidies are still in play: Not a good way to walk the talk

If #fossilfuels, and coal in particular, keep getting incentives, the #energytransition is not very likely to happen and there will be very few chances to reverse #climatechange $63.9 billion invested in #renewableenergy can make a difference in the world energy landscape and in building a #sustainablefuture.


Marco Scarpellino's picture

Thank Marco for the Post!

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Joshua Aldridge's picture
Joshua Aldridge on Aug 20, 2019 3:33 pm GMT

Excellent point of view. I would suggest this definitely needs attention. I'll play devil's advocate for a moment though. Consider that we are nowhere near the level of IRR reliability that we need to be at to transition away from coal and other fossil fuels. That combined with the baseload reliance on fossil fuel generation will keep this issue alive for the foreseeable future. The retirement of over 6000 MW of coal generation (over the last two years) combined with a growing load curve and delayed wind projects are considered to be contributors in ERCOT going into EEA 1 twice in one week after not having experienced said condition in over a decade. So my question is it more effective to fund R&D in renewables that will make them reliable baseload generation assets,  or to attempt to choke out the units that support the existing real-time load?  In my opinion, this is an issue that requires action in both the real-time and planning horizons. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 20, 2019 10:13 pm GMT

So my question is it more effective to fund R&D in renewables that will make them reliable baseload generation assets,  or to attempt to choke out the units that support the existing real-time load?

I like this thought experiment, Joshua. I think the real solution is the boring and non-committal "a little of Column A and a little of Column B," but the truth is you really can't have one without the other. Blindly pushing renewables to 100% right away, before the storage and intermittency issues are more completely tackled, would surely be problematic-- but so too has the 'wait and see' approach put us in a more precarious situation. 

Marco Scarpellino's picture
Marco Scarpellino on Aug 21, 2019 10:38 am GMT

I see your point Joshua (when you play the part of the devil's advocate) and my thought on this is that in principle (at least the way I see that) incentives are conceived to help technologies that are still not (totally) commercially viable (what you call IRR reliability, if I understood it correctly). What is the point of giving subsidies to a technology, coal in the specific case, that is already commercially viable and that is harming our planet and threatening our own existence? I agree that we might need to keep those technologies alive to cover the baseload, but let's direct the subsidies to technologies that we need in the near future to scale them up and make them technologically and commercially reliable.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 20, 2019 10:11 pm GMT

It seems like part of the issue is that these fossil fuel subsidies are more or less the status quo. While it would be politically untenable for leaders to newly offer these subsidies to the industry, no matter how powerful, the fact that they're already entrenched in the system makes them harder to walk back. Do you have any thoughts or insights into the more realistic approach to undo these type of subsidies across goverments?

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 23, 2019 2:21 pm GMT

There won't be any problem with base load power. Just cut the subsidies .It will only affect price not production. If you are worried about the big cost rise at least phase them out 10% a year which allows plenty of time to adjust.

Also cut the bigger subsidies to Nuclear and look at NG gas too. We have been wasting money and adding pollution for far to many years.

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