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Books on the power generation industry? Esp. thermal coal.


WeiChiLoh
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Not a book but I subscribed to Power Magazine and find every issue incredibly informative. They tend to take a conservative approach to newer tech with the understanding that utility scale power generation isn't easy to disrupt with new tech, although there are always some neat articles on renewables and other cutting edge power technology.

 

Traditionally, thermal coal has been the lowest cost and lowest "tech" form of power generation. Cheaper natural gas, at least here in the US, and even more recently cost competitive renewables in the form of onshore wind and utility scale solar, have chipped away at coal's share of the market. At the same time, governments have really taken coal to the woodshed. Cutting coal usage is an easy and visible victory in the war on pollution/climate change. That said, coal is still an incredibly cheap and relatively simple to operate form of power generation. As more people demand more power, especially in China and India where nat gas is more expensive, coal is the easiest way to take up the slack. Coal is still going to retain a significant % of the power generation market share for at least the next couple decades according to most industry forecasts I've seen.

 

http://www.powermag.com

 

BP's statistical review of world energy is also a good source to start with when it comes to some of the macro trends in the power generation industry.

 

http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/pdf/Energy-economics/statistical-review-2015/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2015-full-report.pdf

 

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Here is the crux of the problem with coal.

 

http://www.economist.com/news/china/21661053-new-study-suggests-air-pollution-even-worse-thought-mapping-invisible-scourge

 

Berkeley Earth’s scientific director, Richard Muller, says breathing Beijing’s air is the equivalent of smoking almost 40 cigarettes a day and calculates that air pollution causes 1.6m deaths a year in China, or 17% of the total.

 

The second link Schwab posted is interesting in that it looks at the feasibility of making coal competitive on environmental terms with other forms of generation. The issue of course is cost. When you look at coal's future in power generation I think it's helpful to put yourself in the shoes of a utility company looking to expand generation capacity. In that sense there are a number of options, coal, nat-gas, solar, wind maybe nuclear or hydro even depending where you're located. Government policy seems to be doing everything it can to make coal more expensive whereas market forces have made natural gas and onshore wind quite competitive. Coal isn't done for yet but it doesn't have the same appeal it did even 5 years ago.

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The problem is, India and China dont really have a alternative. China has not enough water to frack gas on a large scale, and India doesnt have much gas to begin with. So what else are you going to use? Possibly solar in the future, but that will be a while.

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The problem is, India and China dont really have a alternative. China has not enough water to frack gas on a large scale, and India doesnt have much gas to begin with. So what else are you going to use? Possibly solar in the future, but that will be a while.

 

Right, these are issues for India and China in terms of air quality (and for world in terms of pollution).

 

OTOH that might not save US thermal coal companies.

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The problem is, India and China dont really have a alternative. China has not enough water to frack gas on a large scale, and India doesnt have much gas to begin with. So what else are you going to use? Possibly solar in the future, but that will be a while.

 

Pretty much spot on, the best option is to make coal cleaner, which is doable.

 

http://cornerstonemag.net/the-development-strategy-for-coal-fired-power-generation-in-china/

 

From that study - 2015 coal provides roughly 66% of power generation in China, they forecast it will remain at 59% in 2020 and in 2050 will still account for 48% of power generation.

 

Anyone know any companies worth looking at involved in clean coal tech? They've probably sold off alongside coal but might be worth looking at since most longterm forecasts show a place for coal in the power generation mix.

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