A liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker leaves the dock after discharge at PetroChina’s receiving terminal in Dalian, Liaoning province, China July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu//File Photo
SINGAPORE/NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Major Chinese energy companies are in advanced talks with U.S. exporters to secure long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG)supplies, as soaring gas prices and domestic power shortages heighten concerns about the country’s fuel security, several sources said.
Latest draft power development plan puts clean energy transition at risk by sacrificing renewables for more coal
29 September (IEEFA Vietnam): In the lead up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26, President Xi Jinping recently declared that China will no longer build new coal-fired power projects abroad. Despite limited details, the ramifications of China’s coal exit strategy for coal-centric developing economies like Vietnam could be immense.
The ramifications of China’s coal exit for coal-centric developing economies could be immense
Before President Xi’s announcement, Vietnam’s latest draft Power Development Master Plan 8 (PDP8) was released, and in a surprising shift, proposed to raise the installed capacity target for coal-fired power by 3 gigawatts (GW) to 40GW by 2030, with an additional (and final) 10GW to be deployed by 2035.
On September 21, 2021, Chinese president Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations General Assembly debate that China would not build any new coal-fired power plants abroad and would step up its support for developing green and low-carbon energy in developing countries. He also reiterated the country’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2060 and peak carbon emissions by 2030, targets which he had first announced last year. This new announcement sets the tone for the upcoming UN climate change conference, COP26, which will be held in Glasgow in early November.
Q1: Why does this new climate commitment matter?
A1: Xi Jinping’s speech at last year’s UN General Assembly was noteworthy because it set a timeline for China’s decarbonization. However, in addition to not specifying a peak level of emissions, it also left unanswered the question of whether the country would shoulder the responsibility for climate action outside its borders. China’s role as the largest public financier of coal projects globally has come into particular focus this past year as other governments, such as the G7 members, have pledged to slash their public financing of such projects. There were multiple calls from the international community, including U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry, for China to end its support for coal projects globally.
Europe’s energy ambitions are clear: to shift to a low-carbon future by remaking its power generating and distribution systems. But the present situation is an expensive mess. A global supply crunch for natural gas, bottlenecks for renewable energy and wind speeds in the North Sea among the slowest in 20 years, idling turbines, have contributed to soaring electricity prices. As winter approaches, governments are preparing to intervene if needed in volatile energy markets to keep homes warm and factories running.
1. What’s the problem here?
Energy prices skyrocketed as economies emerge from the pandemic — boosting demand just as supplies are falling short. Coal plants have been shuttered, gas stockpiles are low and the continent’s increasing reliance on renewable sources of energy is exposing its vulnerability. Even with mild weather in September, gas and electricity prices were breaking records across the continent and in the U.K. Italy’s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said he expected power prices to increase by 40% in the third quarter. In the U.K., CF Industries Holdings Inc., a major fertilizer producer, shut two plants, and Norwegian ammonia manufacturer Yara International ASA curbed its European production because of high fuel costs, as the crunch started to hit industrial companies.
Since 2013, public finance from China, Japan and South Korea accounted for more than 95% of total foreign financing toward coal-fired power plants. This financing enabled the construction and operation of coal power plants in developing countries, where investment in power supply does not match demand. These investments also came at a time when the global carbon budget was already overstretched.
Vietnam has been a Southeast Asia solar success story. It went from having barely any generation in 2018 to a quarter of its total installed capacity being solar – a 100-fold increase in two years.
This rapid growth is mainly down to the Vietnamese government’s feed-in tariff which provides a guaranteed above-market price for renewable energy producers; other incentives signed off in 2017 in an attempt to pivot away from lagging fossil fuel projects; and cheaper solar panels, some of which are assembled domestically.
Around 99% of the installed solar panels in Vietnam come from China. At the same time, China is one of the few countries that still lends Vietnam money to build coal plants.
China’s future role in Vietnam’s power system will be shaped by the latter’s newest plan for its power sector. The final version of the Power Development Plan 8 is due to be published in June, though it has been postponed before and may be again.
China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam plan to build more than 600 new coal-fired power projects, with a combined capacity of more than 300 gigawatts. Most would prove uneconomical and the new plants would put international climate goals out of reach.
By Reuters June 30, 2021 | 08:37 am GMT+7 VNExpressA coal power plant in Vietnam’s northern province of Thai Binh in 2019. photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh.
Five Asian countries including Vietnam are responsible for 80 percent of new coal power plants planned around the world, the Carbon Tracker group said on Wednesday.
China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam plan to build more than 600 new coal-fired power projects, with a combined capacity of more than 300 gigawatts, the group said, adding most would prove uneconomical and the new plants would put international climate goals out of reach.
5 May 2021 (IEEFA Philippines): The race to develop liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities in the Philippines has gone from a marathon to a sprint but potential LNG investors must proceed at their own risk, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
“Officials in the Philippines have endorsed a rapid buildout of LNG import infrastructure due to the anticipated depletion of the Malampaya deepwater development, the country’s only domestic source of natural gas, and high GDP growth expected over the next decade,” says the report’s author IEEFA Energy Finance Analyst, Sam Reynolds.
Exporting countries and industry players have pushed the narrative that natural gas, a fossil fuel alternative to coal, represents a viable transition fuel from coal to renewables. The United States, in particular, has encouraged legal and regulatory reforms to stimulate LNG demand creation.
By Duc Minh March 19, 2021 | 10:14 am GMT+7 VNExpressVinh Tan Power Plant 4 in the central province of Binh Thuan. Photo by Shutterstock/pDang86.Despite the associated environmental problems, Vietnam cannot do without coal-fired power plants for another 15 years at least, experts say.
There is no current alternative that can help Vietnam ensure energy security and maintain stable prices, they add.
There are several coal-fired plants in the pipeline, set to be be built by 2025, including the Nam Dinh 1 and Thai Binh 2 in northern Vietnam, and even after 2035 the country will still need a small number of coal-fired plants to keep prices from rising too high, the Institute of Energy says in a comment on the country’s latest energy development plan.
LNG importers will bear climate-related risks of exporting countries, threatening energy security and electricity costs
The Texas energy crisis has become world news.
During last week’s extreme winter weather, surging electricity demand collided with falling generation, forcing the state’s grid operator to implement rolling blackouts. In many cases, blackouts lasted for over 24 hours, causing fuel and electricity supply shortages and disruptions throughout the gas supply chain. At least 4.5 million Texans were at one point without electricity and more than 30 deaths have been attributed to power losses, though the final toll could be much larger.
News of the Texas power crisis has spread throughout Asia, where energy growth markets such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bangladesh are considering U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) imports as an alternative to coal-fired electricity generation. But the events in Texas have highlighted the risks inherent in LNG imports for both the energy transition and climate change adaptation.
Below are five lessons from the crisis for emerging markets in Asia.
Lesson 1. Gas/LNG volatility is here to stay.
It has been a tumultuous year in global LNG markets. The COVID-19 outbreak sent global LNG demand plummeting and Asian prices hit an all-time low of $1.85/MMBtu last May. U.S. LNG export facilities remained idle for much of the summer, oil and gas drilling fell by 40% internationally, and bankruptcies in the North American oil and gas sector soared to their highest level since 2016. Starting in the fall, a combination of production shut-ins, shipping delays, and cold weather caused Asian LNG prices to spike to a record high of $32.50/MMBtu.
The Texas energy crisis is another sign that volatility in global gas markets is likely to continue. High electricity demand combined with supply chain disruptions sent wholesale natural gas prices skyrocketing. At Texas’s Waha Hub, for example, prices jumped from $2.77 to $219, while spot prices in Oklahoma’s Oneok hub jumped to over $1,000/MMBtu. For gas producers able to keep wells operating, the Texas freeze was “like hitting the jackpot,” but for LNG exporters, power outages disrupted liquefaction trains and feedgas pipelines. Several LNG export terminals scaled back production, while Corpus Christi LNG and Cameron LNG went offline completely. Overall, 10 cargoes amounting to 1 billion cubic meters of gas were likely delayed from the already-volatile global LNG market.
Volatility in global gas markets is likely to continue
Lesson 2. Volatile prices can cause LNG-fired power plants in Asia and associated infrastructure to go under-utilised.
Volatile LNG prices create an increasingly challenging environment for price-sensitive emerging markets. High prices and difficulties sourcing gas can cause gas-fired power plants in importing countries to go underutilized. In turn, all the associated infrastructure – ports, regasification facilities, pipelines – are also at risk of being stranded. IEEFA recently estimated that volatile LNG prices put over $50 billion of natural gas projects at risk of cancellation in Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Since the value of associated infrastructure is dominated by fixed costs, per unit natural gas prices depend largely on total gas demand. This means that to realize any economic benefits from imported gas, costs must be spread over a wider consumer base than currently exists in many south and southeast Asian countries. The decision to import LNG is therefore not an incremental one. Rather, it will lead to new sources of financial vulnerability resulting from long-term, large-scale fossil gas lock-in. Without major storage capacity, volatile LNG prices will be a constant threat to the affordability of gas and gas-powered electricity in import markets.
Lesson 3. LNG imports come at the cost of domestic energy security.
By importing greater volumes of LNG, Asian countries become more vulnerable to supply disruptions in global gas markets and geopolitical dynamics beyond their control. With increasingly severe and frequent weather events caused by climate change, Asian importers are not just assuming the risks of climate-related disruptions in their own country, they are also assuming risks of climate-related weather events in exporting countries. In Texas, generators were not required to invest in cold weather safeguards, leaving them vulnerable to unpredictable weather events.
LNG import infrastructure in Asia is highly vulnerable to extreme weather
LNG import infrastructure in Asia is also highly vulnerable to extreme weather. While numerous countries rely on floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs) as cheaper alternatives to land-based import terminals, FSRUs are difficult to operate in poor weather conditions. In 2018, Bangladesh announced it would cancel plans to build additional FSRUs because they were unreliable during the monsoon season. In Malta, the inoperability of FSRUs during storms has caused the complete shut-down of the country’s gas-fired power plants.
Lesson 4. Grid expansion and modernization must take centre stage.
Some commentators have suggested the solution to climate-related blackouts is to build more generation capacity, but all power sources are susceptible to outages when weather events occur. In Texas, 30,000MW of thermal capacity was forced offline – including 40% of natural gas capacity and a nuclear reactor – as well as 17,000MW of wind capacity. As a result, wholesale electricity prices skyrocketed to the state’s $9,000 per MWh cap, up from their average of $30.
Along with generation capacity, grid reliability depends largely on transmission infrastructure and interconnections to other areas. The Texas grid is highly isolated from surrounding power systems, limiting power imports from nearby markets. In small portions of the state connected to other grids, cities experienced brief blackouts compared to the rest of the state.
A greater emphasis on system-level planning in emerging Asian markets, rather than a myopic focus on generation, could improve the efficiency of existing generators, enable the installation of greater capacities of domestic renewable energy, and lower wholesale electricity prices during times of short supply.
Lesson 5. The energy transition is a humanitarian issue.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Texas energy crisis have exacerbated the risks inherent in LNG imports and revealed the flaws of centralized generation capacity buildouts. In Texas, blackouts disproportionately affected low-income communities, while electricity bills for some households that maintained power spiked into the tens of thousands of dollars. The total cost of electricity sold in Texas from February 15-19 was $50.6 billion, up from $4.2 billion in the prior week. For Asian countries already grappling with high electricity prices, the risks of LNG imports and associated infrastructure lock-in are simply too high. Instead, reliability and resilience are key to keeping costs down and the lights on.
The winter storms that swept across the U.S., particularly Texas, upending the energy market and knocking out power for millions of people, have delivered a windfall for Macquarie Group, with the Australian bank lifting its profit outlook for 2021 by as much as 10 percent, just two weeks after warning that earnings would be “slightly down”.
“Extreme winter weather conditions in North America have significantly increased short-term client demand for Macquarie’s capabilities in maintaining critical physical supply across the commodity complex,” according to the company, which is the second-largest supplier of gas in North America after oil major BP, as quoted by Reuters.
TheLEADERCác dự án nhiệt điện khí LNG sẽ gặp nhiều khó khăn khi triển khai hơn so với các dự án nhiệt điện than – vốn đã phải đối mặt với tình trạng chậm tiến độ triền miên, theo Viện Kinh tế Năng lượng và phân tích tài chính (IEEFA).
Toàn cảnh một nhà máy Nhiệt điện sử dụng khí LNG.
Trong thời gian vừa qua, Việt Nam đã nhanh chóng nổi lên là một trong những thị trường nhập khẩu khí thiên nhiên hóa lỏng (LNG) cho phát điện tiềm năng nhất ở châu Á.