Banks Wary of Investing in U.S. Coal FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Taylor Kuykendall for SNL:Just as investors are shying away from the risks of the coal market, banks have been selective about who they lend money to in the coal space, a panel of investors said at the recent 24th Annual Coal Properties and Investment Conference hosted by Platts. In addition to tightened environmental regulations and a shale gas revolution that has crippled coal’s competitiveness in the U.S., many large coal firms are also hobbled with large debt loads from purchasing expensive metallurgical coal properties before demand shriveled in that market.“They really ignored valuation metrics during this process,” said Raymond McCormick, a managing director of Headwaters MB. “They really put on an immense amount of debt, right at the highest prices of the marketplace.”Though it is not quite so gloomy for coal in other countries, McCormick said, in the U.S. “there’s essentially little to no access to capital markets” for coal companies. The trend may be showing up in a deal between Peabody Energy Corp. and Bowie Resource Partners LP. Though an agreement to sell assets to Bowie was reached, there have been rumors Bowie was not able to secure financing and may be backing out of the deal. Peabody has suggested failureto execute the deal could trigger default.If Peabody were forced to seek bankruptcy protection, it would be the largest of the coal giants to do so in recent months. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed bankruptcy in 2015 and Arch Coal Inc. filed early in 2016.“Most coal companies are not generating cash these days,” McCormick said. “They’re looking to manage capital and reduce capital expenditures.”Jerrod Freund, a managing director with Deutsche Bank, said the primary thing investors are looking for is where exactly a coal asset sits on the cost curve and how sustainable that structure may be. Access to capital in the future, he said, will depend on the evolution of the coal market, something difficult to predict.“Ten quarters ago, we thought this downturn was going to last a quarter or two,” Freund said. “It just got significantly worse than anyone expected it to. Who knows how long it will bump along the bottom before there’s material uptick?”As a result, investors that do want to get involved with the coal industry are doing so after extensive research.“Equity investors that are looking at coal are looking at contracts and saying am I going to get my money back? Almost like a debt investor,” Freund said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen such a conversion of how diligence is performed and how they are viewing investment. You’ve just seen a bloodbath of billions and billions of equity and debt.”McCormick said the average investor is looking at coal companies at a granular level, going mine by mine and closely examining the company’s customers before jumping into coal investments. The panel also discussed that, in some cases, investors want to know all about the company — even down to conditions included in coal leases and utility contracts — before they will put any money into the sector.Full article: Investors examine capital options in wake of coal’s equity, debt ‘bloodbath’
Kentucky Utility Sees Coal-Powered Electricity All but Disappearing by 2050 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享WFPL (Louisville):Kentucky’s largest electric utility expects to be powered more than 80 percent by natural gas or renewable energy by the middle of this century — regardless of whether the country’s energy policies change.Last month, PPL — the corporation that owns both Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities — released a climate assessment called for by shareholders.Assuming a 55-year lifespan for coal-fired power plants, the analysis found approximately 10 percent of LG&E and KU’s fleet would be existing coal plants by 2050. That’s compared with nearly 80 percent today.If the coal plants are run for 65 years, they account for a slightly larger amount of the fleet’s generation by 2050 — about 18 percent.“Just by virtue of [economics], you’re going to have substantial reductions and when you look out to 2050, substantial retirements of our coal-fired units will have happened by then,” said PPL spokesperson Ryan Hill.This report comes as the Trump Administration is weighing the future of the Obama Administration’s carbon dioxide regulations, — regulations which Trump’s team has argued will hurt the U.S. coal industry and power generation.But at least in terms of LG&E and KU, the regulations will have virtually no effect on how much coal the utilities burn, at least in the long term.By 2050, the bulk of the LG&E and KU fleet will be new natural gas facilities and renewable energy. There’s not even a category for “new coal” plants on this climate assessment — that’s because Hill said there’s no scenario where new coal plants will make economic sense.“We have no current plans to build any new coal-fired power plants,” he said. “You’ve seen natural gas prices come down over the past five, six, seven years and that’s really spurred a transition in the generation mix across the country. And certainly we’ve seen that transition begin a bit at our LG&E and Kentucky Utilities companies as well.”More: Decline in Ky. Coal Plants Regardless of Climate Policy
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Columbus Dispatch:President Donald Trump’s desire to prop up money-losing coal and nuclear plants is absurd enough on its face that one doesn’t need a lot of help arguing against it.Coal is losing its place to cleaner and cheaper natural gas. It is dirty and dangerous not only in the burning, but in the extraction. Nuclear energy has the potential to be extremely clean, but trying to make it safe renders it prohibitively expensive.The loss of coal-related jobs unquestionably has been painful for coal regions, and their anxiety is justified. Trump has exploited that anxiety and anger, winning support by making promises that are bad for the country and most likely can’t be delivered anyway.Those realities aren’t going to change; the only thing a coal bailout can accomplish, besides lining the pockets of wealthy coal owners, is saving a small number of jobs for a short time. It would do nothing to help develop jobs in alternative energy, tourism or other fields in which coal regions could build better futures.And it would come at the cost of leveling more mountaintops, fouling more streams and making more Americans sick.More: Editorial: Propping up coal, nuclear would be needless, destructive Editorial: Trump bailout plan is ‘absurd’
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Wall Street Journal:Exxon faces a number of challenges, including investigations of its accounting and tax practices as well as lawsuits by cities and states seeking funds to pay for the effects of climate change. Its biggest problem is one the giant has seldom faced in its 148-year history: It isn’t making as much money as it used to.Under former CEO Rex Tillerson, Exxon bet big hunting for oil in risky, expensive locales like the Russian Arctic. But as oil prices fell, those projects didn’t pay off the way Exxon had hoped. Now the $350 billion Irving, Texas, company is returning to its old ways: big, disciplined spending on prospects that make money at low oil prices.The approach is a gamble in a new era of energy breakthroughs such as fracking and electric vehicles. Many of Exxon’s competitors are transforming their businesses to move away from oil exploration, and have begun to spend carefully and diversify into renewable energy.Investors, who once looked past Exxon’s tendency toward arrogance and secrecy because of its good returns, aren’t sure they want Big Oil to get bigger.“Most investors like Exxon, but they like other companies better,” said Mark Stoeckle, chief executive of Adams Funds, which owns about $100 million in Exxon shares. “The market is not willing to reward Exxon for spending today in hopes that it will bring good returns tomorrow.”More ($): Exxon, Once a ‘Perfect Machine,’ Is Running Dry ‘Exxon, once a “perfect machine,” is running dry’
Analyst says solar plus storage will be a game changer in Texas power market FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Platts:Solar energy — increasingly paired with battery storage — is likely to be the “next big thing” in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, attendees of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance annual GridNEXT conference learned Monday.During a workshop about the Texas power market, Peter Kelly-Detwiler, principal of the NorthBridge Energy Partners consultancy in Lexington, Massachusetts, pointed out that ERCOT has about 20,000 MW of solar projects in the interconnection queue, which would represent an exponential increase in solar capacity from today’s roughly 1.5 GW.Not long ago, coal-fired generation was considered among the least-expensive resources, but at an average cost of $50 to $65/MWh today, it is second only to peaking gas turbine units, Kelly-Detwiler said. In contrast, renewable power has costs ranging about $10/MWh, nuclear power costs range from $15 to $20/MWh and natural gas combined-cycle power ranges from $25 to $35/MWh, according to his written presentation.The increasing efficiency of hydraulic fracturing in exploration and production of natural gas “has been responsible for the decline of coal — it hasn’t been renewables,” Kelly-Detwiler said. But as solar and wind technologies improve in cost and efficiency, “the playing field continues to tilt in favor of these relatively new technologies,” he said.“Texas is going to be a big part of that, based on what we see in the interconnection queue,” Kelly-Detwiler said. “Solar is going to be the next big thing in ERCOT in terms of game changers.” Adding solar in Texas makes sense because it can smooth out the power supply curve that often becomes volatile as wind generation waxes and wanes, Kelly-Detwiler said.But solar power presents challenges as well, especially when behind-the-meter rooftop solar destroys power demand during peak hours but causes a massive increase in demand as the sun sinks in the west. Battery storage is an obvious choice, and the technologies are improving, but the conversion of transportation from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles is likely to provide the tipping point, Kelly-Detwiler said. When that first wave of old EV batteries comes in, “it’s going to be so dirt cheap that it’s going to fundamentally change” power markets, Kelly-Detwiler said.More: Solar-plus-storage likely the ‘next big thing’ in ERCOT: expert
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renew Economy:A report into the Victoria “load-shedding” events in the January heatwave, which sparked yet another political battle over Australia’s energy policy, has highlighted the critical failure of the state’s main brown coal generators, as well as the important contributions of rooftop solar at key times.The report by the Australian Energy Market Operator confirms observations made at the time that its efforts to keep the lights on in the face of a record heat-wave were undermined by a series of failures and capacity reductions at all three of Victoria’s big brown coal generators.In contrast, AEMO notes, renewables performed better at the time of the major load-shedding at 11 am on January 25 than had been anticipated when modelling for the anticipated hot summer was completed.“The contribution from coal generation was significantly less than expected and renewables was slightly more than expected, based on the 2018 ESOO modelling assumptions,” AEMO says.It is the poor performance of the brown coal generators that stands out in the events over January 24 and 25, where load shedding was experienced on both days in Victoria, and South Australia escaped only because AEMO was able to call on emergency reserves.The performance of the brown coal generators contrasts sharply with other generation sources. As AEMO notes, brown coal performed substantially worse than expected when it was putting its plans together a few months ahead of time, gas and hydro performed as expected, but both wind and solar did a lot better than expected.More: Brown coal generators failed the grid in Victoria heat-wave, blackouts Coal plants faltered in Australian heat wave, while renewables powered on
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Platts:The former 1,493-MW Brayton Point coal-fired power plant site in Massachusetts is being redeveloped into an offshore wind power support center that will include 400 MW of battery storage, the site owners and developers said Monday.Commercial Development Company and transmission developer Anbaric have agreed to build the Anbaric Renewable Energy Center at the CDC’s Brayton Point Commerce Center in Somerset, the companies said in a statement.“The Renewable Energy Center represents Anbaric’s broader vision for its Massachusetts OceanGrid project: high-capacity transmission infrastructure to maximize the potential of the region’s offshore wind energy resource,” Edward Krapels, Anbaric’s CEO, said.The main component of the Renewable Energy Center will be a 1200-MW high-voltage direct current converter to serve the emerging offshore wind industry. That portion of the project will require a roughly $250 million investment, the companies said. The 400 MW of battery storage will “bring an additional $400 million in investment,” according to Anbaric.The site is being prepared as the landing point for 1,200 MW of offshore wind power. Several offshore wind projects are in development in the area.More: Massachusetts coal plant to be redeveloped into offshore wind hub with 400 MW of storage Former Brayton Point coal plant site to host massive new battery storage facility, offshore wind link
Governor signs legislation mandating transition to 100% renewable energy in Virginia FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ReNews.biz:Virginia’s governor has signed into law targets for over 21GW of renewable generation and more than 3GW of energy storage as part of new measures which will require electricity to come from 100% renewable sources.Governor Ralph Northam has signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act which establishes a 5.2GW offshore wind target. It also establishes a 16.1GW target for solar and onshore wind and requires Virginia’s largest energy companies to construct or acquire more than 3.1GW of energy storage capacity.The Clean Economy Act requires new measures to promote energy efficiency, sets a schedule for closing old fossil fuel power plants, and requires electricity to come from 100 percent renewable sources such as solar or wind.The law requires Dominion Energy Virginia to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. It requires nearly all coal-fired plants to close by the end of 2024.More: Virginia signs 21GW renewables target into law
Fish On!I have heard these two words uttered in English, Spanish, with a southern accent, by a salty sea captain in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others commenting on the moment when fish and fly or fish and bait meet. This week my husband heard those words when a North Carolina Red Drum took his fly and ran.Fish On!For the recreational fisherman, the goal is not to catch the most fish. It is not necessarily even to catch the biggest fish. Instead, the goal is to spend a day in communion with creation, where fish and man meet, say hello, then goodbye, and both are changed from the interaction. The communion with nature and fish is real and lasting. I see the effect when my husband returns home from a day of trout fishing in a western Virginia mountain stream. Placing a small, colored, artificial bug in such a way on the cold clear water that a brook or rainbow trout would strike is nourishing to him.The connection to the particular place is often more fleeting, however. When we travel, we drop into others’ worlds, and then move on. Though our outdoor travel experiences give us great joy, they often lack the connection to place that we gain from fishing our home streams, or hiking or favorite local trails. Fish on, then release, and then we plan our next trip that will involve fishing somewhere new and wonderful.This week however, my husband and his father had an opportunity to get more than just the passing glance at a new place, and much more than the isolated and fleeting “fish on” experience. What started as a fairly standard guided fishing trip, ended up becoming an opportunity not just for them, but also for our whole family, to learn more about the place that we have visited many times before.Whit and his dad hired Captain Seth Vernon for a half-day’s fishing trip in the waters off of Topsail Island, North Carolina. Seth was an outstanding guide, to be sure (as evidenced by the picture below), but he proved to be an inspiring advocate for his home waters. After close to five hours with Captain Seth, Whit and my father-in-law had fish stories and the usual smiles and pictures to go with them. What made this trip different, though, was the fact that they talked more about what they’d learned about the place where they fished than the fish they had caught there. A good guide helps you catch fish, but someone who inspires a connection to the place separate and apart from the fish is truly unique.Red Drum pre releaseIn the coming weeks I will have a lot more to say about Captain Seth Vernon, the Red Drum, and the many issues that surround fishing and coastal preservation in eastern North Carolina. In the meantime, if this has piqued your interest at all, check out Captain Seth’s website at www.doublehaulguideservice.com. Please also check out www.redfishcantjump.com to learn more about a great film (that I will also write about more in the future) advocating for the preservation of North Carolina’s Cape Fear coast and North Carolina’s state fish, the Red Drum.Whit and a Red DrumPS – Thank you Whit for helping share your love of fishing and your introduction to Captain Seth this week.
Less is More: Even after accumulating several fancy cookstoves, Johnny Molloy still prefers a fire.I remember my first backpack. It was a green Academy Broadway external frame bought from a now-defunct outlet in Knoxville, Tennessee. Five pockets in which to stuff gear. Neither the shoulder straps nor the hip belt had padding. Twenty bucks of beer drinking money was diverted for that pack.Was I ever proud—and ready to tackle Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a few ridges distant from the University of Tennessee. Backpacking was new and foreign to me, a pure bred flatlander from West Tennessee who never realized my home state had mountains, bears and trout streams. I had to borrow most of my equipment on those inaugural trips.To fill those pack pockets, the first order of business was to get one of those cool survival knives with the built-in bubble compass and a hollow innard complete with fishing line, hooks, and matches. I ordered a discontinued sleeping bag from Sierra Trading Post, bought a closed cell foam sleeping pad from Wal-Mart, then scored some secondhand black leather combat boots at the local thrift store. A borrowed bulky blue tarp provided a musty shelter.And thus began my journey along the gear curve. The make-do backpacker occupies the first stage of the gear curve. Like me, the make-do backpacker probably borrows half the equipment on their back and buys discount stuff for the other half. They can be spotted on the trail invariably wearing too tight jeans (the zip-off pants are farther down the curve) and some kind of camouflage shirt or hat. At camp they try to think of ways to use that big survival knife. An oversized cheap tent invariably pops up wherever they are. They haven’t figured out that with outdoor gear—like anything else— you get what you pay for. They are learning and most eventually move on down the spectrum. Others fall off the gear curve altogether.The outdoor purists rise higher on the gear curve. Several near-disasters have left them looking for better stuff to make roughing it a little easier: a real whitewater boat—or a quality PFD—to survive a class IV rapid; a name brand rain jacket to wear in town and on the trail. I remember when the soles came off my combat boots while trudging through snow high on Forney Ridge. I used a piece of string to stop the sole from flapping. After returning home I then dropped nearly 100 bucks on some Vasque boots. The mountain biking equivalent would be graduating to clip-on pedals and an aerodynamic helmet after crashing in the woods.The purists will be seen at outdoor specialty shops, perusing for hours over the perfect headlamp. Before entering a store, they have researched for days on the web and created comparative spreadsheets. They end up with the best gear and are always on the lookout for the latest in high-tech offerings.The gearheads stand atop the gear curve. The gearhead has it all, literally, and it’s in his pack. Around the fire you grumble about losing a tiny screw from your camp stove and ten minutes later the gearhead proudly returns with the exact size screw you need—and the latest Leatherman to tighten it.Like anything, the new toys become old. But the quest for the latest gadget continues, whether you need it or not. I once bought a camp mirror, only to discover that I didn’t want to see my own mug after three days in the forest. Pride in showing off the hippest gear lost significance in the face of towering trees and far-off vistas.And that leads to the downward stage of the gear curve. Failed and forgotten equipment bought over the years joins the dusty junk menagerie lining your garage walls. My first headlamp took four AA batteries and weighed enough to give me a neck ache. Inventory your stuff and count how many items you’ll never use again. Wise outdoor enthusiasts assess their gear needs for each situation before leaving home. Less is more. Bring the good quality stuff that works for you and nothing more.Or you can go without and adapt, looking outward at what you came to experience rather than inward at what you have. That is how I discovered many “necessities” really aren’t necessary. Why carry a stove when I can cook over a fire? Why spend hundreds—even thousands—on another boat, skis or bike when you could use that money going to your dream destination to actually do what you love? Why spend time in the store looking at more gear, or scrolling through web sites, when you can be out there on the river or on the trail?It really is about the experience, not what gear you use. At the end of the gear curve, you realize that you don’t need more stuff, but more time. Time is the most valuable commodity on Earth. And if you are like me, you want to spend as much of it as possible out there.