Must pay up: Consumers in India grappled with record high fuel prices as crude oil topped $80/barrel

FOSSIL FUELS: Spot power prices hit record highs; NY to quit coal by 2020, Netherlands by 2030; Trump tweet halts oil price rally

Spot power prices breach record highs, coal procurement for private power developers rationalized

Spot prices for coal-fired thermal power soared to an average of Rs. 6.3/kWh last week and briefly touched Rs. 11.4/kWh – the highest ever recorded on India Energy Exchange – on May 22nd under rising peak power demand and prolonged coal supply shortages. The situation has prompted union coal minister Piyush Goyal to urge all pithead plants with adequate coal supplies to raise their PLFs to 100% to ensure uninterrupted power supplies.

The request comes amidst a 15% year-on-year rise in India’s thermal coal imports (to compensate for domestic shortages) and a new govt. recommendation to allow independent power producers to switch supply contracts to coal mines closest to their plants for lower transport (and therefore, generation) costs and fewer supply bottlenecks. India – through West Bengal – is also tying up with Poland, which is keen to promote its technical prowess in extracting “clean coal” from West Bengal’s reserves.

However, as power demand and thermal power generation rises in India (by 3.6% year-on-year), the govt. has also issued (a seemingly contradictory) order to allocate extra coal to central and state thermal power developers over private developers. The move has been criticized by the latter as it could lower their dismal PLFs (currently averaging 55.3%) even further, while bolstering PLFs for the Centre owned plants (currently averaging 72.35%).

NY and Netherlands to aggressively phase out coal, Germany still lagging behind

New York state has released a draft statement to phase-out the state’s last remaining 979MW of coal-fired thermal power plants by 2020 in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The move is in direct contrast to the US’ federal plan to establish global energy dominance by increasing reliance on coal and natural gas, and is mirrored by The Netherlands, which will ban all coal-fired thermal power used in the country by 2030.

Germany’s coal exit commission on the other hand has reportedly prioritized jobs and economic stability over a hard exit from coal, which would entail shutting down its lignite and hard coal fired thermal power plants, presumably before 2030. The two sources together still account for about 37% of the country’s power output. Once a leader in clean energy transition, Germany is projected to fall short of its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% over 1990 levels, and coal may remain a part of its energy mix even beyond its target of going largely GHG neutral by 2050.

Trump’s tweet halts crude oil price rally, No economic sense in drilling Arctic oil

US President Donald Trump’s frantic tweet against the “artificially very high” global crude oil prices has prompted OPEC’s largest member Saudi Arabia to cool off on its quest to drive up the fuel’s prices beyond $80/barrel (prices settled at under $76/barrel last Friday). The country, along with Russia and the US, will also raise oil output to further ease the price rally.

While Saudi Arabia has Saudi Aramco’s 2019 public listing in mind behind the price target, client nations – including India – were hit hard as crude oil prices hit record highs, with petrol reaching Rs.78.27/liter in Delhi and Rs. 85.93/liter in Mumbai. Every $1 rise in Brent Crude prices adds about $8 billion to India’s already ballooning oil import bills.

Meanwhile ex-UN Climate Change Secretariat head Christina Figueres has warned that drilling oil in the Arctic is economically not feasible under global warming as it may take years to profitably develop initial discoveries. However several Big Oil companies – including Norway’s Statoil (now Equinor) – are keen to exploit the region as warming temperatures thaw Arctic ice down to less challenging levels.

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