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The International Energy Outlook 2013 has been partially released

After taking 2012 off, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration has published the charts and tables for its 2013 International Energy Outlook.

They should have taken another year…

On the other hand, they waited until the day I returned from China to do so, which means I can blog about it (I can’t get to WordPress from China). So if I have any spare time I’ll be blogging about the report right up until the day I return to China. I think there’s a lot to say.

They’ve bumped up their estimated CAGR for energy consumption, from 1.4% in their 2011 report to 1.5% in 2015. They estimate energy consumption will grow from 523.9 quads in 2010 to 819.6 quads in 2040.

This is despite the fact that during the Great Recession since 2008, growth has been 1.88%…

They still think energy consumption in the U.S. will only amount to 0.3% per year, despite robust projections for population growth and increased GDP and income per person.

In other words, I can write pretty much the same things about this report as I did the last–I just have to change a few numbers.

The DOE is again dramatically underestimating the growth in consumption in the developing world, going flat against the national statistics agencies for the countries involved.

Suntech down, solar not out

The bankruptcy of Suntech Power Holdings, one of China’s (and hence the world’s) largest solar panel manufacturers, might seem like bad news for the solar industry. It’s not. It’s just bad news for Suntech shareholders.

Suntech made a huge mistake, purchasing an 80% stake in Global Solar Fund in 2008. Turns out that was not only a bad investment, Suntech was essetially defrauded. They lost $683 million on the deal and they needed that money to make payments on their debt. When they couldn’t, they had to file for bankruptcy.

So the mighty fall. Suntech was number two in the world in manufacturing as recently as 2011. But does this signify the end of solar? No.

The only impact this will have on the solar industry will be a temporary easing of market conditions for other manufacturers. There’s too much product floating around out there–and until some entreprenurial company buys Suntech’s remaining assets, there will be a little less of a surplus. This means a bit better margin for the rest of the solar universe, which is very much a good thing. Module manufacturers have been skating on thin-ice margins for two years.

Like the flurry of bankruptcies that afflicted Western solar companies over the last year and a half, this is very much normal operations in a young and quickly growing industry sector.

Compassion for Suntech–continued optimism for solar–and back to work, everybody.

Rodger dodger you old codger

Update: Just for clarity’s sake, I do not in any way think that Roger stole my idea or plagiarized my report. I honestly don’t, and I’ll put a ‘Willis Eschenbach’ style of memoir post explaining why. Roger emailed me assuring me that was the case and I believe him.

Over at the Breakthrough Institute, Roger Pielke has published an interesting article that basically replicates the work I’ve done  here at 3,000 Quads.

In arriving at his projected totals for future energy consumption, he uses the exact same methodology as I did in my report–picking a country that has ‘x’ level of energy consumption and calculating the result if the developing world reaches that level of prosperity. It’s sobering stuff.

I sent Roger the report a year ago in November of 2011 and a couple of weeks back he mentioned that he was working on something similar. He came up with similar answers, although he doesn’t use a timeline for achievement the way I did–I predicted 947 quads by 2030, roughly 2000 quads by 2050 and 3000 quads by 2075. (Not that I’m claiming the idea is my intellectual property–Dan Nocera has been writing in a similar vein for several years as well. But a hat tip would have been nice.)

Here’s his chart:


And here’s one of mine:table-10-various-projection-totals-china-india-indonesia-and-brazilGood to know great minds think alike.

China’s Coal Consumption Approaches Total of Rest of World

It’s not always that I agree with Time. But this time I do, even if they’re a bit late to the party.

“As the data shows, China is now burning almost as much coal as the rest of the world—combined. And despite impressive support from Beijing for renewable energy and a dawning understanding about the dangers of air pollution, coal use in China is poised to continue rising, if slower than it has in recent years. That’s deadly for the Chinese people—see the truly horrific air pollution in Beijing this past month—and it’s dangerous for the rest of the world. Coal already accounts for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the biggest causes of man-made climate change. Combine that with the direct damage that air pollution from coal combustion does to human health, and there’s a reason why some have called coal the enemy of the human race.”

Read more:

The developing world outpaces the DOE’s predictions… by a lot

Regular readers will remember that I predicted that China would be using 247 quads by 2030, far more than the Department of Energy’s forecast of 163 quads.  Is it possible they will be using even more than my pessimistic prediction?

“Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics show the total energy consumed in China in 2011 (including 3.48 billion tons standard coal) increasing by 7 percent year-on-year. Experts estimate that the growth rate of energy consumption in 2012 will drop below 5 percent, hitting a 10-year low since 2002. Meanwhile, coal imports have increased by 60 percent to 290 million tons in 2012.”

Chinese miners process coal from a mine

The U.S. DOE’s International Energy Outlook for 2011 (they canceled their 2012 edition) predicted an average annual growth rate for China’s energy consumption at 2.3% through 2035.

If China continues to increase energy consumption at 7% annually, by 2030 their consumption could reach 316 quads.

India’s growth in energy consumption has averaged 8% per year for the past decade–the DOE predicted their growth would be slower than China’s. If they continue at their present pace they will reach 237 quads by 2030.

The two countries alone will consume more energy than the entire world did in 2012.

Forget toys, Lenovo computers and iPhones from China. And forget willing call center workers and Bollywood films from India. What they will be offering the world for the next few decades consists of pollution, black soot to float up to the Arctic and growing amounts of CO2.

I don’t blame them a bit for what they’re doing. I do hope they do it fast enough so their leaders can become as conscious of environmental impacts as some in the developed world. Many of their citizens already are–some have even moved ahead of the West in environmental consciousness.

I do blame us for ignoring what’s happening. If we’re not careful we’ll hit the 3,000 quad barrier before 2075. And it will be coming (mostly) from coal.

Look, people–I understand that the fight on climate change has real reasons behind it. I feel fairly certain that some activists have wildly exaggerated what they claim climate has already done due to global warming. I have come to believe that atmospheric sensitivity is lower than some activists claim.

But really–are we going to ignore the coal that India and China will burn to generate more energy than the entire world consumed this year?

One country is doing it right regarding coal…

…and that country is the United States of America.

From the New York Times: “A total of 55 plants have closed or have announced plans to shut down, according to a count by the Sierra Club. That will leave 395 coal-burning plants in the United States, compared with 522 in 2010, according to the Sierra Club.”

…”Nationwide, coal production dropped this year by an estimated 7 percent even as exports grew to Asia and Europe, according to the Energy Department.”

Now that’s cookin’ with gas… Let’s hope it spreads quickly throughout the world. China has more restrictive mileage standards for its cars than the U.S. Maybe they’ll do the same with coal.

Entering 2013 and Beyond

Energy growth in 2013 will be tightly coupled to economic growth and that will remain true for at least a decade. Supply fades as a factor while getting the correct fuel portfolio balance will be a key to quality of life worldwide for the foreseeable future.

We have once again returned to a world where energy discussions are dominated by demand. It’s a very different world than that where all the focus is on supply.

As has been a recurrent theme on this blog, I need to note that many have not recognized this sea change. Organizations ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are still basing their forecasts on potential supply bottlenecks rather than watching how demand is calling forth new supplies from all over the world.

The stories on the DOE’s EIA webpage tell part of the story–from their perspective, trying to give their ‘customers’ (us) what they want. A story of supply. ‘The Availability of Petroleum and Petroleum Products From C0untries Other Than Iran.’ ‘Crude Oil Inventories.’ ‘Weekly Coal Production.’

This focus on supply has led these agencies to underestimate the growth of energy for the future. Regular readers will see me banging the drum again on this.

Energy supply has changed. China is currently building 308 hydroelectric facilities–large dams to generate electricity–in 70 countries worldwide.

Growth in U.S. energy has reached the top of the hill and now has surpassed the very modest growth in energy consumption in this country.

The world has 66 nuclear power plants under construction, 26 in China alone.

While the U.S. plays in its own sandbox with fracked natural gas, Australia, the Ukraine, Israel and plans in Brazil are changing everybody’s ideas about electricity generation and even automotive fuel.

Renewable energy continues to grow, providing almost 17% of all energy used in 2012.

Basically, folks, increased demand from the developing world called forth successful efforts to increase supply.

This is great news–the developing countries will have access to the energy they need to develop up to and perhaps beyond the living standards of the rich world. I am ecstatic.

This is terrifying news, as well. Despite the growth in non-emissive energy sources, the primary sources for fuel remain coal and petroleum. The annual growth rate in coal consumption since 1999 is 4.4%.


This weblog is titled 3,000 Quads because unconstrained growth will lead to that level of energy being consumed by 2075, far more than the supply-oriented organizations are projecting now.