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Forget momentum for renewables. Five of the G7 nations increased their coal use

Spot the contradictions. Oxfam want us to believe we can be “coal free” in France, the UK and Italy by 2023. Then they tell us that most of these richest of rich nations are already trying and failing to do that. They are using more coal.

Then there is a nifty graph below, which seems to suggest that in these same nations solar is cheaper than coal. If solar is so cheap then, we don’t need any schemes, markets or subsidies. Right?

Welcome to reality — even the richest greenest nations need more coal:

Five of the world’s seven richest countries have increased their coal use in the last five years despite demanding that poor countries slash their carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change, new research shows.

Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan and France together burned 16% more coal in 2013 than 2009 and are planning to further increase construction of coal-fired power stations. Only the US and Canada of the G7 countries meeting on Monday in Berlin have reduced coal consumption since the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

The US has reduced its coal consumption by 8% largely because of fracking for shale gas. Overall, the G7 countries reduced coal consumption by less than 1% between 2009-2013, the Oxfam research shows.

A tad ambitious?

The UK could feasibly stop burning coal for its energy supply by 2023, according to Oxfam’s report.

….  and in the US and Canada by 2030

There is a reason Africa is poor and Africans want to come to the West.

The briefing paper comes as nearly 200 countries meet in Bonn ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris later this year, and shows that G7 coal plants emit twice as much CO2 as the entire African continent annually, and 10 times as much as the 48 least developed countries put together.

 I don’t think this is the message Oxfam wanted to share

Read the fine print. You might think this is a map of countries where solar is cheaper than conventional electricity.

Oxfam, graph, cost of solar compared to conventional

The graph comes from Deutche Bank, the bank that cares about the environment.

These green colored countries have “regions” where solar is cheaper. How big is a region? Does that mean if solar makes sense in Tibooburra and East Widgiemooltha all 7 million square kilometers of Australia gets the deep green treatment on this map? If a country has expensive electricity (making it even easier for solar to compete) they get the mid-green paint, though they’d probably prefer cheap electrons.

But this graph is not entirely useless. We can assume Oxfam/Deutsche Bank  were dedicated about finding every region where solar could possibly be said to be competitive, so the green color code is meaningless, but the grey areas, they tell us a lot. We know where solar is probably a waste of money.

There is no region of Canada, Greenland, Russia, Korea, or Scotland and England where solar makes economic sense. We can forget most of Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia as well.


Oxfam, Let them Eat Coal (2015)

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