The BIG PICTURE, POWER magazine's monthly infographic series, visualizes prominent power generation trends and issues from around the world. Now, find all of these articles in one compiled guidebook.
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More stringent air and water pollution rules and low natural gas prices are expected to transform the overall U.S. power profile over the next few decades. While estimates vary, generally about 16% of the country’s coal generating capacity has either been retired or is planned for retirement through 2020. Here’s how coal plant retirements compare with other baseload generation sources. Sources: EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2014 Early Release, ICF International
According to new U.S. Census Bureau data, revenues for fossil fuel power generators dropped 6% while revenues for renewable generators jumped 50% between 2007 and 2012. The bureau’s industry data for the first time breaks down its previously designated “other” category into renewables subcategories, revealing how much more profitable wind power has become compared to conventional hydropower. But it also highlights an interesting shift in employment trends—particularly for nuclear, which saw a nearly 40% increase in the number of employees during the five-year period. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 Economic Census of the United States.
The Ozone Rule Costs
On December 17, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed tightening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb. According to the EPA, the stricter 65 ppb “smog standard” could result in health benefits of up to $40 billion annually (in 2014 dollars). Industry, however, says costs of complying with the rule from 2017–2040 could prompt the retirement of 34 GW of coal-fired capacity and spiral to as high as $1.05 trillion (in 2014 dollars), making it “the most expensive regulation ever issued by the U.S. government,” according to the National
Association of Manufacturers. Sources: EPA Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Proposed Revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ground-Level Ozone, NERA Economic
World Industrial Power Prices
How much industry pays for power varies tremendously by country, owing to variations in generation costs, network costs, and taxes, fees, and surcharges. This comparison shows average industrial electricity prices in 2013, with each nation’s tax component. Also shown is the fuel source that dominated each nation’s power mix in 2013. Source: UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, Eurostat, International Energy Agency
The Job Transition
The dramatic changes in the power sector between 2008 and 2012 are typically documented by shifts in fuel use for generation. But another telling data set from a recent Duke University study shows how those shifts affected domestic employment in the coal, natural gas, wind, and solar industries. The study analyzes direct and indirect jobs supporting operational activities for coal, gas, wind, and solar generation—including coal mining, natural gas production, rail transport, and natural gas transport and sectorial supporting goods and services—but it ignores nuclear and hydro, whose generation was relatively unchanged between 2008 and 2012.
As of March 2015, an assortment of pollution controls to comply with various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules had been installed across the 280-GW U.S. coal steam power plant fleet. Here’s how some technologies are spread out across the fleet, by installed capacity and of percentage of the 280 GW total.
About 22 GW is slated to be retired over the next two years, says the EPA. Source: EPA NEEDS (v. 5.14) database.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), at least 164 countries have adopted at least one type of renewable energy target as of
mid-2015—up almost four-fold from 43 countries in 2005. The majority of countries continue to focus on the power sector, with 150 countries setting renewable electricity targets to date. Other targets are typically for the heating/ cooling and renewable transport sectors. Source: IRENA
Powering China and India
Preparing their economies for tremendous population growth, Asian superpowers China and India have grand ambitions to increase their installed power capacity bases. Here’s how they compare. Note: *According to International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook New Policies Scenario, which assumes commitments announced by countries will be implemented.
Clean Power Plan Targets for Better and Worse
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan (CPP), finalized on Aug. 3, seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector by setting a unique emissions percentage target for each state to achieve by 2030. Here’s how those targets compare with those in the proposed rule. State targets have changed drastically in some cases, owing to tweaks to the EPA‘s formulas for calculating baseline emission levels and final goals. Another key difference is that the EPA had proposed taking into account each state’s energy efficiency potential, but it chose not to do so in the final rule.
Levelized Cost of Electricity
The notion of a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) has become a handy one for comparing unit costs of different technologies over their economic life, but it varies widely among countries. Those variations can typically be explained by changes in discount rates*; fuel, carbon, or construction costs; operation and maintenance costs; and even load factors and plant lifetimes. Source: “Projected Costs of Generating Electricity,” International Energy Agency/Nuclear Energy Agency (2015).
Between 2010 and 2015, about 27 GW of new nuclear capacity came online worldwide. But owing to safety concerns in the wake of the Fukushima disaster—as well as cheap natural gas, market economics, and age—an unprecedented 21 GW has been permanently shut down. Source: IAEA PRIS database.