With the circus that is COP26 grinding inexorably along, the focus is now moving from coal (where some progress is being made — like the tide, though, with countries like Poland making pledges and then withdrawing their pledges) to unnatural gas.
Long touted as a transitional fuel from coal to renewables, it now seems like fossil fuel frackers want to prolong the transition and make gas a permanent part of the landscape. Enter Carbon Tracker and its latest report: Put Gas on Standby. Gas has a part to play, but it is limited in scope and quantity.
Carbon Tracker’s key findings should have investors taking note. They found that 22% of European and around 31% of US gas-fired power generation capacity included in their model is already unprofitable. Countries dependent on gas have found the volatile prices of 2021 damaging to their economies.
The economic arguments demonstrate that current gas plant capacity is more expensive to operate than either new onshore wind or solar. Add to that the historically proven fact that renewables will become even cheaper to run over time. Investors have cheaper, more profitable, more climate friendly options.
Even if allowed to run for their full planned lifetimes, most new-build gas capacity will be unable to recover its initial investment. The original investments in 51 gigawatts (GW) of gas-fired power capacity planned or under construction in Europe and the US will not be recoverable. That’s estimated be around 30 billion dollars of lost investment. Investors, are you getting nervous yet?
Long-term operation of gas-fired power stations is incompatible with climate targets. Gas-fired power stations are now Europe’s largest source of power sector emissions, and reduced operation over time is vital if net zero targets are to be achieved. Net zero by 2050 = $16 billion in stranded assets.
Worse still — if profitable units are forced to close before the end of their planned operating lifetimes, it will leave more than $10 billion of investment in Europe and $5.8 billion in the US at risk of being stranded.
This report is well worth the read, especially if you are an investor, like I am, through your superannuation funds. We are on a long trip, hopefully into a positive future, but the question which might be nagging in the back of your head is: “Did I leave the gas on?”
Download full report here
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