Emission Control: What lies ahead for the global energy sector in 2024?
Emission Control is Stockhead’s fortnightly take on all the big news surrounding developments in renewable energy.
Experts over at Oslo-based energy research company Rystad believe the coming year could promise more than just momentum in the clean hydrogen sector.
With activity surging in the Middle East, Australia and Africa due to maturing policies and early commercial scale projects, Rystad’s head of clean tech research Artem Abramov says 2024 marks ‘a year of clarity’ for the low-carbon energy technology.
“Several key feasibility studies will be completed, revealing promising new use cases for hydrogen consumption – mainly out of the US, where a surge in clean hydrogen project approvals (FIDs) and potential cancellations is expected, thanks to the long-awaited 45V tax credit regulations from the Inland Revenue Service (IRS),” he says.
“A series of global auctions and grants will unfold, providing essential insights into key aspects of the emerging clean hydrogen sector.
“These events will shed light on pricing dynamics, technological advancements and the eventual victors and contenders in this transformative landscape.”
The new year might also be another record breaker for solar and wind markets as coal generation starts to decline with experts tipping the addition of more than 510GW of solar PV and wind capacity globally.
Rystad’s head of renewable and power research Carlos Torres Diaz says the resulting new generation from these sources – more than 900 terawatt-hours – will be enough to cover most of the growth in demand, helping limit the need for fossil fuel power generation.
“Although capacity will continue to grow, governments need to put in place the right incentives for renewable energy projects to ensure the momentum continues.”
While 2023 was dominated by challenges from inflation, interest rates and supply chain issues which led to project setbacks and renegotiations in offshore wind, Rystad’s vice president and head of offshore wind Alexander Flotre says a change can be noted in 2024 with authorities supporting long term goals in auctions and industry specific inflation adjustments.
“Despite market uncertainty, 2023 saw a record year for FIDs for more than 12GW of offshore wind projects globally (excluding China), suggesting healthy activity levels in the coming years,” he adds.
And thanks in part to Asia’s evolving power grids, the energy research firm expects global coal-fired power generation to decline in 2024 by at least 33.7 terawatt-hours – a 0.3% decline.
Rystad’s head of global coal industry research says the modelled fall is small but significant as 2023 represents the high-water mark for global coal power.
“China, India and Indonesia remain the top coal consumers for now, but the tide is turning.
“Surging new renewable energy capacity installations and ageing coal plants will soon tip the scales clearly in favour of fossil-free alternatives and a falling share for coal in the power mix will only gather pace,” he says.
Mining major Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) is driving the development of Australia’s largest solar power project near Gladstone, QLD after agreeing to buy all electricity from the 1.1GW Upper Calliope solar farm for 25 years.
The new power purchase agreement (PAA) with European Energy Australia will provide renewable power to Rio Tinto’s Gladstone operations and marks another step towards Rio Tinto’s climate goal of halving its global Scope 1 & 2 carbon emissions this decade.
If combined with suitable firming, transmission, and industrial policy, it could also provide the core of a solution to repower Rio Tinto’s three Gladstone production assets – the Boyne aluminium smelter, the Yarwun alumina refinery and the Queensland Alumina refinery.
The plant will be built and operated by European Energy, at a site about 50km southwest of Gladstone, pending development and grid connection approvals.
Once approved and developed, Upper Calliope would have the potential to lower Rio Tinto’s operating carbon emissions by 1.8 million tonnes per year.
While continuing to deliver strong operational performance within its iron ore business, Fortescue (ASX:FMG) also made progress on the green tech, energy, and metals side of things during the December 2023 quarter, focusing on its overall decarbonisation plan.
The miner said the first of an initial three electric excavators are now operational in the Pilbara, powered by a 6.6kV substation and more than two kilometres of high voltage trailing cable – the first of its kind in Australia for the mining industry.
In its commitment to eliminating emissions, the company started construction works for a commercial plant at its Christmas Creek mine site, designed to produce green iron using the existing green hydrogen already being produced at site.
“Our energy business marked a significant milestone, with final investment decisions announced for green hydrogen projects in Australia (Gladstone PEM50) and the USA (Phoenix hydrogen hub)”, FMG said in its latest December quarterly production report.
“This reflected our disciplined approach to capital allocation and clear intention to learn prior to committing to large scale investments,” the company said.