POWER UP: Coal plants are on the way out but they won’t go quietly
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Coal, or more specifically coal-fired generation, has been the main talking point lately with the most recent headline – billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes’ rejected $8bn takeover bid for AGL Energy (ASX:AGL) – bringing the changing energy landscape to the forefront.
While AGL’s management rejected the takeover bid as “not in the best interests of AGL Energy shareholders”, the offer – made to accelerate the closure of the electricity producer’s coal assets – highlights the growing discontent around the company’s seeming disinterest in seeking alternatives to the fossil fuel.
AGL may have brought forward the closure dates for two of its coal plants, but critics have questioned if it has the right plans and resources to actually make the transition to cleaner sources of energy.
This contrasts sharply with Origin Energy’s (ASX:ORG) move to bring forward the closure of its Eraring plant in New South Wales – the largest of 16 coal-fired plants pumping electricity into Australia’s National Energy Market – to 2025 rather than 2032.
All this brings us the Australian government flagging that it would block any potential takeover of AGL for fear that it would raise electricity prices and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor continuing to highlight which of his two portfolios takes precedence by saying that energy companies had a “responsibility to put customers first”.
The government’s stance of course completely ignores the fact that electricity prices – in the day at least – have been falling thanks undoubtedly to the impact of solar power.
Much needs to be done before renewables and energy storage are ready to take over completely from coal and other fossil fuels, but the process is already well underway and it might well be best that the transition is powered by market forces.
Meanwhile, we’re dealing with Russia’s increasingly belligerent actions towards Ukraine, including the reported move to send ‘peacekeeping’ troops into two separatist-held regions.
This has rather unsurprisingly sent oil prices climbing yet again with the benchmark Brent crude now trading at US$96.81 per barrel, putting it within a stone’s throw of the US$100/bbl mark and also some of the more outlandish (or is it?) predictions such as JPMorgan’s US$150/bbl guess.
To make things just that little bit worse, Dutch energy trader Vitol believes that global crude oil demand will surge in the second half of the year to more than 100 million barrels per day.
Its chief executive officer Russell Hardy told Bloomberg that oil would likely remain above US$100/bbl for a prolonged period of time.
He also warned that the world was running out of spare production capacity and that the market had to work out how worried it should be about this scenario.
High energy prices are certainly unwelcome by consumers but they do benefit the small cap energy plays on the ASX.
Strike Energy (ASX:STX) looks set to add to its string of conventional gas discoveries in the Perth Basin with its latest well South Erregulla-1 having already made what appears to be another find in the Wagina Sandstone.
While significant, the Wagina is merely a secondary objective for the well, which is targeting the same Kingia Sandstone that has proven so successful at the West Erregulla wells.
Further to the north, Buru Energy (ASX:BRU) is poised to start flow testing of its Rafael 1 well that intersected a conventional wet gas reservoir with high pressures.
This is expected to take between 7-10 days to complete.
Meanwhile, Melbana Energy (ASX:MAY) is continuing the drilling of its Alameda-1 oil exploration well onshore Cuba, which has already intersected an extensive oil interval.
Drilling is expected to be completed by the end of this week and will be followed by flow testing.