(Quote)“As we look to the future, we see no natural mechanisms that will permit coal to recover. If you’re a power plant operator, and you see gas supply is continuing to increase and natural gas can do the job cheaper — by a lot — the decision to switch from coal to gas is pretty easy.” (end quote) said Walter Culver, a founding member of the Great Lakes Energy Institute Advisory Board at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Culver is a co-author of the peer-reviewed study, published in The Electricity Journal, which found that a 23% drop in coal consumption for electricity between 2008 and 2015 correlated with the with the increase of extracting natural gas from shale. By their estimates, this reality far outweighs the burden of regulations as cause for the decline of the coal industry. Because of economic and technological advantages of burning natural gas over coal the team believes that this trend will continue some decades into the future. While we have seen some increases in the price of metallurgical coal strengthening the markets, what we know is these prices are greatly dependent on the Chinese and their decisions regarding coal production in their country. So, which is it – coal for the comeback or coal on the out?
In 2014 the United Kingdom consumed about 30% of its electricity by burning coal. The United States uses coal for approximately 33% of its electrical needs by comparison. In November 2015 the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the UK announced proposals to close the remaining coal-fired power stations in the country by 2025. Correspondingly, in May of 2016 the UK recorded more than twelve hours of powering their country without burning coal for the first time in 100 years. But, what does transitioning away from coal look like when it isn’t a pleasant spring day? In July of 2016, the country announced that they will retain an emergency plan which will pay 10 coal and gas fired power plants to remain on standby in the case that this winter’s weather brings days which require more capacity for electricity production than what currently powers the grid. Another strategy was to bring one coal fired power plant partially back onto the grid and to cut off a subsea power cable used to export electricity to Ireland. The 10 power plants on standby will be paid 122 million pounds to be ready to fire when given the word this winter. The plants will be paid millions of more pounds if they are actually required to fire up.
The eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute in Paintsville plans to accept its first class in February. The 16-week program trains people to operate advanced computer numeric control machines, and hopes to help out-of-work miners receive training which will allow them to again be employed. Workers in the field of advanced manufacturing average about $20 an hour and Gov. Matt Bevin’s office said there are at least 200 vacancies within commuting distance of Paintsville. Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program will pay tuition for out-of-work coal miners to complete the program.
After coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Alpha Natural Resources has announced that it has sold its last remaining properties in eastern Kentucky.Alpha Natural Resources said it has sold the assets of its Enterprise Mining Corp. affiliate to Kingdom Coal, a subsidiary of Keystone-Kingdom Resources in Fort Worth, Texas. Enterprise had an underground mine called the EMC No. 9 in Knott County and a preparation plant at Roxanna in Letcher County. Operations at the mine idled in July and 85 employees lost their jobs. There is some talk of interest in restarting the mine by Kingdom Coal. There’s no certain announcement as to if or when that would take place.
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