Carbon leakage: China versus the West, 1999-2019

The purpose of this data-file is to assess how ‘industrial activity’ has changed, in China and in the West (US and Europe), from 1999-2019, as a proxy for the phenomenon called ‘carbon leakage’.

To do this, we have quantified volumes of specific materials (steel, aluminium, copper, plastics, glass, industrial acids) and manufactured goods (cars, refrigerators, textiles, washing machines).

Our broad conclusion is that heavier industrial activity is down 12% in the West over this 20-year period, and up 6.5x in China. At the same time, GDP is up c50% in the West and up 5.5x in China.

The greatest leakage has likely occurred for cars, electronics and machinery. Although other sectors such as solar panels or lithium batteries, where China dominates the supply chain cannot be measured in this data-file, as there is no 1999 baseline.

Sulphuric acid: production facilities?

This data-file profiles some simple details into facilities that produce sulphuric acid, out of the 1,000 such facilities globally.

This is one of the largest commodity chemical markets in the world, at around 270MTpa, used primarily in making phosphate fertilizers, but also more broadly across a vast number of different industries.

Around two-thirds of the sulphur is sourced from the oil and gas industry, for example, in refineries and natural gas production facilities. This does raise the question for how the world would source sulphuric acid in the unlikely event that oil and gas were phased out as part of the energy transition.

Energy costs of mining processes?

This data-file aims to quantify the typical energy intensities of open-pit mining processes, followed by milling operations to crush, grind and purify ores of interest.

The energy costs expand as ore grades contract, because more effort is expended mining, transporting and processing non-valuable by-products.

Generally, we think a 33% ore grade will likely require 100kWh of mining energy per ton of finished commodity, mostly consumed in the form of electricity, and emitting 50kg of CO2.

Each $100/ton increase in global CO2 abatement costs will therefore increase the cost of mined commodities by an average of around 3%.

Solar power: decommissioning costs?

This data-file aims to break down the costs of decommissioning solar projects. Gross costs are estimated within a range of $0.03-0.20/W, which is around 3-20% of the initial installation costs.

This is better than nuclear, offshore wind and coal decommissioning costs, but worse than natural gas (data are shown in the file).

What might help the economics for solar is the ability to re-use old panels, in markets that are particularly price sensitive. In the best cases, this could allow zero-cost decommissioning of solar assets or possibly even a small profit.

Re-deploying old solar panels could also accelerate the global deployment of solar by c5%.  Our notes, conclusions and numbers are built up in the data-file.

Power generation: sensitivity to high-temperature heatwaves?

This data-file aims to provide a simple model for how generally well-covered grids can fail catastrophically during a heatwave.

We have modeled a simple grid with 1,000MW of typical generation capacity, which should be enough to cover 333-500MW of typical demand by a factor of 2-3x.

Drawing on technical papers, we have also quantified how wind, solar, gas turbines and transmission & distribution line losses all degrade at higher temperatures.

Thus during a heat wave, this seemingly well-supported grid falls over.

Inter-correlations between offshore wind farms?

The purpose of this data-file is to examine the correlations between different wind farms’ generation rates. Specifically, we obtained and cleaned-up half-hour-by-half-hour power generation data from c20 wind assets around the UK, in Megawatts (MW).

The output from individual wind farms was 67% correlated on average, at any given point in time. This correlation varies with distance, reaching as high as 90% within a 100km x 100km area, and dropping to 50-60% within a 750km x 750km area.

Auto-correlation was also high, as each wind farm’s generation was 80% correlated with its own generation 5-hours earlier or later; and the correlation still held at c25% c24-hours later. Windy and non-windy periods routinely last several 2-10 days.

What implications? This all makes it challenging to back up a wind-powered grid with batteries, but it is advantageous for demand-shifting.

Power capacity of a typical home?

This data-file aims to estimate the power capacity required for a typical home circa 2010, 2020 and 2030, under various energy transition scenarios.

Our methodology is to tabulate the typical power consumption of various appliances, then estimate the number of these appliances that would be required.

A typical home in the developed world currently has a 10kW maximum power capacity before tripping its circuit-breaker (although it varies).

This could easily double in the energy transition, due to phasing back gas heating, gas cooking and the addition of home charging stations for electric vehicles.

The only thing is that upgrading the power capacity of home can typical cost $1,000-5,000, and sometimes as much as $20,000.

Land prices: an overview for renewables and reforestation?

The purpose of this data-file is to estimate the cost of land, which matters for renewables and reforestation projects, but also amidst rising inflation.

Our main conclusion from trying to compile the data-set is that there is no such thing as a “land price” as there is for commodities. Even with individual countries, there are 100x variations. European arable land prices, for example, range from $700 to $700,000 per acre. Prices in the emerging world are even more opaque, ranging from $13/acre in parts of Africa through to $7,000 acre for oil palm plantations in Malaysia, through to tens of thousands of dollars on the outer belts of sprawling new cities.

Nevertheless, the data-file supports a vast availability of low-cost land for reforestation. Ballpark estimates are aggregated in the first tab, alongside our notes. Granular US and European data are summarized in subsequent tabs. For the emerging world, individual land offerings are assessed in the final tab.

Energy efficiency of motors and power generators?

This data-file estimates the efficiency of electric motors and power generators, using specific examples and data-points.

This matters as there are around 50bn motors in the world, consuming c45% of global electricity.

Efficiency ratings are generally high, above 90%, although lagging and non-optimized motors can be in the 70-80% range, suggesting huge scope for improvement.

Power generators are effectively just motors wired in reverse. Notes on the functioning and efficiency of motors follow in the final tab .

Inflation in the energy transition?

This data-file aims to estimate how much inflation is likely to result from policies to decarbonize the global economy.  Specifically, we have used our models to flow through the impacts per $100/ton of CO2 abatement costs.

Aggregate price levels might rise by 6% per $100/ton of CO2 abatement costs. New energies costs rise by 6-30%. Mobility and food rise by 15%. And materials costs rise by an average of 40%.

Underlying calculations are summarized here, with links to our other data-files and models.