Conference Paper

Aging of European Power Plant Infrastructure as an Opportunity to evolve towards Sustainability

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Abstract

The global energy sector is shifting towards renewable energy (RE). International agreements are setting goals related to the reduction of carbon emissions with the aim of mitigating climate change. When it comes to RE, Europe is the leading region for renewable share installation with 38.5% of RE of total power capacity (including 9% for wind and 6% for PV), but still there were 914 GW of non-RE installed capacities operating at end of 2014. Records of decommissioned power plants indicate an average power plant technical lifetime of about 40 years for coal, 34 years for gas and 34 years for oil power plants, whereas the lifetime of hydropower plants seems to be rather unlimited due to repeated refurbishments. An assumed lifetime for nuclear power plants is 40 years, although records of deactivated power plants average slightly less than 20 years, and the average age of the operating nuclear power stations is 30 years. From numbers related to non-renewable capacities operating at end of 2014 and following this tendency, only 340 GW would still be operational by 2030, which implies the shutdown of 48.6% of the gas, 78.3% of the oil, 79.1% of the coal and 81.7% of the nuclear capacities. By 2050 only 6.1% and 1.4% of the currently operating capacity will be within the lifetime range for coal and nuclear, respectively, while 100% of the currently operating capacities of gas and oil would have reached the expected lifetime by then. This presents a prime opportunity for Europe to evolve and set the example on the way towards sustainable power systems. To achieve the target of limiting climate change to 2ºC, net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 may be required, resulting in 17 GW of coal capacities installed in Europe from 2010 onwards facing a shorter-than-expected operational lifetime, which will lead to stranded assets. Gas and oil-fired capacities commissioned from 2016 onwards may be required to shift to carbon-neutral fuels such as biodiesel or RE-based syngas.

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... Farfan and Bayer (2017), for example, concluded that about 300 GW of the installed coal power plants may end up as stranded assets, most of it in China (59%) and India (22%), and that future coal investment was also likely to be stranded, but that the risk for gas generation capacity was likely to be lower [50]. Farfan and Bayer (2017a) estimated that 17 GW of coal capacities installed in Europe from 2010 onwards faced a shorter-than-expected operational lifetime and that gas and oil-fired capacities commissioned from 2016 onwards may be required to shift to sustainable and renewable energy sources to avoid future stranding [51]. Caldecott et al (2015) identified a particular exposure for subcritical coal generation technologies, finding that Indian, former Soviet and Chinese companies' portfolios were particularly exposed due to high reliance on older technologies [52]. ...
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