Climate clippings 149

1. FactCheck: Would Labor’s renewable energy plan cost consumers $60 billion?

The verdict:

    Tony Abbott’s statement that consumers will pay A$60 billion or more for Labor’s 2030 50% renewables pledge is misleading.

    Much of the existing coal-fired generating capacity will have to be replaced anyway, and this re-investment is always reflected in the price charged for electricity. Wind power will likely be the most cost-effective replacement as it is now the cheapest new-build power source.

    Many studies (including the government’s) show that because of this, a high renewable energy target is likely to increase competition in the energy sector, with the potential net effect of putting downward pressure on electricity prices.

Liars and clunkheads, I’m afraid.

2. The oceans are warming faster than climate models predicted

Ocean warming is important, because the ocean is where more than 90% of the extra heat generated by climate change goes. It’s problematic to measure the heat top to bottom. The historical record is also problematic, because the standard method was to throw a bucket over the side of a ship.

John Abraham reports on a study looking at the records of the top 700 metres since the early 1970s. The conclusion is that warming proceeds apace and that climate models under-predicted ocean warming by about 15%.

This article mentions a study which finds that warm water is piling up in the Western Pacific and leaking into the Indian Ocean. While the surface is comparatively cool the heat is collecting between 100 and 300 metres below the surface.

3. Divestment campaigners are losing the war

Fossil fuel companies are betting on the notion that the Paris climate summit will fall short of its aims and that it will be back to business as usual thereafter. So they are telling investors that the current low prices are cyclical.

Shell, for example, is investing in projects that don’t make sense until oil hits US $90 a barrel, as against $55-60 a barrel now.

At the same time, Shell is cutting 6500 jobs from global operations.

4. Marc Gunther looks at why the divestment movement may ultimately win

In concrete terms the achievements of the divestment movement are not impressive. For example, while there have been divestment campaigns on more than 400 campuses in the US, fewer than 20 colleges or universities have committed to full divestment. The industry has not lacked investors.

Moreover, some of the largest fossil fuel companies are government owned, by such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, and Iraq.

The divestment movement says its campaign is not economic, rather moral, political and symbolic.

    ‘Divestment is about targeting the fossil fuel industry, taking away its social license to operate,’ says one proponent.

That’s all very well, but while the fossil fuel companies are able to carry on regardless symbolism is small comfort, methinks.

5. Big is bad for renewables

The biggest 100 companies account for 85 percent of America’s electricity. However:

    the top 100 producers only get 4 percent of their power from non-hydro renewable resources, such as wind and solar, while producers outside the top 100 already get 20 percent of their energy from these no-carbon sources.

Coal persists in the large monopoly suppliers in conservative areas of the country where state governments are not inclined to be concerned about climate change. However, these suppliers are being squeezed by the EPA, the national regulator empowered to mandate restrictions on emissions. At least while the good guys are running the show.

6. Electricity cooperatives are already integrating renewables

One in eight American houses and businesses gets electricity from a cooperative. On average, they pay about $500 less a year for the privilege.

Many of the cooperatives are already using technology and systems to integrate renewables. For example, large hot water systems, normally considered undesirable and wasteful, are storing energy created by wind overnight to provide power at breakfast time.

I imagine this sector would provide a fertile field for research on how to address decentralised power generation and sharing systems.

7. Germany gets 78% of its electricity from renewables

It happened on Saturday 25, July, when there were howling gales in the north, where the wind turbines are, and sun in the south, where most of the solar panels are installed.

Renewable sources accounted for 27.8% of Germany’s power consumption in 2014, up from 6.2% in 2000.

8. South Australia increases fixed electricity tariffs

Here in Oz we seem determined to make life difficult for rooftop solar panel owners and providers. In Climate clippings 147, Item 5, I reported on the situation in Queensland. Our utility has written to us with an estimate that our electricity usage bill will decrease by all of $3 per month. Our fixed tariff or connection fee, however, will increase by about $30 per month.

South Australia has now followed suit. SA Power Networks will slash the electricity peak usage component of its network charges to just 3.3c/kWh, compared to 16.4c/kWh under the old tariff. But:

    The new supply charges … translate to a minimum bill of around $4,100 a year, just for connection. That is nearly three times the previous fixed supply fee, according to installers.

I can scarcely believe it, but I’m quoting from the article!

Research in the US indicates that changes in fixed charges and feed-in tariffs could cut solar deployment by as much as 80 per cent.

21 thoughts on “Climate clippings 149”

  1. Brian, re the electricity bills, have you heard of Powershop? They are available in Victoria and according to an article on RenewEconomy, were planning to move into NSW and Qld this year.

    Powershop does not charge a service fee, therefore is a good option for low users and people with solar panels. Their tariffs appear somewhat higher than the mainstream companies, but they offer various deals and information to manage your usage. (I haven’t looked into all that yet as it seems a bit complex and time consuming)

    I switched to Powershop in February, therefore most of my usage to date with them has been in the colder, shorter days period. My bills so far are therefore in total similar to my previous ones with Origin, but once we get past September, the weather warms up and the days get longer, I expect to be in credit for several months because of the FIT from my panels (they pay 8c or higher if you switched from one of the old high FIT schemes, though that will phase back ultimately).

    I did get a credit in February, which never happened with Origin because I could never get enough FIT to cover the approx $30 per month service fee, no matter how long the days.

    Overall therefore I expect to save quite a bit even though it hasn’t shown up significantly yet. They estimate people will be about 20% better off (I think that’s if you have solar panels but may be for everyone who is careful – will check that and report back).

    So I would say if it’s available in Queensland, it’s worth looking into. Perhaps you’d like to write about it for your readers?

  2. The Queensland daily service charge has risen dramatically and now sits close to $1.18 per day for the General tariff. That is $430 per year. To that you add your consumption and that will vary greatly household to household. I have been off grid for 13 years now but plan to move into a grid serviced area in the next 12 months. I’m watching very closely the options available to stay off grid.
    You can get a lot of battery storage for $10,000 and that will last around ten years. You can get a lot of solar panels installed (I like about 5,000 watts) for $5,000. And a suitable quiet inverter generator for around $4,000. The panels are good for 20+ years but lets give the genny and batteries ten years. So your cost is $5K genny, $10K batteries and 50% solar panels $2K. Total about $17K for ten years power, or $1,700 per year. From the $1,700 pa. cost deduct $430 service fee = $1270 p.a. for power consumption, or $318 per quarter.
    OK my figures are not well researched but I suspect they are higher rather than lower. further the popular view is that alternative power costs will reduce considerably in the next few years. At this time I am fairly sure I will stay off the grid when I move to a city.

  3. Val, I’m going to be a bit distracted for the next few months, but thanks for the information.

    Geoff, the next question is whether you will be allowed to go off grid in a city. We are not allowed to turn off the water in spite of the fact that some outlying suburbs don’t have town water.

  4. Brian: Compulsion like that makes a mockery of freedom of choice and of competition policy. Welcome to Soviet Australia, Comrades.

    Geoff H.: Thanks for your figures. Given the choice, a lot of people currently stuck with being unwilling customers would be influenced by them.

  5. Brian: In the city they cut your power off if you don’t pay your bill. The
    The fairest way to deal with the solar PV issue is to use gross feed in tariffs instead of net. (Solar owners get paid for all they produce and pay for all they consume.) Gets rid of the need for high connection tariffs that are ,in effect, a subsidy for rich people with large air conditioning systems.

  6. Brian being compelled to be part of the grid could prove interesting. As I understand it, Ergon (our utility) is a separate entity albeit State owned. To force a legal contractual relationship upon someone who receives no benefit and does not consent might stand on shaky legal grounds.
    There may be way they can do it though. I recall when sewer pipes were run past a property served by septic, owners were obliged to pay for the sewer, connected or not.

    The more steps the utilities/government take to protect their infrastructure earnings by increasing prices, the more resentment is generated. Just two years ago I was looking forward to grid power – that is no longer the case. Off grid is becoming an option worth considering now and it seems, rapidly becoming a viable option.

  7. Geoff, thanks, I noticed that one pop up. I don’t think an electricity supplier could make an electricity connection fee compulsory. It would have to be local government regulation or a state government law, I suspect.

    John, our package with Telstra for our landline gives us free local and trunk calls, and I think calls to Telstra mobiles. Its basically a single service fee. I wonder if that’s where we are heading.

  8. Brian you may be interested to know, following my earlier comments about Powershop, that I was today rung by someone from Origin Energy asking why I’d left and whether I might come back if they made me a special offer.

    I explained that their charging system using a service fee did not work well for someone like me, who is a low user and also has solar panels. He once again mentioned special offers, and so I told him that I was also very disgusted with the way Origin had behaved over the renewable energy target, that I had read their submission and thought it dishonest and slanted, that they were taking political positions inappropriately and refusing to face the reality of climate change, and that it was time they woke up and recognised the need for change.

    Quite a rant really, I rather enjoyed it.

    In return the guy gave me a really quite sincere sounding response, saying Origin recognised that they had not done enough, that they did accept the reality of climate change and were moving into renewables, etc etc

    I don’t know whether to believe any of it, or whether they are just alarmed by the number of customers switching to Powershop, but I do wonder if they are beginning to realise that in aligning themselves with Abbott and attacking the RET, they have backed the wrong horse. It’s very interesting.

  9. Things are moving fast. Apparently some developers are now considering ” off grid” options for some of their projects.
    I’m guessing that the plans would include a small insulated “powerhouse” intended to contain the batteries, genny backup and inverter gear. Maybe the buyer would elect to be on grid or otherwise.

    That could also be interesting because it likely imports Local Government into the mix because of possible Planning Scheme or Building Regulations.
    I’ll post more info as I receive it.

  10. Val, thanks. When we spoke to our private providers a few years ago it became clear that the spokesperson was employed by a marketing firm and didn’t know much about the power company.

    Geoff, thanks, and please keep us up to date.

    Jumpy, then there’s this:

    In 2014, the share of renewable sources in German domestic power consumption rose to an all-time high of 27.8 percent, according to the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Renewables also accounted for 26.2 percent of gross electricity production


  11. And ironically, from your link,

    Experts interpreted a drop in emissions in 2014 as a sign that the country was back on track, but critics pointed out that a significant part of last year’s CO2 saving can be attributed to warm winter weather.

    But anyway, I’ve looked around and found all sorts of different percentages on consumption and generation. It seems a difficult equation after considering they export and import electricity to and from so many other countries and the method of the foreign generation is hard to pin down.

    You’d think Australian stats would be easier due to our isolation but throw in diesel ( as Geoff does ) and the picture gets somewhat blurred.
    Also off grid numbers added to the soup are an estimate at best.

    Hmm.. very tricky indeed.

  12. Jumpy. I think the take-out may be, you may be able to believe what you are reading, you just don’t know what it means.

  13. Also that there are plenty of options that suit a preconceived position rather than educate toward the truth.

    The amount of media Ive taken with a grain of salt lately has hardened my arteries to a tungsten like substance.

    I’d give up on it altogether, but that’s what they want me to do, so yeah na.

  14. Also that there are plenty of options that suit a preconceived position rather than educate toward the truth.

    Oh the irony.

  15. Hey !, G’day zoot.
    Hows work treating ya.?
    And the weather in your neck of the woods?
    Family doing fine I trust, how’s your plan to increase the tax you pay, great I hope.
    Ok, catch ya next time.

  16. Brian, this sounded different to me, I got the feeling they are genuinely getting a bit of a wake up call. Origin used to be reasonable about green energy, in fact. It would be interesting to know what battles are going on within the energy sector.

    The idea of developers offering off the grid developments as Geoff suggested would certainly give them a fright.

    Only question is really, why were they so stupid? But we don’t have to look so far for examples in the political sphere I guess.

  17. Pretty much every source I found by googling days that about 30% of Germany’s power is currently coming from renewables and their best ever result was about 75%, so heaven knows where Jumpy is getting his information from, but it must be a ‘select’ source.

  18. Well, maybe 26.2 % is ” about 30 %”.
    But closer to a quarter than a third, ” aboutish “.
    With solar and wind being ” about half ” of renewables at 14.8%.
    Or ” about a seventhish ”

    ( From some sceptic bloke up the pub )

    Apparently the Germans are replacing one type of non emitting energy source with other types because tsunami, or some such.

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