Climate clippings 189

1. Elon Musk’s clean energy vision

Elon Musk’s 100% clean energy vision is that the world’s energy needs will come from electricity – around one third transport, one third heating and manufacturing uses, and one-third electricity.

By the last category he clearly means everything else we use electricity for.

His new gizmo is a solar roof shingle:


His Powerwall 2 packs twice the energy of the first model (14.5 kwh), but will come at about the same price, along with new software to control demand and supply. His vision is not to go off-grid, rather to share through an intelligent grid.

His target is initially the 5 million new homes built in the USA, but he sees rooftop solar reaching a third of houses eventually. There are close to 135 million households in the US, which would if course include flats and units. And he sees solar capacity in other building materials.

Parkinson heralds all this as “a kind of energy democracy” and a shift from centralised oligopolies. Maybe so, but perhaps more so for the better off. Someone else is going to have to look service the needs of the rest as we continue to bifurcate into a two-tier society.

2. The Bentley Effect: will community energy power our future?

The Bentley Effect is the title of a new documentary film which:

    chronicles the community fight against coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, from early defeats to the resounding victory at Bentley, where more than 5,000 people gathered to show their opposition to a CSG drilling program by the listed company Metgasco.

    They finally won when the heads of a proposed 850 police force realised that their members would be stared down by the mass of farmers, landowners, mums, dads, scientists, local business people and activists – who had organised themselves to rally against the unconventional gas invasion.

The politicians had to back down and rescind the license. Giles Parkinson tells the tale in The Bentley Effect: Why community energy will power our future.

The Byron community then chipped in to set up their own renewable energy system. Big Electricity can get lost!

This is great, and provides a model other communities can learn from, if not completely copy. However, there is something special about the Byron community, and such cohesive green action may not happen elsewhere, let alone in the suburbs of the big cities, where at least half the population live.

3. Power station Hazelwood to close

See Giles Parkinson, Tristan Edis, the 7.30 Report, Dylan McConnell, Roger Dargaville and Sophie Vorrath.

There may be a price increase, but relatively minor. The power will be replaced largely by black coal in NSW. So the closure of Hazelwood, currently responsible for 3% of Australia’s emissions, will only reduce emissions by one per cent.

Most notable is the piece by Tristan Edis. He says the global French energy company Engie, one third owned by the French government:

    has a three-year, €15 billion program to divestment program to withdraw from their oil and gas assets, in combination with a €15 billion investment program focussed on renewables and new energy technologies.

Large companies are not always focussed on the next AGM. They need to look where industries are going in a few decades time, and move their money and effort to take full advantage.

Engie would have sold the plant if they could have found a buyer. One has now put his hand up, A Trevor St Baker and his company Sunset Power International. However he want “capacity payments”, payment for reserve power kept on standby, and some recognition for the stability that ‘baseload’ is said to provide.

We are assured by all that matter that energy security will be fine.

4. New South Wales gets with the program

NSW has caught the bug, and unveiled plans to start on the journey towards zero emissions by mid-century. It’s not just aspirational, it is said to go into some detail. There are actually three plans, the NSW climate change policy framework, the climate fund strategic plan and the plan to save NSW energy and money (link broken).

    They set out in some detail how the state intends to increase investment in the renewable sector, help vulnerable families responding to climate change and reduce household bills.

Good to see a focus on ‘vulnerable’ families. However, sometimes in these schemes a layer of not-so-well-off people miss out.

With NSW on board, the Commonwealth should now recognise that they too need to be on board, pushing forward, not holding everything back.

Chief scientist challenges renewables alarmism

You might recall the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has been charged with coming up with a plan to review the electricity system to ensure energy security as we move to renewables.

He says energy security is not about ‘locking in status quo’ and there are ‘many viable technology paths to cutting emissions’. He says that the market will provide. I’m not sure the market will get us a smart grid.

Submissions to Finkel’s inquiry close in December. His report could be a game changer.

5. Martin Wolf remains pessimistic

Martin Wolf, economist with the Financial Times, thinks there are two forms of climate denial, ‘denial major’ and ‘denial minor’

He regrets that there has been little focus on climate change in the US presidential election contest.

With Trump it’s clear, we have ‘denial major’. He would undo the modest progress made by Obama.

With Clinton we can only expect ‘denial minor’, substituting modest gestures for policies able to bring credible change. This will cost us down the track.

It’s a decade, he reminds us, since the ground-braking Stern Review was publishes. We have little to show for it. It’s urgent we act now and in this he remains pessimistic.

33 thoughts on “Climate clippings 189”

  1. RN’s The World Today had a comprehensive segment about the closure of Hazelwood today.

    Frydenberg was mouthing off about renewables killing off the good dirty power stations. Apparently he hadn’t heard about the company’s global strategy to get out of fossil fuels.

  2. This post is so ironic – the Chief Scientist putting his faith in ‘the market’ (assuming you’re reporting him correctly Brian), while immediately above there is direct empirical evidence that purposive community action can get things done.

    When did we lose our faith that communities and societies could get things done? In the 70s and 80s somewhere when we (or at least some of us, including the major political parties) decided we had to yield our political power to the ‘market’ (ie capitalism)?

    I say we should take the power back! Of course I’ve mainly worked at local community and state level, where there is a lot more faith in planning (though state level treasuries got captured by neoliberalism) and you are right of course that Byron Bay is not typical, but I think there is a lot communities can do. I look forward to seeing that documentary.

    We’ve just had local elections here and there has been a big shift to the greens, particularly in inner city areas. Change is coming, but it looks like there will be a big gap opening up between the left and right in the process, and there may be some troubled times.

    Btw I think it is wrong to say Clinton represents minor denial – I think she wants to act on climate change but like Obama, she is constrained by the political system in America, and she is a pragmatist rather than a visionary. But I am sick of the ‘lesser evil’ stuff – Hillary Clinton is by no means perfect but she is far better than Trump, and she’s the only alternative the world has at present as a leader on climate change, so more power to her. We can have the fights over detailed policy after she has beaten Trump.

  3. Val, I was going on this:

    Finkel said the required transition would ultimately be led by the market and the science, “not by the chief scientist”.

    The grid is really a natural monopoly, a case where governments have to intervene , especially when we are dealing with essential infrastructure.

    I think you are right about Wolf’s reading of Clinton. She won’t control Congress and will have to rely on executive orders, the way Obama has.

  4. Val: Community action is an effective part of the renewable power picture but it is not going to satisfy the demand for power for industries that need a lot of electricity. The future may include things like home rooftop, microgrid linked rooftops, shopping center rooftops and utility scale systems.
    Connecting to the grid helps reduce the waste of renewable energy and reduces the need for storage but in some circumstances it is more cost effective to spend money on extra power and storage instead of spending money on the grid.
    We will use market forces to do things like drive down the price of solar panels and set the price of contracts for utility scale renewable power installations.

  5. When did we lose our faith that communities and societies could get things done?

    ” The Market “ is ” communities and societies, they’re the same thing.
    Elton Musk knows this ( see 1st story ).

    Finkel said the required transition would ultimately be led by the market and the science, “not by the chief scientist”.

    Finkel knows this.

  6. Cracker, you are mixing your economic and sociological concepts now. The primary meaning of the noun market is

    a regular gathering of people for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock, and other commodities.
    “they wanted to browse around the street market”


    an open space or covered building where vendors convene to sell their goods.
    “Billingsgate Market”


    an area or arena in which commercial dealings are conducted.
    “the UK market remained in recession”


    a demand for a particular commodity or service.
    “there is a market for high-priced wine”


    the state of trade at a particular time or in a particular context.
    “the bottom’s fallen out of the market”


    the free market.
    “future development cannot be left to the market”


    a stock market.
    “the sale of the company’s shares on world markets”

    In this context I take it to mean private corporations providing capital to deliver the service for profit.

    You could delete “purchase and sale” and insert “barter or exchange” and we’ve had markets for a very long time.

  7. Brian
    The ” market ” is everyone.
    ” Society ” is everyone.
    There is no separating the two.

  8. Jumpy, if you are right it would be impossible to talk about the effect markets have on modern society, or to imagine a future where the relationship is different.

    It is necessary and vital that we do.

  9. Market movement is Societal movement.
    The market is the reflection society sees in a mirror.
    Each individual making a value decision make up both.

    Trying to separate the 2 is impossible.

  10. “”Market movement is Societal movement.
    The market is the reflection society sees in a mirror.
    Each individual making a value decision make up both.

    Trying to separate the 2 is impossible.””

    Interesting, that comment above is very close to:

    “”Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.””

  11. Hey Ootz, hows the chooks ?

    Close but no, society is the sum of all individuals, the market comprises of the same individuals. Their individual concept of value doesn’t change with any tag put on them.

    BTW, who was that misguided quote from ?

  12. If you Google you’ll find the author of the quote.

    Jumpy, you seem to be “certain of certain certainties”. That’s TS Eliot to save you the trouble.

    What’s intriguing me is how you decide what is true and what is not.

  13. Jumpy,

    The Market is simply, as Brian explained, a mechanism.

    A community is people with proximity, connection and common interest.

    A market does not require people, proximity or common interest.

    Brian, great thread. In 1980 I moved to Christchurch NZ. At that time the Christchurch City Council provided: electricity; water; sewerage services; waste removal; roads; parks (absolutely beautiful parks); ports including an international airport; libraries; public transport; lots more; and all at very reasonable rates. That was a community that worked exceptionally well. Then came a right wing (sadly labour) government which set about smashing up this well ordered society in the interests of “free markets”. What that meant was that the national government wanted to get its hands on the ports, the water supply and the electricity distributor (all paid for by the local community) so that it could control them as assets and ultimately sell them, as it did with the national rail system in the most incompetent way.

  14. Bilb

    A market does not require people, proximity or common interest.

    Really ? Which ones don’t require people ?
    Certainly not the energy market.

  15. In principle, Jumpy, the core function of the NEM does not require people.

    One of the recent share market crashes was caused when a multitude of share management computers looking at the same data with the same algorithm all setoff sell instructions at the same time. In the so doing they demonstrated that computer only trading was possible, although problematic.

    Markets are a by product of human (predominately [there are other examples in nature]) communities, and the degree of integration naturally leads to the confusion of their status.

    Go to 18.34 minutes in this video for natural market example

  16. Jumpy
    Markets involve trade in goods and services. There is a great deal (the majority in fact) of our lives and societies that is not concerned with trade. The failure of mainstream economics to take this into account causes many problems and means that the major discourse of our society around ‘value’ is essentially flawed and misleading – eg you can have a rising GDP but still be stuffing the planet!

    Brian has written about rising sea levels – you just need to look at predictions for major cities to see the implications. The ‘wealthiest’ (in monetary terms) societies in the world or in history are not exempt from climate change.

    How much of your life is occupied with trade (even taking into account work hours)? How much with family, friends, day to day living? What are the things you value the most? How would rate a day in the bush with your family versus being rich in monetary terms?

  17. I don’t see what you getting at bilb.
    On your video, imagine the government meddled in the fish/shrimp transaction, Incentivising the fish to eat the shrimp, or regulating the amount of shrimp that are licensed to clean fish.
    ,That’s the beauty of free trade, a synchronous benefit to both parties.
    Any corruption of that has negative consequences.

  18. Val

    How much of your life is occupied with trade (even taking into account work hours)?

    All of it.
    The roof that keeps me and mine dry is the result of trade, water we drink, food we eat ( other than my home grown fruit and veg that costs more than store purchased but I value it in non-monetary ways)

    How much with family, friends, day to day living?

    See above.

    What are the things you value the most?

    Well, that has changed a lot over my life on the fringes but family, both up and down always trumps ( hehe ) everything else.

    How would rate a day in the bush with your family versus being rich in monetary terms?

    Well i’d take each family members opinion into consideration. Of the 4 ( wife + 3 boys ), 2 dislike the bush camping thang. Our swimming pool in the back yard ( result of trade ), even though I rarely use it, and the BBQ( result of trade ) seem to be a family favourite. Money is only one tool in the toolbox, more of it is preferable but not my main focus.

    If you don’t mind me asking, how would you answer your questions ?

  19. Free Trade, Jumpy? Far too simplistic. Even in Nature oversupply leads to externalities as experienced with Algal blooms that kill everything they encompass. A regulated supply of resources is far more beneficial to all.

  20. Getting back to Elton Musk;

    His Powerwall 2 packs twice the energy of the first model (14.5 kwh), but will come at about the same price, along with new software to control demand and supply.

    This is a clear market signal not to buy now, wait till the new model is available.
    Or wait further till the panels ( price trend plummeting ) and storage ( price also trending down ) get into your ” value “range.
    Dollar value is but a portion of overall value of any transaction. Each of us weigh these portions differently.

  21. ( I’ll not talk further on this thread about trade unless it’s relevant to energy or climate, happy to discuss on Open thread though )

  22. As to Elon Musk, I don’t think that it is meaningful to talk about his “competitors”. He has no Competition. He can sell everything on the renewable energy front that he produces, and will be able to for decades to come.

    What will happen is that he will stimulate a massive broad field energy conversion and storage industry employing far more people than the coal and oil industries ever did. It is very exciting.

  23. Musk has plenty of competitors.
    One of em will develop a solar brick for the north elevation of southern hemisphere houses.
    The more players in the market the better I say, the entities most likely to fuck that up are bureaucratic ones.

  24. The sad sad news for you, Jumpy, that the future will be formed by ever more bureaucracy. There wil be either enlightened regulation or there will be war, for resources.

    I reiterate, Musk has no competitors. There are other people doing “things”, but not one with the scope, scale, performance or the reach of Musk.

  25. I reiterate, Musk has no competitors. There are other people doing “things”, but not one with the scope, scale, performance or the reach of Musk.

    Said about every entrepreneur by the ” Fan Boyz ” till he/she is superseded.
    Luckily you wrong and humanity didn’t die with Henry Ford.

  26. Well now would be your opportunity, Jumpy, to list the other 30 companies setting up mega factories to manufacture domestic battery systems by the millions a year. The market will take 50 million batteries per year for 15 years at which point they begin to need to be recycled.

    I think you are Jumpying into the speculation deep end again!

  27. You should be happy.
    Elon Musk is silent movies.
    Next will be drive inns, then home video, then DVD, then internet, then ??
    Humans are magnificent if we get out of our own way.
    If you don’t believe that why bother trying to save us ?,,,,

  28. Of course I don’t mind you asking Jumpy since I asked you, but you seem to have missed the point of my questions. I don’t know if it was deliberate or if in asking you to question received wisdom I was asking too much?

    For me, since I’m semi-retired, the answers are a bit different – I’m not compelled to spend 7-8 hours a day earning money, since I’ve done that in the past. Since we live in a society that has occupational specialisation and trade, we have to make money (ie produce goods or services for exchange via money), but I was asking you specifically how much time you spend doing that.

    Say on the approximately one day per week that I work for pay now, I spend about 7.5 hours doing that, plus about 5 mins shopping to buy stuff I need. The rest of the day – over 2/3 – is spent in non-market activity. If I was living in a subsistence society, it would be the whole day, but even in our society, most of our day is spent doing non-market activity that would be the same in a subsistence society. So that’s the first point. (Technically that’s about time use study, which is an alternative way of understanding the economy.)

    Secondly value – like you, I value family the most. I don’t have the research here but I have seen some that says so do most people – which I guess is pretty intuitive. So again, we don’t need to spend more time in trade or producing goods and services than we have to (given the nature of our society) because it’s actually people we value most, not possessions per se (my next most valued thing could be nature/the environment).

    I guess the third point flows from that – it isn’t necessarily about being in the bush, though I love being in the bush with my family. However even though you’ve specified swimming pool (and presumably BBQ unless you built it yourself) are result of trade – goods you’ve purchased – both actually involve being outdoors, so I think you and your family are implicitly valuing nature.

    In other words, people and the planet are more important than the market, even to you! The market exists to serve humans, not the other way round – and both humans and the market would be nothing without the environment/ecology. So your statements about the market being the same as communities and societies (you ignored ecology, but that won’t work in the long run!) can’t be justified.

    Anyway that’s enough of this, even though I am always interested to see if it’s possible to get someone to see things differently – I’m not sure that you will because I don’t think you want to, but I could be wrong.

    I will stick with my view that communities and societies taking planned, purposive action, is much better than ‘leaving it to the market’.

  29. Jumpy, if you are comparing Elon musk to Howard Hughes, then I agree with you. Musk has all of the same lateral innovative power.

    The difference is Hughes began his run when the world’s population was 2 billion. Elon Musk began his when the world population had passed the unsustainable point by 4 decades and is now heading from 7 billion to 9 billion.

    We have reached the point where humans cannot help but be in each other’s way, because there are way too many human beings all wanting what they cannot have. There are not sufficient resources left for that to be possible.

    Free Markets? Dead. Even the US presidents elect don’t want them any more. because they have finally seen that free markets only serve the interests of a handful of people, and enslave the rest.

  30. Principle

    1 a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning.

    There’s nothing more to say about that. Free market,…Dead.

    You’ve nailed that one down tight there, Ootz.

  31. If the economy and the society were identical, why would anyone study economics, econometrics, financial forecasting as separate disciplines? What is the point of thousands of books, both technical and popular, on dozens of aspects of economics?

    Why did Adam Smith bother? And his successors?
    Is someone disrespecting the Scottish Enlightenment? Shame on ye, laddie!

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