Climate clippings 209

1. Power price wave slams business

That was the headline on the front page of the AFR on Friday.

Households are facing increases of up to 20 per cent, but businesses on five-year contracts signed in 2012 are facing hikes of as much as 83%.

The closure of Hazelwood is being blamed, but of course the price of gas has had more than a little to do with it.

Unsurprisingly an AEMO report fins that consumer demand will flatline, even with increased population, because consumers use less as the price goes up, and they generate their own.

Monday saw another article, Energy, price cuts threaten manufacturers:

    Soaring energy bills and pricing pressure from supermarket chains could force food and grocery manufacturers to close plants and shift offshore, says the new chief executive of the sector’s peak body.

    Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Tanya Barden says more domestic food and grocery suppliers will become unviable if they cannot pass on rising input costs or are forced to cut prices further as energy bills double.

They’ve absorbed price deflation for their produce over the last six years, but a breaking point may be reached in the next 18 months.

As Ootz linked on another thread Bills have become centre of the energy discourse galaxy in Australia. Yet Finkel saw electricity prices as more or less flatlining after 2017 through to 2050.

2. Businesses turn to renewables

Increasingly, it seems, we are going to get stories like Victoria agribusiness turns to 196MW wind farm with 20MW storage:

    Agri-business company Nectar Farms has announced a $565 million expansion of its new hydroponics business near Stawell in the Victoria’s western districts, that will include a 196MW wind farm and 20MW of battery storage and make it 100 per cent renewable-powered.

    In what is a unique project in Australia, Nectar Farms will expand its 10 hectare state-of-the-art hydroponic glasshouse and plant technology to 40 hectares to supply vegetables to local and international markets.

They had intended to use gas, but it was too expensive, and supply unreliable.

Further west we find in the AFR Adelaide winery turns to solar as power bills double.

The article also says that the five months to the end of May saw a record 386 megawatts of solar panels installed on the roofs of homes and firms around Australia, beating the previous record from 2013:

3. New standard that could kill the home battery storage market

Australia is looking at a new way of shooting itself in the foot by contemplating an Australian Standards proposal that lithium-ion batteries be only allowed in homes if they are contained in a concrete bunker.

Europe and the USA have standards that allow them, but here we need to be made safe from this dangerous technology:

    Home battery storage systems would be banned, while lithium-ion batteries for laptops, mobile phones and other devices, electric vehicles, and gas bottles are not.

4. “Baseload”: An outdated term that should not be confused with “reliability”

Giles Parkinson says:

    The “coal versus no new coal” debate has come to define the battle lines over Australia’s energy future. It can basically be boiled down to one concept: the assumption that we have to rely on baseload power for the reliability and security of out electricity supply.

    A new report from the US highlights how the concept of “baseload” is really just an artefact of an old industry, and points out that baseload should not be confused with reliability. The two do not go hand in hand, and hanging on to the term is getting in the way of planning for the future.

Baseload is effectively a marketing term for “clean coal”.

Parkinson links to The Brattle Group report which was commissioned by the NRDC, a US-based NGO, on baseload power. This is what a modern power supply might look like:

Parkinson also points out that coal and gas generators failed in the heat in February. Gas failed in Victoria in the recent cold snap.

5. Minerals Council’s fantasy world of coal and renewable costs

From Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy:

    The Minerals Council of Australia has entered the world of make-believe with its new “analysis” of energy costs in Australia – but at least it has found a novel way to make new coal generators look cheap.

    First of all, you halve the estimated cost of coal generation, double the cost of wind and solar, and then add absurd levels of “back-up” that do not apply to the fossil fuel generators – whose output continually went missing at crucial times in last summer’s heatwaves.

Unfortunately that’s not how the story was told in the AFR.

6. The entire province of Qinghai just ran for a week on only renewable energy

    From June 17th to June 23rd, the vast but sparsely populated province of Qinghai was powered only by wind, solar and hydro plants, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency. During that period of time, “green energy” plants provided the province with 1.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity — the equivalent of burning 535,000 tons of coal. 72% of that came from hydro plants, while the remainder was from wind and solar, said the provincial grid company.

    Located in northwestern China, Qinghai is China’s fourth biggest province/region, but also only its 30th most populated (trailing behind only Tibet and Macau). The province is bigger than France, but 12 times less populated with just around 5.8 million people.

    Qinghai is known for its abundance of natural resources, including high-altitude plains that are perfect for both wind and solar farms. Earlier this year, a massive solar farm was completed on the Tibetan Plateau that spans out 27 square kilometers, capable of powering 200,000 homes. Additionally, the province is home to many fast-flowing rivers that are the sources of China’s biggest waterways — the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Mekong.

If you want to talk the old language, hydro provides the baseload. However, Qinghai is seen as an exporter of power to the rest of the system.

    China has said that it will boost use of non-fossil fuels so that they account for 20% of its energy consumption by 2030. By the end of the decade, China plans to spend $360 billion on green energy projects, and it recently surpassed the US as the world leader in renewable energy development.

7. Scrapping the Limited Merits Review

The Turnbull government plans to scrap the Limited Merits Review.

By way of explanation, almost half of the average bill reflects the cost of getting electricity from the power station to homes or businesses, via the “poles and wires” that make up high-voltage transmission and local distribution networks. The revenue they charge is set by an independent government agency called the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) every five years.

The transmission and distribution entities have had the right to challenge these determinations, in what is known as the Limited Merits Review. In the past at times the AER has been found to have made mistakes by the Federal Court and the Australian Competition Tribunal. This can mean that we have cheaper electricity now, but the grid could then be under-maintained, leading to unreliability and higher prices later on.

If AER can make unchallenged determinations, it also introduces ‘sovereign risk’, a turn-off for investors. In the linked article Brendan Lyon is the CEO of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, says the proposal is a really bad idea:

    When it comes to energy, federal politicians need to stop “helping”. Australia’s energy system is now a complete bugger’s muddle precisely because of multiple political interventions, across the tiers of government, over a long period of time and without any uniting or unifying national energy policy.

He says:

    The federal government should abandon “Snowy 2.0” and related attempts to directly intervene in network prices – and instead, return to “Energy Markets 101”. A strong merits review regime is a cornerstone of stable regulation.

8. Labor will support the CET

Mark Butler, Labor’s spokesperson for Climate Change and Energy, in his new book ‘Climate Wars’‘ argues Australia remains disconnected from the dawning gravity of the social, economic and environmental threats of climate change. As a gesture to peace, he said Labor would support a Clean Energy Target as conceptualised in the Finkel Review.

9. Brown to Green Report

Climate Transparency has compiled a Brown and Green Report to review country performance feeding into the G20 meeting.

Australia remains “inadequate”, but we are fifth most attractive for investment in renewables, after China, India, the US and Germany.

I’ve only just had time to skim the report.

20 thoughts on “Climate clippings 209”

  1. I forgot to mention, the Nectar Farms project (Item 2) will create 1300 jobs. That’s probably more than Adani in a net ongoing basis, which I think would create about 1400 direct and indirect jobs.

    In this CC I concentrated on climate action. I’ve got a bunch of articles on climate change more generally.

  2. There was a segment on the Brown to Green report on The World Today (Item 9).

    Seems the only way that we could reach our 2030 targets, which are seen as inadequate, is by creative accounting using land clearing. Otherwise there is not a hope in Hades, they say.

    This scam has been going on for nearly 20 years now. Basically, we are a joke, and the world knows.

  3. Yep, that’s dumber than dumb. I recall Karl Kruszelnicki not so long ago saying that if you are walking your dog, be aware that it’s quite a bit hotter down there than where you are. I think the official temp is taken about 1.5m above ground, of course in the shade.

  4. I think we need to be careful about dissing supposed battery standards. Lithium batteries, for example, are a fire hazard and careful thought needs to go into the standards required to protect households even if we think that this is just another plan to block energy storage.

  5. Thanks for that Jumpy.
    So far I have been going by Choice, who’s advised to wait until 2021

    From advice CHOICE has received, waiting until 2021 will see a substantial drop in battery prices, reducing payback times in all cities.

    Battery costs currently sit at around $1000-$3000 per kWh. Martin says they will make good economic sense when they cost $500 per kWh. Additionally, he suggests that projected increases in electricity prices are likely to improve the outlook for investing in batteries.

    Mark Byrne, energy market advocate with the Total Environment Centre, has researched the costs of new solar and battery systems in NSW.

    “Payback times for new solar systems with batteries are much better in 2021 than 2017, with payback periods likely to reduce by around three years,” he says.

    “By 2021, most new solar plus battery systems will pay for themselves in less than 10 years, except low consumption households with large batteries.”

  6. Oootz, yeah, I hoped it would be sooner.
    The other thing I read is the disposal cost of solar panels and batteries when their past their used by date is higher than Nukes.
    Ill look at it again tomorrow.
    Happy to know your opinion on that part of it.

  7. John D to quote the link:

    The European standard, known as IEC 62619:2017, sets out in detail the operating requirements of battery storage devices, but does not go to the extreme of banning them outright from homes and buildings.

    I get the impression that they take the risks seriously. The US has a similar standard.

    The problem can come, however, in the enforcement of standards as we have seen in building cladding.

  8. On solar, batteries and off-grid and such, I heard an expert, ex-Energex fellow, on local radio the other day.

    He said that going off-grid was only realistic if you were 4km from the grid and had to pay for the connection. He said that you need about three days of battery storage, and would need about $50k for the setup.

    On batteries within the grid area he said not yet.

    On a payback of 10 years from 2021, we don’t reasonably expect to be in this house.

    He said that solar costs about 19c per KWh at present, so installing solar and maxing the use during the day can be quite profitable.

    Jumpy, a good point about disposal costs, and I look forward to what you might find.

  9. Mr J

    I agree with you.

    (deep breath, think of warm sunny day on beach; continue deep breathing……)

    It is indeed very difficult to predict future technologies.

    But as you have pointed out on this thread, there are many recent developments that point towards:
    energy saving, energy efficiency
    better designed houses
    lower pollution
    decentralised energy production
    lower costs

    and with any luck, safe disposal or re-use of discarded equipment.


  10. and, Mr J, look at the wide range of innovations, private firms small and large involved, across dozens of nations, with many ideas bouncing around the Internet and being taken up by individuals, families, schools, small businesses, communities, large businesses, govt departments, transport systems, etc.

    It’s looking unstoppable. A US President once said, “the people want peace and governments had better get out of their way!”

    Nowadays the people want energy efficiency, low emissions, cleaner air, pleasant homes and a future. Once again, governments had better get out of our way.


  11. A US President once said, “the people want peace and governments had better get out of their way!”

    Sounds like a Republican. 🙂

  12. Jumpy, I scanned through the comments thread on your solar waste thread, and it has stuff like this:

    It’s pretty telling that Julie’s sole source in this article is Michael Shellenberger. Mr. Shellenberger’s “think tank” The Breakthrough Institute is substantially funded by the nuclear industry (1), and he has been repeatedly caught spreading blatant lies about nuclear power.

    No energy source is perfect, which is why we should be investing more in things like building efficiency, walkable neighborhoods, and local food networks, so we can reduce our energy use overall. (Note that Julie doesn’t call for these commonsense measures.) But if we’re trying to assess the relative merits of solar power, we shouldn’t rely on propaganda from the nuclear industry.

    The site you’ve linked to is pro-nuclear, so you end up scratching your head and wondering.

  13. I try not to read the comments any more , it’s normally the same old groups split into Pro or anti with very little rebuttal evidence ( like that one ) or supporting evidence in relation to the study.
    Before you can say ” Jack Robinson ” it’s a personal attackathon.

    Happens everywhere.
    Go to some places and mention a Gratton or Australia Institute study and, regardless of the content, it’s written by the other side = lies.

    Weight of numbers pack mentality ensues and everybody is no wiser as a result.

  14. Jumpy, there are a few places on the interwebs where you can have a sensible conversation. Just a few.

    I was just pointing out that you had linked to a pro-nuclear site. The bloke I quoted appeared to be at the University of Chicago, and reckons he had studied law, political science, music and engineering.

    More than that I just don’t know, but while I’d accept that you’ve made a point about needing to look at the whole life-cycle, and acknowledge that you did not fully endorse the source yourself, it’s clear that the last word has not been spoken.

  15. Mr J, July 18.

    Correct: Dwight D Eisenhower
    “I think that people want peace so much……”

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