Climate clippings 118

1. South Australia going for broke

Malcolm Turnbull would call it a ‘reckless, irresponsible, ideological frolic’, but South Austria has been running 63% on wind and solar during the last few months, and is going for broke.

Giles Parkinson says SA must, and will, lead world on renewables.

    The Weatherill and Koutsantonis strategy is to embrace new technologies, cheap wind and solar and storage, smart software and smarter management, and put into practice the sort of scenarios envisaged by the CSIRO, Energy Networks Australia and more recently by the storage review commissioned by chief scientist Alan Finkel.

All that can stop Weatherill and Koutsantonis is Nick Xenophon at the next election putting the LNP into office.

Turnbull and Frydenberg will be swept aside as irrelevant detritus.

If I get time I’ll do a longer post.

2. Finkel’s frustration

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel is fed up with our conservative national politicians:

    Finkel argues that Australia has managed a unique trifecta – high prices, high emissions, and high uncertainty – and fallen behind the rest of the world. And he has no doubt who is to blame.

    “Everyone else has a strategy,” says one of the key points of his presentation (see above). The next line is equally damming: “Regulatory system suffering 10 years of policy paralysis.”

    Energy insiders and observers know exactly what Finkel is referring to: the first is clear, the political impasse caused by the Far Right and its opposition to basic economics and science.

    The second offender would be interpreted as the Australian Energy Market Commission – the rule maker that has stood in the way of blindingly obvious reforms such as introducing environmental considerations into the National Electricity Objective, and which has resisted and delayed nearly every proposed change that would nudge Australia’s ageing, creaking energy infrastructure into the 21st Century.

3. Finkel says there is no need to panic about energy storage

    While the ESB, in arguing for a National Energy Guarantee, speaks of the system threats and urgency to act with a level of “variable” renewables accounting for between 18 and 24 per cent of total generation, this new report says surprisingly little storage may be needed with 35 per cent to 50 per cent wind and solar.

I suspect that there will be real worries about the credibility of the ESB (Energy Security Board) while John Pierce chairs the Australian Energy Market Commission. You may recall that during the Finkel review, Finkel questioned the point of meeting with the AEMC because no engineers were present.

4. Queensland chooses sunshine over coal, to relief of solar industry

    Phew, that was close. That must be the reaction of the Australia solar industry, and local and international renewable investors, after a result that puts the Labor government within touching distance of a small majority or at least a workable minority government.

    The re-election of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in Saturday’s nail-biting poll will guarantee the medium-term future of the solar industry in Australia, along with several large-scale wind and hybrid projects, and some key storage installations.

    It will also likely have a bearing on federal politics too, given that the Queensland government is unlikely to approve a National Energy Guarantee that seeks to choke the level of wind and solar that can be added to the national grid, or reinforces the power of the energy incumbents.

It was an important win for Queensland, the nation and the planet.

5. More gas on the way

The Adelaide press carries a story about New report into potential fracking expansion in the Cooper Basin

In Brisbane we have Queensland on cusp of new gas boom

    QUEENSLAND is on the cusp of a new gas boom with exploration for shale gas to start in the Cooper Basin.

    In what could be a new money earner for the state — and ease the cost of energy prices — millions of dollars will be spent to determine if the extraction should start.

    It is understood Geoscience Australia estimates prospective shale and tight gas resources in the Cooper Basin could provide 29 years of east coast gas at current production rates.

    The Turnbull Government will use cash from the $30 million geological and bioregional assessments program to evaluate the priority area.

It’s basically the same story, just different parts of the Cooper basin.

Then there is this story – Arrow Energy strikes major gas deal with Shell in Queensland’s Surat Basin:

    A deal to extract gas from Queensland’s Surat Basin will create 1,000 new jobs, boost domestic gas supply, and unlock one of the largest gas reserves on the east coast, the resources industry says.

    Arrow Energy has signed a 27-year agreement to supply more than four times the forecast east coast domestic gas shortfall to Shell’s Queensland Curtis Liquified Natural Gas project every year.

So there is plenty of gas around without NSW and Victoria changing their anti-fracking policies. Price is another issue. I recall Matthew Stevens in the AFR saying all the cheap gas had been developed. However, we should all hope that it is not necessary to burn the gas.

6. Tesla big battery switched on

One might say it was an important step for mankind.

Apart from anything else, I’m told it is a tourist attraction.

    It marks a momentous day for the national grid, and a major step towards a modern network that will ultimately deliver cheaper, cleaner, smarter and more reliable energy than we have now.

It is the first of a number. They will have a role in grid stabilisation more than backup power. For that SA is relying on dirtier energy during this summer. In just 58 days (the Tesla took 66, I think) US firm APR Energy have just built a diesel-powered bank of generators capable of putting out 276 MW of power. The bank of generators can fire up from a cold start in just eight minutes.

I think this facility is to be replaced by a 300 MW gas plant designed for emergency standby, when it is built.

7. Syria joins Paris climate accord

    Syria has announced it intends to join the 2015 Paris agreement for slowing climate change, leaving the United States as the only country in the world opposed to the pact.

    Syria, wracked by civil war, and Nicaragua were the only two nations outside the 195-nation pact when it was agreed in 2015.

    Nicaragua’s left-wing Government, which originally denounced the plan as too weak, signed up last month.

8. A Kodak moment for coal

John Quiggin says The Queensland election’s renewables versus coal debate isn’t about jobs. It’s a culture war.

There is one thing I disagree with Quiggin in this article. He says no-one can reduce electricity prices by much. Prices, perhaps not, but Labor has reduced electricity bills by 16.1%. Why has no-one other than me noticed? And you could reduce them by a further 25% by nationalising retailing.

Other than that it’s a good article.

Christiana Figueres has really laid it on the line. She reckons Adani is a Kodak moment for coal.

    She hopes to see coal, like those sentimental moments in time captured in photographs, confined to history — with the world remembering the contribution the fossil fuel has made to human development, while recognising the need to retire it as a fuel source because of its contribution to global warming.

    And, she says, it’s happening.

    “We just had 25 countries come together [at the latest international climate change talks] in Bonn to say that they are moving out of coal in the short term.

    “That does not include Australia or India or China, but you can begin to see the trend.

    “India is headed for peaking its coal consumption by the year 2027.”

News has just come through that China Construction Bank won’t grant loan to Adani.

4 thoughts on “Climate clippings 118”

  1. Brian,

    Finkel argues that Australia has managed a unique trifecta – high prices, high emissions, and high uncertainty – and fallen behind the rest of the world. And he has no doubt who is to blame.

    It’s been a long time coming, with a succession of governments at both the state and federal levels all contributing to the current state of our nation’s energy security, affordability and emissions predicament.

    The Howard government initiated the gas supply debacle by allowing open slather on LNG exports by approving far too many LNG train investments, without any regard to having a sufficient domestic gas supply – the assumption was CSG would fill the domestic supply. The Rudd – Gillard – Rudd governments did nothing to arrest these developments. And the Abbott – Turnbull governments refused to listen to calls for a restriction on gas exports and gas reservation policy until recently.

    The electricity sector mess is another example of many warnings of a looming energy security and affordability crisis over many years being unheeded, until the SA “system black” event last year – a huge wake-up call to make everyone sit-up and take notice.

    To their credit, the SA Government is now a world leader in adopting latest energy storage and generation technologies – first-up is the world’s largest battery storage system becoming operational in recent days – next to come is the world’s largest concentrated solar thermal generator with storage, hopefully operational on schedule by 2020 – this will herald the death knell for new coal-fired generation in Australia, and likely prompt an acceleration of investments for more and larger systems, as operational experience is gained.

    In the NSW Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee inquiry into The Economics of Energy Generation, chaired by Johnathan O’Dea MP, with the report tabled in November 2012, there was much discussion about energy costs, ageing generator assets, and energy security. It was known then that Liddell Power Station would likely close in 2022. The Committee recommended the selling-off of NSW state-owned electricity generator assets, which was duly done over the next two years, and then Wallerawang Power Station was promptly withdrawn from service in 2014.

    And as we all know, earlier this year Hazelwood closed in March, which should not have been a surprise – it had reached its use-by-date.

    Meanwhile there’s a scramble to cobble together sufficient ‘dispatchable’ generating capacity and energy demand management measures to try to get through this summer’s peak.

    But the real sleeper issue is Australia’s liquid fuel security predicament – more than 90% imported fuel dependency, only four ageing oil refineries remaining in Australia, and very low (10-20 days for diesel fuel, 15-27 days for petrol, and 15-25 days for jet fuel) in-country fuel stock holdings. The NRMA reports in 2013-14 say Australia could have 100% import fuel dependency, no refineries, and <20 days in-country fuel stock holdings by 2030. “She’ll be right” seems to be the attitude shown by a succession of federal governments. And state governments say it’s a federal issue. All hunky-dory until the fuel supply is disrupted by fuel contamination during transit, harsh weather, unintended major foreign refinery shutdowns, terrorism, or war, or a combination of these. The roll-out of non-I/C vehicles and associated infrastructure needs to be encouraged and accelerated.

    In 2000, I was in the UK when the lorry drivers decided to engage in industrial action, starting in Cheshire, then spreading into Wales, then into England. Within a matter of hours, supermarket shelves were emptied of the basic food staples, and long fuel queues appeared at servos until there was no more fuel to sell. Within days road transport became more problematic as cars, buses and trucks ran low on fuel, and businesses began to suffer. Fortunately, the disruption was resolved in a matter of days, and the country returned to normal soon after. My experience of this situation showed me how fragile our economy is to disruptions to our energy systems. Strikes/industrial action can be resolved quickly and business can get back to normal quickly. But major disruptions to liquid fuel supply chains outside our nation’s control could have a much greater impact – e.g. Saudi Arabia, North Korea

  2. Very good summary there, GeofM. I share your concern on our vulnerability, particularly as there are intentionally very few EV’s and PHEV’s being imported into the country. There are virtually no non fossil fuel transport backups other than bicycles, and very few of those are electric due to the government nobbling their power to a mere 240 watts making them only suitable for healthy people in our not so lucky anymore hilly country.

    Foresight nil, arrogance maximum.

  3. Yep, Governments are crap in picking winners so let’s give em more power over the markets.
    Legislate by crikey, the more the better !!!

  4. Last Wednesday week I made a presentation to the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) re Invincible Mine MOD 5. The presentations and submissions became publicly available on the PAC website on Thursday.

    I note that when I checked the website on Thursday, my presentation slides and script were not among the others, so I rang the PAC office to ask why. The files had not been transferred from the laptop that have received them on the day of the public hearing. I note that The Australia Institute submission to the PAC states that their earlier submission to the DPE went astray. Are there shenanigans going on with the planning process?

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