Category Archives: Climate Policy & Planning

AGL’s $1.36 billion plan to replace Liddell

Andrew Vesey, CEO of AGL made his attitude to new coal clear:

    “It is very simple: We are overloading the atmosphere with heat-trapping gas and the rest is details,” Mr Vesey told an investor briefing in Sydney, where he again forcefully ruled out any investment in new coal-fired power.

He said there were two strategic imperatives that govern all AGL’s investments – affordability and the tenet that the future will be carbon-constrained, making new coal too risky as an investment.

AGL has confirmed its plans to close the Liddell coal generator in NSW and “replace it with 1.6GW of renewables, plus storage and other technologies – saying it was a smarter, cheaper, cleaner and more reliable option than keeping the ageing and unreliable coal plant open.” Continue reading AGL’s $1.36 billion plan to replace Liddell

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.

The best kept secret: ALP electricity policy for Queensland

I came across it via Facebook around midnight on Saturday night. Not sure when it was released but there’s been nothing in the media yet about it. Surely there will be, because it is more than a little stunning. It’s called Powering Queensland’s Future: Affordable, Stable and Balanced.

From a standing start after the LNP under Campbell Newman had ‘cleansed’ the state of renewable energy projects, since February 2015 the Palaszczuk Labor government has enough runs on the board to be dubbed “a leader in Australia’s renewable energy boom” in a report by The Climate Council – Billion dollar boom: Queensland’s bright renewables future. I’ll summarise what they said, but the Palaszczuk government is running even faster and further than you would be led to believe in that report. Continue reading The best kept secret: ALP electricity policy for Queensland

Cherry picking electricity prices in Qld election

It’s the season for cherry picking on electricity prices as an election is called in Queensland. This can happen because no-one, not journalists, not ABC radio hosts, and unfortunately not ‘experts’, reads Queensland Government media releases. The offending politicians from the opposition LNP are getting a free ride, with statements like ‘Prices increased 70% under Labor’ (Tim Nichols on TV) and, ‘We will put downward pressure on electricity prices’ without saying how.

I’ve assembled a fair bit of information in two posts – Queensland powers up for a warm summer and Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can. In this post I’ll summarise what I think has happened, and then mention some of the cherry-picked claims being made. There is some new information in the post. Also there is a particular problem with Steve Austin on Mornings on local ABC radio. I don’t mind the bloke, normally, but on electricity he’s lost the plot.

I’ve provided some links here, but there are many more in the earlier posts. Continue reading Cherry picking electricity prices in Qld election

Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can

There is no doubt that electricity in Australia has become expensive. Here is a graph on the National Electricity Market (NEM) states, other than Tasmania, against European countries:

It’s from a Carbon + Energy Markets report cited by the ACCC Retail Electricity Pricing: Preliminary Report, September 2017 comparing May 2017 Australian prices with 2015 European prices. The ACCC also note that:

    There are currently no national surveys conducted in Australia that inform price reporting around what customers are actually paying.

Which is disconcerting. The one above was based on the weighted median offer of the three largest Australian retailers. Continue reading Electricity bills – Queensland acts because it can

NEG will probably win

According to Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy, energy minister Josh Frydenberg has written to the Energy Security Board (ESB) to make sure they stay focussed on the task at hand. He has asked them “to restrict its modelling to only one specified short term target, and then assume emissions would “flatline” after that.”

Parkinson says:

    The intention of the order is clear: If the ESB were to factor in a long term target that matched the over-riding goal of the Paris climate treaty (keeping global warming well below 2°C), it would no doubt produce a document for the rapid decarbonisation of Australia’s grid.

Obviously we can’t have any of that nonsense to distract us! Continue reading NEG will probably win

Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee – ‘shambolic policy’ or ‘innovative and elegant’?

Bruce Mountain in an opinion piece in the AFR (pay-walled) said the NEG was “shambolic” policy which “snatches defeat from the jaws of victory”. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, according to Laura Tingle (also pay-walled) says “the concept is innovative and elegant, and could well prove ingenious”. Continue reading Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee – ‘shambolic policy’ or ‘innovative and elegant’?

Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope

For over a month now I’ve been trying to do two posts – one on climate as an existential threat, and another on whether 1.5ºC is at all still possible. I keep being diverted.

Malcolm Turnbull has been dithering for months over whether the government would accept the Finkel review recommendation for a Clean Energy Target. For some time now, it has been clear that the climate contrarians in his own party, and the Nationals starting with Barnaby Joyce, would not accept anything that is negative about coal. In the end they asked the brand new Security Energy Commission for advice, in terms that were severely constrained. They got their advice, faithful to the brief in an eight-page letter, and announced a “breakthrough” in the form of a National Energy Guarantee to deliver affordable, reliable electricity with industry and stakeholder consultations to follow, plus the necessary modelling to be undertaken only after the states have agreed. Therein lies the problem. Continue reading Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope

Queensland powers up for a warm summer

One morning recently, 10 October I think, local ABC radio host Steve Austin called up Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey to ask him about an announcement the Queensland government had made. Something about, on a voluntary basis, turning down your aircon so it runs at 26C and being paid for the power saved.

Bailey obviously had a story to tell, but wasn’t given a chance to tell it. Austin is not a boofhead, but he sometimes does a good imitation of one. In this case Bailey was bullied and harassed, “Just answer my question!”, which was whether the purpose of the scheme was to save people money, or to keep the lights on, I think there was a third option which I’ve forgotten. In any case the answer “All of the above” was not permitted, and we never found out what the scheme was about.

With Bailey dispatched, Austin gave LNP spokesman Scott Emerson the opportunity of a free rant, presumably in the name of ‘balance’ with no right of reply for Bailey. Later in the morning Austin told us he had trouble getting people to come on the show! What a surprise! Continue reading Queensland powers up for a warm summer

Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?

Not well at all, according to the scientists. Actually it is a travesty of language to call Abbott’s position “science”. In this piece I’ll highlight the kind of thinking that unfortunately cannot be dismissed as an Abbott aberration, but has the Turnbull government in it’s thrall. Let’s start with David Rowe’s amazing cartoon from the AFR:

Continue reading Abbott’s ‘Daring to doubt’ – how does the science stand up?

Tony Abbott finds his true voice on climate

This David Rowe cartoon comes from the days when Tony Abbott actually led the country. Originally he had been a weathervane on climate change. However, as Katherine Murphy points out, he had done enough positive work on climate change as a leader, for example by signing us up the Paris agreement and retaining the RET, to disqualify himself from speaking to a group of climate denialists in London. She thinks is latest frolic is sad and cynical – just Abbott being disruptive as usual. Continue reading Tony Abbott finds his true voice on climate

Climate clippings 117

On Monday and Tuesday this week we are going to have the AFR national Energy Summit in Sydney with everyone there, including Josh, Jay, Bill, Andrew Vesey and a different Malcolm Roberts (Chief Executive, APPEA). Should be fun.

The Weekend AFR had about half a dozen articles, led off by an article by Ben Potter, Angela Macdonald-Smith and Mark Ludlow (no doubt pay-walled) which said our energy has become dirty, expensive and annoyingly unreliable. They reckon something has to be done, it’s just that:

the causes identified by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – or unofficial backbench energy spokesman Tony Abbott – are not the same as the causes power industry experts and regulators highlight. Continue reading Climate clippings 117