Could this be Australia’s future? – Renewables superpower selling emission free metals? Picture c/o Alcoa-Rio Tinto JV sells first carbon-free aluminium to Apple (Dec 2019)
Jenny Goldie, CCL member from Cooma, NSW, sums up Australia’s week on climate change action (with a little politics thrown in):
What a bizarre week it has been in local politics! Following the resignation of our Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly because of ill health, the ALP quietly endorsed former Bega Mayor Kristy McBain for the by-election and the Greens called for nominations for pre-selection. Meanwhile, Monaro state MP and Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, after going to his farm (contrary to Lockdown rules?) to consider the matter, decided he would not run. Andrew Constance, member of Bega and state Transport Minister, declared he would run, only to change his mind after Barilaro called him a rude name, but then lost his role as Leader of the House because he supposedly “had too much on his plate”. We await with interest to see who the Coalition will run, and whether a Zali Steggall-type activist might enter the fray as well and push for climate action.
There were a couple of superb webinars this week on directing post-Covid stimulus money towards projects that would help the energy transition. Tuesday’s was by the Clean Energy Council (see below) and Wednesday’s by the Smart Energy Council in association with ReNew Economy. There was a star line-up of speakers on both days including five state/territory energy ministers on Wednesday. (Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor was notable for his absence.) The CEO of ReNew Economy, Giles Parkinson, has picked out some of the best proposals. See his article below for details, but in summary, here they are:
- Transform aluminium smelters into grid-balancing dynamos
- Build a 4000MW off-shore wind-farm off Victoria’s Gippsland coast
- Install roof-top solar on public and low-income housing
- Power-up farms with renewables
- Consider BZE’s One-Million-Jobs Plan
- Create a 9GW renewable hub in northwest WA and export the energy to Asia by undersea cable
- Build the Copperstring transmission line from Townsville to Mt Isa
- Build Renewable Energy Zones to connect wind, solar and storage
- Make Tasmania the Battery of the Nation through 2500MW of pumped hydro and an undersea transmission link to Victoria
- Shift the steel and aluminium industries to renewables and not lose competitive advantage.
The Clean Energy Council, as well as hosting the webinar on Tuesday, has produced an economic stimulus package called “A clean recovery: Using Australia’s enormous renewable potential to create jobs and jumpstart the economy.” You can download the report here.
Meanwhile, the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work argued in a report called “Powering Onwards” that the manufacturing industry could save $1.6 billion a year if it switched its energy supply to 100 per cent renewables.
Queensland’s Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk and her government have a touch of schizophrenia when it comes to energy matters. On the same day that she announced plans for Australia’s largest solar farm in Chinchilla, QLD, it was revealed that almost 7,000 square kilometres of land will be released for coal and gas exploration as part of a $13.8m package for oil and gas companies.
Also in Queensland, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), as part of a $2.2 million package, will invest half of it in a modular demonstration plant to produce hydrogen, which will be converted into renewable methane. The methane can be injected into the east coast gas pipeline network, which Angus Taylor said could help decarbonise power supplies.
The formidable School Strike 4 Climate movement is forging ahead despite the lockdown. It will come together online with an interactive livestream next Friday May 15 at 4pm. Jindabyne student Alexi Cross who spoke at our public meeting in December, is leading the local effort. RSVP on the webpage to receive the VIDEO LINK.
ANU’s excellent Energy Change Institute is hosting a webinar this Wednesday from 12 to 1pm: “Energy Conversations: Developments in community-based battery storage”. You have to register and can do so here.
And another webinar, this one organised by Farmers for Climate Action, on Tuesday 19 May from 8.45am to 11am. It will present the latest in how to rebuild communities after the fires and explore the impacts of climate change that communities are already facing. RSVP for the forum here.
The ACF commissioned a report that found (shockingly) Australia’s black coal industry uses as much water as a city of 5.2 million. See Ian Overton’s article below. You can download the full report here.
The COAG energy ministers signed off on a national hydrogen strategy last November. While we may applaud the federal government making $300m available to the Advancing Hydrogen Fund through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), nevertheless, we have to distinguish between good hydrogen (“green” – made from renewables) and bad hydrogen (“brown” made from coal and “blue” made from gas). We also have to be wary of changes the federal government will make to the CEFC that has had until now, an admirable record in financing renewable projects. The worry is that money will be directed to fossil fuel projects, especially gas. (See Adam Bandt’s concerns below about the CEFC becoming a Trojan Horse for coal and gas.)
While on the subject of the federal government, here’s a petition to encourage Angus Taylor not to use the Underwriting New Generation Investment (UNGI) program to prop up coal-fired power.
All the best, Jenny
President, CAM. Member of CCL Aust (Eden-Monaro)
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