This last week, Queensland has announced the $1.5b Copperstring Mt Isa transmission line project while NSW gave the go-ahead to another mega-project that has rather more economic and environmental question-marks attached, Snowy 2.0
Image c/o power-technology.com
Jenny Goldie, CCL member from Cooma, NSW, sums up Australia’s week on climate change action.
Last Monday night, in a program called ‘Climate Wars’, ABC-TV’s Four Corners interviewed three former leading bureaucrats – Ken Henry, Martin Parkinson and Peter Shergold – along with others including two former Chief Scientists – Penny Sackett and Ian Chubb – who revealed how parties on all sides of the political spectrum squandered important opportunities to establish coherent climate and energy policy. Henry and the other top bureaucrats called for a carbon price.
Before getting on to the rest of the week where government announcements and leaks suggests nothing has been learnt from that lost decade, there was some good news. As part of the Covid Recovery Plan, the federal and Queensland governments announced that the $1.5b Copperstring Project – a 1100km transmission link between Townsville and Mt Isa – would commence as early as next year. (Canberra to Adelaide by road 1s 1150km.) This will be the largest expansion of the National Energy Market (NEM) and will make Mt Isa a viable renewable and minerals hub. With minerals such as copper, cobalt, vanadium and scandium, Premier Palaszczuk wants to build batteries in Central Queensland as well as export solar power and the minerals themselves.
Another bit of good news was that Australian scientists have published their findings about solar cells, using perovskite crystals rather than silicon. Such cells are about 500 times thinner and also flexible, meaning they could potentially have much wider applications than the brittle silicon-based cells. The latest findings show that perovskite cells are more stable in the face of heat and humidity.
And we hear a lot about the hydrogen economy – hopefully “green hydrogen”. Here’s a start. There is a proposal for New South Wales to become host to one of Australia’s first solar, wind and hydrogen “baseload” (1000MW) power plants, delivering continuous power to the state. It aims to provide energy for a range of energy intensive industries which would be running on 100 per cent renewables by 2027.
This week, the NSW government gave the go-ahead to another mega-project that, compared to Copperstring, has rather more question-marks attached to it in terms of economic and environmental viability, namely, Snowy 2.0 (pumped hydro in Kosciuszko National Park). CAM supports pumped hydro but, as Prof Andrew Blakers at ANU suggests, off-river sites for pumped hydro may provide a cheaper option than on-river systems. As he says in the article below: “An off-river pumped hydro system comprises a pair of artificial reservoirs with area of a few square km, spaced several km apart, with an altitude difference (“head”) of several hundred metres, and connected with a pipe or tunnel containing a pump/turbine.”
And now for the bad news, on the understanding that gas is almost as bad as coal in terms of greenhouse emissions, largely because of the leakage of methane when it is being fracked. And on the understanding that carbon capture and storage (CCS), while theoretically desirable, has yet to be proven cost-effective and viable in Australia. The leaks or announcements came boom-boom-boom on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Tuesday: Recommendations from a secretive panel led by former Origin executive Grant King, and Energy Minister Angus Taylor rapidly fast-tracked them, called for the two organisations that exist to promote renewable energy, ARENA and CEFC, fund CCS and storage projects as well.
Wednesday: Oil and gas executive Neville Power, who heads the Prime Minister-appointed National Covid Co-ordinating Commission (NCCC), pushed for a $6 billion trans-Australia pipeline linking large gas fields off Western Australia to the east coast with the aim of reviving gas-based manufacturing. Environmental groups slammed it as a clear case of conflict of interest. (Today we learn that Neville Power has been forced to step aside from his position as deputy chairman of gas company Strike Energy over conflict of interest concerns.) The leaked upcoming NCCC report is pushing for massive gas subsidies. Funny about that. Watch this video of the wonderful Zali Steggall asking a question of the PM about the NCCC.
Thursday: Minister for Emissions Reduction (as well as Energy), Angus Taylor released the “Technology Roadmap” discussion paper that stressed ‘technology not taxes’, that addressed many fossil fuel and technology technologies but, as with King and Power, pushed for more gas. Taylor, on Fran Kelly’s Breakfast program, said we could lower emissions globally by exporting our solar technology, gas and our coal that has lower emissions than other coal. We need to have “many horses in the race,” he said, for the sake of a strong economy … and, oh yes, lowering emissions is important (he just remembered to add). You feel there’s slight desperation in his utterances, hanging on for dear life to fossil fuels. See the Australian Conservation Foundation’s response to the roadmap.
Our thoughts go to the peoples of India and Bangladesh who were in the line of super-cyclone Amphan that cut a devastating path through those countries. Scientists now claim that cyclone intensity is made worse by climate change.
Keep your eye on the still-to-be-announced-when Eden-Monaro by-election. In the pro-climate action camp we have Kristy McBain (Labor), Karen Porter (new Liberals, though they’re not yet registered so she won’t have the party name attached), the Greens (still to be announced though members have voted), and Andrew Thaler (independent). In the climate-denialist camp we have Fiona Kotvojs (Old Liberals). We’ll keep you posted.
There’s a newcomer on the block of climate action organisations, this time, FrontRunners, whose CEO is Emma Pocock, wife of renowned footballer David Pocock. They’re an organisation for athletes; linking them with the right information, tools, and opportunities.
The federal government wants to spend $11 million to keep dirty coal-fired Vales Point power station going. Here’s a video to watch from the Nature Conservation Council.
And here’s a petition to sign about stopping public bailouts of the gas industry.
Last week, many of us were privileged to watch the Climate Change Institute’s webinar Prospering in a low-emissions world – Preparing Australia for the future. You can find a recording here.
All the best, Jenny
President, CAM. Member of CCL Aust (Eden-Monaro)
Other news highlights
Off-river pumped hydro could provide lower costs for energy storage Andrew Blakers And Matthew Stocks
Off river pumped hydro sites using old mines or reservoirs are likely to deliver lower cost energy storage than other pumped hydro options.
Guardian Australia’s environment editor, Adam Morton, joins political editor, Katharine Murphy, to discuss the week’s news on energy policy. From the release of the government’s technology roadmap to a leaked document that sees gas as the future of Australian energy, why is Australia making a roadmap without a destination?
Picking winners and playing favourites has always been poor policy, but the technology roadmap shows us that this is what the Morrison government intends to do.
New research reveals which sectors of the global economy fuelled the emissions decline during COVID-19. We have a narrow window of time to make the change permanent.
The COVID-19 global lockdown has had an ‘extreme’ effect on daily carbon emissions, but it is unlikely to last — according to a new analysis by an international team of scientists.
Human-caused global warming has strengthened the wind speeds of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones around the globe, a new study released Monday said.
The Morrison government has released the findings of the “King Review” into Australia’s emissions reduction policies, agreeing to recommendations to open up climate funding to carbon capture and storage projects, and to big emitters.
Morrison chooses not to stand with scientists and independent experts when it comes to climate and energy, as he has done with Covid-19, but with lobbyists and vested interests.
It shifts the focus away from cheap, effective emissions reductions and towards expensive, ineffective measures
Ex-Treasury head Ken Henry tells Four Corners he looks back on a decade of failed climate policy and feels ‘gutted’