The climate this week – 31 Aug 2021

The climate this week – 31 Aug 2021

A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action

By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.

Featured image: The Singapore CBD. By 2028 15% of the city state’s electricity needs will be met by Australian solar energy via the underwater Australian-ASEAN power Link. Credit: Nicolas Lannuzel (cc).

The law has spoken

There was reason for celebration this week with the court win by Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action (BSCA), an organisation led by the redoubtable Jo Dodds. BSCA took the NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to the Land and Environment Court for failing to develop environmental quality objectives, guidelines and policies that would ensure environment protection from climate change. The court told EPA to do just that. It’s hard to say what the full ramifications are of the win but certainly they will set a precedent for future court actions.

A Promising Future in Industrial Emissions Reduction

Another piece of encouraging news was the release of the second in a series of the Grattan Institute’s reports examining practical ways to cut emissions across the economy, this time in industry. Reducing industrial emissions – which have risen 24% since 2005can be achieved simply by modifying and extending the Commonwealth’s existing Safeguard Mechanism, which sets baselines for big industrial emitters. Pleasingly, Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has called for a plan: well this is it, Barnaby.

Even Cleaner Electric Vehicles!

Perhaps you thought electric vehicles created no emissions. We may think electric vehicles solve our problems when it comes to transport emissions. They do somewhat, but only if you ignore the ‘embedded’ emissions in the making of the vehicles. Now, however, Volvo has received its first delivery of fossil-free steel, made with ‘green’ hydrogen, that is, hydrogen made from renewables. It is a milestone event, both for green metals production as well as auto emissions.

Solar Overpowers Coal

Would you like some more good news, this making Australian history? The combined output of rooftop solar and large-scale solar farms exceeded that of brown and black coal generation for the first time in Australia’s main grid (National Energy Market) last Sunday. Solar exceeded the output of coal just after midday, delivering 41.2% of demand, compared to coal’s 41.1%.

Manipulative Environmental Marketing

Greenwashing refers to deceiving the consumer market that one’s product or service is ‘natural’ or ‘clean’. The problem with this is that there is no legal definition on what defines clean. This means that many companies can manipulate this term to greaten their market share. Santos – the country’s second largest independent gas producer – has been accused of such behaviour recently. Whilst the ruling is yet to be made, it is nevertheless encouraging that the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) is suing Santos, alleging the company’s statements about gas being “clean” and being a clear pathway to net zero by 2040 were deceptive.

Singapore-Australian Solar Collaboration

You may have heard of Mike Cannon-Brookes’ and Andrew Forrest’s ambitious proposal for their company Sun Cable to supply Darwin via a 750-kilometre transmission link from a solar farm from 2026. By the end of 2028 they will have the link extended to Singapore (Australian-ASEAN power Link) by a 3,750km underwater cable. This project is expected to meet as much as 15% of Singapore’s electricity needs. Now, Sun Cable is working with UNSW’s Australian Centre for Advanced Solar Photovoltaics to make the solar farm even larger and more efficient.

NSW Boasts a Plethora of Investment Deals

You will recall that last year’s NSW Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap (passed with multi-party support) included a plan to deliver the state’s first five Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) in the Central-West Orana, New England, South-West, Hunter-Central Coast and Illawarra regions. Well, one of these zones has seen a surge in interest for renewables and we might begin to breathe cleaner air in this region. Energy Minister Matt Kean has just announced that New England’s REZ has received 80 registrations of interest from investors offering to build a total of 34GWs of new wind, solar and storage projects, over four times the available capacity.

And finally, on the good news front, Australian electric car charging network JOLT plans to install 5,000 free fast chargers across capital cities. Drivers using JOLT chargers would receive 7kWh – equivalent to about 45 kilometres of driving – for free, and be charged after that. Meanwhile, Australian sales of electric cars have risen at record levels in the past six months. Already, there are 14 models available under $65,000 and we can expect even greater price parity and consumer choice over the next two years.

Where is our money going?

Unfortunately, as there are two sides to every coin, we must also inform you of the not so good news. On Wednesday the two major federal parties voted to spend $50m on opening up the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin gas field. This includes $21 million in taxpayer money to Empire Energy which has strong links to the Liberal Party. Labor referred the grants to the auditor general, citing potential conflicts of interest.

This event follows the Energy Security Board’s ‘capacity market’ plan for households to pay to keep old coal plants running, even if they’re grossly inefficient, that will see increases in electricity bills far exceeding any that a carbon price delivered. It has been dubbed ‘Coalkeeper’. The proposal appears only to have the support of coal generators and Energy Minister Angus Taylor, but not that of clean energy investors, battery manufacturers, major energy users and consumer groups.

Reports

Campaigns

  • Stop the federal government paying coal-fired plants to stay open (Coal-keeper).
  • On-line rally: Respect Wangan and Jagalingou Human Rights! 6.30pm Monday 30 August. RSVP.

Online workshops

  • ARRCC: Superannuation Divestment, Thursday 9 September, 7.30 – 9pm. Register here
  • Tell NAB to stop funding oil and gas projects, Monday 30 August 12.30 – 1.30pm. Register here

More resources

The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

Creating the political will for a liveable world