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 2005 – can 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.
- Grattan Institute: Towards net zero: practical policies to reduce industrial emissions
- NOAA: State of the Climate in 2020.
- Ironbark Sustainability: 2021 Australian Local Government Climate Review.
- 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.
- 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
- EPA ordered to protect against climate change as bushfire survivors triumph in court. The NSW EPA has been ordered to prepare objectives, policies and guidelines to ensure protection from climate change.
- Today’s decisions lock in industry emissions for decades — here’s how to get them right. Planning to replace an ageing asset starts well before it is due to end its life, and companies can only consider realistic options.
- Government cannot lower electricity bills by subsidising old and high cost power plants. Refocusing attention on transmission and distribution of electricity will bring better results than payments to ageing and unreliable fossil fuel generators.
- The unbearable summer. Disastrous environmental events are converging like never before.
- As the world battles to slash carbon emissions, Australia considers paying dirty coal stations to stay open longer. A long-anticipated plan to reform Australia’s electricity system was released on Thursday. One of the most controversial proposals by the Energy Security Board (ESB) concerns subsidies which critics say will encourage dirty coal plants to stay open longer
- Independent advice to ESB was strongly against Taylor’s favoured “Coalkeeper” subsidy. Independent advice to ESB warned against capacity mechanism championed by Angus Taylor, and which may pay coal plants to do things they can’t do.
- After three years, Taylor is finally succeeding in his promise to stop wind and solar. Angus Taylor’s main goal when he became energy minister was to stop wind and solar in their tracks. He may finally be succeeding.
- Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds. A fatal virus and a massive economic downturn did not stop planet-warming gases in the atmosphere last year from rising to their highest levels in human history, researchers say.
- Senate committee wants Beetaloo gas grants investigated as Labor refers matter to auditor general. Almost half the funding from the fracking program awarded to Empire Energy, which shares connections with the Liberal party, inquiry finds.
- How can Britain commit to net zero and still drill for millions more barrels of oil? Hypocrisy rules as we prepare to host Cop26 and Boris Johnson prepares to approve a new oilfield off Shetland