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 city of Nice, in southern France. In the past week, Nice has experienced the most devastating floods in more than a century.
After the fire, the flood
As I write, floods are ravaging Italy and France. Flooding from record rains in the mountainous region between the two countries has killed 2 people and at least 24 are missing. Nice (the town in southern France – not necessarily his personality) Mayor Christian Estrosi calls it the worst flooding disaster in the area for more than a century. As with the California wildfires, this flooding is an example of the extreme events that climate change brings.
Narrabri at last
And more bad news, this time within our own state. The NSW Independent Planning Commission approved 850 new gas wells at Santos’s Narrabri gas project after a decade of farmers combining with environmentalists and local Aboriginal owners to stop it. Only Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley can prevent it proceeding now but, knowing her track record, she will not.
Nevertheless, it isn’t a totally bleak picture. NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean spoke against the Narrabri gas project and said it may become a stranded asset. Fortunately, there is no permission to build a power plant on the edge of the Pilliga Forest. Stringent conditions have been put on the development, so we should all be pushing the EPA to check on compliance of those conditions.
As Bathurst environmentalist Judy Walker says: “We and economics have almost defeated coal. Now to find the energy to do the same for gas.”
Budget is coming
Indeed, the economics of gas may defeat it in the end. Australia’s resource exports are tipped to collapse by almost $40bn in the next two years with the federal government forecasting a downturn in energy exports. Its September quarterly report into the resources sector has revealed significant falls in demand and prices for coal and LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).
Meanwhile, according to the Australian Financial Review, renewable power has surged again to provide just over a quarter of Australia’s electricity needs in the three months to September. As a result, the market share of coal power generation wqas reduced to a record low last month.
The Australian federal budget will be handed down on Tuesday. $135m will go to help boost recovery and resilience to those areas ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, drought and last summer’s bushfires. Instead of the usual dependence on just mining and shipping out minerals, the Federal Government’s focus will now shift to the advancement of local manufacturing. This includes the use of lithium for hi-tech batteries. This is a bit late coming, but welcome.
Voting has already started in the ACT elections. Without advocating any party, it should be noted the ALP promises a network of ‘big batteries’ across Canberra with a combined capacity far larger than the 150MW Tesla battery in South Australia. The ACT already produces 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables.
Thanks and good bye
The American Audrey Zibelman, who was appointed three years ago as head of the Australian Energy Marketing Operator (AEMO), has done a tremendous job. Unfortunately, she leaves to work for Google X at the end of the year. She has overseen the accommodation of a huge amount of renewable energy into the existing grid (a long line from north Queensland to South Australia). We should give full credit to her for what was essentially a revolution. Now, the main areas to be worked on are transmission and storage, but at least we know what needs to be done.
Audrey was just one of a hugely impressive line-up of speakers at the Global Smart Energy Summit 2020 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Let’s give full credit to our very own Smart Energy Council and its CEO John Grimes for organising. It really was excellent.
What’s to come
It looks like we may be saved from a summer like the last one with the development of La Niña (as against El Niño). This weather event brings rains to Australia, rather than drought. It may also bring cyclones and flooding, so don’t relax too much.
As reported earlier, China recently committed to reaching net-zero emissions before 2060. The ALP’s Shadow Minister for Environment Mark Butler called it a significant announcement that has a “seismic” impact on the world. The details of how they will achieve such a target, however, will not come until the release of the 14th five-year plan, expected next March.
- All-Energy Australia / Energy Efficiency Expo joint Opening Plenary. Tuesday 6 October, 10:30am – 12:15pm AEDT Register here.
- Climate Change Institute: Digging deeper into the Technology Investment Roadmap Thurs 8 Oct, 4pm – 5:30pm More details here
- Climate Change Institute: Technology Investment Roadmap: Carbon Capture and Use as an emerging technology Mon 12 Oct, 5:30pm – 6:30pm More details here
- Climate Change Institute: Technology Investment Roadmap: Carbon Capture and Use as an emerging technology. Mon 12 Oct, 5:30pm – 6:30pm More details here
- Climate Change Institute: TED x ANU Countdown – We can change climate change Thurs 15 Oct, 5:30pm – 8pm More details here
- Narrabri gasfield remains a huge risk. There is still a huge question over whether gas has a long-term role to play in Australia’s energy transition.
- Why green hydrogen could be cheaper than fossil fuels in just a few years. Cheap and abundant solar means Australia ‘perfectly placed’ to lead global renewable hydrogen industry, with prices below fossil fuels within reach.
- Wind and solar hit record levels of production, gas the big loser. Wind and solar reach record share of generation in Australia’s main grid, as gas relegated to a bit part.
- Fossil fuel gaslighting: accept climate change but undermine action. Lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry have enjoyed a meteoric rise in influence both locally and globally over the past few decades
- ‘Tumultuous time’: Australia’s coal miners face $17b export collapse. Australia’s coal miners are headed for a sharp collapse in export earnings this year as the shock of the downturn persists.
- Warming oceans will have ‘profound and troubling’ implications for the planet, climate scientists warn. Climate scientists have warned that global warming will have “profound and troubling” implications on the planet as surface temperatures increase and carbon absorption is reduced.
- If Australia wants more jobs, it needs to choose renewables over gas. As Australia’s federal government maps a gas-led recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, a new international report has stressed the importance of “comprehensive policy frameworks” to drive the transition to renewable energy and the millions of jobs that will flow from it.
- Snowy Hydro 2.0 rating downgraded over fears low rainfall won’t generate power. With mounting costs, the global economic downturn, falling energy prices and poor short-term rainfall projections, Snowy Hydro and its landmark hydropower project is facing an uphill battle.
- ‘Green hydrogen’ from renewables could become cheapest ‘transformative fuel’ within a decade. Government has nominated ‘clean hydrogen’ using gas and CCS but for many countries ‘clean’ already means without fossil fuels.
- Enough new wind and solar locked in to kill three coal generators by 2025. Committed wind and solar projects will take renewables share to about 42% by 2025, and add enough new capacity to force closure of up to three coal generators.