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Sep 8, 2010

The best opportunity for renewables we may ever get

Now that we finally know who is going to govern our country; now that we know who is backing whom and why; now that we've breathed a collective sign of relief; now - right now - it's ti

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Now that we finally know who is going to govern our country; now that we know who is backing whom and why; now that we’ve breathed a collective sign of relief; now – right now – it’s time to mobilise!

It’s time to mobilise around what I’ve been muttering to anyone who’ll listen over the last 17 days: renewables renewables renewables.

If there is one thing we can be pretty damn confident about in this brave new political paradigm of ours it is that this parliament can and should deliver the most exciting, ambitious renewable energy policies Australia has ever seen. The next two years may be the best opportunity for renewables we ever get, so let’s start working to grab it.

It’s an extraordinary irony that this should be the case after an election campaign which saw funds being ripped out of renewables programs at a record rate by both Labor and the Coalition, but it is far from the only irony of this election result and I am certain that it is the case. Here, in a nutshell, is why.

Labor, relegated to minority status but returned to government nevertheless, ran solidly through the campaign with a positive message about ‘record investments in renewable energy’. I and many others, of course, attacked this line quite vociferously in the context of the campaign, given the fact that each new climate promise seemed to be accompanied by a new reduction of funding to renewables (see above link). This exemplifies the spin over substance nature of this campaign – the big old parties clearly believing that government and campaigning is about what you say not what you do. That said, now they are returned to government, they can be held to account for their rhetoric.

The Greens, of course, received by far the biggest swing of any party at this election and, at almost 4%, a very sizable swing on any definition. That swing was achieved on the back of having put to the electorate by far the most ambitious plans for renewable energy of any political party ever in Australian history. Our policies included an explicit commitment to 100% renewable energy, a comprehensive feed-in tariff for all forms of renewable energy at all scales, loan guarantees for industrial-scale baseload renewable energy power plants, an increased renewable energy target, pre-planning processes to create renewable energy parks, a national roll-out of the smart grid and much more. That platform now has a key bargaining position in the new parliament, with a Greens member of the House of Representatives supporting the minority Labor government and 9 Senators holding the balance of power upstairs as of July next year.

Andrew Wilkie, the ex-Green independent member for Denison in central Hobart, has a platform which, on policy, is largely in line with the Greens. He will also need to demonstrate to his electorate that he is very green in order to have the slightest chance of holding his seat next election.

So far so obvious, but what many people haven’t clicked to yet is that the three country independents – including Bob Katter who chose not to support Labor for his own personal reasons but whose vote will still often be crucial for passing legislation – have all publicly recognised the tremendous economic and social benefits of moving to renewable energy.

Rob Oakeshott first approached the Greens in 2008 to discuss renewable energy policy and very soon introduced mirror legislation to Christine Milne’s feed-in tariff bill into the House. This existing relationship and demonstrated strong commitment to ambitious renewable energy policy bodes very well indeed. In addition, he has made numerous comments since the election to the effect that renewable energy is central to what he wants for his electorate.

Tony Windsor made it abundantly clear in his press conference yesterday afternoon announcing his support for Labor that climate change and renewable energy policy were his second top priority after the (intergrally related) national broadband network. Most importantly, Windsor made a strong point of the fact that, done appropriately, climate and renewables policies are beneficial to the economy. This would come as no surprise to those who have been watching closely as Tony Windsor welcomed Bob Brown to his electorate to campaign together to stop coal mines destroying prime agricultural land and launched clean energy initiatives around New England with gusto. [UPDATE: I neglected to mention this morning that Tony Windsor also introduced as a Private Member’s Bill the Climate Action Bill developed by a number of Climate Action Groups which, amongst other things, called for 30% cuts below 1990 levels by 2020.]

Bob Katter will remain a critical player in this term despite deciding to support the Coalition over Labor yesterday. While he is, of course, a climate sceptic, Katter has nevertheless pushed hard for a major investment in renewable energy in his electorate. And not just ethanol, either – solar, wind and geothermal are on his radar as creating jobs and investment in his electorate.

All this adds up to a very interesting situation when you recognise that the real strength of minority is in being more ambitious, not less, than a majority. The big old parties clearly feel constrained in majority government and reform agendas too often go out the window. In minority, with somebody else to blame, far more can be achieved. This is certainly the experience in Tasmania where Labor and  Liberal minority governments with Greens in balance of power delivered the final decriminalisation of homosexuality, the strongest FOI laws in the country at the time, gun law reform, a doubling of the Wilderness World Heritage Area, an apology to the Stolen Generations and much more.

As Christine Milne has noted, when an issue clearly needs to be dealt with, majority government too often tries to deal with it through spin over substance whereas minority government provides the opportunity to thrash out the issues and create real, effective steps forward. Majority is about winner takes all, with parties locking in to positions. Minority is inherently about seeking progress through open consultation. This is the philosophy behind her proposal for a Climate Change Committee which has been adopted as part of the Greens-Labor agreement – bringing together all those who want action on an issue to seek a consensus that can then be legislated.

With all these stars aligned there, is however, one key obstacle remaining – the Minister for Energy. Martin Ferguson is not only ideologically opposed to climate action, to most renewables and to talking to the Greens, but he is also not a negotiator. He should be replaced in the portfolio with a more effective player who both supports action but will also be a good negotiator. This is not to say that it won’t be possible to get ambitious renewables policies in place with Ferguson remaining minister – I am sure that everyone will work together professionally if that is the case. But it would certainly be a far smoother process if someone like Anthony Albanese were in his place.

All this is possible now – we have the perfect opportunity for bold, ambitious renewable energy action, an opportunity that may not come again.

[Parenthetically, this is not to say we should give up on a carbon price – that is still a priority for many of us. But I believe it will take longer and is still most likely be more compromised. Renewables action this term can be much more ambitious than a carbon price is likely to be and can drive faster climate action.]

So now we have to mobilise to make sure it happens! We have to set agenda and work towards it. This will require the environment movement, the industry, unions and anyone else how wants to see Australia move to renewables to get up and start working for it now. we do not all need to agree on all the asks – we don’t even have to all agree on the desired outcome, how far and how fast we want to change. But we need a concerted push. We need to leave behind the bickering. We need a united front.

Let’s go!

Tim Hollo —

Tim Hollo

Tim Hollo is an adviser to Australian Greens’ Deputy Leader Christine Milne.

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96 comments

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96 thoughts on “The best opportunity for renewables we may ever get

  1. DIY_Sunrise

    Wow. You know all this stuff and yet you are unable to explain why you think that machines perform better when being turned on and off every hour.
    Your subject area is power distribution but you can’t imagine who uses power at 3am.
    You must be the technical expert of the hippy commune…

    My points stand.
    As usual.

  2. Eponymous

    Well, that’s a shame DIY, you’ve wandered into my subject area and we could discuss this, but you’ve shown you’ve got no interest in polite discourse by insulting me in the same line. I know a lot about how large energy users are charged, how energy efficiency is calculated, reported and measured and a lot about how the grid is managed. But, you’ve proven time and again you don’t care about that and all you want to do is shout your opinion over the top of everyone else.

    Hope the rest of the day goes well for you.

  3. DIY_Sunrise

    It is a fact pony-mouse (no doubt tobby will be along soon to edit that)

    Turning power machines on and off is the main cause of wear. All machines run better when they run at a constant rate.
    Or maybe you think that they need a bit of rest so that they can sleep and heal …
    It is clear that the only machine you have ever used to any extent is a kitchen blender and a TV.

    Also, do you know how power is charged to large consumers? It is based on peak usage and so for that reason alone it is expensive to vary consumption. The ideal for power supply is constant rate. Varability is expensive for obvious reasons. Although they are obvious I will explain them to you if you really are that thick.

    kdkd it is not a general disdain for peer review, just a disdain for the way that you seem to think that peer review confers some kind of sanctity on the document. The climategate emails revealed what a crock that is.

    So are you going to give is the figure that is ‘substantial’?
    I notice that you are not very forthcoming with any numbers and do much better with arm-waving arguments.

  4. kdkd

    DIY_Lobotomy:

    [ ALSO I have pointed out that since fossil subsidises everything else it stands to reason that the ‘renewables’ will demand even more subsidies. ]

    No, you have asserted this, but you have not presented any evidence. In fact your assertion is so incoherent, I suspect that it’s “true meaning” is only self-evident inside your own mind.

    [ So after all that and all your ‘peer reviewed’ documents you decide that subsidies are ’substantial’. ]

    This disdain for peer review (presumably because if you paid any attention to it, you would have to acknowledge the evidence-free nature of your position, and your reliance on confirmation bias for your argument) further degrades your argument to the point where we know you’re a joke and a troll.

  5. Eponymous

    Oh for Christ’s sake:
    ‘Another fact about power consumption in factories. The more consistent the power use is the more efficient it is. Not really much point turning things on and off every hour…”
    That’s a ‘fact’ is it? Where did you find this fact?

    This is entirely incorrect and I have absolutely no idea why you would say it. Oh, hang on, is it to lie to prove a point?

    You’re a classic troll DIY. And I’m tapping out of this ‘debate’.

  6. DIY_Sunrise

    So after all that and all your ‘peer reviewed’ documents you decide that subsidies are ‘substantial’.
    Well I looked through the whacky document for a number but couldn’t find one.
    And you haven’t procuded one!

    ALSO I have pointed out that since fossil subsidises everything else it stands to reason that the ‘renewables’ will demand even more subsidies.

    So in short, if you want to run your life with renewables there is nothing to stop you. Get on with it but don’t try and demand that everyone else follow your madness.

  7. DIY_Sunrise

    Another fact about power consumption in factories. The more consistent the power use is the more efficient it is. Not really much point turning things on and off every hour…

  8. kdkd

    DIY_Ideologue:

    I think I did make my point. Fossil fuel subsidies are substantial. However, you refuse to use this and other evidence in formulating your opinion. This clearly leads to the conclusion that your opinion is based on total bullshit. Therefore it can be dismissed out of hand, as yet another case study of an ideologue unaware that their conclusions are based entirely on assumptions driven by confirmation bias.

  9. Mark Duffett

    Further to my last, yes, I’d discounted geothermal. But as I’ve said before, I wouldn’t want to bet the farm on it being a goer in Australia just yet.

  10. DIY_Sunrise

    kdkd, if you had a point to make about subsidies you would have made it by now.
    The fact is that we are being forced to pay extra for non-viable ‘renewables’.

  11. Mark Duffett

    @75 Eponymous

    “Gee whiz it’s hard work debating on the internet” I don’t know, I’d argue about that, too 😉 At least in this medium there is the opportunity to consider and maybe even do a quick bit of research before hitting ‘post comment’. I’d say the opportunities for misspeaking and getting misconstrued are much greater in face-to-face debate. But anyway…

    On tropical living, I wasn’t just talking about fridges and freezers, but ceiling fans and aircons as well. We prided ourselves on keeping use of the latter to a minimum, but there were a few dozen nights a year when we found good sleep impossible without it. Many Darwin residents would have the a/c on every night for six months plus (not least because the design of their dwellings gives them little choice in the matter). And that’s in the climate circa 2000; the prognosis for say 2050 looks rather nastier.

    Leaving all that aside, you’re still not getting my point about heavy industry carbon leakage. If industries such as Al smelters are ‘horrendously polluting in Australia’, why aren’t they going to be just as much or more so somewhere else?

    You say the generation options you advocate make late night power ‘more expensive’ for heavy industry; I would say ‘absent’. Big difference.

  12. kdkd

    DIY_Delusional:

    [ Your peer reviewed document is a pile of jibberish. Post some numbers if you have a point to make. ]

    On the contrary, your refusal to examine the evidence in any meaningful way is most instructive.

  13. DIY_Sunrise

    Your peer reviewed document is a pile of jibberish. Post some numbers if you have a point to make.

    The point about subsisdy is quite clear to anyone with a clue.
    If we draw our energy from a variety of different sources, each with a different cost of production and we pay a flat fee for consumption then it is clear that we are paying extra for the cheapest to account for the fact that we get the most expensive at a reduced cost. The rate we pay for electricity from the grid is about a third of the rate paid to wind power producers who feed electricity back into the grid.
    Therefore the wind power is being subsidised by the cheaper fuel source.
    Just to spell it out the grid buys some wind power for $3 and sells it for $1. That is a loss and the loss is taken up by charging a bit more for the power that can be produced for below cost. THAT is subsidy.
    As I have said several times this is just basic arithmetic.

    If you cannot understand that by now there is really no point continuing.

  14. kdkd

    DIY_Delusional

    So you won’t answer the question, and you’ll happily admit that your argument is entirely based on evidence-free total bullshit then. Thanks for the clarification, it is most instructive. We can now be absolutely clear that nothing you say should be taken seriously. Thanks again.

  15. Eponymous

    What an ass of a response. You ask a question, get an answer with a peer reviewed document, then take pride in not being intelligent enough to make sense of it.

    Then you keep pushing this made up point about ‘the cheapest one must subsidise the others’. Where in Christ’s name did that come from?? Does Toyota subsidise Mercedes? Do houses in the western suburbs subsidise Vaucluse? What in Gods good name are you on about?

  16. DIY_Sunrise

    I have no idea what the cash size is but someone above posted some graph or other.
    Eponymous posted a link to some bizarre document showing a big green, blue and yellow blob graph with the word ‘perverse’ in the middle. Is that relevant in some way?

    It is clear though that since fossil fuel is the cheapest fuel it is the one that subsidises all others. That is the only point I need to make.
    I also explained the externalities and said that CO2 if anything seems to benefit the planet. You just happen to disagree with the conclusion but have nothing to offer to support your wild claims.

    It seems that people are waking up to reality by the way:
    Physicist Dr. Denis Rancourt, a former professor and environmental science researcher at the University of Ottawa has come out and declared his contempt for the anti-science scam that is AGW.
    But what would he know?…

  17. kdkd

    DIY_Brain:

    [ I have seen your bible and said what I think of it. ]

    Haha bible. very funny. Convenient rigorous summary of the scientific evidence. The fact that you base your opinions on something other than evidence is not my problem 🙂

    [ What questions are you needing answers to? ]

    This one:

    [What’s the cash size of the fossil fuel subsidy? How does this change once we factor in externalities such as greenhouse pollution, other air pollution, landscape degradation and so on,? Please take your climate change delusional cap off when answering this part of the question, and accept the large conscilient body of knowledge supporting anthropogenic climage change for the sake of argument.]

    Your previous attempt at an answer was woefully inadequate, and counter to the available scientific evidence. Try again.

  18. Eponymous

    Did you know DIY, there are other fossil fuels apart from petrol? Crazy huh?

    I’d be very interested to see you verify this 80% figure too.

    for fossil fuel subsidies, maybe you could start here:
    http://www.isf.uts.edu.au/publications/CR_2003_paper.pdf

    Let me know if there are any big words you don’t understand.

  19. DIY_Sunrise

    Someone above claimed that they would show all the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry if I demonstrated that renewables were being subsidised. Can we see the story now? Please explain how the subsidies work when 80% of the cost of fuel is tax.

  20. DIY_Sunrise

    kdkd, I have seen your bible and said what I think of it.
    What questions are you needing answers to?

  21. kdkd

    DIY_not_very_interested_in_evidence:

    Perhaps you would like to read a page with actual references to peer reviewed literature instead. Certainly seems more thoroughly researched than your assersions based on political ideology.

    You appear to be refusing to answer the questions that were put to you by the way. This would suggest that your case is very weak, over and above your reliance on rhetoric rather than evidence.

  22. Eponymous

    Gee whiz it’s hard work debating on the internet. So easy to be misconstrued and derail the argument if one is careless with one’s writing.

    No challenge to Aluminium being an awesome material. One of my favourites, though I genuinely prefer steel for commuter bikes.

    Way back up the chain, I’m working on making the case for why I don’t think baseload in and of itself is a criterion worth pursuing.

    You’re right about fridges, but seriously, that’s such a fringe issue. If we went completely wind with battery back up our electricity would be about twice as expensive per MWh. Running a domestic fridge in the tropics, for a year, might go from $30 to $60.

    What I’m worried about is that we (not me, some people) are excluding future generation options because they ‘are not baseload’. I’m worried about this because baseload generation really only benefits those that need bulk power late at night when no one else wants it. I can’t see the benefits to the Australian ecomony of propping up the Aluminium industry, one we take into account how horrendously polluting the industry is in Australia.

    I am not advocating shutting the grid off overnight! I am however advocating generation options that might make late night power more expensive. And as I’ve said repeatedly, I think our energy is too cheap, because it currently does not include the externalities of pollution. (ditto water, but that’s another story) And yes, I already voluntarily pay twice as much.

    Is titanium less energy intensive to make? It’s much harder to work with than Al…..

  23. Mark Duffett

    @Eponymous

    “Some dispute with the refrigeration, because 3am is the coldest time and they rarely cycle at that time”

    I’m guessing you haven’t lived in the tropics much, have you? I can tell you if by some fiat you could shut off all power between midnight and 6 am, the population of somewhere like Darwin would be halved within a year, and I don’t think it would stop there.

    But I’m having real trouble understanding what you’re advocating re heavy industry, if not classic carbon emission shifting/leakage. You say “If they need power at 3am and it’s the hardest time to generate it, then they pay more. End of story.” No, it’s not the end of the story. What are they paying for? Where is it coming from? How much resources will that power generation consume? What environmental impacts will it have? I thought those were the primary issues here, not who’s paying for it.

    “I’ve got no idea where the benefits are.” I’d hazard a guess that cheap aluminium has a range of benefits in making lighter, more efficient vehicles (including bicycles) affordable, just off the top of my head. I’d also have thought you might know a lot more about aluminium applications beyond that than me. Do you know of any substitute materials that are less energy intensive? Serious question.

  24. DIY_Sunrise

    Firstly I am very sensitive and don’t like having my name spelled incorrectly. I will let you off this time but if it happens again I will throw a big girlish tantrum and stomp off blubbing.

    Secondly I don’t know why people keep pointing me at the ‘skepticalscience’ crapsite. It is like arguing with a creationist who just keeps spouting “but the bible says…”

    Shall I trawl through your link?
    “and climate change is likely to disrupt those supplies through floods and droughts.”
    Sure it is. Everything was just fine until now but if the temperature moves up a couple of degrees all hell breaks loose. What an amazing coincidence that up until now the planet has been at the optimum temperature. Just amazing coincidence…
    Floods and droughts eh? So climate change produces more rain or less? It seems to do both at once. How credible.

    “and deaths attributable to heatwaves are expected to be approximately five times as great as winter deaths prevented”
    Absolute b/s. Winter is always a bigger killer than summer for the elderly.

    How many times do we see the words ‘might’, ‘may’ , ‘could’. The whole thing is pure speculation being used as evidence.

    I guess if this rubbish produces the fairy story you want to hear then knock yourselves out.

  25. kdkd

    DIY_Delusional:

    [ So the net effect is probably positive. This then means that CO2 production is like an investment in the planet. ]

    Moronic standard climate delusional parroting of crap does not make a valid argument. Sorry, wrong. Negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health & environment far outweigh any positives.

    Try again. This time, avoid using bullshit as you make your case.

  26. DIY_Sunrise

    Do you have a better assessment?
    The fact is that if you have your wish and lower the temperature of Canada by 2C they lose half their arable land. I don’t hear you wimpering about that.

    Do you have any evidence to show that climate warming will be the catastrophe we keep hearing about?
    NO.

  27. Eponymous

    This is your reasoning?
    ‘Obviously warmer weather will be beneficial to the northern countries such as Europe and North America. The effect on the rest of the world is unclear….
    My guess is nothing much will change.’

    No wonder science doesn’t make sense to you.

  28. DIY_Sunrise

    Oh it IS a subsidy! Surprise!

    For the sake of argument if we accept the climate change theory then we have to assess its impact and at the moment there does not seem to be any way of doing that accurately. Obviously warmer weather will be beneficial to the northern countries such as Europe and North America. [Canada will increase arable land etc]. The effect on the rest of the world is unclear. It seems to be all droughts and floods according to the scare mongers. In reality, who knows?
    My guess is nothing much will change.
    So the net effect is probably positive. This then means that CO2 production is like an investment in the planet.

  29. kdkd

    DIY_Delusional:

    [So kdkd, does paying three times over the odds constitute subsidy or not? (Why are you dodging the question?)]

    Yes, it is an apparent subsidy.

    Now answer the following questions: What’s the cash size of the fossil fuel subsidy? How does this change once we factor in externalities such as greenhouse pollution, other air pollution, landscape degredation and so on,? Please take your climate change delusional cap off when answering this part of the question, and accept the large conscilient body of knowledge supporting anthropogenic climage change for the sake of argument.

  30. DIY_Sunrise

    “but I would rather more people living above the poverty line than maintain anyone on more than $1m.”

    Well that just shows how clueless you are.
    If a guy creates something that employs thousands then why do you even care what he earns.
    How many people are employed by Bill Gates and how many by the Socailst Collective?
    The answer is pretty clear.

    “Are you arguing that we need very rich people to ‘make the system work’? That seems absurd to me, and a pretty shit system.”

    Yes. Any successful operation has a lot of wealth at the top. Fact of nature.
    Show me a successful anything run along your egalitarian lines. They don’t exist.
    You want a shit system? Take a look at the system you propose – it still operates in Cuba.

    ” I know a hell of a lot about stopping and starting factory processes,”
    Well, stopping them anyway. It seems you want to remove all heavy industry from Australia. So tell us again why you think it is a good idea to only run power statons during the day…
    🙂

    “Yes I am prepared to pay more for electricity if it comes from clean sources. ”

    Well you have the option right now. Pay three or four times your next electricity bill when it comes in. Simple.
    I have heard that from people before. It lasts right up until the next power bill arrives…

    So kdkd, does paying three times over the odds constitute subsidy or not? (Why are you dodging the question?)

  31. kdkd

    Yeah DIY is stuck in political rhetoric mode, and is unable to give evidence beyond their own very limited sphere of awareness. Which is fine for someone who wants their ideology to be stuck behind the times and unable to respond to a change in circumstances. (Mr Rabbit, I’m looking at you as well).

    For the rest of us, we’ll actually have to apply some thought 🙂

  32. Eponymous

    I doubt there’s any point responding here, but I will. DIY, you’ve told me a lot of things about myself here, with scant evidence. No, I do not want their paypacket, I find the idea of earning more than, $200,000 per annum absolutely absurd. This might be difficult for you to conceive, but I would rather more people living above the poverty line than maintain anyone on more than $1m. Yes I am happy to pay more tax, if the trade off is better services. Yes I am prepared to pay more for electricity if it comes from clean sources.

    Are you arguing that we need very rich people to ‘make the system work’? That seems absurd to me, and a pretty shit system.

    You’ve also told me that I am ‘absolutely clueless’. I know a hell of a lot about stopping and starting factory processes, and the advantage comes in energy savings and demand reduction savings. I understand how the electricity market works, and see that there are cost advantages to businesses that can stop and start their processes. Without checking then, tell me who AEMO is, or what demand charges are? You’ll need to grasp both of those to understand my responses. I’m sorry I didn’t spell it out more explicitly for you in the first place.

  33. DIY_Sunrise

    ‘Seeking equality’ sounds like a way of justifying your envy. The guys are the top earn good money and they make the system work. Are you capable and willing to do their jobs? I think the only ‘equality’ you are after is the wage packet.

  34. Eponymous

    Just to clarify, is envy different to seeking equality?

  35. DIY_Sunrise

    “DIY Sunrise, would you mind telling me where and how renewables are subsidised? ”

    At present if you install a ‘renewable’ energy generator and manage to put some power back into the grid you can earn three times the going rate for that power. Is that not subsidy?

    Please tell about government subsidising fossil fuels. Include in this an explanation of how much of the price of a litre of petrol is government tax.

    “The only people who need it are, as you say, some small loads around the place, plus the heavy industrial users who operate 24/7. I completely disagree that these largest users should be in our thoughts. If the argument being proposed here is ‘we need 24 hour power to meet the needs of industrial users’ I reject it outright. Why should the rest of us subsidise their electricity use? If they need power at 3am and it’s the hardest time to generate it, then they pay more. End of story.”

    You are absolutey clueless. You should be grateful that they use the power at night otherwise it would have to happen during the day when you want to run your toys.

    Actually I don’t know why I respond since you are so out of it. What possible advantage do you think there can be to stopping and starting a factory process??

    “In short, I don’t give a shit if they move off shore.”

    Yeah, let the Chinese run them. They are so much more environmentally aware.

    “But I can’t help but notice there are some extremely rich individuals at the top of mining companies.”

    And finally we have the truth – politics of ENVY at work.

  36. Eponymous

    And no @MarkDuffet I haven’t forgotten about you.

    “@Eponymous “who needs electricity at 3am?”, are you serious? How about anyone on life support/dialysis? Traffic and street lights? Everyone’s fridge and freezer? And that’s ignoring the seriously heavy industrial users. Do you know what happens to an aluminium smelter if it goes offline for any more than about thirty minutes? How does it help the planet if the latter types simply up stakes from Australia?”

    Good, I’m glad you identified all those loads. Some dispute with the refrigeration, because 3am is the coldest time and they rarely cycle at that time, but otherwise fine.

    My point here was that the demand is low then, the lowest in the 24 hour cycle. The only people who need it are, as you say, some small loads around the place, plus the heavy industrial users who operate 24/7. I completely disagree that these largest users should be in our thoughts. If the argument being proposed here is ‘we need 24 hour power to meet the needs of industrial users’ I reject it outright. Why should the rest of us subsidise their electricity use? If they need power at 3am and it’s the hardest time to generate it, then they pay more. End of story.

    And yes, I do know in some detail what happens to an aluminium smelter when you turn it off. You have been misinformed of the consequences. It’s not 1 big smelter, but rather a pot line of induction heated furnaces. Currently major smelters are investigating demand-side response options where the individual pots can be turned off for up to an hour, thus significantly reducing local demand (which will be banging against capacity constraints) and reducing overall system load. This is not a new idea and is used by many heavy users. More sophisticated demand side responses are likely with the advent of the Smart Grid, which will be well facilitated by the NBN should it ever be built.

    In short, I don’t give a shit if they move off shore. I see it as just another reason to encourage a global price on carbon. Unlike others, I have no civic sense of supporting heavy industry for the benefit of all. Frankly, it’s been going on for years and I’ve got no idea where the benefits are. But I can’t help but notice there are some extremely rich individuals at the top of mining companies.

  37. Eponymous

    DIY Sunrise, would you mind telling me where and how renewables are subsidised? I’ll reply with pretty good details of where and how Government subsidises the fossil fuel industry.

  38. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    Your bleating about subsidy would be fine, but you appear to be in denial about externalities, and the extent of fossil fuel subsidies. Again, it was nice exposing your position as a shallow, poorly thought out chimera and I wish you luck in the future 🙂

  39. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    So you’re of the no-hoper variant of delusionals then. It was nice exposing the ludicrous nature of your position with you.

  40. DIY_Sunrise

    I have seen all those ‘rebuttals’ before. Is there any particular one you have in mind? If you wish I will pull one of them apart for you.
    Which one is your most sacred?

  41. DIY_Sunrise

    I am not in denial I am just stating the fact that the only way to subsidise anything is to artificially increase the price of something cheaper to make up for it. Is that not so??
    That is pretty much the definition of a subsidy. Since fossil energy is the cheapest we have it sets the baseline for cost. This is not a controversial position, it is just basic economics and I can’t see why you are getting stuck on it.

    I am not sure what double standards you are referring to. I am quite open about stating that I have one standard for energy purchase and that is price. You on the other hand seem to want wind and solar power but have not stated that you are prepared to pay for them.
    Are you willing to pay three to five times your annual power bill? yes or no?

  42. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    Looks like you’re in denial about the existing subsidies of the fossil fuel industry :). Thanks for exposing your double standards, and incoherent approach in post #54

    If you’re deluded about the status of climate science this this is probably the best online resource for disabusing you of that. But if you’re a hardcore climate change delusionist, then frankly you’re opinions are pretty much worthless – the only justification for climate change delusion is placing political ideology over scientific evidence I’m afraid.

  43. DIY_Sunrise

    kdkd, the fact is that if you are going to subsidise energy the only thing you can do it with is cheaper energy. That is just basic arithmetic. I am not sure what your point is if you are arguing that. Where does the money come from for example to pay home electricty generators three times the going rate if they pour some of their solar energy back into the grid?? It comes from people buying coal electricity at an increased tariff.

    If you want to use renewables then you have to either produce the energy at the same cost to compete with fossil or you have to justify the extra cost somehow.
    The ‘environment’ is the usual excuse to try and justify this cost but since I do not buy the main ‘environment’ arguement ie climate change, I am unimpressed by that one. There is the matter of sulphur and particulate pollution but that seems to be manageable these days with a bit of effort.

    Since wind power at present is about five times the cost of coal and on best optimistic projections might come down to three times with economies of scale, I really cannot see how it can be justified.

    Would you willingly pay three times your electricity bill every year? I would prefer not to.

  44. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise

    You seem to be demanding that we account for a selective range of renewable externalities, while totally ignoring the fossil fuel externalities. You appear to be arguing that the 150 years of fossil fuels being variously subsidised by the environment and government are desirable while renewable subsidies are undesirable.

    here’s some more detail on fossil fuel versus renewable subsidy in the American situation.

    Your argument seems to be badly contaminated by your ideological preconceptions, which is fairly common in this area of political discourse.

  45. DIY_Sunrise

    What ways are those kdkd?
    The point is that since fossil fuels are the cheapest sources of energy they are the ones subsidising the others. If you know of any cheaper sources please let on.

    The fact that fossil fuel has kept the lights on for the past 15O years indicates that it is obiously paying its way. Solar and wind cannot and can only exist as gimmicks.

    I do not see the point of generating power at three times the cost available from coal.

  46. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    You are aware that the fossil fuel industry is subsidised in various direct and indirect ways aren’t you?

    You’re also aware that there are certain “invisibles” (technically called externalities) that apply to the fossil fuel industry, in that most fossil fuel polution does not have a cost associate with it.

  47. DIY_Sunrise

    kdkd
    The fact that subsidies are paid for wind and solar indicates that something is having to make up for the cost shortfall. This by definition has to a something cheaper. That is just basic arithmetic.
    If the electricity company buys back electricity from consumers at 3-5 times the market rate it is clear where the subsidy is coming from.

    The reason I say that these alternative energy sources are intrisically inefficient is because they have to be subsidised to make them viable.

    Although there will be some reduction in production cost of solar and wind farms it does not look as though they are every going to be as cheap and reliable as coal or nuclear.
    There are certain ‘invisibles’ that people choose to ignore with renewables and those are maintenance, lifespan and capital cost. It is not clear that a windmill, for example, ever earns its keep in its entire lifetime if these are taken into account..

    Have you ever seen a solar panel or windfarm factory powered by solar or wind?

  48. kdkd

    It seems to me that those main objections to Beyond Zero are related to cost and sacrifice. Well you’re living in cloud cuckoo land if you’re convinced that energy prices will stay the same or drop in the coming years. Related is the idea that energy usage can stay the same or rise in the coming years. So … because of that, I regard proponents of business as usual energy profligacy (and minor variants) as beyond credence until they get over their perceived right to waste resources ;).

    Unfortunately I only see the degree of cultural change required happening in minor ways around the edges, and lots of entrenced views that wasting energy rather than using it efficiently is the sensible solution to daily problems.

    p.s. existing hydro is like low carbon gas and shouldn’t be dismissed, even if it’s at maximum capacity.

  49. Mark Duffett

    kdkd, I didn’t exclude hydro arbitrarily, I excluded it because it’s already close to its practical upper limit, at least in Australia.

    I regard Beyond Zero as lacking credence unless and until they come to grips with the issues raised here.

  50. kdkd

    Mark Duffett:

    Now you’re making questionable assumptions that renewable resources should only be provided by one particular solution. I suspect that you’re also exaggerating the case that these hypothetical baseload solar plants have to be completely reliable, you’re arbitrarily excluding hydro, and you’ve failed to address the scale of redundancy in the existing non-renewable network.

    I’m also not excluding gas as rapidly deployable, rapid response backup. Coal clearly doesn’t cut it for this purpose.

    Beyond Zero seems to be backed by pretty serious people with high quality technical credentials by the way.

  51. Mark Duffett

    @Eponymous “who needs electricity at 3am?”, are you serious? How about anyone on life support/dialysis? Traffic and street lights? Everyone’s fridge and freezer? And that’s ignoring the seriously heavy industrial users. Do you know what happens to an aluminium smelter if it goes offline for any more than about thirty minutes? How does it help the planet if the latter types simply up stakes from Australia?

    kdkd @ 39, I think it was only in the last week or two that pretty much all of SE Australia was pretty much covered in cloud for several days. That scenario is not uncommon, even more so in summer with the monsoon in full swing. Your ‘fairly simple optimisation problem’ would have to be at least continental in scale. And even then, 90-99% probability of adequate supply doesn’t cut it as an optimisation constraint. The supply has to be completely reliable. That effectively means that each of your 5 solar sites has to be capable of shouldering the entire load allotted to renewables (not counting hydro) for an acceptable mix. So I’m not ‘failing to account for redundancy’, on the contrary, that need for redundancy (not to mention the transmission network required) is precisely why going the solar/wind lion’s share route is so insanely expensive.

  52. embee

    @ Eponymous 44

    That seems a reasonable position (my position would include Gen III), provided that, during those ten years, we do not pursue ‘maybes’ such as geothermal/solar thermal to the exclusion of nuclear power. We must recognise nuclear power is currently the world’s only proven, emissions free, fossil fuel replacement, and agitate for it’s implementation, as the most effective alternative, until proven otherwise.

  53. Eponymous

    Embee, you make good points, but I’m not going to be drawn on the nuclear argument in detail.

    My position can be summarised thus: Switkowski, who knows his shit, suggests that we’re best served by waiting until Gen IV reactors come down in price, before committing heavily to them. About 20 years; lets be generous and say 10 years. I would not support any technology apart from Gen IV reactors. Assuming we get planning approval, within those 10 years (big assumption) we’ve got from now until then for renewables to prove if they’re up to the job or not. I would prefer them to prove they are, but it’s possible that it is not the case. So, my stance is that we let renewables have their chance until 2020, and support them with some sort of price on carbon. That gives geothermal a chance to show us what it’s got; ditto solar thermal. If it won’t work here it won’t work anywhere.

    Then in 2020, we pull the trigger on nuclear. That’s assuming of course that the Federal Government changes the rules and allows it between now and then, and given they can’t even agree that climate change is happening, I don’t see the impetus.

  54. embee

    @ Eponymous

    I’d be surprised firstly if anyone could show that a fossil-generator was closed *because* of renewables; In fact I’d be surprised if renewables had caused any fossil generators to close.
    1. Because electricity use continue to grow. If renewables are installed at the same rate as growth, no need to close them.
    2. Also, some might never close, being mothballed until the price of electricity was high enough for them to bother switching on. Most applicable to gas plant
    3. Again, due to the interconnection in the EU grid, it’s pretty unlikely one could show a cause and effect, but a decrease in CO2 intensity per kWh across the grid would surely suggest that renewables were at least deferring fossil generation.

    After the oil crisis of the 1970’s, France decided to replace it’s fossil fuel plants with nuclear power plants. They began their nuclear roll-out in the mid ’70’s and by the mid 80’s they had replaced almost all their fossil fuel generators (oil generators for the most part) with (from memory) 34, 900MW nuclear power plants. As the nuclear power plants came on-line the fossil fuel generators were taken off-line. Check out this chart: http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/FRELEC.pdf
    As you can see nuclear power displaces oil in about a decade and as demand grows it is met by nuclear power. Not only has nuclear power prevented fossil fuel expansion it is also the only zero emissions technology which has directly replaced fossil fuel power stations. According to David Mackay France’s CO2 emissions currently amount to just 81g per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/cI/page_335.shtml
    France is a net exporter of electricity.

    Now, can you please point me to any nation in the world who has decided to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable energy (ie Germany, Spain, Denmark) and has actually managed to achieve a single, 100% emissions free, plant replacement.

    For the record:

    Germany has plans for more coal plants and recently decided to place a moratorium on their legislated nuclear phase out.
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DETPES.pdf Current emissions according to Mackay = 601g CO2/kWh of electricity generated

    Just this year Spain announced it was unable to close it’s aging coal plants and plans instead to extend their lives with upgrades.
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/ESTPES.pdf Current emissions according to Mackay = 408g CO2/kWh

    Co-generation, gas and biomass are Denmark’s predominant oil generator replacements, none of which are CO2 emissions free.
    http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/DKTPES.pdf . Current emissions according to Mackay = 881g CO2/kWh, or more than 10 times greater than France.
    Denmark is a net importer of electricity.

    We need to start closing down the fossil fuel generators, anything else is pointlessly dangerous prevarication.

  55. Frank Campbell

    So you’re still at it. Jesus. Never have so few people had so much time.

    Geothermal: like a couple of other renewables- baseload in theory, and in practice in one or two lucky spots (Iceland, NZ). Don’t you think that if it was feasible, geothermal would be everywhere? Geothermal is a good example of something which might work. It’s elegant. But still a pipe-dream, so to speak.

    Did you know that the govt. has chucked $7m to a geothermal start-up SW of Geelong?
    Kindergarten stuff. Playtime. Good example of govts uninterest in basic R and D.

    German nuclear backflip: you’re all damned quiet on this. Dear jerks, if wind worked, it wouldn’t be necessary. German windfarms, loathed by most of the affected population, struggle to make 18% of rated capacity. Even if they made the 30% they lied about to get the subsidies, it would make no diff. I’m sure you know why.

  56. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    [ the cheapest energy source ends up subsidising the rest ]

    [ basic problem is that the alternative energy sources are intrinsically inefficient]

    Care to substantiate those assertions?

    [ I am not sure what other economies of scale you think are going to help but I cannot think of any immediately. ]

    Economy of scale for production silly.

    I think you’re thinking about this problem arse backwards, but I’ll be happy if you can substantiate your assertions.

  57. DIY_Sunrise

    kdkd, the cheapest energy source ends up subsidising the rest. So if fossil is subsidised what is paying for it?
    Fossil is the cheapest source of energy and costs about one fifth of wind. If people want wind power they should pay for it.

    “by developing much larger infrastructure which will benefit from economy of scale.”

    Well the power distribution network is there already.
    I am not sure what other economies of scale you think are going to help but I cannot think of any immediately.

    The basic problem is that the alternative energy sources are intrinsically inefficient.

  58. kdkd

    Mark Duffett:

    I think you’re not accounting for the need for redundancy in the network. It’s probably a fairly simple optimisation problem to site say 5 solar sites in places where the probability of >2 of them being subject to cloud for > 1 day would be low. I’m pretty sure that the fossil fuel infrastructure has redundancy built in, why are you implying that structural redundancy is a priori a bad thing?

  59. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    To follow on from my comment, I think you’re assuming that there will be no benefit from renewables by developing much larger infrastructure which will benefit from economy of scale. Also we don’t pay for the externalities from the fossil fuel infrastructure which we almost certainly should be to make price comparasons more accurately reflect the cost of different types of infrastructure.

  60. kdkd

    DIY_Sunrise:

    I think you’ll find that the fossil fuel consumption is also subsidised in a variety of direct and indirect ways. Please compare apples with apples. Also consider the need for government intervention to encourage the development of new markets.

  61. DIY_Sunrise

    “And look up Greenpower. It is not 5 times the price to buy all your power from renewable sources.”

    Yes. Because it is SUBSIDISED.

    The real cost is at least 5 times. When you run out of suckers to subsidise you that is what you are going to end up paying.

  62. Eponymous

    Can I take this opportunity to add that ‘baseload’ per se is not even a useful goal. Who needs electricity at 3am?

    I actually think new language for generators needs to be developed; with the ability to describe the ‘despatchability’ of power and how frequently/reliably that power can be despatched. I agree with Diesendorf (broadly) that we’ve been sold a lie over baseload: http://www.politicsinthepub.org.au/downloads/BP16_BaseLoadFallacy.pdf

    I consider it a weakness, not a strength, of both geothermal and nuclear that they can be considered baseload. Wind and solar have other flaws, but one of them is not that they don’t produce power at 3am whether we want it or not.

  63. Mark Duffett

    A bit quick on the buzzer for mine, kdkd. Any power source that won’t cope with more than one cloudy day in succession doesn’t qualify as baseload in my book.

  64. kdkd

    Frank Campbell:

    [ There is still no such thing as a baseload renewable. ]

    Bzzt, you’re wrong. Dunces cap and sitting in the corner for you. (I’m sure I could find a better source, but that would require effort, and responses to your pointless posturing are not worth that).

  65. Eponymous

    Okay Frank, I’ve done some of my own research. Not surprisingly you’re making things up. If you ever had any credibility it has now been reduced to zero.

    Here’s the story talking about the nukes:
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf43.html

    The decision has absolutely nothing to do with wind power and everything to do with politics. Change in power meant change in policy. Making things up does not make your argument better. Quite the opposite actually.

  66. Eponymous

    @DIY Sunrise

    I want references from you too. ‘5 times the price of coal’. I call bullshit and can’t help but wonder why you would make this up. No energy contract I have ever negotiated has had price discrepencies anywhere near that. More like twice as expensive, if that.

    And look up Greenpower. It is not 5 times the price to buy all your power from renewable sources.

  67. Eponymous

    Oh I do love it how the people with the least knowledge and intelligence make the most noise.

    Frank Campbell, are you listening? Geothermal.

    And I want a reference on your German wind power claim, which sounds like a complete load of crap, and not the first one from you. Goodness, it’s not even the first false claim on this thread by you.

  68. Frank Campbell

    kdkd: you mean $155 billion. This confuses expenditure on pointless wind ($52 billion) and other failed or undeveloped technologies with basic research. There is still no such thing as a baseload renewable.

  69. kdkd

    Frank:

    I take your 2 billion and raise you to 155 million. Your sheep in wolf’s clothing act is tiresome 😉

  70. Frank Campbell

    “Katter has nevertheless pushed hard for a major investment in renewable energy in his electorate.”

    Don’t you realise Karbon Katter has a conflict of interest? Clue: brother-in-law.

    Holloman’s waffle here shows that the Greens are still living in renewables fantasy-land. Worldwide, basic research in renewables is about $2 billion. Pathetic. There is not a single baseload renewable, or carbon capture technology, ready to go. And that’s being charitable. It’s therefore no surprise that all money is being shoved into the wind turbine scam. $ 1 billion for transmission lines, and virtually the whole of the MRET. Total irrationality. The Greens are the worst enemies of the real environment- the wind fraud exists merely to placate the Greens and if possible out-flank them.

    In the next few years some $22 billion looks set to be wasted on wind. To the great distress and loss of many in the bush of course. (But the Greens actually approve of this distress- to quote one Green “I Like wind turbines because they’re in your face”.)

    Milne says: “renewable energy developers have expressed fears that the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm announced recently for Victoria could take up the bulk of the Renewable Energy Target, reducing incentives to build more”.

    Maybe reality is starting to sink in.

    The MRET is premature. What the Greens achieve by this is (a) neglect of the real environment (b) delay in basic baseload renewable research (c) heavy costs on the rural poor and low to middle-income urban groups (d) empowerment of the Right as the fraud becomes evident (remember how you tossers dismissed Mad Monk, and said Savonarola Hamilton would sweep into Higgins?) (e) rapid expansion of fossil fuel powergen because wind’s intermittency requires backup as wind expands (f) regional economic blight as entire regions fall victim to wind’s industrial freak-show (g) empowerment of AGW denialism, the obverse of the climate cult, as no gains are made in GG reduction but power costs soar. (h) the rise of nuclear: no mention on this blog of Germany’s decision last week not to scrap its 17 nuclear plants after all- because wind has been an abject failure. Every relevant thread on Crikey etc contains born-again nuclear warriors.

    Thanks for all that, you fuckwits.

  71. DIY_Sunrise

    My flatmate was forever banging on about how great wind power was because she had never done any quantitative analysis.
    It comes out to about five times coal power if you are lucky.
    When our last power bill arrived I asked whether she was willing to put here money where her mouth was and pay five times what was asked to cover the cost of 100% renewable.
    Did you guess that she refused?

  72. Mark Duffett

    Yes, I might have to pay that, to the extent that ‘static electricity’ can mean ‘electricity’ in the original context. Still quite a long way from being of any practical impact on the primary issue at hand, though.

  73. DIY_Sunrise

    The only useful purpose for wind is to pump water into hydro dams. The windmills can pump water as fast or as slowly as they like and it all adds to the energy reserve. The idea of connecting wind power generators directly to the grid is just another example of what looks nice at first glance triumphing over a sensible alternative.
    In reality I doubt that wind power ever covers its cost of production, installation and maintenance.

  74. Jorome

    We have more than enough “off the shelf” technology to go 100% renewable. The problem is not the technology but the dinosaurs that won’t implement carbon and other pollution reduction. As much as promotors of renewable technology like to avoid the elephant in the room, the barriers are social (our social structures, including political and economic) and our huge fossil fuel (and fossil fuel dependent) infrastructure. But there is a Hazelwood’s worth of energy we could conserve right now. Renewables without a substantial reduction of total energy consumption won’t work.

  75. Eponymous

    What about capacitors?

  76. DIY_Sunrise

    Has anyone ever looked at the numbers involved in a serious business plan?
    It seems we are long on essays and hot air but when it comes down to it windfarms and solar panels produce unreliable energy at huge cost.
    Poeple are in favour of them right up until their electricity bill arrives.
    Are you happy to pay five times your normal bill? If so then do so now.

    If ‘renewables’ were viable they would have sold themselves already by now. The fact is they are not and are never likely to be.

  77. Mark Duffett

    Electricity can not be stored

    Strictly speaking I’d argue that’s true, except in the special case of a superconducting loop. Electrical energy can be stored, yes, but not as electricity.

  78. Eponymous

    @Tim

    Thanks for the info on a proposed FIT. It raises a lot more questions than it answers for me, but I’m not going to canvas them here.

  79. Eponymous

    ….didn’t address the closing fossil generators either.

    I’d be surprised firstly if anyone could show that a fossil-generator was closed *because* of renewables; In fact I’d be surprised if renewables had caused any fossil generators to close.

    1. Because electricity use continue to grow. If renewables are installed at the same rate as growth, no need to close them.
    2. Also, some might never close, being mothballed until the price of electricity was high enough for them to bother switching on. Most applicable to gas plant
    3. Again, due to the interconnection in the EU grid, it’s pretty unlikely one could show a cause and effect, but a decrease in CO2 intensity per kWh across the grid would surely suggest that renewables were at least deferring fossil generation.

  80. Eponymous

    Not sure why you posted the French article Mark? Partly because this quote:

    “The high reliance on nuclear power in France thus poses some technical challenges, since the reactors collectively need to be used in load-following mode. (Since electricity cannot be stored, generation output must exactly equal to consumption at all times. Any change in demand or generation of electricity at a given point on the transmission network has an instant impact on the entire system. This means the system must constantly adapt to satisfy the balance between supply and demand.)”

    Shows some ignorance from the part of the author. ‘Electricity can not be stored’????

    The French case is not a great example for us, since they are interconnected to the EU grid; and to the UK via DC link.

    While I acknowledge that nuclear plants can load-follow to a degree, you just can’t maintain the tight frequency control required for a grid with ANY thermal plant. They just can’t repsond fast enough.

  81. Mark Duffett

    Eponymous @ 13

    Are you seriously suggesting that because no one else has run a whole grid on renewables it must be impossible?

    No, of course that’s not the only reason.

    Seriously, as Mr Hollo would say, straw man much? All I was asking for, as I thought was clear (‘…starting to replace fossil fuel generation…’) is a single example of a fossil fuel generator that has been shut down expressly due to the advent of renewables, in Spain or anywhere else.

    Of course it’s not impossible; I guess you can do just about anything with several centuries worth of Dick Smith charger production and a gazillion tonnes of NiMH AAs. The question is whether it’s impractical, and how many trillions of dollars it’s going to cost. Or, as Robert Merkel encapsulates it, ‘can it get us to zero’?

    …inherent inflexibility in nuclear that would require the same energy storage investment…

    This is simply wrong.

    Tim Hollo @ 15

    “Lower emissions” generators are not supported by a FiT. It is about renewables.

    And here’s silly me thinking it’s about reducing carbon emissions, combatting climate change, and keeping civilization going. No, blow any other technology that might help (especially with the benefit of a FiT), it’s all about renewables. It’s not about saving the planet, it’s about ideology.

    That, right there, is why the dinosaur Greens are part of the problem.

  82. Tim Hollo

    Alex @ 11, the giveaway for me is your parenthetical “(or something similar)”. What is the something similar? How is it decided? I reckon if government set up the direct stimuli, it’ll get built far better and faster than if governments sit around trying to decide what to build, where and when.

    Broadband, in my opinion, is a direct parallel to the electricity grid, and, as I have said, I believe the grid is public infrastructure which should be built by the public and remain in public hands.

    Eponymous @ 13, a FiT works by requiring energy retailers to buy any renewable energy generated at a fixed price and sell it to consumers. They are entitled to recoup any extra costs by smearing that cost over their total consumer base. Studies in Europe have shown that the cost impost on consumers from a FiT is lower than from an ETS or a RET-style system for the same amount of renewable energy generated. The price is set by regulation but, ideally, by an independent expert organisation such as the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator which already exists to support the RET.

    “Lower emissions” generators are not supported by a FiT. It is about renewables.

    Robert @ 14 – gosh, you don’t ask for much, do you! What you suggest there is pretty much in line with what the Greens have been asking for. I certainly hope we can deliver something like this, but I think you are a touch naive to think that that is not a bloody hard ask.

  83. Robert Merkel

    Robert I think that is very unfair about individuals who have shown extremely clearly over recent days (17 days!) that they are not about pork for their electorates at all, but about the best result for the country. These guys understand good policy far better than either of the big parties, frankly!

    I’m not having a go specifically at the Oakeshott and Windsor, who have indeed been pretty responsible and have shown a broader perspective than just their electorates.

    But Bob Katter was floating the idea of an ethanol mandate, which I think falls pretty squarely in the category of looking after his electorate first and an emissions abatement measure second.

    And then there’s Tony Crook, who might well share Wilson Tuckey’s enthusiasm for tidal power from the Kimberley. Or making ethanol from wheat, perhaps. What’s “royalties for regions” other than an explicit desire to redirect money to his electorate?

    And they are both potentially swing votes in the new House.

    As for “can it get us to zero?”, my personal view is that we are far more likely to get significant emissions reductions in the short term by driving mass uptake of renewables (mass in that it will not only meet all new demand but grow to the extent of starting to replace fossil fuel generation) than by getting a strong carbon price. I hope I am wrong but I do not see a strong carbon price becoming a reality in this term of government.

    I suppose my response to this is that what happens (in concrete terms) over the next three years is not that important – what really matters is what happens over the next 20 or 30. As such, I’d settle for an initially weak carbon price as long as a) it ratchets up without the requirement for additional legislative intervention to do so, b) is enough to ensure the new-build coal on the drawing boards is stopped, and c) compensates low-income earners, and d) doesn’t create a mass of long-term liabilities for the government.

  84. Eponymous

    Come on Mark, you’re bolder than that. Are you seriously suggesting that because no one else has run a whole grid on renewables it must be impossible? And if you’re about to elude to the fact that nuclear is likely the best way to go, please do not forget the inherent inflexibility in nuclear that would require the same energy storage investment (possibly more) than a grid run on renewables.

    Mr Hollo,

    I’ve never understood where the funds will come from for the FIT. Will the charges just be passed directly onto consumers? Will the rate of the FIT be set by Government? And how will generators that produce less carbon than coal, but more than none be treated?

    EB

  85. Mark Duffett

    @Tim Hollo

    mass uptake of renewables…to the extent of starting to replace fossil fuel generation

    Before putting all our energy eggs in the renewables basket, it’d be nice to be able to point to somewhere in the world where this has actually happened.

    Anywhere at all.

  86. Alex Bainbridge

    Hi Tim,

    Great article, I agree with your central thrust: NOW is definitely the time to be pushing for renewables!

    Renewable energy is a much better and clearer goal than a “carbon price” which as you say is more likely to be compromised (most likely to the point of uselessness – can anyone point to an effective carbon price anywhere in the world?).

    But this: “I agree with you 100% that simple government investment in building renewables is bad policy”. How wrong can you be?

    It is not bad policy for the government to invest in a national broadband network – it would be bad policy to privatise that public investment.

    Similarly, the single most effective, rational and most certain policy the government could take to combat greenhouse pollution from power generation would be to invest public money in the BZE 100% renewable energy by 2020 plan (or something similar).

    Of course any government investment is going to be more effective if it is done in a planned and sensible way rather than ad hoc. But this is one (of several) reasons why public investment is a better policy than a feed in tarrif. (Which is not to say I’d necessarily be against a feed in tarif, only that public investment would be better.)

  87. Lucas Hodge

    Definitely one of the best opportunities and and anything less than 100% renewable is an inability to see the context completely. Any energy source that has a limited supply ie. goal, gas, nuclear (even if it is hundred/thousands of year) is shorted sighted and not very smart. Any energy source that continues to contribute to the problem (adding CO2e) is obviously not a solution. Agreeing on a 100% renewable energy should be axiomatic and the rest should be working out the details to achieve this in a practical and well planned manner with special regard to social equity and national/regional/local resource independence.

    There are also many other good ways of collecting solar energy other than PV that includes base load energy supply, Spain is a good example of innovative renewable energy technologies of this type.

    Nice post Tim, Let’s get started.

  88. kdkd

    A carbon price designed to enhance investment into low or preferably zero carbon energy sources would be best. Reinvesting the income from a carbon price into decarbonising the economy is the way to go.

    And as I’ve said repeatedly to the delusionals on this site, Australia is in pole position to show the rest of the developed economies how to do this, but so far this competitive advantage has been squandered by poor policy decisions driven primarily by the Coalition and the lobbyists with a vested interest in the status quo. Labor to their discredit give too much sway to the lobbyists, but maybe the new Green/Independent nexus can help them moderate this problem. They can certainly do a better job on this than the Coalition would have done. Their response would have been fuck all. Feminist/rabbit issues aside this is the main reason I’m so relieved that we’ve got the government we had to have.

  89. Dan Cass

    Tim you are right to be asking what kind of Cabinet Labor needs to be able to make good energy policy.

    Greenpeace raised the Ferguson issue last year, under Rudd – http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/labors-dirty-coal-dependency-20090322-95ke.html

  90. Peter Wood

    If there are opportunities to strengthen renewable energy policy, then we should definitely take advantage of them. With Australia’s emissions being as high as they are, But I still think that the 3 most important priorities for Australian climate policy are carbon price, carbon price, carbon price. Only a carbon price with wide coverage will transform our entire economy into a low emissions economy and bring about cost-effective emission reductions. A carbon price will also increase investment in renewable energy and reduce electricity consumption.

    A really good policy reform for renewable energy would be to introduce a minimum price for renewable energy certificates. This price should increase by something like 4 percent above inflation each year to send a strong long-term signal to investors. Both Belgium and Sweden have minimum prices for RECs (I think they are called Green Certificates over there) so it would be very worthwhile to look at how they are implemented.

    On carbon pricing, there are two aspects of it that reduce emissions: the immediate impact; and the long term signal. The best way to bring about good pricing policy would be to first introduce some sort of carbon price to both reduce emissions through its immediate impact, and provide information that would help us design a long-term framework. Then we can work out the long-term framework (and we could even have a citizen’s assembly to do this). The fixed-price ETS suggested by Garnaut and the Greens could do this. Even the CPRS had a year where the ETS had a fixed price. But the CPRS showed us that if we try to design the long-term framework all at once, polluters will exploit uncertainty and undermine the long-term framework. Getting the design right for the long-term framework is much more important than the short-term carbon price, so if parties are willing to compromise on the initial short-term carbon pricing policy, it should be achievable.

    Martin Ferguson has repeatedly said that he will never negotiate with the Greens, and therefore having him responsible for Energy in the current government would be a bad idea. Giving his portfolio to someone like Albanese would be a good idea; or transferring Energy to another department (like DCCEE) could be a possibility.

  91. Tim Hollo

    Robert I think that is very unfair about individuals who have shown extremely clearly over recent days (17 days!) that they are not about pork for their electorates at all, but about the best result for the country. These guys understand good policy far better than either of the big parties, frankly!

    Re the prius effect, that’s kinda irrelevant for both FiT and loan guarantees. Both of them are designed in such a way to get a broad range of large-scale renewables plants off the ground in the context of building a self-perpetuating industry.

    As for “can it get us to zero?”, my personal view is that we are far more likely to get significant emissions reductions in the short term by driving mass uptake of renewables (mass in that it will not only meet all new demand but grow to the extent of starting to replace fossil fuel generation) than by getting a strong carbon price. I hope I am wrong but I do not see a strong carbon price becoming a reality in this term of government.

    Of course, let’s not forget some decent energy efficiency policies. If we can flatten or turn down demand growth _and_ simultaneously drive very strong growth in renewables, we’ll get cuts far greater than we would from any carbon price currently on the table.

  92. Robert Merkel

    Tim,

    I have two concerns with your position:

    * the”consensus” might require the policy to be designed around people who see renewable energy investments first as a chance to get economic benefits for their local area and only second as a way to reduce national and global carbon emissions. That gets you American biofuel policy – a disastrous policy for any number of reasons.

    * renewable energy investment has historically been distorted by the Prius effect – people like to be seen to do something, so they want solar panels on their roof. As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, it’s not at all clear that PV panels are going to be a good energy source in places with an existing grid; secondly, even if they are, putting them on individual house roofs is the worst possible place to put them.

    It’s not so much whether the cash is splashed directly by government or privately. It’s more about “does this investment help us get to zero?”

    To my knowledge, governments haven’t been directly funding wind farms for some time – it’s the RET and/or Green Power schemes.

    Doesn’t alter the fact they won’t get us to zero, won’t get us close, and building more conventional wind farms without doing something different won’t alter that.

    Look, in the greater scheme of things my support for such an agenda is neither here nor there, but it’d be much easier to give if a consensus could be reached around a policy that places much greater weight on things that give us the on-demand energy that we need to actually get to zero.

  93. lindsayb

    I think that the best idea for moving to renewables is to put a price on every tonne of coal that the generators burn, but make it 100% rebatable against any money they spend building new zero or low carbon generation capability. The generators have a lot of know-how on electricity generation already, and if they have some financial incentive to move away from burning coal, it will be a win-win.

  94. Tim Hollo

    Robert, straw man much? What in my article suggested “spraying money” anywhere?

    I agree with you 100% that simple government investment in building renewables is bad policy – it won’t achieve very much in the short, medium or long term to keep doing things like the Solar Flagships scheme.

    Set that next to a feed-in tariff or loan guarantee scheme, neither of which involve splashing cash in any way. Both are explicitly about industry development and creating a market where renewables can compete appropriately for investment against fossil fuels. Bring in those policies, alongside appropriate planning policies, and you will see huge changes driven by private investment stimulated by government decisions.

    The only aspect which I still believe will need significant direct government investment is the grid – there is essentially no reason for private companies to invest appropriately in the grid. If we are to have the grid go where it needs to go, and have an intelligent grid, and have HVDC where appropriate, etc, etc, etc, we need government investment.

  95. kuke

    “a carbon price is the single highest priority for getting action on climate change”

    Agreed. Renewables are the carrot, the price is the stick and they work best when the latter partly funds the former. International diplomacy is key here.

    Given China is ahead on renewables, our contribution will be too little too late. Implementing a carbon price will allow us to push for international action from a credible position.

    India has a “cess” on coal, but it’s very low – they’ll need help. The USA is “Ultimately Stopping Action” on climate unless the EPA will unlikely regulate carbon pollution and intense lobbying on California’s Prop 23 to stop action in the most progressive state is ominous.

    The carbon price club needs members fast.

  96. Robert Merkel

    Tim, an interesting piece.

    However…

    I’d like to be the grumpy curmudgeon that points out that spraying money at renewable energy in a dumb way will not only not reduce emissions much, it won’t help us develop technology and infrastructure that will ultimately get us to the zero-carbon energy infrastructure that you and I both agree is ultimately required (even if I might be prepared to let that zero-carbon energy come from a different mix of sources than you).

    Building more conventional wind turbines is just wasting money – the technology is mature, we know how to build them, and we know their strengths and limitations. In this context, money spent on wind needs to be aimed at addressing those well-known and severe limitations. Similarly, solar panels on roofs. Or, for that matter, first-generation biofuels.

    Frankly, I’d prefer to spend money replacing Hazelwood with combined-cycle gas, which is about as technically innovative and gets us a lot more bang for the action buck.Or, for that matter, researching soil carbon so we can reward farmers appropriately for increasing it (instead of the premature focus on it we got from the Coalition).

    For what it’s worth, in my view a carbon price is the single highest priority for getting action on climate change, and it may well be achievable in the current Parliament.

    But if renewables money is to be a focus, please make it a priority that it’s spent in a smart way – in a nutshell, fund stuff that actually helps get us to where we want to go. Please?

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