'On The Nose': Australians' Views Favour Conservation, Curbs On Coal

FairfaxPeter Hannam

The overwhelming majority of Australians think climate change is real, about two-thirds view themselves to be environmentalists "at heart", and just over half say the government should not allow new coal mines in the country, according data gathered by WWF and Roy Morgan.
Combining attitudes towards nature collected over two decades with a wide-ranging survey of 1800 respondents at the end of last year, the groups found a strong - and lately, rising - interest in protecting habitats on land and sea.
Australians view the Great Barrier Reef as its most important place to protect - and most see it in decline, from climate change-linked coral bleaching to crown of thorns star fish (as shown). Photo: Jason South
The Great Barrier Reef was chosen by 89 per cent of those surveyed in the Backyard Barometer Report as one of the top three places to protect, ahead of the Daintree rainforests of north Queensland and Tasmania's forests - both at 38 per cent.
“The reef is certainly an iconic place that is clearly at the heart of Australia," Mr O'Gorman told Fairfax Media. "They care deeply about it and want to see it saved."
The back-to-back mass coral bleaching in the summers of 2015-16 and 2016-17 "really changed the psyche of how Australians see the reef," he said. "They were like two killer punches to a boxer."
Just over half of respondents viewed the current state of the reef as "already bad", with 84 per cent saying it was "declining" or "getting worse".

Most important places for Australia to protect
Source: WWF

Care for the reef has also been politically charged of late, with the Turnbull government's decision to grant $444 million to the little known Great Barrier Reef Foundation to invest in conservation efforts drawing close scrutiny this week in Senate estimates.

Koala concerns
Of species drawing particular concern, koalas topped the list with just over half of respondents saying it was the creature they would most like to see protected.
Bilbys and whales were next favoured at 30 per cent each, while sharks - many of which are faring poorly despite media interest in occasional bites - drew just 9 per cent support for protection.

Which iconic species would you like to see protected?
Source: WWF

Long-running data sets going back to the late-1990s found Australians' concerns about the environment tend to waver during periods of economic turmoil, such in the global financial crisis that erupted in late-2007 and lasted four years.
Still, 81 per cent in March last year agreed with the view that "if we don't act now, we will never control our environmental problems", and 63 per cent supported the "at heart, I'm an environmentalist" description.

Climate of change
Despite perennial debate amongst politicians, the year-end survey found the great bulk - 86 per cent - agree that climate change is happening, with 65 per cent accepting humans are causing it, the report found.
Almost six in 10 named solar as their preferred energy source, ahead of wind at 15 per cent. Just seven per cent picked coal and 4 per cent gas.
“Coal is definitely on the nose and 69 per cent agree that coal and gas are putting the planet at risk," Mr O'Gorman said. “That’s a clear message to politicians but also...to electricity and energy providers that their licence to operate is disappearing extremely fast."
In that vein, 52 per cent of those surveyed supported the statement that "the federal government should not allow new coal mines", with only 22 per cent rejecting that statement, the report found.

Age gap
The survey also produced a generational divide between respondents aged 18-24 compared with those older than 65 years.

Younger and older Australians
Source: WWF

Three of four in the younger group viewed humans were "largely causing" climate change, with just over half that taking the same view in the older one.
Still, the latter group indicated higher interest into recycling and energy saving, with more than two-thirds viewing themselves as environmentalists against half those in the younger cohort.
On other issues, 84 per cent supported action by their state governments to stop excessive tree-clearing, while some 85 per cent saw plastics as the number threat to the seas around us.
“In a very short period of time, plastics have - in terms of public perceptions - become an enormous threat to the oceans," Mr O'Gorman said. “People want particularly state governments and companies to take very specific action to take plastic from the system."


What Climate Change Will Mean For Mackay By 2050

Daily Mercury

Beach erosion at Midge Point caused by storm surge associated with Cyclone Debbie last year.
CLIMATE change is a very real threat to coastal communities like Mackay.
That's why it is "smart" to start planning now for coastal and inland flooding hazards likely to be exacerbated by climate change, says Mayor Greg Williamson.
"All of the advice from experts and other levels of government suggest we need to be cognisant about the effects of climate change when planning for the future,'' he said.
The Queensland Climate Change Strategy predicts cyclone intensity is expected to increase by 2050, with cyclone-associated rainfall tipped to increase by up to 20 to 30 per cent.
Projected increases in temperature also equate to a 10 per cent increase in general rainfall intensity by 2050, 15 per cent by 2070 and 20 per cent by 2100.
A 0.3m rise in sea level by 2050, a 0.5m rise by 2070 and a 0.8m rise by 2100 is also predicted.
Cr Williamson said the council was working on a Storm Smart Strategy to ensure the community was prepared and able to adapt.
"Unlike other climate change projects, this strategy is focused primarily on risks associated with sea level rises, increased cyclone intensity, higher intensity rainfall and the resulting increase in inundation and erosion potential,'' he said.
"It will help reduce the risk to people and property and enhance the community's resilience to natural hazards. Governments have indicated there will be reduced funding for recovery in the future, with a focus on spending to improve resilience.
"The strategy is for parts of our local government area identified as potentially impacted by coastal risks or inland flooding. Generally, these can by identified by looking at the Mackay Region Planning Scheme's flood and coastal hazards overlays, but can include up to 40 per cent of properties."
The council has accessed more than $200,000 in State Government Qcoast 2100 funding to start the strategy. It will continue to apply for a share of $12 million on offer for coastal councils.

Did you know?
Mackay Regional Council manages more than:
  • 630km of underground drainage
  • 10km of levees
  • 140km of open drains
Insurance costs at a premium
FLOOD modelling work undertaken by the council isn't just useful for its new Storm Smart Strategy.
Mayor Greg Williamson said the council hoped the evolving flood data would help reduce insurance premiums in the Mackay region and ease cost of living pressures.
Major flooding in Mackay during February 2008.
"Average insurance premiums in North Queensland are three times higher than the state and New South Wales average and four times higher than South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia," he said.
"They are impacted by our tropical climate, including being in a cyclone zone and to a lesser extent property flood risk."
Cr Williamson said the council had undertaken flood studies to define flood risk more accurately and that work was ongoing.
"We're working with the Insurance Council of Australia in a bid to improve insurers' understanding of flood risk in our area,'' he said.
"For example, we have been developing new data which highlights the floor levels of properties in our region. A high-set property may have a lesser flood risk than a low-set property next door.
"Property owners are able to speak with council officers about obtaining information relating to their properties which they may be able to take to insurers in a bid to reduce premiums."

Other tips for lower insurance premiums:
  • Consider a higher excess
  • Talk to your insurance provider about ways to lower premium, such as removing large trees etc from the back yard
  • Shop around
Helping gauge effects of flooding
THE 1918 cyclone and storm surge remains the most significant natural disaster in the Mackay region's history.
It claimed 22 lives and caused hundreds of injuries, as well as destroying about 75 per cent of Mackay's building stock.
The event was caused by the coincidence of heavy rainfall - 1397 mm in three-and-a-half-days - with an intense tropical cyclone crossing the coast, which produced a storm tide level of about 5.4m AHD (1.76m above HAT).
The "Foulden Flood" during 1958 is regarded as the largest documented Pioneer River flood and is most well-known for removing the entire settlement of Foulden. Two lives were lost to drowning and one person was declared missing, with 136 people rescued from Foulden and Cremorne. (Source: Wright, B, 2008)
Significantly, the Pioneer River has not broken its banks at Mackay City since the construction of a levee system in the 1960s in response to the 1958 flood.
A crowd gathers to watch rising flood waters during the flood of February, 1958, at the corner of Evans Avenue and Harbour Road. Photo: Mackay Regional Council Libraries Image No. 00241
More recently, in 2008, an intense rainfall event (unofficially 736mm in less than six hours) directly over the Mackay urban area and local catchments damaged more than 4000 houses.
Although the intensity of the 2008 event was not comparable to anything experienced in the region before, the pattern of flooding - rapid rise followed by rapid recession of floodwaters on the falling tide - is generally typical of the urban catchment flooding experienced across the region.
Of 53,000 properties in the council area, about 12,000, or more than 20 per cent, are in known coastal hazard areas. Furthermore, about 20,000, or 40 per cent, are within a flood hazard area (including the 12,000 in the coastal hazard areas).

Forgan Bridge flood heights.
Beaches bear brunt of damage
THE State Government has just approved additional funding to improve resilience at Lamberts Beach and Midge Point.
They were two beaches in the region that fared worst during Cyclone Debbie.
The new funding includes about $1.7 million for Lamberts Beach to help fund the replenishment of 39,000 cubic metres of sand.
There is also about $2.6 million for 26,500 cubic metres at Midge Point.
Mackay Regional Council CEO Craig Doyle said these crucial extra funds were on top of about $2.9 million previously approved for the two beaches under Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements Category D funding.
"The previous funding will restore the two beaches to their pre-Cyclone Debbie condition," Mr Doyle said.
"This additional funding will allow us to improve resilience at the beaches."
Significant sand loss at Lamberts Beach, resulting in a near-vertical scarp.
Mr Doyle said preliminary Category D funding provided $110,000 for sand pushing, minor revegetation and replacement fencing, which was completed at Lamberts Beach late last year.
He said another $950,000 in Category D funding had been approved to import 10,500 cubic metres of sand and to revegetate the area.
"Preparation of the permit application and design work is in progress, with construction expected to be completed by the end of September," Mr Doyle said.
At Midge Point, significant sand loss along the full length of beach resulted in loss of an esplanade park and associated infrastructure at the north end.
Preliminary NDRRA Category D funding provided $100,000 for minor works.
"Major restoration NDRRA Category D funding of $1.8m will be used to construct a 300m long geobag wall in the dune along the northern section of beach,'' Mr Doyle said.
"This is also due to be completed by September."


One Million Electric Cars By 2030? You're Dreaming Without Big Spending

AFRJacob Greber

The take-up of electric vehicles in Australia is about five to 10 years behind other advanced markets, says Andrew Fulbrook. Simon Dawson
Predictions cited by the Turnbull government that Australians will be driving more than 1 million electric vehicles within 12 years are "virtually impossible" without billions of dollars in government support, says a global automotive expert.
The take-up of electric vehicles in Australia is about five to 10 years behind other advanced markets, says Andrew Fulbrook, who leads a team of more than 30 analysts and engineers at British-based IHS Markit, which helps the world's biggest car makers decide what power trains to invest in.
While it makes sense for the government to promote electric vehicle adoption by consumers for climate commitments, Mr Fulbrook said he knows of no example in the world where that has happened without a collective push by governments and industry.
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg issued a call to arms in January for consumers to embrace the "electric car revolution", which he said was "nigh".
Improvements in cost, range and infrastructure mean that by 2025, an estimated 230,000 EVS will be driven on Australian roads by 2025, and 1 million by 2030, Mr Frydenberg said.
The reality on the ground, according to car industry groups such as the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, threatens to be less impressive. Unlike Norway, where about 40 per cent of new cars are EVs, Australia's current fleet is just under 4000. Last year EV sales were 1126.
"Unless you back up the narrative and ambition with finance and funding, you'll struggle to reach that number," Mr Fulbrook told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday. "In fact you'll find it virtually impossible.
"I've not seen an example anywhere of free market dynamics creating that kind of market or penetration with no intervention from government."
Mr Fulbrook cites the example of Germany, where the government is spending €1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) in subsidies to encourage the purchase of 400,000 EVs between 2016 and 2020. A similar scheme in Australia, would cost a couple of billion dollars, and may involve lowering the purchase price of a new vehicle by $4000 or $5000, he said.

Big challenges
The next stage of helping to establish an effective market to encourage car markers to sell into Australia involves the establishment of charging technology, which Mr Fulbrook says will be needed to bridge the gap through to the late 2020s, when battery technology will have developed enough to enable most drivers to run their vehicles without recharging during the day.
"In loose terms, it's a multibillion-dollar commitment if you want to sea-change the market like this," he said.
He cautioned that such an agreement may struggle given the lack of any solution to Australia's high-sulphur petrol stocks, which car makers blame for inhibiting the rollout of more efficient combustion engines.
"That's an argument that was dealt with many years ago by other mature markets.
"[But] politically, if you can't get around the table to solve this sulphur impasse, you've got much bigger challenges ahead when it comes to transformational change, like electrification."
Car makers will have the products to sell in coming years, but they are unlikely to bring it into a market if there's a "ball and tumbleweeds and nothing else" in place, he said.
Another risk is that Australian consumers find themselves in a world where they won't be able to buy a traditionally-powered car.
"The makers will still be there. [But] I don't think there will be any conventionally-propelled vehicles being produced for major market consumption in 2040.
"You're not going to succeed in dictating the direction of automotive technology. That's very much in the hands of Europe and China.
"There's nothing wrong with having the ambition to modernise the fleet in terms of the Paris climate change agreement, but the consumer needs to be readied and enabled.
"I'm not sure Australia is there yet."



Sharp Exchanges Highlight BP Fears Of Climate Legal Jeopardy

  • CEO Bob Dudley warns of risk of class-action lawsuits
  • Oil major believes climate change is a “global issue”
Kari Goodnough/Bloomberg
After paying more than $65 billion in legal costs for the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, BP Plc is wary of the risk of lawsuits related to climate change.
Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley raised the topic of class-action lawsuits twice during the company’s annual general meeting in Manchester, England on Monday, saying he wouldn’t disclose certain climate targets, or even answer some questions from activist investors, because the risk of legal action in the U.S. was too high.
“You want to get us to make statements here in front of you that you can document that will lead to a class action,” Dudley said in response to one question from the Union of Concerned Scientists about pending U.S. litigation against energy companies. Such legal actions are “a business model in the United States,” he said.
The sharp exchange between BP and two advocacy groups -- Amnesty International and the Union for Concerned Scientists -- shows the growing pressure on major oil companies to acknowledge their responsibility for emissions of greenhouse gases. It also reflects the burgeoning efforts to hold them legally responsible for the potentially disastrous consequences of rising global temperatures.

Lawsuit Fodder
“BP could be on the hook for millions, if not billions of dollars,” Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Why wouldn’t shareholders want to know about the risk of legal liability, a risk that’s growing rapidly as climate costs multiply.”
In response to another questioner who suggested that selling oil and gas should be considered a violation of human rights, Dudley warned shareholders this could be another attempt to mire BP in a class-action suit. An open letter from shareholders including Aviva Plc last week urging more transparency could also end up providing lawsuit fodder, he said.
“BP absolutely believes in being transparent. Transparency is beneficial to all,” Dudley said. “But we don’t want climate disclosures to be a tool for class-action lawyers.”
BP is still working through some of the 390,000 legal claims that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which killed 11 people and spilled millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The company had to sell off about a third of its assets to pay the various legal costs associated with the disaster.

Global Issue
In part, the payments were so steep because of a class-action suit, which offered a broad definition of which members of the Gulf Coast community were entitled to payments. BP will spend about $1 billion a year on civil settlements related to the spill until 2033.
Cities and states in the U.S. are also seeking payouts from oil companies for the consequences of climate change, possibly using the funds to build seawalls or other infrastructure, said BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg.
In litigation, all public statements are heavily scrutinized. Exxon Mobil Corp. is facing a multi-state fraud investigation into the company’s public comments about climate change after facing accusations it misled shareholders into thinking global warming was not a major risk. Exxon has called the probe a political vendetta.
Svanberg and Dudley both argued that, unlike the Deepwater Horizon incident, BP wouldn’t accept sole responsibility, legal or otherwise, for climate change. They said the company has always been forthcoming that greenhouse gases are a risk to humanity, and the energy it provides is an important part of the world economy.
“Climate change is a global issue,” said Dudley. “It is not the oil companies’, and gas companies’ and coal companies’ human rights issue.”


Liddell Licenced To Emit Toxic Air Pollution 14 Times Higher Than International Best Practice

Environmental Justice Australia - 

AGL’s Liddell power station has been granted an exemption from NSW air pollution regulations and emits toxic oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at up to 14 times the concentration allowable in the United States, documents obtained under Freedom of Information reveal.
The extraordinary exemption permits the 46-year-old coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley to emit toxic NOx at almost twice the official concentration limit allowed for NSW power stations of Liddell’s age.
“This is one more compelling reason why Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should stop trying to find ways to keep this ageing and inefficient power station open,” said Dr James Whelan, researcher with Environmental Justice Australia.
The report obtained under FoI shows AGL Macquarie applied for and was granted an exemption from the NSW Clean Air regulation, allowing Liddell to emit NOx at a concentration of 1400 micrograms per cubic metre (mg/m3).
Power stations of Liddell’s age would normally be subject to the Group 5 NOx limit of 800 mg/m3.

“This shocking revelation confirms the NSW Government’s laissez faire approach to air pollution control,” Dr Whelan said.
“Liddell is licenced to emit toxic pollution at levels that should see it subject to serious enforcement actions.”
The report, prepared by Aurecon for AGL Macquarie, describes a range of air pollution control measures that would reduce NOx emissions by up to 85%. The report was required by the NSW Environment Protection Agency as a condition of AGL’s Environment Protection Licence.
The Aurecon report identifies Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) as the most effective NOx emission control technology and the dominant method in use internationally. Power plants equipped with SCR, overfire air and low NOx burners reduce NOx emissions to just 50-100mg/m3. Japan plans to require new power stations to fit these three control measures.
“Toxic NOx emissions from Liddell could be reduced by more than 90%, significantly improving community health in the Hunter Valley, but generators appear unwilling to invest in these emission controls, especially for older power plants.”
Exposure to oxides of nitrogen (NOx) irritates eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and leads to coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness and nausea. Even low levels of exposure are linked to asthma, reduced lung function and allergies. Coal-fired power stations produce 49% of Australia’s NOx emissions.

  • AGL Macquarie was required by the NSW EPA to submit by July 2017 a report on ‘International best practice for control of NOx emissions from coal fired combustion’. The EPA request for this Pollution Reduction Program (PRP) is a standard procedure for holders of Environmental Protection Licences.
  • EJA has an interest in the PRP because our Toxic and Terminal report identified readily available pollution control technologies (selective catalytic reduction or ‘wet scrubbers’) that would reduce NOx emissions by as much as 90%. (See for e.g. this USEPA reportfor details.) This equipment has been obligatory for coal-fired power stations in the US for almost 20 years but is not yet required in NSW. The EPA’s licensing philosophy is officially that it requires plants to operate pollution controls that were ‘reasonably available technology’ when the plants were new (23–38 years ago).
  • Although Liddell is scheduled to close in 2022, AGL is experiencing political pressure (most recently from Premier Berejiklian and PM Turnbull) to keep it open beyond that date.
  • NOx concentrations in the Hunter Valley exceed the national standard each year, with major adverse health impacts that have not been assessed by the NSW Government and are clearly not being controlled.
  • Any measures used by Liddell could (and should) be implemented at Bayswater, Eraring, Vales Point and Mt Piper.
  • The (draft) air pollution strategy for NSW indicated that NOx and SO2 emission controls would be investigated. That strategy has bogged down within the EPA, with no sign of life since May 2017.
  • The NOx control report was prepared for AGL by Aurecon (submitted to the EPA in June 2017).
  • EJA requested this report from the NSW EPA late 2017. When that request was unsuccessful, EJA lodged a GIPA (FoI) request in December.
  • In January 2018, the EPA granted partialaccess to our request, with significant exemptions that included financial figures relating to the purchase of NOx control equipment, operating and capital costs. This redacted information is crucial to any independent assessment of AGL’s efforts to control NOx emissions.
  • A third party – presumably AGL – opposed our request. The third party argued that the report contains ‘commercially sensitive information’, including NOx emissions during combustion, control measures and systems and options for NOx control.
  • The EPA ruled that release of the report was in the public interest.

Australia’s Biodiversity And Climate Change

Sydney Environment Institute - Anastasia Mortimer*

Image by cuatrok77. Sourced via Flickr Commons.
On International Day for Biological Diversity, it is essential to reflect on the importance of biodiversity protection in the face extreme biodiversity loss as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change and to address management practices that need to be amended to accomplish the tasks ahead. This is particularly true for Australia, as Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and our biodiversity is at risk from climate change.
Climate change is driving the global loss of biodiversity, and it is estimated that Australia is among the top seven countries worldwide responsible for 60% of the world’s biodiversity loss. In Australia alone, there are 426 animal species (including presumed extinctions) and 1,339 plants are currently threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The list of nationally threatened species grows annually, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there is a low chance of recovery once biodiversity has been classified as threatened.

Australian Conservation Efforts
In focusing on the effectiveness of biodiversity management in Australia, it has been argued that Australia has had many ‘biodiversity wins’ since we ratified the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity on June 18, 1993. However, whilst Australia has implemented many actions on conservation and protection in recent years, it can be argued that the effectiveness of those actions has often failed to protect biodiversity.
Research by the Australian State of Environment in 2016 assessed the effectiveness of all biodiversity policy, legislation and management plans across Australia, and produced a database which grades the effectiveness of approaches as a way to highlight what work needs to be done to address diversity challenges. In examining actions taken to manage invasive species, mitigate pollution and protect threatened species, it becomes evident that more work is needed to address these growing issues.
  • Invasive species: Research by the Australia State of the Environment on Australia’s protective efforts targeted at invasive species and pathogens, highlights that there is a lack of nationally consistent legislation to address the impacts of invasive species. This is linked to the fact that there is a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities of organisations and levels of government which negatively impacts the effectiveness of National strategic plans.
  • Pollution: The Australia State of the Environment suggests that whilst many sources of pollution and the need for incentive regulatory frameworks are well established in biodiversity management policy, there is little research exploring how carbon pollution and ocean acidification are impacting biodiversity. If we are to address the impacts of carbon pollution and ocean acidification, there is a need to a) increase knowledge around the pollutant levels in marine environments, b) develop approaches to detecting and dealing with micropollutants, and c) establish an understanding of the impacts and sources of marine debris.
  • Threatened species: In examining the management of threatened species, the Australia State of the Environment has found that the monitoring of threatened species is limited to a small proportion of species which impacts on the effectiveness of current initiatives. Furthermore, there is an inadequate amount of funding and resources implemented for recovery actions, and the researchers argue that overall, the key pressures impacting threatened species are increasing.
Climate change action is biodiversity protection 
Our biologically diverse regions, plants and species which have been at the centre of conservation efforts are still experiencing significant damage, and we will continue to witness biodiversity losses if we fail to take climate action. The strategies to biodiversity protection that Australia has taken are essentially redundant unless we acknowledge that climate change will have detrimental impacts on biodiversity, resulting in future losses.
Lastly, it is important to recognise that while human-related actions have led to the current and future losses in biodiversity, the fact that humans are the biggest cause of this loss, means that we have the power to act, and change the current path of destruction. Future approaches aimed at biodiversity protection and conservation in Australia needs to occur across all levels of government, and if it is to be effective, it must be collaborative and it must address how the intersecting challenges of climate change interact and cumulatively impact ecosystems and their biodiversity.

*Anastasia Mortimer is a Content Editor and Knowledge Translation Officer at the Sydney Environment Institute. 



Solar Shines In Global Shift To Renewables


A 70 MW floating PV plant in construction in Anhui province, China
Solar energy is taking an increasingly prominent role in driving the ongoing transformation of global electricity generation markets alongside gains in storage, wind, hydroelectricity and energy efficiency.
IEEFA has today released a new report examining the global solar market and the ever-increasing scale of investment, the speed of implementation and the rapidly broadening range of applications that are becoming commercially viable e.g. concentrated solar power, floating solar, solar fish farms, commercial behind the meter applications, hybrid wind-solar-battery projects and in India, even solar-coal hybrid structures.
As readers of Renew Economy hear repeatedly, corporates, policy makers and regulators are all finding the speed of transformation hard to grasp, particularly in the crucial China and India markets, but the results of the past year are a good indicator of the trend.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports that 98 gigawatts (GW) of solar was installed globally in 2017, a 31% increase from the prior year.
Meanwhile – and just as important – BNEF estimates the levelized cost of solar dropped 15% year-on-year to US$86/MWh for capacity installed in 2017.
Leading the charge, China accounted for more than half the newly installed solar capacity, or some 53 GW, a figure that as recently as 2014 would have eclipsed the global total of solar installations.
While India’s current installation numbers aren’t as dramatic as China’s, the country is clearly embarking on a massive transformation of its electricity sector as well.
The country’s National Electricity Plan, released in March 2018, affirms national intentions to increase renewable energy capacity to 275 GW by 2027, with solar representing two-thirds of this total.
As renewables rise in India, thermal power capacity is forecast to decline to just 43% of the nation’s total in 2027, down from 66% today.
Major solar energy tenders are occurring every week in India (for May 2018 so far 1,000MW,500MW,750MW,200MWand 50MW) at prices now consistently 10-20% below the cost of existing domestic thermal power generation (and 50% below new imported coal fired power).
There is a remarkable buy-in across the country from the government through to the largest corporate incumbents like NTPC, Adani and Tata, each of whom are now amongst the largest and most aggressively ambitious investors in Indian renewables.
Only last week Tata Power committed to invest US$5bn to reach 12GW of renewables by 2028, such that more than half their capacity will be zero emissions sourced (up from zero in 2014 and 30% today).
Our report tracks the largest solar projects operational in the world, and the lead keeps changing. Adani commissioned the then world’s largest solar project at 648MW in Tamil Nadu in mid-2017, but it has slipped to the sixth position in less than a year – refer table.
By 2019 Rajasthan’s 2,225MW Bhadla industrial park is due for full commissioning; three times the size.
And Gujarat is now exploring a 5GW solar park ;double again.

Fourteen of the World’s Largest Operating Solar Projects
Source: Company & Press reports, IEEFA estimates
China and India are hardly alone on this front, as scores of other countries embrace solar.
Saudi Arabia, for one, announced in March 2018 a plan to build 200 GW of solar capacity by 2030, yet another marker in the transition under way across global energy markets. The uptake of solar is gathering momentum too in Europe and the Americas.
As highlighted in The Climate Council’s new report “Renewables & Business: Cutting Prices & Pollution”, the rise of Australian commercial and industrial solar (particularly rooftop) is really starting to boom.
With record high electricity prices crippling businesses, this is expected to keep accelerating, such that even the deliberately flawed NEG is unlikely to to slow this trend.
Not-withstanding this lack of a central policy to sensibly transition our electricity system, Australia remains a world leader in the uptake of solar.
This month cumulative solar installs passed through 7GW. Every week we are reading about new solar investments each of A$100-200m or more for regional Australia, with the speed of construction and uptake clearly evident.
Last week saw the partial commissioning of Australia’s largest to-date solar plant under construction, that being Enel of Italy’s 220MW Bungala solar farm in Port Augusta.
The same week we saw Lighthouse Solar’s 100MW Clare solar farm grid connected – the biggest to date in Queensland.
But the list of projects underway is changing so fast it is impossible to keep up with the latest largest so far solar development. The Queensland government is trying, with a useful reference map.
Solar Reserve’sAurora150MW CSP with 1,100MWh storage is a leading example of Australia’s global leadership in deploying new solar technologies, with this development’s price for peaking electricity setting a new global benchmark low.
And following the brilliant success of Tesla’s South Australian lithium ion battery development, Victoria is now replicating this with two more distributed utility scale battery projects by Tesla and Fluence, one linked to a solar project.
Having shown the way in Australia, Tesla has now commissioned a 18MW Belgium storage system for grid stabilisation, with a 30-40MW virtual peaking solar power plant to come.
And having installed the U.K.’s largest to-date unsubsidised solar with storage power plant(10MW solar, 6MW of storage), Anesco is looking to install 380MW of UK solar and storage by 2020.
Floating solar – another innovation with multiple advantages – is rapidly scaling up.
While Australia is still just trialing this, having commissioned a 100kWsystem in January 2018 at Lismore’s sewage treatment plant, China commissioned a 40MW project in 2017 and has two 150MW projects nearing completion in 2018.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra has announced requests for proposals for 1,000MW of floating solar, with India’s Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) having issued an expression of interest in support of a national target of 10GWof floating solar being released back in December 2017.
Looking at the combination of our coking and thermal coal plus liquid natural gas (LNG) positions, Australia is one of the three largest exporters of fossil fuels globally.
We have major industries at clear stranded asset risk and potentially terminal decline over the very long term. Even our 64% global share of seaborne coking coal is threatened longer term by the combination of technology innovation and carbon emissions policies.
But there-in lies the need to pursue opportunities in industries of the future. Renew Economy provided a glimpse of what could be possible in terms of Australia with CWP’s $20bn 6GW of wind and 3GW of solar Pilbara mega-project for renewable energy exports at world scale.
A vision that might take a couple of decades to come to full fruition, but in doing so it could transform world energy markets entirely.
More immediately, the West Australian budget is a beneficiary of our growing position as a world leader in lithium ion processing.
Technology innovation, deflation, ever-larger scale and the constant breaking of records are the clear lessons of solar led energy transformation now underway.
Australia should be pursing the opportunities for investment, jobs and export industries of the future as a top national priority.


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