Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Truth About Soaring Power Prices: Wind And Solar Not To Blame

ABC NewsIan Verrender

A vocal but powerful minority argues coal is the future, but that's simply not the view shared by the power generators. (AAP)
Separate events, different states, alternate days. Between them, however, competition kahuna Rod Sims and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week demolished an old chestnut about renewable energy: it is not the cause for the recent spike in electricity prices.
In fact, according to both, it has had very little impact.
For the past decade or more, we've been bombarded with the message from a vocal but powerful minority within Parliament and the broader community that the switch to renewable energy has made Australia uncompetitive, crippled our industry and driven power prices higher.
The real issue is that, fundamentally, they don't believe climate change is real or that humans have adversely affected the planet.
Having spent so long denying science and rejecting the overwhelming body of evidence, they're now being forced to ignore economics; that renewables have become a cheaper longer term power source.
Coal is the future, they argue.

Coal-fired generators have no future here

That's simply not a view shared by the power generators, whose primary motivation is to turn a profit and stay in business, or the banks who must finance them.
Nor is it a view shared by BHP, the nation's biggest company that built a large part of its wealth on coal exports.
Last week, it confirmed it was reviewing its membership of the Minerals Council of Australia because of "materially different positions" on issues such as a Clean Energy Target and climate change.
Technical innovation around renewable energy generation has seen costs plummet.
So much so that US investment bank Goldman Sachs — hardly a standard bearer for radical ideology — now argues that, rather than pushing power costs higher, renewable energy is the cheapest form of power generation. More on that later.

The truth about the power price spike
As the theatre over keeping open the creaking Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW's Hunter Valley played an encore last week, the ACCC boss and the PM delivered a few sobering nuggets.
First, there was Rod Sims at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday: "Forty-one per cent of the increase in electricity prices over the last 10 years has been in network costs and we keep forgetting that."
He went on: "Those poles and wires that run down your street are the main reason you are paying too much for your electricity."

Rod Sims addresses the National Press Club on "Australia's Gas and Electricity Affordability Problem"

According to Mr Sims, extra retail charges account for 24 per cent of the higher prices while higher generation costs as a result of a failure to invest make up 19 per cent of the price hikes.
Green energy initiatives contribute just 16 per cent to the recent price hikes.
On Thursday in Brisbane, responding to questions, the PM concurred, explaining that "particularly for retail customers, the largest single part of your bill is the network costs."
"That's the poles and wires basically," he said.

Gas, not coal, will fix prices

But then he elaborated on the more immediate issues, particularly around generation and the changes that have been foisted upon consumers.
"In terms of the green schemes, they do have a cost but it is a relatively small cost," he said.
"Gas is the biggest single fact at this point in time."
What does gas have to do with it? As the PM explained, the electricity price is set by the last generator to come into the stack.
It's what economists call the marginal cost of production. You might be to meet half the demand at low price. But it is the expensive bit at the end that determines how much a producer will charge everyone.
When it comes to electricity, gas is that last final element.
"It is peaking power," the PM said. "The increase in the gas price has increased the cost of electricity."

The gas debacle
Gas prices haven't just increased. They have quadrupled.
And the tragedy is that Australia, with one of the greatest reserves of gas on the planet, now charges its households and businesses far more to use that energy than the countries to which we export.

Gas forgotten in energy debate

With the continued reversal of policy on carbon pricing and climate change, the unofficial industry consensus was to build solar and wind generation with gas-fired back-up to shore up reliability; a decision affirmed by the chief scientist Alan Finkel in his report on how to cope with future challenges.
But three major export terminals were built at Curtis Island just off Gladstone in Queensland, with Santos building a plant that required far more gas than to which it had access.
To fulfil its export contracts, it began sourcing gas previously destined for the domestic market.
That forced the price of domestic gas sky high just as a global glut sent international prices crashing.
It's now cheaper to buy Australian gas in Asia. A fortnight ago, gas from West Australia's giant Gorgon project was sold to India at $8.70 a gigajoule. East coast gas sells here for $17.50.
That's why the Federal Government has shanghaied gas producers like Santos to direct export gas back into the local market.
If Australians could get the same deal on our gas that Indians have secured, our electricity would be much cheaper.

Renewables or coal: What is the cheapest?
When it comes to cost, coal lobbyists usually refer to the subsidies doled out to the renewable sector to argue the industry wouldn't exist if it had to stand on its own.
That's a valid point. But it overlooks two things; the vast billions handed out to the coal industry and the increasing competitiveness of renewables.
Every coal fired generator in Australia was built, not just partially subsidised, entirely with taxpayer funds.
When they were privatised, many were given state owned coal mines with contract prices way below market, effectively a further subsidy.
Then there are the health costs.
A health study in the Latrobe Valley last year identified much higher respiratory and asthma admissions to hospital than the Victorian average while life expectancy was significantly lower than the state average.
But it is the cost of energy generation where the game really is changing.
As the Goldman Sachs graphs above show, renewable energy costs have plunged by up to 70 per cent since 2009 and will be the cheapest form of generation in Europe this year and in the US within eight years on a levelised cost basis.
When the cost of installation is taken into account, however, the story changes.
When the cost of installation is taken into account, wind and solar are much cheaper. (Goldman Sachs)
Wind and solar are much cheaper. Not only is the fuel free and faces no regulatory risk — in the form of a carbon price — but the technology is simpler and quicker to install.
Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel went one step further. He factored the extra costs of adding gas or battery backup to ensure stability or baseload power in the system.

The Finkel review, explained

Wind still came out cheapest, with solar only marginally more expensive than black coal.
Renewable plants can be built within one to three years while coal-fired plants take between four and seven years to build.
Putting aside arguments about climate change, the main problem with coal-fired electricity is that the numbers no longer stack up.
It's too expensive, it has much higher regulatory risks and renewable technology is rapidly advancing.
It will take more than a taxpayer subsidy to build one here. It will need a full taxpayer handout. And it will result in more expensive power bills.
Coal is simply a form of stored solar energy. New technology has delivering cleaner, more efficient and cheaper ways to directly harvest solar energy to power our lives.
Don't expect that innovation to stop.


Portuguese Children To Crowdfund European Climate Change Case

The Guardian

Group from region hit by deadly forest fires to sue 47 countries alleging failure to tackle climate change threatens their right to life
The fires in Leiria this summer killed more than 60 people. Photograph: Paulo Cunha/EPA
Portuguese schoolchildren from the area struck by the country’s worst forest fires are seeking crowdfunding to sue 47 European countries, alleging that the states’ failure to tackle climate change threatens their right to life.
The children, from the Leiria region of central Portugal, where fires this summer killed more than 60 people and left hundreds injured, are being represented by British barristers who are experts in environmental and climate change law.
Supported by the NGO Global Legal Action Network (Glan), they are seeking an initial £35,000 to mount the case in the European court of human rights.
The crowdfunding bid was published on Monday on the platform CrowdJustice, which has raised millions to help bring citizen-led cases to court.
Lawyers will seek a ruling from the court that the countries being sued must significantly strengthen their emissions reduction policies and commit to keeping the majority of their existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
The lead counsel, Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers, said: “This case intends to build on the successes which have been achieved through climate change litigation across the world so far.
“It will be unique because it will be the first case in which multiple governments are brought before a court at the one time in relation to their failure to properly tackle climate change.
“Climate change poses a major and increasingly worsening threat to a number of human rights and governments in Europe are simply not doing enough to address it.”
The children, aged between five and 14, all come from Leiria, which suffered Portugal’s deadliest fires this summer.
Some experts have blamed the increase in forest fires in Europe on climate change.
A 14-year-old who is part of the group taking action said: “Climate change causes many problems, but if I had to name the ones that worry me the most, it would be the sea level rise, which leads to the destruction of shores and infrastructure such as dams, roads and houses, and also the increase in the number of forest fires that we’ve been observing lately – especially this summer, as the fires caused many deaths and left our country in mourning.”
The legal action will target the 47 nations who are the major emitters in Europe – including the UK, Ireland, Germany and France. These 47 were collectively responsible for roughly 15% of global emissions and held a significant proportion of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves, said the Glan director, Dr Gearóid Ó Cuinn.
European court of human rights decisions are binding on these states.
The case is also being taken to raise public awareness about what Glan says are the shortcomings in government policies on climate change.
Ó Cuinn said: “We will work with civil society organisations throughout Europe to use our case to highlight the fact that unless governments urgently take much stronger action to prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions, it is only a matter of decades before we’ll be witnessing the catastrophic consequences of insufficient action.”
Two years ago a group of Dutch citizens – organised by the NGO Urgenda – successfully sued their government for negligence for knowingly contributing to a breach of the 2C maximum target for global warming.
Three judges ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by 25% by 2020, saying their lower targets were unlawful given the scale of the threat posed by climate change.


Climate Crunch: Australia To Fail On Paris Commitments Without Massive Renewable Switch


Australia will fall short of its Paris carbon reduction targets signed under Tony Abbott unless it lifts its renewable energy production to levels higher even than Labor's plan for 50 per cent green energy reliance by 2030.
The first assessment by the Australia Institute's new Climate and Energy Program, to be released on Monday, has found that unless a higher burden is placed on the more expensive process of carbon reductions in other sectors – agriculture, transport and manufacturing – then the electricity generation sector will need to aim for a renewable energy target of at least 66 per cent by 2030, and possibly as high as 75 per cent.
Australia's Paris carbon reduction targets were signed under former prime minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AAP
That is, a power generation sector where the fossil fuel component is reduced to perhaps a quarter of the size it is now.
Power generation currently accounts for 35 per cent of total emissions, which is twice as much as the next biggest contributor, fuel combustion and transport, at 18 per cent.
Industry produces 14 per cent and agriculture 13 per cent.
The current emissions reduction target, committed to in Paris while Mr Abbott was prime minister, is 26-28 per cent lower than the 2005 level – part of Australia's  contribution to a global effort to restrict the planet's temperature increase this century to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
The government is now wrestling with how to go about this after  Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed a clean energy target which would lock in a 28 per cent reduction in energy-related emissions by 2030 through a four-pronged strategy emphasising energy security, reliability, affordability for households and business, and meeting Australia's emissions targets.
Last week Mr Abbott indicated he would cross the floor in Parliament to stop further renewable-friendly policies, calling it "unconscionable for a government that was originally elected promising to abolish the carbon tax and to end Labor's climate obsessions to go further down this renewable path".
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed a clean energy target which would lock in a 28 per cent reduction in energy-related emissions by 2030. Photo: Wayne Taylor
The comments underlined the bind faced by the formerly green-tinged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Along with Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, Mr Turnbull has been working feverishly behind the scenes to settle a CET in official policy by the end of the year, although his government's febrile internal politics now look like producing a watered-down and renamed version designed to foster a new so-called high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power station.
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has indicated the party's support for a Clean Energy Target (CET). Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
However, the Australia Institute, which has taken over the intellectual property of the Climate Institute, says even Dr Finkel's model would be insufficient on its own to meet the international obligations signed under Mr Abbott.
"This analysis of the economic modelling demonstrates meeting these targets for the electricity sector with a policy like the clean energy target is likely to require 66-75 per cent of electricity to be supplied by renewables," said Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist.
This was because a CET "provides less of an incentive for gas generation than an EIS (emissions intensity scheme) or a carbon price".
Mr Oquist said the country was at a "critical juncture" and government must decide if it is to meet its commitments in the cheapest way, which is through greater renewable energy dependency than currently envisaged, or by demanding the more expensive and disruptive changes required in other parts of the economy.
"If Australia adopts a weak clean energy target which does not provide a strong signal for renewables, we risk turning Australia's moderate Paris targets into an extremely expensive task," he said.
"It remains to be seen if we choose to meet those Paris commitments the easy way or the hard way."
The discussion paper was written by the institute's director of research, Rod Campbell, who described it as ironic that government-commissioned modelling showed that policies that would actually "minimise renewable energy penetration such as carbon pricing and an emissions intensity scheme have already been rejected".
"All that remains is the CET that would bring in the largest share of renewable generation, or the prospect of failing to meet our Paris climate targets," he said.
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said the solution to a 10-year political standoff on climate policy was within reach because Labor had signalled that it would "cop" a CET.
"We don't think that is the No.1 approach, but as the No.2 approach we are happy to compromise with the government to introduce a clean energy target," she told the ABC's Insiders.
"The problem is not the gap between Labor's position and Malcolm Turnbull's position, the problem is all inside the Liberal and National parties where they've got a determined small rump of people who are absolute wreckers when it comes to greater investment in renewable energy," she said.
"This government is in its fifth year, we've seen seven coal-fired power generators close down, taking 4,000 megawatts of baseload power out of the system and nothing replacing it. That's a real problem."
Last week, Mr Abbott proposed ending all subsidies on renewable energy as a political strategy for positioning the Coalition.
"This is an opportunity for us to sharpen the difference with Labor on an issue which is of deep concern to the public, on a hip-pocket issue where we can be on the side of voters and Labor is on the side of green extremists ... let Labor be the party of renewable energy and us the party of reliable energy," he said.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Nine Pictures That Show How Climate Change Is Impacting Earth

FuturismVictor Tangermann

The latest satellite data from NASA that showcases the effects of climate change paints a sobering picture. Here's how far we have come and how much work there is to be done.
Ian Joughin, University of Washington
Record-breaking hurricanes have affected millions of people across North and Central America, devastating floods have taken away millions of homes, and wildfires on the west coast have wreaked havoc on the lives of millions more. The natural disasters of 2017 have raised a lot of questions about human involvement and the dire consequences of climate change caused by human activity on our planet. Even though its effects have made themselves apparent, there are many who don’t believe climate change is real, or at least that humans have nothing to do with it.
Earlier this year, NASA released a series of images titled Images of Change to show just how drastic an effect human activity has had on Earth in the last fifty or so years. They tell a story of melting glaciers, receding ice shelves, floods, and other natural disasters. They all provide evidence that climate change is very real and happening right now. It is time to take the hard, photographic evidence seriously. and learn from our past mistakes.

Tuvalu and the Rising Sea Levels
Image Credit: Ashley Cooper/Contributor/Getty Images
This image was taken in 2007, showing a town submerged in water on the Funafuti Atoll. Its population of more than 6,000 people has been battling with the direct consequences of rising sea levels. Residents of the capital Tuvalu have seen very frequent flooding in populated areas due to the fact that it is at most 4.57 meters (15 feet) above sea level. Dubbed one of “the most vulnerable Pacific Ocean islands,” its residents have to make the ultimate choice: leave the islands or deal with the consequences.

The Larsen C Ice Shelf
Image Credit: NASA/John Sonntag
This 112.65km (70 mile) long, 91.44 meter (300 feet) wide crack in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf was photographed in November 2016. As a direct result of the split, a piece of an ice shelf the size of Delaware collapsed. The more than 1 trillion ton ice slab broke away from the Larsen C shelf around the 10th of July, 2017, decreasing it by more than 12%.

Rising Bedrock in Greenland 
Image Credit: ESA/Sentinel-2/Copernicus Sentinel
Environmental scientists have concluded in recent studies that the Greenland Ice Sheet is rising as ice melts; as the ice that sits on top of the outer crust of the Earth melts, the crust underneath rises up. Measuring this change is giving scientists valuable insight into the changing sizes of ice sheets and how this eventually leads to rising sea levels.

Hurricane Harvey
Image Credit: @Space_Station/Twitter
This image was taken from the International Space Station on August 25, 2017. The disastrous consequences of Hurricane Harvey wreaking havoc on central Texas saw a huge amount of media coverage. However, when it came to drawing links between the storm and climate change, the reporting was far more subdued. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said in an interview with The Atlantic: “the human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm.” But the trend of tying storms of this scale to human activity is still emerging.

Flooding of the Ganges River
Image Credit: NASA
These satellite images are part of an ongoing series of images called Images of Change released by NASA in 2017. In addition to images related to climate change, the series also looks at how urbanization and natural hazards are changing our planet. The two images above show the drastic effect the 2015 flood had on the Ganges River in eastern and central India. Over six million people were affected by it, and at least 300 people lost their lives.

Arctic Sea Ice Decline
Image Credit: NASA
The last three decades have not been kind to the thick, older layers of sea ice in the Arctic. A study published by the American Geophysical Union in 2007 already noted a sharp decline of the Arctic Sea ice between 1953 and 2006. The last couple of winters have shown record lows in the amount of wintertime Arctic Sea ice.
“This older, thicker ice is like the bulwark of sea ice: a warm summer will melt all the young, thin ice away but it can’t completely get rid of the older ice. But this older ice is becoming weaker because there’s less of it and the remaining old ice is more broken up and thinner, so that bulwark is not as good as it used to be,” says Walt Meiter, a sea researcher from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Increase of Sun’s Energy Absorbed in the Arctic
Image Credit: NASA
Since 2000, NASA has been using its satellites to measure the solar radiation absorbed in the Arctic. Since records began in 2000, the rate has increased by 5% — notably, the only region on our planet to see a change. Due to this increase, the ice melts sooner in the spring, and more older, thicker sea ice is lost permanently.

Glacier Melt in Alaska
Image Credits: U.S. Geological Survey/NASA
The Northwestern Glacier in Alaska retreated an estimated 10 kilometers (6 miles) out of view. The small icebergs that can be seen in the foreground have retreated almost entirely throughout the decades.

Air Pollution in London
Image Credit: Barry Lewis/Getty Images
Commuters can be seen crossing the London Bridge on March 15, 2012 — a day with record-breaking levels of air pollution due to dirty air from the north, traffic fumes, and a lack of moving air. According to the World Health Organization, “92% of the world population was living in places where the WHO air quality guidelines levels were not met,” and three million premature deaths were caused by ambient air pollution worldwide in 2012.


One Of The Most Bizarre Ideas About Climate Change Just Found More Evidence In Its Favor

Washington PostChris Mooney

More and more, we are learning that climate change can lead to some pretty strange and counterintuitive effects, especially when it comes to the wintertime.
For instance, scientists have pointed out for a number of years that warmer seas, and a wetter atmosphere, can actually fuel more snowfall in massive nor’easters affecting the U.S. East Coast.
More controversial still is an idea called “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents.” This is the notion that as the Arctic warms up faster than the middle latitudes, it may sometimes cause a displacement of the region’s still quite frigid air to places that aren’t so used to it. In other words, even as the planet warms, masses of cold air could also become more mobile and deliver quite a shock at times when outbreaks occur in more southerly latitudes.
In both November and December of 2016, for instance, temperatures at the North Pole surged tens of degrees above normal while at the same time a huge mass of abnormally cold air descended over Siberia. Capital Weather Gang reported that in November, during one of the excursions, Siberian temperatures were “up to 60 degrees below normal.”
Here’s what the configuration looked like last December:

Image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine.
Now, a new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society makes the case that in January and February — later in the winter than those events — another, perhaps related change is occurring. This one involves the notorious “stratospheric polar vortex,” a loop of extremely cold and fast-flowing air, high in the atmosphere, that tightly encircles the Arctic in the freezing dark of polar winter. This vortex can sometimes develop outward bulges, allowing for a more southerly invasion of air.
The study, led by Marlene Kretschmer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, sought to find patterns in the stratospheric polar vortex over the past 37 years, categorizing its behavior into seven states, ranging from a tight loop around the Arctic to “a weak distorted vortex.” And it determined that the stronger and more defined vortex has been occurring less frequently, while distorted states have been growing more common — a change linked to colder temperatures over Eurasia.
“This study provides quite some evidence that the cooling trend over Eurasia was at least partly affected by the weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex,” said Kretschmer.
She conducted the study with five colleagues from universities in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
The “polar vortex” is both a popularly known and deeply confused concept — the problem is that there are two of them, which sometimes interact. The stratospheric polar vortex is far higher in the atmosphere and forms a much tighter loop. Then there is a lower “tropospheric” version that more directly affects the weather we all experience.
Kretschmer provided this diagram to show how the two are situated and can interact:

The work also suggests there’s a role played by the loss of Arctic sea ice, a phenomenon linked to climate change. When floating sea ice melts north of the Eurasian continent, that can lead to a greater flux of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere as an icy cap on that warmth is removed. In turn, that can lead to a cascade of atmospheric effects that ultimately weakens the stratospheric vortex, high above.
“It matches with this hypothesis that the Arctic does have an effect and that climate change, leading to a decrease in sea ice, has an effect on large scale circulation, in this case the stratosphere,” Kretschmer said.
Previous research by Kretschmer has found a link between low levels of sea ice in the Kara and Barents Seas, north of Russia, and broader atmospheric patterns.
Those living in the United States will instantly wonder how all of this applies to the extreme “polar vortex” event of the winter of 2014. But in fact, the new study finds stronger evidence of a “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” pattern over Eurasia than it does over North America. Kretschmer said she believes more research is needed on how stratospheric disruptions in winter could affect North America, too.
This whole line of inquiry remains relatively novel in climate research, however, and the chains of causation are nothing if not complicated.
Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, for one, remains cautious about the work. In a comment on the new study for The Post, Trenberth suggested that the picture is more complex and that Arctic changes aren’t the only thing going on — citing major trends in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as well.
The new study presents “a number of quantities that are related to one another, but one can not say they are causal, as claimed,” Trenberth commented by email. “On the contrary, there is good evidence of other influences that play a major causal role. Thus the Arctic amplification goes along with and is consistent with profound changes in the stratospheric polar vortex in January and February, even as profound influences come into the region from lower latitudes.”
He’s not the only skeptic. A study published last year in the journal Geophysical Research Letters regarding the “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” hypothesis rejected the idea that continental cooling was linked to the loss of Arctic sea ice.
“Whereas the directionality toward warming Arctic surface temperatures is well understood to be linked strongly with accelerating sea ice loss, there is neither an established theory nor strong experimental evidence that midlatitude temperature trends having opposite directionality results as a dynamical response,” found the authors, a team of researchers with the University of Colorado in Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As all of this suggests, even as some scientists suggest that the dramatic changes to the Arctic are reverberating in the latitudes where many of us live, others continue to point out that our weather also has well established and more traditional drivers, like the Pacific Ocean. And those are also changing. It’s a complicated picture with a lot of moving pieces — but the fastest-moving one, the Arctic, seems more than capable of delivering some surprises.


Government Denies Claims It Knocked Back Chinese Climate Change Offer And Reveals 'Joint Action Plan'


The Turnbull government rejected a landmark Chinese invitation to issue a formal joint statement on climate change earlier this year, Greenpeace has claimed, saying Australia vetoed an unprecedented step in the Asian power's emerging international role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But the Australian government has denied the claim and revealed the two countries' energy departments were working on a "joint action plan" on climate change as part of their commitments under the Paris agreement.

According to Greenpeace East Asia senior climate policy adviser Li Shuo, the government quietly knocked back an offer – perhaps the first time the Chinese government had proactively sought such an arrangement – during Premier Li Keqiang's state visit to Australia in March.
Mr Li said the offer was "very, very significant" because it suggested China had become "diplomatically proactive" after previously being on the receiving end of invitations from the European Union and United States to outline mutual commitments on climate change.
Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March. Photo: Andrew Meares
He observed it would have been a concrete political signal for the international community amid the uncertainty triggered by the election of President Donald Trump, who has wound back American leadership on climate change and begun the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris accord.
"The Chinese delegation with Li Keqiang came with the proposal but that didn't get the green light from the Australian side," Mr Li said, adding that his awareness of it came from a directly involved figure in the Chinese government.
A spokesperson for the Australian government said it "did not decline an offer from the Chinese government earlier this year to make a joint statement on climate change" and labelled the March leaders' meeting "highly successful".
Turnbull government ministers meet with the Chinese delegation in the cabinet room at Parliament House in March. Photo: Andrew Meares
The spokesperson said the two states had also "discussed ways to strengthen bilateral co-operation and action on climate change" in the month leading up to the visit as part of regular ministerial meetings on the issue.
"This included opportunities to support the implementation of the Paris agreement through a joint action plan between China's National Development and Reform Commission and the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy. These discussions are ongoing," they said.
Seizing the opportunity of American withdrawal, Mr Xi's regime has assumed a more prominent international role on climate change, stepping up co-operation with other countries and pursuing domestic efforts that include a national emissions trading scheme, cancelling dozens of coal-power projects and rapid development renewable power.
President Xi Jinping previously struck a historic climate agreement with former US president Barack Obama in late 2014 and the regime was also close to reaching a joint statement with the EU in June this year but it was never finalised after separate trade negotiations fell apart. Mr Xi has also inked a climate agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown.
China is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for approximately 30 per cent annually. It is followed by the US on 15 per cent, the EU's 28 members on 10 per cent and then India, Russia and Japan on single digits. Australia, emitting just over 1 per cent, sits at approximately 15th. It falls into the group of relatively minor polluters that collectively make up around a third of global emissions.
Previously an advocate for sweeping action on climate change, Mr Turnbull has had to compromise since taking the leadership of a Liberal-National Coalition still internally divided on the issue. A significant portion of his party room are keen supporters of coal-fired power and some do not accept the scientific consensus on climate change.
Under the Paris accord, former prime minister Tony Abbott's Coalition government committed to reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. His government also renegotiated the Renewable Energy Target in the electricity sector down to 23.5 per cent by 2020.
In the face of internal hostility, the government is currently redesigning a Clean Energy Target proposed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, which would aim to have 42 per cent of Australia's energy generated by lower emissions technologies by 2030. The government may loosen the CET to allow for high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop used an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday morning, Australia time, to praise the Paris agreement and warn that the global economy could be "undermined by natural and man-made disasters".
"Australia is a strong supporter of the Paris agreement, and here at the UN we have voiced our support specifically on risk mitigation for coral reefs, which are among the most valuable environments on our planet," the Foreign Minister said.
She described climate change as one of a several "challenges that don't respect national borders".


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Solar Batteries: Australians See Energy Storage As The Future, Poll Finds

ABC NewsSarah Farnsworth | Rebecca Armitage

Murray Green installed a solar battery in his Sydney home last year. (ABC News: Rebecca Armitage)
Key points:
  • A survey found almost three-quarters of people believe solar batteries will become commonplace
  • 68 per cent of households with solar panels are considering purchasing a battery
  • The price of storage batteries in the first half of 2017 only dropped by 5 per cent
As power prices continue to surge, Australians believe household solar storage batteries are the key to cheaper and more reliable energy, according to a new poll of 2,000 households.
The Climate Council found nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believe batteries, coupled with solar systems, would become commonplace within 10 years.
Of those who already had solar systems, 68 per cent were considering adding a household storage battery.
Most said the primary motivation for buying a solar battery was to reduce power bills.
Only 6 per cent believed consumers were driven by the need to protect their homes from blackouts.

What do you think is the primary motivation for people
adding batteries to their home or business?
What Australians understand about solar batteries Source: Climate Council Get the data Embed
More than half said they expected large-scale batteries like the one being built by Elon Musk in South Australia would also become common in the next 10 years.
"It shows that Australians do understand that renewables — particularly solar and increasingly battery storage — provide a solution to high power prices," the Climate Council's Andrew Stock said.
"I think it's very encouraging that Australians really do get the importance of new technology. There is very little appetite for keeping aging coal fire stations running in the Australian populace, frankly," he said.
'It protects us against price rises'
Murray Green is keeping track of his power bills, which he says have halved since installing a battery (ABC News: Rebecca Armitage)
New South Wales resident Murray Green installed a home battery last year.
"Right now, it's not really worth it to feed the electricity back into the grid so using the battery to store the power and then consume it yourself, it just seemed like a better way to use the solar panels," he said.
"Power prices are going up and so it makes sense to try to reduce the amount of power you're buying from the grid. I think now for me, the higher the prices go, the sooner the system will pay off."
"It protects us against price rises in the future."
The price of storage batteries in the first half of 2017 only dropped by 5 per cent on the back of a significant fall at the end of last year.
Consultancy firm Sunwiz founder Warwick Johnston said while the number of battery installations had doubled from last year, many people were waiting for the price of batteries to drop significantly.
"We expect to see a price reduction of 30 per cent in the next couple of years," Mr Johnston said.
It's currently estimated to take 10 years to pay back the initial outlay for a solar and storage system, with batteries only having a decade-long shelf life.
Mr Johnston said he expected there would be a surge in uptake when it took only seven years to recoup the cost of the battery.
Should you wait for battery prices to drop?
Murray Green installed 20 solar panels on his roof and a Tesla battery in his garage in August 2016 (Supplied: Murray Green)
Andrew Stock, who has more than 40 years of experience in the energy industry, said in some areas people should not wait for the price to drop.
"In some states that have high power prices, analysis shows it's economical now to install batteries. Sunny states like South Australia and Queensland have relatively high power prices, so its quite economic to install battery systems," Mr Stock said.
Tesla is one of the more popular solar batteries in Australia (ABC News: Alex Mann)
"It is many, many times more expensive to import [electricity] so if you can install batteries, if they are modest in size and you have solar on your roof, that will allow you to offset that expensive power you draw from the grid," he said.
Energy economist and director of Carbon and Energy Markets, Bruce Mountain, agreed South Australians would benefit from installing batteries sooner rather than later.
"That is simply because battery and solar prices have come down, and in South Australia energy prices have gone up so much," Mr Mountain said.
Mr Mountain said he wanted the Federal Government to invest more in the local industry to bring down solar battery costs, instead of seeking to subsidise coal fire power generators like Liddell.
"They can accelerate the installation of these batteries, they can grow a local equipment suppliers and often than incentive creates new industry and scale economies," Mr Mountain said.
"The household would benefit, but the system as a whole would benefit as well, because a household of battery and solar gives to the grid a far more stable demand," he said.


Lethal Heating is a citizens' initiative