The below article ($) by Chris Kenny in yesterday’s edition of The Australian poses a question that’s sure to stir debate… does Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement target make sense?
Kenny is scathing of the state of energy policy. Given the skyrocketing prices for both gas and electricity, it’s easy to see why.
The article hones in on the core issue of the RET and why it drives much of the energy policy ‘problem’:
The RET’s fatal flaw was the gift of guaranteed returns to wind farms with no obligation to provide guaranteed power. Coal generators have been priced out of the market because they cannot compete when the wind is blowing and cannot start up and shut down to meet the vagaries of the weather.
Renewables advocates like to point out that ‘investment’ in renewables is ‘up’ while new investment in coal is ‘dead’.
What they don’t tell you is why. But Chris has thoughts on this too…
Private companies can’t invest in thermal generation when it cross-subsidises renewable competitors and they could be hit with a carbon price, increases in the RET or other regulatory burdens at any time.
It’s easy to ‘invest’ when you have a guaranteed, subsidised return.
As for coal being ‘dead’, there are ~1,100 HELE power stations under construction or in the pipeline around the world, and while coal’s rate of growth will continue to decline, it’s absolute position will grow by 400GW by 2040.
For context, the capacity of Australia’s east coast electricity network is ~54GW and generated ~195.5 TWh last year. Around 74% of electricity came from coal, 9% from gas, 8% from hydro and 5% from Wind. This doesn’t include rooftop solar PV systems, which sits around 6.4GW capacity, generating 9.062 TWh in 2017, or ~4%.
Kenny then get’s into the contentious part – the Paris Climate Agreement – pointing out that our commitment won’t improve the environment or change the climate because global emissions will continue to rise… and, most countries aren’t meeting their ‘Paris’ targets.
Take India as an example. Various renewables advocates cite India as a shining example of climate action. They often quote India as having committed to reducing emissions by 35% by 2030.
India has agreed to reduce its emissions intensity by 35%, not its absolute emissions. This is an important distinction. And a distinction many renewable advocates conveniently get wrong. But it’s essential to assessing whether our commitments will limit temperature rise in the year 2100.
A simple analysis of the numbers is concerning for anyone interested in basing energy policy on science and economics. If India achieves its goal, based on current projections, its CO2 emissions will triple from 1.22 Bn to 3.66 Bn tonnes, adding 2.44 billion tonnes of CO2 a year to the atmosphere.
Contrast this with Australia’s commitment to an absolute CO2 reduction of 26-28 percent on 2005 levels or 141 million tonnes a year. Our total annual CO2 saving in 2030 will be offset in just 21 days by India’s additional CO2 emissions. India’s increase will be more than 5 times our total target emissions.
As for China, Kenny notes:
…by 2030 China’s emissions will increase by about 20 times Australia’s total emissions — try to imagine how inconsequential our reductions will have been.
And while one may agree that unfettered CO2 emissions will lock in catastrophic global warming, Kenny’s assertion that we will experience a lot of local pain for no global gain is a logical conclusion from these figures.
On this basis, Chris Kenny suggests a retreat from our climatically inconsequential yet economically painful Paris Climate Agreement commitments.
Whether you personally agree or disagree, it makes sense to continually assess energy and climate policy and make sensible adjustments to balance affordability, reliability and emissions intensity.
Meanwhile, India’s energy and climate policies are perfectly suited to our Coldry and Matmor technologies.
Coldry reduces CO2 emissions from brown coal power generation by at least 30% and as much as 62%, depending on the type of power station. It enables the use of lignite in higher value applications such as fertiliser manufacture.
And our Matmor primary iron making process is significantly less CO2 intensive than a blast furnace while able to use alternative raw materials, providing environmental and cost benefits.
Both of which will become increasingly important in 2030 as India’s population tops 1.51 Bn.
Picture: Nigel Hallett
Turnbull could ease energy crisis with retreat on Paris climate action
4 April 2018 | The Australian | Chris Kenny
The air of unreality that pervades almost every aspect of our national energy debate goes far beyond anything we have seen. Not a single element of the debate is expressed in clear, factual and pragmatic terms, nor is a single perspective untainted by self-interest, contradictions or blatant deceptions.