ELS Fortnightly News Wrap Up #8

Each fortnight, the team at ELS publish a news digest covering energy and sustainability. We read for our own pleasure but to save you time we identify a handful of pertinent articles from Australia and around the globe and add our own commentary. It used to be an internal memo but we kept being asked to share it, so here it is. We are proud to announce that this fortnight, the news wrap up torch has been passed to guest author and ELS Graduate Engineer, Sarat Tejawsi. This is the first of two guest appearances over the next month.

If you’re anything like us, the updates for this fortnight are sure to put a smile on your face as you realise that Australia may in fact be on the right track with our sustainable energy future. Here are six of the best that we hope will make your weekend:

Super funds set carbon targets for $10bn worth of infrastructure investments 
It always excites us to see corporations take the much-needed initiative and come up with innovative measures to help the fight against climate change, and this is no different. Considering the direct and indirect impacts climate change and extreme weather events can have on these infrastructure assets, this initiative seems like a no brainer for the investors. By employing technologies such as solar and energy efficiency to achieve the targets, the infrastructure assets can generate significant short term returns (on an infrastructure time scale), making this a win-win initiative for all stakeholders. Given the size, longevity and the scale of emissions from these infrastructure assets, the impact of this initiative will be both significant and long lasting, which we consider to be another important factor. Fingers crossed other super funds follow the lead and help fill the void in Government policy we are current facing.

Newcastle council flicks switch on shift to 100 per cent renewable power 
Exciting news coming out of Newcastle - the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. With the city’s current electricity contracts due to expire by the end of 2019, the coal city of NSW is looking towards more sustainable sources of energy to meet 100% percent of its operational electricity demand. This new outlook comes in response to a feasibility study that estimated rate payers could save millions of dollars in electricity costs over the next 25 years under a 100% renewable energy generation scenario. The plan is not official yet, but with all the right ingredients - widespread community support, financial incentive and government support - coming together, we would be amazed if it did not pass. Watch this space! 

Nuclear inquiry told “firmed renewables” cheapest and best option for future 
Australia is home to the largest uranium resources in the world, with almost one-third of the world’s uranium hiding right under our feet. With a few hundred terawatt hours of electricity generated overseas from our exported uranium each year, it is no wonder that some politicians like NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet are pushing to incorporate nuclear power into Australia’s energy mix (read here). However, any such attempts were squashed down during the recent Nuclear Inquiry in favour of renewables! It’s no surprise that renewable sources such as solar and wind are becoming price competitive but is also no secret that challenges resulting from their intermittency continue to persist. However, with some help from technologies such as battery storage and pumped hydro, good ol’ renewables will have their day in the sun.  

NSW fast-tracks approval process for $1b electricity grid connections
In an article that we reported on last fortnight we note that Figure 2 indicated NSW is expected to have the highest rate of unserved energy (i.e. incidences where supply cannot meet demand = blackouts!) over the next few years. These concerns with NSW’s energy security could be easily attributed to the retiring of its coal generation, with the imminent closure of Liddell, and then Vales Point, with Bayswater and Eraring following in 2035. In response, the NSW government intends to accelerate the development of the new connection lines between NSW and the renewables rich South Australia. This new link also seems to be the key to unlock numerous solar projects currently in the pipeline in NSW. For this reason, and all the other gifts it comes bearing (like all the jobs it creates), fast-tracking this project gets a big thumbs up from us.  

'Long time coming': Energy cop seeks power to grill company bosses
A recommendation to amend the National Energy Laws to give AER the power to “compel the provision of oral evidence under oath” was first made nearly nine years ago in the 2013 Review of Enforcement Regimes under the National Energy Laws, but is yet to be implemented. This power is currently available to other comparable regulators such as the ACCC, and it has the potential to be an important investigative tool that would assist AER in keeping the energy corporations accountable. We believe it is in the long term interest of Australian energy consumers for this to be approved. The same 2013 review also addressed issues regarding the existing civil penalty rates for regulatory breaches and concluded that they may be ineffective in deterring these breaches in some circumstances. This is a failure in the current system, and it is crucial that the penalties are set sufficiently high to help ensure regulatory compliance in ALL scenarios.  

2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target capacity achieved
The Clean Energy Regulator has released an update confirming that they have now approved enough projects for Australia to meet its 2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target. This is a credit to everyone involved in the industry who has survived the numerous attempts to kill off the industry. Achieving the target is remarkable considering nearly 20% percent of the capacity was built just over the last two years. With some even questioning Australia’s potential to meet the target, in the years leading up to 2017, this achievement really drives home the pace at which the industry has progressed over last couple of years, despite limited support from our politicians. Questions now turn to the future of the RET….we are watching the space closely.

ELS Fortnightly News Wrap Up #7