Government inaction

“There is nothing more difficult to handle, more doubtful of success, and more dangerous to carry through than initiating change. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prosper under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new.” 

Machiavelli  in The Prince (1513), Chapter 6.



  “Politicians discussing global warming.”  A sculpture by  Issac Cordal in Berlin


Australian government assistance

Although the Labor federal government has set aside billions of dollars for clean energy, very little has been spent. One could be excused for thinking the coal industry has them in their pockets.

NSW, Qld, and Victoria are all trying to increase the use of coal and gas.

Solar updraught tower went to Nevada 0.2 GW Enviromission

Parabolic mirrors went to USA, then France. etc.

The Abbott Liberal government did everything it could to kill clean energy. Instead of encouraging business to sort it out on price, they are employing the dead hand of socialism to support and expand the coal and gas industries. 

 The only solution is to make clean energy cheaper than coal and put them out of business.

Going​ backwards

Australia is the only G20 country that has gone backwards on its low-carbon competitiveness since 1995 according to the Global Climate Leadership Review 2012 released today by The Climate Institute.

In an innovative index from The Climate Institute and GE that measures a country’s ability to prosper in the emerging global low carbon economy, Australia rates the worst of any advanced economy. Ranked 16th among the G20 nations, Australia is the only country which has a current score lower than it had in 1995.

Other key findings in The Climate Institute/GE carbon competitiveness index include:

  • Ranked 16th among the G20 nations, Australia is the only developed country whose rankings have not improved since the first Index in 2009.
  • France, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Germany lead the index.
  • Australia is amongst those countries facing the biggest challenge in remaining competitive in a low-carbon future, ranked lower than Russia, Argentina, South Africa, the USA and Saudi Arabia in large part due to the emissions intensive structure of the economy.

 Source Climate Action

The report results (Roll over the graph to see the results

Less than half of one per cent of the Australian workforce is employed
by the coal mining industry – an industry which is 87% foreign owned

Change of government Au​stralia Sept 2013

The Coalition’s policies include:

– removing the modest carbon price, which anyway would have become very small post-July 2014 if Labor had been returned to government;

– holding yet another enquiry (the twentieth!) into wind farms, presumably to give more air to the unsubstantiated claims of a wind turbine syndrome

– terminating the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This provides venture capital to help the transition of some renewable energy technologies from the demonstration stage to the early diffusion stage of technological maturity

– holding yet another enquiry into the Renewable Energy Target, thus undermining investors' confidence

– cutting funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which provides research and development grants.

It is difficult to avoid the interpretation that these five polices taken together amount to a deliberate strategy to undermine the further dissemination of renewable energy in Australia. However, while this strategy will slow down investment and associated job creation, especially for wind farms and large-scale solar power stations, it cannot stop it.  

Mark Diesendorf associate professor and deputy director, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW at University of NSW.



The facts on an Australian PV growth explosion

Nigel Morris

Now I’m really, really excited.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has published a new report (Rooftop PV Information Paper 2012) predicting massive acceleration in the uptake of PV, contradicting the federal government’s own forecasts.

AEMO has two core operational roles: power system operator and market operator. AEMO delivers an array of gas and electricity market, operational, development and planning functions. It manages the National Electricity Market and the Victorian gas transmission network. AEMO also facilitates electricity and gas full retail contestability, overseeing these retail markets in eastern and southern Australia. It is additionally responsible for national transmission planning for electricity and the establishment of a Short Term Trading Market for gas.

So in terms of regulatory ‘punch’ and ‘influence’, it has loads of it.

The AEMO Rooftop PV Information Paper 2012 was recently, quietly released and I eagerly await a response from government acknowledging how wrong its forecasts were, and how serious the business of solar is.

The report was produced after AEMO commissioned extensive modelling by SolarBusinessServices and Sunwiz consulting.

In its own Energy White Paper, the government predicted a mere 2.8GW of cumulative solar uptake (predominately from large scale CSP) by 2031. AEMO is now predicting around 4.3 times higher uptake, or 12GW, in its moderate scenario; and almost 6.5 times more (18GW) in its aggressive uptake scenario.

And remember, this is just the rooftop PV contribution; it excludes the massive potential for other great technologies such as CST and CPV, which undoubtedly provide significantly more too.

In an even more significant blow to the government’s PV forecasting credibility, it should be noted that one of AEMO’s own stated priorities is “managing power system security”. They are all about understanding and mitigating risk in interruptions to the vast majority of Australia’s energy supply.

AEMO’s forecasts and role in energy security are now also in direct contradiction to the Australian Strategic Policy Institutes (ASPI) December 2011 report, ‘Keeping the Home Fires Burning; Australia’s Energy Security’.

In its report the ASPI make a series of factually incorrect, staggeringly erroneous predictions about PV’s capability, lack of relevance, attractiveness and affordability which have now been exposed by the AEMO for the biased tripe that they are.

The ASPI sees a role for itself in considering energy security and says it is “an independent, non-partisan policy institute, established by the (Howard) government to provide fresh ideas on Australia’s defence and strategic policy choices.”

Fresh? No. Factual? No. Unbiased? It would appear not.

The release of this report vindicates much of the forecast work that SolarBusinessServices have been espousing for some time now, along with many other industry and non-industry pundits.

Solar PV is going to grow at a highly significant rate in Australia.

KPMG believes it it.

McKinsey believes it it.

The International Energy Agency believes it.

And now, the Australian Energy Market Operator believes it.

Message to our government (present and future); get on board or get out of the way – PV is on its way.

This article was originally published by SolarBusinessServices. Republished with permission.


Newman takes aim at climate and renewables

By  on 27 March 2012

​New Economy

Considering the dire urgency, it is depressing to see the governments of Australia, and the world, delaying action on climate change. 

When surveyed, most people want renewable energy. The government however is realistic about the huge costs, and turmoil such a change would cause. It would cost jobs, and then votes.

As well as this the fossil industries are well funded and organised. Their lobbyists have direct access to government and are on many of the committees making the relevant decisions.

They are not only holding back carbon dioxide free energy generation, they are promoting the acceleration in coal and gas production. As I write this in 2012, investment in gas is pouring into Queensland at $30,000 per minute.

The pace of fossil fuels is increasing. The use of gas has been accepted as OK when it is actually as bad or even worse than coal. It all about money, and not about the future.

Newly elected Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is expected to move quickly to disband the state’s climate change and renewable energy programs, raising questions about whether the state’s $75 million contribution to the Solar Dawn project will remain intact.

Newman has already replaced the head of Premier and Cabinet John Bradley with investment banker Jon Grayson, who cites the biggest transaction on his CV as the successful bid for the Dalrymple Coal Terminal when he was head of Prime Infrastructure.

The Department of Environment and Resource Management is to be split, with the word environment eviscerated and two new departments to emerge – Resource Management, and Mining and Energy. The department includes the office of climate change, headed by Greg Withers, the husband of ousted premier Anna Bligh, which also faces an uncertain future.

According to its policy document released a day before the election, the Newman government plans to abolish eight of Labor’s environmental funds, including the solar flagships program, the $300 million climate change fund and the $50 million renewable energy fund.

The other funds identified include Queensland Smart Energy Savings Fund, the Queensland Future Growth Fund, the Solar Initiatives Package, the Waste Avoidance and Resource Efficiency Fund and Local Government Sustainable Future Fund

The document described the schemes as “redundant and a waste of taxpayer’s money in light of the federal government’s mandated Renewable Energy Target and the carbon tax.” And, therefore, any state-based scheme will simply mean Queenslanders will be paying for other states to emit more,” the document said. The carbon schemes are a “luxury Queensland just can’t afford.”

And it quoted the Productivity Commission’s submission to the Garnaut Climate Change Review, saying an “effective ETS, much of the current patchwork of climate change policies will become redundant and there will only be a residual role for state, territory and local government initiatives.” Garnaut said the same thing, but put the emphasis on the caveat word “effective”.

It is not clear whether the closure means no new spending or whether money already allocated or committed, such as the solar flagships contribution, will be repatriated. The renewable energy fund, for instance, included $9 millon for Mackay Sugar’s co-generation projet, $15 million to the University of Queensland geothermal energy’s centre of excellence, up to $4.3 million for the new geothermal power station at Birdsville. Not all of that has been spent.

The impact of withdrawing the $75 million funding from Solar Dawn is also not clear, as some of it may have been designed to support research initiatives, including a $60 million research program at the University of Queensland. Solar Dawn failed to get a power purchase agreement and financing in place in time to meet a December deadline to access $465 million in federal funding, although it won a six month extension.

A statement from the company said it “appreciated the commitment of the State of Queensland which has signed a $75 million conditional agreement with Solar Dawn for project assistance” and it looked forward to “continuing its relationship with the government” and briefing personnel on progress in the project.

The Victorian conservative government, meanwhile, has axed the 20 per cent emissions abatement target set by its Labor predecessor, despite supporting it while in Opposition.

The state government came under huge pressure to abandon the target, saying it placed an unnecessary burden on Victorian industry. Opponents included the usual industry organizations and individual companies such as Alcoa, Alinta and Exxon Mobil.

Alcoa’s submission included a boast about how it had invested heavily to reduce its emissions and improve the efficiency of its aluminium plants to gain a competitive advantage. It apparently did not see the irony in pointing out the “inefficiencies and higher costs” involved if Victoria sought a similar advantage for its economy.

The decision by the Victorian government is the latest in a series of moves which has seen it halt feed-in-tariffs, impose strict planning restrictions on wind farm developments, and announce its intention to reopen tenders for more brown coal extraction. On the plus side it has doubled the state’s energy efficiency target, and promised up to $25 million for a geothermal project need Geelong.

In NSW, meanwhile, the new coalition state government has also brought its solar tariff to an abrupt end, and is proposing similarly restrictive planning guidelines on wind farms. Queensland hasn’t needed to bother about that because there are only 12MW of wind turbines in the state in any case. (Newman has, however, vowed tor retain the state’s feed in tariff, which because it was properly structured in the first place, with a net tariff rather than a gross, has been the most successful and cost effective tariff in the country.

The message from all three Conservative governments is that climate change action and renewable energy development is a national issue and not a state one. None of the states seem interested in gaining an advantage, or attracting investment, at the expense of the other. Does this happen in any other industry?

As acting Greens leader Senator Christine Milne said today, this now increases pressure on Tony Abbott to deliver on his “bipartisan” commitment to reduce the country’s emissions by 5 per cent by 2020, without a price on carbon – a policy that looks increasingly fragile following the CSIRO’s recent dampener on the coalition’s plan to achieve its abatement through carbon farming initiatives.






Professions for politicians

To find out why some professions are prevalent among politicians The Economist trawled through a sample of almost 5,000 politicians in “International Who’s Who”, a reference book, to examine their backgrounds. Some findings are predictable. Africa is full of military men, while lawyers dominate in democracies such as Germany, France and, of course, America. China has a fondness for engineers. But other countries have their own peculiarities. Egypt likes academics; South Korea, civil servants; Brazil, doctors.


Barristers, solicitors and other types of lawyers made up a further 12 per cent of Parliament, despite representing just 0.8 per cent of the wider workforce.

Today, 43 per cent of parliamentarians come directly from political jobs - including political consultants, advisers and lobbyists, members of state legislatures, party or union employees and electorate staff. Two-thirds of ALP members come via that route, and this probably understates the numbers who held such positions previously.

Business executive or self-employed ••• 23.5%
Party or union official or administrator ••• 19%
Political consultant, adviser or lobbyist ••• 14.2%
Barrister, solicitor or general lawyer ••• 12.4%
Member of state/territory legislature ••• 5.3%


Read more:



Carbon price does not deter rise in coal exploration

Peter Ker, Adam Morton
February 20, 2012

Read more:

THE impending carbon price has done nothing to deter investment in the coal industry, with spending on exploration surging faster than any other mineral commodity.

Coal exploration spending in Australia rose by 62 per cent last financial year as the industry dominated corporate activity in terms of inbound investment and mergers and acquisitions.

Investment in searches for new coal deposits reached $520 million, pushing it closer to rivaling iron ore and gold - both of which also grew significantly on the back of record-high commodity prices.