Carbon Price Repeal A Victory For Fossil Fuels, Ideologues And Climate Science Denial.

It has been an historic week for climate change policy as Australia becomes the first nation in the world to repeal laws that had put a price on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Government’s supporters are claiming a key victory.
But who actually won?

Science denial, so-called “free market” ideology and the interests of the fossil fuel energy industry are the termites chewing away at the base of all efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

They are the winners. The lobbyists, the ideologues and the fossil fuel industry.
Let’s first remember the nuts and bolts of all this.

The price on greenhouse gas emissions that came into force in 2012 was a long overdue acknowledgement that you shouldn’t be able to dump industrial waste products into the atmosphere for free.

The idea is to give companies and societies an incentive to cut down on fossil fuel use.
Removing the price means the atmosphere can again be used with impunity as an open sewer for the disposal of carbon dioxide and methane.

Of course, there really is no “disposal” as the gases hang around to accumulate in an atmosphere that now holds about 40 per cent more carbon dioxide than it did before the industrial revolution.

The symbolism of a price on emissions wasn’t lost on Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Only months ago, he told a mining industry celebratory dinner that the “one fundamental problem, above all else, with the carbon tax” was that it served to “demonise the coal industry”.

Given that continued use of coal around the globe now and in the future risks serious implications for human civilization, the fact that coal is being “demonised” is perhaps understandable.

But the response from the vested interests and the majority of the political right in Australia was to demonise the price on the use of this demon coal.

It became a “toxic tax” that would be an economic “wrecking ball” that would make joints of lamb unaffordable and wipe out entire towns. Alarmist, much?

When opposition leader Bill Shorten pledged this week Labor would stand by the party’s position of pricing greenhouse gas emissions, Education Minister Christopher Pyne described the policy as “a rotten, stinking carcass” that he would hang around Shorten’s neck until the next election in 2016.

Lobby Power

In an attempt to push back against this “demonisation” of coal, some of the world’s biggest fossil energy companies had been targeting Australians with a barrage of public relations and advertising.

Coal was the answer to ending global poverty, we are now being told, and anyone standing in the way is morally dubious.
The ABC revealed last year that the coal industry had tweaked its Coal 21 fund – originally plugged as a cash pot to research lower-emissions coal technologies – to allow the money to also be used simply to promote the use of coal.

The fossil fuel industry continues to utilise the revolving lobby doorwhere high ranking government officials and politicians step out from years navigating the inner workings of government to land jobs as advocates and lobbyists.

One recent example of this would be Martin Ferguson, who after spending six years as the Labor government’s resources minister took a job as chairman of APPEA, the peak body for the oil and gas industry (as I’ve mentioned here before, Abbott advisor and Liberal Party polling guru Mark Textor owns a company that is registered as a lobbyist for APPEA).
Another example of the revolving lobby door in action is Stephen Galilee, a former advisor to several Liberal Party politicians (including Tony Abbott and the now Premier of New South Wales Mike Baird) who now heads the New South Wales Minerals Council representing the interests of coal miners.

In coal friendly Queensland, coal company employees are asked to draftthe state's environment policy.

The opaque state lobby registers, together with the Federal register, are littered with former government staffers, high ranking political advisors and former politicians whose experience is now being put to good use by the resources and energy majors.

Carbon pricing matters to the fossil fuel industry in Australia because so much of the energy we use comes from burning their products.

About 69 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from burning coal, followed by gas (20 per cent) and then hydro (six per cent) with the rest coming from wind (two per cent). Solar power currently makes up a tiny percentage.

Neither does Australia want the world to think that one of its biggest exports is in any way demon-like.

So as the debate over carbon pricing has burned continually hot, there have been concerted attempts to undermine the science linking human activity to climate change and undermine the impacts.

Denying the science

Abbott's own position on the science of climate change has changed very little since he declared it was "crap". His coalition party room is well attended by climate science deniers.
One MP recently returned from a US conference for sceptics - a visit paid for by the notorious Heartland Institute - declaring climate scienceto be more like "fiction dressed up as science".
Chief protagonist in the pushing of climate science denialist talking points into the public discourse in Australia is the Institute of Public Affairs, a Melbourne-based “free market” think tank.

Last year the IPA issued a wish list of public spending cuts including the gutting of most climate change functions across multiple government agencies. The group has long campaigned to “axe the tax”.

The IPA promotes climate science denialist books with city-hopping tours for authors and organises speaking tours for international climate science denialists.

In recent years the IPA has sponsored tours and visits from the likes of UK blogger and anti-wind activist James Delingpole, the US Cato Institute’s Pat Michaels (who once estimated 40 per cent of his income came from the oil industry), Canada’s Donna Laframboise, Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg (whose US think tank paid him $775,000 in just one year) and former Czech president Vaclav Klaus.

All these international guests have poured scorn on efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions or claimed the science of climate change is alarmist.

In the 2013 book Big Coal, authors Guy Pearse, David McKnight and Bob Burton explain their view of the role of think tanks in the climate and energy debate.

"What think tanks such as the IPA and like-minded groups effectively do is free up the coal industry’s primary lobby groups, such as the ACA (Australian Coal Association, which is now part of the Minerals Council of Australia) and the companies themselves, from damaging their own credibility by being publicly identified as rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change."

Like other Australian think tanks, the IPA isn’t required to disclose its funders, even though it is looking to influence public policy.
The IPA is allowed, however, to use its privileged tax status to encourage supporters to claim tax breaks in return for donations to fund a climate science denial book.

Other anti-climate science groups have emerged, such as the Galileo Movement (the patron is the combative radio host Alan Jones) and even a political party devoted to “axing the tax”.
British climate science misinformer Lord Christopher Monckton has been flown in three times for speaking tours, two of which were aided by mining billionaire Gina Rinehart. All to undermine public concern and foster antagony between climate science and the public.

Media denial

Another key to the Abbott’s “victory” in the carbon price repeal has been the role of the Rupert Murdoch-owned media in Australia.

In 2007 Murdoch said in a webcast that the planet should be “given the benefit of the doubt” on climate change as he launched an initiative to make News Corp “carbon neutral” (I remember the webcast well as I was a News Ltd journalist at the time when we were all encouraged to down tools and watch).

Murdoch’s “conversion” was said to have been heavily influenced by his son James. But the media mogul’s apparent new concern for the climate didn’t last.

When Murdoch joined Twitter in January 2012, his first tweet was to recommend people read a book by Sir Matt Ridley, an advisor to UK-based climate sceptic group the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

When Tony Abbott became Prime Minister, Murdoch tapped out a congratulatory tweet pre-empting how Abbott would be “killing the carbon tax”.

Murdoch isn’t a fan of wind energy either. On Twitter, he unleashed his wisdom on his followers (now numbering more than half a million) to say “let's stop wasting money on ridiculous windmills”, “stop wasting billions on windfarms now!” and describing turbines as “uneconomic ugly bird killing windmills”.

The vast majority of news stories and opinion columns published by the dominant Murdoch press in Australia, as one study has documented, promote long-debunked fringe views on climate science.

In a recent cringe worthy interview on Sky News, Murdoch showed just how personally misinformed on climate change he actually is.

Murdoch’s newspapers have provided the main public forum for the fringe opinions of climate denialists.

International impact

Yet the most telling impact globally of the Abbott Government’s position on greenhouse gas policy may still be to come.

Like any other country, Australia can choose to be a blocker in international climate change negotiations at UN meetings in Peru later this year, where a new global deal to cut emissions will start to take shape.

Because the UN process relies on agreement among all parties, it only requires one fly to spoil the ointment.

The plan for Peru is that a new deal will be progress ready to sign at the following year’s meeting in Paris.

Based on its record, any world leaders claiming to want genuine action to cut emissions might now have to work out how to cut Australia out of the equation.

This article is reposted from the Guardian Author credit goes to Graham Readfearn Images credit goes to Gary Ramage 

What Does Solar Energy Mean To Germany’s Big Utilities?

Germany’s renewable sector (RE) is flexing its muscles, with solar production up 28% and wind up 19% during the first half of 2014. As a result, the renewable sector accounted for 31% of the nation’s electricity. If this trend continues, this may be the third year in a row that Germany sets a record for energy exports. The increase in renewables has also been accompanied by a decrease in fossil fuel usage. Gas-fired power plant production is down 25%, compared to last year, and hard coal production fell 11%. Only lignite power usage rose. So what does solar energy mean to Germany’s utilities?

In the video Birthing a Solar Age, Jerry Rifkin points out that so much renewable energy was fed into the grid one day last month that the price of electricity fell below zero. He predicted there will be more days like this, and in the future Germany’s utilities will not want to sell electricity, as they lose too much money!
Max Hildebrandt, renewables expert at Germany Trade & Invest, points out that it is important to distinguish between the wholesale spot market price and the consumer market price, and to note that utilities in the EU have seen gradual unbundling into grid-side and generation and supply operations.
“Negative prices on the EPEX spot exchange are a relatively rare but not unusual phenomenon,” he said. “They occur only during short peak periods – usually around noon when solar radiation is highest – and not for entire days. They are merely a signal for the large-scale spot market participants and do not have an immediate effect on the more rigid prices in the consumer market.”
When spot prices are negative, power generators can choose whether to cut production or briefly accept negative prices for their electricity. Although there is a general tendency for greater fluctuations in demand and supply with an increased share of renewables, Hildebrandt notes that this can be countered “by expanding the grid so that it is more flexible geographically, by increasing energy storage capacity to increase flexibility in terms of time, and by employing demand response approaches. Germany does all of the above and there are large business opportunities in these areas.”
There are more than 1.4 million PV systems in Germany, according to figures from Germany Trade and Invest. The transformation of the German energy market, now known as the Energiewende, began with the first EEG legislation and has seen PV prices drop from over EUR 0.50/kWh in 2006 to around EUR 0.15/kWh in 2014. PV systems have nearly no operational costs meaning that once the initial capital investment has been paid back they produce power extremely cheaply. German legislators and regulators are currently revising their approaches toward the energy market as new business models evolve.
“Some utilities have entered the renewables business themselves, especially in capital-intensive offshore wind, which benefits from near constant and stronger wind than onshore systems thus providing a more stable supply,” Hildebrandt noted.
In his book Sun Above the Horizon, Meteoric Rise of the Solar Industry (pp. 452-57), Peter Varadi suggests that the corporate culture of Germany’s four big utilities is much more amenable to wind than solar energy.
They have only recently come to terms with solar energy’s existence, and Varadi suggests this is because the utilities are both centralized and largely reliant on fossil fuel plants. As of 2011, they had not contributed a penny of the $80 billion invested in Germany’s solar sector. Now they have all launched solar arms that encourage customers to install solar plus battery.
Hildebrandt said, “a lot of industry players expect a boom in solar storage system sales as modern and cheaper battery technology becomes available. Additionally, virtual power plant business models are already generating and storing electricity in Germany. Under this model, owners of small-scale storage systems allow a certain percentage of their storage capacity to be controlled remotely and bundled with capacity from other systems. This combined capacity can then be auctioned on the primary control market and is used to provide balancing energy as required.”
“Promising grid-scale solutions are being experimented with by leading German SMEs. Younicos, for example, is focusing on lithium-ion, sodium-sulfur and vanadium-redox-flow storage systems. Biogas and wind-to-gas applications, for example RH2-WKA in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, also show great potential. Compressed air is another area being investigated.”
Varadi suggests the utilities may have mixed motives for promoting battery storage for rooftop solar. One of RWE HomePower solar’s ads (Varadi, p 475) points out that most home owners are not getting the full benefit of this technology. It is produced during the day, when most of the family is at work or school, and most of this electricity is fed directly into the grid!
“What you should have is a solar electricity storage that makes it possible to utilize the solar electricity exactly when you need it. This Independence offer you as of now the RWE HomePower Solar.”
Is this an attempt to move Germany’s solar users off the grid, where they will be less disruptive?
Those coal and gas fired power plants would not have taken such a hit during the first half of 2014 if homeowners had stored their surplus energy rather than feeding it to the grid.
Varadi suggests there will soon be 3 million German solar owners, but notes (p 457) that none of the big four utilities have expressed plans to among them.

This article is reposted from Clean Technica Author credit goes to Roy Hales Images credit goes to Tim Fuller,  

3 Charts That Explain Why Obama Is Talking About Chilean Solar

During a visit from Chilean head of state Michelle Bachelet, President Obama pointed to an unlikely example of the strong ties binding the two countries together: solar power.
The president noted the shared interest the two countries have in transitioning to a clean energy economy, and Bachelet called the U.S. Chile’s “most important foreign investor.” The $230 million loan recently approved by Overseas Private Investment Corporation for First Solar’s 141-megawatt solar project in Chile certainly affirms both statements.
There is much more to this investment than the politics. Financing through OPIC is a savvy business move which has ensured that American companies will develop a leading presence in one of Latin America’s most exciting and lucrative markets.

The Chilean market opportunity

The Chilean solar market will grow to 287 megawatts this year, from a base of 11 megawatts in 2013. This is the most solar ever installed in any Latin American country, tripling the amount installed in Peru, the former regional leader. So why is Chile suddenly taking off?
Chile has a number of characteristics that are driving this rapid growth, including a need for new supply, high marginal power prices, strong insolation levels, a transparent power market, clear regulations, and a mandatory target for renewable generation. These factors are converging to create a highly attractive market. However, it has taken time for projects to materialize, as developers negotiate offtake agreements in a highly competitive atmosphere, educate market participants about solar technology, navigate the permitting process, structure projects to meet the lender’s risk profiles, and then complete construction (read more on what early developers have learnedhere). This is the new normal in sustainable markets, which will differ from the growth pattern seen in policy-driven markets.

The U.S. tops both of GTM's downstream Chile rankings

In GTM Research’s Latin America PV Playbook, we currently rank two different downstream metrics. First, we look at which developers and EPC companies have the largest market share. Second, we break down which countries are investing the most in the market. The U.S. is currently dominating both categories.
In terms of company’s developing projects, SunEdison is currently the unquestioned market leader, with 150 megawatts in operation. Second place is currently held by Solarpack, a Spanish developer with 25 megawatts installed; however, by the end of the year, Solarpack will cede the No. 2 spot to SunPower, another U.S. company, which will soon be completing its 70-megawatt Salvador project. The recent OPIC decision to provide $230 million in financing for First Solar’s 141-megawatt Luz del Norte project ensures that, by this time next year, three of the top six developers in the country will be U.S. companies. 

In the second category, the most active investor in Chile for debt financing guessed it: the United States. OPIC has poured $629 million into five projects, totaling 431 megawatts. That is four times as much as the next largest investor, the International Finance Corporation with $130 million -- and larger than the next six investors combined, which boast $507 million in investment between them.**

These two factors are, of course, interrelated. U.S. companies are dominating the downstream market in no small part because of their access to capital. But one huge benefit of the U.S. strategy in Chile is that it isn’t just cashing in on a market opportunity -- instead, it is actually helping to create the market. Having companies and financiers which are willing to be first movers in sustainable markets is a big part of unlocking market growth and creating a bigger pie for everyone. Once a few developers gain experience in the market, players across the entire energy ecosystem -- offtakers, grid operators, policymakers, commercial lenders -- can become more comfortable with the solar value proposition. The risk of lending to the first solar project, signing the first PPA, or rubber-stamping the first environmental approval is much higher than in subsequent deals.
The influx of U.S. capital and experienced developers who can build trust have sparked what will be one of the largest regional markets over the next five years. Stay tuned for more detailed coverage from GTM Research on this topic.

This article is reposted from Greentech Solar Author credit goes to Latin America PV Playbook Images credit goes to Adam James