In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.

In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.

New York Tiems Brad Plumer 13 May 2020 – The coronavirus has pushed the coal industry to once-unthinkable lows, and the consequences for climate change are big. WASHINGTON — The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change. It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. And it comes despite the Trump administration’s three-year push to try to revive the ailing industry by weakening pollution rules on coal-burning power plants. Those efforts, however, failed to halt the powerful economic forces that have led electric utilities to retire hundreds of aging coal plants since 2010 and run their remaining plants less frequently. The cost of building large wind farms has declined more than 40 percent in that time, while solar costs have dropped more than 80 percent. And the price of natural gas, a cleaner-burning alternative to coal, has fallen to historic lows as a result of the fracking boom. Now the coronavirus outbreak is pushing coal producers into their deepest crisis yet. As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response. “The outbreak has put all the pressures facing the coal industry on steroids,” said Jim Thompson, a coal analyst at IHS Markit. In just the first four and a half months of this year, America’s fleet of wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams have produced more electricity than coal on 90 separate days — shattering last year’s record of 38 days for the entire year. On May 1 in Texas, wind power alone supplied nearly three times as much electricity as coal did. The latest report from the Energy Information Administration estimates that America’s total coal consumption will fall by nearly one-quarter this year, and coal plants are expected to provide just 19 percent of the nation’s electricity, dropping for the first time below both nuclear power and renewable power, a category that includes wind, solar, hydroelectric dams, geothermal and biomass. Natural gas plants, which supply 38 percent of the nation’s power, are expected to hold their output steady thanks to low fuel prices. The decline of coal has major consequences for climate change. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and its decline has already helped drive down United States carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent since...

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Decarbonisation is our future. It must be factored into the coronavirus recovery

Decarbonisation is our future. It must be factored into the coronavirus recovery

The Guardian Pradeep Philip and Will Rayward-Smith 18 May 2020 – We are experiencing a human tragedy. The Covid-19 crisis is leading to human loss and suffering, hardship and job destruction. It has necessitated immediate and significant public health and economic global responses, affecting all of us, both now and for the foreseeable future. But with the economic recovery comes great opportunity to embrace a low carbon future and refocus on the green economy rather than stick to 20th century business models and infrastructure. A modernised economy with a more sustainable production system is in our sights. Governments need fiscal policies that achieve both short-term recovery and set a longer-term beneficial direction for the economy. As attention shifts to reflating economies it is time to ensure clean energy, transport and smart infrastructure lie at the heart of any longer-term stimuli. A key feature of our current crisis is that all sectors have been disrupted and some devastated. But now, in the very midst of lockdown, we must turn our attention from response to recovery. An unprecedented scale of government recovery measures are already upon us. With the scale of these interventions, Covid-19 is fast bringing our economy to an inflection point – one that will define the structure of our economy for decades and rebuilds the lucky country. With the global shift towards low-carbon by investors, corporates and citizens, decarbonisation is perhaps the most significant longer-term issue to be factored into the recovery. Failure of governments to do so may disadvantage economies with existing infrastructure and production capital becoming quickly outdated and requiring additional future upgrades. It may also lead to bailing out, or letting fail, businesses whose value rapidly diminishes due to being unviable in the low-carbon future – a future that is not so far away as countries and companies work towards ambitious 2030 emissions targets. Poor investments today would soon be exposed. In the very midst of lockdown, we must turn our attention from response to recovery Recovery and building resilience go hand in hand. Resilience to climate change will continue to be an objective in a post-Covid future. Building for climate risks is building economic resilience, and recovery plans, so targeted, mean taxpayer dollars will have been invested wisely. With a recovery design that considers decarbonisation, there are a multitude of job-rich, shovel-ready, stimulus opportunities that also unlock long-term value. Many of these projects are “negative cost”, in that their long-term financial benefits outweigh their upfront investment. Lighting upgrade programs across all government buildings would create metro and regional employment with positive domestic stimulatory impact, while also delivering long-term savings for taxpayers through reduced electricity bills. Similarly, a program to upgrade inefficient water heating systems...

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We now have the proof: greening the economy doesn’t come at the price of prosperity

We now have the proof: greening the economy doesn’t come at the price of prosperity

The Guardian Fiona Harvey 22 May 2020 – We now have the proof: greening the economy doesn’t come at the price of prosperity. Everest is once again visible from Kathmandu, after decades shrouded in pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to levels last seen in 2006. Nature has returned to our streets with a quack and a flurry, and people are waking to birdsong in inner cities as the roar of traffic recedes. Clear skies bring little cheer at the food bank, however. Birdsong might lift the heart, but it won’t pay the rent. The environmental renaissance that has come with lockdown shows both the necessity of cleaning up our filthy air and atmosphere, and the dangers of associating economic ruin with environmental gain. Daily greenhouse gas emissions fell by a quarter in many countries when the lockdown bit hardest, according to the first comprehensive study this week, and by early April were 17% down on last year. At the same time, the global economy plunged 6% and half the global workforce now face the loss of their livelihoods, says the International Labour Organisation. Getting people back to work will mean rapidly rising carbon emissions, as it did after the financial crisis of 2008, unless strong action is taken by governments. Already, emissions are climbing: they will be only 4% down on the year if lockdowns are lifted next month. For environmentalists, it may seem tedious to have to explain yet again why it makes economic sense to save the planet – there wouldn’t be an economy without the environment, so if we trash it “growth” will cease to have much meaning. But we teeter on the threshold of what could be the greatest depression for centuries. People who are losing their jobs and homes, with only politicians’ promises to put in their bank account, have every right to ask whether now is the time to prioritise the climate – or couldn’t it wait a year or two while we sort out this catastrophe first? That question has a clear answer: a green recovery can produce higher returns on public spending and create more jobs in both the short term and the long term, compared to the alternative of pouring stimulus cash into the fossil fuel economy. Those findings come from a study of the potential for a green recovery, based on a survey of finance ministries and central bankers, and a comparison with the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, conducted by the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern, and leading economists from Oxford University. After the financial crisis in 2008, calls for a green recovery were partially successful. About 16% of the global stimulus spending was green, including subsidies for renewable energy, seed...

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Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

New York Times Ivan Penn 27 April 2020 The renewable-energy business is expected to keep growing, though more slowly, in contrast to fossil fuel companies, which have been hammered by low oil and gas prices. A few years ago, the kind of double-digit drop in oil and gas prices the world is experiencing now because of the coronavirus pandemic might have increased the use of fossil fuels and hurt renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. That is not happening. In fact, renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week. And while work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection. In many parts of the world, including California and Texas, wind turbines and solar panels now produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas and coal. That has made them attractive to electric utilities and investors alike. It also helps that while oil prices have been more than halved since the pandemic forced most state governments to order people to stay home, natural gas and coal prices have not dropped nearly as much. Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. That’s because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels. “Renewables are on a growth trajectory today that I think isn’t going to be set back long term,” said Dan Reicher, the founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University and an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration. “This will be a bump in the road.” Of course, the economic slowdown caused by the fight against the coronavirus is taking a toll on parts of the renewable energy industry just as it is on the rest of the economy. Businesses that until recently were adding workers are laying people off and putting off investments. Among the hardest hit are smaller companies that sell solar panels for rooftops. Their orders have dropped steeply as customers put off installations to avoid possible contact with the virus.   A sharp drop in the price of solar panels has helped the industry expand.Credit…Deanne Fitzmaurice for The New York Times Luminalt, a solar...

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Britain’s largest solar farm poised to begin development in Kent

Britain’s largest solar farm poised to begin development in Kent

The Guardian Jillian Ambrose 24 May 2020 – Britain’s largest solar farm, capable of generating enough clean electricity to power 91,000 homes, is poised to receive the greenlight from ministers this week. The subsidy-free renewables park is expected to reach a capacity of 350MW by installing 880,000 solar panels – some as tall as buses – across 364 hectares (900 acres) of farmland in the Kent countryside. The project is expected to be constructed one mile north-east of Faversham close to the village of Graveney and may also include one of the largest energy storage installations in the world. The developers expect to receive a development consent order for the £450m project from the business secretary, Alok Sharma, on Thursday almost three years after talks began with local stakeholders over plans for the park. Once it has the final g0-ahead from the government the developers hope to begin building the Cleve Hill solar farm from early next year, and begin generating clean electricity by 2023. Renewable energy is considered a crucial element in the UK’s plans to end its contribution to the climate crisis by building a carbon neutral economy by 2050, and it could also help spur economic growth in the wake of the coronavirus. The UK’s growing fleet of solar panels has produced record levels of clean electricity in recent weeks, reaching fresh highs of 9.68GW last month and helping the UK energy system to its longest stretch without coal-fired power since the Industrial Revolution. The renewables industry believes the UK’s solar power capacity could rise to 27GW by 2030 after the UK government dropped a block which prevented solar farms and onshore wind projects from competing in subsidy contract auctions. A boom in battery projects could mean the electricity generated by solar panels during the day could help to keep lights on at night too, helping to cut carbon emissions and domestic energy bills. The development partners behind the scheme, Wirsol Energy and Hive Energy, believe the project could help cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 68,000 tonnes a year while generating £1m of revenue for the Kent and Swale councils every year. But local activists have voiced concerns that the scale of the solar park, which is the equivalent of 600 football fields, could do more harm than good for the local area. Helen Whately, the Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said the scale of the development would have a “devastating” impact by “industrialising” the countryside. “We’re not talking about a few fields – this would destroy an entire landscape. I want to see us reach net-zero by 2050, but this should not come at any cost,” she told the Sunday Telegraph earlier this month. The Campaign to Protect Rural England in Kent has also warned...

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The California Solar and Storage Association has released a plan of action

The California Solar and Storage Association has released a plan of action

pv magazine Eric Wesoff and Tim Sylvia 20 May 2020 – The California Solar and Storage Association has released a plan of action that the group believes will ring the benefits of solar and storage to more consumers and support thousands of locals jobs when they’re needed the most. The eight point economic stimulus plan of action is a mixture of local and national policy that looks to help alleviate the 15,600 solar and storage jobs lost in California during the first six weeks of the pandemic. Details on CALSSA’s eight-point plan of action can be found here. Source: California Solar and Storage...

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Two big solar projects coming to capped landfill in Yates County, NY

Two big solar projects coming to capped landfill in Yates County, NY

pv magazine Eric Wesoff and Tim Sylvia May 21, 2020 –  Two big solar projects are coming to capped landfill sites in Yates County, New York. BQ Energy Development and the county signed a 35-year land lease allowing for up to 37 MW of PV arrays installed on above-ground ballast block foundations on the two capped landfill properties. Once projects are completed, Yates County would receive almost $200,000 in annual rent as well as reduced price electric power...

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Leaked Covid-19 commission report calls for Australian taxpayers to underwrite gas industry expansion

Leaked Covid-19 commission report calls for Australian taxpayers to underwrite gas industry expansion

The Guardian Adam Morton 21 May 2020 – Exclusive: The report does not consider alternatives to gas, or mention climate change and the financial risk of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut. Australian taxpayers should underwrite a massive expansion of the domestic gas industry – including helping open new fields and build hundreds of kilometres of pipelines – according to a group advising on Covid-19 recovery. A leaked draft report by a manufacturing taskforce advising the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) recommends the Morrison government make sweeping changes to “create the market” for gas and build fossil fuel infrastructure that would operate for decades. Its vision includes Canberra underwriting an increased national gas supply, government agencies partnering with companies to accelerate development of new fields such as the Northern Territory’s vast Beetaloo Basin, and states introducing subsidy schemes for gas-fired power plants. It says the federal government should help develop gas pipelines between eastern states and the north, and potentially a $6bn trans-Australian pipeline between the east and west, by either taking an equity position, minority share or underwriting investments. The taskforce, headed by the Dow Chemical executive and Saudi Aramco board member Andrew Liveris, positions lower-cost gas as the answer to building a transformed manufacturing sector that it says could support at least 85,000 direct jobs, and hundreds of thousands more indirectly. But it does not consider alternatives to gas, or what happens if greenhouse gas emissions are cut as promised under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Gas is usually described as having half the emissions of coal when burned, though recent studies have suggested it could be more. The Liveris report does not mention climate change, Australia’s emissions reduction targets or the financial risk, flagged by institutions in Australia and overseas, of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut. While several assessments have found renewable energy backed by storage is now the cheapest option for new electricity generation, the report says gas is “key to driving down electricity cost and improving investment in globally competitive advanced industry”. Its focus is consistent with the NCCC chairman, Nev Power, a former Fortescue Metals chief and current board member at gas company Strike Energy, who has said in interviews that cheap gas would be critical to Australia’s future. Gas has been strongly backed by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, who has argued for a gas-fired recovery from the pandemic. Emma Herd, the chief executive of the Investor Group on Climate Change, representing investors managing $2tn in assets, said the taskforce’s proposals could expose Australia to future economic shocks and billions of dollars in public and private sector investment being wasted as global markets moved to cut emissions. “With the commission now making recommendations for decades-long...

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Hornsdale and its big Tesla battery exceed expectations as storage revenue surges

Hornsdale and its big Tesla battery exceed expectations as storage revenue surges

pv magazine Marija Maisch 20 May 2020 – The surge in storage revenue due to specific grid conditions in Australia was one of the main factors behind a 61% year-on-year increase in revenues that Neoen saw in the first quarter of the year. French renewables developer Neoen has reported the first-quarter 2020 revenue of €95.8 million ($104.6 million), an increase of 61% compared to the same period last year. While the key factor behind the surge was the early generation revenue from its assets commissioned in 2019, another major factor was an unprecedented increase in storage revenues earned in Australia. In the March quarter, Neoen’s total storage revenue came to €21.6 million ($ 23.6 million) – almost all of it from the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia (SA) – up from €4.2 million ($ 4.6 million) in the first quarter of 2019. The key reason behind this very hefty increase was “an exceptional non-recurring event in Australia,” the company said. Storage for reliability  After a tornado in late January pulled down the Heywood interconnector between SA and Victoria, SA was islanded from the rest of the Australian grid for 18 days. Upon the request of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Neoen’s Hornsdale big battery and two other smaller batteries in the state – Dalrymple ESCRI and Lake Bonney – assumed critical roles during this period in maintaining the grid’s reliability while keeping electricity costs down for consumers. While such unusual network conditions are not expected to repeat any time soon, the Hornsdale Power Reserve, also known as the Tesla Big Battery, earned more in only one quarter than in all of 2019 or 2018. Last year, the developer recorded a nearly 14% increase in annual revenue to €20.5 million ($22.4 million) up from €18 million ($19.7 million) generated in 2018. The 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery, located in Jamestown in SA and adjacent to the 315 MW Hornsdale Wind Farm, has already demonstrated its immense value for the grid in a number of ways, largely through grid stabilization services and savings. But the project, which is being expanded by 50%, through the addition of 50MW/64.5 MWh of Tesla batteries, is set to become an even more valuable asset to the National Electricity Market (NEM) through the addition of digital inertia services. Solar revenues Neoen’s solar projects also had a big say in the surge of overall first-quarter revenues. Specifically, PV projects commissioned during 2019 in Australia, Zambia, Jamaica, and France saw Neoen’s solar revenues grow 46% compared to the first quarter of 2019. In Australia, the French developer already has six solar farms under its belt and enjoys the status of Australia’s leading independent producer of renewable energy.  In 2018, the developer commissioned five utility-scale PV farms, all in New South...

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The North Carolina solar industry has weathered Covid well, Vistra announces battery expansion

The North Carolina solar industry has weathered Covid well, Vistra announces battery expansion

pv magazine Tim Sylvia 20 May 2020 – N.C. solar industry weathering the pandemic better than most states: The solar industry is weathering the pandemic better in North Carolina than in most states, data released today by SEIA show. The Tar Heel State will see 19% fewer solar workers than expected in June, according to the nonprofit trade group — hardly rosy projections but better than national predicted losses of 38%. A handful of states like New Jersey and New York will see cuts of more than 60%. The sector’s resilience here, home to the nation’s second-most solar power, is owed in part to the dominance of large-scale projects. Source: Energy News...

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Renewable energy investors increasingly look to UK, says report

Renewable energy investors increasingly look to UK, says report

The Guardian Jillian Ambrose 19 May 2020 – The UK has become more attractive to renewable energy investors following the government’s decision to lift its block on financial support for onshore wind and solar projects. Britain has climbed the rankings of a biannual global survey of investors to take the sixth spot in EY’s “attractiveness index” for renewable energy ahead of a major clean energy auction next year. The auditing giant said the government’s decision to include onshore wind and solar energy projects in the auction had helped the UK climb one rung on the rankings list, to just below Germany, Australia, France, China and the US. The US topped the rankings for the first time since 2016 – in spite of the federal government’s ongoing support for fossil fuels – in large part due to plans to invest $57bn (£47bn) to install up to 30GW of offshore wind by 2030. China has fallen from the top of the rankings to second place as Beijing looks to wean the market off subsidies, and the coronavirus pandemic cut its growing appetite for energy. “Certainly, renewable energy is not immune to the economic disruption being wrought,” said Ben Warren, the author of EY’s report. “But many of these effects are likely to be short-term. Already, manufacturers in China and Europe are restarting production. Utilities have worked hard to keep generation going in difficult circumstances. And power demand will rebound as economies get back to work.” He said investors remain confident in “the long-term picture for clean energy”. “The need, after the pandemic, to ensure greater economic and social resilience will work in favour of distributed power sources, such as wind and solar, and the applications offered by battery storage,” he said. The UK’s decision to remove a block against onshore wind projects earlier this year followed a government pledge to cut emissions to virtually zero by 2050 – a feat that its official climate advisers believe will require a tripling of the UK’s onshore wind-power capacity in the next 15 years. Renewable energy developers are working towards the 2021 auction, despite the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, to help spur a green economic recovery once lockdown measures are lifted. Luke Clark, of RenewableUK, said EY’s report is right to highlight the economic opportunity offered by renewables after the pandemic. “Our sector’s plans to invest tens of billions of pounds in vital new energy infrastructure all over the country have not changed, and the government is supporting our work as it remains committed to reaching its legally-binding target of net zero emissions,” he said. “The UK’s low-carbon economy will stimulate new growth, boost productivity and support tens of thousands of jobs as we work on projects at home and secure new export opportunities around...

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Huge 2GW of wind, solar and storage to deliver green future for Queensland industrial hub

Huge 2GW of wind, solar and storage to deliver green future for Queensland industrial hub

Renew Economy Sophie Vorrath and Giles Parkinson 18 May 2020 – Plans to build more than 2GW of wind generation capacity in and around the Queensland coal power hub of Gladstone have been unveiled, with Sydney-based Energy Estate joining forces with global outfit RES on the major project. The two companies said on Monday that they were collaborating on the so-called Central Queensland Power Project (CQP), which plans to deliver over 2GW of wind, solar and storage, as well as new transmission infrastructure. “The shared CQP vision is to accelerate the decarbonisation of heavy industry and the community in Central Queensland,” a joint statement said. “This is consistent with a ‘Just Transition’, helping to support Gladstone’s communities and the industrial eco-system through the supply of low carbon energy. “There will also be potential for local companies to benefit from longer-term fixed energy prices through power purchase agreements (PPAs).” The project is separate to the existing and neighbouring Rodd’s Bay project – a 300MW solar project with around 82MW/I64MWh of battery storage – that is set to begin construction in the second half of this year by Energy Estate affiliate Renew Estate, just south of Gladstone, pending commercial outcomes. The CQP also builds on the successes that RES has already notched up in Queensland, including its 72MW Emerald solar farm and 180MW Dulacca wind farm. The companies said the concept driving the CQP project was to accelerate the development of an integrated portfolio of strategically located wind, solar and energy storage projects in the Fitzroy Renewable Energy Zone over the coming decade. This included creating “a robust and resilient supply chain” for the renewable energy sector in Queensland using the natural advantages of the region and port at Gladstone – the latter best known as a busy coal and gas shipping port. “This is a transition story,” Energy Estate’s Simon Currie told RenewEconomy on Monday. “It’s about … accelerating the energy transition of heavy industry around this critical region. “We are developing renewable energy projects which will deliver a mix of wind, solar and storage… allowing for blended generation to create a firmed renewable electricity supply … and stimulate the development of new industries such as green hydrogen,” Currie added in a written statement. Simon Corbell, the former ACT energy minister and renewable energy advocate for Victoria, who is chief advisor at Energy Estate, says it’s not just about transitioning Australia to a renewable energy market, but also about making it a “just transition” for Australia’s “carbon workers.” Corbell told RenewEconomy that the consortium was in discussions with government, investors and potential customers. It would likely be built in stages “We want to show that renewables can power continued growth and development...

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Solar-wind-battery microgrid completed and powering remote W.A. gold mine

Solar-wind-battery microgrid completed and powering remote W.A. gold mine

Renew Ecomony Sophie Vorrath 18 May 2020 – A groundbreaking 56MW solar, wind and battery project built to power a gold mine in remote Western Australia has been completed, marking the largest hybrid microgrid of its kind in Australia and the first in the country to use wind-generated electricity to power a mine. Global energy producer EDL said on Monday that it had successfully completed the project for Gold Fields’ Agnew Gold Mine, with all five wind turbines “up and running and successfully integrated” into the microgrid in W.A.’s northern goldfields region. As well as the 18MW of wind power, the ARENA-backed microgrid has a 4MW solar farm, a 13MW/4MWh battery storage system and an off-grid 21MW gas/diesel engine power plant, all controlled by an advanced microgrid system. EDL said that, in favourable weather conditions, the project had proven capable of delivering up to 70% of Agnew’s power requirements with renewable energy. On average, however, the microgrid is expected to supply around 50 per cent of the gold mine’s electricity from renewables, through a 10-year power purchase agreement with EDL, who will act as owner-operator of the off-grid system. “We applaud Gold Fields for their vision in embarking on this journey with us, and their role in leading the Australian mining industry’s transition to clean, reliable renewable energy,” said EDL CEO James Harman in a statement. “We also acknowledge the incredible achievement of the EDL project delivery team and our contractors,” he added. “We faced transport challenges during the bushfires and impacts on personnel from Covid-19 restrictions as well as geographical, logistics and technical challenges to safely construct this innovative energy facility in the remote WA Goldfields region.” Among these challenges was transporting the huge wind turbine parts in a 630km road trip from Port Hedland to the mine site – believed to be the longest such truck-trip for components of that size in the world, as One Step Off The Grid reported in December of last year. Gold Fields executive vice president of Australasia, Stuart Mathews, said the completion of the project was an important milestone for Gold Fields – and the broader mining industry. “We are proud to be able to showcase this project with EDL as an outstanding example of the capacity of the hybrid renewable energy model to meet the dynamic power requirements of remote mining operations,” he said. “For our people and our stakeholders, this is a very clear demonstration of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint whilst strengthening our security of supply. “Having built our internal technical capability and developed strong relationships with our business partners, we are well placed to continue to implement renewables solutions elsewhere in our business,” Mathews said. An...

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Greens pitch Green New Deal, 100% renewables target for post-Covid recovery

Greens pitch Green New Deal, 100% renewables target for post-Covid recovery

Renew Economy Michael Matzengarb 18 May 2020 – An accelerated transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and a $60 billion investment in green manufacturing are core to a vision pitched by the Australian Greens for a post Covid-19 economic recovery. The Australian Greens have launched their ‘Invest to Recover‘ plan, which forms part of the party’s larger Green New Deal proposal, and would work to create an estimated 870,000 new jobs in the private and public sectors. The clean energy industry has called on governments to direct economic stimulus to the sector, to support the continued growth of zero emissions energy generation, which can work to tackle both Covid-19 related economic challenges as well as working to tackle the longer-term challenge of climate change. Instead, the Morrison government has offered lifelines to the gas and oil sectors, reducing regulation and accelerating development approvals for the fossil fuel industries, with federal energy minister Angus Taylor calling for a ‘gas-led’ recovery of the Australian economy, Presenting an alternative vision, the Australian Greens’ recovery plan includes initiatives designed to support the Australian economy to emerge from the Covid-19 economic impacts, with substantial proposed investments in Australia’s clean energy sector. The plan would see $59 billion invested in Australia’s renewable energy sector, to take Australia’s electricity supplies to 100 per cent renewable. “Our ‘Invest to Recover’ plan will jump-start the economy with green investment, grow new industries and create hundreds of thousands of high paid jobs, but until the private sector picks up again, government will also act as a ‘safety-net’ employer by guaranteeing young people decent jobs on nation-building projects that tackle the climate and inequality crises and make Australia a more creative and caring place,” Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said. “If you don’t like the coronavirus, you’re going to hate the climate crisis. The climate crisis still looms and will result in decades of corona-style restrictions and deprivation unless we act right now.” “Our recovery plan doesn’t simply get us ‘back to normal’, it builds a better normal. The Green New Deal puts people at the centre of the recovery effort, stops people falling through the cracks and reshapes an economy that works for people.” The Greens predict the cost of the Invest to Recover would be between $250-$300 billion spread over the next ten years. Greens leader Adam Bandt pointed to the fact the Morrison government has committed to spend over $200 billion over the next six months as showing that the recovery plan was a viable way to use debt strategically to support the Australian economy. “Coronavirus is smashing into an economy already hit hard by inequality and the climate emergency, presenting us with the biggest economic crisis our...

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Decarbonisation is our future. It must be factored into the coronavirus recovery

Decarbonisation is our future. It must be factored into the coronavirus recovery

The Guardian Pradeep Philip and Will Rayward-Smith 18 May 2020 – As countries and companies work towards ambitious 2030 emissions targets, poor investments today will soon be exposed. We are experiencing a human tragedy. The Covid-19 crisis is leading to human loss and suffering, hardship and job destruction. It has necessitated immediate and significant public health and economic global responses, affecting all of us, both now and for the foreseeable future. But with the economic recovery comes great opportunity to embrace a low carbon future and refocus on the green economy rather than stick to 20th century business models and infrastructure. A modernised economy with a more sustainable production system is in our sights. Governments need fiscal policies that achieve both short-term recovery and set a longer-term beneficial direction for the economy. As attention shifts to reflating economies it is time to ensure clean energy, transport and smart infrastructure lie at the heart of any longer-term stimuli. A key feature of our current crisis is that all sectors have been disrupted and some devastated. But now, in the very midst of lockdown, we must turn our attention from response to recovery. An unprecedented scale of government recovery measures are already upon us. With the scale of these interventions, Covid-19 is fast bringing our economy to an inflection point – one that will define the structure of our economy for decades and rebuilds the lucky country. With the global shift towards low-carbon by investors, corporates and citizens, decarbonisation is perhaps the most significant longer-term issue to be factored into the recovery. Failure of governments to do so may disadvantage economies with existing infrastructure and production capital becoming quickly outdated and requiring additional future upgrades. It may also lead to bailing out, or letting fail, businesses whose value rapidly diminishes due to being unviable in the low-carbon future – a future that is not so far away as countries and companies work towards ambitious 2030 emissions targets. Poor investments today would soon be exposed.  In the very midst of lockdown, we must turn our attention from response to recovery Recovery and building resilience go hand in hand. Resilience to climate change will continue to be an objective in a post-Covid future. Building for climate risks is building economic resilience, and recovery plans, so targeted, mean taxpayer dollars will have been invested wisely. With a recovery design that considers decarbonisation, there are a multitude of job-rich, shovel-ready, stimulus opportunities that also unlock long-term value. Many of these projects are “negative cost”, in that their long-term financial benefits outweigh their upfront investment. Lighting upgrade programs across all government buildings would create metro and regional employment with positive domestic stimulatory impact, while also delivering...

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Australia’s Reserve Bank fuels call for post-pandemic renewables push

Australia’s Reserve Bank fuels call for post-pandemic renewables push

The Guardian 15 May 2020 – Exclusive: Government urged to make clean energy part of Covid-19 recovery, as RBA finds 50% slump in projects last year. Research by the Reserve Bank showing renewable energy investment fell sharply last year is fuelling calls for federal and state governments to back changes to help the industry rebound and drive a post-pandemic recovery. Renewable energy surged to make up nearly 5% of non-mining business investment across Australia in 2018, according to the research note by RBA economists, but the number of large-scale clean projects reaching the point of commencement slumped about 50% last year. Investment is expected to fall further over the next year or two, in part due to the national renewable energy target being filled and not replaced and challenges in integrating solar and wind farms in remote parts of the national grid. The Morrison government has defended criticism of its response to the climate crisis in part by saying record levels of wind and solar power were added to the grid last year as investment in 2018 flowed through. It is yet to acknowledge the subsequent fall. The note says the renewable energy industry had supported activity and employment, particularly in regional areas. While most components used in solar and wind farms are imported, the RBA found 25-40% of spending went to local suppliers in some cases, and manufacturing companies had reported stronger demand for locally produced electricity generation equipment. The former Liberal leader John Hewson, now at the Australian National University’s Crawford school of public policy and a director of an energy storage business, said the RBA had “gone out of its way to make a point” about the importance of renewable power to the economy. “There’s no doubt this is more than a nudge and wink. It is saying this is where we should be going,” he said. “With Covid, it’s even more important. It is an opportunity to take a long-term strategic view in the national interest and looking ahead to where the country should be going given its [solar and wind] assets.” The RBA note was published online on 19 March, before the impact of the Covid-19 imposed economic shutdown. Since the pandemic there has been a growing push internationally and in Australia for policymakers to use stimulus programs designed to help the economic recovery to also address the climate crisis. Hewson said the renewable energy industry did not require subsidies, but needed improved regulations and a clear policy framework that made clear fossil fuels would be phased out and the country would move to low greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades. With renewable energy cheaper than its fossil fuel competitors, he said the grid could run...

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Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy

Billions in Clean Energy Loans Go Unused as Coronavirus Ravages Economy

New York Times Lisa Friedman 30 April 2020 – As Congress rushes out trillions of dollars to prop up businesses, the Energy Department is holding on to tens of billions in clean energy loans. WASHINGTON — As the government struggles to keep businesses afloat through the pandemic, the Trump administration is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects, and critics are accusing the Energy Department of partisan opposition to disbursing the funds. Congress is already considering more coronavirus relief, despite a growing concern for an annual budget deficit projected to near a staggering $4 trillion. To some energy experts and lawmakers, it is unconscionable that tens of billions of dollars that Congress long ago authorized has sat unused. “We’re searching high and low all over Washington, D.C., for money to put people back to work and here we have more than $40 billion,” said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University, who served at the Energy Department under President Bill Clinton. “This is the moment to really put these programs back in gear.” The loans — which would aid renewable power, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology — had some bipartisan support even before the coronavirus pushed 30 million people onto the unemployment rolls. But some supporters of the program said it was being held back by a president who has falsely claimed wind power causes cancer and consistently sought deep cuts to renewable energy spending, including the loan program. “They haven’t put out any or almost any of these loans since he’s become president,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “There’s an ideological or political aspect to this. The president is not someone who seeks to promote the clean energy sector.” Mr. Pallone said low-carbon technology efforts had created more than 3 million jobs before the pandemic, and said he planned to prioritize finding ways to address the unspent loans in the next stimulus. The last new project approved under the programs came in late 2016, a loan to a carbon capture and storage plant in Louisiana. The Trump administration did approve one follow-up loan for a nuclear reactor project in Georgia, but the process had begun under the Obama administration. Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, declined to explain why loans are not being disbursed. She said the Trump administration had supported renewable energy in other ways, like funding research and development for wind and solar power. She also said in a statement that Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had directed the agency to “utilize all of its resources to be supportive of the energy industry during...

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Coal power falls to lowest levels in 43 years in US, after biggest annual drop in 2019

Coal power falls to lowest levels in 43 years in US, after biggest annual drop in 2019

Renew Economy Giles Parkinson 13 May 2020 – “The miners are coming back,” Trump said of the coal mining industry at an election rally in Louisville, Kentucky, more than four years ago. But, despite all the slogans and plackards proclaiming “Trump digs coal”, the industry hasn’t come back. In fact, coal generation in the US fell to a 43 year year low in 2019 after the largest percentage fall on record. According to data released by the US Energy Information Administration on Monday, output from the US coal-fired generating fleet dropped to 966,000 gigawatthours (GWh) in 2019, the lowest level since 1976. The decline in last year’s coal generation levels was the largest percentage decline in history (16 per cent) and second-largest in absolute terms (240,000 GWh). The slump in output is also reflected in a devastating reduction in coal generation capacity in the US – falling by nearly a third from 318 gigawatts (GW) in 2011 to 229GW in late 2019. Even those coal plants that remain in service are hardly used, operating at an average capacity factor to just 48 per cent – little more than the best wind farms – making it hard for the operations to make money. And it comes as the UK reports a month without coal generation for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. In Germany in April, coal generation fell to an historic low and is less than half its output in 2010. In the US, the EIA puts the cause of coal’s spectacular decline, even with the presence of a cheer-leading president, on three different factors – lower demand, record levels of gas generation, and record levels of renewables, particularly wind. Gas-fired generation reached rose eight per cent in 2019 to nearly 1.6 million GWh while wind output jumped 10 per cent to a new record of 300,000 GWh. The EIA notes that the big switch to gas is driven by its lower prices. But it notes that the price of coal delivered to generators has also slumped by around 10 per cent in the last few years to an average $US2.00 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in late 2019. The fall in the delivered price of the coal supply, however, wasn’t enough to keep up with gas because coal generation is so inefficient. “For coal to be competitive, its delivered cost must be at least 30 per cent lower to make up for the differences in efficiency between a typical coal-fired plant and a typical natural gas-fired plant,” the EIA says. And that’s without having to deal with more equipment to deal with emissions, despite the attempts by the Trump administration to wind back so many of the pollution controls. A typical example...

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NYC replaces fossil plants with storage and renewables, solar boom stalls in Texas

NYC replaces fossil plants with storage and renewables, solar boom stalls in Texas

pv magazine Tim Sylvia AND Eric Wesoff MAY 13, 2020 –   Replace NYC peakers with renewables+storage? Plant owners say they’re working on it: New York City ratepayers shelled out $4.5 billion in capacity payments in the last decade to keep 16 fossil fuel-based peaking plants available, according to analysis by environmental justice group PEAK Coalition. The group… recommend the facilities be replaced by distributed energy resources and energy storage that would not emit greenhouse gasses. Plant owners say much of that work is already being done. Source: Utility Dive...

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Energy Insiders Podcast: How to integrate 75 per cent wind and solar into Australia’s main grid

Energy Insiders Podcast: How to integrate 75 per cent wind and solar into Australia’s main grid

Renew Economy Giles Parkinson and David Leitch 11 may 2020 – Alex Wonhas, the head of systems engineering at the Australian Energy Market Operator, joins the Energy Insiders podcast to discuss the new Renewables Integration Study and how AEMO proposes to integrate a world-leading penetration of up to 75 per cent wind and solar into Australia’s main grid. AEMO has made clear that market and regulatory changes are required, but the technology is not the issue. Dealing with rooftop solar is a clear issue, and the ability to send the right signals for dispatchable power to be available when needed. Plus: What we learned when four state and territory energy ministers got together on a Zoom conference call: Answer. They are way ahead of the federal government. You can find previous editions of the Energy Insiders Podcast here, or on your favourite podcast...

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Giant 690-MW Gemini solar project near Las Vegas on BLM land gets the go-ahead

Giant 690-MW Gemini solar project near Las Vegas on BLM land gets the go-ahead

pv magazine Eric Wesoff 11 May 2020 – Historic, archeological, and environmental issues have been mitigated. About 70 desert tortoises are being relocated during construction — and the project is full-speed ahead for developers Arevia Power and Solar Partners XI. Declaring it part of the Trump administration’s “all of the above approach to domestic energy production,” the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just announced the approval of a proposal to construct and operate the 690 MW Gemini solar project — what will be the largest solar project in the U.S. upon completion. The land proposed for the enormous development is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Among the concerns was the project’s visual impact on an historic railroad camp, as well as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. Those issues have been mitigated. New methods of working with native vegetation and wildlife are being implemented. Desert tortoises are being relocated during construction, later to be returned — and the project is full-speed ahead for developers Arevia Power and Solar Partners XI. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed the record of decision (ROD) for the developers to construct the $1 billion project that could generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes in the Las Vegas region and energy markets in Southern California. Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Interior Department said, in a conference call, “Domestic energy production on federal lands remains fundamental to our national security and the achievements of the Trump administration.” The on-site construction workforce is expected to average 500 to 700 construction workers, with a peak of up to 900 workers, supporting up to an additional 1,100 jobs in the local community and injecting an estimated $712.5 million into the economy during construction, according to a release. The Secretary signed the ROD after an extensive battery of public meetings, commentary and protests on the Draft EIS. The BLM also held government-to-government consultations with the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Fort Mojave Tribe, Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. Some early approvals The decision approved a right-of-way grant for the Gemini project and authorized solar facilities that include: 34.5 kilovolt overhead and underground collector lines A 2-acre operation and maintenance facility Three substations Internal access roads, access roads along generation tie-lines, a perimeter road Perimeter fencing Water storage tanks for fire protection, drainage control features, a potential on-site water well or a new water pipeline Improvements to the existing NV Energy facilities to support interconnection. The two-phase project is anticipated to be completed as early as 2022,...

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Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

New York Times Ivan Penn 27 April 2020 update – A few years ago, the kind of double-digit drop in oil and gas prices the world is experiencing now because of the coronavirus pandemic might have increased the use of fossil fuels and hurt renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. That is not happening. In fact, renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week. And while work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection. In many parts of the world, including California and Texas, wind turbines and solar panels now produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas and coal. That has made them attractive to electric utilities and investors alike. It also helps that while oil prices have been more than halved since the pandemic forced most state governments to order people to stay home, natural gas and coal prices have not dropped nearly as much. Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. That’s because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels. “Renewables are on a growth trajectory today that I think isn’t going to be set back long term,” said Dan Reicher, the founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University and an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration. “This will be a bump in the road.” Of course, the economic slowdown caused by the fight against the coronavirus is taking a toll on parts of the renewable energy industry just as it is on the rest of the economy. Businesses that until recently were adding workers are laying people off and putting off investments. Among the hardest hit are smaller companies that sell solar panels for rooftops. Their orders have dropped steeply as customers put off installations to avoid possible contact with the virus. A sharp drop in the price of solar panels has helped the industry expand.Credit…Deanne Fitzmaurice for The New York Times Luminalt, a solar and electricity storage company based in San Francisco that employs 42 people, recently told most of its installers to seek unemployment benefits as the company’s residential...

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1 MW battery system meets the challenge of supplying power to a remote Alaskan community

1 MW battery system meets the challenge of supplying power to a remote Alaskan community

pv magazine Tim Sylvia 7 May 2020 – Cordova, Alaska, a small fishing community in a remote part of Prince William Sound, has been able to find long periods of fossil fuel independence thanks to a new battery system developed by Saft. Isolated from the rest of the country on the west edge of Prince William Sound and accessible only by boat or plane lies Cordova, Alaska, a small town of 2,200. What the town lacks in size and accessibility, it makes up for in industry, as the town is the 11th-largest seafood producing area in the United States, a venture that brings in around $100 million a year for the community. It also may just be the most remote area in the United States to have periods of 100% renewable electricity. Being so remote, Cordova has no connection at all to the larger grid, meaning that if the power goes out, it’s out until the problem is fixed. For years, the community relied on Cordova Electric Cooperative’s mixture of diesel generation (totaling 2 MW) and 7.25 MW of hydroelectric generation across two projects. And, while the hydro provided a cheap and clean way to meet most of the community’s power needs, it was not a constant and switching to or supplementing with diesel could cost as much as 10 times more per kWh. That’s why Clay Koplin, CEO of the Cordova Electric Cooperative and mayor of the town, decided it was time to make a change. In 2016, the town began the steps towards what would become its 1 MW/1-MWh battery system. Cordova Electric Cooperative CEO Clay Koplin stands in front of the community’s 1 MW/1 MWh battery systemImage: Cordova Electric Cooperative Developed by Saft and using power electronics from ABB, the system provides frequency regulation, load following, emergency supply and diesel arbitrage. The system began operation in July 2019 and since then has been able to drastically cut down on the community’s reliance on diesel generation. In November, the community reached 94% hydropower generation, followed by 86% in December. A cold, dry winter followed, but the system was able to pick right back up where it left off in April, allowing the community to go 100% powered by hydro three weeks ahead of schedule. This is not to say that Cordova no longer has need for diesel, rather just a drastically reduced reliance. When fish processing is in season, demand can outpace hydro generation alone, meaning that the diesel generator has to be turned on to meet this demand. Additionally, the generator turns on when the battery falls below a 30% state of charge. And while part of the pride for the community of Cordova is cutting...

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Technology leaps driving cost of solar PV electricity in Australia to just A$30/MWh

Technology leaps driving cost of solar PV electricity in Australia to just A$30/MWh

Renew Economy Andrew Blakers And Matthew Stocks 7 May 2020 –   The cost of solar photovoltaics (PV) electricity in Australia in 2030 is on track to be about A$30 per megawatt-hour (MWh). This conclusion arises from current trends in PV module efficiency and cost. Importantly, $30/MWh is below the operational cost of most coal and gas fired power stations. Continued installs of rooftop and utility scale solar will likely lead to a wave of retirements of existing coal fired power stations during the 2020s. This price is also competitive with industrial gas heating. The price of PV modules continues to fall as cumulative shipments expand (Figure 1). Each doubling of cumulative production causes a 23% decrease in module prices. The doubling time is currently about 5 years but is likely to accelerate. Figure 1: Learning curve for silicon PV modules (ITRPV) The silicon PV industry has an industry roadmap [International Technology Roadmap for PV] that helps to guide industry development and component standardization. Like the roadmaps in many other industries, it is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy. The 11th edition was recently released. Sustained improvements in manufacturing technology are being implemented throughout the 2020s including the growth of larger silicon ingots, diamond wire sawing of ingots into wafers, thinner wafers (using less silicon), larger wafers, higher throughput of cell manufacturing equipment, less silver in the cell conductors, better surface passivation, fewer wafer defects, higher cell yields, lower cell degradation rates and better module materials. Sophisticated computer control of manufacturing is being widely implemented. Most PV module factories now have annual production capacity above 2 Gigawatts, and most will be above 5 Gigawatts by 2030. Even larger fabs may be built soon. A major change is the rapid transition from BSF cell technology to PERC cell technology which now has 70% of the global solar market (about 70 Gigawatts in 2019). Another large change is the rapid transition from multi crystalline silicon wafers to single crystalline silicon wafers (which have higher quality). Together, these changes allow an increase in typical silicon module efficiency from 17% in 2018 to 23% in 2030 (Figure 2). Many modules are bifacial, allowing the harvesting of a few percent more light that enters the module through the rear surface. Figure 2: module efficiency is increasing (ITRPV) Increased module efficiency shows up as a cost reduction across most of the value chain of a solar farm. Apart from the modules, the cost of a solar farm includes transport, land, mounting structures, module mounting and wiring, inverter, grid connection and project costs (approvals, finance, contingencies). Most of these costs depend on the area of module that needs to be deployed. When module efficiency increases, most of these costs decline in proportion. A 1%...

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Monash University research exposes national energy productivity shortfall

Monash University research exposes national energy productivity shortfall

pv magazine Blake Matich 7 May 2020 – New research out of Monash University has revealed that Australian states and territories are lagging behind in COAG Energy Council commitments to improve energy productivity by 2030. Modelling shows that national objectives will only be half met. New research shows the Federal Government’s National Energy Productivity Plan’s objectives will only be half met if long-term federal policy is not implemented. More renewables is at the top of a list of suggestions to policymakers. In new research done at Monash University and published in Energy Economics, it has been revealed that Australian states and territories are staring down the barrel of a significant shortfall in reaching the Federal Government’s National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP) Objectives by 2030.  This research is not only eye-opening, but potentially damning in its prediction that Australia will miss its energy target by at least half if a prudent long-term policy is not instituted.  The COAG Energy Council adopted the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP) back in December 2015, a package fo measures to improve Australia’s energy productivity by 40% by 2030.  However, according to the research led by Dr Mita Bhattacharya, a senior lecturer in economics at the Monash Business School, if states and territories continue as is, only a 20% increase in energy productivity would be achieved by 2030, a mere half of the target. What is holding Australia up?  What is holding Australia up? Bhattacharya says it is the nation’s continuing high dependence on fossil fuels, a dependency which hampers Australia’s ability to transition to a low emissions economy.  “If the NEPP is going to achieve its 40% target by 2030,” says Bhattacharya, “it will need to introduce policies aimed at doubling current levels of energy productivity.”  Bhattacharya, along with colleagues from Macquarie University and York University in Canada, modelled the forecasted energy productivity in 2030 with the actual energy productivity in 2015. The results, well, they’re not encouraging.  The modelling shows South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia will achieve 22% energy productivity improvement by 2030, Queensland follows with 20%, New South Wales with 17%, the Northern Territory with 16%, and Tasmania pulling up the rear with 14%. Although, it must be mentioned that Tasmania has much less to improve on that the other states and territories.  The impact of Covid-19 The researchers are also acutely aware that the economic impact of Covid-19 (as well as other impacts besides), means that states and territories are under even more pressure, thus heightening the urgency of the need of federal policy.  The disruption caused by Covid-19 might actually help the states and territories toward their targets in the short term, believes. Bhattacharya, because there is less energy demand in lockdown conditions....

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