VIC aims for RET, Australia commits to Paris climate accord

Renewable for Port Augusta, VIC

The State of Victoria announced the first big solar farms as well as auctions that will bring in 650 megawatts of new projects to kick off the legislative push on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (RET).

Despite of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in May this year, Australia re-confirmed its commitment to the accord by pursuing its RET. The country is optimistic to achieve its 2020 RET of 23.5 percent from renewable sources  — equivalent to 33,000 gigawatt hours– with the recent announcement of a big solar farm and investment projects pouring in Victoria.

States throughout the country have been announcing new investments in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro-electric. RET is a legislated target aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this week, Victorian Premiere Daniel Andrews announced the first big solar farms as well as auctions to bring 650 megawatts of new projects.  This development is a vital stepping stone towards 10,000 jobs.

In June 2016, the state government committed to Victorian RET of 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025–a plan that will deliver 5,400 megawatts of new wind and solar farms, create over 10,000 jobs, and attract as much as $9 billion worth of investment to the state.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomes the announcement and said it is a vital step for the state towards its commitment to deliver 5,400 megawatts of solar and wind by 2025–taking Victoria to a significant 40 percent renewables.

“We welcome the Andrews government’s announcement of renewable energy auctions which demonstrate a strong commitment to grow renewable energy and create jobs,”  said Pat Simons, FoE spokesperson.

The state government’s commitment to the VRET scheme emerged after a strong campaign that brought together wind workers, solar home owners, renewable energy businesses, unions, and community members who support climate change action.

The conservation group says the announcement is good news for Victorian householders and businesses–expected to save households $30 per year, medium businesses $2,500, and large businesses $140,000

Windpower generators as part of RET.

RET on track

The Clean Energy Regulator said the momentum for renewables has been seen in the second half of 2016 and has continued into 2017. One-third of the total build required for 2017 achieved in the first three months of the year with a further 1074.5 megawatts firmly announced by end-March.

Executive General Manager Mark Williamson earlier said this demonstrates that Australia is now in a strong position to meet the 2020 RET. During the Solar 2017 conference, Williamson highlighted that solar had played a large part in this exciting level of investment.

Solar projects have faster construction times and the lag between final investment decisions and commissioning is shorter. This means generation begins more quickly and certificates, which drive the RET, can be made available to the market sooner.

It wasn’t just large-scale utility solar which excelled in 2016, small-scale solar also had a big year, he said.

There are now more than 2.6 million Australian homes with small-scale systems installed. This is generating or displacing 10 million megawatt hours of electricity.

Large-scale RET

In July, the large-scale RET market data release is headlined by the accreditation of the Sunshine Coast Solar Farm.

The 15 megawatt solar farm will offset the Sunshine Coast Council’s entire electricity consumption at its facilities and operations. It is the second largest solar farm accredited in Queensland and the first solar farm to be built by an Australia local government organisation.

The same month also saw St Vincent’s Health take another step towards its goal of installing 2.708 megawatts of solar panels across 16 of its facilities in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Health and aged care facilities in the Queensland regions of Toowoomba, Mitchelton and Lourdes were also accredited.

EnergyAustralia signed a power purchase agreement to buy 100 megawatts of the output from the proposed Riverina Solar Farm (expected capacity 150 megawatts). The project near Coleambally is being developed by Neoen and is aiming for financial close this year.

The continued investment in renewable energy and accreditation of renewable power stations means the 2020 RET is in reach.

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 12: Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christiana Figueres (L 2), Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon (C), Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius (R 2), and France’s President Francois Hollande (R) raise hands together after adoption of a historic global warming pact at the COP21 Climate Conference in Le Bourget, north of Paris, on December 12, 2015. (Photo by Arnaud BOUISSOU/COP21/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Australia committed to Paris Climate Agreement

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop announced the Turnbull Government’s strong commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Both agreements, which formalised Australia’s 2030 and 2020 emissions reduction targets, were ratified by Australia on 10 November 2016.

Australia is among more than 140 countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016.

Australia’s 2030 target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels is comparable with other advanced economies and will halve the nation’s per capita emissions.

Bishop said Australia has a strong track record on international emissions reduction targets. It beat the first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and are on track to meet and beat its second Kyoto 2020 target by 224 million tonnes.

The Turnbull Government is working to further reduce emissions through the Emissions Reduction Fund, the National Energy Productivity Plan, the phase down of hydrofluorocarbons and the Renewable Energy Target.

Bishop said the Turnbull Government is disappointed that the Trump has withdrawn from the international climate agreement.

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Top coal financiers: Japan, China, Korea

Divestment is becoming both a buzzword and a movement that urges organizations to shift support from dirty fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy. But it is a long way to go when governments are being lobbied by big industries and financial institutions and continue to work in secretive partnership. Re-blogging this post:

Miners shovel coal at a mine in China's Hebei province. Pic: AP.

Japan, China, and South Korea are the top financiers of coal exports via international financial conduits, a new report has revealed.

International environmental groups have called for these countries to stop financing coal exports via Export Credit Agencies and asked all other countries involved in climate talks to honor their commitments to combat global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and World Wide Fund for Nature released the report, Under the Rug: How Governments and International Institutions are Hiding Billions in Support to the Coal Industry, exposing the secretive operation between governments and financial institutions to finance big polluters despite international outcry for urgent climate action.

The report said “total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 conservatively amounted to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year. Emissions are close to a total of 18 gigatonnes for the entire lifetime of the supported power plants alone.”

The report revealed US$73 billion or over $9 billion a year within that period in which public finance was approved for coal.  Japan gave the largest amount of coal financing of any country, with over $20 billion during that time, followed by China with finance close to US$15 billion.

OCIKorea, Germany, and Australia are among top sources of funds transmitted via financial agencies. These countries are also reported to be leading the opposition to limits on coal finance in international discussions, along with other countries which continue to resist pressure to end public financing.

The report comes a summit in Paris in December this year to ratify a commitment to cap carbon emissions and to solidify targets of limiting global temperature below two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends improved transparency to avoid catastrophic climate change. It calls for phasing out international public finance for all fossil fuel projects, including exploration for more fossil fuels.

The report also urges the immediate disclosure of exhaustive data on public finance for the entire energy sector. Funding has largely gone unnoticed as it is often hidden from view as many countries are choosing to sweep this under the rug, rather than face the necessary task of cleaning up their own houses, the report added.

OCI-2World governments, particularly G20 and G7 members, have recognized the threat of climate change over the last eight years, and made repeated commitments to both fight climate change and end fossil fuel subsidies.

However, billions of dollars’ worth of government support continues to flow towards fossil fuels and coal. “This government financing for coal – largely in the form of export support, but also as development aid and general finance – is perpetuating coal use and exacerbating climate change. It needs to stop, immediately”, the report added.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that at least 75 percent of existing fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avert global warming of more than two degrees. As coal makes up two-thirds of the carbon content of known global fossil fuel reserves, coal poses a serious threat to the climate.

Full Report HERE.

WWF calls EU for  climate leadership in OECD talks before COP Paris 

In Brussels, Belgium, 34 OECD countries convened for their annual Ministerial Meeting, June 3-4, while  G7 Heads of States and governments will meet in Germany on June 7-8 as a key political opportunity to make their climate credibility by ending support for coal.

“Many developed country governments that push for ambitious climate action are simultaneously funding coal abroad. They cannot do both and be credible,” said WWF’s Global Climate and Energy initiative leader Samantha Smith. “It is time for rich nations to put their money behind the solutions, like renewable energy, rather than using taxpayers’ money to fuel climate change.”

WWF said international public finance for coal between 2007 and 2014 is blamed for Italy’s pollution, the country which ranked 20th in the highest amount of carbon emissions globally,  “causing total greenhouse gas emissions amounting to almost half a billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.”

Contradicting the claim that export finance for coal is necessary to fight energy poverty in poor countries, the report clearly shows that zero export finance for coal has gone to Low Income Countries, where the need for energy access is greatest, while one-fourth went to High Income Countries with no every poverty concerns.

OCI-3

Sébastien Godinot, economist at WWF European Policy Office said the EU, led by the European Commission, failed to agree an official position on coal export finance ahead of the OECD meeting taking place next week. He said EU Member States are still divided, with some willing to end support for coal plants and others being more reluctant. So far the EU has largely been inaudible in the OECD negotiations, he added.

“COP Paris is around the corner.  It is time for European countries, the Commission and the EU as a whole to end procrastination and show leadership”, said Godinot, as “climate commitments and engagement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies should immediately lead the EU to ask the OECD to end export credits for coal.”

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Renewable energy future uncertain as investment falters

solar stations

Just as Australia was too optimistic in its Renewable Energy Targets, plans are falling apart with a significant dropped in renewable investments last year.

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) is facing an uncertain future with a recent report showing that investment in large-scale renewable energy has nose-dived over the past year.

Investment in renewable energy worldwide is up by 16%, in a stark contrast with Australia’s figure which dropped by 88%.

The Climate Council said the future of Australia’s renewable energy industry remains highly uncertain due to the lack of a clear federal government renewable energy policy.

The RET aims to achieve 20% of the country’s power supply from renewables. About 89% of Australians support the initiative.

Activist group GetUp blames Prime Minister Tony Abbott, along with his pro-capitalist, pro-coal agenda which favours power companies such as Origin, AGL and Energy Australia.

GetUp said since 2001 the RET has been responsible for a massive $20 billion in investment into the Australian economy creating over 24,000 new jobs and lower power bills for consumers.

Nearly 24,000 GetUp members made their voices heard by making a submission to the government’s review of the RET. In addition, over 5,000 GetUp members have switched from Origin, AGL and Energy Australia to renewable energy companies such as Powershop as part of a campaign to make consumers’ voices heard.

With the RET’s future hanging in the balance new investment in renewables has fallen to a 13-year low, the group said.

GetUp noted this is ironic considering the fact that the Government’s former Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Liberal Party Senator Simon Birmingham admitted in 2013 that the real driver of investment in renewable energy has been and continues to be the RET. The senator was quoted as saying, “We have always supported the RET and continue to offer bi-partisan support for this scheme. It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

Workers check on solar panels in Yulin, northwest China's Shaanxi Province. In 2014, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao met to agree on mutual cooperation to reduce carbon emission before the G20 meeting in Brisbane. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liu Xiao)

Beyond Zero Emission (BZE) is also driving a campaign to discourage Australians from supporting the three main power companies. Although the three companies provide energy to the majority of Australians, the group said they have been actively campaigning to dismantle the RET.

Many Australians can opt for greener alternatives to the big three power suppliers. Victoria residents can switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy while consumers from South Australia, New South Wales or South East Queensland can switch to Diamond Energy.

World leaders will gather in Paris in December this year to determine the rules for a new global agreement to limit global greenhouse emissions and temperature below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s major trading partners have been building significant momentum to make ambitious contributions toward their post-2020 national targets. The Climate Change Authority (CCA) suggests that nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions, agreed by Australia, will be central in determining the climate policy framework that will cover and impact companies covered under any emissions reduction initiative. The Authority adds:

This is an important time to convene business, government and NGOs for a mature, constructive dialogue about what should be the nature of Australia’s commitment, why it is in our best interests to actively participate in the negotiations and to share views to understand the economic, environmental and social implications for business.

The CCA finds Australia’s emission reduction target (5 % reduction by 2020) to be too low and out of step with its allies and trading partners.

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Abbott’s 2014 budget: Climate change not a priority

It is not a big surprise when the Coalition Government of Tony Abbott sliced a huge amount of budget for the environment.

Reacting to the budget, mining magnate Clive Palmer, who leads the Palmer United Party, said the 2014 budget is delivered for the lobbyists and donors of the Liberal Party. He, however, failed to realise that the mining sector, which he likewise represents, is a big budget benefeciary.

Clive Palmer with Jim Mclnally and Sisie Douglas announcing the United Australia Party in Brisbane, 26 April. (Photo: Mark Calleja/ goldcoast.com.au)

Palmer wrote in  The Guardian:

As the government prepared its first budget, the spin doctors were working overtime, preparing for the moment when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey would throw away the promises and the policies they took to the election. At parliament house, lobbyists queued to see ministers and bombarded new members of parliament with detailed submissions…

The budget, which was delivered in Parliament last week, hits the Green sector hard – not to mention a range of other victims under Australia’s welfare system.

Australia’s climate change policy and investments in renewables are now facing uncertain future.

Investment in renewables has been scaled down to save about $1.3 billion. The government has also turned its back from its commitment to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) with funding of $2.55 billion now set to spread out over 10 years instead of four years as promised.

Solar panels on Port Augusta, VIC (Photo: Supplied)

 

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is no longer needed and its function will be streamlined under the environment department. ARENA was set up in 2012 to drive research and investment in renewable technologies. With bipartisan support, it was set up as an independent agency to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and their uptake. Ivor Frischknecht, the agency’s chief executive ,said abolishing the agency will reduce Australia’s ability to lower cost energy in the long term.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme is helping to transform Australia’s electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources and supporting growth and employment in the renewables.

More bad news comes with AGL backflipping from its commitment to renewables. It announced over the weekend Australia’s RET is not achievable.

Leading utility AGL Energy has called for the scrapping of federal government support for rooftop solar PV, and has indicated the large scale renewable energy target (RET) should also be diluted or deferred because it would be impossible to meet the current 41,000GWh target in the current timeframe. – Giles Parkinson, Renew Economy

This will make Australia to slip further as an enemy of clean energy Already, the country ranks ninth  in renewable investments last year ahead of Italy, but behind the likes of South Africa, Canada, India and Germany.

 In contrast to renewables, the mining sector get a big  boost with $100 million allotted over four years for minerals exploration. Small explorers will not make any taxable income access to a refundable tax offset for their Australian shareholders.

Abbott has also spared mining an increase in  the diesel fuel excise. Currently, commercial vehicles used in mining and agriculture get a rebate on the diesel fuel excise that drops it to six cents per litre. Before the budget there had been calls to raise this in line with the petrol fuel excise.

 Extreme heatwaves hit Australia (Image: ABM)

 

The Minerals Resource Rent Tax, otherwise known as mining tax, which was introduced during the Government of Kevin Rudd and passed the Parliament under Julia Gillard has been tabled in Abbot’s agenda. The abolition of mining tax is projected to save $3.4 billion over the next three years. Read ABC’s summation of the budget.

With the G20 summit to be held in Brisbane this coming November, Abbott has already informed the EU he wants environment and climate change to be taken off  from the agenda- besides he already informed the IPCC and the rest of the world he does not believe in climate change.