Don’t believe Abbott and Kelly – Electric cars are part of the battery revolution

Don’t believe Abbott and Kelly – Electric cars are part of the battery revolution

There’s one week to go until Parliament resumes for 2018 and the Abbott camp has wasted no time laying landmines for Malcolm Turnbull before the Liberal Party room has its first party room meeting next week.

The Australian has a front page story today quoting Craig Kelly, Abbott’s go-to sock puppet on energy issues, who claims electric vehicles will create more greenhouse gas emissions in Australia than conventional petrol-driven cars.

Kelly’s claim is based on the assumption that Australians will charge their EVs with electricity from the national grid, which is predominantly generated from fossil fuels.

If Kelly truly believes this, he is sadly out of date for someone who claims to be one of the Coalition’s energy experts. More likely he is simply ignoring what is going on overseas (and increasingly in Australia) where EVs are a big part of the battery revolution.

Electric vehicles use a battery similar to the ones people are installing in their homes to store the electricity generated by their rooftop solar panels during the day so they can access it during the night or on cloudy days.

EV producer Tesla was one of the first companies to produce batteries like the ones in its cars as home solar storage units. This was probably a logical extension of the realisation that EV owners who keep their cars at home during the day were essentially storing any excess solar energy in their electric vehicles. So why not make that energy accessible for use by the house as well as the car?

Australians love their rooftop solar systems and are installing them in record numbers. The rooftop solar boom will be followed by the household battery revolution. Firstly those who can afford the (still expensive) batteries will install them, and then as demand increases the cost will go down, meaning even more households will increase their use of renewable energy with rooftop solar-battery combo.

solar parking.jpgBut what about the cars that don’t stay at home? By installing solar panels on the buildings or in the parking lots where EVs are parked during the day, cars can be recharged with renewable energy while drivers are at work. These types of installations are already happening in Australia.

So don’t believe the bullshit being peddled by the Abbott camp today on EVs. It’s inaccurate, deliberately misleading, and nothing more than another attempt to wedge Turnbull on renewable energy.

 

 

 

Tony Abbott is completely out of touch with “the base” on renewable energy

Tony Abbott is completely out of touch with “the base” on renewable energy

For two people who claim to be in touch with “the base”, it’s astounding how out of touch Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin are. In their blind determination to blast Malcolm Turnbull from the prime ministership using whatever issue or policy best does the job, the two have missed the fatal flaw in the latest stanza of their Kill Malcolm campaign, which involves the demonisation of renewable energy.

In an “exclusive” interview last night with one Murdoch media outlet, and comments today in another, Abbott has sought to escalate tensions with Turnbull over renewables by calling for the proposed Clean Energy Target to be dropped. Abbott also reportedly threatened to cross the floor against any government attempt to legislate a CET.

As much as Abbott claims his position is about reliable electricity and the need to establish product differentiation with Labor, his anti-renewables campaign is all too obviously about the Liberal leadership.

Until now, every issue thrown in Turnbull’s way by Abbott and his enablers — in order to bring on a leadership crisis — has been avoided by the embattled Prime Minister. Instead of resisting the demands of Abbott’s far-right supporters, Turnbull has accommodated almost every one of them. He agreed to water down section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (although the Senate blocked the changes), ended funding for Safe Schools, and persisted with a plebiscite on marriage equality.

Turnbull and his Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg also initially appeared to back down under pressure from Abbott’s camp on a clean energy target mooted to replace the renewable energy target in 2020. However the concept is being considered again after it was revived by the chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, in his report to the government on the future security of the national electricity market.

If implemented, Finkel’s CET recommendation would fill the policy vacuum created by Abbott when he scrapped the carbon tax and created a lopsided market that only provided policy certainty to renewable energy providers. It’s no coincidence that not one coal-fired power station has been built since then.

Having created the policy settings that brought on the current “energy crisis”, Abbott is now trying to frame the best solution to the problem as yet another test of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership — rather than an indictment of Abbott’s own.

The problem for Abbott and co. is that voters, especially those in some of the Coalition’s most marginal seats, love renewable energy — not necessarily for environmental reasons, but economic ones. And, for this reason, they are likely to have a dim view of Abbott’s anti-renewables stance.

These voters reside in the 1.7 million households with rooftop solar. To them, renewable energy means economic freedom — from the electricity bills that break the budget, and from the energy companies who gouge their customers. When Tony Abbott rails against renewables for causing blackouts or high power bills, these voters compare their reality with his rhetoric. And they know he’s talking through his hat.

This of course has political implications. Of the 20 Australian postcode areas with the highest number of rooftop solar installations (from 5900 rooftop solar units per postcode to almost 12,000), 13 are in Queensland. The postcodes cover two Coalition marginal seats and another 4-5 seats that would be at risk to One Nation.

Other data has shown that around 40% of rooftop solar installations occurred in rural and regional Australia, and that low-income households including older Australians feature heavily as adopters of the technology.

This explains the high number of Coalition voters that support renewables in the opinion polls. According to an Essential Poll in June, 57% of Coalition voters preferred more investment in renewables to meet Australia’s future energy needs compared with 26% who preferred more coal-fired electricity.

Another poll by the same organisation found in February that 58% of Coalition voters thought renewables were the solution to our energy needs, while 20% saw them as a threat to future energy supply. That’s an improvement on the same question four months earlier, when 52% of Coalition supporters saw renewables as a solution and 25% as a threat.

Even more interestingly, according to Essential, a majority of Coalition voters also support Labor’s 50% renewable target, with 48% approving in October last year, and 55% in February this year.

This would suggest that on the issue of renewables, Abbott and Credlin’s political antennae have yet again failed them. Even if Abbott argued that renewables are OK as long as the “subsidies” are scrapped, this would go down like a lead balloon with the 1.7 million households currently benefiting from small-scale certificates under the RET.

If Tony “Let’s Give the Prince a Knighthood” Abbott and Peta “Needs More Flags” Credlin really were in touch with the Liberal base, they’d know that renewable energy is a strength for Turnbull (and the Coalition) instead of a weakness.

This probably explains why Essential has also found the proportion of Coalition voters who want Abbott to resign from parliament has grown from 18% in August last year, to 31% in April this year and then 35% this July.

Originally published at Crikey.

Prime Ministerial half-truths will not save the climate

Not that long ago I wrote that Julia Gillard could regain control of her carbon price campaign by adopting a four-part strategy. While I don’t think for a minute the PM actually read my advice, it seems someone within her camp independently came up with a similar strategy.

At least that’s how it first appeared on Monday night when the Prime Minister gave a confident, polished and personable performance on Q&A.

The first part of my strategy required the PM to be honest – to admit her broken promise and explain the constraints she had to work with in the minority government that Australian voters had imposed upon her.

That’s pretty much what she did:

“Now, I did say during the last election campaign – I promised that there would be no carbon tax. That’s true and I’ve walked away from that commitment and I’m not going to try and pretend anything else. I also said to the Australian people in the last election campaign that we needed to act on climate change. We needed to price carbon and I wanted to see an emissions trading scheme…. Now, if I’d been leading a majority government I would have been getting on with an emissions trading scheme. It’s what I promised the Australian people. As it is, in this minority parliament, the only way I can act on climate change by pricing carbon is to work with others and so I had a really stark choice. Do I act or not act? Well, I’ve chosen to act….”

It was an exciting moment; I thought the Prime Minister had taken a huge step in rebuilding her bond of trust with the community.

But then, two mistruths shattered the illusion.

Firstly, the PM claimed the carbon price would make renewable energy-based products cheaper, that consumers would react to this price signal, and this would drive innovation. She said:

“When you come to buy things, products that are made with relatively less carbon pollution will be cheaper than products that are made with more carbon pollution. So you’re standing there with your household assistance in your hand. You could still keep buying the high carbon pollution products if you want to or what you’re far more likely to do is to buy the cheaper, lower carbon pollution products. That means that the people who make those things will get the consumer signal, gee, we will sell more, we will make more money if we make lower pollution products. That drives the innovation. So I want you to have that household assistance in your hand but I also want you to see price effects which make cleaner, greener things cheaper than high pollution commodities. That’s why it works.”

This is patently untrue. Firstly, if the carbon price is set low (eg. $20/tonne as suggested), renewable energy-based products will still be more expensive than the coal energy-based products. As explained by renewable energy advocates Beyond Zero Emissions the carbon price would have to be set much higher to make the low emission products even price competitive with the high emission ones, let alone cheaper.

“Due to the nature of technology and the energy market, we would require in excess of $70/tonne even for wind power, the lowest cost renewable, to compete in the electricity market [without subsidies]. For baseload technologies such as concentrating solar thermal, the game changer we need to replace coal and gas, you would need in excess of $200/tonne for initial plants.”

If the low carbon price doesn’t make low emission products cheaper, then the Prime Minister is relying on the green consciousness of consumers to drive green purchasing. This won’t happen either; while people claim they buy green products their actual behaviour shows they don’t. In the absence of consumers changing their purchasing patterns, there will be little or no incentive for the “big polluters” to move to lower emission inputs.

This is also recognised by activist green groups such as Friends of the Earth (Australia):

“The demand for a carbon price is widespread in the climate movement. The Greens support a low carbon tax, leading to a fully fledged emissions trading scheme. But just as rising petrol prices have not lead to new investment in public transport, a carbon price will not in itself see renewable energy built. At best it is likely to make gas more competitive with coal.”

So, on the capacity for the carbon tax to change spending patterns and drive innovation, the Prime Minister could be said to be disingenuous, but I’d say she was deliberately misleading.

Similarly, the PM intentionally misled Q&A viewers with her comment about China. While scolding us for being climate recalcitrants, the Prime Minister misrepresented China’s climate actions to emphasise our tardiness:

“You know, China [is] closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one to two weeks.”

In reality, China is replacing its old coal-fired power stations with new ones. China is a long way from abandoning coal in the way suggested by the Prime Minister.

The International Energy Agency says China’s economic and social growth is so vast and so rapid that the nation will continue to use coal for electricity generation until at least 2035.

“The IEA estimates that China, which generates more than 70% of its electricity with coal, will build 600 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power capacity in the next quarter-century – as much as is currently generated with coal in America, Japan and the European Union put together.”

Also according to the IEA, China overtook the US in 2009 as the world’s largest energy user. The organization says:

“…the country’s energy demand is foreseen to surge a stunning 75% between 2008 and 2035, when it will account for 22% of world demand. China will lead the surge in electricity generation growth, and power demand in the country is expected to triple between 2008 and 2035.”

China is doing what‘s best for its people while it grapples with global issues such as climate change. The Gillard government is attempting the same, but doing a poor job of it.

Sleights of hand and half-truths won’t engender the community respect that the Prime Minister needs for us to follow her lead. Without such trust and willingness, there will be no effective climate action.

As I’ve said before, if the Prime Minister wants to bring Australian voters along with her in pursuit of a low emission economy, she must treat us like adults and start telling us the truth.

The truth, according to the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook, is that global power generation is expected to grow by 75% between now and 2035. The truth is that fossil fuels will continue to dominate even though the proportion of renewable energy sources will grow.

The truth is that it’ll be tough to wean Australians from our country’s natural strengths, such as plentiful and affordable energy, and the comfortable lifestyle that comes with it.

And the greatest truth is that this process will require a transformation of the economy and of our lifestyles that we will have never seen before.

The full transcript of the PM’s appearance on Q&A is available here.