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TERRENUS ENERGY

Energy Transition

‘The villain is the framework’: crisis an opportunity to review regulation requisites

Gas and coal generators’ role in exacerbating the unfolding energy crisis in Australia has been harshly criticised, but Dufty points out companies are simply following the logic of profit within a framework that makes such practices possible. Image: Bluescope

Australia’s energy crisis affords it an intricate, if painful, look at exactly where and how our current electricity regulations no longer fit their purpose. According to analyst Gavin Dufty, now is the time to retrain our eyes on the prize: designing a new framework suitable for the future decentralised system. “But everybody needs to put their guns back in their holsters,” Dufty tells pv magazine Australia.

From pv magazine Australia

With Australia’s National Electricity Market spot market now suspended, an extraordinary move from the market operator yesterday to cool a fiery situation, the emphasis now needs to be on what can be learned from the meltdown, says Gavin Dufty, an energy analyst with St Vincent de Paul.

“Here’s an opportunity,” he tells pv magazine Australia. “It’s about recasting regulatory framework so it’s fit for purpose.”

“The world is watching us,” he adds. “We actually get to be leaders.”

“It’s not just one tweak. Everything needs to move together in concert to create the new orchestra or architecture for the future energy market because this one is not going to work, and it’s not working.”

Our current regulatory framework, built for a centralised fossil fuel system, uses a top down approach. Now, as electricity is increasingly generated on rooftops and in paddocks, the system needs to reflect this shift from a handful of mega generators to a collection of small technologies. That is, it needs to be designed for the bottom up future.

In the days days, the operator (AEMO) and ministers have come out against gas and coal generators’ role in exacerbating the situation, and therefore jeopardising an essential service, Dufty is quick to point out the companies are simply following a logic made accessible to them.  “They’re doing what they’ve been told to do for a hundred years”: maximise profits.

“Maybe the villain is the framework,” he posits.

Under Australia’s current framework, he says, the cost of the crisis will eventually wash up with consumers, but this doesn’t have to be the case. “Where it falls depends on how governments intervene,” he says. “In unusual times, you probably need unusual transition methods.”

He believes the electricity system is moving from a goods market to service market, which means companies operating within it should have a duty of care. This is especially true since the market delivers an essential service.

Moreover, Dufty says there needs to be a laser focus on consumer households and delivering value to them.

“Follow the money,” he says, “in the next 10 years, if you have five million Australian households investing in electricity assets like PV, EVs [electric vehicles], batteries and the like, that’s $250 billion worth of energy assets installed behind the metre.”

“The investment in energy is going to happen and those consumers will want value for their investment.”

The role of industry and the framework which governs it is to make sure that value is realised.

Solaray Energy says its inquiries and battery sales have surged since the federal election in May. Image: Solaray Energy

St Vincent de Paul were one of the primary proponents of two-way pricing, which quickly came to be dubbed a ‘sun tax’ and fiercely criticised. Be that as it may, the vision is not without merit – especially when taking into account future technologies beyond solar. The Australian Energy Market Commission agreed, heralding in the change last year.

The changes, for Dufty, are imperative because they shine a light on the other side of the electricity grid balancing equation, the side often left out of the discussion: load flexibility.

Creating and compelling load flexibility, that is changing when electricity is used, is the other side of the generation drama. As others have pointed out before him, jamming more solar into the situation simply won’t work. The penetrations are already so high that much of the energy generated in the day is simply going to waste and causing greater imbalances in the night.

“There isn’t one magical solution,” he says, “diversity is the key here.”

Dufty is adamant what’s good for individual households and what is good for society and the larger electricity network don’t need to compete. But to ensure those two forces aren’t mutually exclusive, the regulatory framework needs to change drastically.

“This is not incremental change. We might have step by step,” he says, but in the end it must amount to a full redesign, especially in terms of consumer protections.

Likewise complementary frameworks like the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) and the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) need to be reviewed to ensure they remain fit for purpose as well, Dufty says.

Author: Bella Peacock

China’s massive hydro energy storage goals may be getting bigger

China has been eyeing a major pumped hydro build-out since at least last year. Image: Pixabay

From Bloomberg

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China’s biggest dam builder says the country is launching an even-larger-than-expected campaign to build hydro energy storage to complement renewable power.

The nation will start construction on more than 200 pumped hydro stations with a combined capacity of 270GW by 2025, Mr Ding Yanzhang, chairman of Power Construction Corp of China, the country’s largest builder of such projects, said in a Monday (June 13) commentary in the Communist Party-run People’s Daily.

That’s more than the capacity of all the power plants in Japan, and would be enough to meet about 23 per cent of China’s peak demand.

It would also be a massive increase from what China proposed just three months ago in its 14th five-year plan for energy development, when officials said the country wanted to have 62GW of pumped hydro in operation and another 60GW under construction by 2025.

PowerChina did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment, and the National Energy Administration (NEA) did not answer calls to its Beijing office.

Hydro storage technology dates back more than a century.

Water is pumped into an uphill reservoir using electricity when demand is low, and then generates power when needed by letting gravity carry the water downhill through turbines.

It can be paired with China’s rapidly growing fleet of solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity when the sun isn’t shining and breezes aren’t blowing.

China has been eyeing a major pumped hydro build-out since at least last year. In August, a draft NEA document identified the potential for 680GW of pumped hydro in the country, and mooted a possible goal of starting construction of 180 gigawatts by 2025.

The final version of the plan released in September toned down the scale, but still called for 120GW of capacity operating by 2030.

The entire world had 158GW of hydro storage at the end of 2019. China is also ramping up plans to deploy newer forms of energy storage such as batteries, with the country’s largest grid saying it hopes to have 100GW of such capacity available by 2030.

New model for grid-forming inverter operation

A transformer-coupled, grid-tied inverter. Image: Wikimedia Commons, Towel401

Scientists in the United States have developed a new model to allow utilities to use grid-forming inverters in order to better renewable energy intermittency. They described the inverter main circuit representation, the droop control, and the fault current limiting function.

From pv magazine

Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a model for power utilities to operate grid-forming (GFM) inverter–based resources.

“The model specification was recently approved by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), a non-profit corporation that assures reliable electricity in 14 western US states, two Canadian provinces, and northern Baja, Mexico,” the research group stated. “The approval means that the model is available to be integrated into commercially available grid simulation tools used by thousands of utilities in North America and other parts of the world.”

The researchers said their work built on previous work demonstrating that grid-forming inverters can operate microgrids without conventional synchronous power generators. “The outcomes of microgrid research suggested that grid-forming inverters can ensure system stability for integrating renewable energy sources into future power grids,” they emphasized.

In their recent work, published on the WECC website, the PNNL scientists described the inverter main circuit representation, the droop control, and the fault current limiting function. “This model applies to energy storage systems and photovoltaic (PV) systems,” they specified.

“Our preliminary simulation studies based on the model show that grid-forming inverters can impact power system stability in a very positive way,” said Song Wang, president of the WECC Modeling and Validation Subcommittee. “We believe the work done by PNNL will greatly help the utility industry better understand grid-forming inverters and their potential impacts on power systems.”

Looking forward, the US group said it wanted to create an ecosystem for grid-forming inverters and unify different models for grid-forming technologies and their diverse applications.

Author: Emiliano Bellini

3 ways to speed up Singapore’s transition towards a green future: Grace Fu

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu highlighted three ways Singapore can accelerate sustainability and climate action. Image: ST FILE

From The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – The Republic must keep up the international momentum in addressing the threat of climate change amid pressing priorities such as the Covid-19 pandemic, rising inflation and geostrategic challenges, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Tuesday (June 7).

Speaking at the gala dinner of Temasek’s annual sustainability conference – Ecosperity Week – Ms Fu highlighted three ways the nation can accelerate sustainability and climate action.

1. Catalyse action towards inclusive transition

As the carbon tax is progressively raised to $50 to $80 per tonne by 2030, the revenue will support the transition to a greener economy through incentivising low-carbon solutions and cushioning the impact on businesses and households.

Businesses increasingly recognise the opportunities in the circular, low-carbon economy, while the choices of individuals can also play a role, said Ms Fu.

“Individual action may feel insignificant and is indeed insufficient. However, our collective actions will enable us to achieve our ultimate common goals,” she added.

If consumers avoid disposables, buy locally farmed vegetables and fish, and choose energy-efficient appliances, for instance, these choices will create ripple effects that accelerate the development of more sustainable products.

From the middle of next year, large supermarkets will implement a disposable bag charge, which aims to encourage the public to use reusable bags and be more judicious in their use of disposables.

2. Unlock more sustainable solutions

Technologies and solutions to decarbonise still remain out of reach or are not yet commercially viable, but industry collaborations can bring about new solutions, said Ms Fu.

Last month, Singapore joined the First Movers Coalition with eight other nations, which will allow companies to harness purchasing power and supply chains to create early markets for innovative low-carbon technologies.

This serves as a launchpad for them to reach commercial scale and could open doors for local businesses to innovate with like-minded partners.

Ms Fu also cited the Jurong Island Circular Economy study last year, which analysed the energy, water and chemical waste from 51 companies on the island.

The study has provided insights on how to reduce resource use and boost Jurong Island’s competitiveness and sustainability.

A new research institute focusing on how to shrink the carbon footprint of the industrial sector – responsible for about 60 per cent of the country’s total emissions – was also set up on Jurong Island earlier this year.

One focus area of the Institute of Sustainability for Chemicals, Energy and Environment is on reducing or removing planet-warming emissions.

This can be done through carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies – which aim to capture greenhouse gases released from industrial processes before they reach the atmosphere, and then either convert them into useful substances, such as chemicals or store them underground.

The institute was set up by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, which is working with industrial partners and other government agencies to study and plan for the development of a carbon capture and utilisation translational test bed on Jurong Island.

3. Specialise in green finance and carbon services

Ms Fu noted that Singapore is highly disadvantaged by its lack of natural renewable energy sources, as it does not have large rivers to draw hydropower or vast lands for wind turbines.

But with its reputation as an international financial hub, it is well placed to support countries with untapped natural renewable energy sources through the trading of carbon credits, she added.

For example, polluting companies can buy carbon credits from a renewable energy plant to offset and compensate for their own emissions.

And with the Article 6 rulebook on international carbon markets finalised at the United Nations Climate Change Conference last year, Singapore can help propel the growth of green finance and carbon services in the region, said Ms Fu.

“This will enable businesses to access the capital they need to innovate, operationalise, and scale their green projects,” she added.

In March, Singapore and Indonesia inked a partnership, where they will collaborate on carbon pricing and markets, and also explore financing solutions in carbon credit projects.

Author: Shabana Begum

‘Clear winds of change’ in Southeast Asia

From pv magazine 05/2022

Siemens released its “Asia Pacific Energy Transition Readiness Index” in April, and it reported that the region scores very low on the index, at 25%. It said this represents a “solid foundation, but there is a still a long way to go.” One of the key findings was that policy settings need to be addressed. You have been very critical of public policy in support of renewable energy adoption in Southeast Asia. What’s your reaction to this score from Siemens?

The Siemens result isn’t a surprise because if you look at the actual deployment of renewable energy, then Southeast Asia is a laggard. However, I think that we can now finally detect very clear winds of change. I will take you through a quick tour of the region to explain that a bit further.

Starting with the richest country in Southeast Asia, Singapore. In October 2021, Singapore issued a request for proposal (RfP) for companies to tender to supply it with renewable energy and stated its goal that at least 30% of its electricity supply should come from renewables by 2035, while releasing expert studies that its power sector can go net zero by 2050. That is seismic change in the positioning of Singapore in terms of renewable energy. Previously, Singapore was always saying that it didn’t have space [for renewable energy], because it is a small country. Now it has moved decisively to rely on renewable energy nonetheless and issue an RfP to developers to build that capacity around Singapore and then export it to Singapore.

Vietnam, as you know, has already been at the vanguard because it achieved a record-speed deployment of renewable energy in 2019/20/21 – and Vietnam is now up there with the best of the world in terms of what it is doing on renewables.

The Philippines is also in very good shape because it has legally binding Renewable Portfolio Standard obligations imposed on the utilities. These force the utilities over time to increase their renewable energy percentage. So, when we talk about Southeast Asia, I think that Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines are now in line with the most progressive countries on renewable energy.

If those three are the leaders, how would you describe the laggards?

In terms of the big markets, there is Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. I would say in all three cases we are seeing clear movement as well, although there are no overarching nor ambitious goals that have been announced. Indonesia has had a goal for a while, but it is not delivering on it on the ground – however, we do see things changing at the developer level across the country. In Thailand we see developers gearing up for a change in the posture of the regulator. And Malaysia has been making some progress on renewables.

We should layer into this what is going on in the gas markets. A lot of these countries are highly dependent on gas. For example, 95% of Singapore’s electricity is powered by natural gas. A large proportion [of electricity generation] is similarly dependent on gas, such as in Thailand. With gas multiplying in price by anywhere between a factor of two and 10, it is very clear that people are taking another look at the sun and the wind. I expect all of these countries to ramp up their efforts because of the volatility in the gas markets, on which a lot of them are dependent. Out of all these countries, only Indonesia is energy independent.

And while Indonesia’s energy independence is based on coal, there was a recent report from Rystad Energy that noted that gas production in the region has been declining for many years and will never recover.

That’s correct and strengthens the argument: The volatility of supply and price of natural gas is a reality all of ASEAN are aware of today and thinking through.

Something that was promising but appears to have been snuffed out, was the 1 GW solar auction in Myanmar. The recent military coup has stalled progress on the successful projects awarded in the tender. Do you have any information as to whether the solar development plans will get back on track?

I think you have to ask some of the developers who were bidding to find out more. But the short of it is that Myanmar became unbankable, and it doesn’t have anything to do with renewable energy itself, but because of political risk. But I should note that even TotalEnergies stopped investing in fossil fuels in Myanmar. And if Total, which is notorious for investing in all sorts of high-risk projects and countries, is not investing in Myanmar, then I am not sure that renewables has anything to do with that conversation at all.

Looking at Indonesia, I am aware that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been doing a lot of work with the Indonesian government. How encouraging is that kind of work?

It is encouraging! And a lot of people have been working closely with the Indonesian government, effectively nudging them forward but also counteracting a lot of the propaganda that comes from the coal industry against renewables.

Activity on the ground doesn’t lie, and what we do see is small Indonesian renewable energy developers popping up all over the place and starting to develop deals, in a way that we were not seeing even a year ago. That is a very good sign because it means that the country is communicating that it is turning the corner on renewables. Usually, you need to watch what the locals are doing to get an inkling as to what the trend might be. That certainly was not the case a year ago. So, the IEA and everyone else working with the government helps, because it helps set the direction of travel.

In Indonesia, there is state-owned PLN, a vertically integrated utility. That is not an uncommon situation in Southeast Asia. Do you see that as being a positive or an inhibitor of renewable energy development in the region? Because we know that these kinds of utilities have a captive market and would want to maintain it.

Personally, I think it is neutral. If we contrast Vietnam with Indonesia, both have the same type of setup. You have PLN in Indonesia and EVN in Vietnam and both have monopoly positions. However, Vietnam built renewables at the fastest pace globally for a couple of years, while Indonesia did nothing. So, it is not just about the structure of your utility system for the installation of renewable energy. But there are also liberalised energy markets that work better than others. It is certainly one factor, but it is neither the leading factor nor the least important.

Much more importantly, it is about political will. What we need in Indonesia is to have the political will to make that decisive turn to renewables, so that the monopoly government owned utility gets with the program. It is not going to do it of itself and on its own for precisely the reasons that you mentioned.

And from Vietnam, can we deduce that when given the right signals in terms of the adoption of renewables, that things can move very quickly?

Yes we can. All it took in Vietnam was political will and a determination to accelerate renewable energy deployment. Then, it happened, very fast, because renewable energy is cheaper and cleaner and preferred by local communities.

Author: Jonathan Gifford

Transgrid builds high-voltage interconnector to link Australian states

Image: AER

Transgrid, the transmission network owner in the Australian state of New South Wales, has started building its section of the AUD 2.3 billion ($1.64 billion) Project EnergyConnect. The high-voltage electricity transmission interconnector will link power grids across three states, unlocking gigawatts of planned renewables.

From pv magazine Australia

Transgrid has confirmed that work has begun on the New South Wales section of the 900-kilometer Project EnergyConnect, which will link the grids of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria, while supporting the development of new wind, solar and energy storage projects.

Project EnergyConnect, a joint venture between Transgrid and South Australian network operator ElectraNet, will link Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, to Robertstown, South Australia. It will also include an additional “spur” link in northwestern Victoria. The interconnector will provide 800 MW of nominal transfer capacity in both directions and is expected to unlock about 5.3 GW of new renewable energy projects.

The project is a critical link in the National Electricity Market (NEM), with proponents claiming it will enhance power system security. Transgrid CEO Brett Redman said the project “will help deliver the grid of the future.” He also said the project, Australia’s biggest electricity interconnector to date, will increase wholesale electricity competition and help drive down electricity prices.

ElectraNet Interim Chief Executive Rainer Korte said the project will improve energy security in all states, while accelerating the transition to a grid based around wind, solar and storage.

EnergyConnect is a landmark project of national significance that will enable more renewable energy and improve the affordability, reliability, and security of electricity supply,” he said.

Project EnergyConnect will involve the installation of more than 9,000 kilometers of cabling, and the erection of 1,500 new transmission towers, using more than 30,000 tons of steel. Construction of the eastern portion of the project is expected to start in 2023, with the full project set for completion by 2024.

Author: David Carroll

World in one of the most severe energy crises since 1970s: WEF

UN Secretary General Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the short-sighted rush to fossil fuels such as coal and LNG as “madness”. Image: Reuters

From The Straits Times

DAVOS – The war in Ukraine, as well as the pandemic and the quick economic rebound in its aftermath, significantly disrupted energy transition efforts.

This has left the world in one of the most severe energy crises since the 1970s, said the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a new report titled Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022.

The pace of energy transition needs to be supercharged for the world to keep to its sustainability goals, it noted.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres drew attention to the energy crisis in an address last week (May 19), noting that Russia’s assault on Ukraine will likely have major implications for global heating targets.

Many countries are stepping up the use of coal or imports of liquefied natural gas as alternative sources to Russian energy, he noted, calling the short-sighted rush to fossil fuels “madness”.

WEF, in its latest energy transition report, called for urgent action by both private and public actors to ensure a resilient transition.

This “urgency for countries to accelerate a holistic energy transition is reinforced by high fuel prices, commodities’ shortages, insufficient headway on achieving climate goals and slow progress on energy justice and access”, it said.

Mr Roberto Bocca, head of energy, materials and infrastructure at WEF, said: “Countries are at risk of future events compounding the disruption of their energy supply chain at a time when the window to prevent the worst consequences of climate change is closing fast.”

He added: “Now is the time to double down on action.”

WEF’s report detailed key recommendations for governments, companies, consumers and other stakeholders on measures to advance energy transition.

Countries will need to prioritise efforts to ensure a resilient energy transition and diversification of the energy mix, it stated.

Diversification needs to be pursued on two fronts: Countries need to review their domestic energy mix and consider their fuel and energy suppliers in the shorter term.

Most countries rely on just a handful of trade partners to meet their energy requirements and have a deficient diversification of energy sources, providing limited flexibility to deal with disruptions, said WEF.

The report noted that of 34 countries with advanced economies, 11 rely on only three trade partners for more than 70 per cent of their fuel imports.

More countries need to make binding climate commitments, create long-term vision for domestic and regional energy systems, attract private-sector investors for decarbonisation projects and help consumers and the workforce adjust, the report added.

Author: Shefali Rekhi

Energy and Environmental Considerations in the Metaverse

Image: Unsplash/Shahadat Rahman

The tremendous popularity of social networks and advances in virtual reality (VR) and distributed ledger technology are helping to usher in a new technological frontier: an emerging computer-generated universe often called Metaverse

The Metaverse allows users to do almost everything they do in real life: run businesses, buy real estate and build virtual office spaces, sign and enforce contracts, interact with colleagues, trade artwork and other digital assets in the form of non-fungible tokens, and more. Central to the emerging Metaverse ecosystem is blockchain technology, decentralized public ledgers that record the ownership and sale of cryptographic assets, including non-fungible tokens that can represent parcels within a metaverse, without the need for third-party intermediaries by using trustless consensus protocols.  

Blockchain and Energy Usage

Because the proof of work (PoW) consensus protocols that underpin many of the most popular blockchains, including Ethereum and the Bitcoin mainnet, consume large amounts of energy, substantially more energy production will be necessary to sustain the growing Metaverse. For example, Intel estimated in December 2021 that our global computing infrastructure needs to be 1,000 times more powerful to sustain the Metaverse. And a recent study by the University of Cambridge concluded that if Bitcoin were a country, it would be in the top 30 energy users worldwide.[1]

Corporate Responses to Blockchain Energy Uses 

The energy demands of PoW blockchains have led many companies to consider how that energy is generated. For example, in 2021, Tesla suspended accepting vehicle purchases via Bitcoin because the company was “concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions,” adding that it would resume its use of blockchain technologies when mining shifted to more renewable energy sources.

Some blockchain mining companies have made that shift to renewable energy, like Canadian-based Bitfarms, which powers 100 percent of its operations by hydroelectricity. Similarly, Google has committed to operating on carbon-free energy in all of its data centers by 2030. Microsoft also intends to be “carbon negative” by 2030, and Amazon Web Services has a goal of powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Institutional investors may also drive the shift to renewable energy use as their investment decisions, including in digital assets, have been shaped increasingly by the consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, including energy use.

Perhaps with this increased renewable energy demand in mind, the US Energy Information Agency expects 62 percent of all new US electric generation capacity in 2022 to come from solar and wind. Concurrent with the development of new renewable energy sources, other companies are working to develop less energy intensive blockchain technologies, including so-called proof of stake consensus protocols that do not use mining to validate transactions.

Authors: Daniel J Deeb, Alex Garel-Frantzen

Source: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/energy-and-environmental-considerations-metaverse

Net zero by 2050 will hit a major timing problem technology can’t solve. We need to talk about cutting consumption

Image: Unsplash/Matthew Henry

From The Conversation

Many climate activists, scientists, engineers and politicians are trying to reassure us the climate crisis can be solved rapidly without any changes to lifestyle, society or the economy.

To make the vast scale of change palatable, advocates suggest all we have to do is switch fossil fuels for renewable power, electric vehicles and energy efficiency technologies, add seaweed to livestock feed to cut methane and embrace green hydrogen for heavy industries such as steel-making.

There’s just one problem: time. We’re on a very tight timeline to halve emissions within eight years and hit net zero by 2050. While renewables are making major inroads, the world’s overall primary energy use keeps rising. That means renewables are chasing a retreating target.

My new research shows if the world’s energy consumption grows at the pre-COVID rate, technological change alone will not be enough to halve global CO₂ emissions by 2030. We will have to cut energy consumption 50-75% by 2050 while accelerating the renewable build. And that means lifestyle change driven by social policies.

Man installing solar
Renewables must be built at a much faster rate. Image: Shutterstock
The limitations of technological change

We must confront a hard fact: In the year 2000, fossil fuels supplied 80% of the world’s total primary energy consumption. In 2019, they provided 81%.

How is that possible, you ask, given the soaring growth rate of renewable electricity over that time period? Because world energy consumption has been growing rapidly, apart from a temporary pause in 2020. So far, most of the growth has been supplied by fossil fuels, especially for transportation and non-electrical heating. The 135% growth in renewable electricity over that time frame seems huge, but it started from a small base. That’s why it couldn’t catch fossil fuelled electricity’s smaller percentage increase from a large base.

As a renewable energy researcher, I have no doubt technological change is at the point where we can now affordably deploy it to get to net zero. But the transition is not going to be fast enough on its own. If we don’t hit our climate goals, it’s likely our planet will cross a climate tipping point and begin an irreversible descent into more heatwaves, droughts, floods and sea-level rise.

Our to-do list for a liveable climate is simple: convert essentially all transportation and heating to electricity while switching all electricity production to renewables. But to complete this within three decades is not simple.

Even at much higher rates of renewable growth, we will not be able to replace all fossil fuels by 2050. This is not the fault of renewable energy. Other low-carbon energy sources like nuclear would take much longer to build, and leave us even further behind.

Do we have other tools we can use to buy time? CO₂ capture is getting a great deal of attention, but it seems unlikely to make a significant contribution. The scenarios I explored in my research assume removing CO₂ from the atmosphere by carbon capture and storage or direct air capture does not occur on a large scale, because these technologies are speculative, risky and very expensive.

The only scenarios in which we succeed in replacing fossil fuels in time require something quite different. We can keep global warming under 2℃ if we slash global energy consumption by 50% to 75% by 2050 as well as greatly accelerating the transition to 100% renewables.

Individual behaviour change is useful, but insufficient

Let’s be clear: individual behaviour change has some potential for mitigation, but it’s limited. The International Energy Agency recognises net zero by 2050 will require behavioural changes as well as technological changes. But the examples it gives are modest, such as washing clothes in cold water, drying them on clotheslines, and reducing speed limits on roads.

The 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate mitigation has taken a step further, acknowledging the importance of collectively reducing energy consumption with a chapter on “Demand, services and social aspects of mitigation”. To do this effectively, government policies are needed.

Rich people and rich countries are responsible for far and away the most greenhouse gas emissions. It follows that we have to reduce consumption in high-income countries while improving human well-being.

Protests calling for wage subsidies
To smooth the transition, governments will need to guarantee jobs. Image: Steven Saphore/AAP
We’ll need policies leading to large scale consumption changes

We all know the technologies in our climate change toolbox to tackle climate change: renewables, electrification, green hydrogen. But while these will help drive a rapid transition to clean energy, they are not designed to cut consumption.

These policies would actually cut consumption, while also smoothing the social transition:

  • a carbon tax and additional environmental taxes
  • wealth and inheritance taxes
  • a shorter working week to share the work around
  • job guarantee at the basic wage for all adults who want to work and who can’t find a job in the formal economy
  • non-coercive policies to end population growth, especially in high income countries
  • boosting government spending on poverty reduction, green infrastructure and public services as part of a shift to Universal Basic Services.

You might look at this list and think it’s impossible. But just remember the federal government funded the economic response to the pandemic by creating money. We could fund these policies the same way. As long as spending is within the productive capacity of the nation, there is no risk of driving inflation.

Yes, these policies mean major change. But major disruptive change in the form of climate change is happening regardless. Let’s try to shape our civilisation to be resilient in the face of change.

Author: Mark Diesendorf
Honorary Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney

Australia begins long road to retraining thousands of coal workers for clean energy roles

Australia needs to accelerate efforts to lure new entrants and retrain industry veterans in the shift to clean power. Image: Reuters

From The Straits Times

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) – The sudden speed of the shift to clean power is forcing Australia, a global champion of coal and gas, to confront one of the energy industry’s biggest challenges – how to transition millions of fossil fuel workers to new roles in wind and solar.

Clean energy could create more than 38 million jobs worldwide by the end of the decade and meeting that demand without a labour shortage requires accelerating efforts to not only lure new entrants, but also to create a clearer plan to retrain the industry’s veteran workforce as traditional fuel sources decline.

That’s a task getting underway in Australia, where coal’s supremacy is finally under threat from cheap clean power, and with lawmakers who once defended fossil fuels now trading promises over green jobs in campaigning ahead of a May national election.

“The light is just going on across governments and industry” that more investment in training is needed, with a lack of skilled workers already emerging for some existing projects and challenging plans to add more clean energy to help nations meet climate commitments, said Dr Chris Briggs, research director at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures.

In the southeastern city of Ballarat, a key 19th Century gold mining hub, companies including Vestas Wind Systems A/S – the world’s biggest turbine manufacturer – have funded the country’s first wind power training tower, where students and ex-coal workers can use a 23m-high platform to acquire the expertise needed for roles in renewables.

“At the moment, with these skills, you have to fly them in from outside, or send Australians overseas,” said Mr Duncan Bentley, a vice-chancellor at Federation University, which hosts the site.

The facility is the first local training institution that can provide a key safety qualification needed to work in the wind industry.

Renewables accounted for almost a third of the country’s electricity generation in 2021, double the share four years earlier, and utilities are bringing forward plans to retire coal-fired power stations years ahead of schedule.

About 10,000 coal jobs in Australian mines and power plants related to domestic electricity generation will be lost by 2036, according to Dr Briggs. More will surely also exit as coal exporters eventually shutter.

In the same period, around 20,000 to 25,000 new jobs will appear in the construction, maintenance and operation of renewable power, he said.

Legislators, too, are starting to adapt. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a 2019 election in part because his defence of fossil fuel jobs helped secure decisive support in coal communities.

Ahead of May’s election – with his government trailing the opposition Labor Party in opinion surveys – he’s still supporting coal, but also touting prospects for workers to win new roles in clean hydrogen.

There is a catch in the rush to new sectors. Most roles in solar and wind power promise only a fraction of the salaries in the minerals industry. Mining is in the blood in Australia, fostering almost every economic boom since the gold rushes of the 19th century.

“As a young fellow it made sense to go straight to the mines, trying to chase money,” said Mr Dan Carey, who spent 12 years working in the remote iron ore hub of Port Hedland as well as the oil and gas town of Karratha in Western Australia.

In January, in search of a better lifestyle, he became a service technician at a wind farm in Warradarge, a three-hour drive north of Perth. Now “it’s about enjoying the work”, Mr Carey said. “In the mining world, everyone does sort of live for the money.”

For example, the starting salary for an operator at AGL Energy’s Loy Yang A coal power station in Victoria is about A$164,500 (S$164,750) while a technician for wind turbine builder Suzlon would earn between A$100,000 and A$120,000, according to recent Fair Work Commission enterprise agreements.

In mining there are also a raft of perks, that could include 6 weeks paid leave, subsidised housing and utilities, free vacation air tickets and big bonuses.

“It’s definitely going to be hard to retain people that have come from that world,” Mr Carey said.

Also, while mining and coal power have provided work for generations of Australians, many new jobs in renewables are temporary.

“The challenge is that there are hundreds of jobs in construction and only a handful of jobs in operations and maintenance,” said Ms Anita Talberg, director of workplace development at the Clean Energy Council, an industry group. And some of the highest-skilled jobs in fossil fuels have no direct equivalent in renewables, she said.

Yet the sheer size of the energy transition will mean construction of large new solar and wind farms will continue for decades, steadily increasing the number of ongoing positions as the new plants come online.

Fossil fuel veterans are well positioned to prosper, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Staff on gas platforms typically have expertise suitable for offshore wind, while coal workers have been recruited into solar and oil reservoir engineers can use their knowhow for geothermal power.

Australia’s first offshore wind farm, the Star of the South, is scheduled to open in 2028 in the Bass Strait, off the country’s southern coast. At about the same time, Hong Kong-based CLP Holdings will close the ageing Yallourn coal-fired plant nearby after more than 100 years of operation.

The wind project is aiming to capitalise on the pool of potential workers, and has sought talks about retraining opportunities. “You’ve got the workers with the skill sets,” said Ms Erin Coldham, Star of the South’s chief development officer.