Frailly – the morally weak resistance to Climate Change and Renewable Energy

Frailly might explain the morally weak and the extraordinary resistance of some to climate change and a useful tool in fighting it – renewable energy. You might notice a Minister will flounder and adding insult to injury make confounding and confusing statements, ad hoc, and as the selective audience wants to hear. Authors that have had entrenched positions in the past are now desperate to distant themselves from any association with the evidence they previously exposed. You want some examples?

Adding insult to injury: Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt is on record as not denying cabinet rolled him on climate change. He has since approved the Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland. What is confusing is that the mine owners may end up with stranded assets, as the world appears to be turning its back on coal for either environmental or economic reasons. How could that happen, aren’t the Indian owners on top of the game? The answer may be they diversify and spread the risks. It may be they are looking at the risks seriously too, and their significant investment in Australia is under Climate Change risk that cannot be ignored. In particular their investment in and the serious threat to Agriculture. Indian Conglomerate, Olam is reported: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-10/agricultural-giant-says-climate-change-absolutely-real/5659058 . Olam International chief executive Sunny Verghese has told Landline that agricultural producers and processors need to take action now.

“It is absolutely a reality that climate change is going to significantly impact agriculture,” he said.

“It impacts it both from the nexus it has with water, and the nexus it has with micro-climate as well, so it is probably the most important driver to future agricultural production, productivity and therefore price.”

Mr Vergese was on the Gold Coast this week to address the 2014 Australian Cotton Conference.

His Singapore-based company has operations in 65 countries, and is the world’s biggest trader in cashews, and the second biggest trader in coffee and cotton.

Olam International has had a presence in Australian since 2007; it owns Queensland cotton, manages 12,000 hectares of almond orchards in Victoria and has investments in the grain, wool and pulse industries.

“Mr Verghese said one of Olam’s initiatives to tackle the impacts of climate change was to reduce water consumption.

We have a target that in our tier one manufacturing and processing facilities we will reduce water usage per tonne of product that we supply by 10 per cent by 2015, and in our farms by 10 per cent by 2020,” he said.

“Similarly we can track the carbon dioxide emission that we generate across all our commodities in each country.

Again we have put some hard targets of how we are going to reduce that carbon emission footprint for every tonne that we supply by 2015 and 2020.

My view is that there is no point if I say I’ve generated half-a-billion after tax earnings, but I’ve depleted $200 million of natural capital from the environment.

Because then I’ve got to question myself, what is the point of all this overwhelming effort if at the end of the day you’ve really depleted the natural capital and left a huge bill to pay for future generations?”

Co2Land org is also aware of Indian companies in Iron Ore and other minerals in Australia and you might conclude they are balancing their portfolio as opposed to placing all the eggs in one basket. But are they also positioning themselves to expect trade-offs from the government? You might say – but hang on the government says no assistance will be given to industry. Then again we know the federal government in particular likes to offer diesel credits and subsidies if they contribute to mining! Those subsidies are significant – like $b’s.

Then there is NSW Planning Minister Prue Goward saying she supports sensible renewable energy, then says she resists approvals of new renewable projects! Also representing the Southern tablelands area of Goulburn district is the Federal MP Angus Taylor. He is on record as saying sun and wind energy should not be increased in the southern tablelands. Which ironically is very well suited in terms of sunshine and wind and infrastructure availability. Then it is reported Angus, when speaking on 2WEB – Bourke – and in the Australian Financial Review, recently said that Solar Energy is an important part of the energy mix in regional Australia. He even called for changes to the regulation of electricity distribution network charges. He essentially followed the Grattan Institutes recent report: “The key here is to look for low cost ways to move towards clean energy…Increasingly we are seeing that solar is likely to be the renewable energy to win the race”. Then comes the contentious bit for the network companies: The advantage of rooftop solar is that it doesn’t need the distribution network, which is …very expensive”. Go figure we say!

Then we have Rod Stokes The NSW Environment Minister advocating we will have a demonstration town in NSW that is to be disconnected from the network grid in 2014. It all sounds back to the future does it not? A time back when many towns were not grid supplied in the past, and local government actually were responsible for power generation too. The issue in those days was, and is now the efficiencies needed for payback. CO2Land org recently looked at a Monaro region town that wanted to go fully solar. Think 30 years paybacks. Why? 105 households and backup infrastructure needed for reliable supply. Maybe just a little premature on that proposal as we are sure technology will advance to better suit but sometime later we think.

What all this leads to is sensitivity and concerns. On the one hand you need to keep your customers happy. On the other networks need to either change how they do business or just keep on encouraging the regulator to actively discourage renewable energy. So what are networks going to do? Even that gets confusing – it seems customers don’t want change either, and some say for example: I left the city for a lifestyle change and I buy from the local businesses and I create jobs because of it. Then some company builds a wind farm nearby, and a solar farm is proposed too. I wont have that! Note the ’we’ is missing here, and the local businesses say that the wind and/or solar farm is good for business and workers come in and buy and people come to see the area’s attractions! Even move perverse is many of the objectors tend to be those that were not offered revenue from the project. Even neighbour against neighbour can occur because one allows a tower or panel on their land for a rent and the other missed out. Get it, like not in my backyard, but if you pay me it is OK? We find it interesting that the tree change types are happy that conventional power station plumes can destroy our fertile areas like the Hunter Valley and they don’t care!

Ok, so the answer is go bush and the Southern Tablelands local MP (Angus Taylor) says Solar is fine – in the bush and networks are expensive – sounds a bit of an oxymoron does it not?

Maybe the whole game is to discourage and to make it too hard, or is it just a ruse to confuse? If you want to be confused even further try reading the Business Spectator article: 7 August 2014, it was said “Finally, and perhaps more important than all the other arguments, future private owners of the networks in NSW and Queensland are likely to welcome asset write-downs, if it’s done before they put their money on the table.” The author does seem to suggest it is a plausible argument to suggest brown paper bags work best to influence an outcome? But, if so – won’t there be an inquiry?

Let us read through that story a little more: Why the power networks are wrong about writedowns,     BRUCE MOUNTAIN , 7 Aug 2014. If we select the key phrases:

“The Energy Networks Association has recently released some modelling that suggests consumers will be worse off if stranded network assets are written off. The gist of its argument is that such revaluations are perceived negatively by investors, who then demand a higher rate of return on their investment to compensate them for the risk.

The ENA’s argument seems fallible in a number of respects. Firstly, we need to question its assumption that networks investors have not already been compensated to bear asset-stranding risk. The regulatory calculation of the return on assets is based on an external ‘benchmark’. It is not based on the firms’ actual cost of equity and debt.

Prospective private investors, governments, consumer advocates, retailers (and the Energy Networks Association) might usefully focus on these questions. Better to get with the times than to try to hold back the tide. “

What concerns Co2land org about all this is the need to concentrate on networks as ’the investment problem’? We can understand that others might not be so convinced that we should merely think of networks being a commodity rather than a service. Even if you think of them as commodities – is it right to say – like the energy market can be fixed of its shortcomings, and then quote UK examples of why the problems will continue? Terribly confusing is it not old chap!

CO2Land org and our partners are prepared to accept that it is not solely the networks at fault. We feel certain parallels could be drawn but not one of the solutions can be directed to one side, we need new ideas to be brought forward and resist drawing parallels that do not exist. 

There may be an argument that it is necessary for chaos to exist in regulation land, so things can sort themselves out. But, that wont happen – too easy, Human nature directs it needs to be complicated!

All that put aside: what the networks need is a model to go forward with, so inevitably some write-downs and disquiet will happen. It will not be the end of networks providing they have strategies to move forward in partnership with renewables. Why else would the politicians being expressing they might change their mind, it cannot be all tactics to disrupt and detract progress – could it! 

 

 

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