The trust envelope – a view

Warning: There’s been changes to the wording of different parts of the contract. Sound familiar, whether is it a Chemist, a Bank, Telco, or any transaction you may have experienced it before. The reality is you not asking hard questions means you have lost something. Let us quote Dr Sandy Donald responding to concessions given by the Queensland Health Minister reported on 15 April 2014: “There were a lot of areas that gave the doctors almost no power to influence decisions and also a lot of areas we felt were open to misinterpretation.” What is the point you say?

The point is it is modus operandi for most dealings today to exploit trust. A Prime Minister might say ‘I am confident’ rather than ‘I confirm’. However, we might expect the weasel word language from that profession. But what happens when a Chemist says: Will you accept a cheaper brand? Think about that question: Did the Chemist say I would pass on a price advantage to you? Well in all likelihood no, the contract is I will give you a cheaper brand, it makes no guarantee you will pay less. You need to ask that question: Will I pay less if I take a cheaper brand? You may find the answer is no!

Without a Bank example we are low end of the Scale, A major telco has used very similar language and supplementary information in a very similar way too. Namely, you received an offer to upgrade. On the surface you are much better off for a reasonable rise in administration fees. You receive a supplementary advice, including: ‘With approval bank, will transfer any promotional rates to the new account’. Feeling good, hey! The welcome pack arrives and the Letter of Offer contains the words: Acceptance will transfer the promotional rate for x period at xx%. Then in the second sentence it says: Upon Expiry, the rate will revert xxxx balance xxxx. Look carefully at this phrasing and supplementary information, as it is as the Dr in the opening part of this post said ‘open to misinterpretation’. Learn to ask the hard question: Did you or will you transfer the promotion rate to the updated card? Most likely answer is no. You might also be taken back to hear ‘If you did not ask the question we had no obligation to tell you’. It follows that once you accepted you have no power to influence the decision to expire the offer.

CO2Land org can hear you say, but we have rights. Not anymore, unless you ask the questions. Em, trust – that may be an error.

 

 

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Solar mean and means

It is not ‘means’ tested. But it can mean a nightmare. The phone call: My business is wanting to purchase a small scale solar PV array, and I noticed the contract will not guarantee my price, and the price potentially will increase indirectly because the import of electricity will not remain a constant and directly because it is likely the Small Scale Technology Certificate (STC) will not be fixed for the duration.

Why is import of electricity important? The price of electricity is generally either regulated or contestable. Regulated prices are reset according to an application for price changes – you are a price taker. In short, the price changes each reset period and usually set by state government bodies. In a contestable market set by rules of the national body, to reduce your energy consumption you can carry penalties and price risk. Hence, you might find you have to pay a higher price because you have reduced your import of energy needs. Therefore there is no incentive to reduce your energy use.

Next matter is the popular selling point of Solar, and it is the opportunity to benefit from the export of energy. It follows that just as import prices changing is a risk, so is export energy a price risk. Especially when feed in tariffs (FITs) are being phased out, and in Australia – a review of the Renewable Energy Targets (RET), and the promised repeal of the carbon pricing mechanism could see a collapse of the renewable certificate price. The new’ish’ government is hopeful ‘affordable’ energy will follow the review.

So, if you want to protect your purchase by way of a price guarantee from third parties. You most likely cannot if you are larger than 7.5kWp (residential) but under 300kWp. Why? The energy retailers have no interest because of uncertainty exposing them to the price shocks, and commercial buyers of power have a line drawn in the sand of an economic value of no less than 300kWp export capability.

So, if paying a fixed price is important to you – then you should choose an installer who guarantees the price quoted – clearly and irrevocably. Is it possible? Yes, but the vendor needs to be courageous and needs to laterally rethink how they operate. But, we will save that thought for another post.

Still interested in Solar. Onward then we go: What can still be done in Australia to reduce the upfront cost of solar power systems even after hearing “the solar rebate ending”. There is still a financial incentive from the Australian federal government for installing solar. But you need to be quick if you consider the report on the RET review will reach government by July and ‘put to death by the Reich’.

What is tipped to go is the solar subsidy for anyone buying a solar system of up to 100kW. It is called the STC program. Which stands for Small-scale Technology Certificate. Whilst CO2Land org has previously been concerned that the STC is a distortion of the market, it believes any change should be phased out and not shut off suddenly. Another thing to consider is the STC scheme is not described as a rebate (even though it is = it is politically difficult to call it that). If you check what The Clean Energy Regulator says on their website, it says:

“Under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme the reduction in the cost of your solar panel is not a rebate. You will not qualify for any Government-based financial recompense at the completion of any process relating to STCs.”

The meaning of this is that the cash you get off your solar system price does not actually come from the government. It is a government scheme that compels other people to buy your certificates.

So it is a government run scheme, using other people’s money, and it becomes confusing when you consider the question what must change when all government schemes use other people’s money – is it not?  So, if you are confused over why does a scheme that will save you money and tick the box as a financial incentive be considered to have to walk the plank.

The solar Financial Incentive is a subsidy to assist with the upfront cost of installing a Solar Power System. Currently, it is not ‘means’ tested in any way. However, the criteria for claiming it are:

1) Your system is less than 100kWp in size.

2) You get it installed and designed by an accredited professional.

3) You use panels and inverters that are approved for use in Australia.

We said FITs are being phased out, but each state may differ in what is offered. So check out the following, as an example: The Feed In Tariff (FiT). “The FiT is a State Government subsidy in which some states pay you for the electricity that your solar system will export to the grid”.

How to get involved in the Solar Financial Incentive Scheme involves:

1) The regulator creates Renewable Energy Certificates (RECS).

2) The government mandates that fossil fuelled generators have to either build a certain amount of renewable generation (wind/solar) or buy the right to other people’s renewable energy systems in the form of RECs.

3) When you purchase a solar power system for your roof, the government gives you a number of RECS depending on the size of your system is and the region of Australia it is installed.

4) The special type of RECs that you get for under 100kWp solar system are called “Small Scale Technology Certificates” (STCs).

5) You (or more likely your installer) sell the STCs to the fossil fuel generators and use the cash to offset the upfront cost of the solar system purchase.

6) The STC price is a bit like a share price – it fluctuates on the open market depending on supply and demand. E.g. when the solar industry is booming (usually just before the rebate is cut!) then the STC price drops and vice versa.

7) “You can see the current market price of a STC here. Look for the number in the box in the bottom RH corner labeled: STC”.

8) Almost all solar system prices you see advertised will already have the solar Financial Incentive included in the pricing. So watch out for that too.

Earlier we said the amount of solar rebate that you can claim depends on where you live: It is broken down into zones that roughly mean live in the lower southern parts (zone 4) and get less incentive than other parts with central west parts (zone 1) getting the most.

But, beware of a small number of unscrupulous companies that use the “Inflated STC Price Scam” appear to be deceiving the customer into thinking they are getting a great deal and then hitting them with a bill for thousands more than the quoted price when the system is installed.

——

Be clear on what you want:

CO2Land org is aware that many installer/vendor quotes are virtually silent on saying they guarantee what is said in the quote as the STC price.

Co2Land org believes the truly good guys will be totally upfront and transparent that the final amount payable may go up (or down) based on the STC price on the day of the install.

It is up to you to make the decision to buy based on the facts. When ready to sign – why not say ‘This contract is signed for this fixed price only’ and make it a written condition, and have all parties endorse each copy!

 

Transistions – SME or Contestable Energy Strategies

Energy procurement is significantly different in 2014 than previously. The models for success require a multifaceted theme for the energy procurement process this time around.  What is different is you must manage and arranged the information for what you see as the product, and have them – the energy retailer/supplier, evaluate whether they want to participate.  The critical success factor is no longer ‘did you get the best price’, it is ‘did you get enough participants to respond with a good price and adequately market test your result’. It was so much easier when performance was as simple as input becomes output = price paid, and outcome was the accountant is happy.

Some of you reading this may not understand that the original idea of being contestable was to adequately market test and as the market matured the real cost of generation and supply would settle at the economic point of being sustainable. This point may disappoint those that are building reputations on driving prices down, and that the market is doing as it is expected to do – show maturity of the design.

So, it is time to move on and change the model of the market? Wintelboff and CO2Land org are seeing the Australian Electricity Market and the rules are in itself bringing about change, and there is further evidence most participants in the market are not prepared for the changes. Most of the difficulties are not the will to change by the participants, but more likely to be the extent of the systems required and needed to bring about the change.

Consider that it is now clearly the market is in two different tranches, and when you last went to market the electricity market described itself as contestable down to 160MWh pa consumption, and then below that effectively you were termed domestic and regulated at a set price or reset by regulatory pricing structures and determinations. It was also much easier when you could use the meter type as the rule for whether you contested on price or sought a discount on your tariff with the incumbent retailers. The incumbent was usually your network company and default retailer.

This time around you are either on an agreed price to pay for energy as a contract rate above the threshold of 160MWh pa or seek a discount on tariff set by regulation under the rules of as a small business enterprise (called SME) from 100MWh pa. In the latter a retailer licenced to sell energy might offer aggregation of sites to a contestable size or elect to do nothing other than offer tariff rates.

Another assumption that can be dangerous is to assume as a contestable site the retailer/supplier has an association with the network service provider/utility that will work to your benefit. Changes from within the system in all likelihood  means we can no longer ring our loyal and trusted friend and say can we fix this on one side of the ring-fenced entity or the other and have the problem resolved to mutual satisfaction.  It is now a detailed process. To get a result usually you need to address what they call the asset on a project basis, and computer says yes for you to proceed. If you have previously watched the TV series ‘Little Britain’ you will understand that statement rings very true.

Pursuing sustainable outcomes too brings new awareness, and innovation and the introduction of technology would be assessed according to the business case. Where you are showing success at getting a good price for your energy it can undermine the business case for the sustainable outcome. Especially where carbon pricing is needed to level the playing field. If you have been following that approach you will be seeing with the Feed In Tariffs (FIT) and other incentives being distorted as a political whim that only brings uncertainty to the project, and uncertainty has a cost.

On the point of whims, carbon continues to be a problematic area and the federal Energy Reduction Fund (ERF) is still very much without detail other than a benchmark carbon price will be set by government as government dictates and that price can change when the government decides to do so at its whim. The assumption to be made is that either you or those that you invite onto your agreement might be liable entities under that rules and impact your outcomes.

If we are attempting to bridge the needs of Energy as strategic, tactical and operational, and we describe this as Energy Management, Transition Strategies, and Savings – the need for individual assessment is more important than ever before. Yet, most competitive services are tending to be web based and call centres. This is hardly adequate when you desire to be an energy efficiency centre.  That sort of work requires a fuller understanding of the needs, other than a checklist and dubious interpretation of guidelines according to the level of training or programing of the robot. As a sustainable approach it is likely changes to the energy needs over the life of the agreement is being sought, and that is more than price.  Another way of looking at that point is in medical practice the prognosis will be accessed as preventative (price gained now) or diagnostic (what is the best course of action). A good example can be taken as: You want to introduce solar technology, and you need to know what penalties are written in the contract and will a standard form contract be sufficient to cover this off sufficiently well. LED is another very interesting technology as it can negate the need for conventional building management systems entirely, and that could have long-term upstream effects on current contracts and relationships for tenants and landlords and building managers.

We must take into consideration the balance in terms of energy supply and demand, and the responses must relate to multiples of price, network and security, and even emergency responses. The later because increasing in frequency is disaster.

 

 

 

The elasticity of renewable demand and controversity

Newly-elected federal Liberal MP for Hume, Angus Taylor, is a committed anti-wind campaigner and is reported to be against the NSW government decision to allow the “controversial” Collector Wind Farm decision. In the reported post it was said he hinted policy and that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) review would likely prove the undoing of the wind farm industry in Australia –

“Projects like this seem set to continue unabated until a national review – which the new federal government has committed to in 2014 – can reveal the true economics behind the industry,” he said. “The RET review will look into the massive subsidies for wind farms, which are forcing up electricity prices and propping up an economically unviable industry.”

Source:  Hamish Boland-Rudder, Reporter at The Canberra Times | December 5, 2013 | www.canberratimes.com.au .

Unfortunately, in this country, we have again simply decided that ‘a review’ will do, to ignore that real innovators will suffer. The statement may be best viewed if you dissect the last quote above. In particular: subsidies – the go against the traditional models for supply; forcing up – obviously painful to the traditional models; propping up – this is the corker, as it suggests unless it is the traditional supply model the demand balance cannot be effective. If you think even harder you can also come of the view energy efficiency will be discouraged as decreased demand for energy will threaten the ‘viable’ industry. The most interesting part of all this politicking is that it ignores that what is driving all this angst is that technology is quickly overtaking the industry. Technology that is outmoding conventional supply systems. Like all technology advances it takes courage to move forward, to encourage the uptake and reward the innovators. But, alias my dear for that we need a review and force unreasonable cost to those with the shallow pockets.

However, is the secret deal as simple as reducing subsidies and reducing prices? Unfortunately economics is not that simple it also involves elasticity.

The business of BIOCHAR

The problem can be called “Marketing Myopia”, and the claim was made in relation to the uptake of BioChar. Quickly scanning to understand what was meant by that term the Business Dictionary was most helpful. Marketing Myopia – A short-sighted and inward looking approach to marketing that focuses on the needs of the company instead of defining the company and its products in terms of the customersneeds and wants. It results in the failure to see and adjust to the rapid changes in their markets.

The concept of marketing myopia was discussed in an article (titled “Marketing Myopia,” in July-August 1960 issue of the Harvard Business Review) by Harvard Business School emeritus professor of marketing, Theodore C. Levitt (1925-2006), who suggests that companies get trapped in this situation because they omit to ask the vital question, “What business are we in?” Read more: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing-myopia.html#ixzz2lJq5Y3wT

So: What is the business of BioChar? It can elicit a number of different answers that can supply at least 11 different industries. What might change is the name that suits the industry. For instance it may be called Bio-Carbon for industrial applications, and can be called carbon black, or graphite.

Applications in industry can be:  Insulation, Air decontamination, Decontamination of earth foundations, Humidity regulation, Protection against electromagnetic radiation (“electrosmog”), Exhaust filters, Controlling emissions, Room air filters.

  • It can be part of Industrial materials: carbon fibres, plastics.
  • Its use in Electronics: Semiconductors, batteries.
  • Use in Metallurgy: Metal reduction.
  • In Cosmetics: Soaps, skin-cream, therapeutic bath additives.
  • In Paints and colouring: Food colorants, industrial paints.

In Energy production:

  • Pellets, substitute for lignite.

In Medicines:

  • Detoxification, carrier for active pharmaceutical ingredients.

In apparel and footware:

  • Fabric additive for functional underwear, Thermal insulation for functional clothing, Deodorant for shoe soles.

In sleepware:

  • Filling for mattresses, filling for pillows

For protection:

  • Shield against electromagnetic radiation.

Then for applications of decontamination and waste handling:

  • Soil additive for soil remediation (for use in particular on former mine-works, military bases, radio transmitters sites and landfill sites)
  • Soil substrates (highly adsorbing, plantable soil substrates for use in cleaning waste water; in particular urban waste water contaminated by heavy metals)
  • A barrier preventing pesticides getting into surface water (Sides of field and ponds can be equipped with 30-50 cm deep barriers made of biochar for filtering out pesticides)

Treating pond and lake water (Biochar is good for adsorbing pesticides and fertilisers, as well as for improving water aeration)

  • Use as or in a Biomass additive, Biogas slurry treatment, Active carbon filter, Pre-rinsing additive, Soil substrate for organic plant beds, Composting toilets.

Then for applications of the treatment of drinking water:

  • Use in: Micro-filters, Macro-filters in developing countries.

Then for numerous Agricultural purposes it can be used or invaluable for:

  • Silage agent, Feed additive/supplement, Litter additive, Slurry treatment, Manure composting, Water treatment in fish farming, Carbon fertiliser, Compost, Substitute for peat in potting soil, Plant protection, Compensatory fertiliser for trace elements.

But you will say some of these are activated carbon. What is the difference? According to Achim Gerlach and published in ithaka (ithaka is also the reference to the 55 uses of biochar above): “Activated carbon = biochar – Generally speaking, all activated carbons are originally biochars. Active carbons are however “activated” using acids or hydroxides or 900°C water steam. In doing so, their specific surface area increases from app. 300 m2/g to over 1000 m2/g. Activated carbon is 5 – 10 times more expensive than simple biochar, so it is possible to use 2-3 times the amount of biochar to achieve the same result – whether with regard to digestion in cattle or in a sewage treatment plant. As activated carbon is for the most part produced without adequate controls in South-East Asia or South America, the eco-balance often leaves a lot to be desired. Biochar by contrast is produced from controlled, locally grown raw materials using controlled production methods. There is no real difficulty involved in producing activated carbon from biochar.”

This still does not answer the ‘what business are we in’ question. It follows that you define your product by way of what it does. But in business it is a definition of purpose for whom the business does serve is how you tend to answer ‘what business are we in’. Now consider the question of whether your product is to be considered as sourced from a co-product, or a by-product. Looking at this logically, it could be seen that the former broadens the scope of available uses that go beyond considering it a variable price component. A by-product might not be a business, and is more likely to be treated in a similar way to waste and less likely to be refined.

If you understand business you will know that the value model assumes you will seek what the market will bear in terms of price and volumes. A by-product only seeks to dispose of the ‘waste’ at a level that mitigates the cost of production. The issue then becomes how do I guarantee a quality product if it is not priced correctly.

Therefore a successful business proposition will have the price set in terms of purpose, price of bioenergy plants and the need for the plants to be tweaked so as to be priced accordingly and as a minimum must have a value sufficiently above its inherent energy value for the use of, and, or the market intended. Why, your business customer base needs to be accommodated to broaden the available uses, and that will be more than agricultural soil amendment.

So what is the business your in? Conventional wisdom suggests you need to be “Cool”, have a willingness to collaborate with end users, understand the proposals of purchasing chars from many sources, spend as much time & effort in researching/ formulating/inoculating to get the biology balance right, and set yourself up as best practice biochar ‘finisher’.

What is a finisher? John Christy asked the same question on LinkedIn, and as best as CO2Land org can find is: A biochar ‘finisher’ is someone who augments it, packages, and distributes. All they want is a price and a place to sell to, and focus on energy production. Is there anyone doing this or willing to consider at this point. Christy continues saying “Offtake agreements are needed now in order to get the financing for these projects. Ideally we want a 20 year agreement to take a minimum amount of biochar, meeting certain criteria….or a memo of understanding would help”. Maybe, that is the tact your business can take too, to satisfy the customers need!

This post does not attempt to address the production or the farm scale platforms for biochar use other than mention some of the factors of the business that will affect how you will function as a business. Country to country the price and composition of biochar will differ. Like all product, the material inputs is important. Here in Australia we have a forestry industry that can provide feedstock from floor waste and we can calculate the manufacturing cost of biochar from that source, other countries might not have such a luxury and have other sources of feedstock materials. The point is well made by John “There is much to be done to define biochar quality, learn how to ship large quantities without significant losses”.

As a footnote references:

 

http://www.ithaka-journal.net/55-anwendungen-von-pflanzenkohle?lang=en

 

We were promised a grown up government

Being described as a Pollyanna took me back a peg or two. (Full Definition of POLLYANNA : a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything — Pollyanna adjective — Pol·ly·an·na …

www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollyanna).

What do you mean? All that was said was I would like to be optimistic of the intention of the new government. That we should expect some transition difficulties but ultimately once the classical change management transition is complete we should have common sense prevail, as you would expect in a democracy.

If there was some unease with the choice of the basic change management strategy it may be because it was thought there was a right to govern. It could explain the expectation that the degree of resistance or indication of lack of resistance by the people, the dependency of the people to expect him to take decisive action was deemed by the Prime Minister as requiring a power-coercive change management strategy.

But something is already showing itself that the key success factors are astray. Whilst it is seen as a problem the identification of the major risk that is apparent may get down to the Culture or organization alignment.

“Tony Abbott promised us a grown up government.

But apparently what he meant was that he would be the only adult in it. His ministers are to be treated as children – worse than children, in fact, because while children should be seen but not heard, Abbott’s team cannot even be seen in public without permission from the top.

And even then they really shouldn’t open their mouths except to paraphrase Abbott’s message. Why, even his favourite choir boy, little Christopher Pyne, got it wrong this week with his talk about killing off university student unions – he was absolutely sure that was what Mr Abbott wanted him to do, but he was sent straight to the naughty corner for suggesting it prematurely. The other kiddies have apparently got the message; the airwaves have been freakishly Liberal-free ever since.

Still more importantly, he will have to pray that the public and the media react to his policies of concealment, silence and obfuscation with the same acquiescence he expects from his ministers. For the moment at least, he is determined to press ahead with the mushroom policy: keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit. ” Source ABC.net.au the Drum by:

Mungo Wentworth MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. View his full profile here.

Co2Land org now asks: What is going on, are we to procrastinate to not be so sure – to be sure!

Energy Utilities changing Models – A Battery of Choice

As one would normally do, chat about renewables and impacts on the utilities business model while relaxing with friends. It was a case of too much uncertainty over how the consumer would be treated because of change. Central to the discussion was that a provider to the electrical distribution system could threaten the current regulatory and centralized generation models of ‘essential services’.

What does this mean?  The business as usual model is failing where supply centric economics demanded you build additional load capacity and transport the capacity to the place of need. This model also meant the assets, including the customer, was owned by the utility. If you think of it this way, Governments tend to discourage demand side solutions. Demand Management was tended to be more of a series of incentive programs for utilities to duplicate infrastructure to transport to the demand source.

So, what happened to change the balance? The obvious: Technologies improved, carbon became issues for society and clean energy and renewables were being shown as a better way to address the logistics of meeting demand where it was needed. As a result some of the conventional infrastructure was at risk of being a stranded asset and the need to build conventional infrastructure required incentives from Government to reduce the financial risk. For example, the Demand Side Incentive scheme (DIS) formulated at about 2004 is dramatically underspent but is comforting for utilities in being a facility to reduce the financial risk.

If we note the changes in the needs of society as a driver for change: Governments and their policies encouraged that traditional public ownership be phased out to pass the needs to private investment. Government was happy for this ‘fix’ as they see it as the asset is sold for a value and ongoing regulated charges and fees and taxes are being paid to treasury, and that is a public benefit. The perfect storm in Australia is this action is also one of the drivers for electricity tariff increases in Australia. Recently the state of Queensland announced a 21% increase to its general tariff.  A source, CO2Land identifies as SF said: “Therefore those consumers with solar PV are subsidising those consumers that don’t have solar PV”.

From that last statement we can assume government policy (Federal and State) is very much the catalyst that resulted in the model change. Whether the change was necessary was more of a political move in this instance. It followed that technology and innovation evolved and the model change was inevitable. If you follow the beliefs of the 5th Column existing, this was done by infiltration of the policy areas by a particular group. It follows, in contemporary Australia, Government policy is more reactive than before, and since the 1970’s the rule of law was modeled as to be reactive to the needs of the dominate influence. Below is an explanation of this view as posted by CO@Land.org on 3 April 2013. Where:

Co2Land org now asks: If we consider the four primary schools of thought in general jurisprudence :

  •   Natural law is the idea that there are rational objective limits to the power of legislative rulers.
  •  Legal positivism, by contrast to natural law, holds that there is no necessary connection between law and morality and that the force of law comes from some basic social facts although positivists differ on what those facts are.
  •  Legal realism is a third theory of jurisprudence which argues that the real world practice of law is what determines what law is; the law has the force that it does because of what legislators, judges, and executives do with it. Similar approaches have been developed in many different ways in sociology of law.
  • Critical legal studies is a younger theory of jurisprudence that has developed since the 1970s which is primarily a negative thesis that the law is largely contradictory and can be best analyzed as an expression of the policy goals of the dominant social group.

If you think of the debate of tariff increases. Then you should consider it may have been ‘an expression of the policy goals of the dominant social group’, as critical to that issue. We should then think about the set of claims that the “Renewable Energy Targets” (RET’s) had undesirable consequences, and how governments (Federal and State) now realise that the larger than expected number of early adopters who signed up for the long term contracts are now having a negative impact on state & federal budgets, and this is one of the dominate drivers for electricity tariff increases in Australia. For those needing an introduction to the scheme, the RET’s are a federal government initiative commencing during year 2001, and from those bills and legislation various states and territories introduced those targets as various incentive schemes for customers to invest in solar PV with generous feed in tariffs. This incentive had the effect of distorting the demand supply balance, and the popularity embarrassed and alarmed treasury. If we use SF as the source again; “Queensland Govt initially offered 44cents per kWh this has now been reduced to 8cents. That said the response from the customer was rapid with Australia now having 2500MW of solar PV with and average capacity of 3.5kW.”

CO2Land org chose to give an example of Queensland for convenience, as this states geography and population patterns influence the custom that those consumers with a service, are asked to provide subsidies to those that do not.  In the case of electricity you could argue the subsidy required is determined by the length of the extension cords needed. You might understand why that state found it Initially appealing that solar PV was a localized delivery point. However, managing the asset is a different matter.

We are seeing similar issues being evident from around the world – business as usual is failing as the utility model. The danger is stranded assets and less control being possible. A story titled The Clean, Simple Solar and Storage Solution to US Utility Business Model Woes .

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/07/the-clean-simple-solar-and-storage-solution-to-us-utility-business-model-woes?cmpid=SolarNL-Thursday-July4-2013&goback=%2Egde_67258_member_256399748

Tells of an interview with former United States Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu on utility business models.  While the gist of what he said wasn’t new to me, the clean and elegant way he laid out what he sees as the future of utilities and solar power is worth sharing.

Similar to how in the past telephone companies – he specifically named AT&T – used to own the entire telephone system from the overhead telephone lines up to and including the phone in your house, Chu feels that utilities ought to own solar panels and energy storage systems that they put on their customers’ roofs and in their garages. He said if utilities could outfit homeowners with solar panels and a 5-kW battery system, they could continue selling that customer power just as they do now. The utility would own the system, maintain the system and the customer would have no out-of-pocket expenses for it other than continuing to buy power at the same rate or at perhaps an even lower rate.

 In the three-minute interview, Chu didn’t explain another huge reason that utilities should consider this option: distributed generation used in this way counteracts the need to build additional generation as the load capacity needs increase.  And lastly and most important, the utility gets to keep its customer.

Utilities should probably get clear on their approach soon. When it’s just a quarter or a half of one percent of a utility’s customers that have their own PV and are selling their solar power to the grid at the retail rate, the utility doesn’t care. But energy storage and PV panel costs are dropping, and once that percentage of utility customers’  that are zeroing out their bill goes to 5, 10 or 15 percent then “it’s a big deal” said Chu.

Chu said he told utilities that PV and energy storage is going to come and they should “form a new business model” NOW so that what today is a potential revenue loss, could become an area of growth for them in the future.  Plus, he said this model would eventually lead to a more stable grid for us all. “

CO2Land org is finding it difficult to solely blame the RET Scheme as the problem. The evidence is the splitting of the RET’s scheme into a ‘small scale’ offering for predominately solar PV is the problem. It is appropriate to say any change to the utility models would and did have a cause and effect disruption on the industry, and cause and effect type of disruption suggests any intervention will introduce more shocks in the industry, and we can expect that ideologies will continue to influence the Governments policy advisors who are without a full understanding the implications. It also follows that a large dependence on small scale or residential solar PV services implies a need for significant workforce skills shifts to cater for the growth and scope of the model change for utilities to take control of the assets at a domestic level to be to be effective. That is a significant cost driver, and it is reasonable to ask why should the utility be the provider of choice for these services where it would serve to drive up prices?

In defence of RET’s large scale systems, it follows that large systems do not directly affect the utilities mechanism to preserve the current regulatory model, but they shift the balance so that the model needs to be reviewed of the purpose and objectives in the delivery of the product. It follows that centralised generation models are what utilities do very well, and large scale transportation and distribution are well established capabilities of the industry. Expanding that capability to large commercial rooftops and installations might be a good idea. However, it too is not without the need for change. Albeit less dramatic than small scale.

CO2Land org is not proposing we should concentrate on picking winners for the model change.  However, ‘the battery concept’ leads to deeper thinking. The demand initiative needs to be expanded and a battery concept is not just a means of storage of an electron! It can mean tools and equipment that is readily available to balance the total load needs, and not just peak demand requirements. We know solar’s great weakness is peak availability profile and traditional batteries concepts take up rare earth minerals to manufacture. Are they already defunct? A far more sensible battery concept is something that can utilise what we have already consumed and discarded to be returned to there natural elements while producing energy and balancing the supply needs.  If you prefer think of it as a provider it can be an insurance tool for a supply imbalance, So can what they do be a source of energy rationing and balancing that fits neatly into the traditional delivery mechanism.

One such battery concept is the waste to energy gasifiers and their products including pyrolysis retorts. These can easily be written into the current infrastructure and be part of any new regulatory mix – even provide a result for policy without implications – it is not creating anything new – just making something old new again!

For the future, CO2Land org can see a lot more independent renewable sources becoming the norm, and utilities will be using energy exchanges to sell power to customers. This differs from ownership of customers in that bidding could be managed power purchasing agreement with give and take provisions in the price. What regulators will have to deal with is that nationwide and globally installing microgrids for Businesses and Communities will need to fit into economic as well as technical delivery models. A real power of choice if you prefer to think that way.

Movements – a Viable CFI methodology

Under debate for some time has been whether reforestation, and afforestation should be part of the CFI. It was thought only conservation planting was viable as a measure under Natural Resource Management (NRM) rules. In more recent times part of discussion was a concern that political movements would be disruptive.

Two announcements made by the Australian Government on these matters by newsletter on 12 April 2013 may be helpful for the debate. Namely:

  1. First reforestation and afforestation project approved, and
  2. No changes to methodology development following changes to the Cabinet.

Posted on April 8, 2013 by co2land, Makers – a Viable CFI methodology the point was made it is not a simple process to develop CFI Methodology and program rules are a major factor in participating, and the recent Government announcements will address most of those points (but not the coalitions position).

On point 1: The Clean Energy Regulator under the Carbon Farming Initiative has announced the first project using the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) (Reforestation and Afforestation) Determination 2013. There are now 53 projects approved under the Carbon Farming Initiative. All projects declared eligible under the CFI Act are published on the Register of Offsets Projects.

On point 2: Work on the development and assessment of Carbon Farming Initiative methodologies undertaken by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) will continue apace under new Ministerial Responsibilities announced recently by the Prime Minister.

DCCEE’s energy efficiency functions will be have been transferred into the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET) while the remaining policy functions currently performed by DCCEE, including the CFI, will be have been transferred to the newly-named Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE).

Former DCCEE staff working on the CFI and other land sector measures will move to DIICCSRTE and continue their work accordingly.

Whether participating in CFI or not is still very much a matter of it depends on the location and the carbon sequestration rates that would be possible for it to be viable.

If we start by avoiding the cost of participation discussion, one non-scientific way to help you decide is to ask: Did the area to be used have really large trees present in the past? If yes it could be very viable. It follows that nature will want to regenerate those areas into large carbon rich forests. In gathering your evidence you could include old local history photos of the areas showing the large density of trees on them. In choosing a more scientific way: Gather the Lot & DP numbers and/or GPS points, and the CFI environmental tools should be useful to tell the landholder the likely sequestration rates. However, as we said in the former Co2Land org post the uncontrollable factor in proving if it is viable is the price of carbon. Notice it was not said the ‘carbon price’ as that is an artificial price set for the transition period.

If we focus on the cost of developing a methodology for inclusion into the CFI program register the major factor is cost in terms of the capability to enter into initiative. You may find innovation is required for a “creative” way to recover the cost of developing a methodology. Or is it? It follows that once published on the climate change website it becomes public information. However, it will still take some effort and there will be a need to lobby Government to allow the methodology to be used by another entity. In equity you should anticipate any agreement might require a royalty payment to the original developer.

If you can overcome the matter of cost, it becomes a question of what CFI environmental tools you refer to for the CFI Mapping and Reforestation Modeling tools. Also the methodology costs will depend on the level of verification and any additional research required, in many cases there are sufficient prior studies (such as survival & growth rates in the targeted region) and accepted calculation methods to do this could be found from a literature search, or you could talk to others trying to develop the same thing. It is understood the web page: http://www.greeningaustralia.org.au/our-projects/land/bio4 will promote further research on this matter.

One suggested project to study as a background search is the NSW Blacktown Council and their Regenesis Project. That project has lessons that can be of benefit to be aware of in your deliberations. One example lesson is they had a significant grant to develop their concepts and actually generated the first carbon credits only to have a later policy decision rule projects within urban boundaries to be ineligible. Notwithstanding, the core of their work is valid. You can view the Regenesis projects on the website – www.australiancarbontraders.com and then click on the Regenesis link on the front page.

So frustration will continue and innovation continues to be encouraged – for those eligible – and that suggests you need friends to be recognized as able to be innovative. At cross purposes you might argue!  An anonymous friend, name provided but withheld, said “in an entirely different forum some years ago we flagged this as a problem for the then announced Innovation Strategy. The senior public servant delivering the local launch responded: We can’t have people solving problems in unique ways that we can’t predict, you wouldn’t know where would it all end up!

It would seem the core problem with the current grant model is that it is primarily a funding model for the usual suspects, as practiced the truly (open) competitive component is only a small % of the funding available.

We need a better approach that covers needs of Universities and commonwealth and state research agencies separately.”

Then we hear funding has no longer been provided for strategic innovation!

Makers – a Viable CFI methodology

Recently a discussion group was asked for information on the area needed to make a Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) methodology viable. I follows the answer is not as simple as it should be and part of the problem is the rules can change and even the responsible entity itself might change. This statement is not an example of a remote possibility, it is very much what is likely to happen.

First issue: The market.

Currently a Australian Carbon Credit Unit is reported as holding steady at approximately the Carbon Price Mechanism expectation of $23 (actually ACCU spot price is $22.60 at 4 April 2013). Compared to the trading prices of others. For example the Carbon + Market Daily (www.cedaily.com.au) shows European Union Allowances (EUA eligible on Australian Scheme from mid 2015 – June 2016: AUD $7.48 – no change) 
* Certified Emission Reductions (CER eligible on Australian Scheme from mid 2015 – June 2016: AUD $0.67 – up 6.4%) 
* New Zealand Units (NZU spot can’t be used to meet liabilities under the Australian scheme: NZD $1.97 – down 2.5%) 
* Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU spot Kyoto units issued under the CFI that can be used to help meet Australian scheme liabilities: AUD $22.60 – no change). They also report of conflicting market drivers, and this is in addition to the Coalition threats to dismantle the carbon price mechanism, that the European market is struggling to hold above EUR5 on moderate volumes. Problems include:

1) An increasing likelihood that backloading will be passed as more countries come out in support of the proposal; and

2) High auction volumes relative to emitter demand.

3) Increased selling in the New Zealand market as more participants’ look to switch out of their NZUs and into cheaper international units.

4) June 2016 prices for EUAs and CERs reflect the cost of these units to an entity liable under the Australian scheme’s floating price phase.

5) The EUA (December 2013 contract) is a focus as this drives price movements and is a key indicator of EU (European Union) market sentiment.

Conclusion – first issue: Transactions involving carbon give rise to substantial risk (including regulatory risk) and are not suitable for all investors. It is recommend that you seek your own independent legal or financial advice before proceeding with any investment decision

Second issue: Carbon Auction Rules.

The Clean Energy Regulator is likely to be required to offer 60 million carbon units in 2013-14 under draft carbon auction rules. The potential is the opening price is at 60% of the international market price. Follow the link of the

exposure draft of a carbon auction determination, and it will outlines arrangements for auctions that are set to begin next financial year.

If you are relying on an incoming Coalition Government to repeal the determination, you should note s113(9) of the Clean Energy Act allows the Regulator to hold auctions even without the determination. It might not be so simple as a statement to win votes – it is written in stone so to speak.

Conclusion – Second issue: Without control of the senate, or if the senate is hostile, a Coalition repeal instrument would be disallowable. This introduces additional risk, and additional to regulatory risk. As in the first issue it is recommended you seek your own independent and financial and legal advice.

Third Issue: ACCU methodology.

It costs up to $1M to develop a methodology acceptable under CFI. Once accepted the transaction cost to create the ACCU’s is said to be about $70,000. Although it is not a definite cost, it can be less but a reasonable guide and it requires you to look carefully at the potential yield of each project and whether you can smear the transaction cost across the entire project to determine the minimum size for it to be a worthwhile program.

One way to develop a methodology and reduce your cost base is to apply to the 

Methodology Development Program (MDP) for a grant to develop the methodology. The 

MDP is a 
$19.6 million for the development of methodologies for use in the Carbon Farming Initiative. The fund is administered by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE).

However, recently the Government has moved from 26 March 2013 that DCCEE be in transition to be part of a new super department called the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. 

It is reported as a move the Australian Government hopes will be seen as logical and a way to portray that climate change is taken seriously across all of government and across all portfolios. Details changes are yet to be fully announced, albeit it is known the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy has changed with 140 projects, 33 university programs and 100 researchers affected – source ABC.net.au.

Conclusion – Third issue: Before expending too much time on the methodology. The suggestion is you follow up on who would administer the program post transition to the super department, and the will to continue with the program. Any changes will have cost implications for your efforts.

If only we had certainty!

Confident with no confidence – QLD style CID

Asking a cursory ‘Trust you are having a good and Happy Easter up in Queensland’. The reply was a shocker: “We are stuffed, I suppose the next thing we will get is a letter in the mail, stating we have to walk off our property so they can push every thing over for Ergon and the mines – Love Sharron”.  What was referred to is an alleged flawed process for the duplication of the 63 klm long 110kV power line from Warwick to Stanthorpe in Queensland, and the mounting speculation a public announcement has been held back from that process.

Ergon Energy is sponsoring the Community Infrastructure Designation (CID) process, under the Section 200 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (SPA). The SPA details the process required for CID, providing an emphasis on ensuring that adequate environmental assessment and public consultation occurs prior to Queensland Government approval.

But it is suspected Ergon Energy has not been fully consultative with landowners and the community on the proposed corridor and cracks are appearing in the approval tactics under the Queensland Government’s CID process. According to the ‘grape vine’ what is held back is announcing mining is coming to Warwick, which is backing off Cherribar Resort owned by Chinese investors (a Resort set up to supply 400 homes for dignified living of people of Chinese origin), and the facilities includes the operating of their own airstrip. The timeframe is said to be in about 18 months, and soon after Cecil Plains coal seam gas and open cut mining has started.

CO2Land org then felt compelled to research this story further and then noted the Southern Free Times has been running stories on the progress of the proposal by Ergon Energy to build an additional power line to supply the Stanthorpe area. A quick check indicated this means 3 supply lines to cater for the area. (Stanthorpe – translated as old English meaning ‘tin town’ – is a town situated in south east Queensland, Australia. The town lies on the New England Highway near the New South Wales border 223 km from Brisbane via Warwick, 56 km north of Tenterfield and 811 m above sea level. The area surrounding the town is known as the Granite Belt. At the 2011 census, Stanthorpe had a population of 5,385.)

According to the local government council, the population of the Southern Downs Region has increased over the past 5 years at an annual average rate of 1.4%.  They say this rate is above the national average for inland regions not affected by the current resources boom. They also say the population increase has been brought about partly by the “tree change” phenomenon, and partly by the affordability of high quality housing – currently averaging 40% less than Brisbane prices. That said it would be hard for Ergon Energy to argue population growth numbers justifying such a large expenditure on an underutilized power line – at a community expense, certainly not justified for at least another 10 years without a resources boom planned!

However, the headline of Southern Free Times of 28 March 2013 read “Stanthorpe needs Power Reliability Says Springborg” – the opening paragraph included “The State Member said he remains confident in the decision making process of a Stanthorpe Power Line Community Reference Group, despite rifts in the group and a loss of community support”. Looking deeper into the story we find 6 of the 11 member CRG have resigned!    This sounds a bit odd – the State Member (also the Qld Gov Minister of Health) ‘remains confident’ and the CRG has no confidence in the CID process? So what is really going on here?

On reading the entire story it is noted a number of good points are raised in the Southern Free Times and the expected well scripted responses come from Ergon Energy.  But what was not covered were some big burning matters such as: Fair compensation for the loss of use or abandoning the use of your homes and property to make way for a duplication of the 110kV power line (it seem Qld in cutting the red tape for approvals also avoids the option of owners selling land affected at market price, or even accept a fair rent for the use of the land). Next, the line will be redundant unless significant growth for the need for power increases above the expected planned growth scenario. This is something the regulators must test for who benefits and whether the abandoning of the need in the lifetime of the line will result in undue costs to the community. Especially if the ‘grape vine’ is correct as to the actual need for such a large duplication.

The big issue in all this is not even remotely covered. That is the case for smearing the costs with the community when it may be a benefit for say a new mine or foreign investment interests, and that user might pull out of the area before the economic life of the line is reached.  We can think of numerous examples where this happens and one ripper is Cobar in NSW – the lines were put in and the mine shut down leaving the community to pay the costs. Costs that we now know could be avoided.

What evidence is there that financial and lifestyle costs could be avoided? The answer is actually in the responses from Ergon Energy to the Southern Free Times. A absolute major give away and indicator of the real agenda  – Ergon did not say that all alternatives had been evaluated, they said proposals to met expected demand for alternatives had not been included in time. They also said two lines currently serve the area including an 110kV and a 33kV line. They argued the 33kV line can only supply half of the current peak load. Extrapolate that to peak loads and the capacity of the current 110kv line is fine and allows for load growth of the predicted 18% over the next ten years. It also means demand response measures, if taken, will cater for peak load without new infrastructure. It also means a duplicate 110kV power line will at best be utilized 5% of the time – if you research the Power of Choice submissions with AEMO you will find similar analysis.

Also noted in Springborg’s response is he said new infrastructure was required and without detail other than a general statement the community is entitled to reliable power. Maybe the CRG should ask a few more questions, like:

  1. Why do you need more than what is stated as the need in growth scenarios (reference to published planning and forecasts from other than Ergon)?
  2. Why do you think technology will not provide solutions at a least cost other than conventional distribution of power? and,
  3. If a new industry development other than what is required by a community in growth were introduced would that industry pay a fair and reasonable rent for the infrastructure?
  4. Would a fair and reasonable rent be returned to the community?

Of course these questions are very likely to elicit more the well scripted replies to the questions, but then you could just ask them again only at a different level. For instance, if the state said the means is more important than the ends, it should be tested thoroughly.

Co2Land org now asks: If we consider the four primary schools of thought in general jurisprudence :

  •   Natural law is the idea that there are rational objective limits to the power of legislative rulers.
  •  Legal positivism, by contrast to natural law, holds that there is no necessary connection between law and morality and that the force of law comes from some basic social facts although positivists differ on what those facts are.
  •  Legal realism is a third theory of jurisprudence which argues that the real world practice of law is what determines what law is; the law has the force that it does because of what legislators, judges, and executives do with it. Similar approaches have been developed in many different ways in sociology of law.
  • Critical legal studies is a younger theory of jurisprudence that has developed since the 1970s which is primarily a negative thesis that the law is largely contradictory and can be best analyzed as an expression of the policy goals of the dominant social group.

Has the Queensland Government and Ergon (a government entity) set the theme of better practice or has the quest for the means of the market overtaken good policy for the ends to look after the community?  If the means is more important can we say the community consultation businesses that influence, is only in the interest of making a market other than setting up community representative groups with limited knowledge of the true agenda? Therefore are these groups only to give comfort to the Minister of state that all is well on a certain issue?