Climate Change Update 26th May 2024

Our art exhibition got an excellent write-up in the Monaro Post on Wednesday and Peter New had a wonderful letter confirming its success (see three items attached). If you haven’t already, please come and see the exhibition (Imagine a Clean Energy Future) at the Raglan, 9-11 Lambie St, Cooma, any day from Wed to Sun, 10.30am to 3.30pm, through to 30 June. 

We have also organised weekly workshops, starting this Tuesday, from 12.30 to 2pm in the Tillers Gallery at the Raglan, starting with an EV workshop. See attached notice. All free with the tea and biscuit thrown in!

The Raglan Board has asked whether anyone might volunteer for sitting at the reception desk while the exhibition runs (even thereafter!) Merilyn Minell would be happy to offer instruction, though it is not difficult. 

The biggest news of the week, of course, was the infuriating decision by the NSW Government to keep open Eraring coal-fired power station for another two years (or maybe four) to “keep the lights on”. It will cost the tax-payer up to $450 million. The NSW government (previous and current)  itself is to blame because it has failed to deliver the new capacity on time. According to Renew Economy, new wind and solar projects have been delayed by extended planning holdups, and the state’s proposed renewable energy zones have also been delayed.

Concern about climate change clearly did not matter enough to the relevant NSW Ministers (Environment Minister Penny Sharpe and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey) though Minister Sharpe did say it would not affect our emission reduction targets. This despite extending the life of the Eraring power station until 2027 will pump an extra 12 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere over two years.

Meanwhile, weather gets ever more chaotic. Tornadoes, floods, heatwave, freezes and freak weather wreaked havoc across the world this week, with deadly consequences. In India’s capital Delhi, temperatures soared above 47 degrees Celsius. At the other extreme, temperatures in Chile’s capital Santiago dipped to near freezing, making it the coldest May since 1950. And in Afghanistan, fresh floods triggered by heavy rains killed almost 100 people, and destroyed hundreds of hectares of agricultural land as well as thousands of homes and properties. This is the second time Afghanistan has flooded this month. Last week, heavy rains caused flash floods, which killed 315 people and left more than 1,600 injured across the country.

CSIRO on Wednesday released its 2023-24 Gen-Cost report about future electricity generation. It found that renewables – including costs associated with additional storage and transmission – remain the lowest cost, new build technology. It also determined that nuclear power was more expensive than renewables and would take at least 15 years to develop, including construction. 

There’s a webinar on Tuesday from 12 to 1pm called ‘Net Zero after the energy crisis’, organised by the excellent Renew Economy. It’s free but you have to register. You can do so here. As it says: ‘In an era defined by uncertainty, complex geopolitical tensions, volatile supply chains and the urgent need for rapid cuts in global emissions, the energy transition has reached a critical inflection point. But the need to reach net zero remains as critical as ever.’

Here’s the latest weekly wrap from the Climate Media Centre, this time penned by Jacqui Street:

This week was dominated by the worst-kept secret in New South Wales – the delayed closure of the Eraring coal power station. There was other climate news including musings about the Opposition’s nuclear potential nuclear policy, but the media were going deep on Eraring this week so let’s jump in with them …

On Tuesday AEMO put out an update to its Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO). AEMO forecast reliability gaps in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria without faster deployment of solar, wind energy and batteries. AAP writers in the Australian Community Media papers reported that meeting the electricity demands of Australian homes was set to become more difficult than previously predicted. The Australian Financial Review declared there was a “risk of summer blackouts”.

As Peter Hannam in The Guardian noted, AEMO’s update could justify the potential extension of Eraring. Nexa Advisory’s Stephanie Bashir wrote in the Australian, AEMO was predicting a reliability gap of more than 1GW in New South Wales from 2025 to 2028, and that Eraring staying open past 2025 was now inevitable. “The NSW government has left itself with no better choice than this extension, as a result of their lack of action,” she wrote. The NSW energy minister Penny Sharpe told ABC news “ that decision hasn’t been made yet.” 

But less than 48 hours later Origin Energy announced it had reached a deal to keep two of the Eraring units burning coal to at least August 2027, at a cost to NSW taxpayers of up to $225 million per year.  NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey told the Sydney Morning Herald the deal was “not an act of corporate welfare”. (Media tip! Don’t repeat negative terms or describe something as NOT in interviews lest it end up in a headline like THIS). Nevertheless the AFR described it as a good deal for Origin with the state government taking most of the downside risk.

Despite the prominence of climate-focussed groups including the Climate CouncilClimate Energy FinanceClean Energy CouncilSolar Citizens, Hunter Jobs Alliance and more in media coverage, there were some concerning narratives emerging with Origin Energy CEO Frank Calabria telling ABC’s Business Editor Peter Ryan that the extension provided more time to make the “difficult” transition to renewables. Worse still, on 2GB  Michael Warren from Boardroom Energy joined host Michael McLaren talking about “the unfulfilled promises and challenges of renewable energy infrastructure” and that climate groups had “egg on their faces”. It’s worth remembering the New South Wales Premier Chris Minns reportedly listens closely to 2GB and regularly appears on the station.

In between the AEMO stuff and the Eraring announcement on Wednesday the CSIRO published its GenCost Report update. After taking on board the most feedback the Gencost team had ever received on a draft, the report included the cost of large scale nuclear reactors as well as small, and found that they still don’t stack up in terms of time and cost compared to renewable energy

In addition to all of that, the NSW Government also made a battery announcement this week – presumably to have some good news to talk about.