Friday, February 24, 2017

Public Opinion Polls: Australians want climate action, renewables expansion



Two sets of opinion surveys highlighted how far ahead the Australian population is on climate and energy policy than the Federal Government and Liberal and National party policy.

The opinion polling by Essential Vision provides a national snapshot in areas such as belief in climate change, Labor's 50 per cent by 2030 renewables target, cause of the recent electricity blackouts in South Australia, whether renewables are a solution for our future energy needs, whether the Federal Government is doing enough on clean energy, and attitude to building more coal fired power stations.

The Victorian survey was larger and more nuanced by a private survey consultancy done for Sustainability Victoria. It showed much greater degree of support for climate action, renewables, the Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET), and the Victorian zero emissions by 2050 target. There was a high self-efficacy that everyone: individuals, businesses, environment groups, and the 3 levels of government, need to be taking considerable climate action, and that this should preferably be lead by the Federal Government.

It is notable that just last week the Coalition parties in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia all decided to abolish any state imposed renewable energy targets. This action would seems to be at odds with national opinion, but especially so in Victoria where there is much greater awareness and sense of urgency in tackling climate change. Opposition to the VRET appears to be a major backflip for Shadow minister for Renewables David Southwick.

The results should bolster the Federal Labor leadership under Bill Shorten to stick with their 50 per cent renewable energy target and ambitious climate policy that includes introduction of an Energy Intensity Scheme for the electricity generation industry.

For Turnbull, the results show his governments attacks on renewables and talking up 'clean coal' are not cutting through. In fact arguing against public opinion is probably making things worse in lowering public esteem for the Liberal Party.

The Victorian survey was released on the same day the Victorian Climate Change Act passed the Legislative Council (Upper house) and augers well for introduction of a Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) through legislation later in the year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Open Letter to David Southwick, Victorian Shadow Minister for Renewables



Dear David Southwick
State MP for Caulfield, Parliament of Victoria.
Shadow Minister for Innovation, Energy and Resources, and Renewables.

In February 2016 you said that Liberals really do care and that you will work to get the best outcome on energy and renewables. "Renewables are absolutely crucial to the future of Victoria and Australia." you said. Fast forward by a year and you are playing vicious partisan politics with Victorian climate and energy policy.

On Friday Victoria's Minister for Energy Lily D'Ambrosio announced a public tender for building a 20MW battery as part of the Victorian electricity grid. The grid-scale battery will be constructed either in north-west or south-west Victoria, at a location where the energy market operator has identified it could improve grid reliability.

This is something to be applauded.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thermal, wind and demand forecasting failed in South Australian Heatwave: AEMO

AEMO have released their preliminary report into the loadshedding and blackout of 90,000 south Australian residents and businesses during the extreme heatwave on 8 February.

In their summary of the event AEMO outline three main causes for the failure to match generation to demand. They specify that supply was rapidly changing in the period prior to the peak at 18:00, but the problem came down to:

  • Demand was higher than forecast
  • Wind generation was lower than forecast, and
  • Thermal generation capacity was reduced due to forced outages

When you analyse the report it becomes clear there was available capacity (Pelican Point 2) that could have been brought on line to meet the demand, but the market based processes of AEMO failed.

It is important to emphasise here that Adelaide and most of South Australia on Wednesday 8 February was experiencing extreme temperatures in the middle of an exceptional heatwave. Climate scientists have been predicting that heatwaves would get more intense. This sort of extreme heat event is in line with their predictions.

Adding to the extent of the issue, AEMO ordered at the evening peak at 18:03 100MW of load shedding to balance supply versus demand, but it appears SA Power Network shed 300MW, much more than was required.

I reported initially on this event the day after, on February 9: AEMO orders South Australian #heatwave blackout while Gas turbine remains idle.

Victorian Liberals declare war on renewable targets, jobs, investment



The Liberal party in three states - Victoria, South Australia and Queensland - vowed to drop state based renewable energy targets if elected. This follows Federal Liberal Party war on renewables and climate policy conducted since Abbott took power in 2013, continued under Prime Minister Turnbull.

While climate action at the Federal level has followed a rollercoast ride in the past two decades, states are increasingly taking more action to protect their citizens.

In the latest round of attacks at the Federal level, Manchester University climate change PhD student Marc Hudson argues that what we are seeing is not actually a policy battle, but a politics battle, and one that has been going on since at least 2000.

With reduction of the federal Renewable Energy Target and no plan as yet to extend it, the Labor states of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland, and the ACT, have all set in motion state renewable energy targets.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Heatwave makes Australia hottest place on planet with catastrophic bushfire conditions


Australia is currently the hottest place on the planet with the heatwave in SE Australia according to the Climate Reanalyzer site for Saturday 11 February. And last year (2016) was the hottest year on the planet in recorded history, following two previous years which also set the record.

As heat temperature records tumbled in south east Australia in the heatwave, catastrophic fireweather conditions were being experienced on Sunday over a wide region from Port Stephens in the Hunter Region, Tablelands and the Central West region of New South Wales. These conditions are categorized as a greater danger than the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 which killed 173 people directly in the bushfires and 374 excess deaths due to the heatwave.

Update: Climate scientists calculate that Climate change doubled the likelihood of the New South Wales heatwave (Feb 16, 2017 The Conversation)

We have an energy crisis with load shedding ocurring in South Australia on Wednesday (that needn't have occurred), and load shedding in NSW on Friday and Saturday with the Tomago Aluminium plant being ordered to curtail production and energy use.

But what you will find largely absent in the media and comments by politicians on the heatwave is any reference to climate change which is an essential driving factor of more intense heatwave conditions and catastrophic fireweather.

The mining and burning of coal is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and needs to be phased out in an orderly way to meet our international commitments on climate change. The only but would be if carbon capture and storage (CCS) was developed at scale and at reasonable cost, and I don't see enough research and investment to make this happen in a realistic timeframe.

So the Liberal Party are causing a clean coal controversy and blaming renewables, when AEMO and the energy market needs a thorough overhaul to re-prioritise production to meet consumer demand and social requirements rather than business profits. Just look at AEMO's governance bias for a start.

The Transition road may be rough at times, but we really do need to move to 100 per cent renewables. Prior changes such as the transition from horse and buggy transport to automobiles - about 13 years - at the start of the twentieth century, shows that transition happens relatively quickly. State renewables targets are realistic and already driving the energy transition we need.

Is it so hard to come up with a bipartisan national energy plan?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Colour scale confusion in Australian heatwave maps


Forecast Map produced by Bureau of Meteorology for 5pm 11 February, 2017. Source


I am reflecting on how easy it is for misleading information to be circulated, even with the best of intentions. A UNFCCC tweet on the Australian extreme heatwave published on 10 February was factually misleading.

Let me explain the details.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Heatwave is nothing short of horrifying" says climate scientist


First published at nofibs.com.au

"This developing heatwave is nothing short of horrifying" said climate scientist Sarah Perkin-Kirkpatrick.

"Much of eastern Australia has seen heatwave after heatwave this summer, with some seasonal records already broken by the start of February. Night-time temperatures have been too hot for adequate sleep and daytime temperatures have been searing."

Sarah Perkin-Kirkpatrick is a climate scientist who has specialised in studying the causes and dynamics of heatwaves. She is an Australian Research Council DECRA fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW. At the annual Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Organisation conference meeting in Canberra this week she was awarded the Early Career Researcher (ECR) award.

"What is particularly concerning about the developing event is the intensity, where many regions will see a string of extremely hot days with little relief. Much of NSW, QLD and northern VIC will suffer the most, where temperatures will be the hottest, and follow little reprieve from the previous heatwaves." she said.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

AEMO orders South Australian loadshedding blackout while Gas turbine remains idle #SAheat



Over 40,000 South Australian households endured a blackout yesterday evening for about half an hour during an extreme heatwave. AEMO ordered the loadshedding, but questions remain why the Pelican Point 2nd gas turbine wasn't fired up.


Quick Summary Wednesday 8 February SA Heatwave Blackouts


10:31am BOM SA advise an extreme heat warning issued by the SES based on BOM heatwave forecasting

1:30pm Briefing for media on heatwave conditions

2:17pm NEM watch reported the lack of online reserve in South Australia.

5:17pm Actual lack of Reserve (Level 1) , Actual Lack of Reserve (Level 2) at 6:17pm.

6:03pm AEMO ordered 100MW of load shedding to last to 7:30pm.

8:32pm SA Power networks tweeted that it was an "upstream generation issue managed by AEMO the Australian Energy Market Operator, not SA Power Networks".

9:16pm SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says that "Power shedding tonight was avoidable. There was sufficient local generation to meet our demand tonight, but AEMO didn't instruct it on! Why?"

10:23pm Tom Koutsantonis says to a question "Yes gas, South Australian Gas fired generation that should have been told to be on & wasnt!"

11:27pm SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says that "AEMO have informed the SA Government they got their demand forecast for SA wrong."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Great Forest National Park and Port Philip Bay: communicating conservation research at #vicbiocon17



Sarah Rees and Sheree Maris gave two inspiring presentations on science communication in conservation and biodiversity in an afternoon plenary at the Victorian Biodiversity Conference in Melbourne.

Its always nice to discover new natural wonders in our local area. It enhances our sense of place and pride in nature, and is an important motivation for conservation.

Sarah Rees and Sheree Maris bring us the wonders of the ancient Central Highland forests and the extraordinary ecosystems hiding just under the surface of Port Philip. Both of these environments are just on the edge of Melbourne, yet are largely unknown and unexplored by most Melburnians.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Worst Great Barrier Reef bleaching event to ‘become commonplace’



Last year during the 2016 Federal election I felt great despair about the Great Barrier Reef. It was clear that Politicians were offering token funding to the Great Barrier Reef already facing extinction. It is already a climate emergency.

The Great Barrier Reef is not going to survive our experiment with global warming. Even if we could magically keep average global temperatures to below two degrees Celsius, it will be very much diminished, such is the great inertias involved in the climate system which we have irrevocably changed.