You might not think there is any good energy news, with the current electricity price crisis which will probably result in not a few deaths over the northern winter.
However, the fossil fuel companies are showing major increases in their profit    . While this is a boon if you are an investor, it may also be good for the transition as, for once, increasing profit is getting attention – perhaps because this hurts other companies as well as ordinary people. The fossil fuel companies could well appear to be profiteering in this price crises and rejoicing in the expected deaths or, at best, doing nothing to diminish the number. This is not a good look.
The price of fossil fuel electricity is rising and perhaps encouraging renewables
The International Energy Agency states:
High gas and coal prices account for 90% of the upward pressure on electricity costs around the world. …
A key question for policy makers, and for this Outlook, is whether the crisis will be a setback for clean energy transitions or will catalyse faster action. Climate policies and net zero commitments were blamed in some quarters for contributing to the run-up in energy prices, but there is scant evidence for this. In the most affected regions, higher shares of renewables were correlated with lower electricity prices, and more efficient homes and electrified heat have provided an important buffer for some – but far from enough – consumers. ….
[It is possible that] New policies in major energy markets [will] help propel annual clean energy investment to more than USD 2 trillion by 2030 in the STEPS, a rise of more than 50% from today.World Energy Outlook 2022 Executive summary
While it is still possible to blame Putin and ignore the profiteering, or indeed blame renewables, EU Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Simson essentially supported the IEA, announcing that
Putin’s war has stoked an energy crisis in Europe that continues to have huge repercussions. In response, we have moved swiftly to secure alternative supplies, accelerate the rollout of renewables, and start reducing gas demand to ensure European citizens are safe for winter.
We need to understand that the pre-war situation with abundant, cheap fossil fuels is not coming back
First, [our action] brings a European reduction in electricity consumption of 10%. During peak-hours, electricity consumption must go down at least 5% so we avoid using the most expensive gas-fired power plants and bring down the price of energy. This will be mandatory, so that the targets are met by everyone
Second, our package proposes a European mechanism for collecting and redistributing the exceptional surplus profits and revenues that the war in Ukraine has brought several energy companies. This can generate up to € 117 billion for Member States to support European households and businesses who face unsurmountable energy bills.
Our dependence on Russian gas is down from 40% to 9%. Storage in every Member State is quickly nearing the required 80%, and the EU-average, as the President said this morning, is close to 84%. We are all saving more and more energy. And the pace of renewables being rolled out is steadily rising.
In the end, our green energy transition is the only way to rid ourselves of Putin’s energy yoke and it will create energy sovereignty in Europe. The era of cheap fossil fuels is over and the faster we move to cheap, clean, and home-grown renewables, the sooner we will be immune to Russia’s energy blackmail and anybody else who may think they can blackmail us with energy.Opening remarks by Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Simson at the press conference on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices
There is other evidence for the increasing build of renewables in the EU, despite increased costs. Bloomberg New Energy Finance announced that:
Surging energy costs are expected to help drive yet another record year for new solar installations in Europe. As households look to lower their energy bills, residential solar build in the region is forecast to hit 10.4 gigawatts in 2022, a 42% increase from a year earlier… This is projected to propel annual solar additions in Europe to an all-time high of 41 gigawatts this year, on the way to 93 gigawatts by the end of the decade. The momentum comes despite elevated prices for modules due to the raised cost of key raw material polysilicon.Europe’s Energy Crisis to Support Record Solar Build. Bloomberg 8 September 2022
Capital is available
It also seems we have the money to get through transition, only its currently being invested in fossil fuels. The IISD has announced new meta-research (ie researching the research on pathways through climate change) which says we can probably stay under 1.5 degrees increase if:
- 1) Global oil and gas production decreases by at least 65% by 2050
- 2) No new oil and gas fields are started
- 3) The planned investments in new oil and gas to 2030 were used to fully finance the scale-up of wind and solar energy needed.
In Australia, Beyond Zero Emissions in their Deploy report argue that:
81% emissions reduction is achievable by 2030 with an ambitious rollout of cleantech over the next five years, supported by targeted carbon drawdown. This can create up to 195,000 jobs and repower Australia’s manufacturing regions.https://bze.org.au/research_release/deploy/
Six technologies – all available today – will do the heavy lifting: solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, electric vehicles, heat pumps and electrolysers.Deploy Report: Executive summary
The drawdown seems to be primarily agricultural, putting carbon in the soil – which does have some problems of easy measurement and validation. It would account for 10% of the decline total, so 71% decline can be achieved without it.
The Australian e-news site RenewEconomy open a recent article with:
Brookfield Asset Management is a global giant with assets of around $A1 trillion. Andrew Forrest, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar are Australia’s three richest men. All are committed to accelerating Australia’s green energy transition. A shortage of capital is not the problem here.Parkinson Tens of billions are ready for Australia’s renewable revolution: Can regulators and rule makers keep up? Renew Economy 10 November 2022
Brookfield is also bidding for Origin Energy and promises to spend $20 Billion on on wind, solar and storage in the next eight years. Which suggests a possible rapid transition in the Electricity field, although Brookfield’s bidding partner wants Origin’s gas.
My guess is that this quick transition would be even more possible, if we stopped subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. This stoppage could be justified by their current high profits…. Not that any Australian government would probably survive that attempt.
Mike Cannon-Brookes seems to have got people interested in renewable energy onto the board of AGL a major Australian gas company and electricity supplier. see also here.
The Australian Government has announced a National Reconstruction Fund which may help the manufacture of renewables in Australia, but its a bit vague at the moment.
The Wiring problem is being faced
But we do need wiring for the transition. In a tweet Jenny Chase from Bloomberg remarked:
We don’t need a technology breakthrough. Today, solar developers just need a grid connection and permission to sell electricity and they’ll be off building solar plants whether it’s a good idea or not.Jenny Chase Twitter 23 October 2022
And the Australian government has just promised to make sure grid connections exist, through the Rewiring the Nation project:
The proposal would provide $20 billion of equity equally over 3 years, from 1 January 2023 to 31 December 2025 to create a new public non-financial corporation, which would be:Australian Parliamentary Budget Office. Powering Australia – Rewiring the Nation
• responsible for building, managing and operating the Australian Energy Market Operator Integrated System Plan transmission network
• mandated to earn a rate of return that is sufficient to cover its financial and operational costs
Another Non-Government summary puts it this way:
Labor has promised $20bn to “rewire the nation” by accelerating the construction of new electricity transmission links between states and regions as the east coast power grid moves from running predominantly on coal power to renewable energy. Modelling for Labor by the consultants RepuTex suggested it would help lift renewable energy generation from about 35% to 82% by 2030.Murphy & Morton ‘Rewiring the nation’: Albanese and Andrews governments to jointly fund renewable energy zones. The Guardian 19 October 2022
In the UK something similar was announced, but the political confusion make it harder to be optimistic.
National Grid announced this summer it was making a £54bn upgrade to the electricity network, the biggest since the 1960s, to help connect offshore windfarms more easily and enable battery storage facilities to connect up to store renewable power, a crucial issue in the industryLawson ‘Everything has changed, nothing has changed’: what’s stopping green energy. The Guardian 15 November 2022
Likewise in the US, a much smaller amount of US$13bn has also been announced to modernize the U.S. power grid using allocations from the infrastructure law. This is claimed to be the “biggest federal investment in transmission and distribution in U.S. history”.
the administration has also issued approvals for several interstate transmission lines that will span Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and California and unlock capacity of about six gigawattsBudryk White House announces $13 billion in grid resilience funds. The Hill, 18 November 2022
Facing up to Full Renewables
This is a bit more recent, but the Australian Electricity Market Operator has announced a roadmap to prepare the grid to run on 100% renewables. AEMO expects 100% renewables going without fossil fuel backup going for intervals of time by 2025.
The Engineering Roadmap to 100% Renewables provides an overview of the engineering challenges and associated actions that will need to be undertaken to operate the NEM for the first period of 100% instantaneous penetration of renewables, and the actions required to satisfy more regular operation at 100% renewable penetration.AEMO Engineering Roadmap to 100% Renewables December 2022
Responsibility for undertaking these actions and meeting the technical requirements identified in this report will ultimately be shared across many parties, including AEMO, NSPs, market bodies, market participants, and governments
Coal plants take many hours, or even days, to restart operation, so once taken offline, they can’t be relied on to meet immediate intraday energy demands, or provide system restart services.
Operating regularly with 100% renewable power also means reducing the need for regular reliance on gas-fired
generators to firm the electricity supply.
Operating a gigawatt-scale power system at 100% instantaneous renewable generation is a feat unparalleled worldwide.
The main obstacles are storage and renewable source “inverters, which don’t inherently deliver all of the same stabilising attributes that traditional synchronous generators provide to the power system.”
They also realise that “The human dimensions of this transition are as important as the technical requirements”.
Polling continues to show most Australians want action on climate change. This is possibly not a big deal as Australians wanted such action all through the last government’s reign, and where ignored or did not vote for it. However, the figures indicate there is support for action. Analysis of the latest Australia Institute Climate of the Nation Poll says:
Three-quarters (75%) of Australians are concerned about climate change, the same level of concern seen in 2021 and the highest since Climate of the Nation began. The intensity of concern has increased as well, with record high levels of those who are ‘very concerned’ about climate change (42%).
The top three climate impacts of concern are more droughts and flooding affecting crop production and food supply (83%), more bushfires (83%), and the extinction of animal and plant species (80%).Climate of the Nation 2022
This indicate that Australians are actually aware of the levels of weather damage we are suffering from, and their likely effects on food and wildlife, despite the Murdoch Empire’s constant agitation against recognition of damage, or engaging in climate action.
Weather seems to be connected to coal based power by the resopondents.
79% of Australians believe that Australia’s coal-fired power stations should be phased out… 31%… think they should be phased out as soon as possible… 65% of Australians want coal-fired power generation completely ended within the next 20 years, including 38% who want it ended within the next decade…
64% of Australians support stopping new coal mines…. 73% think Australian governments should plan to phase out coal mining and transition into other industries…ibid
Australians also seem to be losing faith in the ability of markets to solve all problems as
64% agree that failure by the market to prepare for a transition away from fossil fuels has led to electricity price increases, including 31% that strongly agreeibid.
So while I still think we need more local action, and more overt political support, there are signs that things might be changing and people are thinking it might be entirely disastrous if we start showing our support for action…