News

Clive Palmer – renewable energy’s unlikely savior?

I remember a time when life was simple. You either believed in global warming, and knew that only a mad dash for renewables could save the planet, or you thought it was the greatest con ever, and that solar and wind were just another way for governments to increase the tax take.

Then (lo and behold) look who jumps out of the woods. In a move that has caused understandable surprise across the renewable energy sector, the Palmer United Party’s top Western Australia senate candidate, Dio Wang, has issued a press release headlined “Renewable Energy Target should remain as is: Dio Wang”. In it Wang states: “I believe the RET scheme should remain as it. It worries me when the government says everything is on the table in reviewing the RET.” He continues: “Considering that the last review of the RET was completed in December 2012, just 14 months ago, I think the new review is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The press release then goes on to say: “Mr Wang said that Australia’s renewable energy sector was a major source of jobs with the solar industry alone employing more people than the oil and gas extraction, gas supply and coal product manufacturing combined in 2012.”

Now the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that PUP leader Clive Palmer has endorsed Wang’s statement, adding that he is a ”supporter of renewable energy” and that this has “nothing to do with the carbon tax”.

Confused? Well we certainly are. So the next time you see a heat haze, or a polluted skyline, take a second look. It might just be the political lines getting increasingly blurred.

Crimean Punishment

“Ukraine’s law enforcement forces have taken full control of the country’s natural gas pipelines that carry most of Russian gas to markets in Europe, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk ordered the protective measures a day after Russian soldiers sought to take control over a gas pumping station at a regional pipeline on the border between Ukraine’s Kherson region and the breakaway region of Crimea.

The move also comes amid calls by a Ukrainian right-wing group to punish Russia for its invasion of Crimea by cutting off its gas supplies crossing Ukrainian territory.

‘If Russian soldiers’ boots trample our land, we will do everything to make the occupier pay dearly for it,’ said Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the far-right Right Sector organization which played a significant role in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. ‘We know that Russia is making money by supplying oil and gas to the West through our pipelines. So we will destroy the pipeline, depriving the enemy of this source of revenue.'” – platts.com

The situation in Ukraine certainly isn’t slowing down. Both sides are positioning themselves to gain leverage over the other in a series of escalating manoeuvres. It seems unlikely either will back down. In response to the situation, Yarosh is threatening to destroy the Trans-Siberian pipeline. Amazing. The US and EU have announced sanctions and are targeting key players. Like we said before: interesting times.

California electric grid sets solar generation record

“California set back-to-back solar power records last week, the state grid operator said on Monday.

The amount of electricity produced from carbon-free solar facilities connected to the grid reached 4,093 megawatts on Saturday, surpassing the day-earlier record of 3,926 MW, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) said in a statement.

With 5,231 MW, California leads the nation in installed solar generation, including thermal and photovoltaic facilities, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Power generated from solar has more than doubled from June 2012 when the ISO recorded 2,071 MW of peak production, the ISO said.

The record solar generation accounted for about 18 percent of the state’s 22,700-MW demand on Saturday, the ISO said, with the ability to supply about 3 million homes.” – Reuters

The rise and rise of big, grid-connected solar is complex information for the Australian energy business. Who doesn’t want cheap energy? The producers of less cheap energy, of course. Can big solar really achieve low enough prices to trouble coal and gas in an open market? If you believe the United States government, it can: the DoE predicts 5c / kWh within the next few years, and some plants are already shipping electricity at that price. How will local entrepreneurs react when this becomes a deployable commercial fact? There is certainly money to be made. Interesting times.

Europe Under the Paw

“Poland’s prime minister said on Monday he would ask Chancellor Angela Merkel to work to reduce German and European dependence on Russian gas to avert ‘potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future’.

Merkel will visit Poland on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia has effectively taken control of the southern Crimean peninsula. Events there have highlighted European reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Ukraine is a major gas transit nation for supplies from Russia to the European Union (EU), which relies on Russia for over a quarter of its gas.” – Reuters

We think: as conflict brews, Europe is increasingly restless. 30% of Europe’s oil & gas is imported from Russia. If the current situation escalates, then Russia has the power to make things very difficult for Europe.  Of course this hasn’t come about by accident. Despite his former Communist résumé, Putin perfectly understands the nature of markets.

“We will not be able to efficiently fend off potential aggressive steps by Russia in the future, if so many European countries are dependent on Russian gas deliveries or wade into such dependence.” – Donald Tusk

Santos’ gas game shattered by a U-bomb

Tristan Edis writes in the Climate Spectator:

“It was the last thing that Santos needed after receiving a series of bad reviews from stock market analysts about its failure to grow its reserves of gas.

Last Saturday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the NSW EPA had fined Santos because extracted waste water from its coal seam gas drilling in the Pilliga Forest, near Narrabri, had contaminated an aquifer.

But what leaked into the aquifer generates the kind of fear and concern among the community that cannot be calmed by rational discussion or a range of engineering safeguards and expert reassurances. The leak included uranium, at levels about 20 times above the level of Australian drinking water guidelines for human health. Of course, it wasn’t the only nasty element in the water with lead, arsenic, and barium also present. These are all incredibly toxic, but uranium holds a special place in the human psyche due to its association with the atom bomb.”

We think: the possible contamination of aquifers is the most common form of attack on the sustainability of unconventional gas. Santos has done itself and the industry no favours here. In Australia the regulator has teeth.