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Labor re-embraces 50% renewable energy goal by 2030

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The Australian Labor Party appears to have done a rapid back-flip on its renewable energy backflip, with leader Bill Shorten insisting that Labor remains committed to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

In a Facebook post where Shorten found the words that eluded him on an ABC radio interview last week, the leader of the federal Opposition said it was clear that renewable energy was a cleaner and cheaper alternative to new coal-fired power stations.

BILL SHORTEN WIND FARM

“We are absolutely committed to seeing 50 per cent of our energy mix coming from renewables by 2030. That’s our target, and we’re sticking to it,” Shorten wrote.

“Here’s why.

“More renewable energy means more jobs, lower power prices and less pollution. The old coal-fired power stations are starting to shut down and we need to replace it with new energy sources. Renewables is the answer – it’s not just cleaner than coal, it’s a lot cheaper too.

“Our renewables target won’t hurt the budget, but it will boost private investment in Australia by nearly $50 billion. It will push down power bills and create nearly 30,000 new jobs.”

That posting followed Shorten’s inability to prosecute that very argument in the radio interview, which then led to treasury spokesman Chris Bowen and climate spokesman Mark Butler back-tracking from the 50 per cent target, saying it was an “aspiration” rather than a goal.

That, and the apparent embrace of an emissions trading scheme as its principal policy mechanism, provoked a backlash from within and without the ALP, prompting the leadership to recognise that holding strong on renewables was a better response to the Coalition’s clean coal push.

As Shorten now points out, after failing to do so last week, renewable energy offers cleaner and cheaper energy future, and is also backed by the science and public polling.

Still, it remains unclear how Labor will reach that target. It was always considered unlikely that it would extend the current RET, but additional policy mechanisms will be needed.

Labor has embraced an emissions trading scheme, even though the modelling for the scheme shows a 50 per cent renewable energy target to be a cheaper option, and that an EIS on its own would result in little or no new wind and solar from 2020 to 2030.

  

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  • Tom R

    “appears to have done a rapid back-flip on its renewable energy backflip”

    Of course, the other option is, they never back-flipped in the first place, and that some rabid commentators got carried away without any real evidence, except for language that wasn’t as strong or forceful as they wanted/wished/desired?

    • Or may be we just quoted the ALP:

      KELLY: But the long-term price investment signal won’t be a 50 per cent renewable energy target it’ll be, if it is a Labor government, an emissions intensity scheme.

      BUTLER: That’s right –

      KELLY: So you’re not going to have a 50 per cent target?

      BUTLER: It’ll be an emissions intensity scheme that is aligned with our emission reductions target which will require, in my very clear view, that about half of our electricity by 2030 will be zero emissions.

      • Tom R

        If you read closely, he doesn’t say no, in fact, he re-iterates “that about half of our electricity by 2030 will be zero emissions.”

        Now, from memory, “about half” is equivalent to 50%, and that is directly linked from his statement to the emission reductions target

        You may not be happy with the way they tip-toed around it, but you read into it what the msm wanted you to, not what they actually said.

        • solarguy

          I get ya point, but it still is a “how long is a piece of string sort of answer” I call it testing the waters.

          • Tom R

            It was that kind of question.

          • solarguy

            Yes it was, but Butlers answer was not to the point either, it was elusive, wasn’t it. It was fishing for a reaction and shit didn’t they get one back. That’s not definitive, but that’s the way I see it of course though, I could be wrong.

  • Jane R

    Giles- The modeling shows that an EIS with a 50% emissions reduction target would result in lots of gas. But that’s not the same as an EIS calibrated to deliver 50% renewables? Can you clarify?

    • Not sure what you are asking here:
      The modelling by Frontier Economics showed that reaching 50% emissions reduction target would result in a lot of gas – about 50% of generation. Wind and solar would barely move from where they are now.
      The modelling also showed, in an alternative scenario that included more realistic costs, that a 50% RET mechanism would be cheaper than an EIS. For reasons that are beyond me, neither Labor nor other media have taken this up.

      • Jane R

        Seems to me that if the ALP used an EIS to deliver 50% renewables then by definition that would result in 50% renewables and not in lots of new gas. Presumably the baseline needed to result in 50% renewables is lower than that required for a 50% emissions reduction which seems to be the target which was modeled in the Frontier Economics report.

  • Rob Farago

    your email and one place above says by 2050

  • trackdaze

    Good to see though with the sheer pace of deals and news on renewable energy deals 50% is looking likely with or without policy support.

    • solarguy

      Yes, Let’s hope the bastards stay awake at night thinking hard, perhaps they will have a sudden enlightenment, that we have the answer and join in and let the weeds grow over the old road. After all they’ll still make MONEY!

  • solarguy

    It’s time that Labor did some more consulting with RE experts and industry leaders in general and formulate a plan for 50% by 2030 or even better 100% by 2040-50 They can even enlist Alan Finkel, which will give them something to hit Mal over the head with by possibly saying to the government in parliament “well your lot are just attacking this guy and discrediting him and we think he’s right, hell we can use him, even though you appointed him”

    To get further inspiration Labor can look deep into the BZE 100% plan (although I don’t agree with all the say) and have a yack to Andrew Blakers, for starters assuming they haven’t already. And for Christ sake, improve the energy efficiency of new build homes around the country, plus mandate PV and SHW systems for all new homes and make sure there is plenty of north roof space in the design. In addition appliances including air conditioning should have better efficiency standards, if ducted systems are to be chosen make sure the ducting is at least R3.0 or better, because the current R1.5 is shit and you can’t get better.

    The small scale RET should be maintained as is, but tweak large scale and run it at least another 10-15yrs in the interim.

    • Jimbo

      Agree with everything you say Solarguy. The Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) plan should form the basis of Labors policy but they would need to defend their policy a lot better than they currently do. Labor should be able to annihilate Turnbull and co yet we see them struggle in the face of some pretty poor journalism. Labor has a good policy but can’t defend it.

      • solarguy

        I’m sure it’s not a matter of can’t, but won’t defend it at this stage. Politics is a weird business Jimbo. And yes they need a bit of Keating mongrel when they do go for the jugular. There seeming to struggle bit could be that they aren’t switched on to the facts enough to form a good bashing argument.

      • JonathanMaddox

        The BZE plan as first published is more of a thought experiment, a proof-of-concept, than a plan, with a bit of a cookie-cutter approach and little attention given to infrastructure and logistics.

        It also has a bit of pie-in-the-sky regarding heavy reliance on crop residues as biomass fuel … stripping valuable nutrients and ground cover from fields where crop residues should be returned as mulch to the soil, logistically expensive, in terms of fuel much lower grade than brown coal or woodchips, and in terms of local pollution, a dirty business with lots of ash and smoke particulates to handle. On site at a solar thermal facility where you need to keep the mirrors clean.

        It also pre-dates cheap battery storage and doesn’t adopt Andrew Blakers’ suggestions of off-river pumped hydro storage either.

        For these reasons, there are probably many much better options for moving incrementally towards 100% renewable energy with, than adopting the BZE plan as a blueprint.

        • Jimbo

          If there is a better plan than the BZE plan it has not emerged yet. I’m sure with the expert engineers in BZE that any new emerging technology will be quickly accounted for in their plan. Renewable power is a fast developing industry.

          • JonathanMaddox

            Well yes it has … the AEMO did its own study three years later.

            https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/publications/aemo-modelling-outcomes

            BZE have not released an updated 100% renewable stationary energy plan since it was first launched in 2010, nor do they need to. They know, and explained clearly in the document in 2010, that they weren’t laying out a detailed step-by-step blueprint for transformation of the country’s energy system. They were merely asserting, entirely correctly, that transforming it was possible and affordable. The changes we achieve will be achieved piecemeal, as individual projects are approved and financed, and as individual older power stations are retired one by one.

            Regarding biomass, the following caveat comes from the introduction to AEMO’s study (the original paragraph includes references):

            “The modelling suggests that considerable bioenergy could be required in all four cases modelled, however this may present some challenges. Much of the included biomass has competing uses, and this study assumes that this resource can be managed to provide the energy required. In addition, while CSIRO believe that biomass is a feasible renewable fuel, expert opinion on this issue is divided.”

            In the good news department, technology including battery storage, Andrew Blakers’ proposals for off-river pumped hydro, and some European concepts like power-to-gas, can use excess instantaneous electrical energy from intermittent generators to store energy for later use, in place of the biomass requirement.

          • David leitch

            AEMO s study is hopeless. UNSW has published some decent work. There is no complete model. Frustrating as ever.

  • Mark Diesendorf

    Giles, Labor’s claim that it supports a 50% RE target for 2030 is not necessarily the same as committing to support for a 50% RET by 2030. Labor could simply be saying that it hopes that its proposed Emissions Intensity Scheme (EIS) will somehow achieve the 50% target. But, the latter strategy is doomed to fail to achieve the 50% RE target unless the baseline of the EIS is set so that gas is penalised for emissions as well as coal, as implicit in Jane R’s question. What we really need from Labor is commitment to extend the RET from 2020 to 2030 and increase it to 50% by 2030. Furthermore, I suggest that the 50% should include separate targets for concentrated solar thermal with thermal storage and seawater pumped hydro storage.

    • Ren Stimpy

      It’s probably about time we started talking about a SET or storage energy target. The more storage the fewer peaks in demand and supply. Fossil fuel generators make their money on those peaks, so the more storage the faster the retirement of fossil generators and the more natural demand there would be for renewables. It’s possible that we don’t need to extend the RET if we create a SET.

      I would favour home and business battery storage systems and smart grids, because these can also be used for load shedding. Well actually load shedding without the shedding (the best form of load shedding) because in a storm-induced emergency the grid’s Fat Controller could simply flick a switch and in an instant millions of homes and businesses would switch to battery power. They don’t get any interruption to their power supply and the grid doesn’t fall over in storms (or other situations) due to excess load. Homes and businesses would gladly participate in exchange for their SET subsidy, as long as their own battery power is used only by them and not forcibly exported to the grid.

      It’s fairly well accepted that we need more storage, so neither party would be going out on a political limb over this. We need more than just plain old storage – we need smart and multi-purpose storage. This is the IoT age so the time is right. If my fridge can order my beer for me then surely we can solve our electricity grid problems.

      • JonathanMaddox

        All true, but we shouldn’t commit to overspending on storage we don’t need. With both wind and solar PV energy significantly cheaper than power that’s been through a battery pack or pumped storage, we should not hesitate to build so much of them that we have an absolute excess (requiring curtailment of any that can’t cheaply be stored) for hundreds of hours per year, in order that we have a sufficiency for many hundreds of hours more.

        • Ren Stimpy

          Power direct from the rooftop solar panel or the wind turbine is definitely the cheapest energy, but these have intermittent generation.

          To solve the intermittent nature of that generation we need storage. Calm evenings at 6pm-8pm and calm mornings 7am-9am people would use their SET-inspired storage.

          Where we are now is a long long way south of an elegant sufficiency of storage, well short of requirements let alone excess. A SET would certainly add value for the next five years. A measure of its success would be the demand peak reductions, and also the number of times it saved the grid’s bacon in emergencies during that time.

          • JonathanMaddox

            We do occasionally have instantaneous, regional excess. It won’t be long before there are times when South Australia occasionally has so much wind power that the interconnectors to Victoria won’t take it all. Curtailing wind in such a situation, given that it would happen for only a few hours at a time, is fine, and no reason not to build more.

            Storage for the sake of displacing gas peakers (and preventing them from gaming the spot market for top prices) — absolutely, go for it! 😀

          • Ren Stimpy

            That cheap excess should be making its way into storage.

            Why curtail cheap wind when it is flying off the handle. Being one of the cheapest forms of generation it should be being re-directed into storage when there is an excess. But we need that storage to begin with.

            “Storage for the sake of displacing gas peakers”? I think we should disregard the sake of failed business models and worry only about first-principles.

          • JonathanMaddox

            Only because storage itself is expensive. Where it’s cost-effective, by all means buy it. To be cost-effective, it would have to pay for itself out of the revenues of the power discharged and emissions avoided thereby.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Not even “emissions avoided”. This current fossil fuel grid is expensive. There is no such thing as cheap power while ever we are slaves to gunk burning generation, lopsided market rules and gold-plated networks. The price of electricity is high and will keep on rising under this fossil fuel paradigm, and our collective apathy.

            Fuel-free energy along with storage is cheaper and (getting) cheaper.

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/teslas-price-shock-solar-battery-as-cheap-as-grid-power-22265/

          • JonathanMaddox

            Behind the meter, yes. For the annual demand peak, yes. Storage is competitive. It isn’t, yet, for wholesale “off-peak” times; let’s continue to prioritise generation above storage (even as we invest in storage behind the meter and for peaking) until it is.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Who gives a flying fuck about “off-peak” times?

            What we’re trying to do is reduce massively expensive “on-peak” times, are we not? Storage is perfect for that.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Or, thanks for the upvote 🙂

          • JonathanMaddox

            I think this is precisely the point I’m trying to make. We’re agreeing.

            What matters is net emissions reductions, not whether renewable energy and storage are able to supply power 24/7. If we have enough wind and solar generation to power the country 60% of the time, but we still need fossil power for winter evenings (the “duck curve”), and/or if at 4am on a still morning we briefly revert to 100% fossil fuel generation (off peak), that’s no reason to declare intermittent renewables to have failed and no reason to stop building them.

          • Ren Stimpy

            No, ‘net’ emissions reductions can go fuck themselves.

            Low cost energy is all that matters.

            Wind and solar are very low cost but these also need low cost storage to compete and be reliable at all times of day.

            A simple SET (storage energy target) would allow that to happen, dude.

          • JonathanMaddox

            Clearly our priorities differ, and I don’t understand why you’d want an RET or an SET if your priority is low cost energy regardless of emissions. If low cost energy was all that mattered, we could stick with energy storage in the familiar form of *coal* for another century or two at least. That’s what fossil fuels are: stored solar energy, conveniently pre-charged for our convenience in the geological past.

            But of course emissions DO matter, and what we should be pressing to build is the infrastructure that achieves the greatest net emission per unit cost and per unit time.

            Build what reduces emissions most cheaply, *now*, as a matter of urgency, and just by the by get on with building what’s necessary and cost-effective for system stability and consumer cost reduction, simply on the basis of what works in the context of the emission reduction target. Of course that will include increasing amounts of battery storage, now that battery storage is cheap.

            Buying battery storage today, for the purposes for which it’s already cheap, will drive down the costs for future purposes like further emissions reductions at the head of the duck curve and overnight off-peak hours. But don’t pretend you want batteries to supply 4am demand at low cost. Coal and gas do that pretty cheaply already.

          • Ren Stimpy

            What Tony Seba is saying makes a lot of sense to me (also what this site is saying). Solar and batteries and wind turbines and electric cars – the low emissions technology – this is the ONLY pathway to cheap energy, eventually. So if we focus on the cost – or more specifically the process of cost reduction – the emissions part simply takes care of itself.

            Nuclear is certainly not getting any cheaper. Coal and nuclear plants are large unique projects with their own design specific to the site, the locale and the market. There are no economies of scale because you can’t replicate and repeat. Plus there is a requirement for a gold plated grid with these large central generators.

            Solar panels and batteries get stamped out by the millions. Economies of scale are there. The proof is in the pattern of cost reduction for renewables and batteries. This cost reduction will go on and on, because there’s no shortage of lithium or silicon or other minerals that would prevent further scaling up.

            Tony Seba’s cost projections reduce on the basis of volume. The RET increases volume, accelerating cost reductions, a SET would have a similar accelerating effect for batteries. So a SET wouldn’t automatically straight away allow 4am demand to be met by low cost battery power, but it would accelerate the cost reductions so that the inevitable future where 4am demand is met by low cost battery power would arrive sooner.

            There’s nothing I would like to see more than another RET beyond 2020 and a SET and a carbon price. These would all act to accelerate us towards a future where all energy is low cost, and act to solve climate change as a side effect. Unfortunately politics gets in the way and not all these things would happen. So if I had to choose between the three I would choose a Storage Energy Target, because there would be some common ground between the parties on the benefit of storage to grid reliability and we need to give the cost reduction process a push along, and the side effect is low emissions.

            I think I have explained what I wanted to say a bit better than yesterday — and it’s all an opinion only.

          • JonathanMaddox

            You’ve entirely cleared up my confusion, thank you 🙂

            Seba’s thesis is a natural extrapolation of the observation long made that mass production works better for things on the scale of cars and wind turbines and solar panels than it does for things on the scale of power stations. This isn’t a new observation — in the context of electricity technology alone, it goes back (at least!) to RMI’s Small is Profitable, 2002. Certainly it predates cheap batteries.

            http://www.smallisprofitable.org/

            I agree with the conception 100%, but I’m not sure it can validly be extrapolated without modification to “accelerate us towards a future where all energy is low cost, and act to solve climate change as a side effect”. For starters, you left out “clean and”.

            While fossil fuel energy has the distinct disadvantage of being a finite material resource which is depleted through consumption, the size of that resource is still vast and much of it can still be exploited at very low cost.

            *New* coal-fired power stations are expensive, sure, but the old ones are already there, already amortised, and running them is not especially expensive. Doubly so for those with their own on-site brown coal mines: brown coal is not a widely traded commodity; it’s almost literally dirt and it’s dirt cheap.

            Fossil energy technology *can* be made cheaper in exactly the same ways that renewable energy can: the peak oil doomers used to rail about the diminishing returns as we turned to shale gas and oil, for instance, and they weren’t wrong, except that shale drilling/fracking tech has become very cheap through deployment at scale (mostly cheaper in money terms, but also in energy terms) in the decade since the shale boom began. The frequent substitution of money for energy in doomers’ EROEI calculations distorts things even more. The scale economies of mass production can and do apply in the fossil fuel world as well.

            As a third point, you’re neglecting Jevons’ paradox. The more efficiently we use fossil fuels (and this includes substituting cheaper energy sources for fossil fuels in a subset of applications, liberating supply for other applications less susceptible to substitution while reducing prices), all else being equal, the more fossil fuels we’ll end up using. If you just add lots more slightly cheaper energy to already cheap energy, it won’t drive out the old patterns of consumption, it will grow the energy economy as a whole and enable the old methods to continue — either unabated, or at slightly reduced volumes but significantly lower cost.

            The escape hatch is to eliminate “all else being equal”. We must not only promote cheap clean energy, we must also actively dissuade people (eg. through an emissions penalty) from using dirty energy.

            If new clean energy is guaranteed to be sufficiently inexpensive that as fossil equipment reaches the end of its economic life, it’s a no-brainer to replace it altogether with newer clean energy equipment, then yes, we’ll eliminate fossil fuel use. But that’s not a strong guarantee; there are still many facets of the energy economy where alternatives to fossil fuels would require an order of magnitude further price reduction before they could become competitive at large scale.

            Think of aviation, ocean shipping, ferrous metallurgy where steelmaking *needs* physical carbon (while charcoal works and is not a fossil fuel, forest felling for charcoal burning is arguably worse in terms of emissions than coal, and is also an example of one of the world’s last bastions of forced labour). There are at least theoretical ways to do these things with clean electric power as the energy source, but the number of steps to jump through are many and there’s no way to guarantee that the price will ever undercut unpenalised oil and coal.

            The pollution penalty really is necessary.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Sorry but the scale economies of mass production *don’t* apply in the fossil fuel world. Each new fossil fuel project is large and unique – having its own unique geographical and geological features, just for a start. A shale gas or oil project can’t be mechanised and replicated in the way that a solar panel manufacturing plant can be. No doubt the costs of fracking came down through the learning of new techniques, but these were one-off cost reductions, not a continual ongoing pattern of cost reduction. And that’s just the fuel-gathering. Hurdles unique to each project also exist for the generators themselves, preventing a pattern of cost reduction over multiple projects.

            I don’t think Jevon’s paradox applies here. By way of example the other week Tesla said the cost of traveling from Melbourne to Sydney in a Model S would be $38. The cost of the same journey in one of the more efficient fueled vehicles the Toyota Camry would be $90. Do Model S owners drive twice the number of kilometres as Camry owners simply because they are paying half the price per kilometre? No. People drive the exact number of kilometers they need/want to drive and no more and no less.

            On dissuasion as an escape hatch? No. I am absolutely convinced that the vast majority of people will not be dissuaded from using dirty energy by using environmentalist dissuasion alone. About 25% of people take offense at the very suggestion and another 50% couldn’t care less about the environment. I think the politics would prevent a carbon-price-as-dissuasion as well, unless we do more to show people that cost reduction patterns in renewables and battery technologies are happening and that a carbon price would accelerate those cost reductions. We need to *lure* people away from dirty energy with the cost reductions (and the cost reduction process already underway) in low emissions technology and energy efficiency.

            Emissions in aviation, ocean shipping, ferrous metallurgy, livestock. These are very difficult problems to solve, not intractable but very difficult, but luckily these are not the largest sources of emissions. I reckon we should focus most of our effort on solving the largest and easiest problems first, such as electricity and road transport.

          • JonathanMaddox

            Seen this? Flares of stranded gas from shale oil wells.

            Tell me the tech doesn’t scale.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/04c47768dd173444ba02a69850788906469a1ee575479d42920fcf2283967d2b.jpg

          • Ren Stimpy

            Corr Blimey and Fuck! Just makes you wonder how many gas leaks from fissures, ruptures, dodgy joins in pipes and various other cracks are not being flared and therefore letting raw methane escape into the atmosphere. It’s a god-awful process if you ask me.

            But subjectivity aside, I would want to see a cost graph rather than a photograph to decide whether economies of scale are occurring anywhere, or not. I would look for a non-linear pattern of cost reduction trend in the graph, and not once-off changes.

          • JonathanMaddox

            Jevons’ paradox applies to the economy as a whole, not to individuals or even individual worksites. Drivers will consume less oil in their cars with their Teslas than they used to with their Mercedes, of course. But (if they aren’t restrained by conscience, emissions penalties or both) they’ll fly twice as far, twice as often, for business trips and on holidays, because oil is significantly cheaper to the airlines than it would have been without the move to electric vehicles.

            http://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2016-10-18-02.aspx

          • Ren Stimpy

            No, they are restrained by their time and effort (i.e. productivity). How does the Tesla driver make the $52 saving by way of their drive from Melbourne to Sydney to fund their extra flights that you posit? By DOING the necessary drive from Melbourne to Sydney. That is a cost of time and effort.

            They can’t swan about using their money savings to buy more holiday flights until they actually have those savings – savings which take time and effort to accrue. Upon which their costs of time and effort are just about expired leaving not much of either for swanning about.

            Conscience and penalties don’t much come into it.

          • lin

            Agree with the requirement for storage. Only a slight tangent, but having the ability to heat water at times of electricity surplus would be a good way of storing at least some of it. i.e. having grid connected electric hot water that can switch on to take advantage of cheap output at times of surplus would be a win-win. All it would take was some regulatory certainty regarding price to attract consumers to set it up.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Agree, hook our water heaters up to the smart grid so that our water heating occurs only in the low-demand low-price times of the day – which will change as cheap renewable power comes more online.

      • andyfromedinburgh

        Note also the coming demonstration in SA of wind power as grid stabiliser. Widely used in parts of Canada and Europe.

    • JonathanMaddox

      Gas is being penalised by exports. I wouldn’t worry too much about gas-fired electricity in Australia for the next decade. Fugitive emissions, on the other hand, are definitely a worry.

      • thanks bruce for all this.

        will pass on this stuff to my web people who can play with it. may turn out to be tomorrow for indices. so may give demand charges a run today.
        all the best

        Giles Parkinson
        Editor
        http://www.RenewEconomy.com.au http://www.OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au
        61 (418 754 651)
        Skype:giles.parkinson2

        • JonathanMaddox

          Reply to wrong post? I hope Bruce sees it 🙂

    • Ren Stimpy

      Mate you can’t just hang up there without getting down into the shit and mud-fighting it out with all the rest of us!

      • Ren Stimpy

        Because it seems to me like you are the full vagina, oh unspoken one! Happy to be proved wrong.

  • Robin_Harrison

    Well done the Labor puppets for attempting to appear less owned than they actually are. However the marketplace will probably ensure more and earlier.