Tony Abbott named as one of 5 biggest “clean energy turkeys” of 2014

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Who’s the biggest turkey of the year? The Top 5 includes Tony Abbott, 60 Minutes, critics of clean energy finance, and utilities resisting the inevitable.

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Greentech Media

rsz_xl_burned_turkey_in_the_oven_310_245Since BuzzFeed has already captured the market for the dumbest things ever said on FacebookTwitter and the rest of the internet, we’ll stick to what we know: energy.

We’re a little bit more highbrow here, so we’re certainly not calling the people on our 2014 turkey list “dumb.” Instead, this list recognizes the people, companies and institutions that made decisions or statements over the last year that were widely criticized.

1. 60 Minutes

In January, the television news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment called “the cleantech crash,” which looked at the numerous troubles venture capitalists faced in the sector.

The starting point of the story was accurate: investors have been burned by large losses in biofuels, solar manufacturing and batteries. However, reporter Lesley Stahl was lambasted for leaving out key facts about industry growth, citing inaccurate statistics about loan guarantees and quoting sources out of context. The story painted a very grim picture for clean energy even as the industry is seeing record-breaking growth.

Vinod Khosla, who was profiled in the story, did not hold back in his criticism after it aired: “The pontificators at 60 Minutes, with their agenda-driven bastardization of news reporting, failed to do the most elementary fact-checking and source qualification, as was the case with your Benghazi reporting.”

The Energy Gang also took a look at the factual inaccuracies and poor framing of the story, which you can listen to below:

 

2. Marsha Blackburn (and every other critic of loan guarantees)

Three years after the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the results of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program are in. Only 2 percent of loans have gone sour, and the program is expected to make a $5 billion profit for taxpayers when all loans are paid off.

But that didn’t influence U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who stuck to her factually incorrect talking points even after a progress report was released detailing the strong track record of loan guarantees.

“When you look at what’s happened with solar, some of the battery companies, you see that most of these companies are bankrupt and are no longer in existence, and the taxpayer is left holding the bag,” said Blackburn in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

In an op-ed, Jonathan Silver, the former director of the DOE’s loan programs office, responded to Blackburn and others in Congress: “Critics complain that the government is a bad investor, but the track record of the DOE loan program is better than nearly every private sector debt or equity investor in clean energy over the same period.”

3. Hawaii utilities

Hawaii is a living laboratory for distributed generation. With solar overloading circuits in the daytime, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is trying to figure out how to much PV the grid can handle.

State regulators are currently working with HECO to develop a plan for integrating more distributed generation, demand response and storage in order to make the grid more responsive. In the meantime, however, HECO has stalled applications for solar systems, causing permits to drop sharply and the solar industry to shed 3,000 workers this year.

HECO has legitimate concerns about the reliability of the grid. However, regulators and political leaders in Hawaii have expressed strong disapproval of the utility’s vision for the grid, saying it “failed to articulate a sustainable business model” for the future.

“There are many pilot projects, studies and plans…[but] no specific corporate strategy designed to ultimately achieve that vision,” wrote the public utility commission.

4. FirstEnergy

Ohio-based utility FirstEnergy isn’t hiding its strategy: fight anything other than fossil fuels or nuclear. In a speech this spring, FirstEnergy CEO Tony Alexander detailed the company’s philosophy.

“In the electric utility industry, energy efficiency, renewable power, distributed generation, microgrids, rooftop solar and demand reduction are examples of what ‘sounds good,'” said Alexander. “They are not substitutes for what has worked to sustain a reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electric system.”

That philosophy has translated into political and legal action. In the last year, FirstEnergy has stepped up to challenge demand response, kill Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency target, and ask regulators to freeze efficiency programs.

“They have their heads in the sand,” said cleantech investor Jigar Shah, who believes utilities like FirstEnergy may end up with stranded assets as renewables increasingly challenge the economics of their portfolios.

5. Tony Abbott

Since taking office, Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott has worked to dismantle every policy designed to confront climate change in his country. Alarmed by the government’s actions to kill a carbon tax, water down renewable energy targets and boost subsidies to coal, fellow conservatives have called Abbott’s actions “baffling” and labeled him a “flat-earther.”

“The future for coal is bright, and it is the responsibility [of] government to try to ensure that we are there making it easier for everyone wanting to have a go,” said Abbott recently, explaining his desire to subsidize coal export projects and boost the industry.

According to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Abbott has blamed renewable energy targets and the country’s former carbon tax on high power prices in the country. However, the government has admitted that renewables only make up 5 percent of consumers’ bills and the repealed carbon tax only made up 9 percent — while 51 percent goes to network charges due to an overbuild of electricity infrastructure.

 

Source: Greentech Media. Reproduced with permission.

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7 Comments
  1. barrie harrop 5 years ago

    Expect its timely for Abbott to test his numbers in the Party Room –last time around he won leadership by one vote.

  2. JohnD 5 years ago

    Unfortunately there are no likely contenders. Smokin Joe got a chronic case of foot in mouth and Malcolm Turnbull has lost heaps of credibility over ABC cuts and lame duck NBN2. I have never seen a front bench so bereft of talent.

  3. JohnD 5 years ago

    Abbott will be outraged that he could only reach no 5 in the Turkey awards and will be hellbent on being no 1.

  4. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    Let’s have Turkey for Christmas in my solar oven !

  5. Mike Shurtleff 5 years ago

    You are too kind to HECO. They are either incompetent, or they are deliberately trying to fight solar and other renewables in order to keep their monopoly. This is NOT ok. Burn’em down and replace them with competent and cooperative professionals if they do not change their tune in a hurry. There is no excuse for this kind of abuse of the public’s trust. It is very, very clear that solar can eliminate most of Hawaii’s diesel use for generating electricity ..and radically reduce their electrical rates as a result.
    GET MOVING HECO!!!

  6. metro70 5 years ago

    The desperate renewable energy industry is flogging lies and trying to destroy resource countries for their own radical LW international agendas.
    When hospitals’ electricity prices go to $26 million on the world’s highest carbon tax that was to grow every year, when industry like aluminium smelting was going to the wall or offshore, when every business in Australia was struggling as the extra cost cascaded through the economy-our exporters becoming progressively less competitive with foreign counterparts–then the Labor party that introduced that tax after declaring it would not, in order to deceive voters to get elected is an enemy of Australia—and the party that repealed it against attacks and lies from a MSM that’s waging a war against the conservatives from behind Labor’s barricades —-the party led by PM Tony Abbott —-is Australia’s savior.
    Australia is being scuttled —sunk– in a putrid swamp of LW lies from people who can only be seen as traitors to this country.
    They know that no country in the world that hasn’t hydro , nuclear or fossil fuels can survive , yet they work to get Australia into that deadly situation.
    If they had their way, Australia would become a country in a state of energy poverty with a massive hole in its export income, and nothing to fund its health , education and welfare systems.Treasonous!

    • David Martin 5 years ago

      When the vast majority of the high electric bills is caused not by renewables nor by the carbon tax but by hugely over investing in the grid infrastructure to provide way more capacity than will ever be used simply because of guaranteed returns on that investment you should be placing blame where blame is due — on the state run utilities and the political parties that allowed that over-investment that the rate payers are now stuck paying for. Australia’s electric cost per Kwh are massively higher than almost anywhere else, and 51% of those costs, as stated in the article being commented on, are not in any way due to renewable energy costs nor to the carbon tax. The wonderful Australian phrase ‘flaming drongos’ keeps coming to mind as I look from the U.S. at the government currently in power in Oz and it’s increasingly desperate efforts to fail to make good on both international and national commitments previously made to fight climate change. The stranding of fossil fuel assets will happen despite the worst efforts of the Abbott government during what appears will be its extremely short time on office. If the countries Oz is depending on to import your dirty brown coal will no longer buy it at any price resembling the high cost per ton to produce and ship it, how in the world will the massive costs proposed to expand mining and export facilities ever get repaid? Maybe the reason most major banks are now refusing to fund this insanity, not for political or ideological reasons, but for simply economic ones, is that the numbers just don’t work. And no amount of shouting ‘treason’ will ever change that.

      I fthe Abbott government doesn’t make an about face, the government that replaces it surely will. Killing your domestic renewable energy industry will only hurt employment and consumers, Renewables are the answer, not the problem. With the recent change of state government the ridiculous wind power restrictions are about to be reversed in the same manner that Abbot’s policies will soon just be a footnote to the history of the inexorable advance of renewables because there is no other viable path. If government won’t lead, then it better get out of the way before it is trampled underfoot by consumers leaving the grid due to simple economics. As PV electric continues to become less expensive than grid-supplied power, why would anyone want to pay more rather than less? Trying to stop that is like commanding the sea to recede — and we all know how that story ended.

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