Tag Archives: Jay Weatherill

May 4, 2009 – the CPRS trainwreck rolls on…

So, Kevin Rudd came to power on a wave of optimism that – unlike John Howard – he would actually do something about climate change. But what, exactly?  Well, a carbon pricing scheme, since to paraphrase Nixon, we’re all technocratic wonks now.  And after sidelining Ross Garnaut, Rudd and his henchpeople embarked on an insanely complex and something-for-everyone-to-hate round of Green Papers and White Papers, Treasury modelling and so on.  By the end of 2008 the process had run into the sand.  Rebooted (by the persistence of Penny Wong, Climate Change minister) in early 2009, there were then secret negotiations with both the business types (take a bow, BCA) and an elite coalition of green groups (take a bow Southern Cross Climate Coalition).  And so, on this day 8 years ago, the legislation was released.

Here’s what Joan Staples had to say, in an excellent article.

In May 2009 the Rudd government revamped its proposed Climate Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation increasing its target for reduction of carbon emissions from 5% to 25%, but only if there was international agreement – a scenario that appeared unlikely. The ACF (represented by Don Henry who consulted only with ACF President Ian Lowe) together with the WWF, the Climate Institute, ACOSS and the ACTU (making up the Southern Cross Coalition) agreed privately to the change. Their support was used by the government in announcing the change to the public. The Australian reported, ‘The state conservation councils and large organisations such as Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society were excluded from the negotiations, as were the Greens, because Rudd knew they would not compromise on their demands for much higher emission cuts…The outcome is that Rudd has wedged the environment movement, and many conservationists are angry at Henry and Lowe over what they regard as a sell-out’ (Roberts 2009).

Staples, 2012: footnote on page 156

Roberts, G. 2009, ‘Why green leaders backed the carbon plan’, The Australian, 9 May,

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Also on this day –

1989 AMIC Minerals Outlook Seminar at ANU- Exploration Access and Political Power

Massey, M. 1990. Environmental debate tops agenda at coal conference. Australian Financial Review, 4 May, p. 10.

The recent shift in the environmental debate to promote global rather than regional goals is causing alarm among the world’s leading industrialists because of its potential to distort world trade and regional economies.

The impact on Australia is assuming major proportions, with an Access Economics study to be released next week revealing that one-third of almost$40 billion in proposed mining and manufacturing projects are under threat of environmental veto.

Garran, R. 1992. Opposition to exploit resource indecision. Australian Financial Review, 4 May, p 9.

The Federal Opposition will seek to exploit the Government’s embarrassment over its on-again off-again resource security legislation by prolonging debate in the Senate until after Tuesday’s meeting of the Labor Caucus.

2016 Speech by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill at Emissions Reduction Summit

 

“Mine is bigger than yours” – penis envy, emissions and energy storage #auspol

It’s another one of those weeks where the news cycle is dominated by climate change.  The first week of December last year saw  Josh Frydenberg announce that the impending climate policy review would consider an emissions intensity scheme  (something the Business Council now wants,  perhaps quietly regretting that they cheered on Tony Abbott as he repealed Julia Gillard’s Emissions Trading Scheme?)

Frydenberg’s words sent Cory Bernardi, Christopher Pyne and others ballistic. The very next day Frydenberg was back on the airwaves denying he had said what everyone heard him say, pouring cold water over the idea. Another backflip in the long history of backflips on climate and energy policy.  The following day, Malcolm Turnbull at the fish market, scotched the EIS idea altogether, proclaiming it to be another carbon tax.   All this before chief scientist Alan Finkel produced the first report of his review into Australian energy security.

At the beginning of February we had another intense week – Turnbull spoke at the National Press Club saying that coal would be the foundation of Australian energy generation for decades to come; followed by Resources Minister Matt Canavan talking of “clean coal” and suggesting the Clean Energy Finance Corporations rules could be changed to allow public funding (since investors clearly were not interested).  Days later ended with Treasurer Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal and cooing “This is coal… Don’t be afraid…  don’t be scared.” (And has since boasted about this to radio shocking jock Ray Hadley.)

As one astute  journalist wrote three years ago it’s part of

“a long campaign to redefine the stuff that comes from burning coal as a “colourless, odourless gas”, a harmless three-way cuddle between one carbon and two oxygen atoms that, happily, provides “plant food”

Morrison’s stunt was an echo of US Senator James Inhofe’s infamous snowball stunt of a couple of years previously.

A third such climate-and-energy week has ensued. Last Friday Elon Musk grabbed headlines around the world by tweeting a ‘done and dusted in a 100 days or free’ offer on 100MWh of battery storage. He had talks with both SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Malcolm Turnbull, both of which were poured over by journalists and analysts. On Tuesday the SA government announced a six point energy plan, which involved funding a new gas fired power station, a tender for battery storage, a change in royalty payments to ease gas exploration and new powers for the SA government to intervene in the National Energy Market.  This last point was predictably rubbished by the Federal Government, with Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg muttering about consulting lawyers.

Then Malcolm Turnbull, pre-empting the Finkel Review it commissioned in response to the September 2016 South Australian blackout, let alone the climate policy review (remember that?),  proposed an expansion of the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme (a nation building project from 1947 to 1974 is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia, brought in under budget and before time), this time to ensure not additional energy production, but storage.

While Jay and Josh were having an extraordinary stoush in a suburban garage in Adelaide Malcolm Turnbull was touring that hydro scheme and could not help but say

“In one hour it could produce 20 times the 100Mwh expected from the battery proposed by the South Australian government but would deliver it constantly for almost a week (or 350,000 Mwh over seven days),”

It is almost exactly a year ago that Donald Trump assured voters that fellow Republican candidate Marco Rubio was wrong to cast aspersions about the size of his, um, hands….

In terms of childishness, well Lenore Taylor summed it up beautifully

“And sometimes the leader of the nation can join the policy discussion only by disguising his good ideas in a drizabone and bush hat, lest they be recognised for what they are by his own colleagues.”

A picture is worth a thousand words

Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme

“Malcolm Turnbull tours the Tumut 3 power station while announcing the government’s plan for a major expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP.” Source: Guardian article here.

The photo accompanying the article, by  Lukas Coch of Australian Associated Press shows Turnbull, in obligatory hard hat and fluoro and wearing safety goggles pointing into the distance,  predictably flanked by two other men.  Readers with long memories and cynical dispositions may recall that in  July 2014 Senator Ian MacDonald came to parliament in a fluorojacket, provided to him by the same people who gave Morrison his lump of lacquered lump of coal, namely the Minerals Council of Australia.

This is like a thousand other photos of politicians donning similar protective garb.  These all seem like desperate claims by desperate men, who are the epitome of the political class (“out of touch”) using props to try to build to their constituents, earnestly proclaim themselves to be “real,” “tough”  and ‘authentically working class.’

Climate Change is making us all anxious (if not terrified). These claims to authenticity, ‘common sense’ and machismo, are the devices that our politicians deploy to calm us (and perhaps themselves?). It’s not so much ‘virtue signalling’ but ‘virtuoso signalling’ – a claim to competence and hard-headness to see us through the tough times ahead. Given the vicissitudes of the policy-making “process” and the super-wicked nature of the problems, such performances are unsurprising.   What is perhaps surprising that it politicians seem to think that it still works.

Visions, hype and Twitter: Elon Musk and Energy Policy’s latest twist. #auspol

Who would dare make a prediction about Australian energy and climate policy these days? The truth keeps turning out not stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think.

Last week Tesla’s vice president for energy products, Lyndon Rive was drumming up interest for his company’s batteries, the “PowerWall”. As opponents of renewable energy never tire of saying, as if it is a stunning insight, it’s only on tv that the sun always shines, and the answer is not blowing in the wind for the same reason of ‘intermittency‘. Renewables advocates counter this by speaking of storage (e.g pumped hydro), but everyone is holding out for a hero. (That’s enough shoe-horned song references, Ed).

Rive, pointed out that after a Californian power crisis “From start to finish, we installed an 80MWh battery pack at one of the substations in Southern California,”

California had had a methane leakage at a gas peaking plant, whereas South Australia’s September blackout – was due to high winds (despite the blame game which ensued). Knowing he had piqued his potential customers’ interest, Rive said “We can do the exact same thing in South Australia. Storage is the technology, and it can solve the problem within the next 100 days or so.”

Mike Cannon-Brookes the ‘accidental billionaire’  , the co-founder software company Atlassian was impressed, tweeting “Holy s#%t” and following it up with “how serious are you about this bet? If I can make the $ happen (& politics), can you guarantee the 100MW in 100 days?”

Rive’s cousin, one Elon Musk, tweeted back “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?”

Nick Hammsen of the ABC notes that detail is sketchy. The Californian scheme was an 400 of Tesla’s Powerpack 2 batteries, which Tesla claim is infinitely scalable. Hammsen notes that system big enough for South Australia would run into the tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars and that the cost and who would foot the bill is unclear.

Since then, Musk and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherhill have spoken, with Musk tweeting

Mr Weatherill, who had floated the balloon of a states-based emissions trading scheme  said “Today I had a positive discussion with Elon Musk regarding his battery proposal,”

Greens Senator Hanson-Young is also intetested, arguing

The way the spot market works and way the electricity market is currently structured means that battery storage just can’t compete at the same level.”

Policy via Twitter (a la Trump)

This is under way because following a ‘policy bonfire‘, in 2013 and 2014, there is the mother of all policy vacuums in Canberra, with no resolution in sight. When this happened under John Howard, the states – with New South Wales under Bob Carr as leading light – started a push for an emissions trading scheme, which created impetus for a national scheme.

Entrepreneurs, be they policy or technology-based, are needed to ‘shake things up’. As an academic colleague wrote

I’m generally pro Musk, on the grounds that all visionaries are flawed, and stunts can be useful. You’ve gotta have someone willing to take the big risks, but the personality that allows that kind of behaviour is almost certainly going to also include some narcissism and megalomania. Every other entrepreneur who developed a whole new system in the past was also like this. Henry Ford, George Stephenson, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, etc”

“Socio-technical transitions” are indeed about visions  , but of course, visions are okay if you’re rich; if you’re poor and you have visions, they send you to a psychiatrist.

 Regardless of the ins and outs of visions, proposals like these take on a life of their own. If this twitter love-in goes on much longer – and if Cannon-Brookes finds the cash – Musk and Weatherill will both be in a position where they have to do something together, or look like – as they say in Newcastle (England) “All fur coat and no knickers.”

Talk, like Australia’s electricity, is no longer as cheap as it was.

South Australia has a long history as a “laboratory”

You could argue that South Australia’s foundation as the only non-convict labour colony under White Settlement (or invasion) is the first example of its role as a ‘laboratory’.

South Australia’s longest serving premier, Tom Playford (in office from 1938 to 1965) was certainly capable of thinking big, with his 1946 nationalisation of the Adelaide Electric Supply Company to create the (since privatised) Electricity Trust of South Australia (this was done with the enthusiastic support of the Federal Labor Government of Ben Chifley) and his nuclear ambitions.

Later visions of state-based responses to economic, social and environmental pressures were less successful (for example Premier Don Dunstan and Monarto, and John Bannon‘s similarly ill-fated “multi-function polis.”

As a virtual city-state, South Australia  can claim a place as an ‘urban laboratory’ and be an object of study for the question ‘Can cities shape socio-technical transitions and how would we know if they were?’  A new experiment seems to be unfolding. Tomorrow (Tuesday 14th March), Weatherill will announce a series of State government measures to deal with energy prices, energy security and climate change. Watch this space…

Winners and Losers

If it comes off, (and the “if” and the “it” are big questions), who would be the winners and losers? It would clearly be better PR than you could ever buy for Musk – proof of concept for his technology. Weatherill and his government are up for re-election in March 2018 and needing to put meat on the bones of the ‘OpenState’ festival promises, would be a happy chappy.

Academics studying “sustainability sociotechnical transitions” and the importance of visions and hype will love it. Public policy theorists who use the ‘Multiple Streams’ approach point out that often policy entrepreneurs develop solutions and then go looking for a problem to attach them to. The Musk-Adelaide connection would become the obvious citation

Renewable proponents would see their enthusiasm and hard work vindicated, especially if customers (and voters) see a stabilisation (or decrease?) in electricity prices, and an end to insecurity of supply. Community-based schemes may of course fear being pushed aside by the big boys, as do the Zen Energy owners and managers, who reckon a local consortium could do the job Musk is promising on the same time-scale.

Conversely, it would be bad news for the South Australian opposition, which is reduced to ‘me-tooism’. Liberal Opposition leader Stephen Marshall said in response to the Musk proposal

“It’s the sort of thing we need to be looking at to secure the stability of our grid here in South Australia and also how we can lower energy prices in this state” [source]

For the Federal Coalition it is another big headache – it is hard to see how Malcolm ‘innovation/exciting time to be alive’ Turnbull can object. He and Musk talked on Sunday, with the now usual exchange of mutually-congratulatory tweets.

If it came off, it would, presumably, be disastrous for the status quo actors who own/operate the centralised fossil-fuel power stations and grid, accelerating the ‘death spiral‘ of grid defection.

They can be expected to fight back, by attacking the credibility of proponents (with Musk, that’s hard), the technology and by attempting to slow deployment. But in South Australia, they may not have enough levers to pull on, enough credible threats to make.

2017 is already living up to its billing as a perplexing roller-coaster.