Australian news, and some related international items

ABC explains Australia’s new major energy review – the Finkel Report

Finkel report: Major review of Australia’s energy sector explained, ABC News 9 June 17 By national science and technology reporter Jake Sturmer “”…….So you might have heard about this big government report called the Finkel review.

Basically, it is chief scientist Alan Finkel’s plan for the future of the National Electricity Market.

That market is how most states — Queensland, New South Wales (including the Australian Capital Territory), Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania — get their power.

Right now, 87 per cent of the electricity going into that market comes from fossil fuels — a percentage that scientists say needs to fall a lot if the planet is to avoid dangerous climate change.

It is mostly high-emission brown and black coal (77 per cent) with gas making up the remainder (10 per cent). The other 13 per cent of the total comes from renewable energy…….

What does the report recommend?

It is suggesting a clean energy target.

That is basically a rule that forces companies selling electricity to us to provide a set percentage of power from low emissions technology, like renewables or efficient gas.

Coal power can be considered too — but only if it is coupled with carbon capture.

Right now that is very expensive and unlikely to be seen in the short term.

The cost is likely to be passed on to us as consumers — think of it as opting for a percentage of green energy on your power bill.

So what does the benchmark of 700kg of CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity, recommended by the report, actually mean?

Essentially, if a generator produces electricity that emits less than 700kg of carbon dioxide per unit of electricity (measured in megawatt hours: MWh) they get part of a credit, which they can then sell to retailers.

One of the dirtiest power stations in the nation — EnergyAustralia’s brown coal Yallourn plant in Victoria — emits 1,272kg per MWh and even a brand new ultra-supercritical black coal plant emits 760kg per MWh.

So coal is effectively ruled out.

That leaves credits going to the most efficient gas turbines — which produce around 400kg/MWh — and renewables, which emit no carbon.

The low emissions target (LET) essentially acts as a carrot that forces retailers to buy cleaner energy, promoting renewables into the market, eventually squeezing out older, more polluting coal plants.

That is, if the Government accepts the benchmark — and it also depends on what percentage of cleaner electricity it forces retailers to buy.

What about an ’emissions intensity scheme’?

Another alternative is an emissions intensity scheme (EIS). That is favoured by almost all industries and even government bodies like the Climate Change Authority and Australian Energy Market Commission. An EIS would hit the power stations themselves and would set limits on the volume of greenhouse gases they can emit: if they go over, they have to buy credits from lower-emitting power stations.

It is both a carrot and a stick — it is an incentive to opt for cleaner energy and a penalty for those who do not.

Generators that have high emissions like coal may have to purchase low emissions credits from renewable generators to bring them below their target.Most industries — including the electricity generators themselves — actually support an EIS….

June 9, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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