Australian news, and some related international items

Finkel Report does not measure up for Australia’s Paris climate commitments 

Alan Finkel’s emissions target breaks Australia’s Paris commitments Chief scientist’s report flies in the face of previous recommendations on reducing electricity emissions, Guardian,  Michael Slezak, Friday 9 June 2017

Less than two weeks ago, Alan Finkel told the Senate his landmark report would help Australia meet the commitments it made in Paris to reduce its economy-wide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

But his recommendations on the future of the National Electricity Market, released today, appear to fly in the face of those very commitments. Before Senate estimates Finkel said: “We are very cognisant of the commitment that the nation has made through the Paris accords.

“We absolutely need to deal with the issue of ensuring that the electricity sector can do its fair share in helping the nation to meet its obligations under the Paris accord – the COP21 accord.”

Now today, his landmark review of the National Electricity Market has modelled cuts to emissions of the electricity sector that are the same as what the entire economy needs to do: 28% below 2005 levels by 2050. He said anything deeper, which had been suggested in other reports, would cause problems.

 Finkel suggested those cuts should be achieved with a “clean energy target” – which is equivalent to what has been called a Low Emissions Target. The result by 2030 will be one where renewables are responsible for just 42% of electricity generation.

But what is the electricity sector’s fair share?

Well it’s a lot more than that recommended by Finkel’s report.

How do we know it needs to be higher? We can look at a report from the Climate Change Authority, that Finkel himself co-wrote, that examined how much the electricity sector needed to do.

After examining several scenarios for meeting Australia’s emissions reduction targets, it concluded: “The common finding is that the electricity sector can contribute deep, cost-effective emissions reductions as part of national action to meet global temperature goals.”

The electricity sector has to do much of the heavy lifting for several reasons.

  • it’s the biggest source of carbon emissions – producing more than a third of the country’s total.
  • many other industries can’t easily reduce emissions – it’s very hard to reduce the emissions from the agriculture sector, for example.
  • decarbonising the electricity sector will help other sectors decarbonise – for example, if cars stop using petrol and shift to electricity, we will need the electricity system to be low-emissions in order to see an actual reduction in emissions.

That last point was made by the Climate Change Authority report. “Substantial decarbonisation of electricity supply can facilitate emissions reductions in other sectors, as electricity can displace their direct use of fossil fuels,” it said.

But in his report today, Finkel said any deeper cuts could be problematic. “The adoption of a more ambitious target would have larger consequences for energy security as such a target would likely see a higher level of [variable renewable energy] incentivised,” Finkel wrote.

Bill Hare, the a leading climate scientist and CEO at Climate Analytics has spent a lot of time modelling precisely this issue

“From a scientific perspective this is quite shocking because the almost universal consensus from the modelling exercises for how to achieve the Paris agreement has the power sector doing a lot more than the rest of the economy everywhere in the world,” Hare said.

“I think this conclusion appears to have been crafted to fit with the politics of the present government rather than the science and understanding of these systems,” he said.

Hare said he doesn’t know of any work globally that supports Finkel’s claim that deeper cuts to emissions will put the system’s reliability or security at risk.

Dylan McConnell from Melbourne University said an additional problem with having shallow cuts in emissions in the electricity sector, was that it was the cheapest place to make the cuts – so the overall cost to the economy of meeting our Paris commitments will be more expensive…….

June 9, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy

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