20 Nov Is renewable energy policy the solution to climate change ? Discussed @The Henley Club
Renewable is a key solution to slowing global warming, one of the most pressing issues of our generation. Sadly, however, our renewable energy policies are often based on popularity and not on what energy policy will help fix the problem of global warming. This was the key message of a recent event at the Henley Club, a fellow certified B Corp, speaking on whether renewable energy can replace fossil fuel base load power.
Our Legal Counsel, Kim Shore, who leads the Environment & Social Justice Working Group Committee at the Henley Club, organised the panel event with speakers Alicia Webb of the Clean Energy Council and David Blowers of the Grattan Institute. The event was premised on the assumption we must decarbonise our economy by 2050 to maintain a high chance of staying below dangerous levels of global warming.
Renewable energy is being prioritised, the panel says, because it is politically popular, not because it is the best way to decarbonise our economy. The abstract renewable energy targets, for example, show a policy that does not consider, aside from renewable energy, the total mix of sources of energy production needed to achieve emission reduction goals. For example, a 50 per cent target could mean the dirtiest coal fired power stations still make up the other 50 per cent.
The panel agreed, there is a disconnect which exists between renewable energy policy and climate change policy and is currently not an efficient way of designing our emission reduction targets. What is needed is to link our renewable energy policy to emission reduction targets. This way, the best mix of technology and price incentives could generate the most efficient transition to clean energy systems.
The panel also discussed the issue of the “Death Spiral”, a the situation where people converting to battery power and going “off grid” cause increasing grid costs between decreasing amount of people which then perpetuates the problem.
The “Death Spiral,” the panel says, is a myth in the context of urban environments. The grid is the infrastructure by which people can both access cheap energy produced from producers with economies of scale and sell excess energy to others. The energy market is not going anywhere, though battery storage and small-scale renewable generation may enable a more decentralised market.
Another myth that was dispelled is the idea that we have to use fossil fuel power because of a base load production that is otherwise wasted. Base-load power does not mean power is generated constantly irrespective of demand. Base load power refers to a plant that can produce electricity to meet minimum demand, but this production fluctuates to meet demand —it is not constantly producing energy out of control. We can turn it off.
Perhaps even more important that renewable energy per se is a carbon price that internalises the true cost of pollution from fossil fuels and allows renewable to flourish. Alicia Webb says that the politics of this is dismal; we need to set the price — and keep it there.
Right now countries covering 80% of global emissions have already announced climate policy initiatives as commitment to a new universal climate agreement in Paris in December. Governments around the world are committing to one of the biggest industrial policy reforms in history — changing global energy systems for our health, planet and people.
Overall the discussion was fruitful, with the conclusion that Australia can and will continue to work toward reform and modernise our energy systems for a better future.
By Legal Counsel Kim Shore. Clearpoint Ed Anna Reeves.