Climate change and environment policy

[quote=“MarkG, post:13, topic:148”]
Generation and storage is hard to exclude
[/quote]On the other hand, lumping them in with reticulation is probably a mistake.

What part of the reticulation network could a prosumer own? What good would it do them?

For example, I live on the land. I nominally own the poles and wires from my house to the edge of my property. Until a decade or so ago, the public utility maintained the infrastructure on my land (checking the condition of poles, trimming vegetation, etc). Then we all got notices that the responsibility was now ours. None of us had the slightest idea what to do. It took a couple of years for the (by then) semi-privatised utilities to make necessary information available. They never quite managed to get that right (the information was outdated or just wrong). After a few deaths and the occasional bush fire from fallen lines, they’ve quietly resumed maintaining lines on private land (as a “free service”). I own part of the reticulation network, but what good does it do me?

A policy which does not differentiate between generation and reticulation will fail. I’d argue that we should consider further differentiation between generation and storage, transmission and monitoring/control.

For an individual, grid defection may be attractive. For society and the economy, I’d say it’s a negative. Unfortunately, incumbents in their death throes are driving defection. We need a policy that motivates participation in the common good that is the grid.

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There’s just so much ill-will directed at power utilities and the government that the next few years will be a kind of perfect storm for grid defections no matter what.

I think committing up front to buying all the poles and wires back would be to overspend on declining assets. The gold plating fiasco is a salutary lesson in over-committing without looking forward. We could possibly include an adaptive instrument in the policy - like say a ‘grid management fund’ which would be used to address emerging challenges around reticulation. Experts would run the fund and oversee critical asset buy-backs and interconnection of new mass-scale renewables as well as more prosaic things like information distribution.

I’m not convinced about the virtue of resisting the shift off-grid. To be stuck with poles and wires is to be at the mercy of people who’ve demonstrated again and again that they can’t be depended on. Horror stories like your own are not unusual and not limited to states with privatized assets.

Note the new Indian PM is skipping over more reticulation in favour of a solar panel on every house. If he succeeds the mass production will see costs for solar & storage fall staggeringly, and not just in India.

Is it a case of resisting a trend or is it looking for the best outcome? Standalone systems are fine for rugged individualists who are prepared to accept the downsides, but most of us want more reliability and flexibility.

For example, if your isolated off-grid system goes down, you’re without power. If you’re connected to a network of systems, you can draw on their resources. The price of being connected is that others will draw on your resources as necessary. In the final analysis, you lose a little freedom and gain a lot of reliability.

In the case of India, they’re going from no power to isolated systems. Would they be better with interconnections?

Of course, if the grid goes down, you’re also screwed (unless you have storage and a suitably tolerant inverter).

Have a think about the target market for these Indian solar panels. My guess is that Indian households without a grid connection, are probably in a slum or a rural village.

Further, Indian energy usage is only set to rise - as far as I can tell they’re limited by generation capacity as it is.

So whichever way you slice it, adding distributed generation wins there…

[quote=“alexjago, post:17, topic:148”]
Of course, if the grid goes down, you’re also screwed (unless you have storage and a suitably tolerant inverter).[/quote]
All things are possible. For water and sewerage, I live “off the grid”. That gives me a perspective that’s perhaps a little less romantic than some. From my perspective, isolated systems are less reliable than interconnected systems.

A network of interconnected distributed generation and storage should be more robust and reliable than isolated systems or the traditional centralised generation model.

[quote=“alexjago, post:17, topic:148”]Further, Indian energy usage is only set to rise - as far as I can tell they’re limited by generation capacity as it is.[/quote]As I understand it, India has a lot of coal. They could conceivably generate all the energy they need. India doesn’t have poles and wires. The solar panels are intended to get around the lack of reticulation infrastructure.

[quote=“alexjago, post:17, topic:148”]So whichever way you slice it, adding distributed generation wins there…
[/quote]Agreed. I think Mark’s question is about the value of the interconnects.

I wasn’t saying Australia should copy India, only that India’s policy will cheapen the tech and bring closer the crossover point where solar becomes more economical than traditional grid connections. That moment is already near in Australia thanks to the gold plating of the last few years. For my part I will be planning my defection the moment carbon pricing is gone.

For what it’s worth the policy does encourage people to stay connected - that’s one of the effects of feed-in tariffs. We could provide explicit support to reticulation in the policy though- possibly something like:

  • Provide $3 billion to support grid upgrade priorities including infrastructure improvements, critical asset purchases and interconnection/storage for new mass-scale renewables.

I’d support an amendment of that kind if someone wanted to bring it up in Congress. The key is nimbleness - providing support for reticulation in a way that contains the cost by spending only where needed and letting the priorities reflect pressures on the ground.

Putting blanket renationalisation into an environment policy plays into the hands of people who say environmentalism is just a vehicle for socialism. Also many traditional assets will soon be stranded and buying them now will just socialise the losses. So I would probably vote against that. But I’m only one vote and I hope everyone will be there at Congress with their ideas.

[quote=“MarkG, post:19, topic:148”]… many traditional assets will soon be stranded …[/quote]Things like fossil-fuelled generators and coal mines, probably. Which interconnection assets do you see being stranded?

An interesting clip from the Rocky Mountains Institute gives some insight into the value of linking power generators together.

All generators fail. Interconnection moderates the consequences.

The huge pylon backbone that shifts power over great distances is only going to get more under-used as the network decentralises. The trend with power is interestingly opposite to the trend for things like data - the amount that gets moved is shrinking and localising and future interconnection is more likely to happen within areas rather than between them. Smaller-scale infrastructure will probably change less in the short-term- but I chicken out of making any predictions. The change is too fast and deep. The technical leaps are unpredictable. There could be forms of grid instability which we’re simply not prepared for. We’ll need to be adaptive.

Refer here for a really remarkable chart on where this is all going:

I just can’t see how traditional power arrangements will survive.

I understand Energy Policy Version 2 is still a draft?
I am a climate policy wonk with about 10 years of reading climate science and policy. I attended Paris COP21 as an official NGO observer for Climate Action Network Australia/Climate Action Moreland as a grassroots activist and citizen journalist/blogger. I think the draft policy needs to be updated to take into account the Paris Agreement and the latest science. I’d like to have a go at making some suggestions for improvement in Pirate Party policy in this area. I am a newbie to this forum so treat me gently, if I stray out of line.

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The current policy is here. No doubt it needs an update given the events of the past year, and it would be great to have an experienced environmentalist like yourself take a look.

I think, as Pirates, we could support any rise in sea levels.

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Until I read this thread I had not realised that not all solar power users were using battery storage! We are completely off grid & off all services, the only way to fly.

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A lot of people have been asking me how to vote in this election and I’d love to be telling people to put the progressive independents ahead of Labor - especially given Labors poor record on both the environment and their support of police-state/surveillance bulls, but I can’t recommend anyone vote for a party which doesn’t have a decent policy on the most important issue of our time - fixing climate.

See which ranks you BEHIND Labor on this key issue.

Come on - get your act together - if you aren’t up to date on the issue get one of your members
to review policies of ICAN or Greens and adopt something meaningfull.

I find myself not really able to take this scorecard very seriously. I’m really unsure what part of protect biodiversity, and expand national parks says “don’t end broad-scale clearing of remnant forests” to the authors.

That scorecard doesn’t measure the quality or effectiveness of climate policy. It only measures the extent to which policies match the precise prescriptions which that particular group happens to favor.

We want a broad-based carbon price that would apply across the economy. It would bring emissions down in hundreds of different ways. It is much better than the Labor party policy.

I am an advocate of digital rights, and a strong critic of Labor’s support of the police state bills, so I’m aligned with your views on this. I just can’t recommend people vote for a party independently ranked almost bottom on environmental issues. I know for a fact that if I ask most people to choose between digital rights and the environment they are going to choose environment - as I said 15% of the county population turned out for the Anti-Adani rally last week. Most people are sympathetic to digital rights but its a hard sell, and its not going to lead to votes if the party is getting ranked low by an independent assessment of its environment policies that is circulating widely locally (I’ve received it at least 6 times in the last few days, which is far more than I’ve received any digital rights messages).

I notice for example that the Pirate Party didn’t sign onto the Australian Conservation Foundation’s deal on climate change between independent candidates.

Your call of course, as I said I support you on the digital rights issues, but if you can’t get the other issues up to a basic level …

I am saying the ranking isn’t credible. It prescribes a fixed set of solutions and counts how many of those solutions can be found in a set of policies. The idea that there might be solutions they haven’t thought of has clearly never occurred to them. Nor that some solutions (carbon tax, for eg) are far more pivotal than others, and that each doesn’t warrant an equal weighting.

Our policy to expand national parks and restore ecosystems is given no weight in the scorecard, purely because whoever designed the chart didn’t think of it. Our policy to offset exported emissions (which are most of our emissions) is also not counted. A scorecard that leaves out things like that is just misleading, and an incredibly poor substitute for thinking seriously about the issue and coming to an informed view.


Apart from renewables, there should be a definitive action on energy efficiency front. Program like Victorian Energy Upgrades need to be sincerly implemented.

The categories of how electricity gets used is what you’re missing. Around two thirds of electricity consumption in Australia goes to industry and commercial usage. Only around 27-28% goes to residential. Wikipedia admittedly has rather old info now, but it probably hasn’t changed all that much.