Last year saw some major shifts away from fossil fuels. Here’s some of the highlights.
In Australia’s export coal industry
- Australia’s biggest and most controversial proposal, the Adani coal mine, is facing a string of setbacks.
- Queensland Premier Palaszczuk has vetoed a $1 billion proposed loan subsidy from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), a decision with wide public support and good economic justification.
- Major Chinese banks – including the two biggest commercial banks in the world – announced they were not and would not consider funding Adani’s mine. It came days after an Adani director was reported to have boasted the NAIF loan wasn’t needed because Chinese companies would fund it.
- Major mining services company Downer EDI has walked away from three years or negotiations about providing services to the project. The decision, apparently, was “mutually agreed”.
- In NSW, the proposed Rocky Hill mine near Gloucester has been knocked back by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC).
- National Australia Bank has announced it “will no longer finance new thermal coal mining projects.” Earlier in 2017 Westpac announced it would not fund new coal basins or coal of quality below the Newcastle benchmark – which would rule out the Adani mine.
- The new Chair of the operators of the Port of Newcastle, the world’s biggest coal port, has outlined “an urgent need to diversify the Hunter economy and the port’s business.”
- Earlier in the year, the owners of the Port of Newcastle commissioned modelling from Wood MacKenzie, which showed subsidised expansion of new coal supply would suppress coal prices and threaten coal profits and jobs in other basins.
In coal lobbying
- In 2017, the Minerals Council of Australia went from getting a lump of coal into the House of Representatives and helping derail a Clean Energy Target, to sacking its CEO and losing numerous member companies. MCA’s coal advocacy was out of all proportion with its diverse membership and desire of some members like BHP to be ‘climate leaders’. BHP will be announcing soon if they will leave the MCA.
In domestic energy
- AGL stared down pressure from the Prime Minister to keep the aging Liddell coal power plant open another 5 years, instead announcing a mixture of storage, renewables and gas. Meanwhile, half of Liddell’s boilers are out of action.
- Origin announced a 50% cut in emissions 2030 – a target they’ll reach by shutting down an aging coal plant on schedule, yet is still far more ambitious than government policy.
- In a state now without coal, Tesla’s new world’s-largest South Australian battery is showing the market what it can do.
- And The Australia Institute released research showing fossil fuels fail during heatwaves. During the February 2017 heatwave across south eastern Australia, 14% of fossil generating capacity (3,600 MW) failed during critical peak demand periods in South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland as a result of faults largely related to the heat.
- Twenty countries – including France, UK, Canada, New Zealand – announced the international Powering Past Coal Alliance, pledging to phase out coal power in their domestic power supply by 2030.
- ING announced that by 2025 will stop lending to any energy company that uses coal for more than 5% of its energy, while French insurer AXA will stop insuring coal and tar sands and divest from a further Euro 3 billion of coal and tar sands. The threshold they’re using means they will divest from large diversified miners like BHP.
- The World Bank already won’t fund coal, but has now announced it will no longer fund oil or gas extraction projects.
- The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Update 2017 shows full energy access, security and affordability can be combined with success under the Paris Agreement. Crucially, “coal demand goes into an immediate decline”, replaced by energy efficiency and low carbon energy.
NEWS AND EVENTS
Gina Rinehart and NAIF Gina Rinehart’s company GVK Hancock is hoping that the NAIF will approve a public money loan for a rail line for the coal she wants to mine in the Galilee Basin and the Queensland government has not ruled out approving the loan. This news has slipped under the radar with all the action on stopping Adani and will possibly be the next big campaign. https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/resources/2017/12/16/gina-rinehart-and-the-galilee/15133428005647
Canada to have overseas mining watchdog department Canada will create an independent office early next year that will specifically look at Canadian oil, mining and gas companies activities overseas. The majority of the world’s overseas mining companies are in Canada. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-resources-ombudsman/canada-to-create-overseas-mining-watchdog-early-in-2018-idUSKBN1E700N
World bank and fossil fuels The World Bank as announced it will end financial support from 2019 for oil and gas exploration and extraction https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/dec/12/uk-banks-join-multinationals-pledge-come-clean-climate-change-risks-mark-carney
Adani News Delhi’s high court has taken up a lawsuit for an investigation into allegations that the Adani group and other energy companiesengaged in fraud that raised power prices for Indian customers. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/15/adani-group-fraud-allegations-india-delhi-high-court-lawsuit
Also, Adani has scrapped the $2billion agreement with Downer ADI following the Queensland government’s veto of the NAIF loan for the rail line https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/18/adani-scraps-2bn-deal-to-outsource-carmichael-coalmine-operation
Container Deposit Scheme This finally came into being on 1 December. Less than 50% of the vending machines are installed but that will increase. If you want to know where the closest machine is to you or information on what is accepted as well as general information go to http://returnandearn.org.au/. If you don’t have one near you, still use your yellow bin as money from that will be given to your local council for projects in your local area.
Solar and battery information The ATA (Alternative Technology Association), has an online free solar and battery advice service that gives you information on the right size solar and/or battery system for you. http://www.ata.org.au/ata-solar-advice
Newcastle port to reduce coal loading? The new head of Newcastle Port says that it must diversify the regional economy and move away from being a port just for coal. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/18/newcastle-worlds-biggest-coal-export-port-announces-shift-away-from-coal