Australian Politics 2016-09-26 15:47:00
The real lesson from South Australia’s electricity ‘crisis’: we need better climate policy
The guy below is certainly right about that but he waffles a lot and is very timid about saying exactly what policy is needed. He knows perfectly well what is needed if big spikes in power prices are to be avoided: Backup generators fired by coal (cheapest) or natural gas (dearest). And only government subsidies will keep them available. Once you distort the market by subsidizing one source of power, you have to subsidize the rest of the market too. Otherwise your backup generators will go out of business, which is what happened in South Australia
Australia’s energy markets got a big shock in July this year, when wholesale electricity prices spiked in South Australia, alarming the state government and major industrial customers. Commentators rushed to find the immediate culprits. But the real issues lie elsewhere.
As shown by the Grattan Institute’s latest report the market worked. Having soared, prices fell back to more manageable levels. The lights stayed on.
Yet South Australia’s power shock exposed a looming problem in Australia’s electricity system – not high prices or the threat of blackouts, but an emerging conflict between Australia’s climate change policies and the demands of our energy market.
A perfect storm
On the evening of July 7, the wind wasn’t blowing, the sun wasn’t shining, and the electricity connector that supplies power from Victoria was down for maintenance. This meant gas set the wholesale price, and gas is expensive these days, especially during a cold winter. At 7.30pm wholesale spot prices soared close to A$9,000 per megawatt hour. For the whole month they averaged A$230 a megawatt hour. They were closer to A$65 in the rest of the country.
Australia has committed to a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Despite this well known and significant target, the national debate on climate change has been so toxic and so destructive that almost no policy remains to reduce emissions from the power sector in line with that target.
By 2014 the much maligned renewable energy target (RET), a Howard government industry policy to support renewable energy, remained as the only policy with any real impact on the sector’s emissions.
Wind power has been the winning technology from the RET, and South Australia has been the winning state. Wind now supplies 40% of electricity in South Australia due to highly favourable local conditions. Because wind has no fuel costs it suppressed wholesale prices in the state and forced the shutdown of all coal plants and the mothballing of some gas plants. But wind is intermittent – it generates power only when it is blowing, and the night of July 7 it barely was.
A report by the Australian Energy Market Operator noted that the market did deliver on reliability and security of supply in July. It reviewed the behaviour of market participants and concluded there were “no departures from normal market rules and procedures”.
The events of July do not expose an immediate crisis, but they have exposed the potential consequences of a disconnection between climate change policy and energy markets. If it is not addressed, the goals of reliable, affordable and sustainable energy may not be achieved.
The bigger problem
Climate change policy should work with and not outside the electricity market. With a fixed generation target of 33,000 gigawatt hours of renewable electricity by 2020 and a market for renewable energy credits outside the wholesale spot market under the RET, the conditions for problems were established some time ago.
The specific issues that arose from the design of the RET would have been far less problematic if one of the attempts over the last ten years to implement a national climate policy had been successful. A rising carbon price would have steadily changed the relative competitiveness of high and low emissions electricity sources and the RET would have quietly faded.
The first lesson for governments is that we need to establish a credible, scalable and predictable national climate change policy to have a chance of achieving emissions reduction targets without compromising power reliability or security of supply. A national emissions trading scheme would be best, but pragmatism and urgency mean we need to consider second best.
While such an outcome is the first priority, it will not provide all the answers. The rapid introduction of a very large proportion of new intermittent electricity supply creates problems that were not foreseen when traditional generation from coal and gas supplied the bulk of Australia’s power needs.
All of the wind farms in one state could be offline at the same time – a far less likely event with traditional generation. The problem can be solved by investment in storage and in flexible responses such as gas and other fast-start generators. Commercial deals with consumers paid to reduce demand could also contribute.
Lower average prices combined with infrequent big price spikes are not an obvious way to encourage long-term investors. The market may find solutions with new forms of contracts for flexibility or the market operator could introduce new structures or regulations to complement the existing wholesale spot market.
Much uncertainty exists, no easy fixes are in sight and the consequences of failure are high. Getting it right will provide clear signals for new investment or for withdrawal of coal plants as flagged by speculation over the future of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria.
Josh Frydenberg, as the new minister for the environment and energy, and his fellow ministers on the COAG Energy Council would be unwise to waste a near crisis.
Science Confirms The Australian Diet Is A Disaster (?)
Wot a lotta ... The conclusion depends entirely on assumptions about what is healthy. And since lots of those assumptions have recently been tipped on their ear, it is pretty clear that nobody knows what is healthy or not. So the question asked below is indeterminant. We don't know how healthy the Australian diet is. But since we are one of the world's most long lived population groups, we are probably pretty good
Despite a seemingly increased awareness about healthy eating, Australia’s largest ever diet survey has confirmed that the vast majority of our eating habits are getting worse.
The 2016 CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report, released today, canvassed the dietary habits of more than 86,500 adults across the country over a 12 month period. An early snapshot of the survey results released in August 2015 awarded the nation’s diet a score of 61 on a 100-point scale.
With almost 47,000 additional surveys completed since then that figure now stands at just 59 out of 100, confirming that Australian diets are worse than first thought.
“We have an image of being fit and healthy, but with a collective diet score of 59/100 that image could be very different unless we act now,” CSIRO Research Director and co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Professor Manny Noakes said.
According to the 2016 Healthy Diet Score, 80 per cent of respondents received an individual score below 70, which is a benchmark figure.
“If we can raise our collective score by just over 10 points, we help Australia mitigate against the growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers,” Professor Noakes said. “All people need to do is halve the bad and double the good. In other words, halve the amount of discretionary food you eat and double your vegetable intake.”
People across Australia, in all occupations and age groups were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and June 2016. CSIRO researchers have used this information to create a detailed picture of the country’s eating habits. The closest we get to meeting Australian Dietary Guidelines is the fruit food group where 49 per cent of respondents meet the recommended intake.
That means one in two of us still have room to improve. But of greater concern is dietary performance in regard to discretionary, or junk foods. Just 1 per cent of Australians are abstaining from junk food, while more than one third admitted to eating more than the recommended maximum allowance.
“We find that there is often a tendency to under-report on certain types of food, so in all likelihood that figure is even higher,” Professor Noakes said.
The report showed that women have better nutritional levels than men (60 v 56/100). Construction workers were among those with the poorest diets, while public servants, real estate agents and health industry workers reported some of the healthiest eating patterns.
The 2016 CSIRO Healthy Diet Score also tracked food avoidance in diets for the first time, and found that approximately one in three Australian adults are avoiding one or more foods such as gluten, dairy or meat.
To get involved CSIRO is asking people to undertake The Healthy Diet Score — a free online assessment which evaluates diet quality and identifies individual areas of improvement, as well as providing a personal diet score out of 100.
“It is never too late to eat better and increase your score, and the nation’s,” Professor Noakes said. “We encourage people to also take the test regularly to ensure they are improving their eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing.”
The Healthy Diet Score was developed by CSIRO and is designed to assess compliance with the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. It asks about frequency and quantity of consumption of fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and alternatives, dairy, “junk” foods and drinks. It also addresses the quality of core foods (frequency of wholegrain and reduced fat dairy) and variety within core food groups.
The Left have only themselves to blame for driving people into Pauline Hanson’s arms
Half of Australia supports Pauline Hanson’s call to end Muslim migration, according to a poll released last week.
But according to leftist activists and Muslim stirrers like Mariam Veiszadeh this is somehow simultaneously a shock and confirmation of their slur that half the population are bigots and Islamophobes.
Race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane blamed Pauline Hanson, and the media which he thinks should censor the elected Senator, hardly a recipe for harmony.
He and his fellow posturing “anti-racists” never seem to put two and two together. They won’t admit that it’s their unreasonable demands, insults, endless grievances and crying wolf that drives people into the arms of right-wing groups.
This poll is their handiwork. Hanson has only capitalised on the disquiet they have helped create.
They never understand that the experiment they championed in which Labor dismantled hard-won border controls, unleashing an exponential flood of unauthorised boat arrivals — most of them Muslims from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq — threatened the very multicultural harmony they pretend is their sole preserve.
They never understand that it doesn’t help their cause to deny the obvious problems of Islamist terrorism and failed Muslim integration.
“People often say that our democracy is robust enough to withstand overt hate speech being spouted by some, but these results indicate otherwise,” said Veiszadeh.
But nothing in the poll results indicates “hate”, or any ill will towards the many fine Australian Muslims who flourish here.
What it does express is a distrust of a political class, which pretended that the Lindt Café siege was a mere “brush” with terrorism that had nothing to do with Islam. Or that the attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando by a fanatical follower of Islamic State was just about homophobia and guns. Or that the terrorist murder of Curtis Cheng in Parramatta had nothing to do with Islam. Or that pressure cooker bombs in New York last week were not terrorism — until a radicalised Muslim was arrested. Surprise, surprise.
Since 2001, every innocent, sociable activity we engage in is tinged with fear, going to a footy match, getting on a plane, taking your child to a Jewish preschool or waving him off to Europe on a gap year.
We live in defiance of fear, but that does not mean we are not aware of the cause — irrational ancient grievances of an alien ideology which is embraced by some of our own fellow citizens.
That’s the reality reflected in last week’s Essential poll, in which the main reasons people cited for wanting a ban was a belief that Muslim migrants do not integrate into society (41 per cent), are a terrorist threat, (27 per cent) and do not share our values (22 per cent).
Demonising those who hold such views and pretending that it’s all Hanson’s fault just drives more people into the arms of anti-migration groups and reinforces their fears.
When hostages in the Lindt Café were still suffering the terror of being held at gunpoint, Veiszadeh, refugee lawyer Julian Burnside and friends were helping whip up hysteria about a hypothetical anti-Muslim backlash with the obscene “illridewithyou” hashtag on Twitter.
The daughter of Afghan refugees, who has benefited from the safety and generosity of Australia, Veiszadeh has made a career out of magnifying conflict and disunity in her adopted country.
She disrespects the triumph of Australia’s history. We are the most harmonious immigrant country in the world and the most generous per capita when it comes to resettling refugees.
Almost one third of Australians were born overseas. How does that gel with a racist, inward-looking xenophobic country?
As Malcolm Turnbull told President Obama’s refugee summit in New York last week, it was only the tough border protection measures of the Howard and Abbott governments, that allowed us to increase our refugee intake, to remove children from detention, close 17 detention centres and prevent asylum seekers drowning.
“If you can’t control your borders, public reaction is going to be very, very adverse; it gives rise to all sorts of anti-refugee, anti-foreigner, in many cases anti-Muslim sentiment; it destabilises countries,” Mr Turnbull said.
Even Angela Merkel belatedly gets the message. The German Chancellor who opened the floodgates last year to more than one million “migrants” — mainly young men from North Africa and the Middle East — with all the predictable social problems that ensued, has now admitted it was a mistake.
But it took two election victories of the most far-right parties in Germany since Hitler’s day for her to wake up. Her moral vanity has unleashed the genies of bigotry and racism.
Let last week’s poll be a warning to our own self-appointed moral betters: you get what you wish for.
Ms Veiszadeh was so disgusted by the Essential poll that she decided to conduct her own online poll on Left-leaning Twitter.
Sadly, the result wasn't what she expected. After more than 46,000 votes a whopping 74% of respondents said they'd support a ban on Muslim migration. Awkward.
Police face struggle to jail returning jihadis
Dozens of returning Islamic State terrorists will never see the inside of a courtroom, with the country’s top counter-terrorism cop, the Australian Federal Police’s Mike Phelan, acknowledging that the difficulties in obtaining evidence overseas will force police to use other methods to control suspected jihadists.
With the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria inching towards collapse, Mr Phelan has warned that Australia is facing a new wave in the terror threat, one that could see dozens of returning foreign fighters back in their communities.
Mr Phelan, the AFP’s deputy commissioner for national security, said he had officers — working in what were dubbed returning terrorist suspects teams — whose sole job it was to put together criminal briefs on foreign fighters.
But he acknowledged that difficulties in obtaining evidence meant not all would face justice.
“The AFP’s preferred option when anybody comes back that’s been fighting in theatre or supporting terrorist organisations in the Middle East is to prosecute them,’’ Mr Phelan said.
“But the practical realities of that are, though, we may not be in a position to prosecute everybody that comes home due to the lack of admissible evidence that we can use in Australian courts.’’
ASIO estimates that about 110 Australians are engaged in the fighting in Syria in some way.
While Australian authorities have access to often highly accurate intelligence on where those Australians are and what they are doing — thanks largely to the web of international intelligence-sharing arrangements spawned by the Syrian crisis — only a fraction of that information can be used by police in court. The AFP also has no remit or ability to operate in the war-torn areas of Iraq and Syria.
But the main obstacle is the highly sensitive nature of the intelligence, much of which has been supplied by partner agencies, such as the CIA or the British secret services, which place strict conditions on its use.
For instance, no secret service would allow its intelligence to be tendered as part of a criminal prosecution if there were the slightest chance it could be discussed in open court.
Mr Phelan said the “vast majority’’ of Australians in Syria were fighting with Islamic State, although some were fighting with al-Qa’ida’s official affiliate in the Syrian conflict, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. A small number are fighting with anti-Islamist groups such as the Kurds.
Mr Phelan hinted at the wide gap between what police know and what they can prove, and the difficulties that posed.
“We may very well know or strongly believe, based on intelligence, where somewhere has been, what they’ve been doing and who they’ve been with,’’ he said.
“But that does not necessarily mean I can use that information here in a court of law in Australia.’’
Last week The Australian reported that authorities were also preparing for the potential return of dozens of Australian children who have been caught up in the Syrian conflict. A handful — such as the children of notorious Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf — were taken into Syria by jihadist parents.
Many more were born there to Australian fighters or Australian women, which would entitle them to Australian citizenship. State and federal authorities have begun war-gaming how to handle the needs of these, as well as any risk they may pose to the community.
So far only about 40 Australians have returned from the fighting in Syria, almost all in the early stages of the war before the ascendance of Islamic State and the Islamification of the Syrian opposition movement.
A handful of Australian jihadists have made overtures about returning, mainly through third parties, usually lawyers. Mr Phelan predicted there would be more: “It is a genuine concern as the caliphate starts to fold and the ISIL loses territory. We would be naive to think some Australians wouldn’t try to come home.’’
In recent months, Islamic State (also known as ISIL and ISIS) has lost half its territory in Iraq and 20 per cent in Syria, prompting analysts to predict the caliphate’s demise is nigh, possibly within a year.
Mr Phelan said any returning foreign fighter would be subject to a risk assessment. If the evidence wasn’t there to prosecute them, the AFP would be forced to rely on other methods. Control orders are granted by courts and can be sought only by the AFP. To date, despite the proliferation in extremist violence that has accompanied the rise of ISIS, only five control orders have been granted.
In the past, police have privately complained that the evidentiary requirements are so high that obtaining them has not been practical. Amendments to the control order regime, now being considered by the Senate, would allow police to use classified intelligence to get a control order, which would effectively lower the bar.
“If we can’t arrest and charge somebody when they arrive at an airport ... then the other options that are available to us are control orders,’’ Mr Phelan said.
“And with those control orders we can place some pretty heavy restrictions on people in terms of monitoring where they go, who they can speak to, what access they can have to communications etc.”
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here