Policies/Energy, Environment and Climate Change

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Official Party Document
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Climate change and renewable energy

While the environment is perpetually changing, there is a risk that enormous changes imposed in a very short period of time may have a destabilising effect on our planet's ecology and life support systems. Carbon emissions represent a risk factor in this regard, but also an opportunity. Effective climate change policy should not merely mitigate risk, but accelerate technological change with significant benefits for society at large.

Human activity has increased the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases to levels not seen for many hundreds of thousands of years, and the rise is accelerating.

Global energy markets are approaching a “crossover point”, when prices for on-site production and storage of energy fall below the price of traditional grid power.[1] Technological progress will soon allow consumers to become ‘prosumers’ – energy users capable of independently generating their own power. A 'prosumer' market will be a freer market in which consumers directly compete with utilities.

A few simple changes could bring this future closer. Resources currently allocated to the Emissions Reduction Fund could be re-targeted towards research and technological development. Regulations could be changed to ensure consumers are freer to enter energy markets. Utilities could be deregulated so they can adopt leaner 'probabalistic' power models and offer new services such as trading platforms between distributed energy producers. Underlying it all, carbon pricing should be adopted to directly bring the price 'crossover' closer.

A shift from taxing savings and work to taxing carbon emissions will be economically beneficial in its own right. A fixed and predictable carbon price will provide the certainty which long-term investment requires[2]; it will also create incentives for efficiency and innovation all across the economy. Carbon taxes also ensure that polluters pay. Environmental externalities are a form of privatised profits and socialised losses, and carbon pricing is a way to ensure that coal mining repays some of the costs it imposes on national water reserves, agriculture, and public health.[3][4],[5].[6]

In the longer term, reforms to encourage technology take-up and cleaner energy will pay for themselves. A distributed grid open to 'prosumer' competition will generate cheaper power as wastefully long power lines disappear and communities become more self-sufficient. Successful climate change policy should produce benefits far beyond merely addressing climate change itself.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Enact measures to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030

  • Expand investment in technological improvement and community power.
    • Re-purpose the 'Emissions Reduction Fund' (ERF) to the CSIRO and ARENA to sponsor additional research and development in clean technology and power storage.
      • Ensure technology developed with public funding is made freely available to developing countries.
    • Extend Clean Energy Finance Corporation loans to support community power start-up costs and grid connections.
    • Amend AEMC rules to ensure power purchase agreements, solar services agreements, virtual net metering and other forms of decentralised grids are not hindered.
  • Strengthen existing measures and price signals.
    • Restore a carbon tax with pricing set to the 2014-15 level and price increases fixed at CPI + 5% p/a.
      • Provide free permits to coal-generated power stations only where grid stability is at stake.
    • Apply a price on exported carbon, set to $2 per tonne of exported thermal coal.
      • Revenue will be used to to purchase carbon offsets through the UN clean development mechanism.
    • Provide a final extension in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to 70,000 GwH by 2025.
      • Increase the number of renewable certificates offered for generation at peak periods to encourage baseload renewable generation.
      • Include waste-to-energy in RET certificate allocations.
    • Remove waste levy exemptions applying to coal power.
  • Require transparent disclosure of energy ratings for all buildings.
  • Adopt EU 2020 vehicle fuel efficiency standards including the passenger vehicle target of 95g CO2/Km by 2023.
    • Form a panel of government and industry representatives to develop a plan for roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and development of an Australian standard for EV rechargers.[7]
      • Offer assistance to private operators who wish to operate recharging stations through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
      • Create a corporation with joined State and Federal Government ownership to lease recharging sites on public land.

References

  1. Vorrath, Energy storage to reach cost 'holy grail', mass adoption in 5 years, March 2015, http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/energy-storage-to-reach-cost-holy-grail-mass-adoption-in-5-years-18383 (Accessed 4 April 2015)
  2. Department of the Treasury (Cth), Strong Growth, Low Pollution: Modelling a Carbon Price (2011) 91; Sam Meng, Mahinda Siriwardana and Judith McNeill, 'The Environmental and Economic Impact of the Carbon Tax in Australia' (2013) 54(3) Journal of Environmental and Resources Economics 313, 321–322.
  3. Edis,Brown coal imposes $800 million health cost annually on Victorians,Business Spectator, 20 April 2015,http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2015/4/20/science-environment/brown-coal-imposes-800m-health-cost-annually-victorians-0(Accessed 22 April 2015)
  4. Will Steffen and Lesley Hughes, 'The Critical Decade 2013: Climate Change Science, Risks and Responses' (Report, Climate Commission, 2013) 86–87.
  5. ExternE, 'Externalities of Energy: Extension of accounting framework and Policy Applications' (Final technical report, ExternE, 2005) 35, 39; Doctors for the Environment Australia, 'How coal burns Australia: The true cost of burning coal' (Report, Doctors for the Environment Australia, 2013) 2–4; Ruth Colagiuri, Johanne Cochrane and Seham Girgis, Health and Sustainability Unit, The Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, The University of Sydney, 'Health and Social Harms of Coal Mining in Local Communities' (Report, Beyond Zero Emissions, 2012) 11-12, 32.
  6. Wendy Wilson, Travis Leipzig and Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel, 'Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity' (Report, River Network, 2012) 14.
  7. Thomas Bräunl, 'Setting the standard: Australia must choose an electric car charging norm' on The Conversation (16 September 2013) <http://theconversation.com/setting-the-standard-australia-must-choose-an-electric-car-charging-norm-16277>.