Monash Forum Releases First Coal “Fact Sheet”

Coal Power - Monash Forum Fact Sheet

Image: stevepb

The Monash Forum, a collective of pro-coal Liberal/National MPs, published its first fact sheet in defence of the little black rock late last week. It was ..interesting.

Early last week we mentioned the Monash Forum was about to launch a hearts and minds campaign to lift the image of coal power. It has a big job ahead of it as the recently published Lowy Institute Poll 2018 found 84% of Australians surveyed believe the Australian Government should focus on renewables. In terms of Liberal-National Party supporters, 72% viewed a renewable energy focus more favourably than one on coal and gas.

The promised campaign launched with a “fact sheet” detailing the number of new coal power stations planned and under construction around the world. You can view the Monash Forum’s Coal Factsheet 1 here (PDF).

It tallies a total of 467 new “power stations” (which should be noted as “units” as a single power station may be comprised of more than one generating unit) under construction in 35 nations and 903 in planning in 50 countries.

The numbers were based on data as at January 2018 gleaned from Coal Swarm’s Global Coal Plant Tracker.

The point of the coal fact sheet appears to have been a case of “See! Coal’s not dead! Look what others are doing – and Australia is being left behind!” As a teen, my parents were constantly warning me to not participate in everything my peers were up to out of concern for my health and safety. It was sage advice that I unfortunately didn’t listen to.

Far from being a good thing, hundreds of plants under construction is bad news for human health and the environment generally. That includes so-called High Efficiency, Low Emissions (HELE) coal power, which is also rather pricey.

However, aside from the station vs. unit issue, the numbers on Coal Fact Sheet 1 can’t be taken at face value. The Monash Forum should have dug a bit deeper on the Coal Swarm site.

In March, Coal Swarm published a report titled: “Boom and Bust 2018: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline” (PDF).

It says:

  • 28 percent year-on-year reduction in newly completed coal plants (41 percent in the past two years)
  • 29 percent year-on-year reduction in construction starts (73 percent in the past two years)
  • 22 percent reduction in plants in permitting and planning (59 percent over the past two years).
  • The number of plants “on hold” increased 176% in January 2018 compared to January 2016.

It also notes 17 plants in India under construction have been abandoned.

In the report’s executive summary, it states:

“With declining deployment and high levels of retirement, coal power capacity is now caught in a squeeze: if current trends continue, by 2022 yearly retirements will exceed new capacity and the global coal fleet will begin to shrink.”

So, the outlook for coal power isn’t as rosy as the Monash Forum would like its target audience to think. As for the plants continuing to go ahead, it’s not as though companies and governments have never acted against the best interests of their citizens or the environment.

Oddly enough, Forum member Craig Kelly is seeing being called out on the above as somewhat of a victory for the Monash Forum; perhaps in the belief that any publicity is good publicity. His post on the situation contained the usual rants about anti-coal zealots, green fantasies, and just for a dash of Trump, there was a reference to “Fake News”; complete with capitals. That was particularly interesting given the numbers showing coal’s downhill run came from the same source the Monash Forum drew their numbers from.

Monash Forum Now On Facebook

The Monash Forum recently set up its Facebook account as part of its campaign – its first post introducing Factsheet 11.

“Our country today is more in need than ever of reliable, affordable electricity. That’s what Sir John Monash gave Australia in the 1920s and that’s what the Monash Forum wants to promote almost a century on,” it says.

But what if Sir John had the choice of renewables such as wind and solar power back in the day? We’ll never know, but here’s what some of his descendants had to say back in April:

“He certainly led the development of coal for power generation in Victoria for the benefit of the community, but that was in the context of the time almost a century ago, when coal-fired electrical generation was the leading technology,” they stated. “We are sure that, today, he would be a proponent of the new technologies e.g. wind and solar generation, rather than revert to the horse-and-buggy era.”

The Monash Forum’s Coal Factsheet 1 was reposted by various members of the ginger group, including Tony Abbott. It was reasonably quiet on the group’s Facebook account at the time of writing this news item, but no doubt activity will ramp up as both coal and renewables supporters become aware of it and pile on.

NEG – Will Abbott, Kelly Et Al. Cross The Floor?

In related news, there’s been ongoing rattling of sabres concerning the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) from within the Federal Government’s ranks. Such is their passion for coal power, both Craig Kelly and Tony Abbott have hinted to possibly crossing the floor along with others if they can’t get their way on the NEG.

For those eager to see a clean and renewable energy future for Australia, the antics of The Monash Forum is a reminder that vigilance is needed and common-sense prevailing shouldn’t be considered as a given.

Footnotes

  1. So it seems the Australian public will be subjected to more of these documents
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Geoff Miell says

    On 15 June 2018, I rang Craig Kelly MP Canberra office (phone 02 6277 4366), in response to Craig Kelly’s on-air interview earlier that day on Radio 2GB with Ray Hadley, to draw attention to:

    1. The NSW Parliament Select Committee inquiry on Electricity Supply, Demand and Prices in NSW, and in particular the sworn testimony by Professor Andrew Blakers at the 21 Feb 2018 public hearing, where he says, on page 53 of the Committee Hansard transcript:

    “If you want cheap electricity you push renewables as hard as you can.”;

    2. The YouTube video titled “2017 CURF Annual Forum – Andrew Blakers keynote” – duration 38 minutes;

    3. The “Boom and Bust 2018” report, with particular reference to Figure 5: Coal Power Capacity in Pre-Construction and Construction Jan 2016 to Jan 2018, where it indicates the declining GW capacity from 2016 to 2018 – i.e. a substantial quantity of coal-fired generator projects were being cancelled during this period.

    I think the Monash Forum is well aware of of the CoalSwarm site (because I drew the Craig Kelly MP office staffer’s attention to it) but they chose not to publicize the inconvenient facts – it perhaps spoils the narrative they wish to push.

    I think it’s ironic that the Monash Forum is apparently endorsing data sourced from a website with the URL: endcoal.org

  2. Geoff Miell says

    According to “Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis – Version 11.0”, published November 2017, on page 2, the Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison shows:

    Solar PV—Crystalline Utility Scale: US$46 – 53/MWh
    Solar PV—Thin Film Utility Scale: US$43 – 48/MWh
    Solar Thermal Tower with Storage: US$98 – 181/MWh
    Wind: US$30 – 60/MWh

    Gas Peaking: US$156 – 210/MWh
    Nuclear: US$112 – 183/MWh
    Coal: US$60 – 143/MWh
    Gas Combined Cycle: US$42 – 78/MWh

    The evidence is clear. Oil, gas, coal, uranium and thorium are only going to get more expensive as resource depletion necessitates that more and more energy will be required to extract these remaining finite resources. The cost curve for renewables continues to decline. As Professor Blakers says: “If you want cheap electricity you push renewables as hard as you can.”

    So why do our politicians ignore the clear evidence?

  3. Philip Hocking says

    Wind power is been pushed as a renewable power source as good as coal. Most of the population that wants wind power lives in coties and are not adversely affected by living close to them. Some farmers are getting paid well to host windfarms,but those farmers who have not been approached or are opposed to them will have to put up with them. Prehaps it should be mandated that those farmers tjst aren’t hosting but live on the boundaries shold receive some pro-rata compensation

  4. Elizabeth Harris says

    On that basis, shouldn’t the thousands of people who are forced to breathe dirty air because they live close to one of Australia’s 20 remaining coal-fired power stations be getting paid compensation? To quote:
    Air pollution from coal-fired power plants includes sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (PM), and heavy metals, leading to smog, acid rain, toxins in the environment, and numerous respiratory, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular effects.Mar 16, 2015
    Environmental impacts of coal – SourceWatch
    https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Environmental_impacts_of_coal

    • Geoff Miell says

      Elizabeth Harris,

      I would add that the burning of fossil fuels has become an existential risk to humanity. May I suggest you look at the YouTube video titled “No More Bad Investments forum – Ian Dunlop” (duration 1:02:18):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZNjhnVOQN4

      From about time interval 32:26, Ian Dunlop talks about Climate Change as an existential risk.

      From about time interval 34:24, Ian Dunlop talks about Global Risk Management:
      – We have no carbon budget left for any realistic chance (90%) of staying below 2 degrees C;
      – Our actions today are locking-in irreversible, existential outcomes;
      – Sensible risk-management addresses risk in time to prevent it happening – That time is now!
      An Emergency Response is required.

      Also look at “BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018” (67th Edition), published June 13. On page 12, the US at the end of 2017 had a proved oil reserves-to-production (R/P) of only 10.5 years; but on page 15, the US was in 2017, the world’s largest oil producer at 20.2% global share. Similarly, on page 26, the US at the end of 2017 had a proved gas reserves-to-production (R/P) of only 11.9 years; but on page 28, it was in 2017, the world’s largest gas producer at 20.0% global share.

      The report “Shale Reality Check 2018” by J. David Hughes, published Feb 2018 by the Post Carbon Institute, includes in the Executive Summary:

      “The “shale revolution” has provided a reprieve from what just 13 years ago was thought to be a terminal decline in oil and gas production in the U.S. It has sparked calls for “American energy dominance”(2)—despite the fact that the U.S. is projected to be a net oil importer through 2050, even given EIA forecasts. This reprieve is temporary, and the U.S. would be well advised to plan for much-reduced shale oil and gas production in the long term based on this analysis of play fundamentals.”

      That suggests to me:
      – Humanity must leave petroleum oil, before oil leaves us.
      – Humanity must leave fossil natural gas, before gas leaves us.
      – Humanity must leave petroleum oil, fossil natural gas, and coal, before 2050, to mitigate dangerous climate change.

  5. Elizabeth Harris says

    Yes, all this is true. Being well-informed about the reality of what is happening with climate change right now is rather depressing, as it is a widely unseen emergency. I drive an electric car and organise electric car displays, as changing our transport fleet away from oil is one of the many necessary actions. It is important that we keep hope, as hope encourages action.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Elizabeth Harris,

      I agree it is important to keep hope, but it is also important that those that know the reality of what is happening disseminate that knowledge to others that don’t know, to mobilize consensus to act effectively. Without effective action, we are likely to be very much worse off in the near future!

      May I suggest you look at my correspondence to the Australian Senate inquiry into the governance and operation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF):
      https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/NAIF/Additional_Documents

      Click on the link, then click on the “Correspondence” link, then download my correspondence. My correspondence includes:
      1. A 2 page covering letter, 11 Aug 2017;
      2. A PowerPoint presentation to my Federal Member, dated 4 May 2017; and
      3. A 1 page response from Federal Minister Josh Frydenberg, dated 6 Jul 2017.

      Some of the information in my presentation slides has been superseded by more up-to-date data, but the general message is still valid.

      I suggest that you raise your concerns with your parliamentary representatives. If you don’t tell them, how can they know? Can you afford not to do so?

  6. Geoff Miell says

    Tim Buckley at IEEFA posted an op-ed titled “IEEFA op-ed: India is helping bring the era of coal to an end”, dated July 3, found at:
    http://ieefa.org/ieefa-op-ed-india-is-helping-bring-the-era-of-coal-to-an-end/

    The piece includes this:

    “Ironically, on the same day the Forum put out a “fact sheet” on foreign coal markets, NTPC, the largest owner and developer of domestic coal plants in India, shelved its 4GW Pudimadaka Ultra Mega Power Plant project in the state of Andhra Pradesh.”

    Ironic indeed!

  7. Geoff Miell says

    Earlier today, I rang Craig Kelly MP Canberra office (phone 02 6277 4366) to draw attention to:

    1. Carbon Brief article headlined “Guest post: ‘Peak coal’ is getting closer, latest figures show”, dated July 31, by Dr Christine Shearer, who is a researcher and analyst for the US-based energy research group CoalSwarm.
    https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-peak-coal-is-getting-closer-latest-figures-show
    This article includes:

    “While significant, the amount of coal power capacity that began operating during the first half of 2018 (20GW) was nearly matched by the amount retired (16GW), for a net increase of just 4GW – the slowest rate of growth on record. If the slowdown continues global coal capacity should peak by 2022, if not sooner.”

    And later:

    “In June, Carbon Brief noted the number of coal units in the world could already have peaked, as countries including China phase out older, smaller units. In the first six months of 2018 that peak was passed, with 43 units added and 52 retired, meaning the global coal fleet shrank by nine units.”

    I asked Craig Kelly’s staffer whether the Monash Forum would update their “Coal Factsheet 1” to reflect the latest data on the global fleet of coal-fired generator units. I wonder whether this new data is too inconvenient for the Monash Forum’s pro-coal narrative? We’ll see.

    2. RenewEconomy article headlined “Spanish solar thermal group models 85% renewable energy plan, dated July 31
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/spanish-solar-thermal-group-models-85-renewable-energy-plan-27234/
    In particular, I wished to highlight:

    “The plan also includes the expectation of “reasonable” improvements to the renewable energy technologies, resulting in a range of average costs – €20/MWh for hydro, €40/MWh for wind, €35/MWh for solar PV, and €55/MWh for CSP.”

    €55/MWh is around AU$86/MWh (today 1€ = AU$1.57).

    South Australia’s concentrated solar power Aurora project has a capped price of AU$78/MWh. See https://reneweconomy.com.au/aurora-what-you-should-know-about-port-augustas-solar-power-tower-86715/

    So, I think CSP (I.e. ‘dispatchable’ solar) has the potential to become a real challenger for new electricity generator capacity in future. It will be interesting to see how Craig Kelly MP and the Monash Forum respond to this data.

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