Posts Tagged ‘achieving large carbon cuts’

The ETS wipes 7 years off my life and perhaps yours too.

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Many individuals and organisations – such as CarbonetiX – are passionate about reducing carbon emissions. CarbonetiX exists to reduce carbon emissions. And we have helped our customers cut their carbon. Many individuals and organisations are similar to us. We believe that Australia and the world must make massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions not by 2050 but NOW.

But under the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme our passion, effort, intellect, capital, time, risk, over-time, learning, sleepless nights, stamina, ingenuity, research, education, sacrifice, persistence, investment appears as though it will come to nought. Zip. Nada. Zero.

We do a lot of work with local government. Many local governments have committed to ambitious carbon reduction targets, and some are making large investments to achieve this. There are some tremendously passionate and dedicated people in local government giving their all to this. I’m sorry to say this, but thanks to the ETS it appears as though your council’s efforts may be in vain. Given that your blood sweat and tears may make no difference how do you feel?

I’m grateful to Ian Westmore for commenting on a blog post I made earlier this week and making this clear to me.

For seven years I have slaved away under the impression that somehow my contribution was making a difference. That I, along with many others, could help Australia cut its greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Not by a paltry 5% by 2020.

Three or four years ago now I was very disappointed when the Victorian government extended the life of the Hazelwood Power Station – Australia’s most carbon inefficient major power generator, which produces between 12 to 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas a year. That’s an awful lot of carbon. I had done quite a lot of work for the Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria (SEAV) on more efficient street lighting. It was great to be able to show how a well designed T5 fluorescent street light was viable as a substitute for a “flower pot” mercury vapour street light – yet only used one third the power. These T5s are now starting to be rolled out as mercury vapour replacements. But I remember feeling how all that effort – and in fact how the entire budget of the SEAV – was effectively futile if the same government had extended Hazelwood.

And now the ETS has come along. And in effect the way the ETS is designed its unlikely that anything more than a 5% carbon reduction on 2000 levels will be achieved. In effect any electricity voluntarily saved by anyone becomes tradeable by the nations power generators, which are part of the ETS. The electricity I help my customers save through energy efficiency and energy conservation, the electricity you might save by putting solar panels on your roof – this all translates into carbon savings at the point of generation – the power stations of the nation. The power stations – which are the nations largest carbon polluters – can then sell that carbon saved to other major industries under the carbon trading scheme, who may then chose to increase their emissions.

Ian Westmore has explained this in his comments on my blog post of 10 February, and Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute also provides an excellent explanation on the Inside Story blog. This explains it much better than I have. 

Right now I am in shock, and am still struggling to understand the immediate consequences of this to my customers, my business, my children and the last seven years of my life.

In effect the ETS is throwing down the gauntlet to anyone wanting to save the planet. Its saying “We, the government of Australia don’t believe Australia should cut its emissions by more than 5%. We dare you to try to achieve a bigger cut than this.”

Given the disincentive of the ETS, there are only two ways that I can see Australia achieving significant greenhouse gas savings. Both of them should be pursued.

  1. It becomes accepted across Australia by the vast majority of individuals that producing carbon is morally repugnant. That the stigma associated with carbon pollution is such that the major polluters voluntarily aim to achieve large cuts, and do not take advantage of the ETS. 
  2. We use our ingenuity and brains to come up with highly cost effective ways of saving energy, producing carbon-free energy, and marketing these solutions. Good looking technologies that are so cost effective that it’s a no-brainer not to install them. That its financially stupid not to use them. That are cool. A light bulb that uses half the power of a compact fluorescent light bulb, lasts twice as long, and costs as much as an incandescent. A solar system that costs $500 installed and powers your whole house. Electricity storage systems that are cheap. Electric cars, trucks and buses using all that cheap solar power that cost less to buy than petrol, diesel or LPG vehicles and much less to run. Building retrofits that take less than two years to pay off and halve power use.

There may be a third way that should also be pursued. I understand that the proposed ETS legislation has yet to go through parliament. This legislation should be amended so that it doesn’t limit our carbon savings to 5%. Lobby for this change.