Sunday, July 30, 2023

Who Wears the Cost of Taking Down Wind Turbines Once They Expire?

Well in Australia, it could be the landholder or farmer.

Andrew Dyer, the country’s energy infrastructure commissioner says he has seen several “questionable agreements” between renewable companies and landholders that could leave the latter saddled with millions of dollars in decommissioning bills.

“Under the law, it will default to the landlord,” Mr. Dyer told a Senate Estimates hearing on May 23. “It’s up to the landlord to make sure that they have … a really good contract in place and you get the appropriate bond set-ups to cover the costs.

“It costs more money to pull a turbine down than it does to put it up, and that probably makes sense when you think about it. The costs of pulling down a turbine may exceed the revenue you get for 25 years. That’s not a good outcome.

“In the case of a turbine in Queensland where the bed plate cracked and you couldn’t go near the turbine because it could fall on your head, that cost millions of dollars to take down with robots and explosives. You could be stuck with some big bills.”

How Hard is it to Remove a Wind Turbine?

The average wind turbine has a lifespan of 25 years before it must be decommissioned and taken apart.

Yet the process of deconstructing and disposing of wind turbines is no simple feat.

“They have an in-ground lump of concrete that can be as much as 800 tons [to support a 200-metre high turbine] and could be left to the landowner or a farmer … to deconstruct what is effectively a giant Meccano [similar to Lego] set,” said federal Nationals MP Keith Pitt in an interview with The Epoch Times on July 28.

“This [net zero movement] is moving so fast that no one has the necessary regulations in place to protect the owners of the land, and potentially the future costs to the Australian taxpayer,” he added.

Mr. Pitt called for financial security or bonds to be made available, like how mining activity features similar arrangements for land rehabilitation once a project concludes.

“That should absolutely happen for intermittent wind and solar. Solar panels that will cover literally millions of hectares, and wind turbines that will dominate the skyline,” he said.

The energy infrastructure commissioner said some renewable energy providers would try to avoid a bond “because the landholder was ignorant to the risk.”

“We put out an updated guideline [pdf] in January this year to help landholders ask the right questions before they sign a document,” Mr. Dyer said.

“There are some questionable agreements out there that were not balanced, in our view, and so we’ve given the community and the landholders a helping hand.”

Mr. Dyer also suggested making bond provisions part of the licensing that goes into building renewable projects.

The march towards net zero has spurred a swathe of logistic, financial, engineering, and even security challenges.

According to the commissioner’s Energy Charter 2023, farmers have said the building of new infrastructure to support renewable energy could come at the cost of farmland.

“[About] 58 percent of surveyed landholders said that transmission infrastructure will result in a direct loss of farmable land or disruption to their land productivity,” the document states.

“Sixty percent also believe transmission infrastructure will impact their use of machinery or equipment. Some landholders also noted biodiversity impacts, which may diminish the natural features valued by the local community and aesthetics of the area.”

Federal MP Pitt said new transmission lines required easements, which need to be kept clear of regrowth to prevent future interference.

“That land generally can’t be farmed and can’t be utilised,” he said. “And it gets in the way of moving around your own property. Generally, no one wants a 200-metre strip of unusable land through the middle of prime agricultural land that impacts not only their operations but the value of their property.”


Farmers’ revolt threatens to stifle the Indigenous voice to parliament

The nation’s peak agricultural lobby says West Australian farmers are “paralysed with fear” and uncertain “what they can do on their own land” because of new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws that loom as a key threat to the voice referendum and Labor’s political dominance in the state.

The National Farmers Federation has sounded an alarm over Anthony Albanese’s plan to legislate a stand-alone national framework for Indigenous cultural heritage protections, saying the rollout of separate federal rules could “intensify the confusion in WA with overlapping federal laws”.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said “the (federal) government needs to learn from the mistakes of WA” following a fierce backlash to the introduction of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act in the state on July 1. “Nobody wants to damage cultural heritage, but at the moment the (state) laws are too open to interpretation. We’re hearing from farmers who are paralysed with fear, not certain what they can now do on their own land,” he said. “That shouldn’t be the case – it should be clear cut.”

WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said the shake-up to heritage laws in WA represented the “greatest attack on private property rights since federation”.

He urged the government to scrap them, saying the new cultural heritage laws had eroded support for Labor under Premier Roger Cook and would result in the state voting No in the voice referendum.

“They’ve rewritten the book on how to do the maximum amount of harm in the shortest amount of time,” Mr Seabrook said. “The voice is dead over here. The Premier has absolutely cooked it. If this can be imposed upon us without a Yes vote in the referendum, God save us if the voice gets up.”

Speaking in parliament on Nov­ember 24 last year, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek linked the government’s plan for a national rollout of cultural heritage protections to the voice – a connection that some Labor figures now believe could undermine the chances of a successful Yes vote.

“We’re protecting Indigenous cultural heritage for the same reason we’re supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the voice to parliament,” she said.

“We are always a better country … when we give everyone a seat at the table.”

One senior WA Labor source told The Weekend Australian that “the voice has dominated the last three months and then that’s been conflated here with Aboriginal cultural heritage”.

“It’s looked like Labor is only focused on those issues which, for most people, are completely niche,” the source said.

“I’ve always thought that the voice was going to go down over here … people still don’t understand what the voice is and why we need to do it. I think the Yes camp and the government has failed to mount a retail argument for how this is going to help anybody.”

The WA state laws establish a complex three-tiered system requiring landholders to organise potentially costly heritage assessments through local Indigenous corporations before undertaking basic work on properties larger than 1100sq m.

Permits could be required for ground excavations of up to a depth of 1m, with Mr Seabrook saying this could include anything from “putting up a fence, laying a pipe underground to a water-point, putting up some sheep-yards or putting up a shed.”

The Albanese government agreed to legislate a national ­cultural heritage framework as recommended by a 2021 parlia­men­tary inquiry into the ­destruction of the caves at Juukan Gorge containing evidence of human life dating back 46,000 years.

The framework would be developed through a process of “co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” and set a series of minimum standards for state and territory protections.

Speculation has grown the government will wait until after the voice referendum before advancing any legislation, with a spokeswoman for Ms Plibersek saying: “We want to make sure we take the time necessary to get this right. We are committed to improving protections for First Nations cultural heritage and to provide clarity … for business.”

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Price said it would be “absolutely within the scope of the voice” to demand a national rollout of the WA laws while WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie said the backlash to the new state laws from landholders was a just a “foretaste of what is to come from the voice”.

Yes supporters said WA cultural heritage laws were being exploited by the No campaign.

WA teal independent Kate Chaney said the “confused rollout of this updated law has been weaponised against the much bigger issue of the proposed voice”.

Former Coalition Indigenous Australians spokesman Julian Leeser said “the focus on the WA law is a clever scare tactic of the No campaign, but that law has absolutely nothing to do with the voice. It was created without a voice. The voice is about advice. It doesn’t make decisions.”


Andrews government’s gas ban to increase emissions

The move to phase out gas in new Victorian homes will initially increase the state’s carbon dioxide emissions, with the shift from mains gas likely to increase bills for those who remain on the network.

Industry figures have warned the Andrews government’s decision will move consumers onto an already strained coal-based electricity grid, with those who remain on mains gas longest – who are likely to include the state’s poorest and most vulnerable – set to face an escalation in network costs.

While Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood – who recently co-authored a paper urging governments to assist Australians to move to all-electric homes – welcomed the announcement, he conceded it would lead to a temporary increase in emissions, and warned governments must find ways to address the “real problem” of rising costs which will be faced by consumers and businesses that stay connected to gas.

Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced on Friday that from January 1, no new homes or residential subdivisions requiring a planning permit will be connected to mains gas – a measure the government claims will save households $1000 a year, or up to $2200 if they have solar electricity installed.

The all-electric requirement will also apply to all new government buildings which have not yet reached design stage, including schools, hospitals, police stations and public housing.

Victoria has the highest use of residential gas in Australia, with around 80 per cent of homes ­connected.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the gas sector contributed about 17 per cent of the state’s emissions.

“The move to electric systems is a key element of meeting Victoria’s nation-leading emissions reduction targets of 75–80 per cent by 2035 and net zero by 2045,” the minister said.

Mr Wood said Victoria’s current reliance on coal to generate electricity meant emissions would in fact increase in the short term.

“However, because the coal-fired power stations are going to be closing over the next 10 years, if you converted from gas to electricity today, emissions over the next 10 years would be lower as a result of that decision.”

Mr Wood said the two million Victorian households currently connected to mains gas would need to transition to electricity in coming years, but that this would increase network costs for remaining gas users, who would “absolutely” include poorer and more vulnerable households.

“The network problem is a real problem, and the government and the companies have to come up with a solution, because either the businesses will go broke or the consumers left will be paying a lot of money for gas,” he said. “That’s not a reason not to do it, but it’s not an easy problem to solve.”

Industry bodies including the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, Ai Group, Australian Pipelines and Gas Association, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group and Energy Networks Australia expressed concern about the announcement, while the managing director of Australia’s largest airconditioning and gas heating appliance manufacturer accused the Andrews government of denying Victorians choice, even in their own homes.

“This dangerous ideology is not only blind to logic and commonsense, it defies trends in Europe and North America where gas, far from being banned by zealots, is being embraced with a transition to renewable gas,” said Seeley International boss Jon Seeley.

An Andrews government spokesperson said phasing out gas in new builds would in fact save remaining gas consumers and taxpayers money, which would otherwise have to be spent expanding distribution networks.


Andrew Bolt tells Malcolm Turnbull to ‘suck that up’ as he dumps retirement plans

It’s not often that an ex-prime minister plays a direct role in influencing contract negotiations for big-name media personalities.

But that’s exactly what happened last week with star Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt, when Malcolm Turnbull published a scathing article – co-authored with former ACTU president Sharan Burrow – in online news site The Guardian about Sky.

Turnbull claimed in the piece on Tuesday that Sky presenters were specialising in “angertainment” in relation to the voice, and that a new channel launched last week on Sky risked becoming a “factory for misinformation” about the upcoming referendum’s ‘yes’ case.

The former Liberal PM repeated his allegations in an interview with Patricia Karvelas the next morning, on Radio National’s breakfast program.

Turnbull’s comments on radio were the final straw to motivate Bolt into making an extraordinary move on his eponymous nightly show on Wednesday night: live texting his acceptance of a new two-year deal to his bosses at Sky.

Bolt revealed live-to-air that he had been “agonising” for a fortnight over whether to accept a new contract with Sky. “It’s an old story: I wanted to retire years ago, and every year it’s the same old stupid agonising, the Nellie Melba kind of thing. And I haven’t known my mind.”

But Bolt noted that Turnbull’s words to Karvelas that morning had a magical effect on his powers of decision making.

“Now that Turnbull’s done this, I’ll tell you what: you’ve inspired me – and I’m going to send Boris (Sky News CEO Paul Whittaker), my boss, a text,” Bolt said live-to-air as he turned to his phone. “Make it one year more. No, no – make it two years, just to get Turnbull really upset, make it two years. And send.”

Before Bolt let the subject of his contract renewal go, he had one more message for the former PM. “There you go Malcolm – you’ve got two more years of me to complain about. Suck that up!”

Bolt has since shared with Diary proof that he did indeed send his job acceptance message to the Sky CEO while he was on-air that night, just under 10 minutes into his show at 7:09PM.

His message to Whittaker was unequivocal: “I am sorry to have agonised for so long. Make it two years




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