Australia’s top industrial analyst about Adani’s coal mine: “It’s ludicrous!”

“[Offshore wind energy] has dropped 70 per cent in two years! The International Energy Agency thought that might have happened by 2030, 2040… It’s happened today. And that’s technology for you. That’s finance for you. That’s game over. But the coal industry doesn’t want to accept that reality and move on. And our Prime Minister doesn’t want to accept that reality, because three of Australia’s four biggest exports are fossil fuel exports.”

17-minute radio interview with Tim Buckley, director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, about the Adani megamine – about what is happening in India at the moment, about clean coal, and about the obligations of a government to create confidence among investors.

» Transcript

Tim Buckley is rated Australia’s top industrial analyst. He has 30 years financial markets experience in Australia and provides financial analysis in the seaborne coal and electricity sectors for the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

As Buckley explains it, the fact that our governments up til this point have failed to create confidence in the energy market, is a very basic problem that has allowed emissions to rise unchecked. Creating confidence in the energy market is not something that necessarily costs money – it has more to do with political culture, leadership and proper, cross-party legislation.



Six-minute radio interview with Tim Buckley about green bonds.

» Transcript



Transcript of Tim Buckley’s interview

The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse on 26 April 2016

“I think what’s happening in India is nothing short of spectacular and of absolute global importance.

Three years ago, India elected Prime Minister Modi with a very clear mandate. And on the first day in his office he appointed energy minister [Piyush] Goyal to run the combined coal, renewables and electricity ministries across India.

Watching minister Goyal work has being unbelievably exciting, because he has been achieving what was considered impossible, and he has been doing it so consistently now, across a whole different range of facets.

A month or two ago, we saw two groundbreaking reverse auction results: We saw a solar auction that came in at $44 US dollars a megawatthour for electricity – locked in and guaranteed for 25 years at $44 a megawatthour. That price was down 32 per cent on the previous record-low, which minister Goyal established one year earlier. So that solar price caught absolutely everyone by surprise.

We were thinking the number might come in at $50. It came in at $44 – down 32 per cent year-on-year to a record-low for India. And everyone went: “Oh but that’s impossible!”, “It was a one-off”, “Its unsustainable!”

Anyway, this week we seen another auction for 250 megawatts of solar in a different state of India, and it’s been locked in at $46 US dollars a megawatthour. So, fractionly higher than the last record, but absolutely cementing.

We had five major firms tender in to the first auction – including Adani Enterprises, ironically – and this auction again very competitive.

And then in wind [energy], energy minister Goyal held the first one gigawatt wind auction a month ago, and again the result came in: down 20 to 30 per cent below previous wind tariff awards that had been sort-of set for the last three-four years. In one policy move, Goyal managed to reduce the cost to wind [energy] by 20 to 30 per cent, and again locked in for 25 years of guaranteed price. Deflationary to the Indian consumer for the next 25 years.

So, two examples of what energy minister Goyal is doing. He is delivering on every goal that he set, and one of his most important goals is that he intends to cease thermal coal imports and to massively diversify the Indian electricity grid away from its reliance on coal.

Two objectives there: The first one has very very clear strategic implications for the Carmichael coal proposal that Adani has been working on for the last seven years…”


“Tim. There is something in my world that doesn’t stack up here. How come Adani and the politicians are still believing that they can dig up coal in Australia, transport it all the way over to India, burn it off in India… when nobody wants it, and it’s not even feasible? There is only one conclusion you can make from that: There must be something else going on? Something that is – yes, I would say the word – corrupt?”

“Absolutely. I mean, it is mind-buggling why… I mean, the Prime Minister goes to India to meet the Prime Minister of the biggest democracy in the world, and he says the single most important objective is to show how committed he is to helping a private Indian billionaire make another coal mine in Australia. How is that the most important objective for our Prime Minister in talking to India? As you say, it is beyond belief that he would consider that as Australia’s most important, pressing need of the moment. It is just bizarre.”


“So with your insight, what do we do? And what will happen?”

“Well, at the end of the day… I mean, this Stop Adani campaign has been launched a couple of months ago with a huge amount of effort… I only look at the financial side, but at the end of that, people were saying, ‘Well, this is the parallel, this is the new Franklin River campaign’, because like the Franklin River, here we have a situation where a supposedly democratically elected government is just ignoring what is in the interest of the Australian people, the Australian voters, the Australian taxpayers – you know, it is all the same people: us! – and they’re saying, ‘what is far more important is that the Prime Minister of Australia gives an Australian public asset to a foreign billionaire’ – with a subsidy of our money to help him dig up our assets, for his private gain. There is just no logic for that.”


“And plus – I just want to squeeze that in – plus the fact that we have scientific research published, for instance, by four Oxford scientists who conclude that if we want to have any chance of keeping global warming below these famous 2 degrees Celsius, then no new coal plants can be built after 2017. That is what they said last year. So we have the science saying we cannot build anymore coal mines – and yet we have a politician, the leader of Australia, wanting to do just that?!”

“It’s ludicrous! And he then goes across to India, and India is doing more than any other country in the world to deliver on its legally binding climate agreement commitments of the Paris COP 21. India is so far ahead of its nationally determined contributions. And Australia doesn’t even talk about what we… what our Prime Minister is so absolutely committed to doing, and…”


“If it wasn’t so sad, I would just be laughing my head off. It’s just so ridiculous!”

“It is absolutely ludicrous. I mean, I even asked the CEO of Adani Australia a couple of weeks ago how he can reconcile building this low quality coal mine in the middle of nowhere in Australia to export back to India when his own energy minister is saying they don’t want the coal. And his answer was, ‘Oh, ministers say things they don’t mean.’

There were 200 people in the audience, and that was his answer: ‘Energy minister Goyal doesn’t actually mean what he says. He is a politician.’

And you go, well, look at the facts. Look at the direction of coal imports to India. They were down 22 per cent in January 2017. That is the 24th month in a row, virtually, that imports of coal to India have declined. And yet… The numbers speak for themselves.”


“The other interesting thing is, it is not just in India. It is in China, it is in the United States. The business of digging up coal is finished.”

“I honestly believe that it is finished not just as you say for the absolutely critical reason of the welfare of the planet. Put aside the welfare of the planet. ‘That doesn’t matter’. Look at Australia economics: Coal doesn’t compete successfully with renewables.

Technology has gone so far so fast. I was just reading yesterday: Offshore wind [energy] in Germany has just been signed at 44 euros a megawatthour. It was only a month ago we were talking about it being 50 euros a megawatthour. It is only two years ago we were talking about it being 150 euros a megawatthour. It has dropped 70 per cent in two years! The International Energy Agency thought that might have happened by 2030, 2040… It’s happened today.

And that’s technology for you. That’s finance for you. That’s game over. But the coal industry obviously doesn’t want to lie down and accept that reality and move on. And our Prime Minister doesn’t want to accept that reality, because three of Australia’s four biggest exports are fossil fuel exports. That is a problem for us. But it is a bigger problem if our government refuses to acknowledge the problem.”


“With the one billion dollar subsidy, have you got a figure of how many megawatts of renewable energy that could be turned into?”

“We saw the last auction that ARENA did. They invested 90 million dollars – a 90 million dollar subsidy – and that empowered nearly a billion dollars of investment into solar projects. 20 different solar projects across Australia.

But at the same time, ARENA said, ‘By the way, we don’t need to subsidise solar anymore. This is the last round of subsidies, because from now on, solar in Australia is commercially viable in its own right – as of today’. That was the conclusion of the last round of ARENA auctions.

That statement sounded pretty game at the time. It was made back in December [2016]. Since then, every two weeks we have seen multimillion-dollar solar projects announced across Australia. Every week or two – all without subsidies. So the statement was correct.”


“Fantastic! So it is competitive now?”

“It is. Now, obviously, the grid regulator has the capacity to change the rules to make it viable or not viable – in other words, if they refuse to accept it, then the project can’t go ahead.

Ultimately, it has to be done in an orderly way because our grid is outdated, it’s old, it’s dumb. We need to invest over time to upgrade the grid to incorporate more and more diverse energy sources. And that is the nature of the electricity grid: Every year, Australia spends a couple of billion dollars upgrading the grid. We need to incorporate…”


“So we have an idea here from The Sustainable Hour: How about we took that billion dollars that was supposed to be put into a train that could transport coal… How about we put it into the grid – and modernised the Australian grid?”

“Yes, exactly.”


“Tim, just recently you attended something called – what? A clean coal conference? Or something like that? In Melbourne – is that right?

“That’s correct.”


“So, tell me: This thing about clean coal – is it really happening? Or is it a myth?”

“I think clean coal is an absolute myth. Obviously, the two panelists I was alongside had a different view. Probably the only thing we really agreed on in the entire discussion was: ‘What is the prerequisite for clean coal investment?’ and the answer they gave, and I agreed 100 per cent with it, was: If we had a high price on carbon, then private investors would invest in clean coal if they thought it was viable.

Now to me, that is a perfect entré, because if we had a high price on carbon, or even a medium price on carbon pollution, then renewables will win the race hands down.

So, in my view: Put a price on carbon, let the coal industry invest in clean coal for all they like, because I am absolutely certain renewables and energy efficiency will win that game no problem at all. Once the rules are fair, put them in place, leave them alone – and let clean coal [see if it can] win. Don’t give it a billion dollar subsidy. Just let it fight on its own, based on the commercial viability or otherwise in the presence of a carbon price.”


“This is such a mystery to me: We have this ‘Polluter Pays’ principle – we have it with other things… When I have to get rid of my garbage, I have to pay to get rid of it, because there is an expense connected with that…”

“Exactly. But [with air pollution] we have this perverted system where the polluters are paid to pollute. It is just an absolutely perverted system. And it is totally the opposite, ironically, of a free market system, which says ‘polluter pays’, and then that encourages other industries to grow and build to actually clean up the problem.”


“Tim, your background is not an environmentalist. You are coming purely from the numbers, you used to work for Citibank. Some of our listeners mightn’t be familiar with your background. If you’d just briefly go through that?”

My background: I have been studying financial markets here in Australia, in Asia and globally for the last 30 years. My background is in financial markets, energy markets and corporate analysis. So I am a financial analyst. I study these things from the perspective of the financial market, and I talk to investors, I talk to financial institutions, and I talk to the government about setting up a framework to allow financial markets to create a solution to this absolutely pressing problem [of climate change], because I believe it the end of the day the capital markets have the absolute ability to implement immediately a viable long term solution to this problem.

They just need the politicians to set the rules, make it clear, get bipartisan support – and then get out of the way of the financial markets.”


“What does that do to investors?”

“That gives the transparency, the longevity and the certainty of policy framework, that gives the investors the absolute confidence to invest at the lowest possible risk and invest for the long-term, knowing that the policy framework isn’t going to be changed without any warning every three weeks or every three months. Investors – Number One – need policy certainty, investment certainty, to provide a framework to allow multi-billion-dollar capital allocations to be made.”

“So, are you saying, Tim, if we looking for the roots of why we have such a problem with climate change today, it actually boils down to something about confidence. Economy, politics and creating the confidence to invest…”


“Absolutely. It is about investors lacking confidence in the policy framework that exists. The reality is we don’t HAVE a policy framework. Unfortunately in the last three or four years, energy politics in Australia has become toxic. It’s changing constantly. It is a point scoring exercise. You don’t create a 50 year energy market framework and then change the rules every six months, and unfortunately in Australia, our very very short term political debate structure has made finding common ground almost impossible. But that’s really what we need.

That is in part the problem Malcolm Turnbull faces, because he can’t even get his own team to actually act as one – how can he negotiate with the Labor party and with the Greens and get a tripartisan agreement when his own party actually doesn’t agree with it?”


“We can use our neighbours, New Zealand, as a case study in how it can be done.”

“Absolutely. And even if you don’t get that bipartisan agreement, they could look back at India. India has… Under energy minister Goyal’s leadership, they have mobilised hundreds of billions of dollars of capital in the space of just three short years by providing longevity certainty of policy framework – and they have mobilised, from a standing start, hundred of billions of dollars of domestic and foreign capital, a massive investment in solar, a massive investment in wind, a massive investment in grid efficiency, a massive investment in energy efficiency. And that is driving private investment, it’s driving jobs, and it’s driving sustainable economic growth.

So it is a win on every possible front, and that comes from clear policy frameworks – and unfortunately Australia is the exact opposite of that at the moment.”

“Just to be clear on that, Tim… With that certainty, the market can then kick into competitive mode and that’s what brings the prices down, so a company will say, ‘We can do it for $34 or $40 dollars’ or whatever, and another company can come in under that, because of the competition in the market, and the certainty that they are going to make money out of it?”

“Absolutely. I was talking to one of the biggest investors in Australia last month, and their comment to me was like, ‘We are part of a billion dollar fund that has been set up between the Future Fund, QIC and AGL, and has a billion dollars of equity capital to be deployed in the renewable industry. They haven’t been able to invest any of that billion dollars. It is all sitting there idle, waiting for a policy framework to be put in place. There is billions of dollars of capital waiting to be allocated to the Australian renewable infrastructure sector. Just like in India, just like in China, just like in Mexico. They are just waiting on policy frameworks.

And it won’t be one billion, it will be tens of billions of dollars of capitals. Huge investments. Way way bigger than Carmichael, and it’ll be real money, real jobs, and in an industry of the future, rather than a pipe dream that is absolutely requiring subsidies to even contemplate getting to first base.”

“Tim Buckley, thank you for sharing this with our listeners to The Sustainable Hour, so now we certainly know why this Carmichael Adani coal mine is not just another coal mine, it is actually really a turning point for the nation, as a headline in the Guardian said, ‘This is a turning point for the nation’. We need to understand what you have explained to us.”

“Thank you.”





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“The top 50 coal companies are now either in Chapter 11 bankruptcy or on the brink. The three largest coal companies — Arch, Consol and Peabody — have lost 80 percent of their value over the last two years. Looking at these landscapes, Lovins remarked to me, ‘The meteor has hit. The dinosaurs are doomed. It’s just that some of them are still walking around causing trouble’.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.



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» The Independent – 18 May 2017:
India cancelling huge coal power station because it wants to focus on renewable energy
“Country wants to become a solar power leader by 2030”




» ThinkProgress – 19 May 2017:
Offshore wind won a German power auction without needing any subsidies
“As prices plummet, offshore wind is now competitive with nuclear power, and gas is ‘in sight’”



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“The cost of wind and solar energy has fallen so much they are now out-competing gas and coal, and experts are saying that will price gas out as a transition fuel. The latest news comes from Stockyard Hill Wind Farm in Victoria, where Origin Energy has just signed a deal to buy power for a record $55/MWh, and India, where solar has just seen a 40% price drop.”

» Australian Wind Alliance – 15 May 2017:
Wind, solar + storage cheaper than gas and coal



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“The current record low for electricity in Germany was set on 8 May 8 2016, when solar, wind, hydro and biomass production accounted for 87 percent of the country’s 63 gigawatts of demand, and energy prices went negative. The power price went to -€12.89 (USD -$14) per megawatt-hour, meaning users were effectively being paid to take electricity off the system.”

» Greentech Media – 26 April 2017:
Sonnen Braces for a German Storage Surge as Renewables Saturate the Grid



» Reuters – 30 April 2017:
Global pension funds warm to India’s solar power ambitions
“Some of the world’s biggest pension funds, seeking long-term returns on green investments, are scouting for deals in India’s solar power sector, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is targeting $100 billion in investment in the next five years.”





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Coal is in demise. “There’s no way to sugar coat that. When politicians tell you the opposite, frankly they’re not being honest”
~ Kobad Bhavnagri, a leading energy analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance

» ABC News – 3 May 2017:
Your electricity bill will fall thanks to renewable energy — but you’ll have to be patient: Analyst





Interview with Tim Buckley about green bonds

“I think green bonds are an absolutely key part of the solution. We have talked in the past about the critical importance of mobilising private capital in order to create a solution to the problem. We need the policy framework around it. Once we’ve got the government setting the policy framework, get out of the way and let the financial markets deliver the capital that will drive the solution.

To me, green bonds are a financial market instrument that delivers huge amounts of capital for investment in low emission technologies that is a key part of the solution to climate change.

So, in the last four months… since we started 2017 we’ve seen $28 billion dollars of green bonds issued. If you annualise that, it is about $100 billion dollars of capital in 2017 that has been raised. That’s up 20 per cent or 30 per cent on the amount of capital that was raised last year.

So these are huge numbers. Potentially $100 billion dollars of capital for investment in zero emissions energy infrastructure. Independently audited and verified, so that the money is raised through to purpose – and what it is, it is raising money from bondholders, bond investors – those bond investors know that that money is going to be deployed in investing in renewable energy infrastructure – be it hydro, be it wind, be it solar, be it railways… anything that reduces emissions substantially, relative to the current industry.”


“So is this separate from the superannuation products?”

“Well, it is a way of mobilising the superannuation product. At the moment, Australia has close to two trillion dollars sitting invested in superannuation producs across the country. Two trillion dollars. The green bonds are a vehicle, an instrument, that has been created by the financial market to mobilise some of that capital.

Maybe across the two trillion dollars of financial capital sitting in superannuation industry, maybe 30 or 40 per cent of it is sitting in bonds. Long term bonds. Cash. Not equities. Not properties. Not infrastructure. Invested in the bond market.

[The green bonds] are creating a subset of the bond market that is going to be applied specifically for investment in renewable energy projects.

So [the idea with green bonds] is to use that financial capital, create an instrument that can legally, socially, morally help solve the problem [with climate change], but in a commercial way.”


“And you are saying that is actually working? It is a success story?”

“It is a major success story! Green bonds only started five or six years ago. I think Sean Kidney is an Australian, but based in England now. He has been out championing this idea for the last five-six-seven years, and he sold it to people like The World Bank, Asia Development Bank, and now increasingly to a lot of the top global private banks. Almost all of Australia’s major banks have now issued green bonds. So it is an instrument that allows our financial institutions to access superannuation money and a promise in return – it is not only will they get a viable, low risk investment, the money will be applied to help solve this absolutely pressing issue called climate change.”

“So we have got one part, or one team of a bank saying that they haven’t discounted funding Adani, but there is another part of that same bank saying that we will go with green bonds, how does that work?”

“I mentioned that the bonds are independently audited, that is a critical aspect. So if, for example, ANZ raises a billion dollars of green bonds in the international bond market, they might raise it for a 15-year tenure. They will raise it at a specified amount of interest. And they are then committing in return to deploying that money only in renewable energy infrastructure projects.

So, if someone then comes… like AGL comes along and says, ‘We want to build a new wind farm, can we borrow some money from you, then ANZ turns around and says, ‘Okay, we’ve got these green bonds. We can onloan that to you.’ It is an independently verified process to say that the bonds raised are used solely for investing in renewable energy projects. And that then creates the debt capital required to fund the wind project.

And each of these wind projects are hundreds of millions of dollar projects, they are major long-term infrastructure projects. And with very low risk, so they do actually have the capacity to have a high level of debt capital funding, but only if the financial markets have the confidence in the policy framework and in the project economics.”


“And these green bonds are thriving in Australia without policy certainty?”

“They are doing okay, but what we have learned is that there is huge capacity for the number of green bonds in Australia to double, treble, quadruble, go ten-fold. It is happening far more readily overseas where the policy framework is in place. But clearly, at an international level, there is some serious solar investment in Australia. I mean, at the moment we invest in 1,000 megawatts of solar a year in Australia. We are one of the biggest investors in solar in the world and that is with no policy framework. So put policy framework in place, and the answer is we could probably double the investment in solar every year going forward. Doubling that means we need two billion dollars or more a year of investment. If you need two billion [dollars] a year for solar then you could probably fund 60–70 per cent of that with debt. Green bonds are the perfect avenue to supply international capital to fund that debt component of the solar investment.”
























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“India does not require any new coal-fired power stations. The country is accelerating an already rapid diversification away from coal-fired power generation. Energy Minister Piyush Goyal’s strategy is to cut pollution and drive down costs for the consumer, while fully accommodating sustained, strong Indian economic growth.”
~ Tim Buckley, 20 December 2016


» RenewEconomy – 20 December 2016:
No new coal fired power plants for India


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A good one from The Project, once again.



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Stranded assets a carbon bomb waiting to explode

While the rest of the world is rapidly shifting to a low-carbon economy, Australia’s federal government has been “hypnotised” by the coal and gas industry. Trouble is, this will come at a high cost for the Australians, when the market all of sudden starts running away from the stranded fossils. The Australian stock market is the world’s “most exposed” to potential stranded assets, according to the S&P Global 1200, which captures approximately 70 per cent of global equity market capitalisation. It “resembles a carbon bomb waiting to explode,” wrote RenewEconomy.



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» ABC Four Corners – 15 June 2015:
The End of Coal?
“With the price of coal plummeting and our biggest customers turning to renewable energy, is Australia backing a loser?” [43 minute video]



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Guide: How to invest green

Interest in sustainable and fossil fuel free investing continues to grow at a rapid pace. That’s why Green Century Capital Management in collaboration with 350.org and Trillium Asset Management have released the guide ‘Make A Clean Break: Your Guide to Fossil Fuel Free Investing’.

If you are interested in learning about investing fossil fuel free, download the new guide to get started.

Download the new, free guide to get started investing fossil fuel free.

The new guide includes:

  • A special preface by 350.org founder, Bill McKibben
  • New insights and analysis about the financial case for investing fossil fuel free
  • A suite of online resources to help individuals divest from fossil fuel companies and an introduction to reinvesting in clean, sustainable opportunities


» Download ‘Make a Clean Break’.

Green Century Capital Management has been at the forefront of the fossil fuel free investing movement from the beginning.

» If you have questions, you can contact Green Century at info@greencentury.com.




“No longer an add-on to business strategy, climate action is rapidly becoming one of its pillars.”
~ Emilie Prattico, manager, BSR

» BSR – 22 March 2017:
Investors, Consumers, and Markets Demand Climate Action: Four Trends for Your Business to Know
“When it comes to key business drivers, which include investors, consumers, employees, and markets, it’s clear that climate ambition is a growing requirement for companies. Here are four business driver trends that you should know as you explore how to implement climate strategies that support a low-carbon economy.”


» Read more about why the Adani coal mine MUST be stopped

#StopAdani


The Sustainable Hour no 166

» The interview with Dorthe Pedersen was part of The Sustainable Hour on 26 April 2017


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