While some countries are taking in the success of setting records within their solar industries, other nations are doing whatever it takes to preserve their own.
Some in Australia say that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has changed his stance on renewable energy now that his place in office is secure. Abbott promised to keep the country's renewable energy target (RET) of 20-percent renewable electricity generation by 2020 intact. Now, the prime minister has taken control over a scheduled review within his department and has publicly stated that the RET may not work and needs to be a reassessed.
The Labor political party's environmental spokesman Mark Butler says the situation is even worse.
“The Liberals went to the election saying there was no difference between the parties on renewable energy, but they weren’t being straight with the Australian people because now they are launching a full-frontal attack,” he said.
Butler believes the sudden change of heart is ideological and can be best combated by drumming up community support. The Australian Solar Council and CleantechFundr are trying to do so through the Save Solar campaign, launched this week. In January, Solar Business Services estimated that about 7,000 jobs could be lost if Australia eliminates its RET. That amount includes 2,000 next year within the photovoltaic industry.
The RET also proves as an assurance for those who invest in renewable energy. The dollars could stop flowing if the government says it is no longer behind solar, wind and other forms. One of Abbott's first orders after the election was the suspension of loans from the Clean Energy Finance Corp. The country has also seen funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and renewable subsidies.
"If all of those things and the RET goes away, it has a combined phenomenal impact on the propensity of people to proceed with solar," solar industry analyst Nigel Morris told AAP.
That would be a far cry from 2008, when environment minister Greg Hunt went skydiving to symbolize the "free fall" the solar industry was in after former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd launched a means test on solar panel rebates.
Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes believes the industry is thriving and has the figures to prove it. The Save Solar campaign was built on the belief that the RET works because:
- 5 million Australians now have solar on their homes;
- 15,000 Australians have jobs in the solar industry;
- 4,500 businesses in the solar industry and
- About 3.5 million people say they want to go solar in the next five years.
Morris added that the RET has "virtually no cost" to the government.
“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower," Abbott said around Christmas. "Cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages … what we will be looking at is what we need to do to get power prices down significantly."
Abbott said he would work with Maurice Newman, chairman of his business advisory council, to find a solution. Newman said the RET should be scrapped months before Abbott won the election.
According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, the RET has increased retail energy prices by 3.5 percent.
"If the RET is unchanged, an additional 8,000 solar PV jobs are expected to be created by 2018," Grimes wrote in January.
"Don’t smash an industry that will help 1.5 million more Australians go solar in the next 2 years."
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.