Electric vehicle charging infrastructure has been elevated by the Morrison government as a key net zero “enabling technology”, two-and-a-half years after the Prime Minister mocked EVs as incapable of towing trailers, boats or reaching a family’s favourite camping spot.
Welcome to Talking Business, a podcast produced in Melbourne Australia. The podcast is available on the Acast app, the Apple Podcast store or wherever you go to get your podcasts. Or you can get it at the Business Acumen website at www.businessacumen.biz.
I am Leon Gettler. My job is to review and monitor the week’s news in business, finance and economics. I bring it all to you, every week.
This is episode number 40 in our series for 2021 and today’s date is Friday November 5.
First, I’ll be talking to Domm Holland,the Aussie entrepreneur and co-founder of American payments company Fast which provides a single click checkout button, freeing consumers of the need for passwords or the need to re-enter personal details when they check into websites to buy services and products. And I’ll be talking to BIS Oxford Economics’ chief economist in Australia, Sarah Hunter about how the end of lockdowns will affect the jobs figures.
But now, let’s talk to Domm Holland.
Australia has made a $2 billion pledge to the United Nations climate summit in a promise to do its part to limit the rise in global temperatures, as activist groups call on the country to spend eight times as much to honour its obligations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised the higher spending in a formal statement that also said Australian emissions will fall by 35% by 2030, hardening his language on a goal that he has described as a forecast rather than a target. The statement tells other leaders to expect Australia would reach the 35% goal by 2030, even as Mr Morrison makes no formal change to the existing official target of 26 to 28% by that year on 2005 levels. He made no mention of the official target in his statement and spoke only of the 35% goal for 2030 and his commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. The pledge is an increase in Australia’s formal commitment to a $US100 billion ($A132 billion) annual climate finance scheme for developing countries that was first promised by the world’s wealthier nations at a COP summit in South Africa in 2011. Activist group Avaaz, which organised protests around the G20 summit last weekend, estimated Australia should commit at least $3.4 billion a year as its share of the annual climate fund. That is eight times the government’s new pledge, which amounts to $400 million each year. And Scott Morrison has taken his technology driven climate pitch to the world, presenting it as the solution to the policy gap between developed and developing nations which is stopping universal global action on global warming. Speaking at the COP26 global summit in Glasgow, the Prime Minister said developing affordable and scalable low emissions’ technology was the only realistic mechanism for major emitters such as India to come on board. The world is split over climate action with a bloc comprising China, India, Russia and Brazil taking a lead in stymieing any meaningful consensus at the G20 leaders’ meeting in Rome over the weekend. Of those nations, only India has its leader, Narendra Modhi, at Glasgow. He committed India to net zero emissions by 2070. Mr Morrison said it was unrealistic and naive to expect all nations to move at the same pace using the same methodology. His technology plan has been slammed at home for being light on detail and heavy on hope. He told the UN conference the requisite technology would materialise. But the country’s leading climate technology experts have warned the Australian government not to expect future technology to solve its climate change problems, saying it must develop a policy-driven approach to let existing technology drive down fossil fuel usage now. Eytan Lenko, chairman of the climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, said what the climate tech investment community needed from the government was policy designed to hasten the uptake of renewable technology, not a document simply stating that technology would magically solve the problem.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure has been elevated by the Morrison government as a key net zero “enabling technology”, two-and-a-half years after the Prime Minister mocked EVs as incapable of towing trailers, boats or reaching a family’s favourite camping spot. Stunned by the speed in which global carmakers are racing towards mass EV production, the government now accepts that instead of “ending the weekend” – as Morrison famously claimed during the 2019 election campaign – electric vehicles will reach cost parity with internal combustion engines within a few years. Ford, GM and a raft of start-ups such as Rivian have already started bringing large ute-style EVs to the market. Some are capable of towing over large distances. In its second annual “Low Emissions Technology Statement”, released in Glasgow late on Tuesday night, the government also identified the need to develop “digital grids” to manage the surging supply of solar and wind power into the national electricity grid. The priority list – which is at the heart of Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor’s “technology not taxes” approach to climate change – for the first time identified the use of seaweed to reduce cattle methane emissions and the need for low-polluting concrete. The new priorities add to last year’s inaugural list, which included developing clean hydrogen, cheaper energy storage, low-emissions steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage and soil carbon. Last week, when the government released its 2050 net zero plan, it added so-called “ultra-low-cost solar” to the priority list.
Business Council of Australia president Tim Reed has warned that Australia will lose the business of its largest trading partners if it does not commit to its plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and diversify its export base away from carbon-intensive industries. Speaking at the Impact X Sydney Summit on creating a pathway to net zero, Mr Reed freely admitted the BCA’s 130 member companies “are our nation’s largest polluters” and said individual businesses that do not get on board with cutting emissions could be locked out of capital markets. Mr Reed said 14 of Australia’s top 20 trading partners – representing 83% of the nation’s export base – had a net zero target, meaning Australia’s future prosperity was at risk without a plan to develop renewable energy export industries like hydrogen.
This week’s UN climate summit in Glasgow is helping put a rocket under the global market for carbon credits, which have surged to record levels. Last Friday alone, as world leaders began making their way to Scotland, prices for carbon credits leapt 10%. While the global market for carbon credits is still small compared with equity and bond markets, its growth this year has been dramatic. A benchmark price for carbon credits – known as CBL GEO – has galloped from about $US75¢ last October to more than $US7.50 at the end of last month. And the price will keep rising because of the imbalance between supply and demand. Promises made by the world’s 20 largest oil and gas companies to offset their fossil fuel pollution will require about 3 billion tonnes in carbon credit offsets a year compared with a current global inventory of about 500 million in credits. In addition, the market currently generates just 300 million credits a year via carbon capture and storage. An airline, such as Delta in the US, needs to offset about 50 million tonnes a year.
The Reserve Bank of Australia bowed to market pressure by abandoning a bond-yield target and signalling it’s open to raising interest rates earlier than its previous 2024 guidance following a quickening of inflation. Australia’s Reserve Bank has kept the nation’s cash rate at the record low 0.1%, for the 12th month in a row. The central bank has also dumped one of its key stimulus measures, known as “yield curve control” — which was introduced in March 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It involved the RBA buying billions of dollars in Australian government’s three-year bonds, to artificially drive its yield (or return) down to 0.1%. The RBA has opened up the possibility the record low 0.1% cash rate could rise in late 2023, earlier than expected. But market pricing for hikes in 2022 is “a complete overreaction” to inflation data, governor Philip Lowe said in a surprise press conference late on Tuesday, and such an eventuality was “extremely unlikely” despite underlying inflation exceeding the RBA’s expectations two years ahead of forecasts. But we cannot reasonably rule out a rate hike as early as next year
Pubs, shops, recruitment agencies and construction firms could play a critical role helping the economy hit net zero emissions by purchasing power from an energy retailer which offsets their usage. Australia’s 2.4 million small-medium enterprises emit about 146.5 million tonnes of the nation’s carbon emissions annually. However, they have not entered into green-power purchasing which about half of the country’s 80 top emitting ASX200 companies have in setting net zero or carbon-neutral goals. Some of the nation’s biggest brands, such as Woolworths, Coles and Telstra, have committed to switching to 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Others have been accused of “greenwashing” by adopting targets but not setting plans. New figures from data agency Geografia found small businesses could have an outsized impact on Australia’s total carbon emissions if, like many large companies, they commit to reducing their carbon footprint year-on-year. The research found an average pub, tavern or bar emits about 11.6 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, with more than a third of this coming from their electricity usage. If a pub switched their energy provider to a retailer that carbon offset their energy usage, they could reduce their carbon footprint by about 34% immediately. Commissioned by online electricity retailer Powershop, the data found if every pub, tavern or bar made the change, it would be equivalent to taking more than 6800 cars off the road each year. Of the four key sectors studied, the construction industry was the largest annual emitter (76%), followed by retail (11.9%), professional services (6.7%) and accommodation and hospitality (5.7%), making up a total of 6.6 million tonnes emitted. The carbon footprint of those sectors was broken down by five key emissions areas: materials, electricity, labour, transport and other utilities like water and gas. Research found if the four sectors signed up to an electricity plan that was 100% carbon offset, it would be the equivalent of taking 770,834 cars off the road. If they offset 100% of their total emissions from materials, electricity, other utilities, labour and transport, it would be the equivalent of 3.98 million cars off the road each year.
Westpac has reported a cash profit of $5.35 billion in the 2021 financial year and announced a $3.5 billion off-market buyback, following the lead of the other major banks. While its cash profit fell short of expectations for $5.42 billion it was twice as much as a year ago. Statutory net profit rose 138% to $5.46 billion. However, investors dumped the stock after a poor margin performance by its key home-lending business and emerging scepticism that the bank will achieve its much-trumpeted $8bn cost base in 2024.
Seven West Media has entered into an agreement to acquire Prime Media Group for $121.9 million. The deal is subject to a vote from Prime Media shareholders, set to be held in December. The Prime Media board has indicated it intends to recommend shareholders vote in favour of the proposal.
Global ready-to-assemble furniture vendor IKEA has installed four chargers for electric vehicles at each of its outlets in NSW and Victoria, the company says.Choosing the right moment for a plug, the Swedish firm said in a statement that its stores in Springvale and Richmond had installed the chargers. In NSW, the stores at Tempe and Marsden Park would soon follow suit.The company’s announcement comes a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison left for the Glasgow COP26 environmental summit after finalising a somewhat flaky greenhouse gas emissions target for the country.The charging stations are free to use at the moment and have a Type 2 cable, IKEA said, adding that with 56% of Australians considering an EV as their next vehicle, providing chargers was a move meant to cater for future expansion. In coming weeks, EV owners will need to have a Chargefox account. The app can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
Santos has signed off on its $220m Moomba carbon capture and storage project with the go ahead on what will be one of the largest carbon storage projects in the world to be announced overnight at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. The Santos board, along with one third joint venture partner Beach Energy, late Monday took a final investment decision to go ahead with the project. The Moomba CCS project is expected to create about 230 jobs during the construction phase and store about 1.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in depleted oil and gas reservoirs in South Australia’s Far North. Santos has been close to making a decision on Moomba CCS for much of this year, but was waiting for CCS projects to be eligible for Australian Carbon Credit Units in order to make it more financially viable. With the project now registered for credits with the Clean Energy Regulator, it’s all systems go for the globally-significant project.
The national science agency CSIRO and Commonwealth Bank have launched a joint project to examine the potential impact of climate change on the finance sector. The public-private partnership will develop a plan to help financial services companies manage and reduce the risks of global warming, with insights from the project to be shared on a digital platform. The “independent science-based transition scenarios” produced will be made available to other banks and financial institutions, including insurance companies, to help them model exposure to climate risks in particular sectors and regions.
Iron ore billionaire and now green energy evangelist Andrew Forrest has continued his breathtaking spree of renewable hydrogen announcements, this time signing an agreement with the Bamford family to become the biggest supplier of renewable hydrogen in the UK. The “multi-billion pound” deal, deliberately timed a day ahead of the Glasgow COP26 climate conference, has been struck with construction giant JCB and its offshoot Ryze Hydrogen, who will buy 10% of the renewable hydrogen that Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries plans to produce. Under the partnership, FFI will lead the green hydrogen production and logistics to the UK market. JCB, owned by billionaire businessman Lord Bamford, and Ryze, owned and managed by his son Jo Bamford, will manage green hydrogen distribution and development of customer demand in the UK. It appears to be mostly focused on shifting heavy transport to green hydrogen, including JCB’s construction equipment and Jo Bamford’s Wrightbus, the UK’s biggest bus manufacturing company which has already produced the world’s first hydrogen powered double decker bus
Penfolds has released its most expensive ever bottle of wine – a five-vintage blend that retails for a wallet-scorching $3500. Named Penfolds g5, the red wine is a blend of five vintages of Penfolds Grange stretching back to 2010. Only 2200 bottles of Penfolds g5 will be made available globally, and a 750ml bottle will retail for $3500.
And that’s it for this week. And next week, I’ll be talking to Damian Morgan and Keil Glass who founded the start-up SafeStay which which provides safety audit inspections for short stay accommodation in response to the tragedy of short-stay accommodation incidents including fraud, injury and even fatalities. And I’ll be talking to AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver about the prospect of the RBA raising interest rates.
In the meantime you can catch me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you want leave a comment.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy week. And looking forward to bringing you Talking Business next week