Sunday, 27 January 2008

Environmental Performance Index

International criticism of Australia continues in a high profile report released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Media Report at The Age

The report is the Environmental Performance Index, completed by Yale and Colombia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Some quotes [emphasis is mine]:

From the main report

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the 2008 EPI is the weight placed on the new Climate Change category, which absorbs the 2006 EPI’s Sustainable Energy category, and the additional data included in its calculation: Emissions Per Capita, CO2 Emissions Per Electricity generated, and Industrial Carbon Intensity. Because of the greater recognition of climate change as one of the most pressing environmental challenges, the 2008 EPI weights climate change much more heavily in the ecosystem vitality objective. As a result, countries with otherwise advanced environmental regulatory and enforcement systems such as the United States and Australia, dropped in this year’s EPI in part because of this expanded category.

From the web page on climate change scoring

"The laggards on climate change are typically countries with particularly carbon-intensive industry and electricity generation sectors, such as United Arab Emirates and Australia..."

Among wealthy nations, the US and Australia rank lowest with regards to climate change performance. They have very high emissions per capita due to relatively high fossil fuel energy consumption and their failure to implement ambitious GHG emissions reduction policies.

Provided one agrees with anthropologic climate change theory and subscribes to emission reduction targets recommended by many scientific bodies; clearly Australia must do more to achieve our fair share of global reductions.

One way - a demonstrated, safe and reliable way - to sustain Australian economic growth and prosperity through no/low carbon emission electricity generation is the deployment of nuclear power generating stations in low population coastal regions of Australia over the coming decades. Nuclear power plants - as part of a diverse energy policy including efficiency improvements; conservation; and a considerable deployment of credible, demonstrated and available renewable technologies - is the only way Australia can conceivably achieve the targets being discussed at, for example next week's conference in the US state of Hawaii mentioned in the Age report above, without significant negative impact to our industry and economy.

Australia's complete EPI Score

Emissions per capita scores

Emissions per unit electricity generation


  1. Why do you want the new nuclear plants in low population regions? Nuclear plants are either safe or they are not. If they are not safe they should not be built. If they are safe they should be built close to their users to eliminate transmission losses. The new plants should be right in the middle of the towns and cities that they serve.

  2. I am not suggesting they be constructed in the 'most' remote locations, but I believe there are numerous advantages to building plants in low population areas [none of which have much to do with your binary safety categorisation but rather the economics faced by the utilities].

    For example, regulations typically require Emergency planning that includes evacuation procedures and protocols. These are made much more difficult if the plant is located in an Urban area. [Recall Shoreham].

    Also, most cities and towns tend to get more populous over time, so over a 40 year initial life, things get more complicated for license extension. [Indian Point and Oyster Creek are experiencing such 'growing pains']

    In addition, the land is usually cheaper in remote areas (and available - which isn't usually the case in urban areas).

    Furthermore, if (as is the case in the USA right now) a utility wants to consider future expansion by adding more plants) a larger site is more accommodating to this option.

    Moreover, siting a plant in a low population area will have a much more dramatic (and positive) impact on local tax revenues. Why do so many communities with nuclear plants today want more? Because they are safe, create good jobs and provide significant support to the local economy and tax base.

    What's more, [and this is just a gut feel] I believe a plant would be an easier 'sell' in a region of lower population based on the combined effects of all I've said above.

    Finally, considering the current power production distribution in Australia at the moment [the majority of which are 'mouth of the mine' power stations in, if not remote, then at least low population areas.] transmission losses don't appear to be significant show-stoppers when other factors are taken into context.