ESB Chair Noted Major Restructuring Necessary To Retain Electricity Supply Security

The country has been given “just months” to fix major electricity market issues. This was following the blistering assessment of the state of the energy sector.

As the Energy Security Board (ESB) released its latest Health of the National Electricity Market report, Dr Kerry Schott, Chair of the Energy Security Board cautioned that the market needed a quick restructure to ensure the longevity of supply.

Established by the energy arm of the Council of Australian Governments, the ESB opted to “support the transition of Australian energy markets and advance the long-term interests of consumers”. It has oversight of energy reliability, security and affordability.

Upon analysis of the reports, the government found that the safekeeping of electricity supply “remains the most concerning issue” for the National Electricity Market (NEM), this includes all states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The report said, “Increasing penetration of variable renewable energy resources … is making it more difficult to maintain security.”

The report cited that AEMO (Australia Energy Market Operator) has had to intervene in the market far more than in earlier years in order to manage security issues. With that, AEMO issued more than 250 directions in 2019-20, compared to 158 the previous year, when some power generators were asked to increase or decrease their output to shore up electricity supply.

Meanwhile, the said report had embraced the growth of renewable energy, revealing its success in “substantially” lowering emissions. This goes along with the electricity sector, as they keep on track to cut emissions by more than 50 per cent by 2030 based on 2005 levels.

However, Dr Schoot warned the failure of regulation to keep pace has become a critical issue.  In an accompanying statement, she said “The technology and renewables-driven transformation of our energy market is no longer and if or when proposition. It is here and now. The pace of change is accelerating. Band-aid solutions are no longer viable. “

She added “The current set of systems, tools, market arrangements and regulatory frameworks is no longer entirely fit for purpose. This pace of change means there are now just months to finalize the redesign of the electricity marketplace so consumers can reap the benefits of this change.”

She had given emphasis to the states’ actions are understandable given “years of insufficient action” across the sector, but warns the “diminishing patience of governments” could undermine the NEM. On the other hand, she noted that some players in the electricity sector were resistant to change.

Currently, given the failure of successive energy and emissions reductions policies at the Commonwealth level, the State governments have been executing their own renewable energy directives. In cooperation, Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor agreed that taking action now was critical to minimize disruptions.

To date, the ESB is examining options to recover electricity supply security, including a nationwide steady approach for state and federal governments to underwrite the development of “firming” technology, such as pumped hydro and gas plants.

Mexico electricity outage leaves 10.3 million temporarily without power




General view shows an apartment building without electric light during an outage in Mexico’s electricity network that left 10.3 million users without power for up to two hours, in Monterrey, Mexico December 28, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

December 29, 2020

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – An outage in Mexico’s electricity network left 10.3 million users without power for up to two hours on Monday, the national electricity utility (CFE) said.

The National Center of Energy Control (CENACE) said the network lost 7,500 megawatts because of “an imbalance between load and power generation.”

“Automatic protection schemes were activated in order to minimize a greater risk,” CENACE said in a Tweet.

CENACE and CFE did not immediately provide further details on the problem.

Mexican news outlet Milenio earlier reported that the outage affected people in a dozen states as well as the populous capital district.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Adriana Barrera; editing by Jane Wardell)






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Cities in China go dark as electricity is rationed for millions


Chinese officials have sought to remind citizens of the country’s ambitious environmental goals while reassuring them that there is plenty of energy to keep people warm and the economy humming.

“In general, please believe that our ability to ensure stable energy supply is not a problem,” Zhao Chenxin, secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, which steers energy policy, said on Monday.

The Mount Piper power plant, near Lithgow, is scheduled to close in 2043.Credit:Janie Barrett

But the drastic measures point to potential longer-term problems in China’s energy universe, as leaders juggle competing priorities.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has vowed to make China a climate leader and to make the country carbon-neutral by 2060. But the country still draws nearly 70 per cent of its power from fossil fuels, predominantly coal, and those energy sources have helped propel China’s impressive recovery from the pandemic. By May, China’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy production, cement making and other industrial uses were 4 per cent higher than the year before.

“He’s got to wrestle with economic growth, economic structures, employment and the environment,” Philip Andrews-Speed, senior principal fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, said of Xi.

Some of the present difficulties may also be self-inflicted.

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Coastal areas of China depend on imported coal, including from Australia. But relations between the two countries have gone into free fall this year, as Australia has, among other things, demanded an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in China. China in turn has banned imports of Australian coal — leaving huge ships stranded at sea.

Chinese officials have denied that the ban on Australian coal is responsible for the current squeeze on energy, noting that in 2018 less than 8 per cent of China’s coal consumption involved imported coal; much of Australia’s coal is also used for steel and other metals, not power. But the government has also acknowledged, with rare bluntness, the scale of the problem.

“At the moment, some provinces temporarily do not have enough electricity. This is an objective fact,” one of the national government’s most powerful bodies, the entity that oversees state-owned companies, said Sunday.

The reports of shortages and restrictions began emerging earlier this month. On December 4, officials in Hunan announced that monthly electricity demand had seen double-digit growth from the previous year and would soon exceed the grid’s capacity. The shortage would last into the spring, they added.

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In response, authorities ordered residents to begin rationing energy. Every day between 10.30am and noon, and 4.30pm and 8.30pm, lighting on most building facades and billboards are to be shut down, according to the order. Office buildings will not have power during weekends. Residents were also told not to use electric stoves or ovens.

Hunan, where 67 million people live, has been unusually cold, with temperatures last week slipping below freezing.

In Jiangxi province, in the south, officials have also set out peak hours in which energy use will be limited. In Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province, officials said that companies would not be allowed to turn on heating until temperatures fell below 3 degrees Celsius, and would not be allowed to set the temperature higher than 15 degrees.

A county near Wenzhou said that the cafeterias of government agencies, businesses and financial institutions should not turn their heating on, even during mealtimes. Elevators should operate only for the fourth floor and above, until the end of the year, officials said.

Coal-fired power plants near Beijing this year.

Coal-fired power plants near Beijing this year. Credit:Sanghee Liu

The restrictions have drawn the ire of many local residents. In Yiwu, home to the world’s largest wholesale market, the government turned off streetlights for several days, until residents complained about safety issues.

“The whole city was dark, and you couldn’t see anything,” said Zhang Shaobo, a store owner in Yiwu. “Driving home from work a few days ago, I saw several car accidents. All you can do is drive more slowly.”

Elevators and billboards in the city’s malls remain turned off. Some manufacturers have also been ordered to take two or three days off for every day they work — much to the annoyance of workers who have just started to see their livelihoods return after the economy ground to a halt during the epidemic.

The resurgence of manufacturing may be one reason for the new restrictions. China reported a record trade surplus of $US75 billion ($98 billion) in November, fuelled by a 21 per cent surge in exports compared with the same period last year. Exports to the United States alone jumped per cent.

That spurt of demand, while bolstering Yiwu’s economy, may also have put the city over its energy targets, Andrews-Speed said. That could have prompted officials to make sudden cuts in order to comply with environmental goals, he added.

The authorities Monday emphasised regional differences in the energy restrictions, noting that while Hunan and Jiangxi faced real shortfalls in power supply, Zhejiang’s limits were voluntary.

When a spate of blackouts blanketed Guangzhou, one of China’s biggest cities, on Monday morning, officials quickly labelled the cause an equipment failure, unrelated to the issues elsewhere. Officials said there was no nationwide power problem.

Still, officials have tried to counter surging domestic coal prices by easing import controls on coal from countries other than Australia. Spot prices for the kind of high-heat-content coal formerly supplied by Australia to China, including freight charges, have soared to about $US80 per metric ton, from around $US46 per ton four weeks ago, according to S&P Global Platts, a commodities data service.

Other factors that may have affected supply include anti-corruption efforts at coal mines, new environmental regulations and recent high-profile mining accidents, said Dr James Stevenson, senior director for coal, metals and mining at the data and consulting company IHS Markit.

Those considerations felt distant for those affected by the suddenly mandated blackouts, such as Zhang, the shop owner in Yiwu.

“They don’t discuss this policy with you. They just notify you,” he said. “If you don’t comply, they’ll cut off your electricity.”

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Cites in China go dark as electricity is rationed for millions


Chinese officials have sought to remind citizens of the country’s ambitious environmental goals while reassuring them that there is plenty of energy to keep people warm and the economy humming.

“In general, please believe that our ability to ensure stable energy supply is not a problem,” Zhao Chenxin, secretary-general of the National Development and Reform Commission, which steers energy policy, said on Monday.

The Mount Piper power plant, near Lithgow, is scheduled to close in 2043.Credit:Janie Barrett

But the drastic measures point to potential longer-term problems in China’s energy universe, as leaders juggle competing priorities.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has vowed to make China a climate leader and to make the country carbon-neutral by 2060. But the country still draws nearly 70 per cent of its power from fossil fuels, predominantly coal, and those energy sources have helped propel China’s impressive recovery from the pandemic. By May, China’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy production, cement making and other industrial uses were 4 per cent higher than the year before.

“He’s got to wrestle with economic growth, economic structures, employment and the environment,” Philip Andrews-Speed, senior principal fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, said of Xi.

Some of the present difficulties may also be self-inflicted.

Loading

Coastal areas of China depend on imported coal, including from Australia. But relations between the two countries have gone into free fall this year, as Australia has, among other things, demanded an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in China. China in turn has banned imports of Australian coal — leaving huge ships stranded at sea.

Chinese officials have denied that the ban on Australian coal is responsible for the current squeeze on energy, noting that in 2018 less than 8 per cent of China’s coal consumption involved imported coal; much of Australia’s coal is also used for steel and other metals, not power. But the government has also acknowledged, with rare bluntness, the scale of the problem.

“At the moment, some provinces temporarily do not have enough electricity. This is an objective fact,” one of the national government’s most powerful bodies, the entity that oversees state-owned companies, said Sunday.

The reports of shortages and restrictions began emerging earlier this month. On December 4, officials in Hunan announced that monthly electricity demand had seen double-digit growth from the previous year and would soon exceed the grid’s capacity. The shortage would last into the spring, they added.

Loading

In response, authorities ordered residents to begin rationing energy. Every day between 10.30am and noon, and 4.30pm and 8.30pm, lighting on most building facades and billboards are to be shut down, according to the order. Office buildings will not have power during weekends. Residents were also told not to use electric stoves or ovens.

Hunan, where 67 million people live, has been unusually cold, with temperatures last week slipping below freezing.

In Jiangxi province, in the south, officials have also set out peak hours in which energy use will be limited. In Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province, officials said that companies would not be allowed to turn on heating until temperatures fell below 3 degrees Celsius, and would not be allowed to set the temperature higher than 15 degrees.

A county near Wenzhou said that the cafeterias of government agencies, businesses and financial institutions should not turn their heating on, even during mealtimes. Elevators should operate only for the fourth floor and above, until the end of the year, officials said.

Coal-fired power plants near Beijing this year.

Coal-fired power plants near Beijing this year. Credit:Sanghee Liu

The restrictions have drawn the ire of many local residents. In Yiwu, home to the world’s largest wholesale market, the government turned off streetlights for several days, until residents complained about safety issues.

“The whole city was dark, and you couldn’t see anything,” said Zhang Shaobo, a store owner in Yiwu. “Driving home from work a few days ago, I saw several car accidents. All you can do is drive more slowly.”

Elevators and billboards in the city’s malls remain turned off. Some manufacturers have also been ordered to take two or three days off for every day they work — much to the annoyance of workers who have just started to see their livelihoods return after the economy ground to a halt during the epidemic.

The resurgence of manufacturing may be one reason for the new restrictions. China reported a record trade surplus of $US75 billion in November, fuelled by a 21 per cent surge in exports compared with the same period last year. Exports to the United States alone jumped per cent.

That spurt of demand, while bolstering Yiwu’s economy, may also have put the city over its energy targets, Andrews-Speed said. That could have prompted officials to make sudden cuts in order to comply with environmental goals, he added.

The authorities Monday emphasised regional differences in the energy restrictions, noting that while Hunan and Jiangxi faced real shortfalls in power supply, Zhejiang’s limits were voluntary.

When a spate of blackouts blanketed Guangzhou, one of China’s biggest cities, on Monday morning, officials quickly labelled the cause an equipment failure, unrelated to the issues elsewhere. Officials said there was no nationwide power problem.

Still, officials have tried to counter surging domestic coal prices by easing import controls on coal from countries other than Australia. Spot prices for the kind of high-heat-content coal formerly supplied by Australia to China, including freight charges, have soared to about $US80 per metric ton, from around $US46 per ton four weeks ago, according to S&P Global Platts, a commodities data service.

Other factors that may have affected supply include anti-corruption efforts at coal mines, new environmental regulations and recent high-profile mining accidents, said Dr James Stevenson, senior director for coal, metals and mining at the data and consulting company IHS Markit.

Those considerations felt distant for those affected by the suddenly mandated blackouts, such as Zhang, the shop owner in Yiwu.

“They don’t discuss this policy with you. They just notify you,” he said. “If you don’t comply, they’ll cut off your electricity.”

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Electricity Price Drop For 2023, Good News For Households

A recent report by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) predicts all states on the National Electricity Market will have lower energy prices in 2023. These states are namely, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

As more renewable generation joins the grid, household electricity bills are expected to fall by 9 per cent.

As published by the advisory body today, the residential electricity price trends report for 2020 projects the ACT to be having a slight rise in electricity prices. However, those that are not in the National Energy Market, such as Western Australia and the Northern Territory, were not included.

As per the report, the price hike is greatly affected by the lower gas prices and the introduction of new sources of energy generation like solar and wind. It also revealed network costs and environmental costs are falling, too, although they contribute less to the overall reduction.

Ben Barr, chief executive of AEMC stated, “The projections across Australia are really encouraging … prices we’re projecting to fall across Australia about 9 per cent, or about $120 per customer over three years.”

He added “In South Australia, it’s even larger than that, so about $200 per customer, depending on how much electricity you use. What’s really driving that across the national electricity market is … new supply entering the market making downward pressure on the cost of producing electricity, but also due to gas prices flowing through into those wholesale energy costs.”

Given that, this is not the first time AEMC has predicted a fall in energy prices. In fact, this is AEMC’s second year in the row, and Mr Barr emphasized that this would be good news for households.

“One of the objectives of the report is to let customers know what we think is going to happen so they’re armed with that and they can ring up their retailer and say, ‘I hear prices are falling, what sort of deal can I get?’.”

In addition, the said report projects electricity prices will drop over the next two years, with a minor increase in 2022–23 as capacity falls with some coal-fired power stations have opted for closure.

More so, Victorians will be benefitting from the biggest price decrease of 15 per cent, as per the AEMC, mainly because of increased wind generation but also lowering gas prices. Queenslanders are not far behind with a 14 per cent drop.

All that said, as the Liddell power station closes, over the next two years, power prices are predicted to drop but then jump back up to almost to what they were this year.

South Australian electricity prices are projected to drop 11 per cent and Tasmania’s 4 per cent. Transmission and distribution costs are behind the 2 per cent predicted increase in electricity prices in Canberra.

Hungarian electricity, gas prices among lowest in EU | The Budapest Business Journal on the web


 Bence Gaál

 Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 15:10

In the first half of 2020, Hungary had the joint-lowest natural gas prices and second-lowest electricity prices in the entire European Union, according to data by statistical agency Eurostat.

Chart by Eurostat

In H1 2020, average household electricity prices in the European EU decreased slightly compared to the same period of the previous year, standing at EUR 21.3 per 100 kWh, down from EUR 21.6.

Electricity prices in Hungary in H1 2020 stood at EUR 10.3, the second-lowest only behind Bulgaria (EUR 10). The third cheapest country in terms of electricity prices was Estonia (EUR 12.4).

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the highest prices were registered in Germany (EUR 30.4), followed by Denmark (EUR 28.3) and Belgium (EUR 27.9).

Gas prices joint lowest in EU

Average gas prices in the EU stood at EUR 6.6 per 100 kWh in the first half of 2020, essentially unchanged compared to the same period of 2019.

In Hungary, gas prices stood at EUR 3.2, the joint-lowest among member states, alongside Latvia and Romania. The highest prices were recorded in the Netherlands (EUR 10), followed by Sweden (EUR 9.8) and France (EUR 7.9)

 

 





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Massive Power Outage in Darwin-Katherine, Thousands Affected

power outage

The massive hot temperature hovering around Darwin hitting in the high mid-30s and 39C in Katherine was topped with a blackout just before 4:00 PM. This forced businesses to shut and gridlock in peak hour traffic.

The Northern Territory’s Government-owned electricity provider announced yesterday’s generator glitch on Channel Island resulted in up to 60 per cent of customers in the Darwin-Katherine system losing power.

Just this morning, Duncan Griffin, senior manager of system control for Power and Water, revealed to ABC Radio that the root cause was likely a fault with gas pipeline at the Channel Island power station.

“At about 3:53 pm, there was a localised gas infrastructure supply issue at Channel Island power station and that resulted in all the generators that are online there to trip off,” Mr Griffin told ABC Radio Darwin.

Power supply issues were related to the pipeline infrastructure, and as a result, a loss of about 60 per cent of customer powers was experienced on the Darwin-Katherine System. Admittedly, Mr Griffin felt that it is too early to diagnose what exactly went wrong but the problem appears “likely to be an issue with some valves on the supply line”.

He then rests assured that they are working on a full review into what is deemed to be the worst outage in the Top End since 2014 when Darwin was without power for 12 hours.

To date, they already have prepared arrangements in place, which will give them an initial indication of what went wrong. He predicted that they’ll have a good idea on Friday.

Most houses and business, though, were back online in two hours, and power was fully restored in four hours. This was due to the protection system having worked well, and the remainder of the system held up as designed.

On the other end, St. John Ambulance operations manager Craig Garraway said the outage had been an “absolute nightmare” for their emergency services. More than 30 sets of traffic lights were out between Darwin and Katherine, with officers directing motorists at intersections packed with after-work traffic.

There were a number of car crashes that occurred after the blackout, but none was serious. “Emergency services, in particular police, were put under a lot of pressure there trying to cope with all the traffic lights being out and the peak hour traffic.” Mr Garraway emphasized.

Both the Royal Darwin Hospital and Katherine Hospital were also greatly affected. They rely only on generators during the blackout. Some hotels and takeaway bottle shops were unable to use the Banned Drinker Register.

“So to add insult to injury to all those people sweltering in the dark at home with no air con, many of them couldn’t buy a cold beer either.”

WA Liberals promise to end Synergy’s electricity monopoly, bring down power prices


The WA Opposition has pledged to introduce competition into the state’s energy market if it wins the coming state election, as leader Liza Harvey fends off speculation her party is doomed to defeat.

Currently, electricity companies — aside from the state-owned utility Synergy — can only supply power to businesses using more than 50 megawatt-hours a year.

But under the policy, electricity companies would be able to supply power to businesses using more than 20 megawatt-hours per year within 100 days of the election.

Competition would then be extended to the entire market within two years under the plan.

Opposition energy spokesperson Dean Nalder said the change would make a real difference to WA households.

“In Western Australia, our price is 35 per cent higher than Tasmania,” he said.

“We’ve also had the largest increase in Western Australia over the last three and a half years of any state in Australia.

Electricity prices in WA are among the highest in the country.(ABC News: James Carmody)

“This is an example of what can occur when you have a single energy provider like Synergy without competition, without innovation in the marketplace.

“We believe that there’s efficiency opportunities within Synergy and Western Power, and a future Liberal government will ensure that … they deliver on those efficiencies.”

He said regulation would also be introduced to set a maximum price across the market.

A neon Synergy sign inside the company's Perth office.
State-owned energy retailer Synergy has a monopoly over the WA market.(ABC News: Marcus Alborn)

Mr Nalder said the Opposition had already spoken to a number of potential suppliers about the issue.

“They believe they can compete on where prices are today,” he said.

“We’re going to leave the current budget forward estimates where they are.

“We won’t make a decision until we’ve won government and we’re forming our first budget.”

The Liberals have also pledged not to sell Synergy, Western Power or Horizon Power.

Household power payments begin

The announcement comes as a $600 one-off credit starts being applied to household power bills from today.

The Government estimates the policy will cost around $644 million and will benefit around 1.1 million households.

“Supporting Western Australian households during this unprecedented time is an important part of our jobs and recovery plan,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

“I encourage Western Australians to spend some of their savings on supporting our local retail and hospitality businesses.”

The funds for the payments are coming from the proceeds of the Bell Group Liquidation.

But not everyone is so optimistic about the policy’s effect.

“It’s a one-off payment,” said Perth resident Bec Smith, who appeared with the Opposition Leader for today’s policy announcement.

Liza Harvey with Jandakot residents Bec and Mike Smith and Dean Nalder
Ms Harvey discusses power prices with Bec and Mike Smith and the Liberal’s energy spokesman Dean Nalder.(ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

“The more money that we’re putting into electricity is stopping us from holidays and schooling.

“We’ve got young kids but they’re only getting older, and it’s going to cost us more and more as they get older.”

Queensland election could be omen for WA Liberals

Speculation has long been growing that the Liberal Party is facing an uphill battle to retain their 13 seats in the Legislative Assembly at the March election.

That has only been strengthened by last night’s result in Queensland that saw the LNP become the third opposition party unable to topple a government during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite mounting pressure, WA Liberal leader Liza Harvey insists the outcome is not set in stone.

“I’ve got confidence in that my candidates in marginal seats, the seats that we’re targeting to win government, are working extremely hard going door to door,” she said.

“They’re getting a very good reception at the doors of the houses that they’re knocking on.”

But political analyst Peter Kennedy said yesterday’s results showed the pandemic had made the jobs of opposition leaders around the nation very difficult.

“It probably shows that voters prefer state premiers who are strong on these issues and will stand up for them,” he said.

“It’s very difficult for oppositions, especially where they’re opposed to a government that is taking a strong stand.”

WA Opposition Leader Liza Harvey speaking outside parliament, wearing a blue jacket.
Liza Harvey says the WA Liberals will start acting on the power pledge within 100 days of gaining power if they win next year’s election.(ABC News: James Carmody)

He said with Mr McGowan having won over voters with his handling of the pandemic, Ms Harvey has “got a very difficult job because of the way that Mr McGowan’s handled it”.

“That has resonated, and I think voters are listening more to the leaders who are strong.

“It’s very hard for opposition leaders to get oxygen.”

Mr Kennedy said despite his strength to date, the election is not a given for Labor.

“I think the Government has to play it very carefully between now and Christmas, to get the nuances right,” he said.

“If they don’t, there’s a chance for the Opposition to start to pick them back.”

And that is exactly what Ms Harvey is hoping for.

“There are a lot of things that can happen between now and March,” she said.



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Meet the new app that tells you when your electricity is greenest


A new app is claiming to tell environmentally-conscious consumers when is the greenest time to use household appliances.

Yoyu uses weather forecasts to calculate when the amount of solar or wind power in the total energy mix is at its highest.

This is likeliest to be when the weather is particularly windy or sunny and it is during these periods that energy is at its greenest.

“It’s not always sunny and it’s not always windy so when it is sunny or windy we can use that electricity,” Yoyu founder Molly Webb told Euronews. “When we’re not using at these times [the greenest period] we’re avoiding or boycotting the fossil fuel-based electricity that is often used as backup.

“We built this [app] because people are used to making choices about buying the right food or fashion to be conscious consumers and we don’t have a relationship with energy.

“This [app] gives us a little bit of visibility on what we’re doing so we can vote for clean energy if we want to.

“But of course, there is no pressure. It’s up to you. It’s a free app. It just gives you the information and you have the knowledge to do what you will with it.”



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