Why No One Wants to Pay for the Green Transition
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,599,192 (-0.51%)       Melbourne $986,501 (-0.24%)       Brisbane $938,846 (+0.04%)       Adelaide $864,470 (+0.79%)       Perth $822,991 (-0.13%)       Hobart $755,620 (-0.26%)       Darwin $665,693 (-0.13%)       Canberra $994,740 (+0.67%)       National $1,027,820 (-0.13%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $746,448 (+0.19%)       Melbourne $495,247 (+0.53%)       Brisbane $534,081 (+1.16%)       Adelaide $409,697 (-2.19%)       Perth $437,258 (+0.97%)       Hobart $531,961 (+0.68%)       Darwin $367,399 (0%)       Canberra $499,766 (0%)       National $525,746 (+0.31%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,586 (+169)       Melbourne 15,093 (+456)       Brisbane 7,795 (+246)       Adelaide 2,488 (+77)       Perth 6,274 (+65)       Hobart 1,315 (+13)       Darwin 255 (+4)       Canberra 1,037 (+17)       National 44,843 (+1,047)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,675 (+47)       Melbourne 7,961 (+171)       Brisbane 1,636 (+24)       Adelaide 462 (+20)       Perth 1,749 (+2)       Hobart 206 (+4)       Darwin 384 (+2)       Canberra 914 (+19)       National 21,987 (+289)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $770 (-$10)       Melbourne $590 (-$5)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $595 (-$5)       Perth $650 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 ($0)       Canberra $700 ($0)       National $654 (-$3)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $730 (+$10)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $470 ($0)       Perth $600 ($0)       Hobart $460 (-$10)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $560 (-$5)       National $583 (+$1)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,253 (-65)       Melbourne 5,429 (+1)       Brisbane 3,933 (-4)       Adelaide 1,178 (+17)       Perth 1,685 ($0)       Hobart 393 (+25)       Darwin 144 (+6)       Canberra 575 (-22)       National 18,590 (-42)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 6,894 (-176)       Melbourne 4,572 (-79)       Brisbane 1,991 (+1)       Adelaide 377 (+6)       Perth 590 (+3)       Hobart 152 (+6)       Darwin 266 (+10)       Canberra 525 (+8)       National 15,367 (-221)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 2.50% (↓)       Melbourne 3.11% (↓)       Brisbane 3.43% (↓)       Adelaide 3.58% (↓)     Perth 4.11% (↑)      Hobart 3.78% (↑)      Darwin 5.47% (↑)        Canberra 3.66% (↓)       National 3.31% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 5.09% (↑)        Melbourne 6.09% (↓)       Brisbane 6.04% (↓)     Adelaide 5.97% (↑)        Perth 7.14% (↓)       Hobart 4.50% (↓)       Darwin 7.78% (↓)       Canberra 5.83% (↓)       National 5.76% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.7% (↑)      Melbourne 0.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.4% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 1.2% (↑)      Hobart 0.6% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.7% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.4% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.3% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 1.5% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)        National 0.9% (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 28.7 (↓)       Melbourne 30.7 (↓)       Brisbane 31.0 (↓)       Adelaide 25.4 (↓)       Perth 34.0 (↓)       Hobart 34.8 (↓)       Darwin 35.1 (↓)       Canberra 28.5 (↓)       National 31.0 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 25.8 (↓)       Melbourne 30.2 (↓)       Brisbane 27.6 (↓)       Adelaide 21.8 (↓)       Perth 37.8 (↓)       Hobart 25.2 (↓)       Darwin 24.8 (↓)       Canberra 41.1 (↓)       National 29.3 (↓)           
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Why No One Wants to Pay for the Green Transition

Investors and consumers balk at costs of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, highlighting painful economics of climate mitigation

By GREG IP
Sat, Dec 2, 2023 7:00amGrey Clock 4 min

In the past few years, Washington and Wall Street started fantasising that the transition to net-zero carbon emissions could be an economic bonanza. “When I think climate change, I think jobs,” President Biden said. When Wall Street heard green energy, it saw profits. As Ford Motor launched an electric Mustang and pickup truck, its market value topped $100 billion for the first time.

This year the fantasy ended. With electric vehicle demand falling short of expectations, manufacturers are dialling back production and buying back stock instead. Offshore wind developers have canceled projects. The S&P Global Clean Energy Index has fallen 30% this year. Ford’s market cap is down to $42 billion.

This doesn’t mean the transition to net zero is over. Officials meeting this week at the United Nations climate conference are just as worried about climate change. Renewable energy continues to expand. In the very long run, it is still the case that economic welfare will be higher with less global warming.

But the economics of getting to net zero remain, fundamentally, dismal: Someone has to pay for it, and shareholders and consumers decided this year it wouldn’t be them.

Politicians and the public tend to think all investment is good for growth, an error that leads to all sorts of muddled thinking about climate.

Technological transformations are positive supply shocks: a new, more efficient technology comes along, and investment naturally gravitates toward this new technology because it is profitable.

By contrast, the green transition is driven by public policy. It is “a negative supply shock, with an accompanying need to finance investments whose profitability cannot be taken for granted,” French economist Jean Pisani-Ferry wrote in a report commissioned by the French prime minister and released in English in November. “By putting a price—financial or implicit—on a free resource (the climate), the transition increases production costs, with no guarantee that the reduction in energy costs will eventually offset them, while the investments it calls for do not increase productive capacity but must nevertheless be financed.”

Pisani-Ferry, who is affiliated with the Bruegel think tank in Europe and the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, is an uncommonly clear thinker on this issue.

He notes the transition involves hefty capital spending today to replace fossil-fuel consumption in the future. Pisani-Ferry estimates a middle-class French family would spend 44% of annual disposable income for a heat pump, and 120% for an electric car. These investments boost demand, but don’t leave families better off since they simply do the same thing as what they replace. And if taxes rise to pay for these investments, families will be worse off, financially.

“It would take an incredible act of blindness to fail to recognise that climate change is happening, that it is—and will increasingly become—severely damaging,” he writes. “It would also be incredibly flippant to claim that this urgent and imperative action will have no economic cost by 2030.”

The most efficient way to redirect consumption and investment from fossil fuels to zero-emissions energy is a carbon tax, or a cap-and-trade system. Europe has adopted such a system plus ever more stringent goals, especially after Russia cut off natural-gas supplies following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. But as the cost has grown, so has public discontent, from France’s “yellow vest” protests in 2018 to last week’s first-place finish in Dutch elections by the far-right Freedom Party, which wants to ditch all climate regulations.

U.S. leaders have rejected any federal tax or fee on carbon. Biden’s solution is to not ask consumers to pay for the green transition; his Inflation Reduction Act pours, by some estimates, roughly $1 trillion into electric vehicles, renewable energy, hydrogen and other zero-emissions technology.

Subsidies can play a vital role by giving green energy time to scale up and innovate until it is competitive with fossil fuels. But the IRA has been undermined by extraneous conditions such as made-in-America requirements, and by green tech inflation—a byproduct of the IRA itself, which helped fuel demand.

Finally, Biden’s investment agenda was designed for the pre pandemic era when low interest rates flattered the financial profile of renewable energy investment and federal budget deficits were less likely to crowd out private investment. Those assumptions no longer apply.

For years, the cost of wind and solar plummeted, but since 2021 they have risen, according to investment bank Lazard. Interest rates are an important factor, which Lazard estimates affect offshore wind and solar more than natural gas.

Many developers can no longer economically supply power at the rates previously agreed to. Denmark’s Orsted, the world’s largest wind developer, took a $4 billion charge in early November for pulling out of two projects off New Jersey. The company today is worth 75% less than in early 2021.

ClearView Energy Partners estimates about 30% of state-contracted offshore wind capacity has been canceled, and another 25% may be rebid. ClearView analyst Timothy Fox noted lawmakers often mandate increased renewables, but utility regulators must approve the contracts, and one of their primary considerations is cost to ratepayers.

“I am an unapologetic economic regulator,” Diane Burman, a member of the New York state Public Service Commission, said in October as the commission refused to pay wind developers more. De carbonisation and grid improvement must proceed “with costs in mind.”

The financial appeal of EVs has similarly faded. Tesla proved making them can be profitable, but so far it looks like an outlier. Tesla captured the lion’s share of early adopters—drivers willing to put up with the cost and recharging hassle of an EV in return for performance and green credentials. For most drivers, the trade off still doesn’t work—even with subsidies.

True, the IRA has spurred a boom in EV and battery factories. But a successful green transition requires that those factories be profitable, and Detroit’s automakers are still losing money on every EV they sell.

EVs should eventually require less labor and thus be cheaper to build than gasoline-powered vehicles. But auto workers are no more willing to pay for the green transition than consumers or investors. In its recent strike, the United Auto Workers extracted commitments that make it even harder for Detroit to make money on EVs.

In a sobering report this week, Morgan Stanley auto analysts estimated the average non financial company in the S&P 500 spends its market cap in capital expenditure and research and development in about 50 years. GM and Ford spend theirs in 1.9 and 2.6 years, respectively. “This cannot continue, in our view.”

The green transition remains critical, but its path will be fraught until someone agrees to pay for it.



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Call to cut corporate carbon footprints is loudest from inside organizations, outweighing demand from customers and regulators, survey finds

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The pressure on companies to cut their carbon footprint is coming more from within the organisations themselves than from customers and regulators, according to a new report.

Three-quarters of business leaders from across the Group of 20 nations said the push to invest in renewable energy is being driven mainly by their own corporate boards, with 77% of U.S. business leaders saying the pressure was extreme or significant, according to a new survey conducted by law firm Ashurst.

The corporate call to decarbonise is intensifying, Ashurst said, with 30% of business leaders saying the pressure from their own boards was extreme, up from 25% in 2022.

“We’re seeing that the energy transition is an area that is firmly embedded in the thinking of investors, corporates, governments and others, so there is a real emphasis on setting and acting on these plans now,” said Michael Burns, global co-head of energy at Ashurst. “That said, the pace of transition and the stage of the journey very much depends from business to business.”

The shift in sentiment comes as companies ramp up investment in renewable spending to meet their net-zero goals. Ashurst found that 71% of the more than 2,000 respondents to its survey had committed to a net-zero target, while 26% of respondents said their targets were under development.

Ashurst also found that solar was the most popular method to decarbonise, with 72% of respondents currently investing in or committed to investing in the clean energy technology. The law firm also found that companies tended to be the most active when it comes to renewable investments, with 52% of the respondents falling into this category. The average turnover of those companies was $15.1 billion.

Meanwhile, 81% of energy-sector respondents to the survey said they see investment in renewables as essential to the organisation’s strategic growth.

Burns said the 2030 timeline to reach net zero was very important to the companies it surveyed. “We are increasingly seeing corporate and other stakeholders actively setting and embracing trajectories to achieve net zero. However, greater clarity and transparency on the standards for measuring and managing these net-zero commitments is needed to ensure consistency in approach and, importantly, outcome,” he said.

Legal battles over climate change and renewable investing are also likely to rise, with 68% of respondents saying they expect to see an increase in legal disputes over the next five years, while only 16% anticipate a decrease, the report said.

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