Australian news, and some related international items

Climate change damage makes compelling economic argument for renewable Energy

environment-renewable-Australiaeven without any damage from climate change itself, the argument of moving to renewables (given the position of the rest of the world) makes good economic sense. When you add the risk of damage from climate change the case is unassailable.

Why would a nation like India waste money on taking poles and wires to every remote village and spending billions on coal power stations and metering when solar panels make more sense? They do not provide power continuously, but they are so much cheaper.

We should invest in renewable energy SMH, April 24, 2015  Crispin Hull  “……..storms like the ones this week – which scientists say will become more frequent with global warming – should give cause for reflection. The extent and cost of the potential damage is so high that prudence demands action.

But there is another more significant point. Governments can fix most things, but they will not be able to fix climate change. They will not be able to refreeze the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and make the rising seas fall – a bit like King Canute. The damage will be irreversible for thousands or even millions of years.

But governments can force changes to stop the melt in the first place.

There are several reasons why people see no need for any action at all or no need for urgency. We have always had bad weather events.

Change is imperceptible. The science is not conclusive so we can wait before taking action. Damage is a long time off.

If we see real evidence of climate change we can act then to fix it. Australia is just one nation and can do little on its own.

Because so many people think like this, governments have been able to get away with doing so little. Continue reading

April 25, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy | Leave a comment

Flinders Island to be Asia Pacific benchmark for renewable energy-powered remote communities

renewable-energy-pictureRenewable energy and potable water for Flinders Island community
ABC Rural By Rosemary Grant 22 Apr 15 The Bass Strait community of Flinders Island says two major projects to deliver clean water and electricity represent the future for remote settlements.
Over the 18 months, $25 million will be spent; half on a renewable energy scheme, and the rest on potable water for the main towns of Whitemark and Lady Barron.

Flinders Mayor Carol Cox said replacing old fossil fuel power stations with a new lower carbon energy source was a global aim.

Mrs Cox said it was the third time the council had tried to get a reliable renewable electricity system, and the funding commitment would make Flinders Island the benchmark for remote communities………

Mrs Cox said existing wind power would be integrated with a new wind energy generator, solar energy panels at the airport and a new solar energy field around the power station.

Hydro Tasmania will design and install the new $12.9 million multi-source renewable electricity system on Flinders Island.

Project manager Simon Gamble said it was an exciting prototype that would be the benchmark for remote communities in the Pacific and Asia. Continue reading

April 23, 2015 Posted by | solar, Tasmania, wind | 1 Comment

Senate Inquiry warns of energy “death spiral”

An energy ’death spiral’ could result in electricity prices skyrocketing as more consumers go ‘off-grid’ JESSICA MARSZALEK APRIL 21, 2015   

AN ENERGY “death spiral” could result in electricity prices skyrocketing further as some customers tear up large bills in favour of using their own solar and battery power.

A Senate committee examining the management of electricity networks has found bill shock will become even more shocking for some unlucky customers as improving technology allows other customers to go “off-grid”.

A report prepared by the Environment and Communications References Committee said it was increasingly likely more and more customers would generate their own electricity in the future as technology improves solar and battery power, leaving fewer customers to foot the bill for the growing and expensive electricity network.

“Electricity prices, largely driven by network costs, have risen significantly while the demand for electricity has declined,” the report says.

“This had led to concern about a death spiral; that is, high prices are causing demand to decline while also encouraging consumers and businesses to engage in their own generation activities. Remaining customers would be required to pay an increasing share of the network costs.”

With more than one million solar power systems already on roofs and emerging battery storage technology allowing homes to store their own solar power, we could see an even more dramatic behaviour shift.

The report recommended an urgent investigation into electricity production, asking state governments to “prioritise efforts” to focus on whether networks are properly anticipating more and more customers going “off-grid”. Meanwhile, the committee is still considering allegations of price rorting by electricity company Energex.

The inquiry was sparked by an Energex whistleblower’s revelations published in The Courier-Mail last year that it looked into manipulating data to target a higher rate of return. The issues will be discussed in the inquiry’s final report, due by May 5.

April 22, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Report shows Australia could have 100% renewable energy by 2050

Aust-sun100% Renewable Energy Powered Australia Possible By 2050 April 22, 2015

Australia has the potential to reach 100% renewables and zero net emissions by 2050 according to a report from Australian National University’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy.

Commissioned by WWF-Australia, the report’s primary focus is on how deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, and at a low cost. An important strategy is boosting uptake of renewables.

The report notes 100% renewable energy can be supplied through utilising existing technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels and concentrating solar thermal.

Surplus or deficits in supply could be addressed by molten salt storage associated with solar thermal plants, biomass-fired generators and existing hydropower.

However, a rapid shift to 100% renewables could be problematic in that it would mean early retirement of significant existing power generation assets – and while that may be attractive to many; it’s not going to happen without a massive fight.

“A more gradual transition to a near-zero carbon system, by around 2040, would take advantage of natural asset turnover and be more cost effective, and would be combined with early targeted retirement of Australia’s most emissions intensive power stations. Almost all of Australia’s existing electricity generation assets will be retired before 2050 in any case.”

Going green in such a big way doesn’t mean ‘we’ll all be rooned’.

“Most economic modelling indicates that ambitious mitigation action does not dramatically change the structure of the Australian economy, and that all industries that are growing in the base case,” says the report.

The devil in the detail is policy stability – a devil we’ve become all too familiar with already. The current argy-bargy over Australia’s Renewable Energy Target has seen new investment in large scale renewables practically stall. Local investment in new large-scale renewable energy projects collapsed in 2014 to levels almost 90 per cent lower than the year before.

“The solution is clear: set an ambitious long-term goal for reducing carbon pollution, and take decisive action to make it happen,” said  Kellie Caught, WWF-Australia’s National Manager – Climate Change. “That’s the kind of leadership hardworking taxpayers deserve – let’s commit to leaving things better than we found them.”

The report, “Australia Can Cut Emissions Deeply And The Cost Is Low” can be viewed in full here (PDF).

April 22, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

As Abbott govt delays decision on RET, South Africa races ahead with renewable energy

Map-Abbott-climateThe contrast with South Africa, another coal dependent country, could not be greater. It has so far contracted for more than 5,000MW of large scale wind and solar and announced overnight it would look to install another 6,300MW – much of this solar PV and solar thermal, where it has become a leader in the global market.

developers in WA are confident their projects can go ahead, because of the unique nature of that market, and there are numerous smaller projects that could also get the tick of approval, and finance, if a resolution is found

Parkinson-Report-First 100MW solar plant points to missed opportunity in Australia, REneweconomy  By  on 17 April 2015 In a ceremony attended by the heads of AGL Energy and First Solar, and ministers from the NSW government – but not the federal government – the last and 1,366,380th solar panel was installed on the 102MW Nyngan solar farm in western NSW on Friday.

And while it is a welcome thought that Australia has finally made it onto the big solar map, it also highlights just what could have been for big solar in Australia. Continue reading

April 18, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

New South Wales goes for big solar energy

sunBaird and Nyngan bask in big solar energy switch by  on April 17, 2015 The Federal government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) may still be in political limbo, but states are voting with their sustainable dollars after New South Wales’ Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts and Minister for the Environment Mark Speakman cut the ribbon on what has been hailed as the installation of the final solar panel at Australia’s largest solar project. Continue reading

April 18, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s Previous Chief Scientist spells it out on global warming

Repeating this item. What a pity that the excellent full article has been removed from the Australian government website!

Why we must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Australian Government 8 Dec 09 Despite world attention, humans emit more greenhouse gases every year than they did the year before. It’s a situation that Australia needs to help turn around if we don’t want to bear the brunt of climate change, says Chief Scientist Professor Penny Sackett……

..The Greenhouse Effect
The sun continuously bathes the Earth with energy in the form of sunlight. Much of this energy is absorbed by the Earth, and then emitted as infrared radiation, or heat. Greenhouse gases prevent the Earth from discarding as much of this heat as it otherwise would back into space.

Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases, the Earth would be a much colder place, inhospitable to modern human existence. But by the same token, the additional greenhouse gases added to this store by humans is slowly increasing the average temperature of the Earth system.

Due to the quantity in which it is emitted by humans, its longevity in the atmosphere, and its effects in trapping heat, carbon dioxide is the most important of the greenhouse gases currently causing changes in the Earth’s climate……

In Australia, extreme fire danger days are already becoming more numerous in many parts of the country, and floods and cyclones more intense.

Research by the CSIRO indicates that the frequency of days with very high and extreme Forest Fire Danger Index ratings is likely to increase by 15 to 70 per cent by 2050 in southeast Australia…..

Why we must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions | Chief Scientist of Australia

April 17, 2015 Posted by | 1, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, energy | , , | 1 Comment

Queensland’s Newman government gutted the renewable energy industry

Newman-destroys-renewablesCampbell Newman’s LNP government ‘gutted’ renewable energy industry RENEWABLE energy jobs in Queensland fell by over a third under the Liberal National Party government, Energy Minister Mark Bailey says., Courier Mail, 15 Apr 15 

Mr Bailey said new Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed a third of jobs in the sector vanished under the previous state government.

He said actions such as the former government’s cuts to the renewable energy target had caused the loss of 1300 jobs.

“No wonder jobs were vanishing under the LNP when they were removing any incentive for businesses to look at industries of the future like renewables,” Mr Bailey said………

Mr Bailey said the current Labor Government’s commitment to the solar sector, a renewable energy target and a renewable energy auction would grow jobs for the sector.

But the deputy opposition leader said he was yet to see any detailed government plan to create jobs.

April 15, 2015 Posted by | energy, Queensland | Leave a comment

The Parkinson Report: renewable investment near zero, but rooftop solar grows

Parkinson-Report-Australian renewable investment plunges to near zero, but rooftop solar grows By  on 14 April 2015 The crisis affecting investment in large-scale renewable energy projects in Australia has deepened, with new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance pointing to a 90 per cent drop in the 12 months to March 31, thanks to policy uncertainty under the Abbott government.

The BNEF data shows new investment Australian large-scale renewable energy projects tumbled in the 12 months to March 31 was just $206.9 million – a fall of 90 per cent – and only one large scale renewable energy project (worth $6.6 million) was financed in the first quarter.

But the data hides an even worse story. Of that $206.9 million, $160 million came from government agencies – such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – that the Coalition government is trying to scrap. Without that support, investment would have been virtually zero. The one project to get financed in the latest quarter was for a unique floating solar pilot project in South Australia.

BNEF says the dramatic drop is almost entirely due to the policy uncertainty brought about by the election of the Abbott Coalition government, and attempts by key members to firstly scrap, and now severely cut the previously bipartisan target of 41,000GWh by 2020.

The Clean Energy Council, supported by Labor and key industry groups, has proposed a compromise of 33,500GWh, but so far the Abbott government has refused to budge from its position of 32,000GWh. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has indicated that even that figure is too high for many in Cabinet.

The BNEF data shows new investment Australian large-scale renewable energy projects tumbled in the 12 months to March 31 was just $206.9 million – a fall of 90 per cent – and only one large scale renewable energy project (worth $6.6 million) was financed in the first quarter.

This followed zero investment in large scale projects in the previous quarter. BNEF noted the exit of Banco Santander, the world’s third largest clean energy lender, from the Australian market, as reported by RenewEconomy here.

In contrast, the uptake of rooftop PV by households and businesses has been largely unaffected, with about 195MW of  rooftop PV capacity in the sub-100kW category installed in the first quarter, a 7 per cent increase on the same quarter a year ago.

The data came as new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Monday showed the number of renewable energy jobs in Australia had fallen by 2,300 or 15 per cent up to June 30, 2014 – not including the latest downturn.

The Abbott government is hoping to strike an agreement with cross-bench Senators, many of whom are actively anti-wind and involved in a Senate-sponsored wind inquiry. However, Ricky Muir, from the Motorists Party, said he wanted a bipartisan agreement between the two parties.

He suggested Labor could even drop to the 32,000GWh limit demanded by the Coalition, with the idea of lifting the target if elected at the next election. That, Muir said, would at least provide a floor for investment.

April 15, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | 1 Comment

Loves coal, hates solar, friendly to nuclear – Tony Abbott’s Energy White Paper

The energy white paper also continues its attack on solar…..

Abbott-dancing-3Interestingly, it says it recognises the argument that nuclear is a costly alternative to renewables, uses lots of water and has waste-disposal issues. But it also says others argue that it is “adequate” affordable and reliable, and has significant environmental benefits and public health advantages over other existing base-load technologies. It says it will consider the outcomes of the South Australian Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle, including its use as an energy source.

The winners and losers of Abbott’s energy white paper (SPOILER: Tony likes coal), Abbott-fiddling-global-warmCrikey,  GILES PARKINSON | APR 08, 2015  In many ways, the Coalition’s energy white paper is a predictable piece of backward-looking falsehoods. But it does make some surprising concessions to a future of renewable energy. Today, the Coalition government released its energy white paper — the document that is supposed to outline the nation’s energy vision for the short and long term future. But there are no surprises for guessing that this is a document that is largely focused on the rear-view mirror.

The energy white paper begins with a false assumption: that “Australia’s large quantities of traditional energy resources provide low cost, predictable and reliable power for Australia and the world”.

They don’t. Coal might be cheap to shovel into a boiler, but it is mighty costly to transport. Grid (delivery) costs make electricity in Australia some of the most expensive in the world. Transport and shipping costs make coal and gas expensive, to the point where they are now being undermined by local, renewable alternatives — or a new focus on environmental policy — even in major markets such as India and China.

Like the Abbott government’s discussion paper on emission reduction targets released late last month, this document also works on the principle that the world will do nothing new to address climate change. The energy white paper’s assumptions are based on the International Energy Agency’s “new policies” scenario, which sets the scene for what would be a catastrophic rise in temperatures to an average 4 degrees.

No matter, the Abbott government concludes: “Ongoing access to large volumes of coal and gas will also underpin our energy generation mix for some decades.” Although it does at least acknowledge that these fuels will be “increasingly exposed to competition from renewable energy”.

Not that it intends to accelerate that transition. Quite the opposite. Continue reading

April 10, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | 8 Comments

Australian Government’s Energy White Paper- mixed messages on renewables

Govt releases energy white paper, Climate Spectator AAP 8 APR, The federal government wants Australians to fork out more for power in peak times, such as hot days, and less when demand is lower.

Cost-reflective tariffs could also increase power bills for people with solar panels to make sure they’re paying their fair share of network upkeep.

Instead of being charged a flat rate for electricity, where infrastructure costs are equally shared, consumers would pay the cost of delivering the power at the time it’s used.

The proposal is outlined in the government’s energy future blueprint and would require households to install advanced metering – or smart meters – to monitor how much energy they’re using………

The paper touches on Australia’s “good potential” for a range of renewable energy sources and outlines a commitment to a sustainable clean energy sector.

But it also reaffirms a commitment to cutting the renewable energy target and plans to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

While the government doesn’t detail a promised national energy productivity plan, it does say a 40 per cent target by 2030 is achievable.

It also doesn’t rule out nuclear energy, with Canberra closely watching the outcome of South Australia’s royal commission into the possibility of a local industry.…….

April 9, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Bette health for Port Augusta with solar thermal power plant

Port Augusta solar thermal power promises better health SA Conservation Council says South Australia’s peak environment group says the need for solar thermal power in Port Augusta is an urgent health issue, as well as having climate change implications.

A study by Alinta Energy has found solar thermal technology is currently economically unviable.

Conservation Council of South Australia chief executive Craig Wilkins said a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta would not only help with jobs but improve local health.

Mr Wilkins said Port Augusta residents had suffered the health impacts of coal for decades.

He is calling for greater government support.

“We’ve got a dirty industrial plant which could be transferred to a cleaner technology which would help with jobs and the community’s health and that is a shift to the solar thermal as quickly as possible,” he said

April 9, 2015 Posted by | solar, South Australia | 1 Comment

Griffith University’s promising battery energy storage system


According to the research from Griffith’s School of Engineering and published in the journal Applied Energy, a forecast-based, three-phase battery energy storage scheduling and operation system provides benefits such as reduced peak demand, more efficient load balancing and better management of supply from solar photovoltaics (PV).

Researcher Mr Chris Bennett, working under the supervision of Associate Professor Rodney Stewart and Professor Jun Wei Lu, has developed and applied an intelligent scheduling system to a South-East Queensland-based LV distribution network servicing 128 residential customers.

“The low voltage network is a typical suburb of a few hundred homes where there is a single area transformer and recently there has been a substantial increase in the number of homes with installed residential solar PV in these settings,” says Mr Bennett.

“Daily peak demand in residential networks typically occurs in the evenings in summer and both late morning and evening in winter. But because solar PV generation is dependent on incoming solar radiation, peak generation occurs during the middle of the day, typically when demand in the residential distribution network is low.”

“This means there is an incongruity between when energy is generated and when it is required, which can lead to power supply and quality issues.

“However, with a battery energy storage (BES) system comprising Lithium Ion battery banks coupled with smart power control systems, such as STATCOMS, and featuring embedded intelligent forecasting software, we can better manage the LV network.”……..


April 4, 2015 Posted by | efficiency, Queensland, solar | 1 Comment

RePower Port Augusta explain how Solar thermal power plant project could be economically viable

Solar thermal power plant project at Port Augusta ‘economically highly unviable’, Energy says A group lobbying for a solar thermal power plant to be built at Port Augusta in South Australia says Alinta Energy may have overestimated the project’s cost.

The company’s latest report into the potential for a solar thermal power plant near the Upper Spencer Gulf city has found the project to be “economically highly unviable”.

Alinta owns the coal-fired Northern Power Station and the disused Playford Station but a study report found that a funding gap and falling electricity demand meant a conversion of the station to solar thermal was unlikely to happen.

But Lisa Lumsden, from the group RePower Port Augusta, said the finding was unsurprising given the uncertainty around the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET).

The Federal Government is yet to decide on the figure set for a national target on the amount of energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.”As we continue to have no decision and no action and certainty around the RET, the prospect of solar thermal happening in Port Augusta becomes less and less,” Ms Lumsden said.

There has been a strong push from the local community in recent years to convert the coal-fired station to renewable energy.Ms Lumsden said new technologies and plant configurations meant the project could actually be much less expensive than Alinta predicted.

“If they take that all into account over the next two or so months, and bring that information to the fore, we know that some of that will bring the costs down significantly, like more than half,” she said.”We know some of those technologies have the capacity to do that.”

Alinta Energy said that even under the most optimistic scenarios, it would fall short of the $570 million capital cost by about $150 million.

Ms Lumsden said the State Government should step in and fund the $150 million shortfall.

The company is continuing to investigate the project’s potential.

April 4, 2015 Posted by | solar, South Australia | 1 Comment

Wind energy company gives up on Australia due to RET uncertainty

Renewable energy sector crisis forces Banco Santander to quit Taralga wind farm, SMH,  March 31, 2015  Angela Macdonald-Smith Banco Santander, a major investor in renewable energy, will sell its only Australian wind farm and exit the local sector because of policy uncertainty that has dragged the industry into crisis.

Santander will seek a buyer for its 90 per cent stake in the 106.8 megawatt Taralga wind farm near Goulburn, which is not being included in the renewable energy fund it set up late last year with two Canadian pension giants because of the perceived poor prospects for the sector in Australia, say sources………

Santander is closing the Sydney office for its equity investment arm, which focuses on renewable energy, in mid-2015.

April 2, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, wind | Leave a comment


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