Australian news, and some related international items

Radioactive Repeat: federal radioactive waste Groundhog Day increases uncertainty

A small town on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula is again in the frame as a site for Australia’s nuclear waste despite being ruled out of consideration less than one year ago because of deep community concern and opposition to the plan.

Yesterday federal Resource Minister Matt Canavan formally accepted two revised site nominations and initiated a 90 day process to measure community views on a planned facility for the disposal of low level and extended storage of higher level radioactive wastes. Last April two previously nominated sites in the region were ruled out of federal consideration.

“This plan is simply not the best way to advance responsible radioactive waste management in Australia”, said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Revisiting a community that has already made its view clear looks more like Canberra’s frustration than community consultation.

“Less than a year ago Minister Canavan’s predecessor Josh Frydenberg ruled the Kimba region out, now it is back on the table. This radioactive waste is a direct hazard for many thousands of years – far longer than any politician’s promise.  Short term thinking about long term waste is not good policy or practise.”

ACF joined other environment and public health representatives in the Kimba area last week in a visit that included a public meeting, stakeholder meetings and a regional tour. There is clear and continuing community concern and opposition to the waste plan.

The plan will put further pressure on an already stressed community and further highlights the continued uncertainty in the governments wider approach given it is also exploring a controversial site in the Flinders Ranges at the same.

“There has never been an independent assessment of long-term management options in Australia, rather just a decades long search for a postcode,” said Dave Sweeney. “It is time to stop repeating past mistakes and adopt a new and better approach”.

ACF supports a wide civil society and stakeholder call for Australia’s radioactive waste to be managed in improved storage facilities at existing federal sites to allow for a credible, comprehensive and open exploration of the full range of future management options.

March 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Federal Government running amok in SA communities over nuclear waste

The Federal Government’s decision to advance two sites at Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula for assessment to house Australia’s nuclear waste will cause stress, division and uncertainty for SA communities.

Less than a year ago two proposed sites near Kimba were removed from a national shortlist because of community opposition.

“The Federal Government is toying with the lives of South Australian communities,” said Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins.

“Kimba’s original nominations were scrapped due to a lack of broad community support and that opposition remains. This process is damaging and dividing our towns. It is thoughtless, inconsiderate and inconsistent.”

The planned national facility would store intermediate level radioactive waste currently at Lucas Heights in Sydney and dispose of low level waste and contaminated soil from Woomera.

Wallerberdina, a highly contested site in the Flinders Ranges, has been the focus of the federal site search to date and remains on the table despite community opposition.

“The expansion of the site search to Kimba is also a federal vote of no confidence in the Wallerberdina site,” said Mr Wilkins.

“Instead of causing more division and stress across our regional communities the Federal Government should take all the sites off the table. We need a responsible and inclusive approach to radioactive waste management where a proper process is prioritised over our key farming and tourist postcodes.”

South Australia has a history of resistance to radioactive waste projects, from defeat of a plan to establish a facility in the north of the state under the Howard Government to widespread public backlash over the recent push to import and store international nuclear waste.

“We have long-standing state legislation that prevents the establishment of radioactive waste dumps. We will use this and more in our work to support regional communities and keep South Australia free of nuclear waste dumps,” concluded Mr Wilkins.

March 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Weird pro nuclear spin about solar energy being more dangerous than nuclear

Should We Be Concerned About Low Levels of Radiation?’ a talk by Dr.Ian Fairlie

Derek Abbott Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia March 18  Thought for the day: When nuclear apologists gleefully announce that more solar panel workers die falling off roofs than nuclear workers from radiation, their excitement is not only creepy but the sentiment is flawed on three counts.

1) The long term effects of radiation accidents haven’t been fully quantified as we have not yet had long term post-Chernobyl empirical experience.

2) The chance of death on the road is over a 1000 times higher than in flight. Yet we all know that air travel is potentially much more dangerous than road transport. And because it is so much more dangerous, the governance around flight is much more strict. We are seeing relatively few immediate deaths from nuclear precisely because it is so strictly controlled. People falling off roofs is tragic: but it does not absolve nuclear. Instead it does tell us we need to increase roof worker safety standards.

3) Solar penetrates urban areas in a distributed fashion, whereas nuclear is placed away from urban centres. So the comparison is not fair to begin with. If we hypothetically replaced domestic solar panels with small nuclear reactors at each house, this decentralized penetration of nuclear would be open to many more mishaps. This would be the correct comparison

March 20, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster | 1 Comment

First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance- a formidable lobby group takes off

Whereas high energy prices often drive Indigenous people off their traditional lands, lower-cost renewables can help communities to thrive no matter how remote.

“We can build a power station where the community exists,” .. “so people are able to successfully live in the environment the way they want to live and have access to power which enables them to better determine their economic future.”

How an Indigenous renewable energy alliance aims to cut power costs and disadvantage
First Nations lobby group will support remote communities looking to make transition – and tackle climate change,
Guardian, , 17 Mar 17 

Like so many of the Indigenous communities dotted across the Australian continent, the remote communities in north-west New South Wales are struggling. “These are not happy places,” says the Euahlayi elder Ghillar Michael Anderson.

Many of the 300 or so residents of Anderson’s hometown of Goodooga rely on welfare, he says. Exorbitant electricity bills – up to $3,000 a quarter for some households – further exacerbate the poverty. “We’re always at the end of the power line, so the service that is there is quite extraordinary in terms of cost.”

Many other communities rely on expensive, emissions-intensive diesel-powered generators to meet their electricity demands. “It’s a real problem and we need to make sure that we fix this,” Anderson says.

To that end, Anderson and 24 other Indigenous leaders have formed the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance, which aims to tackle high power costs and entrenched disadvantage – along with climate change – by pushing for renewable energy in Indigenous communities. Continue reading

March 20, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Australian householders turning to energy independence with solar and battery storage

Households abandoning the grid have ‘lost faith’ , The Age, Brian Robins, 17 Mar 17  The federal government has been warned that the rise in spending on solar energy systems is clear evidence households have “lost faith” in their energy suppliers, as they move to get greater control over the cost of their electricity bill.

In its submission to the Finkel Review which is being conducted into the future security of the electricity market, Energy Consumers Australia said its research has highlighted the shift that is now emerging.

“While assumptions are often made that generous feed-in-tariffs and solar PV’s clean attributes have been the primary motivators for their uptake, our research indicates that the primary reasons consumers are investing in this technology is to manage consumption and gain control of costs. The desire for independence from the grid is a particularly strong driver for early interest in battery storage,” it says.

“We see this as a clear indication that consumers have lost faith in the traditional market’s capacity to deliver value for money, and are taking matters into their own hands.”

Energy Consumers Australia undertakes regular detailed surveys of household attitudes to their energy supplies and while most households are not actively engaged in the retail market for electricity, due to a variety of factors, as many as 1.5 million households have engaged by making a significant investment in solar rooftop photo voltaic systems, it said.

And even as the historically generous subsidies supporting the installation of these systems is being wound down, its research has found that a third of households are considering installing these systems over the next five years, with as many as 27 per cent considering installing battery storage systems. But these options are more limited for households which rent or live in accommodation which is unsuitable for the installation of these systems.

“This risks the costs of building and maintaining the [national electricity market] being increasingly recovered from a subset of consumers who are on lower incomes, haven’t been able to break into the housing market, or small businesses in commercial premises subject to investment decisions by owners,” it noted in its submission to the review.

Similarly, its community consultations have found more consumers want to be able to trade or share electricity at the local level…….

March 20, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar, storage | Leave a comment

Snowy Hydro plan – Turnbull camouflaging its renewable energy side from his colleagues

sometimes the leader of the nation can join the policy discussion only by disguising his good ideas in a drizabone and bush hat, lest they be recognised for what they are by his own colleagues.

It’s great news – but sadly, Turnbull’s hiding the greens under the mash, Guardian, 18 Mar 17  Lenore Taylor

Huge potential of pumped hydro at Snowy Mountains could pave the way for a 100% renewable energy grid, but don’t tell the prime minister’s colleagues “……This week the prime minister announced some details of a big idea he has been hinting at all year – the massive potential of pumped hydro to help solve Australia’s energy crisis.

But like a parent hiding the nutritious goodness of veggies under the familiar stodge of gravy and mash, he covered the truly exciting potential of his plan under the reassuring nostalgia of a revived “nation-building” Snowy Mountains scheme, complete with hard hat and hi-vis vest.

It was duly reported as a “blast from the past” and a “trip down memory lane” with much reassuring emphasis on the jobs that could be created and file footage of hard-working post-war immigrants.

But – if it works – this revived Snowy Mountains scheme could actually pave the way for a reliable 100% renewable energy grid. It could end all that talk about how we need super-duper extremely “clean” coal for “baseload” power. Once you can store and dispatch power at this scale, the whole idea of “baseload” has been overtaken. And this latest “push” for nuclear energy will be dead before the mining industry has a chance to wind up another million-dollar advertising campaign. If the feasibility studies are positive, it won’t be a “blast from the past” at all, it will be a big leap into the future. Continue reading

March 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

73% of Australians want investment in solar, not coal

Ian Chappell stands by Adani mine letter despite being called ‘elitist’ by Coalition MPAdani ‘categorically’ rejects letter signed by 91 prominent Australians as protesters confront Queensland premier during tour of Adani’s Indian HQ, Guardian, , 17 Mar 17 “……A new ReachTel poll has found 73% of Australians agree that “the best thing for Australia would be for Adani to invest in large-scale solar power stations, rather than a new coalmine”.

The poll, commissioned by the Australian Marine Conservation Society, surveyed 2,134 Australian residents on Tuesday.

They were also asked whether the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and regional mayors currently on a trade mission to India should be “seeking investment in clean energy solutions like new solar power stations or in coalmines”.

It found 72.1% preferred solar while 14.6% preferred coal.

copy of the open letter shows 91 signatories, including former Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, Perth-based UK-born comedian and author Ben Elton and investment banker Mark Burrows.

It “respectfully” called on Adani’s billionaire chairman, Gautam Adani, to drop the mine plan for three reasons. It would drive global warming that threatened the Great Barrier Reef nearby, it loomed as a “public health disaster” according to the medical journal Lancet; and it “does not have wide public support in Australia”, the letter said.

ACF is appealing a federal court finding against its challenge to commonwealth approval of the Adani mine on the grounds it did not account for climate change impacts on the Great Barrier Reef through carbon emissions.

The court ruled the federal environment minister was entitled to find that if Adani did not go ahead, emissions would come from coal sourced elsewhere. The ACF argues this is “the drug dealer’s defence”.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s unstoppable transition to renewable energy

The question is whether the Coalition really is prepared to do something about bringing electricity prices down, or just wants to keep talking rubbish about how renewables will drive them up.

Swing to renewables will be unstoppable, THE AUSTRALIAN, ALAN KOHLER 18 Mar 17 Out of the thick haze of energy politics, something clearly significant emerged this week.

The expansion of Snowy Hydro is a very surprising, genuine game-changer: it shifts the power balance in Australian policy decisively towards renewables. If the project happens, a big if, the last fossil fuel electricity generator in this country has already been built.

It was possible because Snowy Hydro is the acceptable face of renewable energy, allowing, a heroic, soaring prime ministerial doorstop: “These are big dreams in these mountains, real courage, a belief in the future, a confidence in Australia.”

But the important point is that the Coalition’s electricity solution no longer seems to involve “clean coal” or gas.

There’s still a long way to go — after all, Malcolm Turnbull announced only a feasibility study, and then appeared to confirm that it was a stunt by using the press release to one-up South Australia’s battery plan: “My energy storage is bigger than yours.”

So the whole thing could turn into a pointless pissing contest between hydro and solar/wind/batteries. In fact, let’s face it — it probably will.

But even if that happens, and even if energy policy descends once more into political farce, at least the thermal power oligopoly would be out of the game, no longer exerting its hold over policy with the aim of maintaining margins.

And that is the significance of this Snowy Hydro expansion: it marks the end of thermal power. From here the swing to renewables will be fast, unstoppable and eventually complete….. Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull’s desperate Snow job – as he pushes a hydro power renewable energy solution

Turnbull’s desperation … is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

Among other things, it [the Snowy pumped hydro scheme]  would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify……

plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

Is Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 a breakthrough, a distraction or both?, The Age, 18 Mar Adam Morton  “…. Depending on who you listen to, Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme is a bold piece of nation-building by a Prime Minister who had found his mojo, or a cynically timed thought-bubble that is years away at best……

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” he said …… Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Weatherill govt has tried to be constructive, but attacked unfairly by Turnbull govt

The government must fix this unconscionable energy mess – it owes us that much Guardian, Katharine Murphy, 17 Mar 17   “…Jay Weatherill’s ambush of Josh Frydenberg this week wasn’t pretty, but Canberra had it coming – now the government needs to step up “……Who could really blame the South Australian premier this week for saying screw you Canberra in two pretty spectacular ways – with a big package to boost the state’s energy self-sufficiency, and by crash-tackling Josh Frydenberg in a suburban garage in Adelaide?

It really wasn’t the high point of democratic representation, gotcha in the garage; kind of depressing, really – but the government in Canberra really had that one coming.

 The Weatherill government has tried to play a constructive role in the energy council, the state and federal decision-making body which sits under the Coag umbrella. They’ve done that for years, in fact you’d categorise their efforts as a leadership role undertaken while Canberra roiled, raged and regressed – so they really don’t deserve whipping boy status…….

March 18, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

Open Letter to Adani

 We ask you to abandon proposal to dig coal mine in Qld’s Galilee Basin  16 March 2017:

“Dear Mr Adani
“We are writing to respectfully ask you to abandon the Adani Group’s proposal to dig the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.
“We would like to put to you three reasons why this mine should never go ahead.

One, the Carmichael mine would be the biggest coal mine ever dug in Australia.
Once its coal is burnt, it will contribute more climate-changing pollution to the atmosphere
than the entire country of New Zealand does every year. …

Two, coal is a killer.
Coal is the biggest single cause of air pollution in Australia. …
Last month The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, published a report that described your company’s Carmichael mine proposal as a
“public health disaster”. …

Three, this mine proposal does not have wide public support in Australia
and does not have the support of the Traditional Owners of the land where the mine would be dug.
There are concerns about the impact the mine will have on groundwater resources and on nearby farmers who rely on this water for their livelihoods. …

We the undersigned – and we believe all Australians – would support and welcome moves by your company to invest further in renewable energy in Australia. … “

March 18, 2017 Posted by | aboriginal issues, climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Stop Adani: Australian delegation release new poll,  attend Adani HQ mtg

‘Three quarters of Australians polled want Qld Premier and Mayors, on their trade mission to India,  to pursue Adani investment in solar not coal’
~ Australian Marine Conservation Society | AMCS
17 March 2017:

”   New poll shows three quarters of people believe Qld Premier & Regional Mayors, in India today, should pursue solar not coal.
Meeting between Adani HQ Senior Management and community delegation of Geoff Cousins AO, Qld farmer, tourism operator and reef campaigner.
With the hotly contested Third Test between India and Australia underway, former Cricket Captain Ian Chappell says renewable energy is the future. … ”

Ian and Greg Chappell call on Adani  to abandon Carmichael mine project
‘Former Australian test captains say opposition to mine in Australia could affect sporting ties with India, in letter directly appealing to Adani boss’

~ Joshua Robertson @jrojourno 16 March 2017:  ” … The Chappells, well-known through their sporting exploits in India where the Australian team is currently playing, joined 90 prominent Australians in the letter, which will be delivered to Adani’s head office on Thursday. … ”


March 18, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland | Leave a comment

Virtual power plant achievable within 5 years – AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey

‘Virtual power plant’ is here, says AGL Energy’s Andy Vesey, AFR, 17 Mar 17 Home storage batteries will be cheap enough within five years to make the “virtual power plant” achievable, revolutionising energy and making investment in traditional plant harder to justify, AGL Energy chief executive Andy Vesey says.

Mr Vesey said that batteries would be about the same $3500 price that AGL is charging 1000 Adelaide householders for its virtual power plant trial, a fraction of the $16,000 full price of the Sunverge batteries used in the trial. They could pay themselves off in about five years.

“It’s coming,” he told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch. He said grid scale batteries proposed by Tesla and others already offer value in the right circumstances.

Virtual power plants – “behind the meter” energy resources such as batteries, solar panels, software and smart thermometers managing power-hungry appliances – are one way to ease pressure on the grid and help prevent blackouts such as those plaguing South Australia. ….

Mr Vesey said on Friday that adding storage to solar homes was like adding refrigeration to agriculture, changing the way consumers interact with the power grid and the investment equation for energy companies….

He said when you put 1000 rooftop solar households with batteries together and control them in the cloud “you fundamentally have a 5 megawatt peaking plant on the edge of the grid. It changes everything”. ……

March 18, 2017 Posted by | solar, South Australia, storage | Leave a comment

Seawater pumped hydro could help South Australia

Snowy Hydro gets a boost, but seawater hydro could help South Australia, ABC News, 17 Mar 17 The Conversation  By Roger Dargaville, University of Melbourne “………could this technology help to ease South Australia’s energy crisis?

The Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI) report on Pumped Hydro Opportunities identifies several potential seawater PHES locations in South Australia.

This includes a very promising site at the northern end of the Spencer Gulf, with significant elevation close to the coast and close to high-capacity transmission lines.

The Department of Defence manages this land, and discussions are ongoing as to how the project might be designed to not interfere with the department’s operations on the site. A win–win development is the primary design aim.

The MEI study suggests that PHES could be delivered at around $250 per kWh of storage.

This compares well with utility-scale lithium ion battery storage, which currently costs of the order of $800 per kWh, although recent announcements on Twitter from Elon Musk suggest this might be coming down towards $500 per kWh.

The Spencer Gulf site has the potential to provide at least 100 megawatts of dispatchable generation, effectively making the wind and solar generation in South Australia significantly more reliable.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will help fund a feasibility study into the technology, working with partners Energy Australia, Arup and MEI.

If the facility is ultimately built, it could become a key element in SA’s bid to avoid future power blackouts.

Dr Roger Dargaville is the Deputy Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute. He is an expert in energy systems and climate change.

Originally published in The Conversation

March 18, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment

South Australia’s energy policy

Instead of the gas plant, Saddler wants to see the government back solar thermal with storage, even if existing proposals sit at a significantly higher price bracket, such as the $1.2 billion 170MW solar thermal tower proposal for Port Augusta

Renewables and South Australia’s power policy, The Saturday Paper, Max Opray , 18 Mar 17 “……Weatherill said the Frydenberg announcement of a reinvigorated Snowy Mountains hydro scheme showed the federal government was in a “white-knuckled panic” about energy policy. “It is a $2 billion admission that the national energy market has broken and there needs to be public investments to actually fix it up.”

And later, in the same answer: “It is a disgrace the way in which your government has treated our state.”

The showdown came after a week in which the Weatherill government had broken ranks with the National Electricity Market in declaring a “South Australia first” energy policy.

The state has endured a cursed run when it comes to keeping the lights on……

Most of these issues were not the fault of the South Australian energy grid’s high level of renewable energy penetration, but that hasn’t stopped the Turnbull government and other clean coal cheerleaders using the state as a cautionary tale about green energy.  Continue reading

March 18, 2017 Posted by | energy, South Australia | Leave a comment