Renewable energy

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and activist.  In 1988, he wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a common audience about global warming.  He is the co-founder and Chairman of the Board at, an international climate campaign that works in 188 countries around the world.

Beyond Zero Radio's Vivien Langford talked to Bill on his recent 'Do the Maths' Australian tour in June 2013. Bill McKibben's also has a new movie of the same name, 'Do the Math'. In November 2012, following publication of his Rolling Stone article, Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, Bill McKibben and hit the road to build a movement strong enough to change the terrifying math of the climate crisis by getting people, colleges and governments to take their cash out of coal investments.

Join the Fossil Free Australia community today to bring on the clean energy revolution!

Do the Maths: Bill McKibben argues for divestment

Kurri Kurri Gathering part 1: The Sunrise Project & Sierra Club

Beyond Zero radio takes you to a gathering in rural NSW today. The Sunrise Project gathered landowners and activists, politicians and people ready to go to jail in the battle to wake us up to climate change. They were at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley, at the:

Our Land, Our Water, Our Future: Beyond Coal and Gas Gathering 2013 from 18-20 May.

As part of the three-day meeting, participants were involved in training and skill-shares in fundraising, media and legal processes. Together, we discussed how to counter mining industry spin with economic research, groundwater modelling and peaceful civil defence in ‘open space’ workshops and keynote talks.
Vivien Langford first speaks to Jonathon Moylan about pressuring your bank or super fund to stop lending to new coal or gas projects. He caused  the share price of a coal mine to plummet by putting out hoaxed press release from ANZ. Then Vivien gets the low down on how to mobilise from Sierra Club organisers Bob Bingaman and Jacinta Vargas.

Professor Colin Butler from Canberra University describes the health impact worldwise of an addiction to coal. Then stay tuned for  Ian Dunlop. He is a business insider who has managed coal companies and former president of the Australian Coal Association. His message to the mining industry is to think again, to face up to the fact that 80% of the coal oil and gas has to stay underground to get on track with the decarbonised economy.

Food for a zero carbon world

Oxfam Australia’s food justice spokeswoman, Melita Grant, is challenging Australians to take up six practical actions to help ensure that everybody has enough food always, as part of the GROW Challenges initiative. 

How? By taking up actions such as eating seasonal, organic, and sustainable foods; supporting small-scale farmers in developing countries; eating less meat and dairy; reducing food waste, and saving energy in the kitchen.

How can algae be turned in to food? Kevin Murphy from Advanced Algal Technologies talks about development & commercialisation of several innovative methods of industrial algae biomass production for end use in key industry sectors.

On 6 May 2013, environmental group Quit Coal unfurled a giant banner from the top of Flinders Street Station, calling on Premier Napthine to 'get off the coal train and get on track for renewables'.

Climbers scaled the landmark building's exterior to unveil the sign and were charged with trespass when the protest ended. “Premiers come and go, but climate change will be a long-term challenge for Victoria,” says Quit Coal spokesperson Chloe Aldenhoven. “This issue requires politicians to be visionary, to be honourable and to think beyond their term.”

Australia’s first solar towers are not yet built, but they have a name

The construction of what could be Australia’s first stand alone solar thermal power station has not even been agreed, but it has been named.


Need to cut carbon urgent

By Kris Keogh

LAST week, for the first time in human history, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were measured at more than 400 parts per million at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the world's oldest continuous CO2 measurement station.

This little fact, without any context, doesn't seem all that important.

To understand why CO2 levels matter, let's first run through the basics.

Large amounts of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels.

This CO2 stays there for thousands of years, trapping heat from the sun, slowly raising the temperature of our planet. A temperature increase of even a few degrees can drastically change how and where we can grow food, work and live.

A level of 350ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is where many scientists believe we can stop the runaway affects of climate change. Unfortunately, we passed 350ppm in 1988. In the past decade the CO2 level has risen by an average of 2.1ppm a year.

Today's rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.

To cut a long story short, climate change, due to our continued use of fossil fuels is very, very real.

Governments across the world have paid lip service to this issue for the past two decades, with very little actually being done.

We need real action, fast. We need to end our use of fossil fuels so the CO2 level can start to drop.

Unlike Australia, some countries have already become powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. Iceland generates all of its energy by geothermal and hydroelectric means.

Last year, our Federal Government commissioned the Australian Energy Market Operator to examine the feasibility of Australia going 100 per cent renewable.

Their recent report found it to be possible at costs almost identical to a business-as-usual model. Other institutes, including The University of New South Wales and Beyond Zero Emissions have also published studies with similar outcomes.

Success Stories & John Hepburn

To restore our faith in community climate action, Beyond Zero's Vivien and Nick celebrate success stories. Recent success against the fossil fuel giants include: 

Electricity prices fall: renewable energy deserves merit

By Dylan McConnell

Dylan McConnell is a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne

Let’s be honest: the relationship between renewable energy and the electricity market is complex. So what does the latest report from Australian energy research firm RepuTex tell us?

Well, for a start, coal-fired power has reached a ten-year low.

The report, widely covered in the media, shows coal now makes up 74.8% of the National Electricity Market (NEM), down from 85.8% in 2008-2009.

At the same time the contribution of other energy, and renewable energy in particular, has risen. Hydro power makes up 8.7% of the market, with wind making up 3.8%, both record highs for these energy sources. This leads to the conclusion that greenhouse emissions in the NEM have also reached a ten-year low.

The RepuTex report indicates that both increased renewable energy generation and weaker demand is putting a “squeeze” on traditional generation.

This is ultimately reducing the market price of electricity as renewable energy competes with coal and other traditional energy sources. But, as said, the relationship between renewable energy, competition and market prices is complex.

Does renewable energy lower prices?

In 2011 the Victorian Auditor-General reported that the brown coal industry was concerned that the 10% renewable energy target would deliver too much too quickly which would reduce wholesale electricity prices and impact on brown coal generators.

We looked back and modelled the hypothetical impact of distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) on electricity prices in 2009 and 2010. Lowering the wholesale cost of electricity might offset the costs of renewable energy support schemes.

Using the model we estimated introducing 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar would lower the market price of electricity by more than A$1.8 billion over 2009 and 2010. When we completed this analysis there was a minuscule 385 MW of solar in the electricity market. Now there is already 2,500 MW, making our estimate look conservative.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts 12,000 MW to be installed by 2030 in their “moderate” scenario. The impact of PV on market demand is already starting to show on the market.

The average wholesale electricity prices for 2011-12 were the lowest (in real terms) since the market commenced in 1998. Even with the carbon tax, prices are not much above the long-term average of about A$50 per megawatt hour (adjusted to 2013 dollar terms). Recently, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) reported that wind generation is moderating wholesale electricity prices in South Australia, and when there is less wind, prices are higher.

Another myth busted on the road to 100% renewable electricity

By Mark Diesendorf

Ten years ago it was extraordinary for scientists, engineers, policy-makers and decision-makers to consider the possibility of 100 per cent renewable electricity for a country or group of countries. However, the progress of several key renewable energy technologies has been so rapid that the scene has totally changed since then.

Solar photovoltaic modules have dropped about 75 per cent in price. Current scientific and technological advances in the laboratory suggest that they will soon be so cheap that the principal cost of going solar on residential and commercial buildings will be installation. On-shore wind power is spreading over all continents and is economically competitive with fossil and nuclear power in several regions. Concentrated solar thermal power (CST) with thermal storage has moved from the demonstration stage of maturity to the limited commercial stage and still has the potential for further cost reductions of about 50 per cent.

Two countries, Denmark and Scotland, have official targets for 100% renewable electricity, Denmark by 2050 and Scotland, which already has a lot of hydro, by 2020. To meet its official greenhouse gas target of at least 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, Germany will have to achieve close to 100 per cent renewable electricity too. The governments of these countries are not just talking – they are implementing policies to achieve their targets.

Hour-by-hour computer simulations of 80-100 per cent renewable electricity are an inexpensive and informative means of investigating different options and for busting some of the old myths about renewable energy. They have been performed for at least eight countries and regions. In Australia a ground-breaking single simulation was performed by the NGO Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and published in 2010.

Subsequently the University of New South Wales group of Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and Mark Diesendorf performed many simulations of 100 per cent renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM). In our initial research on the technological feasibility, we found that we could change some of the expensive assumptions made in the BZE study, namely discard the hypothetical transmission link to Western Australia and greatly reduce the large proportion of CST power stations, and still meet the NEM’s reliability criterion. We could further increase the reliability by making small reductions in the winter peak demands through energy efficiency or demand reduction using ‘smart’ devices.

Germany grabs renewable lead as Australia drops back

By Finn Peacock


In 2009, Germany sprinted past the European Union's 12 per cent Renewable Energy Target three years ahead of schedule.


Germany's response? Raise the bar.


Europe's biggest economy is now aiming for 35 per cent of energy to be derived from renewable sources by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030, 65 per cent by 2040 and 80 per cent by 2050.

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