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Multi-billion dollar inaccuracy

High speed rail debate update

Researchers point to a $190 billion profit miss on the federal government’s high-speed rail study, Marion Lopez reports. From Contractor magazine, August 2013

In light of potential cost savings valued at $40 billion, the ARA has called for the HSR project to be put to market.


Image: Spanish T350 high speed train

Fatty costs and lean profits were, in brief, the cost-benefit analysis’ that came out of the federal government’s $20 million phase 2 high-speed rail (HSR) study in April.

One month later, researchers at Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) proved the exorbitant $114 billion project price tag was simply a build-up of “fat” – or superfluous technicalities – that, when cut, could reduce construction costs by $40 billion.

Further research into the forecast profits of the project also unearthed the discovery that the government officials and consultants paid to conduct the study – including AECOM and sub-consultants Grimshaw, KPMG, SKM, ACIL Tasman, Booz & Co and Hyder – had underestimated HSR revenue by as much as $190 billion.

High-speed rail network $30 billion cheaper than first thought: study

ABC Lateline - by environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer

A comprehensive new study investigating east coast high-speed rail argues that it could be $30 billion cheaper than first thought and pay itself off entirely within 40 years.

The rail debate is back on track, with the Federal Government vowing to speak to the states about the project and to protect a future corridor for the network.

The Melbourne-Sydney flight route is the fifth busiest in the world and for decades governments have been discussing high-speed rail as a solution to ease the pressure on airports.

Clean energy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the German aerospace centre came up with a model of a 1,799-kilometre route, linking Brisbane with Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Video: click to watch news story at ABC website

LIVING GREEN: Plan cuts out carbon

By John Shiel and Stephen Williams, Newcastle Herald

 THERE was standing room only at the Newcastle launch on November 14 of the Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan at Hunter TAFE Hamilton campus.

The plan shows how all buildings in Australia could have no carbon emissions within 10years.

It is the result of a collaboration between Melbourne-based not-for-profit group BZE and the University of Melbourne’s Energy Institute.

Melbourne is Australia's most car-mad city

By Adam Carey. The Age, 22/11/2013

Outer Melbourne is the most car-dependent region in Australia's four largest cities, new data reveals, with a greater proportion of suburban fringe dwellers who drive to work than on the outskirts of Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.

Experts predict the automobile's dominance is on course to become further entrenched, with Melbourne forecast to grow by roughly the population of Adelaide, the country's fifth-biggest city, in the next 20 years, while the state's current commitment to new public transport routes is limited to just one rail line and one bus route.

Melbourne's outer suburbs make up seven of Australia’s 10 biggest population growth centres between 2001 and 2011. Image: The Age

What price the carbon price?

By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, November 21

We all know that the act of 'putting a price on carbon' has contributed to the downfall of three Australian prime ministers and two opposition leaders.

What might not be as well known is that carbon pricing has gone relatively unnoticed in other countries, particularly in Europe, but also in our close neighbour New Zealand.

When I was working in the OECD on emissions trading from 2002-2004, the European Commission was designing and implementing an emissions trading scheme with little attention from anyone in the community. This followed schemes that had been implemented in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the UK, with no outcry from the general populace.

So why all the fuss in Australia? Is carbon pricing just another political football?

Abbott at protest against carbon price

Energy forum sparks renewable interest

By Shannon Twomey, The Weekly Times

COMMUNITY owned renewable energy was a hot topic at the Energy Futures Forum.

The forum was run by BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group and Yes 2 Renewables and was held in Seymour on Saturday afternoon.

It saw guest speakers discuss issues surrounding energy use in the home, the risks of coal seam gas in Victoria and the potential for community solar in Seymour.

Trent Hawkins, the lead author of Beyond Zero Emissions Buildings Plans discussed how households can reduce electricity consumption and save money on power bulls while reducing climate change impacts.

Cut emissions and save on household bills

From BEAM blog

 Seymour and surrounds can reduce their carbon emissions to zero with four simple steps.

Trent Hawkins, Project Director of the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, will talk about how this can be done at the Energy Futures Forum in Seymour on November 16.

Energy Futures Forum: Victorian Railways Institute Hall (near Seymour Station Bus Terminal), Seymour, Saturday 16 Nov, 2-5pm. Entry by gold coin.

The four steps are going gas free, fixing the building envelopes, installing energy efficient appliances and lighting, and rooftop solar to power every home.

Energy freedom on or off the grid?

By Ben Courtice. Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013

It's long been a favoured wish of many environmentalists to go off the grid, to be self-sufficient in energy and other services, and avoid the corporate utilities and their coal-powered electricity. The ambition for freedom from energy bills and fossil-fuel electricity is understandable.

I was born and lived until the age of eight in an off-grid Queenslander farmhouse. We didn't even have a telephone. The most energy intensive technology we had was a kerosene-powered refrigerator which we ran some of the time. Of course, living far from the city, we were able to use wood for heating and cooking. Living off-grid was easy enough if you didn't mind the low-tech lifestyle.

And now in the age of relatively cheap solar panels (which weren't around in the 1970s), you can live off the grid and use a huge battery attached to a large array of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, to maintain a hi-tech lifestyle on clean solar energy.

Cooking without gas

A zero carbon future means ditching gas for solar power.

By Michael Green. From The Age, November 3, 2013

Together, Australia's houses could produce more electricity than they use, according to think tank Beyond Zero Emissions. And the transition need not take long.

The analysis, released recently in its Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, shows that comprehensively retrofitting our buildings with insulation, double-glazing and efficient lighting and appliances could more than halve their energy use.

On our rooftops, we have space to accommodate enough solar panels so that our homes would collectively produce more energy than they consume, averaged over a year.

Methane matters: Is the future electric?

Richard Keech critically examines the sustainability of gas.

From Renew, magazine of the Alternative Technology Association, issue 125

I’VE heard it said that 50% of what we’ve learnt is probably wrong; the trick is knowing which 50%. I submit that the received wisdom that gas is a clean fuel is probably wrong.

Consider more generally the burning of materials for their direct energy content. The use of wood, then coal, then oil and gas has underpinned the entire arc of human progress and achievement. But the advent of electricity meant much of that combustion no longer took place with the end user. At a time when renewable energy sources such as solar thermal, solar PV and wind can displace increasingly large amounts of that burning, why are we still persisting with policies that favour the burning of gas?

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