smh: Creating electricity at home: the cleanest and most sensible option under the sun

Solar energy benefits the state by providing electricity at much cheaper rates than those of traditional sources, writes Matthew Wright.

It may appear counter-intuitive, but getting millions of solar panels onto rooftops saves more money than it costs. Feed-in tariffs enacted by state governments have enabled ordinary Australians using their savings to build a solar power station at home benefiting the community.

When those solar households who had saved to get their panels installed under the solar feed-in tariff programs export their solar production to the grid, which occurs mostly during higher demand daytime periods, they are given a slightly higher than average retail rate for the electricity they are selling. The prices they have been paid are relatively meagre when compared with the ridiculously high rates paid to big coal or gas power plants.

At the same time that little solar households who have invested their money in a rooftop power station are being paid between 44¢ and 60¢ per kilowatt hour, the old power companies with their dirty belching coal and gas plants are receiving as much as $12.50.

Namoi Valley Independent reports: Solar plan for a ‘field of mirrors’

A Sydney-based solar energy company wants to turn Gunnedah into an iconic global solar hub.

Beyond Zero Emissions, a small non-government organisation, is proposing to transform Gunnedah into a “field of mirrors” as part of its plan to provide a road map leading to 100 per cent renewable energy within 10 years.

Beyond Zero Emissions’ (BZE) Andrew Longmire was recently in Gunnedah to discuss the potential of a project presentation to council, with council’s Manager Economic Development and Tourism, Chris Frend.

Mr Longmire is one of only 14 full-time employees of BZE, which boasts 300 volunteers in its quest to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy within the next decade.

He said BZE’s prospectus had already met with overwhelming approval with the council of Port Augusta, and he was confident Gunnedah Shire Councillors would be similarly impressed.

Adelaide Now reports: Replacing coal smoke with mirrors

By Mark Ogge

SOUTH Australia has a new Premier. Now it's a good time to talk about a different type of power - the power that turns your lights on.

The Playford B coal power plant in Port Augusta has been operating since the early 1960s. Having been a key part of the state's electricity system for decades, its retirement is imminent.

Playford B's owner Alinta is seeking federal funding to shut it down, finally putting an end to a major source of climate-changing carbon emissions and the pollution that afflicts the local community.

CSG protestors target firm in Brisbane

Nine news reports:

Anti-coal seam gas protesters claim a consultancy firm is sitting on a study into CSG emissions because it doesn't like the conclusions.

A handful of protesters gathered outside energy consultancy WorleyParsons' Brisbane office on Wednesday, chanting "WorleyParsons, QGC, what are you trying to hide from me".

StopCSG Brisbane spokesman Ewan Saunders says the consulting firm has suppressed a report on coal seam gas (CSG) emissions, commissioned by a climate think tank in June, because it has a multimillion dollar contract with CSG company QGC.

Renewable Energy Lifeline for Australian Manufacturing

By Matthew Wright

Coal’s days are numbered.

The transition to renewable energy is now well underway. It will put an end to the adverse health impacts coal mining and combustion now has on the health of Australian families such as those in the Hunter Valley. The increased rates of asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular illness that affect thousands will be a thing of the past.

In terms on climate change, the shift to renewables will do more for reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions than the carbon price championed by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and the Labor government.

For a city like Newcastle, whose development is historically linked to the coal industry, the beneficiaries of business-as-usual will no doubt present the decline of coal as a threat.

The truth of the matter is that the rise of renewable energy is an economic opportunity the likes of which we’d be foolish to miss. The Pew Charitable Trust values the economic opportunity at up to $2.3 trillion over the next decade.

New investment, new jobs, and new export industries are all there for the taking. But securing these benefits for Newcastle and Australia will require political leadership today.  

Cleaning Up The Climate Debate

Dan Cass writes at Climate Spectator:

A recent poll confirms what I have come to believe after watching the global warming issue for 20 years; renewable energy is the only way to save the debate about saving the planet.

If the UN wants to make progress in the climate negotiations and closer to home, if Julia Gillard wants to win the next election, then the debate should be couched in terms of the tangible benefits of today’s solar and wind technologies.

A poll by Essential Research, conducted during Australia’s recent carbon price negotiations, shows overwhelming public support for investment in solar and wind, and that this support might just win the politics of a carbon price.

The poll shows that the public loves renewables, but that this sentiment is vulnerable to attacks from various clean energy detractors. Solar and wind have been politicised and companies need to step in and vigorously defend their interests.

Waking up to the Solar Dawn

By Matthew Wright

Every week Suntech, the world’s biggest photovoltaic manufacturer, is pumping out hundreds of thousands of solar panels to power households and businesses across the globe. Dozens of other companies in China, Germany, Korea and elsewhere are doing the same.

The solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry is a prime example of renewable energy’s growing success story. In 2010, the world’s solar PV factories could produce in excess of 38 gigawatts of panels in just one year. By the end of 2011, that production capacity will have expanded to 50GW of solar panels (24GW will be installed).

On Line Opinion: Small Island Mentality

Australia is sometimes criticised as having a "small island" mentality; despite spanning over 7 million kilometres and hosting a population of over 22 million people. Australian politics since the Howard era has been characterised by a reluctance to embrace change, a fear of Australia's ever-vulnerable borders being breached and a reluctance to let go of the coal-mining, land-dependent image of the Aussie battler.

Despite students and the unemployed emerging from the Global Financial Crisis with $900 worth of stimulating spending money and the rest of the continent left relatively unscathed, Australia hangs on to the "times are tough" mentality - responding with hysteria to pricing carbon, hysteria to asylum seekers travelling by boat and slowly shifting denial to the realities of climate change.

Globally, Australia is comparatively doing fine. We don't have thousands packed in protest in one of our busiest streets. Nor do we have unemployment at a devastating 9%. We don't have widespread unease and violence, nor do we have an immanent fresh water crisis with no long term solution.

TRANSCRIPT- Mark Ogge radio interview with ABC Port Pririe

ANNETTE MARNER, PRESENTER: Well, will solar thermal power replace the coal-fired Playford B power station at Port Augusta? Now, Port Augusta has two coal-fired plants: Playford B, which became fully operational back in 1964; and the second is the Northern power station, which was commissioned in 1985. Now, these plants provide something like 40 percent of the State’s electricity supply. The older one is used during periods of higher demand - that’s the Playford one - for example, during a heatwave when we’re all running air conditioners. And as we know, the coal for the plants is mined at Leigh Creek and brought to Port Augusta by rail.

Now, Beyond Zero Emissions is an independent not-for-profit organization, they say they receive no government or industry funding. Now, they’ve released a report called Repowering Port Augusta, and very much, the focus is on a vision for Port Augusta being the hub of solar thermal power, ultimately, replacing both [coal-fired] power plants.

Mark Ogge is from Beyond Zero Emissions and joins us. Mark Ogge, welcome to ‘Late Afternoons’ today.


CSG Needs a Long, Hard Look

Matthew Wright, November 24:

The contentious issue of coal seam gas has become a federal government concern in the dying days of the 2011 parliamentary sitting year. To gain the backing of independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor for the minerals resource rent tax, the Labor government has agreed to set up an independent committee to study the environmental impacts of CSG, but the new body won’t end the uncertainty surrounding the controversial industry. 

According to reports, the $150 million Independent Expert Scientific Committee will advise governments on the impacts of CSG extraction on the environment and water. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is essential that the scope of the inquiry includes a comprehensive evaluation of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of CSG, particularly fugitive emissions.

 The prudent course of action would be for Australian governments to impose a moratorium on CSG mining until its impacts, particularly on water and greenhouse gas emissions, are properly understood. To proceed without this understanding risks irreparable damage to Australia’s productive farmland and aquifers, and a pulse in emissions that could easily eclipse any emissions saving made under the Clean Energy Future package. In the meantime, these uncertainties represent a very real risk to those investing in this embattled industry.

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