Merit order: How solar FiTs could cut energy bills for all

A study from the Melbourne Energy Institute suggests that the benefits of solar energy on the National Electricity Market could outweigh the costs of feed-in-tariffs, and could deliver energy cost savings for all customers, rather than an impost as is commonly believed.

The conclusion comes from a draft of the latest update of its study – which also includes researchers from the ANU’s Solar Thermal Group, Beyond Zero Emissions, and Clean Technology Partners – into the merit order effect, which relates to the impact that energy sources with small or zero marginal costs (such as wind and solar) can have on the overall grid by lowering prices.

The merit order effect is considered crucial in the debate around clean energy deployment because it suggests that the cost of incentives – such as renewable energy certificates or feed in tariffs – can be offset by the benefits this energy has on wholesale prices in the NEM. Once a wind farm or a solar farm is constructed with an upfront subsidy, its low marginal cost means that it can bid beneath coal and gas generators into the energy stack. This reduces margins for the coal and gas generators, but it also delivers considerable savings on wholesale prices, particularly solar, as it delivers into the grid at times of higher demand.

Climate Spectator: Solar's hot, even when the sun is not

Matthew Wright

On the cloudiest day in the gloomiest weather, when I check my solar system I find it is still generating and exporting clean renewable energy into the grid. My solar system, like all rooftop solar systems, generates even when it's cloudy. That's because solar technology is able to produce electricity under diffuse light conditions.

Generally speaking, in the darkest, cloudiest hour on the gloomiest day, your solar system will be generating as much as 25 per cent of a normal clear day output. On a day with light cloud cover, your system could be achieving as much as 50 per cent of a normal clear-day's hour of production.

Why Germany should aim for 200GW of solar

Matthew Wright

German energy experts and the renewable energy industry are now calling for a national target of 200GW of solar power by 2030.

And Germans know how to meet a challenge. They set a target of generating 20% of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources and got there 10 years ahead of schedule in 2010. And rooftop solar, still in its infancy, came from nowhere and will power more than 4% of Germany’s electricity needs this year.

Speaking at the “2nd inverter and PV System Technology Forum 2012,” in Berlin, German renewable energy expert Professor Volker Quaschning, of the University of Applied Sciences, was met with applause when he suggested that Germany could meet a target of 100GW of rooftop solar by 2020 and 200GW of solar by 2030.

Solar can deliver in FiTs and starts

Matthew Wright

In the Icy German Winter, during the 12 days of Christmas, Germany installed more than 3 gigawatts of solar PV.

In comparison, for the past two and half years. our Federal Labor Government has been announcing, and re-announcing, its Solar Flagships program. And, as you might have guessed, despite the fanfare, nothing has been paid for or built. (Update, see our story on CS Energy quitting Solar Dawn consortium).

In May 2009, when Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson announced the Solar Flagship program, he claimed the $1.37Bn on offer to build an additional 1,000 MW of solar generation capacity, "was funding on an unprecedented scale for the development of solar power in Australia."

Losing farmland to fossil fuels

Matthew Wright

Climate spectator reports:Today, across NSW, farmers are participating in wind projects by co-locating wind turbines on their land. Just 2,000 modern 7.5MW on-shore wind turbines would provide enough electricity to power more than half of NSW.

The NSW government is opposed to wind and the development benefits that accompany it, including financial benefits of $8,000 per wind turbine. This money flows to farmers who are choosing to diversify and play a part in the 21st century move to a renewable powered economy.

The NSW Liberal Party policy, now law, sets up a buffer zone of 2km around any house in the state for the sighting of wind turbines. Our farmers, many of whom are doing it tough, are being deprived by this ill-thought-out decision to effectively ban wind turbines from the entire state.

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.  

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