Zero Carbon Australia Researcher Interviewed on ABC's The Drum

Technical Director of the Zero Carbon Australia Transport plan Patrick Hearps joined ABC 24's The Drum program to discuss the future of Australia's transport system. Electric cars, trams, metros and High Speed Rail powered by renewable energy... Now that's a vision!

Is your solar hot water really so green?

By Matthew Wright

CLIMATE SPECTATOR reports: Showering in solar hot water, it feels good outside and in. But what if your decision to shower in solar was, in part, misguided and is propping up the gas industry?

Well that's the case with most of Australia's existing solar hot water, backed by perverse government subsidies which favour domestic solar boosted by fossil gas.

Now, if you've reading this and you've got a gas-boosted solar hot water heater already, don't get me wrong, you did the right thing at the right time.

But times have changed and the now climate solution is renewables boosting renewables. Edson, an Australian hot water services manufacturer, has released their Heat Pump boosted solar hot water heater – or, as they put it, their Solar boosted heat pump.

Edson are combining the two most abundant renewable resources available to Australians: renewable ambient heat, which is the biggest source of domestic renewable resource, combined with direct solar through a set of evacuated tube collectors, which is our second biggest renewable resource.

Is the Clean Energy Finance Corporation the best way to get clean energy?

THE CONVERSATION report: Last week the Coalition announced it would scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) if it forms government.

As the main renewable energy investment measure included in the Clean Energy Future package, the CEFC is intended to fill a gap in Australia’s climate change and energy policy. Scrapping the CEFC would be a substantial setback to the emerging renewable industry.

By itself, Australia’s carbon price legislation will do little to deliver new renewable energy capacity. Instead, the carbon price is expected to shift the electricity sector from coal to gas generation.

As my Melbourne Energy Institute colleague Patrick Hearps explains:

“Analyses from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Melbourne Energy Institute numbers show that if carbon costs around $25-70/tonne the electricity sector will switch from coal to gas-fired power, and would not drive any extra investment in renewables beyond the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target”.

Abbott opens new front in climate war

By Leigh Ewbank

ABC The Drum reports: This week Tony Abbott and the Coalition opened up a new front in their ideological war against climate change action and carbon pricing.

In a move reminiscent of the US Tea Party, renewable energy has become the new target of Australia's conservative party.

Not content with the 'blood pledge' to repeal the carbon price, Abbott lieutenants Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb announced that a Coalition government would scrap the Clean Energy Finance Council (CEFC). If well designed and administered, the body is a potentially useful aid for Australia's transition to a 21st-Century clean economy. The plan to abolish the CEFC threatens $10 billion of investment: $5 billion exclusively for renewable energy and the remainder available for cleantech manufacturing, energy efficiency and enabling infrastructure.*

The announcement confirms suspicions that the Coalition is becoming an anti-renewable energy party. This unwarranted position has implications for the domestic renewable energy industry, decarbonising the economy, and the political landscape.

Carbon price voted in: What's next?

CLIMATE SPECTATOR reports:A decade after it was first seriously discussed in Australian politics, and on its fourth attempt to make its way through a hostile parliament, Australian is now poised to finally implement a carbon pricing regime.

The passage of 19 bills through the House of Representative on Wednesday, propelled and finally approved by two country independents and a single Greens member, means that the passing into law of Clean Energy Future package is now a mere formality, as the government and the Greens have the numbers in the Senate.

There is no doubt that this signals the start of one of the greatest transformations of the Australian economy, ranking alongside the floating of the currency, the introduction of the GST and other major policy initiatives. But will this transformation be sudden and dramatic, or will it be a slow burn? Climate Spectator asked leading business people, advisors, politicians and lobbyists for their take. This is what they said:

The Western Times: Solar Opportunity

The Western Times report:

WESTERN Queensland has been touted as one of the best locations in the country for the expansion of Australia’s solar industry.  A report by climate change group, Beyond Zero Emissions, found Charleville, along with Roma and Longreach, was an ideal site to establish a solar thermal power plant.

The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan outlines a technically feasible and economically attractive way for Australia to transition to 100% renewable energy within 10 years.

The proposed sites were chosen based on three criteria: their relatively high solar incidence and daily sunlight hours, low winter to summer solar resource ratios and proximity to load centres to connect the solar plants to existing population centres.

Charleville scored equal highest for its high level of solar incidence. Beyond Zero Emissions strategic director Mark Ogge said solar could be a hugely successful industry for western Queensland. “We balanced the quality of the solar resource against the existing grid and demand for electricity,” he said. “Charleville measured up in terms of having a great solar resource.” Mr Ogge said a solar thermal power plant would provide a real economic boom for the region. “These plants employ about 750 permanent workers with ongoing fulltime maintenance jobs,” he said.

Why I have six air conditioners

By Matthew Wright

CLIMATE SPECTATOR reports: A year ago I retired my old, dirty and inefficient gas wall heater, when I had it confirmed that it was using a significant amount of energy heating up outside rather than just inside my house like I would have expected.

Australians are generally unaware about the renewable heat resources available to domestic households, as a clean, safe and efficient competitor to dirty fossil gas.

That's why I bought six air conditioners. Air conditioners have a bad name and a bad wrap and it's completely unearned and unfair. Air conditioners are wonderful technology, like a laptop computer, smartphone or radiology machine. Air conditioners should rightly be called heat pumps, because they pump heat from one location to another. In doing so they concentrate that heat. They can pump heat out of our room making it feel cooler. Or than can pump heat into your room making it warmer.

There is nothing to feel guilty about here.  What you should be feeling guilty about is if you don't have a reverse cycle air conditioners, and you're heating with gas or electric resistive (bar radiators, oil filled heaters, electric fan heaters etc).

The Age Business Day: Coal, shale, sand? Your gas is as good as mine

The Age Business Day reports: WE ARE adults here. We know that there will be some very tough trade-offs that will be needed to tackle climate change. But the oil and gas industry is asking too much if it wants Australians to incur the costs of a coal seam gas (CSG) boom, without clearly pointing out the benefits.

Until lately it was widely assumed that gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal, with lower greenhouse gas emissions. The rise of unconventional gas extraction - whether from shale, coal seam or tight sand gas fields - has called that assumption into question, and guess what? The answer is frightfully unclear.

It would be fair to say most of the data is old or industry-funded or based on different practices used for extraction overseas. Or hidden.

The ''We Want CSG'' ads sponsored by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association say coal seam gas burned to produce baseload electricity produces ''up to'' 70 per cent fewer emissions than coal.

Who's afraid of feed-in tariffs?

By Matthew Wright

CLIMATE SPECTATOR reports: Feed-in tariffs were always set to be controversial – they turn the electricity market on its head by opening it for true competition. But they got more controversy than they deserved thanks to the mistake of green groups who only lobbied for feed-in tariffs for small-scale generators, and the incompetence of state government energy departments for managing to draft legislation that didn’t learn from the spectacular success of the German feed-in tariff legislation, the Renewable Energy Sources Act – legislation that has undergone 10 years of tweaking, overhaul and improvement.

There are two ways that a feed-in tariff will turn the market on its head. The first is through guaranteeing to any private investor/generator (be it big or small, private, bank or equity backed) that they can have a connection to the electricity grid and  a guaranteed buyer of their electricity.

Independent power producers are already allowed, in theory, to participate in the “deregulated” Australian Energy market. Some commentators even claim that our market is one of the most liberal markets in the world, but is that really the case?

Push for Solar Thermal Plant

Beyond Zero Emissions Strategic Director Mark Ogge at a potential Concentrating Solar Themal power site near Port Augusta, South Australia.

THE TRANSCONTINENTAL reports: An organisation that wants to convert Port Augusta’s power stations to solar thermal plants visited the city again last week to further promote its bold vision for future power generation.

Beyond Zero Emissions first proposed the idea to Port Augusta City Council in December last year but have since ramped up their campaign with conjecture that the city’s Playford B power station could close under a carbon tax scheme.

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