What does urban rail really cost to build?

The official estimate of the cost to build the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel is $9 billion but some advocates claim it’s only $3 billion. What explains the huge difference in these two claims?

By Alan Davies. From, Oct 2 2013.

Last week I discussed the worrying tendency of some involved in public discussion of urban issues to treat the facts as if they’re optional (Infrastructure: does getting the facts right matter anymore?). In particular, I pointed to a list of rail projects formulated by Trains Not Toll Roads where the claimed costs in some instances are, I believe, misleadingly low.

One of those projects is the proposed Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. Trains Not Toll Roads, acting on the basis of research by the transport team at Beyond Zero Emissions Inc (BZE), claims the cost of construction would be $3 billion. This is wildly at odds with the accepted estimate of at least $9 billion.

Energy efficiency ‘cheaper than renewables’

All fired up, l to r:  local energy expert Colin George from Cool Planet,  Qld GM of Beyond Zero Emissions Emma Bosworth, lead researcher and presenter Trent Hawkins and Transition Byron Shire’s Sapoty Brook at last night’s event.

Sapoty Brook, Transition Byron Shire -- Echonet Daily

Energy efficiency is a cheaper and easier way than renewables to get reductions in carbon emissions, a new report has found.

And reverse-cycle air-conditioning should replace gas heaters because it uses 80 per cent less energy.

Heat pumps also are better than solar hot water in winter in cooler climates, according to Trent Hawkins, project coordinator for the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan.

These were some of the controversial findings of the report, sponsored by Beyond Zero Emissions, which Mr Hawkins presented to a full house at the Byron Sport and Cultural Complex last night.

Time to ditch the redundant gas network

By Ben Courtice. RenewEconomy

In the record-breaking heatwave that led up to the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, an estimated 374 people died due to the heat – before the fires even started. This is more than double the official figure of 173 deaths in the fires themselves.

Hot weather is a bugbear for many Australians. For the majority, living in temperate areas, summer heatwaves are a source of dread – and not just for the frail, or those in bushfire-prone areas.

It’s even become a topic of national debate – but not because of the early deaths of vulnerable people, or the sweaty discomfort. Rather, because so many people now have air-conditioners due to which electricity networks have implemented expensive network upgrades to cater to peak demand on a few hot days or weeks a year.

How to have zero emissions housing – and tiny power bills – in ten years

By Dominique Hes, The Conversation

A new study says that all Australia’s existing housing could be retrofitted to be zero emissions within ten years. Households could halve their energy use and go gas free. Australian households currently spend approximately A$15 billion every year on electricity and gas bills: this could be largely eliminated. Making this change would not only meet our emissions reduction targets but place Australia as a leader in a future carbon-constrained world.

The plan, launched today by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) as part of the Zero Carbon Australia project, is a follow up to the Stationary Energy Plan, which showed how Australia’s electricity could be supplied by 100% renewable energy sources within 10 years.

Most Australian homes are based on designs from a time when energy was cheap and plentiful, and we weren’t aware of the impact CO2 was having on our climate. Consequently, Australian homes are poorly built for our conditions, wasteful and often uncomfortable. But we can fix them with technology we’ve already got.

Switch off the heater, you won’t need it. IceSabre/Flickr

Buildings can be net zero in 10 years – plan: cut energy use in half, no gas

By Cameron Jewell, The Fifth Estate

7 August 2013 — Beyond Zero Emissions has released its Building Plan, a nation-wide plan to retrofit Australia’s existing buildings, and both residential and non-residential buildings can expect to cut energy use in half if all recommendations are taken up.

The group says it is possible to make all buildings zero net emissions within 10 years, the benefits of which include reducing energy bills, generation of renewable energy and improving health, comfort and productivity.

Australia maps out smart energy plans

By Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon. Asian Correspondent

Climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the University of Melbourne are launching a joint project that hopes to help developers build smarter buildings: eco-friendly and energy-efficient.


A building plan that does more with less

By Robin Mellon. ABC Environment

A plan released today shows how Australian households could cut their energy bills in half. It's an example of what we'll need to cope with the 'new normal'.

FROM INDUSTRY SLOW-DOWNS to rising electricity prices, and from fewer new builds to cost-of-living budgets, there are belts being tightened across the nation.

And the signs indicate that this is not a temporary aberration. This is likely to be the 'new normal' — at least for some time.

This being the case, we need to adopt the basic rule of 'doing more using less', rather than just waiting for things to come good.

Big emissions cuts possible at home, study finds

By Peter Hannam. Sydney Morning Herald

Australia's homes could slash their carbon emissions by half and eliminate their use of gas by investing in efficient electrical appliances now on the market, according to a clean energy advocacy group.

Jointly published with the Melbourne Energy Institute, Beyond Zero Emissions's Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan argues that residential buildings could reduce their operating emissions by 53 per cent, and commercial buildings by 44 per cent, within a decade.

Together, the two building sectors now account for slightly more than a quarter of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

How not to do it -- Photo: Aaron Sawall

Obama is Leading the World to Climate Hell

Dear President Obama, Encouraging Tar Sands Development is Not Acting on Climate
by HELEN GRANT. Counterpunch

Dr. James Hansen’s latest dire warning is that we are on the verge of crossing the point of no return, triggering runaway global warming that would last for centuries, making much of the planet uninhabitable by humans. He asks, “Humanity stands at a fork in the road. As conventional oil and gas are depleted, will we move to carbon-free energy and efficiency – or to unconventional fossil fuels and coal?”

Aust buildings could halve energy use in decade – gas free

BY Sophie Vorrath, RenewEconomy

A nationwide plan to transform Australia’s existing building stock into models of energy efficiency and renewable power generation has found that residential and commercial energy use could be cut in half, and could reach zero emissions from their operations, within 10 years.

The The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan – a joint effort from climate think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions and The University of Melbourne Energy Institute, set to be launched on Thursday – sets out a strategy to retrofit Australia’s buildings, to reduce energy bills, generate renewable energy, increase comfort levels, and make workplaces more productive.

The plan finds the residential building sector would be able to achieve a 53 per cent energy use reduction overall, with some typical home categories seeing over 70 per cent reduction. Commercial buildings are estimated to be able to reduce energy use by 44 per cent overall.

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