ACT Labor: renewables policy for 2016 not 2012

Climate and renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions congratulate ACT Labor for ambitious targets in their early-announced 2016 renewable energy policy, “Action Plan 2”.

“The plan for 90% renewable energy is a great step forward compared to the national 20% renewables target. It’s particularly good to include large scale solar and wind farms explicitly in the proposal,” said Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Energy efficiency and public transport improvement targets in the short term are also positive.”

However, Beyond Zero Emissions questions the timeline of the policy.

“Too much renewable energy and climate action planning is deferred until future governments, beyond the responsibility of today’s ministers,” said Mr Wright.

BZE submission to the Renewable Energy Target Review now available

To download the full submission click here.

(NOTE: Some people have trouble downloading files from our website, with some downloads stopping before completion. If you have this problem then right-click on the link and "save link as" to save the file onto your computer)

We welcome the opportunity to provide comments in response to the Review of the Renewable Energy Target Issues Paper. We believe that the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme has been a crucial mechanism in deploying renewable energy in Australia to date. However, we also recognize a desperate need to achieve a transition to a 100% renewable energy electricity system and rapid decarbonisation of the Australian economy. The RET is one policy option that can play an important part in the decarbonisation challenge and rollout of renewable energy generation.

This submission outlines the following key points:

  • The 20% RET acts as a limit to renewable energy deployment;
  • The 2020 RET should be expanded to 40% (82,000 GWh) and continue to support the development and deployment of wind generation;
  • The RET should be expanded beyond 2020 to continue the  deployment of renewables, and prevent a boom/bust scenario;
  • The ‘phatom RECs’ should be removed from the scheme to rejuvenate the wind industry;
  • The RET should not be a floating percentage target;
  • The RET should be expanded to accommodate CEFC funded projects;
  • Any consideration of scheme cost of the RET schemes should include the Merit Order Effect;
  • The shortfall charge should be increased to prevent liable entities simply paying the charge;
  • Waste Coal Gas should be removed from the scheme;
  • The SRES scheme is important to support a suite of technologies;
  • Feed-in tariffs are a superior support mechanism. Whilst state-based schemes are rolled back, and until there is a national feed-in scheme, the SRES scheme should provide a set subsidy;
  • Alternative mechanisms (e.g. large scale-feed in tariffs, or additional banded RETs) must be considered to achieve a 100% renewable energy system. The RET must be able to compliment additional support mechanisms; and
  • Future reviews should be limited to increasing the RET.

Adelaide, SA: Repowering Port Augusta, Rally for Solar

When: SUNDAY September 30th


Location: Rundle Park, Adelaide (next to Rymill Park opposite the corner of East/North tce)

Want help to make SA the solar state? We know we need to move away from ancient fossil fuel technology, to clean renewable energy – now is our chance!

Port Augusta is a town at a crossroads. With two coal-fired power stations closing, there is the opportunity to decide what they are replaced with: Australia's first solar thermal plants or a combined cycle gas plant.

Recently, the Port Augusta community voted strongly (over 4000 for solar v 43 for gas) that they wanted a solar future for their town. The mayor, the business council and the owners of the coal stations all want it. Following this pressure and meeting with many politicians, the State government have said they support the idea too!

To build the solar plant, we need the Federal Government to chip in some funds. This means we need to make Port Augusta a national issue.

That's why 100 of us are walking 325km from Port Augusta to Adelaide in September, and we need you to join us in Adelaide to deliver the voices of thousands Australians who want SA to become the Solar State.

Come along with some friends to welcome the walkers and show South Australia our vision for a renewable energy future. There'll be bands, dancers and cyclists - it's a family friendly event!

Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan Update

Slides from Trent's presentation are available here

The Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) Buildings Plan is set to launch in the coming months. The ZCA Buildings Plan aims to demonstrate that there are no technical barriers to zero emission buildings in Australia. Project Director, Trent Hawkins, will take us through energy efficiency retrofits, thermal modelling software, implementation timelines, economic case studies, and the renewable energy strategies, that will make every building energy self-sufficient (i.e. zero net energy consumption) within a decade. 

Whatever your incentive, energy efficient building design and sustainable performance is an absolute no-brainer. It would reduce Australia's total carbon emissions. It would present energy savings for bill payers and more healthy and comfortable homes. This also has reciprocal benefits for government spending: a healthier population and more breathing room for the transition to renewable energy.

Trent's presentation vodcast (via University of Melbourne's Echo360 lecture capture system) can be found here

Zero emissions homes: save the climate and money, in comfort.

If you aim for a zero-emissions house, you can live in comfort, while saving money and the climate. That’s the message from research and practice, according to climate and renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

Members of the public will have a chance to see it for themselves on Sustainable House Day this Sunday September 9th, when BZE researcher Richard Keech and BZE volunteer Michael Day are showcasing their homes to the public.

Michael has recently won the Yarra Sustainability Awards for "innovation in sustainable design" and has had his home featured in Sanctuary Magazine.

Richard has showcased his home in Moonee Valley and has conducted extensive monitoring and analysis on his house since retrofitting it for sustainability.

“I’ve saved over $14,000 on avoided energy charges since 2007,” Richard said.   

“At this rate I’ll repay the upfront costs in about ten years, and in the mean time the home is much more comfortable.

“And after the investment is repaid, I’ll be cutting my cost of living significantly.”

Trigeneration: Sydney's white elephant

Matt Wright

The City of Sydney is comparing apples with oranges when it promotes its Trigeneration Master Plan (designed in partnership with Origin Energy and subsidiary Cogent Energy) as cleaner than burning coal in centralised power plants.

Beyond Zero Emissions’ fundamental criticism of the trigen plan has yet to be adequately answered. In May, I pointed out in an article that it’s easy to look better than the coal-dominated status quo, but it would have been more legitimate if the City of Sydney had compared its plan to other possible efficiency upgrades with similar capital expenditure and energy costs.

Now the Property Council of Australia has weighed into the debate with a submission that backs this up. The Property Council suggests that energy efficiency (demand reduction) and renewable energy sources should be the first priorities before trigen is considered.

This suggestion is welcome. Inefficiency in city office energy use is driven by poor building design, and high peak loads when old, inefficient air conditioners are used to compensate for this poor design.

It’s time for the City of Sydney to park the trigen plan, and start implementing energy efficiency measures and building renewables. If it does that thoroughly, it will find trigeneration unnecessary.

Trigeneration plant

Trigeneration gas engine

Gas industry in denial over carbon emissions

MEDIA RELEASE 4th September 2012

Industry talk of developing an industry in “low emissions” coal-seam gas is a fantasy, according to renewable energy and climate think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

Yesterday, the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) released their  Australia’s Unconventional Energy Options report, which advocates the development of unconventional gas supplies such as coal-seam gas and shale gas.

The report found that “the social licence to operate is in serious jeopardy” according to CEDA chief executive, Stephen Martin.

BZE’s Executive Director Matthew Wright said “Unconventional gas not only hasn’t got, but also doesn’t deserve a social licence.”

“There is all this talk of lower emissions with gas, but we have yet to see a convincing evaluation of the emissions from leaking methane, a killer greenhouse gas, in unconventional gas fields.”

Clouding a bright solar thermal future

The July 31 Australian Energy Technology Assessment from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics has been hailed by the government, and renewable energy advocates, as a step forward for Australia’s ‘clean energy future’.

It is true that the estimates in the AETA are an improvement over the recent Energy White Paper. However, its modelling of high future costs for Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) energy are based on assumptions that are not specified, and so cannot be held up to scrutiny. This makes it impossible to judge their accuracy or compare them to alternative scenarios.

The Australian Energy Market Operator is soon to begin modelling a 100 per cent renewable energy grid for Australia. (You can see its scoping document here)

Beyond Zero Emissions is concerned that the confusion on CST costs caused by the AETA could lead to false results in AEMO’s modelling. CST is the key technology for achieving 100 per cent renewable energy in Australia.

Santos’ shale gas adventure to slug SA households over $260 a year.

Santos’ foray into expensive shale gas will increase household bills by a whopping $263 each year.

Santos has admitted that shale gas will double the wholesale price of gas, adding $163 to average gas bills, but neglected to mention the impact on electricity prices, which will add at least $100 to household power bills.

Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) spokesperson Mark Ogge said that “South Australia is dependent on gas for half its electricity. Doubling the wholesale price of gas will cost consumers another $100 or more on their power bill, bringing the total increase to more than $260.”

“Santos will make a killing out of shale, but households and businesses will pay for it, particularly since the company has point blank refused to put any gas aside for South Australians,” says Mr Ogge.

“Shale gas is a step backwards for South Australia,” says Mr Ogge. “These are unnecessary price rises, when there is an obvious alternative.

“South Australia is one of the sunniest places on earth. Investing in solar allows South Australians to avoid becoming dependent on polluting and expensive unconventional gas.”

Santos Moomba gas plant

Using coal exports as a lever for climate action

In the first part of this article, we provided evidence that suggests Australia’s current coal exports, and more so their projected doubling by 2020, is unlikely to be replaced by other international coal exporters, should Australia withdraw from the market.

We argued that restricting Australia’s coal exports could constrict the demand for coal – by pushing up the international market price. Our LNG exports could follow a similar path.

We drew on the report Laggard to Leader: How Australia can lead the world to zero carbon prosperity, published by climate and renewables think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions. The argument in that report is for a moratorium on increasing coal and LNG exports, and seeking agreements with other countries to begin phasing out those exports in tandem with deploying and developing renewable energy.

We can get a sense of just how much Australia can affect prices for these commodities, simply by looking at what the January 2011 Queensland floods did to coal prices. Around 34 per cent of Australia’s coal exports were affected (and Australia exports around 27 per cent of the world’s traded coal; that means there was a drop of nearly 10 per cent in traded coal).

While metallurgical (coking) coal prices spiked by as much as 150 per cent, “Thermal coal prices were also pushed up, with the benchmark price for thermal coal to Japan, Australia’s largest coal buyer, settled at a record $129.85 per tonne in April 2011.”

So what can restricting Australia’s coal exports leverage, and how is the best way to do it?

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