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

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

Hundreds launch Zero Carbon Buildings Plan

Australia's buildings could halve their energy use within a decade, to make a major contribution to reducing the nation's carbon emissions – and save money on energy bills in the long run as well.

A large crowd packed out an auditorium at Melbourne University to hear this message at the launch of the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan on August 8.

The report, from climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions and the University's Melbourne Energy Institute, is “the largest crowd-sourced research project yet, and has maintained high academic quality,” said Dominique Hes, University of Melbourne senior lecturer in Architecture, addressing the launch.

Download the full Plan here (PDF, 28MB)

A plan to fix Australia's buildings

The first comprehensive, nationwide plan to fix Australia's buildings' energy use and greenhouse impact is to be launched this week at Melbourne University.

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan – a joint project of climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions and The University of Melbourne Energy Institute – demonstrates how all existing buildings can reach zero emissions from their operations within ten years.

“Australian buildings are not up to the challenges of today,” explained lead author Trent Hawkins.

“Our buildings are generally too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and use a phenomenal amount of energy to run basic services.

“This plan shows how Australia can transform our existing buildings to reduce energy bills, increase comfort and health, and generate renewable energy.”

The Buildings Plan outlines how Australia's existing buildings can cut their energy use in half.

Image: retrofit modelling for a typical Melbourne residential building category (from ZCA buildings report)

It's time to start limiting the gas industry

Gas industry campaign omits gas price hike

July 29 2013

Australians should stand with the farmers who are stopping coal-seam gas developments, not the gas companies who stand to gain, according to a leading climate solutions and technology think-tank.

“It's time to start placing more limits on this industry, not removing what limits we have,” said researcher Richard Keech from Melbourne think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions, in response to the gas industry's "natural advantage" campaign.

Seaspray "No Gasfields" human sign, July 28 2013. Image: Quit Coal

Is climate action working?


With the first year of the carbon price just over, we've seen a lot of commentary and hyperbole from all sides.

Fortunately some facts are also available. Emissions have fallen. Prices have not skyrocketed and the sky has not fallen in. Case closed?

Jenny Riesz and Roger Dargaville have written an incisive, almost forensic analysis of the first year of the carbon price at The Conversation which provides some clarity, while also demonstrating that it is much more complicated than some would like to think.

Supporters of BZE can take heart, however, from the analysis. Whatever the future may hold for the carbon price, the real heroes are just what BZE has said they would be: renewable energy — supported in particular by the Renewable Energy Target (RET) — and energy efficiency.

Govt underestimates high-speed rail profits by $190 billion

The government has underestimated by $190 billion the profits of its Melbourne-Brisbane high-speed rail (HSR) plan, enough to repay the capital cost of the network, according to Researchers at independent think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

Sydney's energy backdown: first step to zero gas future

Trigeneration gas power stations not the way to green energy

Beyond Zero Emissions, 11 June 2013

Climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions has welcomed yesterday's announcement that the City of Sydney is abandoning plans for its fossil-gas powered trigeneration precinct.

“We opposed this ill-informed scheme from the outset,”said BZE buildings researcher Trent Hawkins.

"At a time when fossil gas reserves are running down in Eastern Australia, and prices rising in line with the export market, increasing reliance on gas was always a mistake. It could only be supplied by increasing the production of coal-seam gas.”

Graphs: Can high-speed rail cut air travel emissions?


Australia’s domestic air travel (and its associated greenhouse emissions) has grown markedly – especially in the last 10 years, as this graph illustrates.

Air travel (passenger km) data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics

We have calculated emissions using the short-haul average emissions per passenger-kilometre as used by the UK government. This takes into account radiative forcing effects of combustion at altitude, nearly doubling the climate impact of the emissions compared to Australian government estimates.

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