South Australia wind power figures vindicate radical energy plan

Yesterday energy consultants EnergyQuest broke the news that wind power supplied 31% of South Australia’s electricity in the last quarter.

Solar panels added another 3.5% to put renewable energy’s share in that state well above coal (26%) and getting close to gas (39.5%).

31% wind energy is up from 21% 12 months ago. Just six years ago, the contribution of wind in South Australia was close to zero.

Beyond Zero Emissions spokesperson Matthew Wright says the findings vindicate his group’s controversial Zero Carbon Australia plan, which outlines a transition to 100% renewable energy in ten years.

“The message this sends is that Australia can rapidly reduce its high fossil fuel use and carbon emissions, over ten years, not the commonly suggested 2050 date for serious emissions reduction targets.

 “Our plan has wind providing 40% of the annual energy of Australia, and making that transition in ten years. Clearly, progress in South Australia shows that we aren’t being so radical after all. Maybe our 40% was conservative: SA are nearly there already, and still adding more wind capacity.

 “If we combine the variable output of wind farms with a flexible, dispatchable renewable energy source we can abandon fossil fuels altogether. Modern solar thermal plants, that can run around the clock off stored heat can do this.

 “We are helping to develop a plan for the first such plants to replace the coal power stations at Port Augusta.

 “Wind energy has proven it is up for the task. We just need to get the right policy such as a feed-in tariff to support the newer solar thermal plants, and Australia can kick its fossil fuel habit for good.”


Sydney trigen? Try again with renewables

Since the industrial revolution, when cities became dirty places, we have been removing pollution from their streets and neighbourhoods.

We’ve seen old central coal plants closed down and replacements built hundreds of kilometres away.

Stricter and stricter vehicle emissions standards have been enacted to reduce local pollution and improve the health, wellbeing and happiness of city dwellers.

So why would you choose to then bring a gas power plant back into the centre of the city, where it will release large quantities of health-damaging nitrogen oxide?

A subsidiary of Origin Energy and the City of Sydney have done a deal to start rolling out trigeneration (“trigen”) gas generators in the most heavily populated urban area of Australia.

Trigen is being touted as the new clean, decentralised system for generating power. You might hear about its fabulous efficiency, or the potential to burn renewable bio-gas in future, but when you remove the spin, it’s just re-packaged fossil gas.

But our concern is not just that it’s not renewable, or the nitrogen oxide gases, among other pollutants, that will damage respiratory health. As it turns out, trigen’s carbon emissions and energy efficiency aren’t that great either.

CEFC a distraction, not a solution: We need a comprehensive renewable energy policy

Renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) has today released its response to the government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) legislation.

To download it click here.

BZE opposes the CEFC in its current form, as it will not secure any extra renewable energy over the already legislated target of 20% renewables by 2020.

Additionally, the government’s flawed definition of “renewable” and low-emissions technology means the CEFC may end up funding dirty, fossil-gas-burning projects.

BZE asks whether the policy is designed to obscure the difference between government-defined ‘clean energy’ and truly clean renewables.

BZE’s statement outlines what will really support renewable energy expansion, in particular a national Feed-in Tariff. This would support key renewable energy technologies such as baseload solar thermal power plants.

To download the statement click here.

For further comment, please contact Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions on 0421 616 733.

Repowering Port Augusta report now available

To download the report click here.

This ground breaking report makes the environmental, social and economic case for the replacement of Port Augusta’s existing brown coal-fired power stations with baseload solar thermal and wind power.

As with all our work, this blueprint is technically detailed, fully costed and backed up by rigorous research. 

There is currently a battle on between renewable energy and gas for which energy source will replace the brown coal generators. Our research shows that building baseload solar thermal power in Port Augusta will:

  • Create 1800 jobs
  • Protect the health of the Port Augusta community
  • Save 5 million tonnes of CO2 each year
  • Result in lower and more stable electricity prices
  • Provide energy security for South Australia

Fossil gas will not achieve a single one of the points above. It will result in job losses, continued pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and volatile electricity prices. As Port Augusta Mayor Joy Baluch says, "Certainly gas is not an option."

AGL's war on solar

It is deeply troubling that AGL continues to suggest low income households, such as pensioners, are now paying more for their electricity to enable Australians to get solar. This is simply not true.

If we rewind, to a bit over two years ago, before AGL tried to deflate the solar PV industry, many Australians were saving, begging and borrowing money or using their hard-earned savings to buy a rooftop solar system.

Clean fossils of the future? How about ready renewables

There’s a lot of discussion and political jostling around energy options, decarbonisation, low-carbon or zero-carbon transition.

Looking at the options, let’s begin with today’s dominant player, conventional coal. It’s fate is easy to summarise, we burn it now in old, outdated power stations, but it no longer has a social licence and banks aren’t lining up to finance it.

Conventional gas is mooted by energy industry pundits and their bosses as the clean green option for our energy future, all the while ignoring fugitive emissions and not actually installing anything significant due to lower than forecast demand increases on the national electricity grid and the huge price uncertainty and volatility that comes with the fuel. This uncertainty is underpinned by the imminent linking of Australia to world markets and resultant export price parity. Will gas be cheap as in the US where the shale gas revolution has dropped prices, or will it be expensive like the Asian spot price or UK price, and will it trend towards parity with oil which itself is steaming towards $200 a barrel? (We don’t run our current electricity sector on diesel so why would we run it on gas at diesel prices?)

The minister for tourism signs tourism industry's death warrant

Martin Ferguson, the Federal Minister for Resources Energy and Tourism and previous head of the ACTU, today signalled that the mining industry will take precedence over tourism and manufacturing, despite the enormous damage it is doing to these industries.

In a speech in Brisbane today, Mr Ferguson acknowledged that the mining industry was damaging the rest of the economy, and then went on to blame the rest of the economy.

The merit order effect – actually, it’s a good thing

The Merit Order Effect, put simply, means lower electricity bills for consumers. That’s because it means lower-cost electricity in the wholesale market when additional renewables are introduced into the mix.

The effect has been demonstrated in Germany, where they have very significant deployments of renewables. The German government has identified that consumers saved €840 million in 2010 thanks to renewable induced Merit Order Effect.

Worley base case baseless but coal seam gas still worse than coal

A new WorleyParsons report states that gas plants can have higher emissions than even the worst coal plants, but under-estimates the problem by relying on misleading assumptions.

Understating the true level of coal seam gas (CSG) emissions will lead to massive gas fields being approved erroneously. It will also allow companies, including major clients of WorleyParsons, to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars through carbon liabilities that would need to be paid if emissions were properly accounted for.

"Deliberately failing to measure and ignoring potentially massive carbon liabilities is tax evasion" said Matthew Wright Executive Director of climate and energy security think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

This report illustrates the clear need for a comprehensive INDEPENDENT measurement and research of lifecycle emissions of gas. It is simply not adequate for government and investors to rely on research from companies with half a billion dollar contracts with oil and gas proponents, who would benefit enormously from underestimation of emissions.

WorleyParsons has a $500 million contract to develop an LNG field for QGC.

Feature: Learning from Spain’s HSR success

Australia has much to learn from the success of Spain’s Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) high-speed rail network, writes Matthew Wright, executive director, Beyond Zero Emissions.

The Spanish know how to get around in style and at speed. The country can boast it has the most comfortable, fast and frequent intercity travel service of any nation.

Where Japan has the highest patronage, Spain has speed; where the French have a comprehensive network, Spain has one longer.

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