Film: Generation Green

Generation Green follows the journey of Patrick Hearps, a young chemical engineer working at an oil refinery, as he becomes increasingly concerned about his companies contribution towards adverse climate change.

National Food Plan blind to biggest threat: climate change

This week’s National Food Plan ignores the serious threat to agriculture posed by climate change. Yet research shows that an expanded Carbon Farming Initiative could have major benefits in combating climate change.

Andrew Longmire, research fellow with Beyond Zero Emissions, said, “The Federal Government’s National Food Plan released this week downplays the impact of climate change on Australian agriculture and the large impact of agriculture on climate. The Plan relies on the $1b Clean Energy Future Plan for mitigation and adaptation in agriculture, which is not nearly enough.”

“Revenue generated under the Clean Energy Future Plan is paid back to carbon intensive industries. These and other resources would be better spent improving the resilience of our food production systems and advancing sustainability of farming. Our national food plan missed this opportunity."

Announcing the 5x4 Hayes Lane project

Gemasolar
Beyond Zero Emissions is proud to be an official Project Supporter of the 5x4 Hayes Lane Project.

The goal of the development is to be a super energy efficient and zero carbon dwelling in the heart of the City of Melbourne.

The team are looking to transform an under-used laneway into a demonstration of how to build and operate a sustainable, small footprint, high rise dwelling. It will be zero fossil gas, with a highly insulated and air-tight building envelope, featuring efficient electric heat pump heating and other cutting edge efficient electrical appliances.

Solar campaigner dies

Joy Baluch the mayor of South Australia's Port Augusta, who campaigned for solar energy for her city has died but not before South Australia's take-up of rooftop solar has risen to double the national average.

Transcript (ABC TV Lateline)

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Joy Baluch, the legendary mayor of South Australia's Port Augusta and fierce campaigner for a solar energy future for her city, died overnight.

Her death came only hours after the Federal Budget revealed deep cuts of more than $650 million to renewable energy funding and efficiency programs.

South Australia now leads the world in wind generation and its take-up of rooftop solar is double the national average.

Joy Baluch's beloved Port Augusta was leading the way in solar energy. She campaigned until her dying breath to use the energy from the sun to convert the city's struggling coal-fired generators.

Kerry Brewster has this exclusive report.

Solar warrior, Port Augusta mayor Joy Baluch dies, age 80

By

Port Augusta’s long-serving mayor, Nancy Joy Baluch AM, died in hospital on Tuesday night, after a long battle with cancer.

Baluch, who would have turned 80 on Wednesday, was mayor of the South Australian city for 29 years over three separate terms – a large part of which she spent fighting to have the town’s polluting coal-fired power stations replaced with a concentrating solar thermal plant.

100% renewable energy advocates validated by new report

The authors of Australia’s first significant study into providing 100% renewable energy have welcomed the new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which has found that it is technically feasible and affordable to run the National Electricity Market with 100% renewable energy.

“This validates the ground-breaking Zero Carbon Australia plan we launched in 2010, which outlined a way to get to 100% renewable energy in ten years,” said Patrick Hearps, Research Fellow with the Melbourne Energy Institute, at The University of Melbourne.

The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, released in 2010 by climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions, and the Melbourne Energy Institute, showed how Australia could run on 100% renewable energy in a decade.

As in the Stationary Energy Plan, AEMO’s analysis identified that concentrating solar thermal power with molten salt storage is a key enabling technology as its thermal energy storage provides reliable power around the clock.

Earth to moon in 8 years, Melbourne to Brisbane in 45

By Gerard Drew

When John F. Kennedy saw a challenge worth taking he decided to get on with it as quickly as humanly possible, and in eight years Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon. On the other hand, our federal transport minister would have us believe building a high-speed railway from Melbourne to Brisbane will take 45 years.

The economic windfall which high speed rail will deliver to Australia has finally been recognised by the federal government, and that's a good thing. But political delay and gold-plating could leave this as just a dream for another two generations of Australians.

Forty-five years is laughable.

Much has been made of the ‘technical and logistical challenge’, but we must get some perspective. Australia is in large part flat and vacant – a luxury that no other country operating HSR (high-speed rail) can boast. While there are some challenging points on the alignment, such as from Sydney to the Central Coast, a high proportion of the route is flat fields.

Spain and China have been rapidly constructing HSR in order to reduce the huge cost to those countries of imported oil and have completed 3,000km and 15,000km of track respectively in the past decade alone.

Indeed, these findings are an insult to the capability of Australia’s construction industry.

High Speed Rail. Image Source: Better Nation

Beyond Zero Emissions has done its own study on the HSR route in partnership with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). The research, which will be published in full in May, indicates that the chosen HSR route could instead be built for around $70 billion.

Electricity prices fall: renewable energy deserves merit

By Dylan McConnell

Dylan McConnell is a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne

Let’s be honest: the relationship between renewable energy and the electricity market is complex. So what does the latest report from Australian energy research firm RepuTex tell us?

Well, for a start, coal-fired power has reached a ten-year low.

The report, widely covered in the media, shows coal now makes up 74.8% of the National Electricity Market (NEM), down from 85.8% in 2008-2009.

At the same time the contribution of other energy, and renewable energy in particular, has risen. Hydro power makes up 8.7% of the market, with wind making up 3.8%, both record highs for these energy sources. This leads to the conclusion that greenhouse emissions in the NEM have also reached a ten-year low.

The RepuTex report indicates that both increased renewable energy generation and weaker demand is putting a “squeeze” on traditional generation.

This is ultimately reducing the market price of electricity as renewable energy competes with coal and other traditional energy sources. But, as said, the relationship between renewable energy, competition and market prices is complex.

Does renewable energy lower prices?

In 2011 the Victorian Auditor-General reported that the brown coal industry was concerned that the 10% renewable energy target would deliver too much too quickly which would reduce wholesale electricity prices and impact on brown coal generators.

We looked back and modelled the hypothetical impact of distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) on electricity prices in 2009 and 2010. Lowering the wholesale cost of electricity might offset the costs of renewable energy support schemes.

Using the model we estimated introducing 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar would lower the market price of electricity by more than A$1.8 billion over 2009 and 2010. When we completed this analysis there was a minuscule 385 MW of solar in the electricity market. Now there is already 2,500 MW, making our estimate look conservative.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts 12,000 MW to be installed by 2030 in their “moderate” scenario. The impact of PV on market demand is already starting to show on the market.

The average wholesale electricity prices for 2011-12 were the lowest (in real terms) since the market commenced in 1998. Even with the carbon tax, prices are not much above the long-term average of about A$50 per megawatt hour (adjusted to 2013 dollar terms). Recently, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) reported that wind generation is moderating wholesale electricity prices in South Australia, and when there is less wind, prices are higher.

High-speed rail cost and timeline “laughable”

April 11, 2013

Researchers who have performed their own analysis of the high-speed rail link from Melbourne to Brisbane have today questioned the governments announced 45-year timeline and $114 billion costing.


“When John F. Kennedy saw a challenge worth taking he decided to get on with it as quickly as humanly possible, and in 8 years Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon. On the other hand, some would have us believe building a high-speed railway from Melbourne to Brisbane will take 45 years,” said Gerard Drew, high-speed rail researcher for climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

“The economic windfall which high speed rail will deliver to Australia has finally been recognised by the Federal Government, and that's a good thing.

“But we fear that political delay and gold-plating could leave this as just a dream for another two generations of Australians.

“The rail network that was built all over the eastern states was built with picks and shovels over 100 years ago, much of it in less time than has been suggested for this project,” Mr Drew said.

“45 years is laughable.”

Beyond Zero Emissions have done their own study on the HSR route in partnership with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). Their research, which will be published in full in May, indicates that the chosen HSR route could be built for under $70 billion, a lot less than the $114 billion quoted in the latest government study.

Solar panels reduce everyone's power bills

 

May 10, 2013

Australia's one million (and counting) solar powered households could be keeping everyone else's power bills down, by suppressing wholesale electricity prices.

That conclusion is drawn from a peer-reviewed paper recently published in the Journal of Energy Policy. The paper is a result of a joint research effort between the Melbourne Energy Institute and climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Feed-in tariffs have been criticised by some, because all electricity users – with or without solar panels – pay the costs of the tariff on their electricity bill,” said Beyond Zero Emissions spokesperson Ben Courtice.

“However, the “merit order effect”, explained in this paper, offsets the cost of a low to medium feed-in tariff. It is often overlooked in setting policy in Australia, with the result that solar households aren't getting fair recognition, with feed-in tariffs being set too low.”

State governments in the last two years have been keen to slash the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) arrangements that guarantee a premium (or at least minimum) payment for solar electricity generated, saying they cost too much.

The merit order effect (see explanation below) means that solar power (and other renewables) displace more expensive forms of generation in the national electricity market, thereby lowering the wholesale price paid by all users. Failure to include this effect misrepresents the overall costs of solar support schemes.

“Contrary to state governments' assertions, feed in tariffs and solar PV may actually lower electricity prices paid by consumers. The current feed-in tariffs in several states are abysmally low and could be raised to a fairer level without impacting consumer prices,” said Mr Courtice.

The paper models the effect of up to five gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar panels across the Eastern states' electricity network. This is about double what is currently installed in Australia. The researchers calculated the effects of from zero to 5GW of extra rooftop solar panels on the electricity market, over the years 2009 and 2010, based on the real electricity market data from those years.

The researchers' modelling suggests that the price suppression (merit order effect) resulting from 5GW of solar would have been worth $628 million in 2010, 8.6% of the total value traded that year. In 2009, the value could have been $1.2 billion, over 12% of the total value traded that year.

The lower electricity wholesale prices caused by the merit order effect should flow through to consumers in their electricity bills. This effect can offset the cost of support schemes and results in a wealth transfer from electricity generators to all consumers.

“When governments cite the cost of FITs but ignore offsets such as the merit order effect, they are effectively overstating the overall cost of supporting solar,” Mr Courtice said.

“Solar power is a cheap and effective way to reduce pollution, and it should receive better support so it can keep growing in Australia.”

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