Methane matters: Is the future electric?

Richard Keech critically examines the sustainability of gas.

From Renew, magazine of the Alternative Technology Association, issue 125

I’VE heard it said that 50% of what we’ve learnt is probably wrong; the trick is knowing which 50%. I submit that the received wisdom that gas is a clean fuel is probably wrong.

Consider more generally the burning of materials for their direct energy content. The use of wood, then coal, then oil and gas has underpinned the entire arc of human progress and achievement. But the advent of electricity meant much of that combustion no longer took place with the end user. At a time when renewable energy sources such as solar thermal, solar PV and wind can displace increasingly large amounts of that burning, why are we still persisting with policies that favour the burning of gas?

Abbott's action - direct hit or direct flop?

By Stephen Bygrave. Published in Climate Spectator, 21 Oct 2013

With the Abbott government pinning all its hopes on its 'direct action' scheme to meet its stated commitment to a 5 per cent emissions reduction by 2020, it is worth exploring the past failures and lessons arising from direct action approaches.

Because Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, a failure by the government on direct action would not only be failure for the Australian people, but a national failure as well as a failure to meet our international emissions reduction commitments.

To put direct action in context, it is important to examine past approaches to direct action in Australia and internationally, and lessons from that experience.

Fossil fuel billions better invested in zero emissions alternatives

MEDIA RELEASE, Beyond Zero Emissions, 16 October 2013

Billions of dollars currently invested in fossil fuel industries can and should be withdrawn and re-invested in zero emissions technology immediately. This is the message Dr Stephen Bygrave, CEO of climate solutions think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions will deliver to a Brisbane audience tomorrow.

“Beyond Zero Emissions' research is demonstrating that zero emissions technologies can be implemented in Australia across all sectors of the economy right now,” said Dr Bygrave.

“Investment in these technologies is already a reality at a large scale around the world. Divestment from dirty technologies is inevitable, and for investors, every day is a day's missed investment opportunity. There's no reason to wait and every reason to act.”

Image: Grasmere windfarm, Albany WA (from http://www.ausenco.com/)

Bring on the climate solutions!

After 20 years working on climate change in various roles from research to government to international organisations, my experiences have taught me that to be effective in the change agenda we need to be starting from the point of where we need to be in ten years time, and looking back to the present, to identify a pathway of how to get from here to there.

BZE is doing just that, from a horizon scanning or futures thinking perspective.

No more denying we can act on climate

During the recent Federal election campaign, BZE received a call from a climate skeptic, inviting us to participate in a debate on climate change. The caller was cagey, she wouldn't even give us her name or affiliation. How did we respond? We politely declined: there is no longer a debate to be had on whether climate change is occurring.

The IPCC report which will be released later this month is expected to bear this out. We hope it will help to focus the community's attention, once again, on what we need to do about the climate emergency. We don't have time to wait if we want to manage the risk responsibly. As Barack Obama put it, “we don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”

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)

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