Media Release: Australian high-speed rail line could be running by 2030

High speed rail linking Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane would reduce carbon emissions and provide a profitable and popular service, according to research which will be released next week.

Climate change think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is launching the new report on the potential for high speed rail in Australia in Melbourne on Wednesday April 9, and Sydney on April 30.

According to BZE CEO Stephen Bygrave “the research shows that high speed rail can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, in addition to the regional development and economic benefits previously identified.”


The report, a collaboration between BZE, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the University of Melbourne’s Energy Research Institute, has been two years in the making.

The report recommends an alignment broadly similar to the government's recent study, connecting 12 major regional towns, and the cities of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

“Regional travel in Australia is highly concentrated in the east coast corridor, generating some of the busiest flight paths in the world as well as significant traffic on our main interstate highways”, says lead author, Gerard Drew.

Fly by rail: 5 reasons fast trains have an Aussie future

By Stephen Bygrave, Climate Spectator

What goes up must come down. At least in the case of airplanes, that's true. But as airplanes keep going up, so do greenhouse gas emissions – these emissions stay in the atmosphere and do not come down.

High speed rail, on the other hand, is on the up and up, and can run without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Europe has had high speed rail since the 1960s. China, Japan and Korea all have high speed rail. India has this year announced it is investigating the feasibility of building high speed rail.

Click to book your free seat at the Melbourne launch on April 9


Australian governments have for over 30 years toyed with the idea of building a high-speed rail line on the east coast, and there are finally moves underway to set aside the corridor in which a system could be built. This follows the previous federal government’s $20 million high speed rail implementation study which found a significant economic benefit to Australia returning $2.30 for every $1 invested.

Think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions has just completed a two-year study into HSR in Australia which shows that rail can not only dramatically reduce transport emissions, but also be built for $30 billion less than the most recent government study.

McArdle 'plain wrong' on energy says Howard adviser

By Bill Hoffmann, Sunshine Coast Daily

THE architect of the Howard Government's Renewable Energy Target has dismissed as just plain wrong claims by Queensland Energy and Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle that it was a handbrake on the Australian economy.

Stephen Bygrave, now head of Beyond Zero Emissions, said Mr McArdle was also wrong in his claims that the contribution of renewable energy during the recent Victorian heatwave was very unreliable. 

Mr McArdle yesterday issued a press release claiming the days of Queenslanders subsidising energy sources that "were not commercially viable" should be declared over by an Abbott Government panel that will review the Renewable Energy Target.

It was seen as a direct assault on renewable energy strategies of successive past federal governments.

Just under 28% of all homes in his Caloundra electorate have solar panels on their roofs, the highest rate of take up in the state and one of the highest in Australia.

When climate solutions are seen as a threat not an opportunity

BZE's CEO, Stephen Bygrave, writes:

2014 is shaping up to be a big year on a range of fronts. The Renewable Energy Target, which I helped to design in the late 1990s, is under review. The carbon price, which I was also involved with, is under threat. There have been a number of ill-informed statements by the Prime Minister and the government about renewables not being effective unless the "sun is shining and the wind is blowing". Climate change solutions are being viewed as a threat not as an opportunity.

Solar thermal is coming. But where will it land?

By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, January 30 2014.

With the news that Chile is to join the solar thermal club, Australia could before long become the only inhabited continent without this revolutionary electricity generation technology.

Spanish developer Abengoa is set to build a large solar thermal 'power tower' with a capacity of 110 megawatts for the Chilean government. Solar thermal plants already exist or are actively being developed and constructed, on all other continents.

The solar thermal technology concentrates the sun's free energy with a field of mirrors onto a heat receiver mounted on a central tower, and then uses that heat to generate electricity, and also stores the heat to generate electricity after sundown. The Chilean plant is to have storage capacity for 17.5 hours of operation after sundown, enabling it to provide 24-hour solar power.

That a poorer country like Chile is now building this technology highlights that a wealthy country like Australia should also be building this technology. Figures from the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics in December show the estimated cost of building solar thermal power plants has fallen 30 per cent in the last year.

Abengoa's 183MW Solucar complex, Seville, Spain. Pic: Abengoa

ARENA, Alinta agree funds for Port Augusta solar thermal study

By Giles Parkinson. RenewEconomy, 15 January 2014

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has finally come to an agreement with the privately-owned Alinta to co-fund a feasibility study into a solar thermal power station to augment or replace the existing coal fired generators in the South Australian township of Port Augusta.

ARENA announced on Wednesday it would contribute $1million to the study, with $1.2 million to come from Alinta and a further $123,000 from the state government.

However, the study would not conclude until 2016, which may dash hopes for an earlier start to the project and a near-term replacement for the ageing Playford and Northern coal-fired power stations. Alinta recently said it wanted to extend the life of its two coal fired power stations for another two decades.

Ivanpah solar thermal plant, California. Pic: Chad Ward/Brightsource

Casting away carbon, street by street

By Stephen Bygrave. From Climate Spectator

Australia's homes are among the largest and most inefficient in the developed world. Then we wonder why our household energy bills and carbon emissions are so high. 

There are, also, few ways we get feedback regarding our household energy consumption meaning we are mostly 'driving blind' when it comes to energy use and emissions from our homes – we get a bill at the end of the month or end of the quarter, far past the time the energy was actually consumed. The lack of instantaneous feedback makes it difficult to correlate our energy consumption to a particular event.

An inefficient home is also uncomfortable, it is draughty, damp, too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Live in North America or Europe and you will know what an energy efficient and low emissions home is like, and the opportunities that exist for energy efficient homes in Australia.

Our homes are a ripe area for direct action, with real benefits for the climate, our comfort levels and for our hip pockets.

The bloody-minded Banjos keepin' carbon in our air

Stephen Bygrave, Climate Spectator

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics about average household expenditure show how repeal of the carbon price cannot save households very much.

Why not? Because households don't spend very much on power.

For a house that is struggling to pay all its bills, that may not sound like much comfort, but the amount we're talking about is relatively tiny.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2009-2010 show that houses spend an average 2.63 per cent on 'domestic fuel and power'. That includes electricity, gas, bottled LPG and even firewood. It also includes those houses that pay an extra premium to buy GreenPower, to get 100 per cent renewable electricity.

High-speed rail network $30 billion cheaper than first thought: study

ABC Lateline - by environment and science reporter Jake Sturmer

A comprehensive new study investigating east coast high-speed rail argues that it could be $30 billion cheaper than first thought and pay itself off entirely within 40 years.

The rail debate is back on track, with the Federal Government vowing to speak to the states about the project and to protect a future corridor for the network.

The Melbourne-Sydney flight route is the fifth busiest in the world and for decades governments have been discussing high-speed rail as a solution to ease the pressure on airports.

Clean energy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the German aerospace centre came up with a model of a 1,799-kilometre route, linking Brisbane with Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Video: click to watch news story at ABC website

What price the carbon price?

By Stephen Bygrave. Climate Spectator, November 21

We all know that the act of 'putting a price on carbon' has contributed to the downfall of three Australian prime ministers and two opposition leaders.

What might not be as well known is that carbon pricing has gone relatively unnoticed in other countries, particularly in Europe, but also in our close neighbour New Zealand.

When I was working in the OECD on emissions trading from 2002-2004, the European Commission was designing and implementing an emissions trading scheme with little attention from anyone in the community. This followed schemes that had been implemented in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the UK, with no outcry from the general populace.

So why all the fuss in Australia? Is carbon pricing just another political football?

Abbott at protest against carbon price

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