Regular investment key to upgrading PT and curing Melbourne transport woes

Media release, 20 November 2013

A budgeted annual investment of $1.74 billion would build the comprehensive rail network upgrade and expansion proposed by Public Transport Victoria, according to a study released today by environmental think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

“To deliver the PTV rail upgrade requires structured and ongoing infrastructure investment” said researcher Gerard Drew. “The major parties are yet to show that they can deliver the long term network this city needs to deal with growing population pressure.”

The BZE study and appendix can be downloaded from the following locations:

The metropolitan rail Network Development Plan released by PTV in March this year is a systematic plan to upgrade and expand the network, delivering better than 5 minute peak frequencies for much of the network, metro style interchanges throughout the CBD area and connecting areas of Melbourne that have been promised a train line for decades – such as Doncaster, Roweville, Mernda and Melbourne Airport.


Image: Melbourne's rail network after the NDP is completed, from PTV

Cut emissions and save on household bills

From BEAM blog

 Seymour and surrounds can reduce their carbon emissions to zero with four simple steps.

Trent Hawkins, Project Director of the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, will talk about how this can be done at the Energy Futures Forum in Seymour on November 16.

Energy Futures Forum: Victorian Railways Institute Hall (near Seymour Station Bus Terminal), Seymour, Saturday 16 Nov, 2-5pm. Entry by gold coin.

The four steps are going gas free, fixing the building envelopes, installing energy efficient appliances and lighting, and rooftop solar to power every home.

Energy freedom on or off the grid?

By Ben Courtice. Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013

It's long been a favoured wish of many environmentalists to go off the grid, to be self-sufficient in energy and other services, and avoid the corporate utilities and their coal-powered electricity. The ambition for freedom from energy bills and fossil-fuel electricity is understandable.

I was born and lived until the age of eight in an off-grid Queenslander farmhouse. We didn't even have a telephone. The most energy intensive technology we had was a kerosene-powered refrigerator which we ran some of the time. Of course, living far from the city, we were able to use wood for heating and cooking. Living off-grid was easy enough if you didn't mind the low-tech lifestyle.

And now in the age of relatively cheap solar panels (which weren't around in the 1970s), you can live off the grid and use a huge battery attached to a large array of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, to maintain a hi-tech lifestyle on clean solar energy.

Cooking without gas

A zero carbon future means ditching gas for solar power.

By Michael Green. From The Age, November 3, 2013

Together, Australia's houses could produce more electricity than they use, according to think tank Beyond Zero Emissions. And the transition need not take long.

The analysis, released recently in its Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, shows that comprehensively retrofitting our buildings with insulation, double-glazing and efficient lighting and appliances could more than halve their energy use.

On our rooftops, we have space to accommodate enough solar panels so that our homes would collectively produce more energy than they consume, averaged over a year.

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

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.

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