Time for Sustainable House Design

While the Federal Government is making half-hearted commitments to energy efficiency, trail-blazing architecture firms like G-O Logic Homes and Victoria’s own Sunpower Design are proving that sustainable housing need not cost an arm and a leg – nor necessitate the owning of a hair shirt.

In Victoria this May, the ‘six-star’ building standard came into operation affecting all new homes, renovations and additions and bringing the building industry into line with national energy efficiency measures. To achieve a six-star rating, certain measures must be implemented when designing and constructing new buildings such as orientation, insulation, draught proofing, window design, shading and building materials.

Clearing the Air on Climate Change

The annual ‘Science meets Parliament’ (SMP) is underway this week. With debates raging over the carbon tax, representatives from The Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS) are highlighting and addressing the poor scientific literacy exercised in political and public debate over the issue.
At a FASTS press conference today, representatives drew attention to the peer-review process and the integral role it plays in the integrity and credibility of scientific information. The peer-review process involves the testing of ideas by members of the scientific community. This is part of FASTS’ ‘Respect the Science’ campaign which coincides with SMP. Of the campaign, FASTS’ CEO Anna Maria Arabia said:
"It is really aimed at looking at the misinformation campaign that's being run against the scientific evidence largely coming from the climate change debate... and seeing how that is undermining the nation-building work of our scientists"

Electric vehicles: will Australia miss its ride?

The future is looking bright for electric vehicles (EV) – and their investors.

Last week, California-based EV infrastructure company Better Place Australia (BPA) signed a landmark deal with multi-utility company ActewAGL to the amount of $60 million dollars over ten years. The agreement will hook BPA’s EV recharge stations up to renewable energy sources. 

 The news is an important step in the right direction for Australia’s transport future, yet it does not come without its drawbacks. It’s becoming a familiar story: while others grasp the enormous potential inherent Australia’s green future – and at a rate that should make us sit up and take note – we continue to miss out on opportunities right under our noses. The legacy of our oblivious attitude to global market trends and our own exceptional renewable resources will be a disadvantaged and vulnerable economy – and our inaction will only guarantee it.

Renewable Energy Technologies Far Cheaper Than Predicted

Last week, cost reduction forecasts compiled in a new paper, the Renewable Energy Technology Cost Review (RETCR), raised questions about the technology costings relied on by governments and electricity planners.
Analysis of the report findings by Beyond Zero Emissions found that the cost of renewable energy technologies is overestimated by as much as 50 percent when compared to international forecasts. The reality is that renewable technologies such as wind and solar are not only much cheaper than predicted, but will continue to fall substantially over the next decade. Testament to how out of date the figures are, today’s cost of installing wind energy is already below what the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) estimates for 2030. 

Yet Another Reminder: Climate Action Needed Now

The Federal Government’s Climate Commission released its inaugural report, The Critical Decade (PDF), this week. The report serves as yet another reminder of the need to for immediate strong action to start reducing Australia’s emissions.

The Climate Commission revisits the often misunderstood and ignored area of research – climate science – and seeks to banish the misgivings of many in the media and political spheres. The report presents a clear message:

[T]he evidence that the earth’s surface is warming rapidly is now exceptionally strong, and beyond doubt. Evidence for changes in other aspects of the climate system is also strengthening. The primary cause of the observed warming and associated since the mid-20th century – human emissions of greenhouse gases – is also known with a high level of confidence.

Solar Thermal Shines On in the United States

Another large-scale concentrating solar thermal project is underway in the United States thanks to strong financial support from the Federal Government. The news is the latest example of the United States moving forward with investment in renewable energy.

Solar Reserve’s ‘Tonopah’ project in Nevada received a $737 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to assist in the project's imminent construction. The massive 110 MW Tonopah solar tower will produce enough electricity to power approximately 43,000 homes. The project will use molten salts to store ten hours worth of heat, allowing it to produce electricity when the sun is not shining.

Meanwhile, innovators in solar technology are developing novel ways to reduce costs and drive efficiency in concentrated solar thermal plants.

Now available: ZCA - Stationary Energy Plan FAQ

Beyond Zero Emissions has just released a Frequently Asked Questions document for its award-winning Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan. The new document will serve as an accessible inroad to the renewable energy powered future BZE envisions for Australia in 2020.

The FAQ will be useful for those who are new to the Stationary Energy Plan and those who wish to understand it better. 

‘The Stationary Energy Plan reflects the extensive work by dozens of engineers, scientists, economists and other researchers, and represents a novel approach to dealing with climate change and energy challenges,’ says BZE Executive Director Matthew Wright. ‘This FAQ provides a pragmatic overview of the Plan by addressing its most contentious points in a way everyone can understand. It shows that Australia can get on with the job and roll out proven renewable energy technologies today.’

Australia's Energy Aims Mixed Up With Energy Reality

A new report released yesterday by Environment Victoria has outlined Australia’s electricity generation mix between 1960-2009 and has demonstrated a serious lack of commitment to renewable energy generation. The report highlights a steady decline in the proportion of renewable energy sources and an ever increasing reliance on coal-fired power.

Solar Powered Pollies: Parliament House Gets PV Panels

Australia is set to get solar powered pollies as the Department of Parliamentary Services announced it would install photovoltaic panels atop Parliament House in Canberra. According to the Australian solar PV maker SilexSolar, work has already begun and the project is due to be completed mid-2011.

CEO of Todae Solar, the company that will operate the system, Danin Kahn says it is ‘is a great opportunity to showcase solar power as a technology that is going to be integral in moving towards a low carbon economy’. Not only does the project demonstrate the viability of solar for non-residential buildings and utilities, it reminds all Australians of the immeasurable potential of solar power.

New Report Reveals Poor Investment in Sustainable Transport


A new report (PDF) by the Australian Conservation Foundation has drawn attention to a significant disparity between government investment in road infrastructure and public transport.

According to the ACF’s report, government investment in roads has exceeded that of public transport by over four times. ACF spokeswoman Monica Richter says that the government needs to inverse this funding discrepancy; instead, prioritising public and active transport in order to wean Australia off its expensive oil dependence.

AusChina Energy Development set to soar on Australian wind power

Things seem to be looking up for Australia’s largely untapped renewable potential. Last week, in a deal highlighting the growing interest in Australia's abundant renewable resources, CBD Energy (a Sydney-based energy company) partnered with two Chinese companies to announce $6 billion worth of wind and solar energy projects in Australia over the next eight years.

America Powers Ahead With Renewable Energy Projects

The United States has further demonstrated its commitment to renewable energy this week, as it pledges to funnel public investment toward the massive Ivanpah concentrating solar thermal (CST) power plant. Backed by private sector financing from the likes of Google, BrightSource’s latest CST project is set to be the world’s largest power tower. 

Renewable Future Not Just California Dreaming

Renewable energy has received a huge boost in the United States in the wake of failed attempts to establish a national cap-and-trade scheme.

Recently the California State Assembly passed legislation that set new, increased targets for renewable energies, establishing the aim of 33% renewable energy sources for the state by 2020. This is a significant leap above the state’s 2010 target of 20% renewable energy.

Our Energy Future: Sink Or Swim?


Today is World Water Day. While large parts of Australia have seen enough of it in the past few months, it’s easy to forget just how vital water is in many ways for our modern industrialised society to function.

Indeed, we use a lot of it; or perhaps more accurately, our dependence on coal necessitates that we waste a lot of it. While the electricity sector in general is responsible for consuming about 1.4per cent (271,035 mega litres) of Australia’s water supply, coal-fired power plants are far and away the principle users of this, supplying - as they do - more than 80 per cent of the nation’s energy. Furthermore, mining as a whole accounts for another 2 per cent of domestic water consumption, and it is coal mining that is most responsible for the bulk of it. It is the largest user of water of all mines in Australia. 

Renewable Riches in WA's Goldfields


The stars are aligning for Kalgoorlie-Boulder to embark on a renewable energy future. The reservoirs of gold and nickel that have characterised the Goldfields as one of Western Australia’s most prolific mining regions for decades will not last forever, and eyes are turning to the many favourable conditions that make the area perfect for constructing a Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) power plant. The opportunity currently presenting itself to Kalgoorlie-Boulder can be understood not only as being of great potential benefit to the state of Western Australia, but also as a microcosm of the renewable energy opportunity staring Australia in the face right now.

Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan - NSW elements

The Beyond Zero Emissions NSW branch has put together a report outlining the first three years of the roll-out of the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan in NSW. This document includes details of the wind, solar thermal, biomass and grid infrastructure as well as the jobs created and investment required.

You can download the report here.

Environment Victoria launches CoalWatch


Environment Victoria has launched an online resource called CoalWatch to keep an eye on Victoria’s brown coal industry, and any plans it has to expand further. The new site comes amid news reports that mining interests will push the new Premier for a license to export brown coal. 

The idea for CoalWatch was sparked by the success of the US venture CoalSwarm. CoalSwarm acts like a coal-centric Wikipedia would, thus providing the public with an encyclopaedia about all things coal. The database has been credited with helping to successfully bar the progress of around 100 coal plant proposals since its inception in 2008.

Amazing effort from Beyond Zero Emissions volunteers Martin and Ross who built BZE a Molten Salt Power Tower scale model

Beyond Zero Emissions volunteers Martin and Ross have built a scale model which is doing the rounds at trade shows, sustainability festivals, industry groups and government departments showcasing real baseload solar.   The tower is based on Torresol Energy's Gemasolar which is now complete and operating located between the Spanish Cities of Cordoba and Sevilla.   Gemasolar is based on US DoE Solar Tres with custom innovation from Spanish Engineering Giant SENER and it's subsidary Torresol Energy.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Greg Combet Get Their Copy of the Zero Carbon Australia Plan

(Pictured Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Assoc Professor Keith Lovegrove, ANU Solar Thermal Group PHOTO SOURCE: ANU Solar Thermal Group)

The Australian National University Solar Thermal Group researcher Rebecca Dunn has presented the award winning Zero Carbon Stationary Energy Plan to both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet. The opportunity for this important exchange was made possible when Julia Gillard and Greg Combet visited the ANU’s Solar Thermal ‘Big Dish’ last week to spruik their carbon price push.

The Zero Carbon Stationary Energy Plan has become hot property in climate change policy circles. The timely visit to ANU by Gillard and Combet came a day after the announcement that the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee would be seeking a price on carbon. 


(Image: Karin Catt)

Everyone’s favourite sleek geek Dr Karl Kruszelnicki advocated for a renewable energy system on the popular Channel Seven program Sunrise and did it prior to the election; echoing Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Australia - Stationary Energy Plan. Apart from raising awareness among the general public about the immense potential Australia has to harness its vast renewable energy resources, Dr Karl’s appearance on the show is important in that it indicates a positive development in the Australian social psyche.

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