Stationary energy

Prof Andrew Blakers

From Stars to the Sun

Professor Andrew Blakers is a professor engineering at the Australian National University. He works in the area of photovoltaics. His original goal was to be an astronomer studying Maths and Physics but while bushwalking  he was struck by so many places under threat - and that was as far back as the 70s!

He believes Australia receives thousands of times more solar energy than all the fossil fuels combined so why not be involved in solar and wind? He is a member of ARENA but fears the organisation, with the present political situation may lose the capacity to award grants. 

An interesting account of Andrew's life and work can be accessed on the ABC's Conversation Hour (13/6) and more details on the usual BZE podcast which mentions sliver, PERC technologies and silicon with its non-toxic properties. 

He has no doubt that Australia could become 100% renewable before long - and that is not just "pie in the sky"!

(Summary written by Bev McIntyre)

Further reading:

The Conversation: Wind and solar PV have won the race – it’s too late for other clean energy technologies

More articels at The Conversation

Chris Cooper

SunCrowd - the home battery movement from SunCrowd on Vimeo.

SunCrowd is Australia’s first bulk-buy for solar storage solutions. Let’s use our bulk purchasing power to make batteries affordable!  Join the movement at www.suncrowd.com.au

 

An entrepreneur in renewable energy

Chris Cooper is Chief Energy Officer and co-founder of SunCrowd, who are helping communities run local bulk-buy campaigns to make rooftop solar and storage easy and affordable. Chris Cooper became a keen clean energy student whilst at high school studying Economics and Geography and he was encouraged by gaining a Winston Churchill Fellowship scholarship which took him overseas to U.K., U.S. and Europe.  He favoured working for a practical change rather than joining academia and to concentrate in a local area.  To achieve this, he co-founded SunCrowd mainly situated in Shellharbour, Nowra and recently launched in SunCrowd Newcastle, NSW, although he has received calls from places as far afield as Alice Springs, Broken Hill and Melbourne. He finds people are keen for information on dispatch and storage of power.

Specialising on local communities seems to resonate with Germany where ownership of power has been returned to local communities. And of course in Australia with the development of rooftop solar despite the drop in feed-in tariffs. At the same time he has found problems in achieving grants and government funding and has found ARENA rather bureaucratic compared with the US which has provided millions in Government grants. ARENA seems to favour large organisations such as AGL.  Hopefully he says his submissions will change this but there is certainly room for that considering the present Prime Minister speaks regularly of "innovation"!

(Summary written by Bev McIntyre)

Dr Stephen Bygrave

Dr Stephen Bygrave

Dr Stephen Bygrave on "Empowering Local Communities" 

BZE radio's Laura, Kay and Michael talked to Dr Stephen Bygrave, CEO Beyond Zero Emissions, who described Australia as a "solar paradise" and rated as third globally on the availability of renewable resources but of course rated most extreme when it comes to emissions per capita. Yet as Stephen says the coal industry is "static" and the COALition is "stuck in the old ways". 

This writer is often inclined to feel depressed at the criminal lack of progress and disinterest displayed in the development of renewables so Stephen feels like a breath of fresh air - somewhat equivalent to that of Tasmanian air being sold to China in tins! Travelling widely it seems, Stephen's plans include developing blueprints for  change  across different states and sectors. Addressing the welcome drop in the cost of batteries he says not to forget the importance of agricultural emissions frequently not so recognised, but no less important than renewables (which he described as "more sexy"). The agricultural sector of course includes land use, land clearing, production and wastage of food, water, transport etc. all of which mainly driven by local communities as it seems are most such progressive movements.

On closing Michael mentioned the Newcastle demonstration. which was held the previous weekend where they were watching some of the coal ships depart and estimating each ship to be the equivalent to 100, 000 cars on the road!  So much for Adani v the Great Barrier Reef!

(Summary written by BZE volunteer Bev McIntyre)

Demian Natakhan - Victorian Renewable Energy Roadmap

Demian Natakhan is founder and co-director of Enhar, a renewable energy consultancy in Melbourne. He joins us today to talk about his response to the Victorian Government consultation on Victoria’s Renewable Energy Roadmap, following a workshop Enhar held to discuss the Goals for the Victorian Renewable Energy.

Public consultation on the Roadmap will feed into the development of the Victorian Renewable Energy Action Plan, which will set long-term actions to drive renewable energy investment in Victoria. Victoria's energy mix is currently 14% renewable energy, made up of mostly wind and hydro and smaller contributions from rooftop solar. New rooftop solar in Victoria is booming, being added at a rate of ~200MW/year. The CEC highlighted the major Victorian wind farm pipeline in their 2014 clean energy report, focussing on wind farms where the developer has done all the preparatory work to be ready for financial close, now just needing sufficient LGC pricing and certainty.  There is around 930MW of wind farms in Victoria with this advanced status, which could be readily unlocked through additional state-driven incentives. This would deliver a further 5% of total Victorian generation. There are a further ~1,570MW of wind farms already with planning approval in Victoria, bringing the total of mature wind prospects to around 2,500MW.

Additionally, Demian Natakhan recently presented on Local government solar leadership at All Energy 2015, discussing emission reduction and renewable energy progress and targets at federal, state and local government levels.

Bruce Mountain

Bruce Mountain, Director at Carbon and Energy Markets Australia  (CME), has just completed a study comparing power prices from around the world. Australia's electricity prices have doubled over the last five years, making it near the highest in the world.

Rising electricity prices - how rooftop solar helps

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.

High praise for Port Augusta solar hub plan at Civic Trust's annual Awards and Brickbats

A PLAN to transform Port Augusta into a green energy hub has been lauded at the Civic Trust's annual Awards and Brickbats ceremony.

However, the State Government's axing of heritage advisory services in its May Budget is the stand-out among this year's brickbats.

The Civic Trust a public think tank that engages in social and environmental discussion said state heritage assets would suffer from longer response times, reduced access to advice for owners, a rise in inappropriate works and degradation of heritage significance.

"The decision to cease State Heritage Advisory Services disadvantages state heritage owners, puts additional pressure on local government and is likely to lead to a long-term devaluation of the state's history," said trust chairman Darian Hiles.

A blueprint to replace Alinta Energy's emissions-intensive Northern and Playford B brown coal power plants with renewable energy infrastructure was the inaugural winner of the opportunities category, endorsed as the state's most promising project.

It also took out the people's choice award. 

Mr Hiles said the benefits of the project, including the construction of six solar thermal plants and 95 wind turbines, would be wide-ranging. "It would create 1800 jobs, alleviate the health impacts of coal, save five million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year and provide stable electricity prices and energy security," he said.

"Unfortunately the Government has decided not to proceed with the subsidy that was anticipated, which appears to be very short-sighted and needs to be redressed."

Alinta had carried out initial studies on building a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta but a September decision by the Federal Government to scrap plans to buy out the Playford B station has made the project financially challenging.

The company is seeking $65 million from the Federal Government towards the expected $200 million cost of building a 40-50 megawatt solar thermal plant.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery will appear before a State Parliament select committee this month to talk about the proposal. In other Civic Trust awards, the Colonel William Light Award for excellence in urban design was awarded to the Anglican Parish of Glenelg extension.

Parliament supports motion for solar

                              

Today the South Australian Parliament committed to looking seriously at building solar thermal in Port Augusta.

The House of Assembly voted to support a motion to set up a select committee to investigate Beyond Zero Emission’s proposal to replace the coal plants in Port Augusta with solar thermal.

“It is encouraging to see bipartisan support for proposal that will create 1800 jobs, support regional development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Beyond Zero Emissions spokesperson Hannah Aulby said today.

“Port Augusta has the sun, the workforce, the transmission lines, and the community support to make this project a real success.”

The alternative for South Australia is to rely on a gas power plant to meet future electricity demand. This would cause electricity prices to rise significantly as an expanding gas export market causes gas prices to double.

“Gas is a false choice for South Australia. Gas prices will double in coming years, putting significant pressure on domestic industries and households. Solar thermal can provide energy security and employment opportunities for Australian industries.”

For comment or interview
Hannah Aulby
Ph 0427 079 729
Hannah@beyondzeroemissions.org

Power of the wind – how renewables are lowering SA electricity bills

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power appear to be the impetus behind a South Australian proposal to substantially drop electricity prices, just as other states are hiking theirs.

The Essential Service Commission of South Australian (ESCOSA), which regulates retail electricity prices, has released a draft price determination that proposes an 8.1% reduction in the electricity standing offer, (that is, the default retail price that must be offered to South Australians, at a minimum).

The proposal, which follows an ESCOSA investigation into the wholesale energy costs, translates to a reduction of $27.19/MWh, potentially lowering South Australian electricity bills by an average of $160 per household.

And while it is not specifically acknowledged in the determination, this may be the first time the “merit order effect” of renewable energy sources can conclusively be seen flowing through to consumers in Australia.

The Merit Order Effect

There is nothing special about the “merit order effect”. Quite simply, if you introduce more of a product into a market (that is, increase supply) then prices fall.

The introduction of new capacity upsets the prevailing merit order (the order in which electricity is dispatched, from lowest to highest cost) lowering market prices.

Historically this has been observed when new coal power plants have been added to the market. But the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and other schemes such as the state based feed-in tariffs, are introducing more renewable electricity (supply) to the national electricity market.

Renewables typically have no fuel costs (free sun and wind), and thus have the lowest short run marginal cost of production. This ensures they are lower in the merit order and dispatched prior to anything else in the market. Like a new coal plant, this additional (and low marginal cost) supply also lowers wholesale prices.

This merit order effect has been well documented internationally, and is now widely recognised in South Australia, which has both the highest installed capacity of wind (1203 MW) in Australia, and the highest per capita installation of rooftop Photo Voltaic (PV) solar power.

The volume weighted wholesale prices in SA have reduced from $70-$80 /MWh between 2008-10, to around $45 in 2011, in parallel to the installation of wind and solar capacity (and the flat-lining of demand).

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has noted that the South Australian wholesale prices are lower than they have been since the start of the national electricity market, and that the wind “tends to depress the South Australian regional prices”.

Australia: Making its way toward a low-carbon future

Twenty-eight billion tons. That is the amount of carbon Australia pumps into the atmosphere every year. Consequently, with such an impact, the nation has been tagged as the world’s largest-emitting nation per capita. So much for this distinction, Australia has been trying to make a change.

Especially for the past several months, the country has been making successive announcements about what it is going to do to shift to a future with lesser emissions. And despite its heavy carbon footprint, Australia can lead the way toward a zero-carbon future, according to a recent report from Beyond Zero Emissions.

The report, “Laggard to Leader,” suggests that the country can be the future’s leader in employing renewable energy resources from being a laggard in terms of its efforts to mitigate climate change.

“What is required to make this happen is leadership through action from policymakers and society, with firm decisions made quickly that will allow this transition to occur,” stressed in the report.

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