Rising prices show we must get off gas


Australian households are to be hit by another rise in energy bills, this time due to rising gas prices, as highlighted by a report released today.

“This just confirms what we were already saying: It’s time to get off gas energy,” Beyond Zero Emissions’ Executive Director, Matthew Wright says.
“Whether it’s householders replacing gas appliances with efficient modern electric ones, or governments introducing policy for the building of renewable wind and solar power instead of gas power stations, the writing is on the wall: If you want stable prices and energy security then get off gas.”

A report released today, commissioned by the Australian Industry Group, finds gas prices are rising as they are being tied to international prices due to the development of an export industry.
A doubling of domestic gas prices is expected, as a result of the booming LNG export market. This will threaten the supply to domestic industries such as manufacturing. It will make electricity from gas power stations dearer, and household gas appliances much more expensive to run.

The report explains that domestic industries currently receive gas supply at $4-6 per gigajoule. While energy companies will profit from international prices that are above $10 per gigajoule, domestic consumers and industry face a nightmare scenario.

The AIG report shows that the gas export expansion will cause a $7 billion loss to the economy – coupled with increased greenhouse gas emissions, water contamination, damaged farm land and broken communities.

“Gas is getting dirtier and dirtier as conventional supplies run out and we go into coal seam and shale gas. It’s also more expensive. Rising prices are not the only reason to get off gas," Mr Wright said.

“Modern electric household appliances are far more energy-efficient than gas equivalents, with less carbon emissions, and increasingly, much cheaper to run.

“Renewable energy has been lowering electricity prices. In South Australia the Essential Services Commission has lowered the prices for households by some $160 off the back of their falling wholesale prices.”

Climate Positive supports Repower Port Augusta campaign for baseload solar thermal power

Beyond Zero Emissions  is pleased to announce that a significant donation from environmental non-governmental organisation Climate Positive will boost the campaign for baseload solar-thermal power for South Australia.

Climate Positive is a leader in climate protection and works with Australian businesses and organisations to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change. It is a pioneer in the field of restorative actions and has played an important role in getting people to take the first steps to decarbonise the Australian economy.

BZE wrote the blueprint for the popular grassroots campaign Repower Port Augusta, that is seeking to have that town’s coal power stations replaced with solar thermal generators.

“We will be expanding our campaigning in South Australia, educating and activating the community on the future power options for South Australia,” said Matthew Wright, BZE Executive Director.

Regional Australia to get the word on Zero Emissions buildings

MEDIA RELEASE October 4th 2012 

Beyond Zero Emissions has received a significant donation from the environmental NGO Climate Positive. This will help to take BZE’s message to a wider audience across Eastern Australia.

As a result, the upcoming Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan will be presented to many more audiences than would have otherwise been possible, especially in regional and metropolitan NSW and QLD.

“Climate Positive deserve recognition for their very important part in getting people to take the first step to decarbonise the economy,” said Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

ACT Labor: renewables policy for 2016 not 2012

Climate and renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions congratulate ACT Labor for ambitious targets in their early-announced 2016 renewable energy policy, “Action Plan 2”.

“The plan for 90% renewable energy is a great step forward compared to the national 20% renewables target. It’s particularly good to include large scale solar and wind farms explicitly in the proposal,” said Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Energy efficiency and public transport improvement targets in the short term are also positive.”

However, Beyond Zero Emissions questions the timeline of the policy.

“Too much renewable energy and climate action planning is deferred until future governments, beyond the responsibility of today’s ministers,” said Mr Wright.

Reducing pollution and bills together: zero emissions buildings

Research soon to be published by Beyond Zero Emissions suggests that households can cut energy use by half, and abandon gas altogether. This will reduce bills for homes, and lower network costs for everyone.

BZE welcomes the One Million Homes alliance's report released yesterday, 2.5 billion reasons to invest in efficiency, as a useful contribution to the discussion on energy efficiency and social justice. However, its targets are modest compared to what is possible.

Standard approaches to buildings energy efficiency only benefit home owners, whereas renters miss out. BZE’s plan would see all existing houses targeted for upgrades.

BZE is expecting to publish the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan later this year. The plan is the first comprehensive nationwide retrofit plan for both Australia's commercial and residential building sectors.

Zero emissions homes: save the climate and money, in comfort.

If you aim for a zero-emissions house, you can live in comfort, while saving money and the climate. That’s the message from research and practice, according to climate and renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

Members of the public will have a chance to see it for themselves on Sustainable House Day this Sunday September 9th, when BZE researcher Richard Keech and BZE volunteer Michael Day are showcasing their homes to the public.

Michael has recently won the Yarra Sustainability Awards for "innovation in sustainable design" and has had his home featured in Sanctuary Magazine.

Richard has showcased his home in Moonee Valley and has conducted extensive monitoring and analysis on his house since retrofitting it for sustainability.

“I’ve saved over $14,000 on avoided energy charges since 2007,” Richard said.   

“At this rate I’ll repay the upfront costs in about ten years, and in the mean time the home is much more comfortable.

“And after the investment is repaid, I’ll be cutting my cost of living significantly.”

Gas industry in denial over carbon emissions

MEDIA RELEASE 4th September 2012

Industry talk of developing an industry in “low emissions” coal-seam gas is a fantasy, according to renewable energy and climate think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

Yesterday, the Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) released their  Australia’s Unconventional Energy Options report, which advocates the development of unconventional gas supplies such as coal-seam gas and shale gas.

The report found that “the social licence to operate is in serious jeopardy” according to CEDA chief executive, Stephen Martin.

BZE’s Executive Director Matthew Wright said “Unconventional gas not only hasn’t got, but also doesn’t deserve a social licence.”

“There is all this talk of lower emissions with gas, but we have yet to see a convincing evaluation of the emissions from leaking methane, a killer greenhouse gas, in unconventional gas fields.”

Santos’ shale gas adventure to slug SA households over $260 a year.

Santos’ foray into expensive shale gas will increase household bills by a whopping $263 each year.

Santos has admitted that shale gas will double the wholesale price of gas, adding $163 to average gas bills, but neglected to mention the impact on electricity prices, which will add at least $100 to household power bills.

Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) spokesperson Mark Ogge said that “South Australia is dependent on gas for half its electricity. Doubling the wholesale price of gas will cost consumers another $100 or more on their power bill, bringing the total increase to more than $260.”

“Santos will make a killing out of shale, but households and businesses will pay for it, particularly since the company has point blank refused to put any gas aside for South Australians,” says Mr Ogge.

“Shale gas is a step backwards for South Australia,” says Mr Ogge. “These are unnecessary price rises, when there is an obvious alternative.

“South Australia is one of the sunniest places on earth. Investing in solar allows South Australians to avoid becoming dependent on polluting and expensive unconventional gas.”

Santos Moomba gas plant

Gillard misses the real opportunities to reduce power bills and emissions

August 8, 2012

If Gillard wants to support households against price-gouging by electricity companies, she should look closer at renewable energy and energy efficiency, according to think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

Electricity retailers accused of over-investing in grid infrastructure (like poles and wires) would lose their justification if peak energy use spikes were reduced.  

One easy way would be to continue with programs such as the ill-fated roof insulation scheme of the Rudd government. Upgrading inefficient airconditioners would be another low-hanging fruit.

“We have estimated that subsidising half the cost of upgrading old, inefficient home aircon units could save the public about $2900 in avoided network upgrade costs per unit replaced,” says Matthew Wright, executive director of BZE.

“Solar panels and wind farms also keep prices down, because they displace the more expensive peak gas generators,” Mr Wright said. “This is known as the Merit Order Effect.

Australia can lead the world to zero-carbon prosperity… or hold back climate action


Following its acclaimed Zero Carbon Australia stationary energy plan, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is releasing today a new report: Laggard to Leader: How Australia Can Lead the World to Zero Carbon Prosperity. The report shows the magnitude of Australia’s contribution to climate change – and makes the case that Australia has the power to lead the world towards climate solutions while the UN negotiations are hopelessly deadlocked.  

Download the report here: http://media.bze.org.au/embargo/Laggard_Leader.pdf

Staying within the 2°C temperature goal, which all nations have formally endorsed, requires global emissions to peak and start declining by 2020 at the absolute latest.

Yet the best case scenario for the UN negotiations would entail emissions cuts coming well after 2020. The UN negotiations therefore cannot provide the solution we need to avoid runaway climate change.

Meanwhile, Australia’s is making the problem worse. Australia’s coal and gas export emissions are already double its high “domestic” fossil fuel emissions, and its fossil fuel export emissions are on track to more than double again by 2030.

If this goes ahead, Australia will export more carbon dioxide to the world than Saudi Arabia does today: almost twice as much. Australia’s total domestic and fossil fuel emissions in 2030 would equal a jaw-dropping 11% of the 2°C carbon budget, for that year.

But Australia can choose whether to continue exporting this coal and gas. BZE’s report outlines an approach that would enable us to choose not to.

BZE’s new report calls for Australia to institute a moratorium on new fossil fuel developments as the centrepiece of a global campaign to phase out fossil fuels.

Such a move would herald  Australia’s leadership role, in collaboration with other willing nations, to decarbonise the global economy and move to renewable energy.

Germany led the world in making solar panels cheap. Australia can lead the world in making another critical technology cheaper than fossil fuels: Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) with storage. This technology, which is operating today in other countries, produces 24 hour electricity from the power of the sun.

The greatest gift that sunny Australia could give to the world would be to repeat for CST what cloudy Germany did for solar panels: through smart policies and targeted investments, enable the deployment across Australia of enough CST to make this game-changing technology cost-competitive with fossil fuels everywhere. 

The report’s primary authors are

Fergus Green – Chairman of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership and a 2012 General Sir John Monash Scholar to the London School of Economics

Reuben Finighan – 2012 Fulbright Scholar and 2012 Frank Knox Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

For comment from the authors, please phone Ben Courtice on 0413 580 706 to arrange an interview or email ben@beyondzeroemissions.org

Public launch event details:

Germany’s solar panels would provide 25% of Australia’s electricity

If you took all the solar panels in Germany and put them in Australia, they would supply a quarter of our electricity demand.

In the first six months of 2012, 4.5% of total electricity demand in Germany was met by solar power. Put that capacity onto Australian rooftops, and it would supply 25% of our electricity.

Compare this to Australia’s weak efforts to meet the 20% renewable energy target, which has only achieved 4% additional renewables (wind and solar) in the last 5 years.

Germany’s solar capacity has grown 500% since 2007. The German government recently announced a 52-gigawatt target for rooftop solar capacity, to be achieved over the next 3-4 years. This would supply the equivalent of 50% of our electricity if installed in Australia’s sun.

Given the big reductions in solar panel costs in recent years, the cost of this rollout in Australia would be one quarter (25%) of what Germany has paid to date.

“Germany’s shining example is not alone,” says Matthew Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions.

“China has increased its 2015 target five-fold, and that is even expected to be exceeded.

“The rate of installation which we have seen overseas shows Australia is aiming far too low.

“We should set a target of 25% of our power from rooftop solar panels. Surely sunny Australia can match cold, cloudy Germany.

“Our large-scale renewables target should be increased to at least 25% by 2020, to drive the kind of wind power expansion we’ve already seen in South Australia across the nation.”

Germany has used feed-in tariffs for renewable energy generators, small and large, which is how they have driven their expansion.

“Before Campbell Newman slashed Queensland’s solar feed-in tariff, the state was seeing 1000 solar installations per day,” Mr Wright said.

“This solar installed behind the meter actually saves consumers money, as well as directly cutting our carbon emissions.

“It’s obvious we can do much better. If we set these targets we can achieve them with the proven feed-in tariff mechanism.”

Beyond Zero Emissions published the Zero Carbon Australia stationary energy plan in 2010 which showed how to go to 100% renewable energy in ten years.

In September, BZE will launch the Zero Carbon Australia buildings plan, which will recommend a massive increase in rooftop solar installations across the country.

Government energy authorities slower than a community volunteer group

As part of the Clean Energy Future package, the Gillard government agreed to have the Australian Energy Market Operator model what an Australian 100% renewable energy scenario for 2030 and 2050 would look like.

Beyond Zero Emissions produced their plan for 100% renewable energy by 2020 two years ago in 2010, relying heavily on volunteer researchers.

Yet after almost a year, AEMO and Martin Ferguson’s Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism have not produced a page of their report. Apparently they have not even finished the scoping document. 

World leading economies like Denmark and Germany have plans for 100% renewable energy. Scotland and the Maldives have also announced they are going to 100% renewables.

New Zealand/Aotearoa are planning 90% renewable energy. It won't take much for them to up that target to 100%.

Matt Wright, Executive Director of Beyond Zero emissions, fears AEMO and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism will fob off this project and each blame the other. 

“Cynics would say the government’s strategy on renewable energy is to always delay, delay. And every delay for renewables means more profits for the fossil fuel industries, they are the only ones who benefit,” Mr Wright said.

“Renewable energy investment is now outstripping fossil fuel investment around the world. It’s past time that our government got serious on their options for cleaning up our dirty energy sector.

“If a community group running on the smell of an oily rag can produce a plan, why can’t the country’s energy market authority?”

For further comment, please contact Matthew Wright, Executive Director, Beyond Zero Emissions on 0421 616 733.

Now we’re cooking without gas!

Zero emissions buildings are good for your health

Common wisdom has it that gas is the best for cooking and it’s the most efficient for heating.

This thinking is out of date, as will be demonstrated in a talk at the Healthy Buildings Symposium by Trent Hawkins, Buildings Plan project director for renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE).

The health risks from gas are sadly well known. Gas leaks from old hot-water systems have asphyxiated people. Leaky gas pipes have caused explosions. Old gas heaters and stoves may produce toxic carbon monoxide gas, and often start fires.

But is there a responsible, environmentally friendly alternative?

Modern reverse-cycle airconditioners can provide heating at a high level of efficiency. This is because they don’t try to create heat – they just concentrate heat in the air, and move it into (or out of) buildings with a heat pump. It’s the same way a refrigerator works.

The best performing units can now deliver 5 joules of heat for every joule of electricity they consume. Heat pumps can also provide hot water efficiently without using gas. 

The most efficient electric stoves avaliable are induction cooktops, which are the standard in Europe. The induction process means the stovetop doesn’t heat up like a gas or electric element stove – another health bonus when you consider the risk of burns and fire.

Of course, gas is also a fossil fuel, and increasingly dirty as we move into coal-seam gas production.

BZE’s Zero Carbon Australia buildings plan will be released in September this year.

The plan will show how to get a massive reduction in the amount of energy used to heat, light and cool our homes and commercial buildings. This is consistent with the recommendations of the previously published stationary energy plan, which outlined a realistic way to a 100% renewable electricity grid.

The buildings plan doesn’t only advocate replacing gas with modern appliances. It also proposes to insulate buildings and reduce air-infiltration. This means less exposure to extreme temperatures, increasing health and  comfort.

Trent will speak from 11:45AM to 12:45PM on Monday July 9, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Plaza Terrace auditorium. This talk is free –for more information or to reserve a place, visit: http://zcabuildings.eventbrite.com/

For info on the Healthy Buildings Symposium http://hb2012.org/registration/


For more information contact Trent Hawkins on  407 070 841       

or Emma Carton (BZE QLD general manager)416 584 769     

Solar tariff fitted up

Commission counts only the upfront cost, misses savings

Solar feed-in tariffs have been framed. By focusing on the cost but ignoring the savings from solar power, a backlash is being encouraged when we should be celebrating success.

The Australian has used statements from the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) to claim that the state’s solar Feed-in Tariff will cause over $100 a year rise in South Australia’s already-high electricity bills.

“This high figure shows two things,” said Matt Wright, Executive Director of renewable energy think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions.

“Firstly, the policy has succeeded very well in deploying solar power, even if they were unprepared for it.

“Secondly, they haven’t understood the flow-on benefits and don’t realise that solar is generating savings too.

“Research by University of Melbourne, and separately by ROAM Consulting, shows that the lower wholesale electricity prices that have been achieved in South Australia has more than offset the cost of funding the Feed-in-Tariff.”

South Australia wind power figures vindicate radical energy plan

Yesterday energy consultants EnergyQuest broke the news that wind power supplied 31% of South Australia’s electricity in the last quarter.

Solar panels added another 3.5% to put renewable energy’s share in that state well above coal (26%) and getting close to gas (39.5%).

31% wind energy is up from 21% 12 months ago. Just six years ago, the contribution of wind in South Australia was close to zero.

Beyond Zero Emissions spokesperson Matthew Wright says the findings vindicate his group’s controversial Zero Carbon Australia plan, which outlines a transition to 100% renewable energy in ten years.

“The message this sends is that Australia can rapidly reduce its high fossil fuel use and carbon emissions, over ten years, not the commonly suggested 2050 date for serious emissions reduction targets.

 “Our plan has wind providing 40% of the annual energy of Australia, and making that transition in ten years. Clearly, progress in South Australia shows that we aren’t being so radical after all. Maybe our 40% was conservative: SA are nearly there already, and still adding more wind capacity.

 “If we combine the variable output of wind farms with a flexible, dispatchable renewable energy source we can abandon fossil fuels altogether. Modern solar thermal plants, that can run around the clock off stored heat can do this.

 “We are helping to develop a plan for the first such plants to replace the coal power stations at Port Augusta.

 “Wind energy has proven it is up for the task. We just need to get the right policy such as a feed-in tariff to support the newer solar thermal plants, and Australia can kick its fossil fuel habit for good.”


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