I have written about it before, but just wanted to shine some extra attention towards the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan. They have been getting a stack of media attention lately, as they are gearing up for the release of the full report on 14 July. A 16 page synopsis is newly available here, which is quite readable, even for non-experts like me.
Again, it is great to see such a credible, researched plan to show a path away from our current fossil fuel dependency. To quote from the report, “100% renewable electricity supply is achievable using technology that is commercially available today, with no technical barriers to their deployment. Implementing the proposed infrastructure in ten years is well within the capability of Australia’s existing industrial capacity. The required investment is the equivalent of a stimulus to the economy of 3% of GDP.”
Remember that this report just covers stationary energy (electricity and gas for heating). Upcoming Zero Carbon Australia reports will be published in the areas of:
replacing coal export revenue
Can’t wait. For now, let’s spread the word on this proposal.
Name:Local Power Description: Solar photovoltaic bulk buyers/installers Founded: Brisbane, 2007
What’s a tried and true way of bringing the cost down on purchases? Buy in bulk. This is the principle used by Local Power, a Brisbane not-for-profit that organises the bulk ordering and installation of solar PV power systems.
Every few months, Local Power opens a new ‘buying group‘ for householders to be a part of. Rather than offering a wide range of solar panels/inverters to cater to a wide range of personal preferences, Local Power’s buying groups only offer a few product options. Cutting down the complexity and focusing on fewer solar system models allows Local Power to negotiate better prices from its suppliers. It also simplifies life for the tradies that install the systems. Not only is it easier to repeatedly install identical systems on different roofs, bulk buying groups also allow the installers to better plan their work and efficiently drive between houses in local geographic areas.
As well as offering great value for people that are already interested in renewable energy, Local Power opens doors for people who are willing to embrace solar power, but lack the time or knowledge to buy systems on their own. Working in a coordinated fashion gets positive attention from the government, supports the fledgling renewable energy industry, and makes Local Power customers feel like the are a part of a kind of ‘movement’. A not-for-profit with four successful buying groups behind it, Local Power is a great example of a community initiative that has ‘filled a gap’ for hundreds of households, and made genuine steps to reducing the carbon intensity of our neighbourhoods.
In my last post I mentioned solar thermal energy technology. I thought I must mention how solar thermal is different to the photovoltaic solar cells that readers may be familiar with.
While photovoltaic cells directly use the sun’s light to create electricity, solar thermal installations use mirrors to concentrate the heat from the sun into a storage medium, such as molten salt. The high heat of this molten salt can then be used to turn a turbine by boiling water into steam, much like what happens in a coal, gas or nuclear power plant. The benefit of solar thermal over photovoltaics is that it can be relied upon as a baseload, 24 hour power source as heat is gradually drawn from the molten salt when required. The benefits of solar thermal over coal, gas and nuclear is that it requires no fuel inputs, and emits no pollution from its operations.
I’m sure I’m not the only one excited by technology such as this. I’m fascinated by the idea of energy sources that need no fuel inputs and produce no pollution or emissions. Better yet, the cost of solar thermal is comparable to coal power plants and the technology is well-suited to Australian conditions. Bring it on.
Solar technologies are currently more expensive than coal because they internalise their costs to the environment, but coal externalises its costs.
I think it’s great that despite this situation (the costs of coal pollution to the environment being written off as ‘free’), solar thermal is still emerging as an economic challenger to coal under these ‘old rules’. When we remember that coal is only ‘cheap’ because of the incomplete way we account for its environmental lifecycle, the choice between fossil fuels and renewables is stark. Let’s make our priority supporting clean, rapidly deployable technology such as solar thermal.
The plan uses current, proven, commercially available technologies in a 60/40 split between solar thermal and wind. Their plans maps the sites of the solar and wind modules to areas with appropriate sun and wind resources that are suitably close to major cities.
The upfront costs of the plan have been calculated, with a quoted figure of $35-40 billion per year for 10 years – the equivalent of 3-4% of Australia’s GDP. The group state that with the economies of scale associated with such a project, the cost of installing these solar and wind options are close to parity with that of coal power. The upside, of course, is we won’t have to deal with the many dirty consequences of coal mining and coal-fired power plants, and that we will have invested in a brand new grid of energy utilities that requires no fuel inputs.
Beyond Zero Emissions are keen to take on the might of the fossil fuel lobby, who have long run a scare campaign about renewable energy: specifically that renewables are too expensive, can’t provide baseload power, will cost jobs and will ‘wreck the economy’. Level-headed analysis dismisses those claims as scare tactics by vested interests.
The T10 plan show that there are no resource constraints (steel, concrete, glass, labour, etc) that are holding us back from a 100% renewable energy grid in one decade’s time. Personally, I think there are just three things holding us back:
community members who have not been informed that such economical clean energy alternatives exist and are ready to be deployed
politicians stuck in the ‘coal, coal, coal’ mindset who have not been shown a vision of the benefits that a transition to renewable energy would provide for the economy and society
environmentally informed citizens who are not doing all that they can do to make this plan succeed (I raise my hand to this category)
Please take ten minutes to watch the above video, and please help spread the word of this credible plan. We need this issue on the agenda in the lead-up to the 2010 federal election.
Don’t believe the crocodile tears of the coal industry, nor anyone else with a vested interest in status quo. These dinosaurs have had a cruisy, subsidised ride for far too long and are responsible for many toxic and deleterious side-effects. They should be forced to compete on fair terms with the cleaner alternatives that are comparatively starved of government assistance. As Dr Karl says, “When was the last time you saw a coal plant having a lamington drive?”.
Our economy is flexible, and society will benefit as we transition away from coal, and towards renewables.
The above image was drawn for, but cast-aside from my newest cartoon ‘Part of Nature‘.
OK, this is one of the ones that most people have heard of, but not enough people actually do. Put simply, GreenPower is an opt-in scheme that allows customers to source their electricity from renewable sources. Customers can choose the percentage of their consumption that they would like to source from renewable sources, and a corresponding change is added to their next electricity bill. This charge is necessary because renewable energy currently costs more per kilowatt hour than energy from fossil fuel sources.
Put it this way: instead of giving money to an environmental charity that pays employees to lobby government and try to change policy, GreenPower let you give money directly to an an energy company that will invest it directly in renewable energy sources. The beauty of this scheme is that GreenPower is a contract with your energy company to fund the generation of renewable energy corresponding to your usage.
My house is currently on a plan that sources 100% of electricity consumption from renewable sources. Our last quarterly electricity bill totaled $589.05, which included a $57.20 GreenPower component. Averaged across the 91 days of the billing period, this equals an extra 63 cents per day for the household (or less than 11 cents per person per day for the six people that live in the sharehouse). What a small price to pay for the satisfaction of living from renewable energy!
Switching has never been easier. All it takes is a quick phone call or email to your electricity company, and you should be signed to GreenPower by the close of business. Your consumer dollar will be directly funding the development of a local renewable energy industry, and will send a clear message about your environmental beliefs.
Some things are worth paying more for, and GreenPower is a clearly superior than the dirty coal power plants that still supply the majority of our electricity. Australian readers can learn more information on the government GreenPower website. Otherwise, just click around the website of your current energy company – you will need to talk to them to actually make the change (GreenPower is simply the government accreditor).