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When it comes to energy resources, there aren't many places on Earth that can rival Australia in either abundance or variety ... coal, wind, waves, solar, nuclear, hydro, natural gas or biomass

Some critics describe Australia as the engine room of climate change, as we stoke the fires of global warming with coal exports and our own reliance on 'dirty' electricity production. Others more optimistically point to the ingenuity of Australian research in developing viable new technologies for harnessing cleaner, green alternatives, and even see us as having the potential to be leaders in the battle to contain climate change.

  Wildlife, wind and solar farms
Dr Arthur White, president of the NSW Frog and Tadpole Study Group (FATS) discusses the impact of wind and solar farms on wildlife. Windfarms have been around longer than solar farms (in Europe for more than 30 years) and animal studies include effects of noise and risk of animal strikes on turbine blades. Solar farms are of the large array format, and water birds sometimes land on them, mistaking the sparkling panels for a body of water while flying across them. Insects are also attracted to the solar panels and that attracts a whole group of other animals to the site. With the right planning the impacts of wind and solar farms on wildlife can be minimised. Even industry has decided that renewable energy is the most economical option for the future.

  NEGative Resistance
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, looks at how National Energy Guarantee (NEG) came about, what it means and how it is being received. When the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, released his report into the energy sector 49 of his 50 recommendations were accepted by the federal government. The 50th, on the Clean Energy Target, was rejected. In its place is the NEG, designed to be a policy framework with three key pillars. The NEG is designed to reduce emissions, to keep electricity costs down and to ensure the electricity supply is reliable for all Australians. It is essentially a framework for developing an energy policy and there have been extensive consultations with stakeholders in the lead up to its release. The NEG needs the support of all the states and territories (just one veto kills it) as well as the Coalition party room, which is why Dr Manor feels sorry for Josh Frydenberg as the coalition flat-earthers still ask for more coal to make energy reliable. 

  Price Fixing
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, takes a closer look at what is happening in the electricity market at both state and federal levels. At a state level South Australia’s new premier, Steve Marshall, has undertaken to honour any contracts in the renewable energy sector that were drawn up under his predecessor Jay Wetherill. The promise to supply 50,000 homes with Tesla power walls is likely to continue to some extent because the first 1,000 homes to get solar panels and batteries will be government housing. This will help those households hedge against retail costs going up but it is also the beginning of a distributed battery which can also help stabilise the South Australian electricity grid.

  The Generation Gap
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, explains why 2017 was so important in terms of renewable energy, especially in South Australia. The amount of renewable energy installed in Australia in 2017 was more than in any other year in our history! The revolution started in the residential sector (1 in 4 houses in NSW currently has solar panels) and is now making inroads into the commercial sector. Shops, factories and many companies see renewables as a way of hedging against the volatility in the grid electricity market while getting energy security and cost security. It is difficult to say whether the federal government will support increased renewables, as there is a perception they are wedded to fossil fuel generation and believe that is the only way to achieve reliable energy security. The states, however, present a different picture, particularly South Australia. who have decided to go it alone to achieve a more reliable energy system. South Australia is showing the world what can be done rather than the blinkered vision of coal and gas as the only way to get baseload energy. Indeed the very idea of baseload energy is an invention of the coal-fired electricity industry. Fossil fuel generators have to keep running because they can’t shut down or start up rapidly. Sourcing energy that can be virtually instantaneously connected to, or disconnected from the grid (dispatchable electricity) will see us saying goodbye to baseload and hello to dispatchable. Gentailers like AGL (a generator and a retailer) are abandoning coal for renewables for purely economic reasons. Renewable generators are known as a near zero marginal cost form of generation. Once a plant is built and paid off then the electricity generated over the remaining service life of that system is almost free because you don’t need to keep feeding it fuel. Steam power started the first industrial revolution and renewable power generation will usher in another. The generation gap is being bridged, and South Australia is leading the way

  Power to the People
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, looks at the state of play of renewable electricity generation in Australia and at the contribution that a fearless visionary like Elon Musk brings to the future of electricity. There is an enormous amount of activity in the renewable energy space in Australia at the moment. The biggest battery ever is now patched into the South Australian electricity grid to help stabilise it during an unforeseen event with the main saving is avoiding building another gas-peaking power station. There are still significant challenges in the development of renewable energy in Australia. We are stuck with the transmission grid because it cost a huge amount of money to put up that infrastructure, the big iron towers with all the struts and beams that support high voltage cables. This grid was designed to move energy from big centralised coal-burning power stations around the countryside. It was not designed to have a large number of smallish renewable generators connected into it at various points along the transmission lines, a two-way transfer of energy. A solar farm, for instance, has to find land that is close to the grid where it has the capacity to accept the energy created. In many cases solar farm owners must build their own grid connections at a cost of $1.2 million per kilometre of cable. The cost of electricity from a solar farm over its 25 year service life is 3-5 cents per kilowatt hour whereas we are paying 25-30c per kilowatt hour for fossil fuel-based energy. Investment certainty in renewable development is sorely lacking at a federal government level and there is concern is that after the early 2020s there will be no further incentives to develop renewable energy. We hear about loss of jobs in the coal industry but not the gain of jobs in the renewables energy sector. In another field, the global electric vehicle revolution has begun. Elon Musk from Tesla Motors has launched the Tesla truck, a full-sized heavy haulage truck with a range of 800 km on one charge. The truck can maintain 100 kilometres per hour up a pretty decent hill and when empty can accelerate from 0-11 kph in under 5 seconds. The total cost of ownership of this truck over its service life is 20% lower than a diesel one. Tesla vehicles (models S and X) are on the road right now. They are high performance vehicles which give petrol cars a run for their money but they do cost over $150,000 in Australia. The Model 3 is intended to cost around US$30,000 which is comparable to family-oriented cars. This model has had 400,000 pre-orders before it went into production, an amazing level of consumer confidence. Tesla has also showcased the Roadster 2 an incredible piece of engineering rumoured to cost around $250,000. It can accelerate from 0-100 kph in 1.9 seconds, faster than anything else on this planet! In the future renewable electricity generation really will bring power to the people.

  Powering up battery energy storage
Australia is in the process of a complete energy market transformation and people are thinking big to solve problems. It seems we are well on the way to forming a new power base in this country. A whole suite of technology is emerging to support that shift and economics is supporting that transformation too. Batteries have evolved enormously in the last few years, having changed their chemistry. Lithium battery will be the predominate battery for the next decade and it is predicted they will drop by 40% from their present price of $10-12,000. There are huge investments in building factories that make lithium batteries.Tesla Corporation has reached an agreement with South Australia to build the world`s largest storage battery in conjunction with a French company (Neoen) that builds wind farms (the Tesla battery will be sited at a wind farm connected to the grid). Elon Musk has promised that if the battery is not built in 100 days then it will be free. The battery will have a supply capacity of 100 megawatts (more than double the present largest battery installation) and be able to store 129 megawatt-hours of energy. It will provide load balancing for renewable energy generation in SA and allow emergency back-up power if a shortfall in energy production is predicted. A Brisbane company, the Lyon Group, already has proposals to build even bigger batteries in South Australia. Commercial-scale batteries use a modular approach and are often housed in shipping containers that are readily available all around the world (since they are uneconomical to ship back to China).

  The electric vehicle saga
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, charges into the fast-changing world of electric vehicles to bring us up to speed on this new revolution. There are a number of electric vehicles on the market. There are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Toyota Prius that can be driven on petrol or electric and there are battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that have no internal combustion engines at all. Electric vehicles include passenger cars, logistical type trucks for transporting goods as well as electric motor cycles, currently very popular in China. The International Energy Agency predicts that globally there will be 220 million electric vehicles by 2030 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons there will be 559 million electric vehicles by 2040. Some Scandinavian countries have electric vehicles as 25% of new vehicles sales. These incredible numbers show the shift away from internal combustion engines that will take place in the next decades.  Electric vehicles are three times more efficient as petrol motors and they also have regenerative braking which puts the kinetic energy from movement back into the battery. When petrol cars brake the kinetic energy is turned into heat which is lost to the environment, making them less efficient. Electric scooters (China has millions of them) are a lot quieter than two-stroke motorbikes and create much less pollution.  The discussions around electric vehicles are like renewables and subject to manipulation for particular ends but the inescapable fact is that electric vehicles are now firmly on the radar of all major car manufacturers. In Australia Jaguar is planning to install an electric car charging network before it releases its electric Jaguar this year and Tesla is also building one. The Australian Capital Territory government has committed to installing 50 charging stations within the ACT for use by its government fleet. Ultimately the idea is to charge all electric vehicles from renewable energy sources.  Without government incentives electric vehicles are seen as premium products and not affordable for most people. Australian awareness of electric vehicles is lower than it could be with unexpected barriers. One is that car dealerships do not promote them, something repeated world-wide since most profit does not come from selling vehicles but from finance and service contracts. Electric vehicles need little service.

Australia is one of the only OECD countries that does not have government incentives to promote the uptake of electric vehicles. In terms of the future of vehicles are we really moving forwards?

  Power politics and the SA Black System in 2016
Dr Barry Manor, Sustainability Consultant, explains how the black system occurred in South Australia, creating a loss of electricity for the whole state. On the 28th September 2016, amid a period of high winds, lashing rain and thousands of lightning strikes right across the state, the South Australian electricity grid suffered what is known as a black system. This happens when an entire grid goes down to zero volts, completely losing all electricity. 

  Practical power policies not politics please
Who determines the cost to the community of power? What are the reasons for the major costs? How often are these assessed? Who are the regulators? Who regulates the regulators?  What is their expertise? What is spot pricing of our electricity on the eastern grid? Why does it operate more like the stock exchange than an integral part of an essential service heavily subsidised by Australian taxpayers? Questions like these and MORE for all our political parties that need answers and not finger pointing. Practical power policies not politics please .... perhaps please explain ... What price power and why?

  Switched on solar research
Australian research and development has achieved such outstanding improvements in photovoltaics that now hold the world record of 40% efficiency for converting sunlight to electricity. The next step is already underway towards demonstrating viable, economically competitive local and international solar power plants.

  Some good news for renewables
Some good news for renewables
New Energy Levels: Mark Bretherton, from the Clean Energy Council, explains the role of this peak renewable energy organisation and the role of other organisations and factors in Australia’s renewable energy sector. The last few years have been challenging for the renewable energy sector when the federal government decided to review the Renewal Energy Target (RET) at the beginning of 2014. The RET is the most important policy for the renewable energy industry, encouraging the lowest cost types of renewables to be built. The uncertainty created by that review meant that financiers were reluctant to lend the money required, investments dropping by 90% for large scale renewables like wind farms and solar farms. The 13 projects that were underway in 2013 slowed to a trickle, with only a couple of projects still underway. The 18 months of chronic uncertainty were ended when bipartisan support for a lower target was achieved.

  Be part of the lighting revolution (series)
Solid state lighting versus incandescents or fluorescents: last 100 times as long, use a fraction of the electricity; free from mercury and completely recyclable. So join the LEDers!

Getting it right: the LED lighting revolution
Sometimes we get it right: the outstanding technology, the support of the community and organisations and the government developing essential, effective regulations.

  Wind power (series)
Clean, green, sustainable and the most cost effective of our renewables.
It's also becoming the most over regulated of our energy industries.......

  Coal seam gas (link to series)
Greener than grass...??
Click here for coal seam gas series

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