Tag Archives: renewable energy

Origin Energy attacks renewables

Origin Energy CEO Grant King is a big supporter of fossil fuels and uses his company’s wealth to lobby government to water down support for renewable energy.

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is arguably Australia’s most effective emissions reduction policy (far more so than the carbon price). Combined with a drop in electricity demand since 2009, the construction of wind and solar power has helped drop the price of wholesale electricity, which has forced the closure of around 3000MW of coal power in recent months.

The RET is a fixed electricity generation target for the year 2020. Due to falling demand for electricity, what was originally aiming for 20% of electricity production by 2020 has now risen to around 22-25% by 2020.  This of course is great news, but not for the companies that own gas and coal mines and power stations, as renewable energy is out-competing them and they are losing profits.

The RET is now being reviewed by the Climate Change Authority with a preliminary report released today. Origin Energy and Energy Australia (formerly TRUenergy) have been running a campaign to get the RET reduced or scrapped. In a submission to the Climate Change Authority, Origin Energy used dubious figures to claim that the RET was costing consumers large amounts of money. What they really care about of course is their own profits, not the costs for consumers, which renewable energy will help reduce in the medium and long terms.

Origin Energy spends a lot of time greenwashing themselves, running advertisements presenting the company as a supporter of GreenPower and electric vehicles. The truth is that they are doing their best to thwart a transition to a clean energy future.

Considering the urgency of the climate crisis, and the potential that we have already crossed tipping points into runaway climate change (such as the record Arctic sea ice melt this year), it is obscene for companies to be lobbying against renewable energy, and asking for the RET to be reduced. In truth, it should be at least doubled for 2020 with a 100% renewable energy target in place for some time in the 2020s.

We urge all Origin Energy customers to switch retailers and make sure you tell them why when you do. You can also sign this petition which will go to the Origin Energy annual general meeting on 12 November.

 

Solar is the Brightest Energy Option

Originally published in newmatilda.com

Solar power may soon be the cheapest way to power your home – and the rapid growth of the industry is making other energy providers nervous. Ben Eltham on the solar revolution.

Few ordinary punters know who she is, but in renewable energy circles, she’s a rock star. Executive Secretary of global renewable energy policy network, REN21, Christine Lins is based at the UN Environment Program in Paris. REN21’s well-known Global Status Report is one of the most frequently cited reports establishing baseline data of the growth of the renewable energy internationally. Word has spread to Australia: Lins’ talk in Melbourne last week packed out a large lecture at the University of Melbourne.

You can watch her full speech at the Grattan Institute website, so I won’t recapitulate it here. But one thing stood out from her presentation: the astonishing global growth in solar energy.

Some of the statistics from the Global Status Report underline the solar explosion. An amazing 47 per cent of all new electricity generation in the entire EU came from photovoltaics in 2011. Almost 30 gigawatts of solar energy was added to global energy supply last year, a 74 per cent increase. Between 2006 and 2011, the operating capacity of solar electricity globally increased by an average of 58 per cent a year.

Global solar photovoltaic capacity is increasing exponentially. Source: REN 21 Global Status Report.

The reason for solar’s explosion is clear: shrinking costs. In just one year, 2011, the price of solar PV modules fell by 42 per cent. No wonder Lins called last year a “very special year” for renewable energy.”This is often a figure whenever I present this to an audience that is not too familiar with renewables development where this is some frowning, and people are wondering, because I think these are really remarkable figures,” Lins said last week, with typically Austrian understatement.

This plummeting cost base is transforming the energy industry, including in Australia. Although solar is still only a relatively small component of Australia’s energy mix, its growth is so rapid and its costs are shrinking so quickly that solar threatens to upend the entire structure of the Australian energy sector. That’s got a lot of people very excited. It’s got many established players in the energy industry very worried.

Nigel Morris is a well-known solar PV industry analyst, and a director of energy consulting firm Solar Business Services. He is optimistic about the exponential growth of solar PV globally. “I’d say it’s revolutionary for the energy industry in Australia, not just solar,” he told New Matilda in a recent phone interview. “The way that we traditionally view the electricity industry is absolutely going through a revolution.”

“As a general rule, in Australia, as a residential customer, on average solar system pricing, you will generate electricity cheaper than you can buy it in a vast majority of cases.”

“In many cases,” Morris says, “we are at socket parity.”

Socket parity is a term much bandied about in the industry, and not without justification. That’s because as electricity prices go up and solar PV costs come down, we are already in a situation in Australia where ordinary householders can generate much of the household electricity on their own roof, dramatically reducing their energy consumption from the grid.

The penny appears to have dropped for Australian householders, egged on by generous feed-in tariffs from state governments and renewable energy certificate credits from Canberra. According to the Australian PV Association (pdf), solar installations grew to 1.4 gigawatts in 2011, up from 571 megawatts in 2010 and 184 megawatts in 2009.

Solar installations in Australia more than doubled in 2010 and 2011. Source: Australian PV Association.

This rapid proliferation in solar systems is starting to seriously affect old calculations about the energy industry in Australia. The government’s normally conservative Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics is now predicting that solar will be the cheapest form of electricity generation by 2030. It’s what Mark Twidell of the Australian Solar Institute calls a “perfect storm of cost reduction”.

Twidell points out that solar PV has special advantages that other energy generation technologies lack. While wind turbines are themselves falling in costs by around 10 per cent a year, they remain large and quite complex mechanical engines. PV, by contrast, is closer in its technology base to the world of electronics fabrication. “When you look at the various technologies, most of them are spinning a turbine, whereas PV is solid state,” he says. “It’s a completely different cost structure. It’s disruptive in that costs can still go down.” As a result, solar PV appears to be enjoying a cost curve similar to the famous Moore’s Law we see in computer chips.

All that solar is starting to reduce household demand for electricity. Muriel Watt, an energy policy expert from the University of New South Wales, thinks “there’s a lot of capacity that has gone in the past few years, almost all of that is acting as negative load, so yes, that would be making significant contribution to reducing demand.”

Perhaps ironically, one of the biggest drivers of household solar has been rising electricity prices themselves. “There was always this view that the elasticity of demand was very low and you could keep putting prices up and people wouldn’t change what they used, but I they’ve just realise that that was incorrect,” Watt says. “Often times people will simply say ‘We’ve been thinking of putting insulation in for a long time, now that our power bill is $500, we’re actually going to do it’.”

As Watt observes, electricity retailers make money by selling electricity to you. “By and large they’re selling kilowatt hours,” she says. “So if you’re reducing your kilowatt hours their business model no longer works. Similarly the networks make money by kilowatt hours flowing through the network, so if you reduce that, their business model doesn’t work … we really need to change our retail market models.”

And because solar so threatens the existing business models of retailers and wholesalers, big energy is beginning to fight back. Morris says there is widespread concern in the solar industry that retailers and networks will begin to clamp down on solar installations, either by charging customers big money to hook up their panels, or simply by prohibiting them altogether.

“I’d say it’s the number one topic of discussion I’m having with solar companies every time I give a seminar,” he says. “It is not just something that might happen, it is something that is happening today.”

“If the network owner simply doesn’t want to connect you, there is no alternative, you have nowhere else to go … I had two calls this week from customers who had deals essentially agreed for 100 kilowatt systems, in one case the distributor said ‘We don’t want you to connect, we’re not going to allow you to connect’.”

Watt agrees. “There’s parts of the network in Brisbane where you can’t automatically connect [solar], and there’s parts of the diesel grid areas of northern Western Australia that you can’t automatically connect,” she confirms. “In terms of charging large sums of money, they’ve certainly done that for commercial installations where they hit you with large grid upgrade costs.”

Morris says “there is little if any” regulation around connecting solar — or indeed any form of distributed energy — in a network geometry still geared to the centralised distribution of power from big plants to households and small businesses. The issue was highlighted recently with a recent Queensland Competition Authority discussion paper, which recommended that householders with solar panels on their roof be forced to buy their own electricity from the grid at retail prices.

The recommendation was framed around what would be “fair and reasonable” to electricity retailers and distributors — but it’s hardly fair on consumers, who aren’t even allowed to use the electricity they generate on their roofs. When interviewed by Climate Spectator’s Tristan Edis, Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions likened the proposal to “telling someone they aren’t allowed to eat the fruit and vegetables grown in their own backyard and must sell it to the local Coles or Woolworths where they’ll then have to buy it back at a substantial mark-up.”

Mark Twidell says that regulatory reform is necessary if solar is not to be strangled by the entrenched power of the companies that run the grid. “I would say that it is inevitable that as markets change, regulations need to change. If we get the incentives right, it’s a win-win.”

But perhaps the clearest analysis of the changing nature of energy in Australia was outlined by Christine Lins. “There is a triangle of renewables policy”, she said in Melbourne last week, with the three points of the triangle occupied by energy security, industry policy and the environment. In Australia, blessed with vast reserves of fossil fuels, energy security has not been a driving force behind the development of renewable energy. Instead, the environment has been the main justification for policies like solar feed-in tariffs. But Lins argued that industry policy might be the real winning argument for the further development of renewables in Australia.

Rather than focusing on what jobs might be lost in dirty industries like coal, Australia could be focusing on the jobs of the future on offer with solar and other renewables. Lins pointed out that there are now five million jobs in renewable energy industries world-wide, a number sure to grow rapidly.

Twidell agrees. “70 to 80 per cent of the activity in solar is local,” he observes, with many of the jobs in renewable energy likely to be created in local services, such as electricians and installers.

This is a big new front in the war over the future of Australian energy. For a long time, the supposedly costly and uneconomic nature of clean energy has long been the most effective argument wheeled out by fossil fuel industries intent on protecting their turf. But as solar races towards cost parity, that argument is evaporating. Indeed, solar energy will soon be the cheapest and best way to power ordinary households and businesses.

Big energy is fighting back, however, lobbying for new regulations and industry protections. Given the vast lobbying power of the mining and fossil fuel industries, they have a good chance of succeeding. Now more than ever, the renewable industry’s best weapon will be ordinary voters.

Walk for SOLARdarity – Sunday 30 September

Right now over a hundred Australian Youth Climate Coalition volunteers are walking 325 kilometres from Port Augusta to Adelaide to show the government that Australia’s youth demands a future powered by renewable energy. They are walking for solar.

While some of us aren’t fit or free enough to join the Walk for Solar, we do still care about the world we will inherit. In fact, thousands of Australians, all over the country do. Therefore, to make the Walk for Solar as powerful as possible, there will be a Walk for Solidarity in every Australian capital city on Sunday 30 September.

In Victoria, we want to get as many people as possible walking to Martin Ferguson’s office in Preston. And what’s more, because we’re passionate about solar energy, and love a good pun, we will be walking in SOLARdarity. Yep, that’s right. We’re going to dress up as the sun. So join us this Sunday to show your support for renewable energy.

When: Sunday 30 September. We will be leaving CERES at 1pm, but hanging out and eating from 12pm.

Where: Meeting at CERES Environment Park, Roberts St, Brunswick East. We will then be walking 4km to Martin Ferguson’s office in Preston.

What to bring: Yellow clothes, sunscreen, water, snacks and friends!

You can find out more information, and tell us if your coming, by clicking here.

 

 

The voters want solar, Ferguson offers more coal

Over four weekends in March and April, members of Darebin Climate Action Now (DCAN) and Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) conducted doorknocking and street stalls in the Batman electorate. Volunteers spoke to over 500 people from Reservoir, Preston, Northcote, Fairfield, Alphington and Clifton Hill about their views on the development and funding of large scale solar power in Australia. The surveys are part of a campaign by 100% Renewables to have 10,000 conversations about Big Solar in 50 electorates around Australia.

The results of polling of 417 people in Batman show overwhelming support for the building of large scale solar power plants in Australia from both the relatively high and low income parts of the electorate.

This polling shows that Martin Ferguson is out of touch with voters in his own electorate. While Mr Ferguson is talking up the development of coal and gas, and talking down renewable energy (to the point of lying about its ability to provide baseload power and lying about its price, twice), his constituents want to see Australia transition to renewable energy.

The results (see below) have been sent to Martin Ferguson, and we await his response.

Big Solar poll – Results

The table below outlines the results from our polling. In summary, 87% of people support the building of large-scale solar in Australia, and 91% support government funding for this sort of project.

Yes

No

Don’t know/ not sure

1. Did you know about the large scale solar power plants being
built in other parts of the world -like this one?
[show picture
of Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST) power plant in Spain]
Clifton Hill (n=112)

67%

31%

2%

Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)

68%

30%

2%

Preston, Reservoir (n=206)

42%

55%

3%

Total all locations (n=418)

55%

43%

2%

2. [After explanation of CST] Do you think we should be building
these solar plants in Australia?
Clifton Hill (n=114)

87%

3%

11%

Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)

98%

0%

2%

Preston, Reservoir (n=206)

82%

4%

14%

Total all locations (n=420)

87%

3%

10%

3. Last year the government set up a new $10 billion fund to
support investment in projects like this. Do you support this
kind of government funding for big solar?
Clifton Hill (n=111)

92%

3%

5%

Northcote, Alphington, Fairfield (n=100)

99%

1%

0%

Preston, Reservoir (n=206)

86%

5%

9%

Total all locations (n=417)

91%

3%

6%

* An additional 95 people signed up as supporters of the campaign to build Big Solar in Australia but
did not complete the survey.

Below is an unedited list of the hundreds of messages that were sent to Martin Ferguson by the people we surveyed.

Big Solar poll – Batman residents’ messages for Martin Ferguson

Reservoir (door-knocking)

1. Have an open mind to solar. You need to broaden your horizons and look to the future. Coal is going to get phased out. There needs to be a plan already. We should be exploring more solar power.

2. It sounds like a better idea to build solar.

3. Solar power is a great source of energy, and we should utilise this great gift, which can last forever.

4. We need to consider that [solar power] and stay away from nuclear.

5. Think of our kids- cos we’ve seen what nuclear power does in Japan and Russia and the coal only pollutes the air.

6. I think solar is good because it saves money.

7. Solar demands inclusion as an option to supplement existing coal power. I’m all for wind turbines and bio-energy.

8. Need to put efforts into sustainable energy sources.

9. Build big solar!

10. Get with it. Surprised [you are] not already building big solar.

11. Should explore it. Would create jobs.

12. Build big solar.

13. Get with the program. It’s the future, and better than digging up and burning coal.

14. Get rid of carbon tax – harness natural resources.

 

Preston (door-knocking):

1. We should have more rebates for solar for sure. We should invest in large scale solar instead of coal.

2. We have a huge area in central Australia. You’re not going to run out of sun and wind.

3. You should start with Ministry of Housing houses for solar power – to help the strugglers.

4. I’m an electrician – we should build more like the one in Echuca. It’s free energy. You’ll make your money back.

5. Put solar panels on Ministry houses.

6. More should be being done. Fossil fuels are old technology and harmful to the environment.

7. Energy should be more natural, solar is more natural than using coal or nuclear power.

8. Renewable energy is the way of the future if we want sustainable environment.

9. Renewable energy will be good for the environment, but we want our money to be used wisely.

10. 1If we had more efficient solar panels or solar energy it would be better for the environment, and the economy, but it needs to be affordable to the general population.

11. Reliance on unsustainable big business is bad news!

12. It’s unsafe not to go something free of emissions. I vote in your electorate and I want big solar, not fossil fuels power.

13. Yes …I’ve written to [Martin] before. I think [big solar] is exactly the kind of thing we should be looking for. Commitment to unsustainable energy sources is disappointing. Australia is one of the last countries in the world to do this. We should be reading the world.

14. Burning fossil fuel is clearly environmentally dangerous to all living things (bad cycle). We should have been looking at clean sources to fuel our energy needs from the beginning. Please fund this for everyone’s sake.

15. Use the people’s money wisely.

16. Solar should be supported as long as the project location is suitable.

17. Should be giving reduction or rebate for local solar rooftops and not as much money into coal fired.

18. Solar is the best renewable!

19. [Put] funds into research for clean energy.

20. Please listen to your constituents, we want clean energy.

21. Please support clean energy for the people of Australia.

22. Renewable energy is the way to go.

23. The government should spend money on lots of things not just solar.

24. Please read the facts. You need better advisers, Martin.

25. Solar is an investment into the future. The old methods of supplying power are out-dated.

26. I’d like to see you support greener energy sources. It has to happen eventually.

27. We want our children to have a future in an industry that is sustainable. BZE have proved both economically and environmentally sound. Job creation wise, there is no ethical reason why we should be using coal at all. Renewable energy is the future for working class Australia.

28. Renewable energy reliance needs to be increased as part of a broader strategy, reducing out overall reliance on coal.

29. I do not support anything that is robbing our country of our resources. Start helping the low income people with affordable energy.

30. I don’t support anyone who is opposing solar and wind projects, which is good for nature and doesn’t emit carbon. We [should] promote wind and solar.

31. Better to support big solar rather than [coal] as solar is better for the environment.

32. [You] should be doing more to support investment in solar.

33. We should fund sustainable power.

34. This [large scale solar] is cheaper than photo-voltaic

35. Create a stable power environment to provide right environment for investment.

36. The clean energy board should have representation across the board.

37. Build big solar, we need it. It’s clean.

38. It will save a lot of money in the future.

39. Everything relies on us getting it right. We have to move away from fossil fuels. We’ve got so much renewable energy, let’s use it!

40. It’s time to give more money to Big Solar!

41. In the long run, it will be more economical to build big solar.

42. Solar is the future.

43. Solar power should be for the future (it’s not relevant in my [elderly] age group).

44. I am a fan of nuclear power, but it has to be run properly.

45. We have to look after the atmosphere, because I have twin boys.

46. [You] should not be blocking solar power. Solar should be widely used.

47. Well planned alternative energy is a must for our future.

48. I support solar energy for the future.

49. We need renewable and sustainable energy sources for our kids, and do it now. Build the infrastructure before mass need.

50. If solar power plants can reduce energy bills…

51. Be open minded about other energy sources.

52. You are wasting money on new coal fired power plants.

53. Think more long term than more short term; that wins votes.

54. About time we went solar.

55. It’s imperative that we invent and support new technologies to take us into the 23rd century, and not look backwards at the things we’ve always done. Now is the time.

56. I don’t understand why Australia doesn’t even do it.

57. Why aren’t they putting the finance into the solar industry?

58. We need to start moving away from coal to renewable energy sources.

59. Explore alternative opportunities.

60. Pull your finger out and do something about it.

61. Let’s now waste time on gas, go Blues!

62. Solar power needs to improve efficiency.

63. Build more solar power plants Martin.

64. We want more investment in renewables.

65. Solar and wind power are cleaner, can run for a longer time and no radiation.

66. I am in support of renewable energy.

67. Who pays your way? Coal and mining industry, or the people of Australia? You’re a traitor to Labor, and the people of Australia.

68. There are other alternatives to coal.

69. Cost of living is increasing day by day, so please do something in regards to solar energy. Solar energy is a renewable resource; this will help in reducing the bills of people. Help HH to play his bills.

70. Australia is full of sunshine, so why hasn’t the government capitalised on this? Why drag your feet behind other countries?

71. Please do the best thing for the future of Australia and the children of the planet. Solar energy please!

72. Hey Martin, get real. Start acting for our fossil free future, you fossil!

73. We support renewable energy.

74. We want more attention to be paid to the things that will keep the environment safe for future generations.

75. Look after the people and the country – the best nation in the world!

76. [You] should reconsider [your] stance. Nuclear power is not environmentally viable.

77. Bring on solar power!

78. Renewables are the future. You’re a dinosaur, Martin!

79. Renewables is a good step to take.

80. Invest in renewables instead of expanding coal.

81. I’m all for renewables.

82. Support and expand renewables.

83. Open your eyes!

84. I think wind and solar power are the future. Eventually we don’t have gas – even nuclear is not for ever and you leave a mess.

85. If USA is making them, then we should too. It’s going to be cheaper. Wind and solar – it’s always free.

86. Nuclear is cheap but very dangerous (I come from Europe and I know) Solar is good – never ending – good for the environment.

87. We sell coal to China and India – that’s politics. We like solar power, but we need government support for solar panels. We have lots of wind and solar. It’s good long term but difficult now – we need to sell resources to pay for it.

88. I’m not for nuclear power.

89. I can’t see why [Big Solar] can’t work. It makes sense!

90. Should build more solar power plants.

91. They do this and it just rips us off. They can do it but not out of our pockets.

92. We should be building solar power plants in Australia.

93. Alternative energy sources need to be considered.

94. I’m not into funding or supporting coal.

95. I support a balanced approach.

96. Don’t put it in heritage or Aboriginal land. We should be building these in Australia!

97. I support big solar.

98. Should give serious thought to big solar, it means clean energy for future generations.

99. Get off your asses and get on with it!

100. Put money in research and development for any technology that’s clean and safe.

101. I’m a big supporter of renewable energy. I think the government’s lack of investment in renewables is really short sighted.

102. Why [are you] supporting coal over renewables?

 

Northcote (door-knocking)

1. We can move to more renewables and we should.

2. Go away with your old ideas and get on to renewable stuff.

3. Big solar is good idea

4. Should get onto what’s happening in other countries and bring it here.

5. Please do include more renewable energy when you discuss renewable energy and planned policy.

6. Solar power is much better – see it Portugal. Portugal has a huge one like this.

7. Listen to your constituents. – It’s your job!

8. It’s so short-sighted – your support of the fossil fuel industries – it’s mad. Other countries are leading.

9. The way – we have so much solar [energy]. We should lead the way, boldly.

10. You should retire! Get with the modern technology. Get out of the pocket of industry!

11. Solar – it’s affordable & it’s clean, and our climate is perfectly suited to it. Let’s do it!

12. Wake up comrade! From your local shop steward.

13. Typical!

14. You need to think about our future. We have so much sun and wind available.

15. Grow up! Remember your constituents. You don’t represent us!

16. Large scale solar is easier than nuclear – you should do your homework – could be OK later but not till waste problem and safety are solved.

 

Northcote (Street stalls: Northcote Plaza, Uniting Church, High Street)

1. Please do!

2. Please support big solar.

3. You need to listen to what people are saying and not listening to business interests. You need to support sustainable industries, not those that are polluting.

4. Why support nuclear after Fukushima when we could use solar which is sustainable.

5. Look after the people who support you.

6. Solar is good. Uranium is bad. Coal is bad. In Victoria we burn dirt for electricity.

7. I’m 12 and I want climate change stopped.

8. There’s no excuse not to fund big solar. If you don’t you’re threatening the future of all things on this planet. It’s proven. Just do it. Feed-in tariffs now!

9. I’m 17 and I care about the environment.

10. Nuclear Free please (x 2). Big Solar sounds great.

11. It’s good to be at the forefront of a new technology – good opportunities – not lagging – and it’s good for the world (x 2)

12. Why aren’t you moving towards 100% renewable energy?

13. Bloody Martin – Sexist – Met him at Preston Primary School. He shouldn’t feel safe there. It’s quite progressive.

14. Mother and daughter – Labor says Roxburgh Park is turning green!

15. Interested in BZE plan

16. Very short sighted. Should be in the forefront.

17. Knows about 100% renewable from AYCC.

18. Why are you blocking big solar?

 

Fairfield (Station Street stalls)

19. Politicians should listen to those who have the knowledge about the environment rather than people who have the money.

20. We’ve been subsidising brown coal for decades. It’s time we put our money into clean energy like big solar!

21. Having worked all over the world, I believe that it would behove you and be in your best interest to use renewable energy instead of the coal burning and gas energy. Think about it! We need real action on climate change, not more subsidies for the coal and gas industries.

22. Get on with it now!

23. Govt. needs to do more to protect the environment and provide clean energy for the future and [our] grandchildren.

24. Get rid of support for nuclear and coal and association with big business. Get on with clean energy which makes jobs.

25. Get on with Big Solar.

26. We need to change to clean energy now!

27. Solar energy should be given resources and research funding equivalent to other electricity production.

28. Think of the future and the environment and get on with it!

29. Should be looking at ALL renewables – Coal is [a] finite and filthy resource.

 

Clifton Hill (door-knocking)

30. Use solar as well. Government needs to build something impressive like the Snowy Mountain scheme.

31. Emphasis on fossil fuels all about business. All short-termism. Need to think more long term.

32. We don’t want nuclear. We don’t want coal. Time to catch up!

33. He’s an idiot. Not very smart. Not in touch with his electorate.

34. Pull your head out of your arse. Do your research.

35. Not coal, gas or nuclear. Support renewables!

36. Stop supporting dirty industries.

37. I can’t stand you!

38. Build big solar now.

39. 100% in support of solar power.

40. Take the opportunity while you have this portfolio to get solar energy off the ground.

41. Use it for clean energy – solar power is free and clean and we have so much land for this!

42. We need to invest in renewable industries. The $10b should be used in that fashion rather than supporting the old industries.

43. Look at it! Consider it!

44. Consider molybidenum [thorium?] nuclear reactors.

45. Contribute to true renewable energy sources. People think this money is going to real renewable energy.

46. Important to support solar and understand the views of new constituents.

47. It is clean, green and after set up solar is free. Nuclear is not an option.

48. Should go to another country and live there.

49. Need to look at more than one form of power. Must consider all options.

50. Please move us to clean energy future.

51. Ditto.

52. Would like to see progress on geothermal.

53. You’re wasting your time in Victoria with that cretin in Spring St.

54. Firm believer in renewables.

55. Also would like to see progress on geothermal.

56. Support carbon tax totally.

57. We need to get beyond globes and shower heads. Power companies very hard to deal with on roof top PV installations.

58. Stop digging up the country and shipping it overseas!

59. Keep an open mind and invest in the future!

60. Nowadays we need a green environment. We need to change and invest in this technology.

61. Oil and gas will deplete someday. We should harness solar energy and use what God’s given us.

62. Seems crazy that we’re putting money into coal and gas.

63. Need to invest more in renewable energy. Coal is going to run out one day.

64. It’s crazy that we’re not investing more in solar. We’ve gt so much of it.

65. A bit ridiculous to keep funding the same old energy sources.

66. Don’t invest any CEFC money in gas. It is not clean and is not renewable.

67. The future is renewables, the past is fossil fuels.

68. If you don’t support renewables, maybe you shouldn’t be Minister for Energy! Get your head out of the sand.

69. Yes: we should be supporting renewables!

70. Invest more in renewables, including big solar.

71. I support renewables, I’d like you to represent that.

72. Don’t be so close-minded.

73. Go away!

74. Wake up! its not about you Martin. Its about the climate and our children.

75. Martin, open your eyes and stop listening to big coal.

76. Don’t invest any CEFC money in gas. It is not clean and is not renewable.

77. I support government funding renewable energy projects

78. Disappointing to see investment in…

79. Get on with rolling out renewables.

80. Renewables are a real investment in our future.

81. I support CEFC funding as long as it goes to renewables.

82. Push for renewables. Move away from gas and coal.

83. I support responsible use of the $10b on renewables.

84. We really need to start building solar power in Australia.

85. I fully support funding for renewables.

86. He better go green or his electorate…

87. Think more about the future. Cheaper coal at the moment won’t stay cheap.

88. I don’t support nuclear power. He should do more on solar power.

89. Dear Mr Ferguson, I am shocked by your climate destroying attitude and will work hard to unseat you at the next [election]. Cheer!

90. Everything should be given a go.

91. In general I’d be supportive of renewable energy as opposed to coal and nuclear.

92. Build big solar for jobs in Australia.

93. Get real and deliver the rhetoric. Stop supporting big business.

94. Take appropriate measures to look after the environment.

95. Support clean alternatives.

96. Clean energy should be a priority.

97. I support renewable energy.

98. Do something more with renewables.

99. Listen to your constituents.

100. Use renewable technology.

101. Fund renewables.

102. Australia is an ideal place for solar.

103. We need to use out natural renewable resources.

104. What is your choice between long-term sustainability or short term lobbying from the coal industry?

105. I’m fully supportive of renewable energy sources like solar and want my taxes to support that.

106. Energy sustainability is paramount to a liveable planet and ensuring our children’s future. Australia is the perfect environment to pioneer in this field.

107. I’d like the ALP to get behind investing in renewables once you do it the population will realise how good it is or we will get Abbott in and that will be hell!

108. We have huge opportunities for renewables in Australia so why aren’t we using it?

109. I support renewable energy for the country.

110. ACT NOW!!!

111. Decentralised solar power in domestic homes is the most effective and efficient way to generate domestic electricity.

112. Resign!

113. An obvious source of energy in solar-rich Australia.

114. Time to do what is ‘Right’ and lead.

115. If they can do it in Spain, why not here?

116. We need to be looking at alternatives because coal [is] not the answer.

117. You’re wrong.

118. Martin, stop living in yesterday’s world. Start planning and thinking for now and the future.

119. Extraordinarily important. Happening in Spain, why not here? We have more sun than Spain.

120. “Come On Martin, make it happen!”

121. Please consider this ground-breaking technology. Why is Spain utilizing this and Australia doesn’t know about it? Solar not coal is the future!

122. Just do it!

123. Don’t be a Wally. Just get behind it!

124. Absolutely! In our climate – it’s crazy we are not making use of solar for all our power requirements.

125. Sooner rather than later coal will kill our planet. Are we insane?

126. Retire! Support Big Solar. Stop supporting coal. Stop destroying our efforts to cut emissions.

127. FUND BIG SOLAR TODAY!!!

128. Please represent us!!! Big Solar is a great resource – use it and I urge you to do your job as Resources Minister. – Darebin resident.

129. Time to get moving and aim for 50% renewable energy ASAP. Coal is old technology and dangerous to health.

130. Time to build solar now. Time is running out. Forget pretending carbon sequestration will work.

The Greenhouse Mafia strikes again

Originally published in Arena Magazine.

During the prime ministership of John Howard, the term ‘greenhouse mafia’ was coined to describe the fossil fuel industry representatives who were so influential they were literally writing the Federal Government’s climate and energy policies. With Martin Ferguson as Labor’s Minister for Resources and Energy, it seems very little has changed. The draft Energy White Paper (EWP), released in December 2011, provides as clear an indication as ever of the access and esteem granted to the organisations and individuals whose profits depend on Australia maintaining its fossil fuel-dependent status quo.

The EWP addresses questions central to the supply and use of energy in Australia and points to strategic priorities for the government in the face of expected challenges over the period to 2030. The answers it comes up with are as strikingly beneficial to fossil fuel industry interests as they are disdainful of the growing importance of renewable energy and the reality of responding to global warming.

The vision put forward in Ferguson’s EWP is one of a nation continuing to expand its fossil fuel use and exports, albeit under the Orwellian banner of a ‘clean energy transformation’. As the EWP proudly notes, ‘Australia is currently the world’s largest coal exporter, third-largest uranium producer and in future years will be the second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter’. Ensuring major, ongoing growth trends in fossil fuel exports, particularly to Asia, is a significant theme of the paper. Domestic energy supply will continue to be met by coal, made less emissions-intensive by the assumed commercialisation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, and will see an increasing reliance on gas, which is expected to account for 44 per cent of Australian energy supply in 2050. Some diversification into renewable energy sources is envisioned, with qualified support for the potential of large-scale solar, geothermal and wind power. At the same time, the paper suggests the introduction of nuclear power should be considered. The EWP’s vision is also one of a fully privatised, deregulated energy sector, in which protecting the sanctity of the market is prioritised over the promotion of zero emissions technologies.

To begin to understand the EWP’s outcomes, it is worth noting the reference group that Minister Ferguson put together to help write it. The group does not include one person with any expertise or exclusive interest in renewable energy. There is also not a single representative from community or environment groups. Instead, the list of those invited to the table reads like a roll call of the usual suspects: BHP Billiton; Rio Tinto; Xstrata Coal; Woodside Energy; Caltex Australia and so on.

In many ways, the EWP is a typical neoliberal document in the tradition of the last few decades of Labor and Liberal party policymaking. It calls for the privatisation of all remaining government-owned energy assets and full deregulation of retail energy pricing. The EWP also sets the scene for the scrapping of policies designed to support the deployment of renewable energy, lending weight to the view that carbon pricing is considered a sufficient, catch-all response to emissions reduction by the Gillard Government. During his launch of the draft EWP, Minister Ferguson underscored this point by announcing the scrapping of the Government’s promised emissions standards for new coal-fired power stations, no longer seen to be necessary given the passage of the carbon price legislation.

Also in Ferguson’s sights are the various feed-in tariff schemes introduced by state and territory governments to support the uptake of solar panels. According to research presented in September 2011 at a renewable energy symposium in Taiwan, feed-in tariffs have been responsible for 64 per cent of wind energy and 87 per cent of solar energy installed worldwide. Rather than giving due credit to this effective policy instrument, the EWP dismisses it as a ‘market distortion’. In the meantime, the distortionary implications of support for the development of controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, assumed in the EWP to allow coal to continue to play a major role in Australia’s energy future, is not brought into question. Nor is the over $10 billion in fossil fuel subsidies already supplied by taxpayers annually.

The introduction of a low carbon price and the absence of policies to support renewable energy deployment will ensure the increasing exploitation of fossil gas, including gas from non-conventional sources such as coal seams. Widespread community opposition to the emerging coal seam gas (CSG) industry is treated in the EWP as a minor hurdle. Rather than legitimise concerns about what the destructive impacts of this industry and what its planned expansion will mean for farming, water supplies and greenhouse gas emissions, the document merely notes that effort will need to be applied to build community support. More fundamentally, the assumption that gas is a ‘clean energy’, creating lower emissions than coal may not even be true, particularly when it comes to non-conventional sources with high uncertainty around fugitive emissions. Very little research has been done on the life-cycle emissions of gas, with at least one recent report suppressed by the gas industry.

The EWP displays a rose-coloured glasses approach when it comes to the future price of fossil fuels. Dismissing outright the potential for peak oil to occur between now and 2035, the EWP predicts an oil price of US$120 a barrel (in real terms) in 2035. That amounts to an approximate increase of 54 per cent on 2010 prices over twenty-five years, which seems especially naive considering the 300 percent oil price increase over the last seven years acknowledged by Minister Ferguson in his speech to launch the EWP.  Ferguson also admitted that the eastern states of Australia will be exposed to global gas prices once the export terminal in Gladstone is complete around 2015, which is likely to see gas prices triple and become as volatile as oil prices are currently.

Modelling included in the EWP also exposes Minister Ferguson’s questionable grasp on the price of renewable energy. Research by the University of Melbourne’s Energy Research Institute, commissioned by Ross Garnaut in May 2011, showed that the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism was consistently overestimating prices for renewable energy. In the case of rooftop solar panels, the study showed that they are already cheaper than the prices Ferguson’s department predicted they would fall to in the year 2030! Despite publicly acknowledging this data and promising to note changes to the cost of renewable energy, the EWP reflects continued use of outdated figures. One week after the EWP was launched, finance analysts at Bloomberg revealed that the cost of wind power had been exaggerated by 50 per cent, and the price of solar power by 300 per cent in EWP modelling.

Leaving aside these flaws in the EWP it is worth asking, more fundamentally, what a strategic, long-term energy policy for a wealthy, emissions-intensive country like Australia should look like, given what we know about global climate change and energy trends.

A forward-looking energy policy not tainted by vested interests would recognise the twin realities of the urgent need for emissions reductions and the favourable economics of a switch to renewable energy. It would recognise that these transitions require strong government leadership and support.

Policies built on this analysis do exist. One example is the Danish Government’s recently released package of initiatives, Our Future Energy which clearly emphasises the need to ‘avoid becoming trapped with inefficient and non-renewable technologies… [and] caught with an expensive and outdated energy sector in 30-40 years’. The investment required to meet its target of 100 per cent renewable energy in national energy supply by 2050, expected to amount to a net cost of less than 0.25 percent of that country’s GDP in 2020, is considered a necessary insurance policy to avoid higher costs in the longer term due to increasing prices of non-renewable energy.

The EWP contains no such vision. Instead, it shows that there is a contradiction at the heart of the Gillard Government’s climate and energy policies. On the one hand it fought to get the carbon price through parliament in 2011, while on the other Australia’s planned fossil fuel export projects will generate at least eleven times as many annual emissions as will be saved by the Clean Energy Future package. As Guy Pearse recently calculated, these projects will also contribute a staggering one eighth of the global carbon budget to avoid 2 degrees C global temperature rises (which, as many have explained, may not avoid disastrous impacts) between now and 2050.

The EWP claims to be working towards a ‘secure, resilient and efficient energy system’ and one which provides ‘accessible, reliable and competitively priced energy for all Australians’. Looking beyond motherhood statements, it contains policies which, if implemented, appear more likely to entrench energy insecurity, expose Australian energy consumers to ever-increasing fossil fuel prices, and completely contradict national efforts to abandon our greenhouse gas emitting path towards catastrophic climate change.

Taegen Edwards is a Research Fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. Pablo Brait is General Manager at Beyond Zero Emissions and Convenor of Yarra Climate Action Now. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisations the authors work for.

Big Solar Campaign Launch and Picnic

Come along to Yarra Climate Action Now’s launch of the national Big Solar Campaign.

Saturday 3 March, 1-3pm 

**NOTE NEW INDOOR LOCATION**

North Fitzroy Primary School – Corner of Fergie St and Alfred Cres, North Fitzroy. Just across the road from Edinburgh Gardens.

 

We will be having a delicious picnic, a short presentation on how baseload solar power works (including a spectacular scale model of an actual solar thermal power plant) and then we will be taking a photo to show that the people of inner Melbourne support building big solar (photo taken at 1.45pm)!

RSVP to YCAN’s BIG SOLAR PICNIC

Australia is the best country in the world for large-scale solar power.

Also, baseload solar thermal is the game-changing renewable energy technology that can run reliably 24 hours a day, day and night.

Big solar is a solution to climate change while also helping create jobs and development in rural communities.

It just makes sense. Join the campaign for big solar!

RSVP (so we know how much food to bring) at: http://ycan-big-solar-picnic.eventbrite.com

PS – If you have tools, hard hats, high-visibility vests or any other builder get-up, please bring it along for the photo to be taken at 1.45pm.

The solar thermal model will be on display at the picnic

Ferguson “the fossil fool” faces protest

Members of community groups representing Martin Ferguson’s constituents rallied outside one of his speeches on Tuesday morning in response to the Labor Party’s endorsement of Uranium exports to India, and Minister Ferguson’s unwavering support of the fossil fuel industry and his lack of support for renewable energy.

“We are sick of having an energy minister and local member that rejects renewable energy and supports nuclear, coal, gas, oil and mining interests” Yarra Climate Action Now Convener Pablo Brait said.

“Minister Ferguson was instrumental in the Labor Party’s recent decision to allow Uranium exports to India. He has stacked the Energy White Paper Reference Group so that there isn’t one single wind or solar company or community group representative. He is encouraging the development of the gas hub which will destroy the Kimberley coast.”

“Labor party sources tell us that Martin Ferguson’s intransigence is the biggest barrier to the roll-out of renewable energy across Australia.” Mr Brait said.

“We are worried that Martin Ferguson’s next step will be to stack the board of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). We demand that 100% of the ARENA board members be from renewable energy companies, and that doesn’t include gas companies dressed up as renewable energy companies.” Mr Brait said.

Carol Ride, Convener of Darebin Climate Action Now said, “Our local member is trying to sabotage renewable energy and stands up for the interests of the coal and gas lobby. It’s what we would expect of a member of the Liberal party.”

“We can’t help but label Martin Ferguson a ‘fossil fool’ who is out of touch with his constituents and the future of our children and grandchildren,” Ms Ride concluded.

Wind power helping lower electricity prices

Originally published on the Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) blog.

When it comes to wind energy for every setback there has been some good news.

In August, the Victorian government amended state planning rules for wind energy. The changes applied onerous conditions on wind energy projects and arbitrarily set up exclusion zones for vast tracts of the state. Whether it’s a community-owned project like Hepburn Wind or a utility-scale development, wind energy projects will be a lot harder to build in Victoria.

As Beyond Zero Emissions Executive Director Matthew Wright noted, “Ted Baillieu has put the brakes on Victoria’s transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.” The wind industry will now focus investment in states with reasonable planning policies and without the ideological opposition to renewable energy.

One such state is South Australia, where just a day after Baillieu’s backward step Labor Premier Mike Rann endorsed the construction of one of Australia’s largest wind farms—a massive 180 turbine, 600 MW farm that will generate enough electricity to power 200,000 homes every year.

This isn’t the only good news story about South Australia’s wind energy sector, which currently provides around 20 per cent of the state’s electricity. The increased penetration of wind energy is reducing the cost for consumers. This experience flies in the face of the fossil fuel lobby’s  ‘Can’t Do’ campaign’s claims that renewable energy will increase electricity bills and should not be built.

“While the levelised cost of energy from wind farms is higher than that of baseload coal and gas,” explains Giles Parkinson at Climate Spectator, “the deployment of wind energy here and overseas is having a surprising impact on energy market prices: it is causing them to fall.”

Why is this so?

The concept of the “merit order effect” is not one often discussed in the mainstream media, but it is the reason for wind resulting in reduced energy costs.

The national electricity market utilizes a “merit order dispatch system” (also known as “economic dispatch“). In this system, all energy production capacity (be it wind, coal, solar or gas) is ranked according to the price the generator bids into the market. Generation capacity is dispatched in order of merit (i.e. from lowest cost and upwards) to meet the demand (dispatch target) for a trading period. “The final price is set by the last generator needed to meet demand”, explains Parkinson of the merit order mechanism. “The higher the demand, the higher the price paid by all.” This merit order system ensures the system demand is met for the lowest possible cost.

The bids placed by the generators generally reflect the short run marginal cost of the generator, and typically renewable sources (e.g. wind and solar) have low marginal costs. As such, they are ranked lower in the merit order than high marginal cost plants (e.g. gas). Renewables, through the merit order dispatch process, can therefore defer or even avoid the dispatch of higher marginal cost generators, and consequently avoid the associated higher pool prices. Renewable generation can result in lower wholesale electricity prices than would otherwise be experienced.

Climate Spectator reported that Windlab Systems modelling suggests the proposed 700MW Kennedy wind farm in Queensland would cause pool prices to fall by about 9 per cent due to the merit order effect. Parkinson writes that this would equate to savings in costs to consumers of around $330 million, not including further cost benefit from a reduction in transmission losses because of the proximity of the wind farm.

Decisive action is needed from Australia’s politicians to grow the wind industry, which is ready to provide Australia with a massive swathe of clean, renewable electricity. Aside from reducing the carbon-intensity of our electricity sector, wind energy developments can result in savings for consumers meaning there are plenty of good reasons for politicians to act.

– BZE Media Team

All I want for christmas is… big solar!

It’s the end of year and holiday cheer is all around!

2011 has been a big year for renewable energy campaigners and as it draws to an end, there’s still time for one final action to show our leaders we want them to keep working for renewable energy.

Will you send your local pollie a Christmas message to say thanks (or less thanks!) for their efforts this year and to tell them that 2012 needs to be the year of big solar.

Its easy, all you need to do is:

1. Download and print one of the christmas cards below (or download the email version if you want to email your card)
2.  Find your local MP address or email here:
(you might want to consider sending a card to your state MP too)
3. Write your own personal message on the card or email. If you are emailing paste the image in your email.
4. Pop it in the post box or hit send in the email and voila!

Then sit back and enjoy a well deserved end of year break ready for more big solar campaigning in 2012.

Card downloads:

Christmas Card message 1

Christmas Card message 2

Christmas Card email version

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

Ted Baillieu – Premier of Victoria or coal industry rep?

Ted Baillieu with fellow climate change denialist Tony Abbott (Picture: John Hargest)

The fossil fuel industry is sure getting their money’s worth with Ted Baillieu and his Liberal/National Party Government.

In Ted Baillieu’s Victoria, building a wind farm is now almost impossible and the feed-in tariff for solar panels has been cut by over 50%. However, building a coal mine 800m from a primary school is OK, and if a mining company wants to dig for coal or drill for gas in your backyard, polluting our land, water and air, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Last week the Baillieu Government attacked renewable energy on two fronts. First, they introduced new planning laws that allow anyone within 2km of a proposed wind farm to veto the proposal. The Clean Energy Council estimates that this will cost Victoria $3.6 billion and thousands of jobs, as wind energy companies move to other states and other countries. Victoria’s population density means that it will be virtually impossible to build any more large-scale wind farms beyond the ones which already have planning approval.

However, destroying the wind energy industry wasn’t enough for Ted, two days later he announced that the feed-in tariff for solar panels (photovoltaics) was being cut from 60 cents per kilowatt hour (60c/kWh) guaranteed for 15 years, to 25c/kWh, guaranteed for 5 years. Estimates are that this will blow-out the payback period for putting solar panels on your roof (the time it takes before the amount you save on electricity covers the amount you spent on the panels) from around 7 years to around 14 years. Again, thousands of jobs and large sums of investment money will be destroyed.

Not only are Baillieu’s 19th Century energy policies costing jobs, increasing our reliance on coal and damaging our economy, they will also result in higher electricity prices. When the wind is blowing, or the sun shining on a hot day, wind and solar power can provide electricity cheaper than coal and gas power plants – driving down the average cost of electricity over a period of time (for more info on this click here).

So the question to ask is why? Why is Ted Baillieu willingly driving up the cost of electricity, cutting jobs and investment? Why is he destroying an industry that has around 90% support amongst the Australian public? Why is he abandoning climate action when he himself voted for a 20% by 2020 emissions reduction in the Victorian Parliament in 2010? The answer to these questions is in who is benefiting from these policies.

As is often the case with energy policy in Australia, the beneficiaries of Baillieu’s policies are the powerful and well-connected fossil fuel industry, in particular the gas and coal-fired electricity generators. As mentioned above, once a certain amount of renewable energy is built into our electricity grid the average wholesale price of electricity begins to fall – eating into the profits of the coal and gas companies. If renewable energy is held back, then these companies can continue to bring in exorbitant profits and consumers get stuck with ever increasing electricity prices and greenhouse gas pollution.

Don’t let Baillieu get away with it. As a start, you can send him an email by clicking here.