Victoria stands at a crossroads. Will our energy future be defined by more business-as-usual: fossil fuels, pollution, the threat of fracking and climate change? Or will we transition to clean renewable energy sources?
Energy efficiency can make the transition to renewables quicker and easier while saving householders on their power bills. Trent Hawkins, lead author of Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Buildings Plan, will outline four ways Victorians can get energy smart, save money and reduce carbon emissions. Original article published by BEAM.
Households in Seymour and surrounds can reduce their carbon emissions to zero with four simple steps.
Trent Hawkins, Project Director of the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan, will talk about how this can be done at the Energy Futures Forum in Seymour on November 16.
The four steps are going gas free, fixing the building envelopes, installing energy efficient appliances and lighting, and rooftop solar to power every home.
“Every house in Australia could be emissions free in ten years if we implemented this plan”, said Mr Hawkins.
With this approach, households would produce more electricity than they use, but using less on a daily basis than they do now.
Friends of the Earth member Ben Courtice explores the implications of living ‘off the grid’ in an article published in Chain Reaction – Friends of the Earth’s national magazine. Find other thought-provoking articles and support Friends of the Earth by subscribing to Chain Reaction.
It’s long been a favoured wish of many environmentalists to go off the grid, to be self-sufficient in energy and other services, and avoid the corporate utilities and their coal-powered electricity. The ambition for freedom from energy bills and fossil-fuel electricity is understandable.
I was born and lived until the age of eight in an off-grid Queenslander farmhouse. We didn’t even have a telephone. The most energy intensive technology we had was a kerosene-powered refrigerator which we ran some of the time. Of course, living far from the city, we were able to use wood for heating and cooking. Living off-grid was easy enough if you didn’t mind the low-tech lifestyle.
And now in the age of relatively cheap solar panels (which weren’t around in the 1970s), you can live off the grid and use a huge battery attached to a large array of solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, to maintain a hi-tech lifestyle on clean solar energy.
But for many, the large batteries needed are still too expensive, so the idea of going off-grid still rests on heavy use of firewood or even bottled fossil gas for the most energy intensive household services: space heating, water heating and cooking. Having lots of people transfer from using fossil-powered electricity to bottled fossil gas and/or firewood is just exchanging one set of environmental problems for another. Continue reading “Energy freedom on or off the grid?”
Victoria stands at a crossroads. Will our energy future be defined by more business-as-usual: fossil fuels, pollution, the threat of fracking and climate change? Or will we transition to clean renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar, community-owned renewable projects and wind farms?
Dismissing the future of wind power is all too common, with false claims about wind power’s affordability and success plaguing the Australian and U.S news media. Although, when really in comparison to the European Union, the United States and Australia have superior renewable resources.
The Wall Street Journal today carried a wildly overblown editorial titled “The New Dark Continent,” attacking Europe’s strong push to develop renewable energy sources.
First, the Journal is dead wrong about Europe’s successful transition to renewables. Second, even if its criticisms had merit, they would not apply to the completely different policy framework and vastly superior renewable energy resources that exist in the United States.
It should not come as a surprise that owners of other forms of energy don’t like renewable energy providing competition and cutting into their profit margins. However, that does not excuse them or the Journal from making false claims about renewable energy’s cost, reliability, and environmental benefits.
Community-owned energy projects are a beacon of hope as the nation struggles to address climate change. The trailblazing Hepburn Wind farm set the bar when it comes to community-owned energy projects in Australia. And many more projects are on the drawing board.
A new organisation known as the Community Power Agency was launched this week to support Australia’s rapidly developing community-energy sector.
“Australia’s community-owned renewable energy sector is growing exponentially,” said Community Power Agency co-founder, Nicky Ison. “In 2009 there were three community-energy projects underway. In 2013, there are now around 40 in development across the country.”
South Australia has a lot of wind power. The neighbouring state of Victoria doesn’t. Even though Victoria has just recently opened the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, its wind capacity only supplies about 5% of its total electricity use. As a result, when winds are high and its demand is low, South Australia exports electricity to Victoria. However, sometimes the transmission lines reach the limit of their capacity causing some wind power to go to waste. Losing a little green power is not a disaster, but it is a pity, since thanks to its use of brown coal, Victoria probably has the worst generating sector in the developed world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt-hour produced.
By Dr Jenny Riesz, Principal Energy Market Analyst with Riesz Consulting, and a researcher with the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of NSW
The terminology of wind generation being described as ‘intermittent’ has become pervasive. However, based upon the actual characteristics of how wind varies over time this is a misleading description, and the language matters.
In normal usage, the term ‘intermittent’ is usually used to refer to things that suddenly switch on and off, with a ‘flickering’ characteristic. When people think of intermittency, they think of things cutting in and out, being there and then suddenly not there.
This is not at all a good description of how wind generation varies over time. Even a single wind turbine will have some degree of physical inertia, meaning that in usual operation it doesn’t suddenly cut in and out (with the exception of high speed cut outs in some designs). This is then aggregated over the whole wind farm with many turbines, such that the total wind farm output will show a much more gentle variability over time. When this is then aggregated over the whole power system, summing the output of many wind farms, geographical diversity means that the total wind output supplied to the system shows something that varies gradually hour to hour, rather than cutting in and out in seconds.
The pervasive use of the term ‘intermittent’ to describe wind generation is perhaps a part of the reason why the general public is so susceptible to the idea that wind generation can’t provide reliable power. How can you possibly rely on something that cuts in and out all the time? How could other power stations possibly cope with the extreme ramp rates required to match against that? Continue reading “Wind isn’t intermittent”
It’s a favorite line of people opposing particular wind farm developments – ‘Wind Farm X is causing great concern in the community’.
Now and again, it’s worth remembering just how many people there are in the community who are not at all concerned.
Our letter in today’s Ballarat Courier…
WIND FARMS BRING LOCAL WINDFALLS
Ballarat Courier, May 1, 2013
It would be unusual for a $300 million investment in a regional area to be greeted with ‘a lot of community concern’, as John McMahon suggests about the Lal Lal Wind Farm ($300m wind project begins, 27/4/2013).
Macarthur district residents, Merilyn Cook and Hamish Officer, together with representatives from the Victorian Wind Alliance (VicWind), met with local MP, Dan Tehan in Warrnambool on Tuesday to discuss the benefits the Macarthur Wind Farm is bringing to their community.
“There’s a historic opportunity right now to benefit from this shift of power generation from coal and gas regions to wind regions like South West Victoria,” said Mr Bray, VicWind’s State Coordinator.
“With 20 locals permanently employed, the Macarthur wind farm is now the biggest single employer in this rural district.” said Mr Bray.
The rise of rooftop solar in Australia has been extraordinary.
In 2009, there were fewer than 100,000 rooftop solar systems in Australia. Now, that number is more like 1,000,000. Rising electricity prices, falling equipment costs, higher levels of environmental awareness and large government subsidies have created the conditions for explosive growth.
Like a child moving into the more complicated world of adolescence, the rooftop solar industry is growing up. As a result, some of the rules governing its behaviour will also have to evolve as support is gradually removed and the industry interacts with the established power industry on a more even footing. This is not a bad thing – it marks the sector’s coming of age.
A good first step was the Victorian government’s decision to decrease the ‘feed-in tariff’ – the rate paid to households for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they export to the grid. On January 1 this year, the feed-in tariff was cut from 25 to 8 cents. This may seem like an excessive cut, but the 25 cent tariff was too high to be sustained with more and more systems being installed, and the impact has been cushioned by lower prices for photovoltaic cells. Critically too, this change only applies to new installations, so it does not undermine the support for customers who got in early to install solar panels when the upfront installation costs were higher. Continue reading “Rooftop solar is growing up”