Friday, July 30, 2010

Pioneering Solar Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence loses research funding

Why is a ground breaking solar research facility losing research funding at such a crucial time for transitioning from coal fired power stations to renewable energy? On Monday 26 July Greens staffer Tim Hollo revealed on Twitter that research funding had not been renewed for the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Advanced Silicon Photovoltaics and Photonics based at the University of NSW.

Action on climate change is hot topic this election despite the Labor, Liberal and National Parties largely ineffectiual policies and minimal target of just 5 per cent emissions reduction by 2020. While an early carbon price would provide business investment certainty, structural support to renewable energy technologies is also important. The scientific consensus is that we need to implement at the minimum 20 to 40 per cent emissions reduction by 2020, and preferably the upper end of that range, if we are to stand a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

The inaction of Labor and Liberal parties on the Federal level was further highlighted this week with Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby's announcement of a 20 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 for Victoria, and 5 per cent of electricity to be produced from large scale concentrating solar thermal power stations, as well as support for residential and medium scale solar photovoltaic systems. The comprehensive program also includes phasing out 25 per cent of Hazelwood by 2014, increasing passive building energy efficiency and a local carbon offset program.

Brumby is keen to position Victoria as the solar capital of Australia, and is driven by the prospect of a state election towards the end of 2010 with the Greens challenging Labor in a few inner city electorates. At the very least he is showing some leadership on much needed climate action in contrast to the political football the issue is seen as in Federal politics.


Photovoltaic reserach funding cut


According to the 2003 ARC funding report the Advanced Silicon Photovoltaics and Photonics COE was funded for just over $12 million for seven years. This year funding had been requested for a further seven years starting 2011 from the Australian Research Council. The 2003 funding proposal describes "Australia has been a large player in photovoltaics as a manufacturer, end-user, and source of new technology and, with appropriate nurturing, it is not impossible that Australia could reach a world-dominant commercial position in photovoltaics comparable to Denmark's 50% presence in the world wind generator market."

John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) told Recharge in this report "It was recently announced that ARC funding did not include the centre because it is 'not successful' and no (other) reasons were given,"

"The centre has met or exceeded all funding milestones. It has been a world leader in PV research, constantly holding PV efficiency records - single cells of 25% and multi cells of 43%." said Grimes.

According to Grimes significant private sector investment was leveraged from the ARC grant. Some doubt now exists whether private investment will continue to the same extent. ARC funding is due to end at the end of 2010.


PV Research Highlights


So what are some of the highlights of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Advanced Silicon Photovoltaics and Photonics? The ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence 2009 annual report describes some of their ground-breaking work:


"Most present photovoltaic sales are of "first-generation" solar cells made from silicon wafers, similar to the wafers used in microelectronics. The Centre's world-leadership with these "first-generation" devices, with international records for the highest-performing silicon cells in most major categories (including the outright highest-performing cells and modules) was extended in 2008 with the demonstration of the first 25% efficient silicon solar cell. In 2009, a first-generation Centre cell of this type was key to establishing a new world record of 43% for the conversion of sunlight to electricity by any means. First-generation Centre research addresses the dual challenges of reducing cost and further improving efficiency. The rapid growth of the photovoltaic industry is generating widespread interest in ongoing innovations of the Centre's first generation technology with several distinct technologies now in large-scale production and additional licences signed during 2009. A notable achievement during 2009 was the introduction of high-efficiency Pluto technology, co-developed with Suntech Power, the world's largest silicon cell manufacturer, onto the market in large volumes."


The Centre of Excellence have also been developing second generation photovoltaics where a very thin solicon layer is deposited on glass providing enormous potential cost savings. "The Centre is at the forefront of international research with such "second-generation", silicon based approaches, with the first commercial product from "spin-off", CSG Solar, appearing on the market in 2006. Several megawatt fields of CSG Solar panels are now operating in Europe. During 2009, with support from an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, collaborative work commenced with CSG Solar Pty Ltd aimed at further reducing the costs of this approach." says the annual report.

While Julia Gillard promised investments of $892 million over ten years to promote the use of renewable energy sources last Friday, on Monday the Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence found out their funding by the Australian Research Council had not been renewed past 2010.

So instead of continuing funding some of the pioneering research into solar photovoltaics for a really quite small sum, we get instead the Labor party 'Cash for Clunkers' policy - a scheme that will provide owners of pre-1995 cars a rebate of $2,000 if they upgrade to a new more fuel efficient model. To fund this upgrade to vehicle fuel efficiency the solar flagship program will lose $220 million and a further $150 million will come from closing the solar hot water rebate.

The lack of transparency in the bureacratic decision not to continue research funding is of great concern. Is it any wonder that some of Australia's foremost reserachers in solar and renewable technologies end up moving overseas to further their careers and research in more responsive environments.



Image of Solar Panels by pixor from flickr used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Coal is hazardous to health: Residents blockade coal trains in north Queensland

Residents of the town of Collinsville, west of Bowen, have just finished a two day blockade of the train line that is used for transporting coal from the Bowen Basin to the Abbot Point coal terminal in North Queensland. The residents are angry about a proposed increase in rail traffic and the adverse health impacts on residents from the increase in vibrations and coal dust emissions, and the problem of delays for emergency vehicles in a town bisected by the rail line.


"This isn't about money - this is about quality of life, health, children," said Whitsunday Councillor Peter Ramage according to this ABC report.

And residents do have much to worry about with coal mining and export expanding under a Government friendly to the coal industry. On Tuesday afternoon an official from QR Rail met with residents and an uneasy peace was negotiated. The Blockade was lifted 8am Wednesday, but residents say it may be imposed again depending on further meaningful action.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

European Climate Exchange website hacked


In a protest against carbon trading as a method for acting on climate change, on Friday, July 23 at just before midnight, the public website of the European Climate Exchange (ECX), the leading marketplace for trading CO2 emissions in Europe, was targetted by hacktivists of the autonomous tech collective *decocidio* (#?).

In a public act of digital direct action, the ECX website was taken offline and replaced with a message in an effort to try to raise awareness about carbon trading as a dangerous false solution to the climate crisis, in support of the grassroots activists aiming to oppose the power structures and companies profiteering from the dysfunctional Cap & Trade scheme.

The hacked page shows the embedded video of The Story of Cap and Trade with links to activist groups Earth First, Climate Justice Action, and the Hack Bloc. The purpose of the hack was to expose carbon trading as a scam:

According to the hack message:
"The Cap and Trade system (as implemented in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme) has a whole range of issues:

* It's main purpose is not to reduce emissions, but to help polluters meet "reduction" targets in the cheapest way possible, in a business-as-usual scenario.
* Leaves room for unverifiable manipulation.
* Generates outrageous profits for big industry polluters, investors in fraudulent offset projects, opportunist traders and new 'marketplaces' such as the European Climate Exchange.
* It distracts attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change and it's fundamental root causes."

In 2009 Friends of the Earth UK released a report warning that carbon trading could trigger a second 'sub-prime' style financial collapse and fail to protect the world from global warming catastrophe. A copy of the full report, 'A Dangerous Obsession', is available at: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/dangerous_obsession.pdf

You can view the hack at the European Climate Exchange (while it lasts): ECX website: http://www.ecx.eu or at this Mirror of the message at: http://nassibou.atspace.org

Environmentalists: Fuel Emission reduction policy well behind world's best practice

Policy Plans released by Julia Gillard and her Climate Change Minister Penny Wong for mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency standards and a $2000 rebate for trading in pre-1995 cars for new fuel efficient vehicles, were cautiously welcomed by environmentalists while being criticised for not going far enough and being funded by cuts to other climate change action programs such as Carbon Capture and Storage and solar energy. "Under this plan, Australia's fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles will be about a quarter of a century behind China's when they are eventually law. We must make our cars cleaner quicker." said Don Henry, Australian Conservation Foundation executive director.

Australian emission standards are currently voluntary. Under the envisaged mandatory standards emissions from light vehicles would reduce by 14 per cent by 2014 and 30 per cent by 2024 based upon 2008 emission levels. While Government modelling suggests a significant fuel saving - a typical motorist could save around $600 per year on fuel costs - the estimated amount saved could prove elusive due to the threat of peak oil to affect major increases in petrol prices in the next decade. The government has not released petrol price modelling to check their figures.

The car industry has welcomed the $394 million plan to give motorists a rebate on trade-ins between January 2011 and the end of 2014.

The Australian Conservation Foundation questioned why the 30 per cent emission reduction would not be introduced until 2024 when many countries already have mandatory fuel emission requirements. "Australians want healthier cities and more efficient cars, but the standards announced today are weaker than European standards and certainly not world's best practice," said Don Henry. "Europe, the United States, Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea have all had mandatory fuel efficiency standards for new cars for years. China's new car fleet was already more efficient than Australia's in 2002."

Greens Climate Change spokeperson Senator Christine Milne welcomed the initiative but criticised the Government for cutting back renewable energy programs to fund it, and the lack of a carbon price mechanism being set to fund such initiatives. "Prime Minister Gillard's refusal to legislate for a carbon tax means that she does not have a source of funding for climate initiatives and it is completely wrong to take money out of Australia's renewable energy future to pay to take clunkers off the road." she said.

"The Greens would take the money from coal via a carbon tax, or from fuel excise, whereas the Prime Minister's rhetoric on climate change is becoming even more hollow as she prepares to attack the solar industry one again. Prime Minister Gillard seems to think that nobody cares if only two of the 52 applications in the solar flagship program are funded, but she will find that Australians do care about the solar industry and will not look kindly on this daylight robbery from the solar sector." said Senator Milne.


Sources


Climate activists protest Julia Gillard over ALP climate change policy

ALP policy on climate change action has been strongly criticised by environment and climate action groups with protests at Julia Gillard's climate change policy launch in Brisbane, and protests at Julia Gillard's Werribee electoral office and her Melbourne Treasury Place office.

Related: Climate activists lock on at Gillard's office to protest pathetic ALP policy | Photos at Treasury Place protest


Bradley Smith from Friends of the Earth confronted Julia Gillard at the climate policy launch at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. After being physically tackled and lead aware by Federal police Bradley told reporters that to take real action on climate hange the Prime Minister has to address the coal industry "but the coal miners have got her tongue" he said.

"We gave Labor a mandate to take climate action 3 years ago. What she announced today is just another delay tactic. She is essentially turning back the clock to before we ratified Kyoto, to before the Garnaut review. This backwards step will come at an enormous cost, and we cannot let that happen without protest." Bradley said in a media statement.

"40,000 coal seam gas wells in Queensland's darling downs, 11 new coal fired power stations, and huge expansions of coal rail and ports, that's Julia Gillard's real climate policy, and it's condemning our future." he said.

"Scientists have been telling us we need to take action on climate change for a long time. The government have had a mandate to take strong action on climate change for the last three years. That's what the election was about three years ago, and we've seen no action. So I feel the need to do whatever I can because it's not just about me, it's about the whole planet." Bradley told triple j radio Hack program.

In Melbourne, two actions ocurred. Two activists 'locked-on' to a door in Julia Gillard's Weribee electoral office, while climate activists from Environment Victoria and other climate action groups gathered outside the Prime Minister's Melbourne office. Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said in a media statement "The promise that new coal-fired power stations will have to be 'carbon capture ready' is greenwash, particularly given that the commitment does not apply to the 15 existing proposals to build new coal-fired power stations,"

"In effect, today's announcement gives the green light for 15 new coal-fired power stations nationally, including the HRL proposal in Victoria. It allows power stations like Hazelwood to keep polluting. And it signals a complete lack of leadership on climate change from a Gillard Government. "Promises that future proposals for coal-fired power stations would have to be carbon capture ready are meaningless. I'm Tattslotto-winning ready, but it's probably not going to happen" Mark Wakeham said.

Mr Wakeham also condemned the creation of a community panel as another cynical delaying tactic. "We don't appoint citizens juries to decide whether or not to send troops into conflict or to design our tax scheme. This is just another delaying tactic. The ALP designed a similar process with the Garnaut Review last election. The review spent 12 months studying the issues, and then the Labor Party largely ignored its findings. Now they are proposing to spend another year on another process which will have zero impact on our levels of greenhouse pollution."

"At the last election voters showed their support for climate action, and poll after poll consistently shows the majority of Australians want to see action to rapidly reduce our greenhouse pollution, not more delays" concluded Mr Wakeham.

The Climate Institute's CEO John Connor said the ALP's climate policy provided small steps forwad but the policy falls far short for a credible plan to tackle climate change and carbon emissions pollution.

"A credible plan needs to have a limit and price tag on pollution, needs to make polluters take responsibility for pollution and have investments and incentives to make clean energy cheaper. A credible plan needs to demonstrate how parties can achieve their international commitments to achieve up to 25 % reductions off 2000 levels of pollution by 2020." John Connor said.

"Today's announcement has welcome repeated support of the need for a limit and price on pollution but gives no guarantees for either. There is some encouragement for businesses taking responsibility for their pollution and some extra funding to make clean energy cheaper but we still rate the Government policy at 1 star out of five. Preliminary analysis of the pollution reduction potential of the policy announcements under our Pollute-o-meter sees very little change pre-2020 with current Government policies still witnessing increased pollution levels by 2020."

In comparison, the Climate Institute ranks the Coalition parties climate policy at just half a star out of five and will also see pollution increasing out to 2020. You can access the Climate Institute's Pollute-o-meter to assess the major parties on climate change action.

"We welcome the investment in clean energy and smart grids which is a good down payment but short of what is needed to make strides forward in making clean energy cheaper." concluded John Connor.

On Friday the Greens released a plan for 100% renewable energy for Australia. Under the plan Infrastructure Australia would be tasked with: mapping the renewable energy resource areas of Australia; bringing all levels of government, local communities and renewable energy developers together in consultation; and creating renewable energy development zones based on the mapped areas, with streamlined approval processes and funding connection of the zones to the electricity grid.


Sources


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Victorian Premier announces generous feed-in tariff for large scale solar power

The people of Brunswick want climate action - Close Hazelwood Mr Brumby
While most people were watching the Federal political sphere, John Brumby, the Victorian Premier, surprised many with a major announcement on promotion of building large scale solar power to promote Victoria as the solar capital in Australia. The scheme will result in 5 to 10 concentrating solar thermal (CST) power stations to be built in the states' north and west by 2020, as well as medium scaler rollout of solar photovoltaic systems.

But action on climate change is a hot state political issue too, with a highlevel active campaign to close down the Hazelwood power station in the La Trobe valley, one of the dirtiest most poluting coal fired power station in the Industrial world. Lst Saturday over 30 community events were held in a National Day of action to Replace Hazelwood. As part of global action on climate change organised through 350.org, campaigners are organising a protest on 10/10/10 outside the Hazelwood station.

Once the Rudd Government announced deferral of the Emissions Trading Scheme for 3 years and lost public confidence the pressure transferred to state governments to act on climate, even though such action is likely to be piecemeal.

The Victorian announcement is for a generous feed in tariff for large scale solar thermal power plants to start the transition from coal-fired power to renewables as part of ithe state Labor Government's forthcoming policies for action on climate change. The target of 5 per cent of the state's electricity from solar by 2020 is in addition to the 20 per cent power from wind by 2020. The announcement comes as a new report confirms that Victoria could supply more than 100 percent of it's electricity from renewables.

John Brumby, while visiting Silex's solar test facility in Bridgewater, said "This commitment to a sustainable future for Victoria should see the establishment of between five and ten large solar plants across regional Victoria," Mr Brumby said "As a result of this initiative, Victoria will have up to 25 per cent of its power coming from renewable energy by 2020. This initiative will also provide new economic opportunities in regional Victoria, generating between $1.5 and $2 billion in new solar investment in Victoria."

The State Government has set an interim target of generating 500GWh of solar power by 2014. "This is in addition to power generated by the Silex facility and represents a massive increase on the present level of solar generation Australia-wide and is enough to power more than 90,000 homes." said Brumby.

The cost to household electricity bills was estimated at $5-$15 a year from 2014.

Gavin Jennings, the Victorian Climate Change Minister also announced action to support medium scale solar energy, such as installation of solar panels on large suburban shopping centres, "Generating their own electricity means businesses will not only help reduce emissions but they will save money on their bottom line - a win for business and the environment." he said. A Medium Scale Working Group would be established by the State Government to advise on what type of actions are needed to drive medium-scale solar power.

The Federal Government was urged to put a price on carbon to further drive investments into the renewbles sector to deliver deeper emission cuts. "A price on carbon is necessary to deliver the very deep reductions in emissions we need, but we need to forge ahead and tackle climate change through measures such as these." said Brumby.

The Federal Government of Julia Gillard has maintained the commitment by Kevin Rudd to reassessing an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2012, although the Greens are pushing strongly for the introduction of an interim carbon tax to start July 1, 2011.

The announcement from the State Government comes as part of a forthcoming policy on climate change in the lead up to the state election at the end of 2010. The Government is considering an initial 25 per cent phaseout of the coal fired Hazelwood power station, one of the most polluting and dirtiest in the western industrialised world, while climate and environmental activists are urging a total closedown of Hazelwood over two years.

Environmentalists and Greens welcome solar initiative


The announcement has been welcomed by environmentalists. "This is a bright move that will help Victoria get ahead of the pack in the shift to renewable energy", said FoE campaign coordinator Cam Walker. "It will be a popular initiative among the millions of Victorians who are looking for strong leadership on climate change. By fast-tracking more clean-energy projects like this, the Government will soon be able to replace the dinosaur Hazelwood coal-fired power station."

"In 2006 Premier Brumby committed to introducing a "landmark" Climate Change Bill so we expect that a centrepiece of the Government's Climate Change White paper to be released this month will be strong new climate change laws." said Cam Walker, "The White Paper should deliver a whole of government Climate Change Bill which sets ambitious emission reductions targets and is benchmarked on the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, " he said.

Environment Victoria also welcomed plans by the Brumby Government to fast-track the development of large scale solar power for Victoria. Environment Victoria's Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham said, "Today's announcement will make Victoria much more attractive as a place to build large scale solar power stations which can contribute to replacing polluting coal-fired power stations like Hazelwood within the next term of government."

"Victoria is likely to become the preferred state for large scale solar as a result of the premium payment provided by the feed-in tariff. If we can get projects off the ground quickly we may well be able to exceed the 5 percent target." said Mark Wakeham, "However if we want to lead the nation in both large scale and small scale solar we still need to improve the solar feed-in tariff for households and small businesses to catch up to the incentives offered in NSW and the ACT."

"In the absence of national leadership and a price on carbon Victoria will need to take further measures to support energy efficiency and clean energy to ensure that we can replace the whole of Hazelwood power station and achieve significant cuts to our greenhouse pollution in the next term of government." he said.

The state Liberal party came in for criticism on climate action, "So far the only climate policy we've seen from the Coalition is a plan to stymie the development of wind power. If Ted Baillieu wants to appeal to the vast majority of the community who want action to reduce greenhouse pollution he needs to get some runs on the board quickly." concluded Mark Wakeham.

The Greens have also welcomed Victorian Premier John Brumby's announcement of a gross feed-in tariff for large-scale solar plants and urged both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to embrace a national feed-in tariff to support all forms of renewable energy. Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said today "A properly designed feed-in tariff is recognised as the reason Germany, Spain and some US states have seen tremendous booms in renewable energy, creating jobs and investment, cleaning the air and reducing emissions," Senator Milne said. "Premier Brumby is to be congratulated on his decision today. He is leaving Julia Gillard in his wake, although he still has a fair way to go to catch up with the Greens."

It is likely Prime Minister Gillard will announce grants for development of solar projects as part of the Government election campaign. Senator Milne criticised this approach for renewable energy as not strategically developing the sector. "One off, ad hoc grants do nothing to develop the industry. They will see Australia importing technologies we have driven offshore through lack of ongoing support."

"If we want to create jobs and long-term investment, as well as drive the transformation to 100% renewable energy, we need a well-designed national feed-in tariff." said Senator Milne "While I welcome Premier Brumby's announcement, the expansion of state-based schemes can lead to perverse outcomes for investors, particularly in the context of the national renewable energy target."

Report confirms Victoria's abundant renewable energy resources


A new report for the Victorian Government by Engineering consultants Sinclair Knight Merz - Renewable Resources Victoria: the renewable energy potential of Victoria - has confirmed that Victoria's future energy needs could be entirely met from renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and wave.

According to the report renewable energy could provide up to eight times Victoria's current energy consumption and double the the estimated future demand by 2030.

Minister for Energy and Resources Peter Batchelor said on the release of the report "For nearly a century, Victoria has relied heavily on coal, oil and gas to supply us with relatively cheap but highly polluting energy. Now, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions while our demand for energy continues to grow. As we begin this transformation, this new report confirms that Victoria is well placed to seize the opportunities that will arise, creating new skills, new jobs, new investments and new ways of making and using energy."

The report was based on a similar study for the UK which found that it was unlikely the UK had sufficient renewable energy resources to meet it's energy needs. While talking up the report Peter Batchelor also stressed moving to a low carbon economy would not happen overnight, "Technology for harnessing some of these resources is still in its infancy and very expensive. In addition, as technologies develop new infrastructure will be needed and must be appropriately managed and located to take into account social and environmental impacts," he said.

The initiative by the Victorian Government follows a report by Beyond Zero Emissions and the Melbourne Energy Institute at Melbourne University of a detailed and costed plan of action on How to achieve Zero Carbon Emissions by 2020 for Australia.

Sources


Friday, July 16, 2010

Prime Minister Julia Gillard avoids talking climate change

The missing words at Julia Gillard's first address as Prime Minister to the National Press Club was "climate change". Outside the building Climate activists from Rising Tide Newcastle had dumped a ute full of coal at the entrance. The protesters called on the Gillard Government to announce a climate change policy that addresses Australia's principal source of greenhouse pollution - coal.


"If she wants to restore the Government's credibility on climate change, Gillard needs to ban new coal-fired power stations," said Steve Phillips, spokesperson for climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle, "Greenhouse pollution is set to sky-rocket in Australia, with twelve new coal-fired power stations on the cards."

"Just this week, in Western Australia, three new coal-fired power stations were approved. There are are more planned in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Coal-fired power generation is already Australia's largest source of domestic greenhouse pollution."

While the protesters chanted outside the front entrance Gillard was chaperoned through a side entrance into the club.

"Australia is already the world's biggest coal exporter, and coal exports are our nation's biggest contribution to the climate crisis. Yet coal corporations in New South Wales and Queensland are planning massive expansions of up to eleven-fold over coming years." concluded Steve Phillips, "Gillard must put a moratorium on the expansion of the coal mining and export industry, and start replacing coal with sustainable, renewable alternative industries."

Inside the press club Gillard's speech did not make one mention of climate or climate change policy, but focussed on the economic and social credentials of the Government. The upcoming eletion campaign will be "clean and green" she said, "but mostly lean."
Outside Greenpeace spokeswoman Trish Harrup told reporters "The policy vacuum created by Labor is being filled with pollution."
According to a Stock and Land article cabinet discussed on Tuesday climate change policy which may include setting an interim carbon price to be implemented sometime in the next two years, as well as other measures.

The electorate waits for the release of this climate policy. It may prove the make or break of the Gillard government campaign for re-election.

Yesterday Climate Change minister Penny Wong unveiled new funding for the National Solar Schools Program - grants of up to $50,000 ($100,000 for multi-campus schools) which are awarded to eligible primary and secondary schools to install solar and other renewable power systems, rainwater tanks and a range of energy efficiency measures. The Program was temporarily suspended in October 2009 due to high demand.

"More than 1000 schools across the nation have already installed solar systems under this program, and another 1500 schools have projects underway to become solar schools," Senator Wong said. "Since the program began in 2008, about 6 MW of renewable solar power has been installed in schools - the equivalent of meeting the electricity needs of 1200 average households each day.
But the tight timing for the National Solar Schools program refunding has been criticised by one solar energy supplier, Energy Matters, "the timing isn't ideal given many schools are in the midst of a break and some school administrators are on well-deserved leave." said Energy Matters co-founder Max Sylvester "We fear the narrow time-frame will see many deserving schools miss out on playing a larger, crucial role in addressing greenhouse gas emissions and slashing their coal-fired related electricity consumption."

As demand is so high for solar power, the Government needs to seriously consider the action plan Zero Carbon Australia 2020 to transition from coal powered electricity generation to renewable energy.

Perhaps as a start our Prime Minister should install solar panels on the Lodge as a symbolic action of leadership.

Image courtesy of Rising Tide Newcastle - Coal dumps on Gillard's Press Club address



Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to achieve Zero Carbon Emissions by 2020

Matthew Wright (Executive Director, Beyond Zero Emissions) speaking at launch of Zero Carbon Australia 2020 reportThe public launch of the Beyond Zero Emissions report - Zero Carbon Australia 2020 - was delivered to an overflowing audience at Melbourne University last night. The report is one possible blueprint for acting on the challenge of climate change by converting the existing coal and gas fired carbon pollution dependent electricity generation to 100% renewables using only current commercial technologies in ten years.
Beyond Zero Emissions has utilised pro-bono research by academic specialists in solar technology, mechanical and electrical engineering and economics, over the last two years to produce this report. It shows how Australia could move from being one of the highest carbon emitters per capita to one of the lowest.


Why is this necessary?


Scientists have been saying Australia needs to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2020: "the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (2007) recommended that developed countries should reduce emissions by 25-40% on 1990 levels by 2020. Yet more recent evidence shows that only reductions at the top end of this range will be sufficient to avoid the worst impacts of climate change." said forty of the world's leading climate scientists in a statement initiated by WWF and released prior to the Copenhagen Climate summit in December 2009.

"The premise of a 10 year transition is based on 'The Budget Approach' from the German Advisory Council on Global Change. In order to have a 67% chance of keeping global warming below 2oC above pre-industrial temperatures, on a basis of equal allocation of emissions on a per-capita basis, it would be necessary for the USA to reduce emissions to zero in 10 years. Australia has the same per-capita emissions as the USA, and would need to pursue the same goal," the plan says.

Both the Labor and Opposition parties are aiming at only a 5 per cent emissions reduction by 2020. This falls far short than what the scientists say is required.

Without any action to set a carbon price electricity prices are set to surge due to the business uncertainty around setting a price for carbon. The audience was told that with business as usual it is estimated $100 billion will be invested in electricity sector in Australia over the next decade. New coal fired power plants may find problems being financed due to the uncertainty. Energy producers are more likely to add gas turbine peaking plants which are cheap to build but expensive to run.

A Climate Institute report produced by researchers and business partners recently estimated that uncertainty around whether government will place a price tag on pollution that will cost the economy and consumers $2 billion a year in higher electricity prices. (ABC interview with John Connor from Climate Institute: No ETS means higher electricity prices: study)


Transitioning to Renewable Energy is realistic and achievable at moderate cost


By comparison, economic modelling shows the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 could be implemented for a total cost of about $370 billion, or $37 billion per year - about 3 per cent of GDP per year for 10 years. Included in this cost is a major extension and upgrade to the electricity transmission grid to make it more efficient. Upgrading the existing transmission infrastructure may also help avoid future bush fires caused by poor maintenaince reminiscent of the Black Saturday bushfire in Victoria.

With the exception of the Bass strait link there was been little work upgrading the electricity transmission grid since the 1970s. The cost of building the transmission grid is estimated at 25 per cent of the total project costs.

It could become a 21st century equivalent of the Snowy Mountains Scheme creating up to 80,000 jobs from installation of renewable energy generation at the peak of construction, and over 45,000 jobs in operations and maintenance that will continue for the life of the plant. Such a scheme would also generate up to 30,000 jobs in manufacturing wind turbines and heliostats.

Many of these jobs could be created close to existing coal fired power stations to provide an opportunity to transition the existing workforce. Such a project would also provide Australia with a manufacturing capacity to export renewable technologies to the region and the world.


The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 report shows us one possible mix of current commercial technologies to realise the goal of zero carbon emissions by 2020. Other plans may choose a different mix using slightly different technology. Emerging renewable technologies such as wave, tidal and geothermal have been explicitly excluded from this plan but may well play an active role as these technologies are developed and commercialised.

The plan calls for 40% renewable energy from wind generation, 60% from large scale concentrating solar thermal power with molten salt storage for 24/7 baseload operation, and backup from Hydro-electric and biomass power generation. The plan specifies sites around Australia that are selected for their wind availability, solar incidence, economy of scale, transmission costs, technical efficency, and geographical diversity: 23 sites for wind, and 12 sites for Concentrating Solar Thermal (CST). The plan is based only on existing commercial technology.

Transferring from coal fired electricity generation will require large public and private investments. To assist this a carbon price needs to be set. An emissions trading scheme - Cap and Trade - is open to volatility which produces market uncertainty for business investment decisions as shown by the European Emissions Trading Scheme.

In a question from the floor about setting a carbon price, one of the speakers said what was needed was a combined system where a carbon tax sets a floor price for carbon pollution, with an emissions trading scheme setting a cap on pollution and issuing permits which can be bought and sold. This would provide a stable floor price to base long term business decisions on, while also setting an upper level on total carbon pollution allowed and letting the market determine the price for pollution permits.

So Australia transitioning to an electricity sector based on renewables with zero carbon emissions by 2020 is possible and achievable for a realistic cost.

Impediments to implementing such a nation building scheme includes the lack of political leadership and will from both sides of politics. Our politicians are also being influenced by lobbyists from the very powerful existing coal and electricity industries. These companies have enormous clout and influence on both State and Federal politicians. The relatively small solar and enewable sector just cannot match the funding and power of the fossil fuel industries. To a question from the floor about how we can bring about this change, one of the speakers said we need people power - the electorate needs to tell our politicians in an unambiguous way of its support for action on climate change and transitioning to renewable energy such as this plan.

There was question from the floor about the funding of Carbon capture and storage (CCS). The speaker from the Melbourne Energy Institute said that the research and development of CCS was also required for countries that will continue to rely on coal fired power generation, and as a process to eventually reduce carbon in the atmosphere by sequestration.

I came away from this launch heartened. Thirty five years ago I helped set up a demonstration solar hot water system on the lawns of parliament house in Canberra. Alternative and renewable technology was dismissed as the margin, especially by politicians then. Will our political leaders listen now? I hope so, especially if you support Beyond Zero Emissions ongoing work and tell your Federal and State politicians that we need to transition to a zero carbon pollution economy and society.

You can download the full report as a PDF (8.5MB) or download or purchase a glossy printed copy from The Melbourne Energy Institute, Melbourne University for $30

See also Indymedia story, 28 June 2010: Renewable energy target: 20 by 2020 or zero emissions by 2020?


Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.

Friday, July 2, 2010

IPCC scientist: Action on climate change urged by scientists since 1990

IPCC Scientist Dr Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice Chair, IPCC takes Penny Wong to task about when the scientific message on climate change and the need for action become clear. He spoke shortly after Penny Wong's keynote speech at the opening plenary 2010 International Climate Change Adaptation Conference on the Gold Coast.



1.1 Opening Plenary: Jean-Pascal van Ypersele & Martin Parry from NCCARF on Vimeo.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele started with a quote which called for immediate action to stabilize carbon emissions and to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. Dr van Ypersele then apologised to the audience - that he had prepared his speech in a hurry and the quote he had given was actually from the first IPCC assessment report done in 1990. He then stated to the audience and the Minister he had to slightly disagree with the Minister that scientists up until recently had not been clear with their message.

He then briefly summarised the importance of both mitigation and adaptation measures. "Adaptation is clearly needed if we want to avoid some of the unavoidable impacts" said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele "the IPCC has as a whole the message that mitigation and adaptation are complementary".

The small number of errors found in the last report will generate a review of the processes in the IPCC and of writing the next IPCC report to be published in 2013.

Listen to the rest of his speech, or find other videos of plenary speakers at NCCARF's videos at Vimeo. PDF presentations of many of the speakers are available for download at the Conference program website