Queensland’s anti-solar Government looks as if it has been replaced with a bright new solar future. The Sunshine State voted on the weekend ousting Campbell Newman with the likely successor to be a Labor Government with a solar future. read more →
Telstra says it has been testing a hydrogen fuel cell with solar power and energy storage to help power the network at times when the power from the grid is out. The system was installed around a year ago about 90kms east of Melbourne.
A new report shows that electricity demand in Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) has fallen again in 2014.
The decrease in electricity demand is a trend that began in 2008/2009 due to massive growths in solar energy as well as consumers (and appliances) becoming more energy efficient. This was also around the time that the networks started spending billions and gold plating the infrastructure. Figures from 2014 show a decrease of 1.1% or 2089GWhrs from that of the previous year.
In its annual review of the NEM, Green Energy Markets (GEM) says that solar power and energy efficiencies are responsible for 89% of the reduction or 1877GWhrs. Even though subsidies for renewable energy systems has been drastically reduced or stopped completely, Australia has still installed 700MW’s of rooftop solar in 2013 and in 2014.
Queensland was the only state to increase its electricity demand on the NEM by 0.9% while Victoria had the largest drop of 3.5%. Victoria’s significant drop also has a lot to do with the Point Henry aluminium smelter closing at the end of July 2014.
According to the graph on the left, the closure of the Pt Henry smelter contributed 1 210GWhrs towards the total drop in electricity demand. Solar power contributed 963GWhrs, solar hot water 90GWhrs and energy efficiency schemes 824GWhrs.
While we may see decreases in electricity demand, the axing of the carbon tax has seen the NEM become very dirty. Hydro energy production dropped by 25% while brown coal (the dirtiest of the lot) increased by 1911GWhrs.
“With the increase in fossil fuel generation, the emission intensity of generation increased by 2.1 per cent with the overall level of greenhouse emissions increasing by 1 per cent,” says the report.
Click here to see the full report form Green Energy Markets.
Provisional figures form Wiki-Solar show that 2014 was the 5th consecutive year where utility scale solar power installations soared.
The conservative figure is over 10GW’s total – Asia and North America were the biggest installers with Australia and the Oceanics the smallest.
In Asia the main installations came from Japan, China and India who have each had a number of big installations come online in 2014. If growth continues they may surpass North America in the top spot before long.
Europe, who has experienced declines in the last two years has had their first increase – mainly due to a large amount coming online in the UK.
South Africa has had a lot of publicity with inverter manufacturing commencing in the country and a few large solar power systems such as the 74MW Sishen plant coming online. This made up the bulk of the continents total.
South America is in a similar situation where one country has saved the end total. In this case – Chile has had around 13 large power plants come online in 2014.
Australia has had a bad political climate for a while now with no end in sight as yet. The uncertainty has caused the industry to come to a grinding holt so it is not surprising to see that reflected in their totals.
With climate talks due to take place this year, renewables are going to be at the forefront of everybody’s mind. Many incentives are ending (causing a big rush to get in before they end) and solar power is becoming more and more financially viable so upward trends are looking like they will continue into this year at least.
The former US Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, has said in a radio interview that Australian leaders are failing in regards to climate change and they are making the cost of electricity higher for everyone.
The physicist and former Nobel Prize winner has been in Australia this past week and believes that our leaders have a lack of foresight and understanding when it comes to the issue of climate change. When asked if Australia was facing a ‘failure of political leadership’ on climate change he responded:
“Well let’s see, what I’m saying, you can say it simply, I think the leaders in Australia are right now opting to make the cost of electricity more expensive for its citizens. Is that a failure? Yes.”
Mr Chu is a supporter of solar technologies and believes that Australia has the perfect environment for solar to reach its full potential and reduce the cost of electricity.
“In Australia you’ve got stunning sun, solar. I would hazard a guess that solar’s going to become within five years, 10 years max and maybe even today, it’s the low cost option. It certainly will be within a decade.”
Mr Chu is also a nuclear supporter. However, he also acknowledges that the economics for nuclear in Australia is ‘iffy’ and says there are also other issues against nuclear energy here. Knowing that solar is the ‘low cost option’ already; it is easy to see that it is the way of the future. Around the world, leaders are acknowledging this and implementing strategies to help its development – not hinder it as Australia seems to be doing at the moment.
“As the saying goes, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; we transitioned to better solutions.” – Steven Chu.
Knowing that clean energy is lowering the cost of electricity and having the foresight to see that it is the way of the future means that we need to start to ‘transition.’ Earlier this year Mr Chu had a go at big energy companies and their ‘bullshit arguments’ against solar power. He told them that they should be getting into solar and not pushing against it.
Steven Chu was the US Energy Secretary from 2009 to 2013. He now works at Stanford University researching and developing energy storage systems.
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Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has reported the Government’s ‘preliminary’ position on the fate of the renewable energy target and it has increased the path of destruction all these RET reviews are making.
With the industry facing such uncertainty over the course of all these RET reviews the sector has basically been put ‘on hold’ with many waiting to see what the government will do and if some sort of stability will be established. The effects have been very real with some downsizing and closures already occurring.
Mr. Macfarlane has come out saying that their stance on the RET at the moment entails slashing it to the ‘real 20%’, exempting all emissions intensive industries from the RET, leaving household solar as it and ending 2 yearly reviews.
While it feels positive to finally have some inclination as to what they are thinking, there are not too many details being released and it feels a bit cryptic. They have ‘told’ us what they think but they can still basically do anything they want. For example, saying there will be ‘no change to household solar’ does not really tell us if they are changing the threshold between what is considered as small and large scale solar. They will ‘end the 2 yearly reviews’ does not tell us what kind of reviews it will be subject to and how often.
Even though the RET would ultimately remain it must be pointed out that reducing it to the ‘real’ 20% still entails a 60% drop. Large scale solar is going to be dramatically affected and investments in wind farms, solar farms and the likes will become almost non-existent.
Many have also said that if you make some industries exempt others are also going to try and jump on the bandwagon.
“The Renewable Energy Target legislation that has been supported by all political parties for over a decade is explicit about the 41,000GWh target, and the Coalition re-stated its commitment to it in the lead up to the recent election,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton. “Moving the goal posts so significantly on investors would result in massive asset devaluation, job losses and business closures, and send a signal to international investors that Australia is closed for business.”
“Labor has made it clear that we will engage in discussions. But we’ve got a no-go, we’ve got no-go zones. You know, the Government says they want a real 20 per cent, I call it a fraud 20 per cent, a fake 20 per cent,” said Labor Leader Bill Shorten. “The truth of the matter is that renewable energy is part of our energy mix, it’s had a great benefit for a whole lot of consumers. We’ve seen 1.2 million households have gone to having some part of their energy from solar power. We’ve seen thousands of jobs created, thousands of jobs created, and we’ve seen billions of dollars of investment. The real damage that this Government is doing in renewable energy cannot be overstated.”
Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne says, “There is absolutely no reason, and no excuse, for weakening the Renewable Energy Target. The Labor Party must stand firm and reject this deal outright.”
National co-ordinator of the Australian Wind Alliance Andrew Bray said, “What the government has indicated today is that it wants to increase the massive profits of big power companies by charging everyday Australians more for their electricity.”
Government negotiations with Labor will continue in the hopes of reaching a bipartisan deal.
As electricity prices continue to rise, more and more Australians are struggling to pay their bills. A recent Ernst & Young survey found that 1 in 8 Australians have missed a power bill payment date because they can’t afford it.
The news only gets worse – more than one in ten of us have missed three payments! 70% of people often or occasionally worry about how they are going to afford their next bill. Financial constraints are always a stressor in the world we live in today but one in ten say that energy bills in particular are their number one stressor.
Ernst & Young surveyed over 649 households in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Many have tried or want to try and switch energy retailers but find the process too complicated and difficult. E & Y found that customers are increasingly looking to switch retailers and looking for a better deal – 48% searched for information however 42% found it too hard and gave up.
A massive 90% of Australians have solar power systems installed or would like to install solar power. Of those surveyed, 19% already had solar panels installed, 34% have already considered doing so and 36% have not yet considered doing so but would in the future.
Another main consensus is that people would pay more for a better service. Mainly small things like receiving sms reminders when bills are due, being able to pay monthly or select billing dates. Alternatively, discounts for paying early.
Electricity companies have gold plated our networks unnecessarily and charging us more for it. Most would like some simple courtesy gestures from our electricity retailers and some reasons to trust them.
Solar power can take some of the stress off and reduce worry. With no deposit, interest free finance now available, installing solar power is more affordable than ever before.
The city council of the up-market suburb of Nedlands has made it mandatory for home builders and renovators to install 1.5kW’s of renewable energies on all new builds.
“All new development and at Council’s discretion, substantial additions to existing development, shall provide on-site power generation by solar, wind or other means,” the law states. “For new residential dwellings, a rooftop solar or other on-site energy system of a minimum capacity of 1.5kW must be installed. For non-residential developments with a value exceeding $1 million, the size of compulsory additional on-site energy capacity will determined by Council ‘with due regard to roof area and height’.”
The motion was brought forward by Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins who called on the wealthy home owners of the suburb to lead by example and embrace renewable energies. He compared the cost of installing the mandatory size system with the amount of money the average Nedland resident would spend on a dining room table.
The myth that renewable energies are for the wealthy has been debunked so many times with stats showing that average Joe’s with mortgages and regular salaries have the highest solar uptake. That is because installing solar makes good financial sense and is now obtainable with no deposit, interest free finance. People can get relief from high power bills and constantly increasing electricity prices through solar power.
If the support for the RET stays intact, more and more city councils will also be enforcing similar laws to encourage on-site electricity generation from renewables.