Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Deal struck on renewable energy by robertwulff
August 24, 2009, 8:42 am
Filed under: Feature

 August 19, 2009 – 3:11PM

Australia is in for a huge boost in renewable energy after the federal government and the opposition agreed to a deal.

The deal, agreed today, will see the government’s bill to have 20 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 pass the Senate.

“The opposition’s key concerns have been met by the government,” Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

“We are delighted that Australia is set to have renewable energy legislation, and the coalition will support the renewable energy target of 20 per cent for Australia.”

Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb said there was now “100 per cent bipartisan support” for the bill.

“The position we got to with the government has had the unanimous support of the coalition party room, which is a great result,” he told reporters.

The Senate is due to continue debating the Renewable Energy Target (RET) bill this afternoon and a vote is expected by tomorrow.

The Senate last week voted down the proposed emissions trading scheme, which is separate to the RET. The RET will work by forcing electricity companies to buy a certain portion of electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Households and businesses will pay for it through higher power prices.

The coalition has secured more exemptions for industry from the cost of the RET in the deal struck on Wednesday. That means households will pay a greater share.
Mr Hunt said heavy-polluting, trade-exposed companies would be exempt from paying either 60 per cent or 90 per cent of the cost of the RET. That’s more of a free ride than the government originally offered.

Food processing industries would be able to ask for compensation too, Mr Hunt said.
He said the only opposition demand that had not been accepted was setting aside a portion of the RET permits for new technologies such as geothermal power.

Before today’s deal, the government had already bowed to some coalition demands, agreeing to treat coal gas as “renewable”, and separating the RET from the failed ETS.

Mr Hunt said the new deal was “a victory for common sense and a victory for the environment”. It was also a victory for Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, he said.

“We’re willing to help get it through the Senate as quickly as possible,” Mr Hunt said.
The RET is due to start on January 1 and was a key election promise for Labor.

It will mean a proliferation of wind farms, and a new rebate for rooftop solar panels.


Opportunities & Challenges for Sustainable Energy Development in Australia by Griffith Hack
August 24, 2009, 8:36 am
Filed under: Feature

I often get asked to talk about “sustainable energy” and it’s always a struggle where to start. The UNDP and the World Energy Council defined sustainable energy as “Energy produced and used in ways that support human development over the long term in all its social, economic and  environmental dimensions.” I think all major technology proponents can – and do – make a case for including their technology under a broad enough definition, especially if the time scales don’t run for ever.

Globally, the contemporary drivers for sustainable energy include the need to provide energy to the 1.6 billion people still without access to electricity, the need to reduce GHG emissions from energy production and use, the need to transition from oil to sustainable fuels for transport and the need to keep energy affordable across all sectors of an economy. Clearly these are all major challenges with substantial overlap.

Renewable sources of energy are the most obvious solution to sustainable energy supply, certainly in the longer term.

Arguments about the need for baseload capacity are often cited as the major problem with incorporating larger quantities of renewable energy supply into Australia’s electricity market. The argument is usually framed around “without baseload power stations, whenever the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining your lights will go out”. If wind, or solar, was the only source of power, then that might be true, but today’s power system has a tiered dispatch structure where generators bid into a market on the basis of cost and pool price. Today, it is typically gas fired plant that provides the flexibility to meet rapidly changing demand as well as power from hydro and interstate generators. Solar thermal is now being built with sufficient thermal storage to provide an extra 6-7 hours of operation after sunset.

There is also a developing demand side response market, where customers can get paid to reduce or reschedule their loads at times of peak demand. It is now feasible to have a few hundred MW of load in one region respond to price signals. From an electrical perspective, a drop in demand meets the same need as the dispatch of more generation. It’s just a different way of thinking to the current supply driven mindset. If electric vehicles become mainstream they will add a valuable degree of flexibility into the electricity network through the likely use of their on-board storage. I also personally think that stationary, distributed energy storage is about to become technically and economically viable. This would also provide a means to “shadow” renewable systems when necessary.

In my view, I think it would be feasible to have 60% of Australia’s electricity supply sourced from renewable sources by 2050. This would consist of wind (15%), solar thermal (12%), solar PV (8%) geothermal (10%) and 15% wave and biomass. The remainder could be 20% coal, 15 % gas and maybe 5% nuclear depending on how costs, technology and politics evolve over the next 20 years. 

Looking at nuclear power for Australia, I think the biggest near-term challenge will be finding investors willing to risk financing a project that might take 15 years before generating the first megawatt hour of electricity. The latest cost figures I could find were estimates from Florida’s Progress Energy’s Levy nuclear power plant proposal, which is about US$7,000/kW not including transmission lines. In the meantime a whole suite of other technologies are likely to come down the cost curve to a point where nuclear power is no longer competitive in most regions.

Tony Vassallo is the Delta Electricity Chair in Sustainable Energy Development at the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

Click HERE to view Tony’s presentation ‘Opportunities & Challenges for Sustainable Energy Development in Australia’ at the Griffith Hack Clean and Sustainable Technologies seminar on the 13th August.

Copenhagen 2009: The IP debate by Justin Blows

I found this article that discusses the 5 contentious issues, including  Technology transfer and Intellectual Property (IP) rights,  that may be barriers in global climate change negotiations.   The passages on IP follow:

Notwithstanding other options such as lifestyle changes, technology is considered by most to be at the heart of a longterm solution to climate change. The IPCC notes that without substantial investment flows on low-emission technologies and effective technology transfer it may be difficult to achieve emission reduction ‘at a significant scale’ (IPCC 2007b). The main issues on the table are technology financing, what kind of non-finance instruments can be used to promote technology transfer, including intellectual property rights (IPRs), and institutional arrangements. How to translate technology transfer commitments into something other than financial support is a significant tripping point, and last minute surprises are possible in Copenhagen (as the CDM was in Kyoto). However, thus far, discussions center mostly on whether and how to modify the IPR regime to optimize development and transfer of climate technologies. Proposals, mainly from developing countries, include relaxation of IPRs, compulsory licensing, patent pooling, exemptions, and incentives for patent holders to transfer patents to developing countries. Developed countries generally support maintaining the current IPR regime. Institutional arrangements for technology transfer also promise to be a central area of debate on the road to Copenhagen. The main tripping points here will likely be the rank and mandate of the technology ‘body’, with proposals ranging from a new UNFCCC subsidiary body on technology, as proposed by developing countries, tomaintaining the current Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) as an advisory body to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Of particular contention is whether the technology body oversees the technology fund (if one is agreed upon), regulates technology credit markets (if a market approach is agreed), and/or assesses the MRV technology commitments by developed countries. At present, all options remain on the table.

Justin Blows

Methane calthrate, anyone? by Justin Blows

There was an article on methane calthrate – ice containing methane – in a new scientist article a couple of months ago.

burning ice

Apparently there are vast reserves of this fossil fuel and it could be a significant component of the energy mix in the future.

There is concern that rising temperatures from global warming will release much of the methane locked up in the ice crystals – a so called tipping point for climate change. Given this, it is hard to know whether it is in the global interest to burn this fossil fuel – is it adding to global warming or is the methane just going to leak away and be an even more potent green house gas?

I guess it depends on the particular reserve being considered and whether it will be affected by global warming.

I wonder what technology is available to extract this resource? It is obviously a different challenge then oil / coal extraction. There may be a lot of innovation required and new machines and methods for extraction. This presents a great opportunity for innovators in this area – if an innovator invents the means to commercially extract this resource, and patent it, the innovator could gain a significant advantage in controlling the extraction of the resource and thus the commercial outcomes from extraction.

Justin Blows

Hate cleantech patents? Look here! by Justin Blows
August 18, 2009, 4:41 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,

Not all commentators are fans of the patent system when applied to clean technologies.

Some people like the free software guru Richard Stallman don't like patents

Some people, like the free software guru Richard Stallman, don't like patents

This article contains various opinions as to why the patent system should be changed (or side lined) when it comes to clean and sustainable technologies.

Is it just me or are the views of these academics disconnected from our world –  were it is free enterprise that is charged with developing climate change mitigation technologies?

Justin Blows

Experimental Solar Plant at Whyalla by Justin Blows
August 18, 2009, 12:03 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,

According to this report, four 500sqm dishes in the form of solar collectors are being built at Whyalla.

They will be able to generate temperatures in excess of 200°C.  Interestingly, this experimental solar plant will have ammonia energy storage technology.

If the plant is successful, then a 600 dish plant may be built.


Solar Hits a Bumpy Road by Justin Blows
August 18, 2009, 11:59 am
Filed under: News | Tags: ,

According to this article, the global financial crisis has affected investment in solar technology.

It appears that the countries, such as China, who are backing solar production are the ones doing the best.