These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. This post has emphasised adaptation and mitigation, essentially what we need to do to achieve a safe climate.
Comments, about science, observations, impacts, and future predictions are welcome. I do not, however, want a rehash of whether human activity causes climate change.
1. Mining company donations to political parties
Bernard Keane Looked at the astonishing trend in mining company donations to political parties:
The sheer scale of mining company generosity illustrates why Tony Abbott remains committed to repealing the carbon pricing package and the mining tax.
He might also have added that if Abbott wins office on September 14, we will no longer have a democracy but an oligarchy – a government run by powerful mining and media magnates looking for a return on their investment – with George Pell as spiritual adviser. As Keane tweeted recently:
“Australians are a bunch of sheep about to hand themselves over to a pack of wolves”.
2. Volkswagen’s 261-MPG diesel-electric supercar spacepod
VW has had this car for a while, but has now been reworked and is moving into production with at least 250 to be released in Germany and Austria this year.
It’s a diesel hybrid which has taken efficiency to the maximum. They call it a one-litre car, as in 1 litre per 100 km fuel economy, but it actually only uses 0.9. The battery has a range of 32 miles (about 51 km). With a fuel tank of 2.6 gallons I make the range over 1000 km.
It’s the most aerodynamic production car on the planet, using cameras instead of rear vision mirrors. This is what you see from the inside:
Although aluminium and carbon fibre have been used in construction, the car has been thoroughly crash-tested.
There will be other forms of transport in the future, but part of the significance of this one is that design elements will find their way into other production vehicles over time.
3. The power of pee
They are actually producing hydrogen, so I’m not sure how safe that is, nor whether power generation is the best use of urine. Still it shows how inventive people can be.
4. Energy company offers rooftop solar with storage
Not here, unfortunately, in New Zealand.
A New Zealand electricity network operator, Vector, is offering a trial run of leases to its customers to install rooftop solar and battery storage for around the same cost as relying entirely on the grid. Given that New Zealand’s retail electricity prices are around the same as Australia’s – 25c/kWh in the local currency – it is a striking offer.
There are two remarkable aspects to this story – one is the fact that a network operator is looking so actively for alternative solutions to dealing with the demands of the grid, and the second is the pricing of the offer – given that “grid competitive” battery storage solutions were considered by most to be several years away.
The company is spending nearly half its capital expenditure in new technologies such as solar. Remarkably, this forward-looking vision is coming from a monopoly supplier!
5. War on renewables
On this side of the ditch the war on renewables continues.
Alinta fires up one half of its old brown coal plant in Port Augusta, giving wind an unwarranted blast along the way.
The chairman of Tony Abbott’s proposed business advisory council, Maurice Newman, has called for the renewable energy target (RET) to be scrapped because he believes the scientific evidence for global warming and the economic case for renewable energy no longer stack up.
Newman used to be chairman of the ABC Board.
Coalition ideologues are considering crippling regulations for wind farms and want to abolish the Renewable Energy Target.
6. New battery technology
Graphene nanoribbons is being used by a team at Rice University to create more durable, lightweight and efficient lithium-ion batteries.
Despite its great promise for next-generation electronics and energy storage, graphene faces an enormous stumbling block in terms of cost-effective, commercial scale manufacturing, so the combination of low cost carbon nanotube production with low cost graphene production has given Rice a running start on the next step, commercial production of a competitively priced, next-generation lithium-ion battery.
This is a different project from the one at UCLA jumpy linked to some weeks ago.
7. Wave power
There was an item on RN Breakfast this morning (link not there yet as I write) about a wave power plant being constructed at the HMAS Stirling navy base in WA by Carnegie Wane Energy. The plant will be underwater as you can see here:
Ther project involved technology development and will attract world-wide interest. Defence establishments are especially interested in renewables. The project also involves water desalination.
8. German energy market (updated)
RenewEconomy’s Graph of the Day today shows the make-up of energy production in Germany. It varies a bit from week to week, but here’s Week 4 of 2013 as a winter sample:
Gas is used for peaks, topped up by renewables. Compare this with Week 23 in May:
Gas almost disappears and black coal is largely turned off on the weekend. Some weeks solar exceeds wind, other weeks the reverse. This pretty much sums up the discussion:
These highlight some of the big problems with the growing penetration of renewables in Germany. Remember, at this level, the market is around 20 per cent, but the government wants this to rise to 40 per cent by 2030. Gas plants, however, are struggling to stay open. Coal generators in Germany – like Alinta and others in Australia – are screaming blue murder because they are being levered out of the market. Most of the new coal plants currently being built in Germany – even the brown coal ones – are designed to be flexible so they can fit in around renewables – which is now the dominant influence on prices in the market.
This was an issue which is being deliberated in German policy circles at the moment and was highlighted by the International Energy Agency in two recent reports – the old style energy markets that focused uniquely on a price for kWh produced are being made redundant, and will need to be replaced by soemthing more sophisticated, along the lines of a “capabilities” market promoted by the likes of the Regulatory Project. Effectively, it is a way of finding a market design that reflects the new market dynamics, the plunging cost of solar PV and wind, and the need to provide an economic incentive (subsidy) to retain flexible fossil fuel capacity.
At Clean Technica we find that Chancellor Merkel, if re-elected, will cut back on subsidies for renewables, claiming “that the sector is now mature enough to support the cost of grid upgrades.”
Here’s the growth of the renewables sector in Germany and the EU:
On June 6 solar met 39% of Germany’s peak electricity demand.