Elon Musk’s 100% clean energy vision is that the world’s energy needs will come from electricity – around one third transport, one third heating and manufacturing uses, and one-third electricity.
By the last category he clearly means everything else we use electricity for.
His new gizmo is a solar roof shingle:
His Powerwall 2 packs twice the energy of the first model (14.5 kwh), but will come at about the same price, along with new software to control demand and supply. His vision is not to go off-grid, rather to share through an intelligent grid.
His target is initially the 5 million new homes built in the USA, but he sees rooftop solar reaching a third of houses eventually. There are close to 135 million households in the US, which would if course include flats and units. And he sees solar capacity in other building materials.
Parkinson heralds all this as “a kind of energy democracy” and a shift from centralised oligopolies. Maybe so, but perhaps more so for the better off. Someone else is going to have to look service the needs of the rest as we continue to bifurcate into a two-tier society.
2. The Bentley Effect: will community energy power our future?
The Bentley Effect is the title of a new documentary film which:
- chronicles the community fight against coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, from early defeats to the resounding victory at Bentley, where more than 5,000 people gathered to show their opposition to a CSG drilling program by the listed company Metgasco.
They finally won when the heads of a proposed 850 police force realised that their members would be stared down by the mass of farmers, landowners, mums, dads, scientists, local business people and activists – who had organised themselves to rally against the unconventional gas invasion.
The politicians had to back down and rescind the license. Giles Parkinson tells the tale in The Bentley Effect: Why community energy will power our future.
The Byron community then chipped in to set up their own renewable energy system. Big Electricity can get lost!
This is great, and provides a model other communities can learn from, if not completely copy. However, there is something special about the Byron community, and such cohesive green action may not happen elsewhere, let alone in the suburbs of the big cities, where at least half the population live.
3. Power station Hazelwood to close
There may be a price increase, but relatively minor. The power will be replaced largely by black coal in NSW. So the closure of Hazelwood, currently responsible for 3% of Australia’s emissions, will only reduce emissions by one per cent.
Most notable is the piece by Tristan Edis. He says the global French energy company Engie, one third owned by the French government:
- has a three-year, €15 billion program to divestment program to withdraw from their oil and gas assets, in combination with a €15 billion investment program focussed on renewables and new energy technologies.
Large companies are not always focussed on the next AGM. They need to look where industries are going in a few decades time, and move their money and effort to take full advantage.
Engie would have sold the plant if they could have found a buyer. One has now put his hand up, A Trevor St Baker and his company Sunset Power International. However he want “capacity payments”, payment for reserve power kept on standby, and some recognition for the stability that ‘baseload’ is said to provide.
We are assured by all that matter that energy security will be fine.
NSW has caught the bug, and unveiled plans to start on the journey towards zero emissions by mid-century. It’s not just aspirational, it is said to go into some detail. There are actually three plans, the NSW climate change policy framework, the climate fund strategic plan and the plan to save NSW energy and money (link broken).
- They set out in some detail how the state intends to increase investment in the renewable sector, help vulnerable families responding to climate change and reduce household bills.
Good to see a focus on ‘vulnerable’ families. However, sometimes in these schemes a layer of not-so-well-off people miss out.
With NSW on board, the Commonwealth should now recognise that they too need to be on board, pushing forward, not holding everything back.
You might recall the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has been charged with coming up with a plan to review the electricity system to ensure energy security as we move to renewables.
He says energy security is not about ‘locking in status quo’ and there are ‘many viable technology paths to cutting emissions’. He says that the market will provide. I’m not sure the market will get us a smart grid.
Submissions to Finkel’s inquiry close in December. His report could be a game changer.
Martin Wolf, economist with the Financial Times, thinks there are two forms of climate denial, ‘denial major’ and ‘denial minor’
He regrets that there has been little focus on climate change in the US presidential election contest.
With Trump it’s clear, we have ‘denial major’. He would undo the modest progress made by Obama.
With Clinton we can only expect ‘denial minor’, substituting modest gestures for policies able to bring credible change. This will cost us down the track.
It’s a decade, he reminds us, since the ground-braking Stern Review was publishes. We have little to show for it. It’s urgent we act now and in this he remains pessimistic.