Category Archives: Technology

Pressing the reset button on the NBN

Would that they were.

Paul Budde has urged the government to press the reset button on the NBN, as short-term and longer-term faults and complaints affect up to a third of connected customers and large numbers of premises are being put in the too hard basket for connection.

One man was without a phone or internet for four months, and only got relief after media involvement. Then he got relief by being reconnected to the legacy service he had left, which is against the rules. Continue reading Pressing the reset button on the NBN

Power tipping point

The Four Corners program Power Failure added to the sense of crisis around our power system, beginning with the breathless comment that there was almost a breakdown of civil order in South Australia when the lights went out in September. The program looked at the difficulties experienced when the power went off for three days. Recently in some places affected by Cyclone Debbie, crews couldn’t get in to start fixing for about double that time. I’ll come back to Four Corners via a series of articles published on the same day.

First, in the AFR tucked away on page 8, Mark Ludlow penned an article Renewables, EIS ‘make gas-fired power redundant’ (paper edition title). Ludlow interviewed Professor Frank Jotzow, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at ANU, who said gas had been overtaken by renewable energy, including battery storage, in the transition away from coal-fired power. We should skip gas and go straight to renewables with batteries. Continue reading Power tipping point

Solutions to the energy crisis

Malcolm Turnbull has now, for reasons best known to himself, elevated “energy crisis” to a “national security” issue. Ben Potter puts the situation well:

    A decade of fighting over renewable energy, carbon prices and fossil fuels has left Australia with some of the world’s dirtiest and costliest energy – a bitter yield from historical abundance.

    Three years ago, manufacturers began complaining they couldn’t get gas, and 18 months ago the South Australian grid started to wobble.

    Now, electricity and gas prices across the eastern states are two to three times their levels only a couple of years ago.

    Gas exporters overcommitted to foreign buyers; the federal government mismanaged renewable energy and the regulatory apparatus – and politicians responsible for it – are frozen in the headlights.

Continue reading Solutions to the energy crisis

Saturday salon 28/1

1. Migration and economic activity

The above article (thanks to John D for the link) explains why it’s almost impossible to have a recession when we have high migration. The economy keeps growing, because there are more people operating in it. Governments can boast about economic growth, and it’s good for business, but not necessarily for workers.

Here’s how real net disposable income (per capita income) has been going for the last 20 years: Continue reading Saturday salon 28/1

Renewables under attack – again

wind-farm-hero_250The Coalition government and the Murdoch press were already mounting a full-scale attack on renewable energy when the AEMO report on the SA blackout presented information in such a way as to cast further doubt on renewable energy. AEMO stands for Australian Energy Market Operator. That is AEMO is an operator in the game, not an independent watchdog. In fact an operator that may not itself have acted prudently.

On top of this Chris Uhlmann of the ABC has been virulently critical of the rush to renewables, using what turns out to be techno-babble to sound convincing. His views have skewed the ABC network coverage across all platforms.

So what happened? Continue reading Renewables under attack – again

A ray of sunshine

ford-gt_1474412326938_250A carbon revolution is about to launch itself onto the world. It has nothing to do with carbon emissions, or not much, Carbon Revolution is the name of a company that started in someone’s garage in Geelong about a decade ago. It’s about light-weight carbon fibre wheels for cars. The world-first technology was initially used in Formula One, then in May it won a contract to supply wheels for the Ferrari-fighting Ford GT, the fastest and most expensive Ford supercar ever made. It was a move from the race track to the road.

Now the company is raising $50 million to supply lightweight carbon fibre wheels to Ford Motor Company for the $US450,000 ($600,000) Ford GT and $US63,000 Mustang Shelby GT350R sports cars. Continue reading A ray of sunshine

Census farce caused by spectacular blunders?

Patrick Gray, described by CSO Magazine as a “respected information security journalist and podcaster” has put forward an account of the Census crash that varies from the official version.

His “sources” told him that the DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack experienced at 7.30pm came from inside Australia, not from the United States as claimed. Continue reading Census farce caused by spectacular blunders?

Rasa gives hydrogen car design a clean slate

riversimple-hydrogen-car-12_250

Welch company Riversimple is developing a hydrogen car, the Rasa, as in tabula rasa, which means clean slate. Rather than a design which modifies the basic layout of the internal combustion car, Rasa has a powertrain designed from scratch.

It’s certainly light, economical, and has a small carbon footprint. It may have a role in personal transport around cities, especially when cars become self-driving. Continue reading Rasa gives hydrogen car design a clean slate

SA keeps the nuclear dream alive

The key tentative finding of the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission is:

    Taking account of future demand and anticipated costs of nuclear power under the existing electricity market structure, it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future.

However they think nuclear power may be necessary in the future to meet emission reduction targets, so:

    It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required.

Continue reading SA keeps the nuclear dream alive

Di Natale breaks with Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops

di natale-richard-dr-28-486_225Richard Di Natale has broken with The Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops, saying that he does not believe genetically modified crops pose a significant risk to human health. He says there is no concrete evidence on potential health harms to people. Continue reading Di Natale breaks with Greens’ policy on genetically modified crops

Turnbull calls for ‘ideas boom’ as he unveils $1b vision for Australia’s future

The much awaited Innovation Statement has arrived. The ABC has a useful summary. Michelle Grattan has two lead-in pieces at The Conversation, where there is heaps more.

Bernard Keane at Crikey (paywalled) details how the Rudd/Gillard governments trailed their coat in this area without grabbing it by the throat, to mix the metaphors. The trouble says Keane is that we don’t have a business culture that facilitates innovation. Terry Cutler, back in 2008, wrote about our lifestyle approach to business:

    Too many of our business owners or managers have what we might describe as a lifestyle approach to business. Even many of our so-called success stories look like under-performers when benchmarked globally. This lifestyle model of business strategy imposes a false ceiling on ambition: success is having the designer car in the garage, and the holiday home or two…. At a recent forum I actually heard people saying they didn’t need to expand or export because they were doing it quite comfortably as things are.

Sounds like a sensible balance to work and life-style, but the raw facts are that it is easier to grow a company by a second $10 million than it is to achieve the first.

Another problem is that our managers are not much chop. David Gruen speaking in 2012 put our manufacturing managers at mid-range:

Management practices -Speech-8.ashx

For small companies, I think that’s flattering us.

Turnbull seems to be obsessed with high-tech start-ups, which, says Jason Murphy at Crikey, are a really bad idea.

    The key features of a tech start-up are this: it has no customers and a strong chance of going broke. What most of these businesses do is funnel capital (investors’ money) into work nobody asked to be done. They build a product for which there is no market, exhaust their funds, close. They’re a bit like a make-work project.

Some of the better ones are picked up by venture capitalists, and are subsequently bought by larger businesses. So:

    In short, the average tech start-up adds little value to the economy, employs few people, and pays out to a handful of already rich people if it succeeds. And we’re now going to give them tax breaks to do so.

    The other big winners from a successful start-up “eco-system” are the big companies that gobble up small start-ups.

Murphy says we need to think beyond technology, and beyond start-ups of new ideas. Innovation also means innovation in operational and managerial processes and marketing as well as in products. Innovation in that sense can be best leveraged in big business.

Finally, the notion that teaching coding to primary school kids is the answer really gives me the willies. We need creative problem solvers with excellent human relationship skills.