By using energy storage with solar panels, homeowners were able to go off-grid, showing how distributed power could speed future storm recovery.
A MAJOR NEW SURVEY has pointed to the inevitable decline in coal generation, as the ongoing plunge in wind and solar costs make those technologies significantly cheaper than even refurbished coal-fired generators.
The argument for renewable energy is now a purely economic one – and the move away from coal will only pick up speed
The dominance of ‘econobabble’ and market approaches have hurt climate action. That’s why renewable energy is vital to the future of the climate and the economy, write Dan Cass and Andrew Bray. The world seems particularly chaotic this winter. The climate news is diabolical, with fears about melting of the Arctic permafrost and the ancient ice stores of theMore
Australia, with the highest rate of residential solar penetration in the world, as well as a large number of communities and industry sitting off the grid, is an ideal laboratory and test market for storage technology. Already, Australian companies are reaping the benefits, exporting off-grid renewable energy, storage and control systems internationally.
Dan Litchfield talks about his frustrations selling Ohio on wind energy, or even talking calmly about wind energy with people against it. He isn’t giving up, but explains that he’s going to spend more time doing something a bit more satisfying – starting up a tiny brewery of his own.
Dan also responds to an interview we did with psychologist Per Espen Stoknes on climate change psychology.
Dan Litchfield is a senior project developer for a major international renewable energy company, and the views represented on the show are Dan’s alone obviously.
Newly uncovered documents, disclosed in The Guardian, reveal that Shell has successfully slowed down the growth of renewable energy in Europe.
According to an April 27 article in The Guardian, “Weak renewable energy goals for 2030 [for the EU] originated with [a] Shell pitch for gas as a key technology for Europe to cut its carbon emissions in an affordable way.”
Reading news websites, one comes across copious ads claiming that Shell is committed to a sustainable future for the earth. Their intent is to brand Shell as a company working to reduce environmental threats (and, by implication, global warming). Nothing could epitomize the hypocrisy of greenwashing and corporate ads on news content sites more than Shell’s Madison Avenue efforts to portray itself as environmentally responsible.
After all, just look on the Shell website, which promotes Arctic exploration for oil and natural gas:
It is estimated that the Arctic holds around 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea. Developing the Arctic could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges.
Given the history of oil production expansion and drilling, just how exactly will Shell balance “economic, environmental and social challenges”? Not very well, if the past is precedent.
On its website, Shell also champions deep-water drilling, a high-risk contributor to global warming:
Unlocking energy in the freezing, pitch-black waters kilometres below the ocean’s surface is a major technical challenge. Advanced technologies are also needed at the surface, where sea swell and storms hamper production platforms. But the vast resources of oil and gas that lie here hold great potential for supporting economic growth and helping to meet the world’s growing energy needs.
It is within the context of the avaricious continuation of fossil fuel exploration that Shell’s PR consultants attempt to transform its image into one of a planet-friendly company.
It is also within this context that Shell prevailed last year in reducing targets for conversion to renewable energy within EU nations, according to the information uncovered by The Guardian.
Shell had the help of the UK in achieving its self-serving slowdown of renewables in Europe. The UK, after all, has two reasons to side with Shell’s proposal: 1) It takes its lead on fossil fuels from the dominating partner in the Atlantic Alliance, the United States; and 2) BP, according to Forbes, is the second largest company in the UK. Moreover, although it is headquartered in the Netherlands, the Financial Times (FT) regards Royal Dutch Shell as incorporated in the UK and, as a result, the largest company in the UK (scroll down to the “UK 500 2014” – after opening the preceding hyperlink – and open the file to view the Royal Dutch Shell ranking in the UK by the FT). Regardless of whether Royal Dutch Shell is technically a UK company or not, it has long and deep ties to the UK. As in the US, such corporate wealth can buy you a whole lot of public policy, in this case promoted by BP’s fossil fuel colleague, Shell.
As The Guardian describes Shell’s role in the formation of the UK’s energy policy:
“Shell has a lot of clout in the UK, where they are very active in the policy debate,” a source close to the lobbying discussions said. “That is partly because the UK likes to have companies saying what the UK government wants to hear.”
The UK stood behind Shell and prevailed in how to implement the 2030 EU carbon reduction policy.
The result of Shell’s “market-led strategy of gas expansion” – as the Guardian calls it – is that the EU adopted a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, but dramatically reduced the role of renewables in reaching that target.
As a result – given the indifference of the fossil fuel industry to global warming – the 40 percent figure appears to be more of a public relations gesture to provide the appearance of reducing climate change than an attainable objective.
Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout
Group hopes to kick-start wind and solar projects that have stalled because of uncertainty over the renewable energy target
A group of Melbourne councils are banding together to bypass the renewable policies of the state and federal governments and directly appeal to clean-energy providers.
In what could evolve into a national initiative to directly boost renewable energy uptake, the City of Melbourne, City of Maribyrnong and City Of Yarra will open a dialogue with clean energy producers ahead of a potential full tender process.
The trio of councils have partnered with businesses including Mirvac and Federation Square for the project. Renewable providers, such as solar and wind farms, will be asked whether they can supply the group’s combined 100GWh worth of energy at similar or lower cost than fossil fuel providers.
This 100GWh is the equivalent to around 250,000 solar panels or 15 wind turbines.
The consortium hopes to find renewable energy projects that are ready to proceed but have been hindered by uncertainty over the renewable energy target, which has seen investment in the sector grind to a virtual halt.
Victoria’s renewable energy industry has also been hit by severe restrictions on new wind farm developments, allowing states such as South Australia surge ahead of it in terms of clean energy.
By joining together, councils and businesses can offer a reliable demand for renewable providers to allow their projects to proceed, while at the same time potentially driving down the cost for users.
The City of Melbourne has a goal of zero net emissions by 2020. This target is supplemented by a goal of sourcing 25% of electricity from renewable sources by 2018. Just 5% of this target has been achieved via rooftop solar panels in Melbourne’s CBD, prompting the council to look to large-scale renewable projects in other parts of the state.
City of Melbourne councillor Arron Wood said the new approach will help counteract the “worrying” renewable energy policies of both state and federal governments.
“We are literally going out to test the market and find out what the price is,” he told Guardian Australia. “Our hope is that they will be on a par with fossil fuels or cheaper, because then the business case becomes a no brainer because renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels in the long-term.
“There are certainly some worrying signs over the state government’s attitude to renewable energy. There are genuine business opportunities for the state and we’re saying we’re open for business for renewable energy.
“There’s been the removal of the carbon price and uncertainty over the RET, meaning that in quick time a $1bn industry has ground to a halt. We can demonstrate a model that isn’t just a purchase of green energy, it can drive investment in new renewable energy.”
Wood said he expected other councils in Melbourne and across Australia to look closely at the concept in order to bolster renewable uptake. The City of Sydney, for example, has a 30% renewable energy target by 2030.
“Most metropolitan councils in Australia have a renewable energy target,” he said. “Cities are well set-up to band together for large-scale renewable generation. I feel many of them would be interested in this.”
WestWind, a German wind farm developer that has two approved projects in western Victoria, said it welcomed the initiative.
Tobi Geiger, managing director of WestWind, said there should be plenty of interest from solar and wind providers.
“I’d say there are around 10 projects in Victoria that would go for it, predominantly wind because we are blessed with wind all year round in Victoria,” he told Guardian Australia.
“We’ve had to wind back activities quite dramatically because of uncertainty over the future of the RET. We’ve been Abbott-proofing our company by looking at opportunities in renewable energy that don’t require government support.
“I think this kind of partnership will do well as long as we have a recalcitrant government. There’s a lack of government leadership so councils are stepping into the vacuum. The more Neanderthals that go back to fossil fuels, the more of these things we’ll see.”
The rural village of Feldheim, 80 kilometres south of Berlin, is at the vanguard of Germany’s energy revolution, boasting a wind farm, solar plant, biogas and biomass facilities.
Germany is undergoing an energy transformation called Energiewende, which aims to reduce carbon emissions, increase the use of renewable energy, and stop all nuclear power.
Feldheim is the country’s first community to become completely energy self-sufficient.
The village now attracts thousands of ecotourists every year and has set up an educational group to spread the word.
The New Energy Forum’s Kathleen Thompson told the ABC it all started back in 1995.
“A student by the name of Michael Raschemann decided as part of his studies he’d like to install some wind farms,” she said.
With the support of local council, Feldheim’s 145 residents were quickly convinced of the wind farm’s merits.
One of those residents is 73-year-old Joachim Gluck, who has lived in the village his whole life.
“There wasn’t much headwind … the project was done in open discussions at resident’s meetings. Everyone was allowed to voice his or her opinion,” he said.
Residents were invited to join a limited company to manage the wind farm in which they contributed 3,000 euros each.
Mr Raschemann founded a company, Energiequelle, which planned and implemented the project.
The wind farm now has 47 turbines, which produce 175 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.
The town of Feldheim uses just one per cent of that, the rest is sold back into the wider grid.
Residents and businesses now pay a third less for their electricity than other German communities, at 16.5 eurocents per kilowatt hour.
The biggest local business is the agricultural cooperative which produces milk, pig meat and grains.
After the success of the wind farm, the cooperative, in partnership with Energiequelle, built a biogas plant to use manure and silage to heat the village.
The plant cost nearly 2 million euros and much of that was provided by government subsidies.
It has cut heating costs and saved the import of 160,000 litres a year.
The partnership has also built a solar farm with 10,000 modules, which has an annual output of 3,000 megawatts.
The town does not waste a thing, with a small woodchip heating plant burning timber by-products from nearby forests.
Mr Gluck said the big energy groups fought against Feldheim’s transformation.
“The permit process took longer than the actual building process,” he said.
But that has not deterred the villagers from new projects.
They are now spending 13 million euros on battery storage, which will help with consistency of supply.
An Australian company which invented a renewable energy electricity generator says it was forced to move its operation to Germany because of a lack of opportunities in Australia.
Power production from renewables has tripled in Germany within the past decade, mostly from wind and solar.Last year, renewables accounted for 24 per cent of the country’s electricity.The German government introduced generous subsidies to kick-start the sector, amounting to 16 billion euros last year.But the government claims the program has already saved billions in fuel costs for the heavily import-reliant country.
“We have created new businesses worth 40 billion euros per year,” Ecologic Institute analyst Andreas Kraemer said.
“We have created additional employment for up to 400,000 people. They all pay taxes, they all pay social security charges.”German households and small business pay the largest share for the renewable turnaround.They pay around 29 euro cents per kilowatt hour and much of that goes towards a renewable energy surcharge.Big industrial users are exempt from the surcharge and pay just 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour.Most of the subsidies are spent on first-generation solar and wind parks that are locked in high feed-in tariffs of over 40 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years.But there are calls to phase them out all together.
The makeup of the German energy market already looks very different, with hundreds of companies and cooperatives being formed in a decentralised industry.While banks, industry, and project developers own 40 per cent of renewable installations, farmers and private investors own half.A number of new investment vehicles have formed to take advantage of the new industry.Crowd funding start up Bettervest has financed 14 projects since its inception a year ago.Company spokesman Julien Schroder-Gianoncelli said investors are attracted by the projects and the returns.”We are offering 5-10 per cent in interest, which is pretty good at the moment,” he said.
Ceramic Fuel Cells believes Germany’s regulations, incentives and market make it the place to be.Mr Obernitz said that, for the time being at least, there are no incentives available in Australia.”I’m not sure if that is going to change,” he said.”We would favour that because we have invented the technology in Australia, and it’s something that will change the world.”