A study published by the American Solar Energy Society (Jan 2007) shows that a combination of efficiency measures and existing renewable technologies can reduce greenhouse gases by up to 80% by 2050. The reassuring findings are that “clean coal” and nuclear power are not necessary and that efficiency gains account for 57% of the final emissions savings.
Efficiency involves making new and existing buildings more energy efficient, using insulation, efficient lighting and electrical appliances and a range of other measures such as solar hot water that will allow us to maintain our standard of living but at a much lower cost to the environment.
This report is very encouraging as the renewable technologies – wind, solar, concentrated solar, biomass and geothermal – have already been developed and are ready to be brought up to scale, whereas nuclear power is dangerous and inherently unsustainable, and “clean coal” has not been proven, is decades away and will not be ready in time to solve the problem of global warming.
The good news for renewable energy is that the costs are falling while the costs of fossil fuel energy are rising. In Australia the wholesale price for power from coal plants has doubled in price due to water shortages, and will increase further when there are realistic charges for CO2 emissions and for the huge volumes of cooling water they use. Renewable technologies, on the other hand, are becoming cheaper due to economies of scale and because of technological improvements. Solar power is growing at more than 30% annually and the price is falling by 18% for every doubling of global installations. Renewables will be cost competitive by 2020 or sooner but until then they will require subsidies.
Wind and solar power do not produce power if the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. There is a lot of research effort going into finding ways to store power. Meanwhile most baseload power will come from existing coal plants until solar and wind energy can be stored and geothermal and biomass energy come on line. Wind can supply baseload power if wind farms are dispersed as the wind is always blowing somewhere.
Unlike energy from fossil fuels – oil, coal or gas – renewable energy is a never-ending and abundant resource that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. Generating power from renewables will not deplete the energy resources that will be needed by future generations.
There are now other independent studies that have produced findings that show that renewables can solve the global warming threat without nuclear or new “clean coal” technologies. It is time to get on with our new renewable energy future. www.ases.org/ www.ieer.org/sdafiles/index.html Volume 15, Number 1 “Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy”
Wish list for CEFE
On a recent visit to Sydney I met a bloke who worked for Altona Council in Victoria. When I mentioned Bega and CEFE he was excited. “We’ve heard all about you guys! I’ve been using you as a model for what we think our community could do!” he enthused. The local community has helped take CEFE to where we are today. Your support and the work of some very dedicated volunteers has earned CEFE and the local community this recognition. We are quickly growing beyond shire boarders as more dedicated people take up the climate change challenge.
But it’s been a long 18 months for CEFE and we could do with lots of help. The increasing rate of climate change and the fact that Australia has been so slow to take up the challenge makes our work all the more urgent.
We are achieving heaps, we are building a sustainable organisation, preparing numerous funding applications, setting up our new office, keeping members updated, raising climate change awareness with schools up and down the coast, in the ACT, we are liaising with other groups, concerned individuals and politicians, manage the progress of LifeSaving Energy. We have also managed to establish Clean Energy for Eternity chapters in the Snowy River, Cooma Monaro, Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven and Mossman Shires.
While it is very exciting and challenging work. our volunteers are all very busy people with their jobs, families, businesses, along with a myriad of other demands. Sometimes we’re too busy to even ask for help! So we are thinking that we should make a loud call for help for some important and practical things. We are looking for a number of items, including
3 drawer, lockable filing cabinet
MYOB 16 Accounting Plus software package
A Lap top computer
A Desktop computer
A Digital projector
$ or in kind donation for office supplies (stationery etc)
$ or in kind for printing expenses
Sign writing for banners, signage etc
Soon we will also be looking for volunteers to help us with some exciting and challenging tasks to do with a number of our initiatives. If you are interested in doing some work with us – watch this space!
By the way, the web site cleanenergyforeternity.net.au is now looking a lot more organised. A photographic record of all our events is now categorised in the gallery section, and 4 movies should be ready for viewing this week. They include the Tathtra Beach day, the Washing Machine Project, the Broulee LifeSaving Energy human sign, and the combined school human school sign for the Bega Valley. Check them out.
Clean Energy For Eternity
There are two issues to consider when tackling climate change. The first is ADAPTATION. That is learning to live with the effects of climate change, which in Australia means learning to live in a hotter and dryer environment. The second issue is MITIGATION, which means tackling the cause of the problem (CO2 emissions).
When it comes to adaptation, the Federal Government is now starting to put serious resources into preparing for the future. They are putting a lot of money into saving the Murray Darling, and there are increased subsidies for water tanks. However, they have yet to set out a serious strategy for national water savings, for changes to agriculture, or for adjustments that our economy will need to make as the planet warms.
With all the attention that Climate Change has had in recent months, Australians are increasingly concerned about the adverse affects of rising levels of atmospheric CO2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this year published a report detailing the crisis that we face, and called for urgent action to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The Stern report clearly stated that urgent action could prevent catastrophic change, and the cost of that action would be modest and manageable. The international scientific consensus is that we have 10 years to turn the problem around!
This Budget provided the Australian Government with a huge opportunity to show leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly at a time when the economy is doing well and in the midst of a mining boom. Have they done so?
The Federal Government subsidy for solar photovoltaic cells has been doubled, to $8000. This will make solar energy more affordable, and will probably double the number of households in Australia with solar panels. There has also been money set aside to stop land clearing. Low energy light bulbs will be mandatory. These steps will have little impact on curbing Australia’s rising CO2 emissions. The solar rebate, for example, is set to reduce our emissions by about 0.01%.
These initiatives are steps in the right direction, but they are small steps at a time when we should be making giant strides. The consistent government line has been that with less than 2% of global emissions, what we do in Australia is inconsequential. (Australia as a nation is the 10th highest emitter of Greenhouse gases). This budget, with its massive surplus, could and should have made significant investments towards a mitigation target (? 50/50 by 2020). We should have seen investments that would revitalise regional economies whist making savings on energy wastage and building alternative clean energy supplies..
What this budget has done is set a low benchmark, and it will be interesting to see if Labor can better it. Yes, Labor has set challenging targets to reduce emissions, but do they have an economically responsible strategy for meeting them? It’s going to be an interesting year.
Australia may only be a small part of the problem when it comes to climate change, but we can be a major part of the solution.