Sacrifice? I don’t think so…

I had a grandfather I never met. Ron King (Sgt, AIF) died in 1946, of complications from malaria (contracted while fighting in PNG), and alcohol, because he knew he was terminal anyway. He left Nan with Mum (13) and Uncle Ted (10). Poor, wonderful old Nan was a widow for nearly 50 years, after just 15 years of marriage. And yes, if you’ve done the arithmetic, they were married in the middle of the Great Depression. Our family, like thousands of others, has paid a high price towards our lifestyle in 2008. Ron paid the ultimate price. Nan was denied her partner for 47 years. Mum and Ted were denied their father from a young age. My siblings, cousins and self were denied a Grandpa.

Ron, and many others of his generation, went to war to preserve our way of life. It was a conscious decision, for the greater good. Too many died, but they succeeded, and our lives are far better for their sacrifice. We dedicate one special day every year to honor this very expensive gift from our predecessors. ANZAC DAY.
Now consider the threat to our children, and theirs, and theirs, etc, from climate change. If Ron’s generation fought for freedom, then climate change is our fight for the survival of the planet as we know it. The recent Rudd Government announcement of a 5% carbon reduction for Oz by 2020 is feeble to say the least. The Government, Opposition and corporate Australia are obsessed with unsustainable growth. Obviously, we can’t anticipate real and meaningful leadership from them. So, it’s up to us. Every day, in every little way.

With the New Year around the corner, please resolve to take at least one real step in 2009 towards significantly reducing your carbon footprint. Not exactly a sacrifice of intergenerational proportions, or is it?

Considering the level of comfort and plenty most of us in the South East enjoy, the dollar cost of implementing carbon reducing hardware is within armchair effort to many. So, if your hot water system is crook and inefficient anyway, take advantage of the generous rebates available and install a solar unit. Replace every light globe with an energy efficient one. Buy a smaller car, or better still a bike. Walk to the shops if you can. Buy food that has not travelled half way around the world. Grow your own veges. Don’t drive over 80 kph. Resist using air conditioners and other electricity guzzlers. Improve the thermal qualities of your house. Don’t leave appliances on stand-by. Recycle whenever possible. Use less water.

Doing two or three of these will make a difference. Some of them will also cost real money. But we won’t be risking our lives serving as yet unborn generations like Ron did, eh?

Sacrifice? I don’t think so…
Andrew McPherson, CEFE member

Weak Targets

On Monday, the Rudd government announced an emission reduction target of 5% by 2020. This is the rock bottom lowest target they could have set, and sends a clear message to the world that Australia will be a follower, not a leader on climate change. What a fall from grace from a government elected on a promise of strong climate change action!

If the rest of the world adopted this target, we’d be set on a trajectory to reach an atmospheric CO2 level of more than 550 ppm by the end of the century. That is about twice as high as it has been for at least the last 400 000 years, and a level that scientists are telling us we should avoid if we are to avoid serious impacts from irreversible climate change.

The notion of a target is complex for the government. Targets that are too tough may see a backlash from the high polluting industries such as coal, aluminium and concrete. A target that is too low sees Rudd as soft on a problem that he describes as “the defining issue of our generation”. Clearly, the heavily polluting coal industry has won another battle, and in the process earned 4 billion dollars in Federal funding. Is climate change the defining issue of our generation, or a problem to be side-stepped in order to continue supporting our export coal industry?

The Rudd government’s target is too low to be even considered a step in the right direction. If Australia wants to address climate change and reach 60% cuts by 2050, we need to be talking about targets in the 40% range. A 5% target is saying that it is all too difficult, so let’s make a token effort. Our children deserve better than that.

Weak national targets make Australia dependent on other nations like Europe to fix the problem. Far higher targets need to be adopted across the world by the Copenhagen meeting in December 2009. Shamefully, Australia’s lack of courage will once again be an excuse for countries wanting to delay action.

It can be done! There is a rapidly changing political landscape. President-elect Obama promises to energise the US position on global warming and sees the benefit of building confidence by spending big on tackling climate change and the transition to renewable energy. President-elect Obama said:”…we have the opportunity now to create jobs all across this country, in all 50 states, to repower America, to redesign how we use energy, to think about how we are increasing efficiency, to make our economy stronger, make us more safe, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and make us competitive for decades to come, even as we’re saving the planet.” That sort of language gives me hope, but I worry because Kevin Rudd was using similar words before he was elected, and look at where we are now.

Why as a region should SE NSW be adopting the much tougher target of 50/50 by 2020? Once the world’s biggest economies wakes up to a challenge, we will start to see rapid change across the globe.
The problem for Australia is that we make a lot of money by burning and selling coal. Tough targets mean burning and selling less of it. The difference in our part of the world is that we don’t have to meet our targets by making sacrifices, because there are no coal mines in Eden-Monaro. The only way we are going to meet a 50/50 by 2020 target is by attracting renewable energy business to our region. That means jobs, tourists and investment opportunity.

Look at the proposed solar farm in the Bega Valley. It is already employing two project managers. During construction, it will employ several dozen people and two people will continue to run the farm long term. That in itself is not going to create an economic revolution, but it’s not a bad start. If we manage to set up a solar farm in Jindabyne the following year, that is another couple of dozen people employed either in the short or long term. If we set up 10 solar farms, that is a total of 20 full time jobs. That is 20 families making a living out of renewable energy. That’s before you factor in the flow-on tourism benefits which will be huge. That’s a better start! Consider a wind farm on the Monaro that will inject $20 million dollars into the local economy over its 25 year life span.

There is such a lot to gain by setting challenging targets, and so little to lose. No-one is going to punish us if we don’t meet our target of 50/50 by 2020, but many will thank us if we do.

Australia has a proud history of punching well above our weight when it comes to a crisis. Whether on the sports field, or during global conflict, Australians stand tall.

Right now, SE NSW stands tall in adopting a 50/50 by 2020 target. We as a community need to do what we can to sort out climate change, and we will do it with or without the help of government.
Matthew Nott

The base-load power myth

The following is an extract from “Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy” by Dr Mark Diesendorf from The Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales. He clearly demonstrates that renewable energy, when combined with peak-load sources such as hydro or gas turbines, can provide steady, reliable, constant power, 24 hours a day, day in, day out. Dr Diesendorf recently spoke at the Bega Renewable Energy Forum, and his book is well worth reading.
Matthew Nott

Fallacy: “Since wind power is an intermittent source, it cannot replace coal-fired power unless it has expensive, dedicated, long-term storage.”

Varients are: “Wind power is not base-load” and “Wind farms don’t reduce CO2 emissions, because coal-fired power stations have to be kept running to back up the fluctuations in wind.”

All these statements are wrong.

With or without wind power, there is no such thing as a perfectly reliable power station or electricity generating system.Electricity grids are already designed to handle variability in both demand and supply. To do this they have different types of power station (base load, intermediate load and peak-load) and reserve power stations. Wind power adds a third source of variability that can be integrated without major technical difficulties into such an already variable system. For several dispersed wind farms, total wind power generally varies smoothly and therefore cannot be described accurately as ‘intermittent’.

Of course, to replace completely a 1000 MW coal-fired power station, either by retiring an existing station or deferring a new one, sufficient wind-power capacity has to be installed (2600-2700 MW). Opponents of wind power claim that there is insufficient wind power to replace a coal-fired power station, while opposing the construction of sufficient wind farms needed to do the job.

With the introduction of wind into the grid, the reliability of the generating system would decrease a little, but this is easily restored by installing a little additional peak-load plant; that is, gas turbines or hydro. For an electricity supply system in which geographically dispersed wind farms contribute 20 per cent of electricity, this additional peak-load plant is typically about one-quarter of the wind capacity (about 700 MW in the above example) and is only operated infrequently. Since its capital and fuel costs are both low. it plays the role of reliability insurance with a low premium.

Since 2003, Denmark has generated 20 per cent of its electricity from wind power, allowing coal-fired power stations to be retired. There have been no major problems resulting from wind variability. With some strengthening of the grid, Denmark plans to increase wind’s share even further.
Dr Mark Diesendorf.