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Beating the peak without punishing the poor

Australia’s electricity prices are rising and not everyone is finding it easy to keep up. Fingers have been pointed at peak demand; the times, like very hot summer afternoons, when we use large amounts…

We know we have to cut back on electricity use on really hot days, but how do we do it without disadvantaging low-income households? Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann

Australia’s electricity prices are rising and not everyone is finding it easy to keep up. Fingers have been pointed at peak demand; the times, like very hot summer afternoons, when we use large amounts of electricity. Building infrastructure to meet that demand is expensive, and that cost gets passed on to consumers.

Rising energy costs affect all households and businesses, but some are more vulnerable than others. Low-income families, older people and those with disabilities are particularly at risk.

So how do consumers tackle peak demand and how will this affect vulnerable households?

Ways to reduce how much power we use

The most obvious step is for customers to change their electricity demand to save themselves money and potentially reduce costs in the electricity system. By reducing some electricity uses, shifting electricity consumption to an off-peak time period or self-generating electricity, for example through rooftop solar panels, customers can begin to reduce the costs.

There is also increasing interest in measures that could encourage customers to reduce usage at peak times. Implementing tariffs and different prices applied to fixed periods during the day is one way to go. Critical peak pricing and rebates – a high price on maybe just a few hours on a few days a year (or a rebate for reducing use at those times) – could also see benefits.

Automation, or direct load control, is also an efficient way of reducing costs. This can be as simple as using technology to reduce consumption during peak hours, such as turning down the thermostat on air conditioning.

Impacts for vulnerable households

The way these measures will affect vulnerable households varies. Factors including size of household, appliance ownership and usage, and energy efficiency will all contribute to how households react to changes. The timing of the peak and the differential between peak, shoulder and off-peak rates can also make a big difference. Narrow peak periods (say, from 4-7pm) or infrequent critical peak pricing peaks (i.e. a few days a year when prices are higher for maybe an hour) will have a different impact to longer peak periods (such as from 1-8 pm).

For example, if peak pricing operates from 1-8pm, it could be very difficult for the low income working family to rearrange their use of appliances to avoid the high prices. In contrast, with a 4-7 pm peak, a retired couple at home for most of the day might be able to benefit from using appliances mainly during off-peak times earlier in the day.

There is also a difference between everyday peaks and peaks that occur for only a few occasions each year. We know that in Australia up to 25% of costs are driven by peak demand events which last less than 40 hours a year; that is, the hours on very hot days when air-conditioning is used heavily.

We need to be clear about the peak demand problems that must be addressed to tailor appropriate solutions. For example, for critical peaks on a few summer days, a year-round time of use tariff may be less useful than other, more flexible, methods.

Is automation the way to go?

Automation delivers the greatest and most sustained shift in demand (compared to price incentives alone). This is particularly true where consumers have air conditioners or electric heating. A review of trials found peak reductions of 31% with automation (16% without) for critical peak price tariffs and 16% (5% without) for time of use tariffs.

Automation is sometimes resisted by customers as a form of “big brother” control. However, automation can mean that appliances can be adjusted to use less electricity at peak times with minimal impact on the customer – for example the thermostat on the air-conditioner may just be set to a slightly higher temperature for a short period. The customer could get a bill saving for agreeing to allow their appliance to be automated in this way.

Automation may produce more certainty of response and thus fewer risks for retailers and networks (and so be more cost-effective). It could also be designed to make it a good choice for customers. The Federal Government is currently consulting on a proposal to require “smart appliance” interfaces in some appliances that could facilitate such automation. But many vulnerable households may not be able to afford these appliances.

Energy saving schemes need not be targeted only at the well-off. To tackle peak power as well as overall demand and need, vulnerable households must also be targeted to ensure they benefit. This could include designating priority groups to benefit from grants and low interest loans, plus tailored advice and information.

Addressing peak demand should bring the potential to reduce costs. However, the design of schemes to tackle peak demand needs careful thought. Before embarking on this path, however, it will be important that we make vulnerable households more resilient to a range of energy futures, through appropriately targeted assistance with energy saving measures.

This article is based on a larger report, Addressing peak demand – opportunities and risks for vulnerable households.

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106 Comments sorted by

  1. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    If it is all about the poorer or more vulnerable when it comes to residential impact on peak loads, the answer is really simple enough and that is you charge a higher rate for higher power consumption.
    Poorer people are likely not to have air conditioning let alone being prepared to switch them on and they will more than likely live in much smaller houses/units too.

    A more wealthy person is likely to have a much larger house with also likely a sizable air condirioning unit as well as many more…

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  2. margaret m

    old lady

    I am sure if we had not been fooled into allowing successive governments to sell off those essential services INCOME GENERATING assets our power would have been delivered at a more reasonable cost.

    Past taxpayer invested in the infrastructure for that very reason so it was delivered not with the business model of maximise the profit line (it also provided more employment great for the local economy) but deliver a service to owner users at a reasonable rate to maintain the asset and deliver profits that would be utilised for the services of the taxpayer. Ensure that you make your voice heard if any other state or Federal government decide to privatise sell of anymore taxpayer assets IF WE HAVE ANY LEFT.
    I would be looking for our state government to investigate how it can invest in renewable infrasructure as an alternate asset to return to what it should be doing providing essential services to all.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to margaret m

      Margaret, I can tell you from experience that having governments run utilities is certainly no guarantee to well run organisations providing reliable services at a reasonable cost.

      I worked as a young engineer at Broken Hill which is renowned or has infamy as a union town etc., that likely coming from ancient history when BHP was operating there way back in the twentieth century and there was something of a longish mine lockout, months around the 1930s from memory, BHP getting its name from Broken…

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Greg North

      The poles and wires increases component is broken into three,
      theoretical peak demands in summer (not needed as much because of solar panels providing excess), replacing ageing assets, and to meet licensing conditions intended to improve reliability. The largest part of this is paying for the potential peak power needed to be theoretically bought in summer. For NSW poles and wires increases and billing metering and marketing increases add up to a 9.6% increase.
      Barry owns the generators, and earlier…

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      "You don't need new poles to take up the excess electricity I produce Greg"

      NO......... but to be fair, we may need new transformers.

      When a housing estate is developed, the power company makes certain assumptions about the electricity consumption of that group of houses. So say there are 100 houses attached to one transformer, and they are deemed to consume (warning - numbers picked out of thin air) say 1000W continuous on average at peak time. To supply this, you will need a 100kW transformer…

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thats all true and fair, but around here few took up the offer for more than a 1 kw system, I put up a 2kw system. Greg North seemed to apportioning too much blame for green schemes on the 8.4 % network increases. I've been told the increased solar around here has helped the overloaded system, which comes down the mountains from the snowy mntns., dunno, hearsay.Clear reply. I would prefer number breakdowns on things like transformer costs before I shot my mouth off, and blamed all things solar. I'll have to go back over the ipart doc to see if they do mention any more detail, or ring ipart. But unfortunately have little time today.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      I have got a 4 Kw system Alice even if it is only good at best for about 3.5 and I am exporting plenty of power and so it is not so much a green scheme as I see it but just a commercial investment to help counter rising costs though obviously there are no doubt environmental benefits.

      As for poles and wires to counter peak loads, we have always had peak loads Alice, even before people started deciding they could afford air conditioners and I still do not see too many poles and wires upgrades going…

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    6. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      For all the benefits that solar PV ( which is all we basically have now with solar ) provides at likely the wrong time of the day, you also need to look at the complications being created for the bigger picture/network reliability.

      You will probably be getting your best PV output around the middle of the day unless you want to minimise your total output and face them east or west and north facing ones will likely have peak output for just a few hours with a build up to that for a few hours in…

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    7. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg- if you read Gill's article and her complete report carefully, you would see that the peak is being primarily caused by domestic air conditioners being used for heating and cooling when the occupants come home from school and work.

      This "peak" is distinct from the underlying baseload demand, which is fairly constant (fridges, washing machines, etc). Lighting kicks in later- much later with daylight saving.

      So, to stick to the point made by Gill, try focusing on mitigating the intensity…

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to John Barker

      Two points:

      1) very few buildings have appropriate thermal mass, ie INTERNAL. Most houses with thermal mass are brick veneer, and the outside of a building is the WRONG place to build thermal mass.
      See how my house is built: http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/mon-abri/
      BTW, in a previous life I was a BERS energy efficiency assessor. I can tell you that a poorly sited house with too much glass facing the wrong way will quickly turn a house into furnace if it's built this way on a slab. Thermal mass is only useful when used appropriately.

      2) most modern aircons actually HAVE timers built into them. In my experience (as an energy auditor) most people have either no idea how to use them....... or they don't even know this feature exists!

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    9. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Love that final point - how often does the 'problem' end up having a pathetically simple 80% solution just like this?

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    10. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike- it's good to know that some people with direct experience are contributing to this conversation...

      However, although science is universal, building techniques tend to be local. For example, almost ALL of the houses in Perth (more than 10% of the National total) are NOT brick veneer- they are double brick. The same goes for Inner Sydney and Inner-West Sydney (where I lived until recently) and inner Melbourne. I don't know Adelaide, but I suspect that it's a similar story- double brick pre-1970…

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    11. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to John Barker

      So then....... there are TWO of us! ;-) I have inhabited other people's double brick dwellings, and they do work well...... but in Brisbane they're as rare as hens' teeth.

      Where brick veneer really falls is when you have consecutive hot days like we had here (Dec/Jan), 60 days straight 32 to 43C! I really don't know how people will cope when this becomes the norm once climate change bites us on the arse...... I could never survive weather like that without this house. Noe afford the aircon bills!

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    12. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to John Barker

      Yes I am aware of that John, but every immigrant and every child leaving the nest also wants a McMansion with ducted air conditioning.

      So peak demand is suffering a double whammy of every existing Australian upgrading their homes and every new Australian wanting the same luxury in their new home.

      Perhaps if Australia's population was not growing at third world levels then this peak demand crisis would not have been so severe!

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    13. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      There may be even more than two, Mike- if more Conversationalists would keep to the topic at hand. Energy topics seem to invariably regress to uninformed slanging.

      Have you visited Phoenix, Arizona? More than "100 days over 100 degrees (F)" every year. In climates like that, it is sensible to build a light thermal mass house with very heavy insulation. This can be improved by having a concrete slab floor (with perimeter insulation) or even better, masonry interior walls to provide internally exposed thermal mass that is not exposed to conduction from the outside. Or perhaps the rainwater tank could be sited in the unused 4th bedroom (5 times the heat capacity of cement). The possibilities are endless, and have been around for a long time. They can all contribute to load levelling.

      BTW- good point about the timer in the air conditioner. Maybe a government subsidy for out-of-work technical writers to rewrite the usually incomprehensible manuals that come with these devices.

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    14. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg- I agree that overall, the "McMansion" problem is probably greater than the peak load problem, as the wasted embodied energy in an over-sized house is much greater than the recurrent energy. But we have got to deal with the existing reality- new houses comprise less than 2% of the housing stock in any year. New house design policies are needed, but they take decades to be significant.

      Data on the relative proportions of splits to ducted a/c is hard to find- the ABS data is about 10 years old. However, ducted air-conditioners are not necessarily much more wasteful than "splits", as they are usually zoned. Splits don't use outside air, which makes them more efficient- in theory- but the higher humidity may offset this- any data out there?

      Is CSIRO, or anyone else actually doing any research on air conditioner coolth storage? My knowledge is essentially a transfer from passive solar design together with back of the envelope calculations.

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    15. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Barker

      We use 11,000 kwh/cap/yr. The Swedes use over 14,000 kwh/cap/yr, but their electricity is only worth 30 gm-co2/kwh whereas ours is worth 850 gm-co2/kwh. You could spend a lifetime mucking round shaving bits and pieces off energy use and not come anywhere near making a significant difference. The sustainable per cap emission level is about 1 tonne CO2eq per person/yr (Copenhagen Diagnosis). You can't get anywhere near that level with efficiency gains, so why bother? But you can get their easily with nuclear power and a vegan diet.

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    16. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff- first- one has got to look at life cycle and value-chain energy use to make a definitive statement. Noting that Sweden's electricity prices are about the same as ours (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_pricing), one might assume that the total energy use is similar- just that most of it is in the form of imported (fossil fuel-based) capital.

      Secondly- how does an argument about Swedish hydro power translate into an argument for nuclear?

      Thirdly- what has any of this got to do with the topic at hand- ie reducing peak consumption and its effect on the less well-off?

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    17. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Barker

      John, we don't have to assume anything, there's no shortage of data. Swedish electricity is about 50/50 nuclear and hydro
      http://www.iea.org/stats/pdf_graphs/SEELEC.pdf
      and the CO2 per kwh is here (p.111)
      http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/name,32870,en.html

      Certainly the Swedes still have work to do to get down to a sustainable level, but that's not so tough with nuclear power but very difficult without.

      Here's an analogy. Suppose you have an old i386 CPU computer…

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    18. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Barker

      Yes John, Gill did infer about air conditioners and peak load with
      " the times, like very hot summer afternoons, when we use large amounts of electricity. "
      Even if airconditioners are not mentioned and in fact her article covers a lot more and reducing demand in general - " Beating the Peak without Punishing the Poor " being the article heading if you missed it and that I covered in my first post.

      The use of thermal mass has been around for many decades and you will likely recall the old Heat…

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    19. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff- For once, I'll risk being trolled-off into a "look-over-there-just-wait-until-those-new-nuclear-power stations-get-rolling" rant- for the benefit of other TC-ers who haven't been turned off yet by this off-topic stuff.

      Let's take your i386 CPU analogy. Unlike computers, which we tend to replace every few years, houses tend to have a lifetime of a hundred years or more. As I said before, housing stock only increases by less than 2%/year, implying a 35 year doubling. This means that once…

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    20. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg- I agree that load management becomes a challenge as one adds more variables on both supply- and demand-side.

      Unfortunately, the high gross feed-in tariffs that were on offer until recently have made those lucky early-adopters somewhat immune to new tariff rate inducements- why use rooftop PV for my air-conditioner and save 12 cents in off-peak when I can get 40-60 cents for selling in during the day and then buy it back at 25 cents at night? There seems to be two solutions to this- legislate…

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    21. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to John Barker

      This is the problem with a retail energy supply.

      Businesses cannot survive if they spend more than they earn and, with feed in tariffs, there is the real potential for retailer to fold.

      Therefore they have no choice but to claw back the tariffs they pay some how, i.e. more expensive night time energy charges.

      The only way that roof top solar voltaic can really save you money in the long run is to have enough of them combined with a battery system that would allow you to disconnect from the network altogether.

      But the battery systems are frightfully expensive at present.

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    22. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to John Barker

      SMRs would make it all easier, but if they aren't ready in time, that's not a show-stopper. China certainly isn't waiting, she's building big nukes as we speak. Fine.

      On the analogy. You are exactly right ... we can't change houses quickly or cheaply but coal power stations? They are a big capital investment to write off but not that big. They are lowish capital and high running cost compared to nuclear or utility solar which are high capital low running cost. Given the choice between writing off coal stations and climate change, what's the rational choice? Easy. What's Germany doing? She's writing of nukes. How brain dead is that?

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    23. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg- the point that I have been trying to make is that a lot of the energy produced by PVs doesn't have to be stored in expensive batteries- the house and hot water system become the "battery".

      As we used to say in our passive solar design lectures- there is no point adding solar until you've done the energy conservation work first. If you tighten up the demand-side and then store coolth and warmth in the thermal mass and hot water, you've got the requirement for batteries right down. Then start…

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    24. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      NO Greg....... the only way you "can really save you money in the long run" is to invest in energy efficiency.

      I designed our house concentrating on efficiency from the time pen was put to paper. When we moved in with our stuff, we started consuming electricity at roughly 4kWh/day, and we've since better than halved that already impressive low level.

      First, we ditched the PC and replaced it with not one but two laptops! Then we ditched the old TV, and instead of replacing it with a big screen…

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    25. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      In Australia, energy is about half of our climate impact, the other is methane and land use (note I said actual impact, not CO2eq, methane's impact is about 4 times higher than CO2eq indicates).
      So energy is about half our climate impact and electricity is about 1/4 of our energy and household electricity is about 1/4 of our electricity. So building a new house and all the other changes has made a deep impact on 1/32 of our problem.

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    26. John Barker
      John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      You make an important point, Geoff, that domestic energy consumption is not the only issue to be addressed. But it is important for a number of reasons.

      First, no one element in GHG is dominant, so you could argue away doing anything using the same logic. Just think- if we reduced the emissions by one-third for each of the top ten emitters, then we would have about a one-third reduction, even though the maximum for any one is only a few percent.

      Secondly, domestic energy consumption is something…

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  3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

    Boss

    Blind Freddie knows that high consumer prices arise from at least -
    a. A government-designed structure of companies and groups layered one over the other, each taking a compounding cut of the profits. For example, a partial list runs electricity generator/electricity wholesaler/electricity retailer/electricity distributor/energy distributor subbie, such as smart meter installer.
    b.The hopelessly high REAL cost of alternative energies, which are OK for limited niche markets when the economics are…

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Bicycles are cheaper than b-double trucks, but it's hardly relevant cause they don't do the same job.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      They do here........ we run EVERYTHING including a welder on solar.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      If you have sufficient power including batteries capacity for when the sun ain't shining or can schedule the welding work accordingly, that's fine Mike, just as the wind power will not be considered when the wind is not blowing if there is no back-up.

      I have no doubt that in the longer term, it may be possible that we could have total renewables but not only will our landscape and home set-ups be a lot different, we may also have to accept that there'll be more times when you need to get the candles out.
      And I reckon by longer term, we could be looking at a couple of centuries or more and maybe quicker if governments resist the call for new coal fired power stations and decide we have enough gas to meet interim demand shortfalls.

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    4. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      You obviously have no idea that the system is on the cusp of collapse, and that candles will really come in handy!

      Limits to Growth, Peak Everything, not least, Peak Stupidity........

      A couple of Centuries hence, I'd be surprised if there were more than a couple of million people left on Earth...

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  4. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Or we could contain peak demand through a policy of zero net population growth, which would bring many other social and economic benefits.

    Slash the immigration intake and abolish the baby bonus etc.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      There would also be social and economic disadvantages too Greg

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  5. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Or we can implement a policy of zero net population growth which will slash demand for residential houses and therefore drop the prices.

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Of course the housing construction sector wont like that!

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      And there goes the landscaping business eh! or lets say work for existing houses and other premises might be more competitive but then you might want to retire early before the back really becomes a problem.

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg North

      That's precisely why I said on previous occasions that zero net population growth must go hand in hand with a fundamental reform of our money and banking system.

      The era of a debt/asset based money must come to and end.

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg North

      Let's just say that I am not prepared to sell out the future of this country for my kids just to ensure my pay cheque now.

      Besides my business is not totally dependent on the work that new housing estates generate - I have more than one oar in the water!

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    5. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Nailed it. NOTHING will change (much) until we rid ourselves of fractional banking and the debt burden that brings. We need a new operating system, one that allows us the freedom to do away with growth and live sustainably.

      Of course that entails the elites giving up their squillions, and they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way to the solution....... but it's so very hard to feel sorry for them!

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  6. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    People have been talking about energy efficiency and using less energy for at least the past two decades and the improvements have been stunning. TVs using half the power (great, buy 2 and get bigger ones!), computers using a tenth the power (ditto). Reverse cycle heating and cooling (great, do the whole house and build a bigger house).

    The net result has been a rise in per capita electricity use. It's incredibly simple. People spend what they earn and most of what they spend it on uses energy…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Charge people an increasing rate for the more they use Geoff and you might see some changes in consumption soon enough.

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    2. Kim Grierson
      Kim Grierson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      teacher

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Nuclear has a pile of problems associated with it but the bottom line is it is still too expensive. Wind and solar are cheaper and have few or none of these problems. Look at the problems that the US is having with building one new reactor- massive cost overruns and the billions the customers in Florida have put towards new nuclear without seeing a watt produced.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Kim Grierson

      Maybe they should have contracted the job to the French or even the Chinese Kim.
      The latest nuclear developments by the French see a huge percentage of what used to be a half million years or whatever half life of spent fuel being recycled to the extent you could near brush your teeth with the final waste product.

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  7. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I know frail elderly people who decline to use their air conditioner in 44C heat for fear of cost. Let's hope they keep surviving. Many of the vulnerable live in houses built in the period 1950-1970 with little regard for energy costs. The new thinking seems to be to keep Australia's baby boomers in their homes, not institutional care. Taking a leaf out of Darwin's cyclone proof room per house I wonder if older homes should have a thermal survival room.

    That room would be smallish, partitioned if necessary and well insulated. If it was the living room it could include a low powered TV but it could be kept in the temp range say 18-26C whether it was -5C or + 45C outside. A single reversible heat pump perhaps with a gas/LPG cold weather boost might suffice. The hourly rate for that electricity and gas would be the minimum. Expensive sure but think of the cost of dozens of annual heat deaths and nursing homes for several million people.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to John Newlands

      Houses built in the period 1950-1970 usually/often have space underneath where it's not unusual for temperatures to be as much as 10 degrees lower....... it's also usually wasted on cars!

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Newlands

      The way you would want people living John, you might as well offer them Euthanasia.
      A better alternative might be for them to sell up their houses and move to a better climate or if climate change is going to bite and make things hotter and likely drier, that will be where evaporative coolers will come into their own, cheap enough to install and a lot cheaper to run for the whole house.

      For winters that I suspect we will still get to some extent, there are a heap of passive things you can do at not too great a cost to keep heat in and insulate, there even being houses in northern Europe that work on recovery heat systems which mean making the whole house a cocoon and with our much milder winters we could start with just good door and window seals.
      Next step is use of ultra heavy window drapes and even external window shutters or simple ply sheet hanging covers would not need to be so expensive.

      Then there's always snuggling into extra layers of clothes.

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      As we approach Limits to Growth and Peak Everything......... everything will change Greg. And I expect the acceptance of voluntary euthanasia will be one of them!

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  8. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    If we're really concerned about 'the poor', how about reducing the cost of electricity, rather than suggesting they can do with less heating and cooling. (Or advising they instal solar power - is that serious?!)

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to James Jenkin

      ABSOLUTELY! I have noticed ads on TV by Ingenero which say they will install whatever you need to combat your bill for free, and you pay them the usual quarterly bill LESS some amount that would be different according to your consumption habits........ and likely the size and orientation of your roof etc.......

      I do not work for Ingenero, but for your info http://www.ingenero.com.au/energy-access-solar-lease

      I'd be very surprised if more solar companies get in on this act.......

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    2. James Jenkin

      EFL Teacher Trainer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      That's interesting information Mike, thanks.

      Is it possible to take advantage of this though if you're renting a property?

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to James Jenkin

      I guess it depends on the landlord. I know that if I was one, I would grasp the opportunity to improve the value of my property by using the scheme to become the tenants' electricity generator, and charging them something reasonable (but not all landlords are reasonable, are they...?!)

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I am not surprised that approach is on offer Mike for even with the heftier prices of larger solar units a couple of years ago, it was a good economic proposition with the attractive feed in payments to go for as a big a system as possible within means and have a return on capital of something like 25%.

      I was thinking at the time of a mini solar farm being a reasonable investment and I think it may have even been Ergon or Energex up in Queensland who may have had some initiative in that area…

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  9. Christopher Seymour

    Business owner

    The biggest news in climate should be that US emissions are down by 7 % on 2005 emissions (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html).

    By contrast Australian emissions were up between 2005 and 2012 by 5% (http://www.climatechange.gov.au/~/media/climate-change/emissions/2012-12/NGGIQuarteryDecQ2012.pdf).

    The US result is not due to a carbon tax or sustainable energy quotas. It is due to widespread adoption of gas generation from new abundant supplies of gas from tight formations…

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    1. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      The US gas price is now rising along with a coal comeback
      http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2013/5/6/climate/rising-gas-prices-lead-21-lift-us-coal-generation

      Possibly Australia would have enough gas for domestic needs if we didn't export so much as LNG, with plans to overtake Qatar by selling 60 Mt a year, up from the present 18 Mt or so. Gas as CNG is also a good diesel substitute which we will probably need as our oil imports increase. Both LNG and gas for transport will price gas too high for most industrial users like power stations. My suggestion is make electricity with nukes and save the gas for later.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      I found it so hard to believe our emissions went up, that I followed up on your links, to find this:

      Summary of quarterly emissions

      Emissions increased in the December quarter 2012, with trend emissions growing by 0.4%. Seasonally adjusted and weather normalised emissions increased 1.5% on the previous quarter (Figures 1-3). The primary contributor to the quarterly trend increase in emissions was increases in the fugitive emissions (section 2.4)

      2.4 Energy – Fugitive emissions
      Fugitive…

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to John Newlands

      I have a serious problem with nukes, and it's the decommissioning. Sellafield in the UK, the first (I think) nuke to be decommissioned will cost 76 billion pounds and take at least 60 years!

      As we approach Peak Debt, WHAT money will be used to decommission the 400 odd other nukes that will soon face the same fate? HOW MUCH will that lot cost?

      Let me tell you, after years of personal experience with this, the cheapest energy generator of all is the one lurking in every house....... EFFICIENCY!

      We have reduced our consumption over the past 15 or so years from 24 kWh/day to 1.8kWh/day. NO, it's not a typo, ONE POINT EIGHT...... I have the bills to prove it (well we don't get bills, we get cheques, $1200 worth with just 3.5 kW of PVs).

      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/the-power-of-energy-efficiency/
      AND
      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/more-power-of-energy-efficiency/

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      No idea where you get your decommisioning cost from ... US NRC says about $300-400 million per nuke which is put aside during the operating life:

      http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/decommissioning.html

      It's also highly likely that decommissioning costs are inflated because of weird safety requirements. e.g., Fukushima evacuation zone is far safer than anywhere in Australia, but people can't live there ... why? sunshine for starters. Malignant melanoma rates in Japan are about 0.5 per 100,000 per annum. In Australia they are 35 (age standardised globally) and about 67 in Qld. HUGE cancer risks compared to anything in the evacuation zone and melanoma is far more deadly than something like thyroid cancer.

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    5. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      OOPS..... made a mistake, relying on my memory too much..... it's ONLY £67.5bn, not £76bn...

      Sellafield clean-up cost reaches £67.5bn, says report

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117

      The cost of cleaning up the Sellafield nuclear waste site has reached £67.5bn with no sign of when the cost will stop rising, according to a report.

      The Public Accounts Committee's report said deadlines to clean the Cumbria site had been missed, leaving crucial decommissioning projects over budget.

      It suggested successive governments have failed to "get to grips" with the hoards of waste stored at the site.

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    6. Kim Grierson
      Kim Grierson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      teacher

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      You are ignoring the MASSIVE amount of new solar and wind generation installed in recent times in the US. They have been going ahead leaps and bounds.

      A large number of US states do indeed have carbon prices and sustainable energy quotas.

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    7. Kim Grierson
      Kim Grierson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      teacher

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Your train of thought on this is bizarre.

      Imagine if $300-400 million was spent on installing wind turbines instead of decommisioning a nuclear power plant.

      No worries about an evacuation zone! If there is an "accident" the worse thing that can happen is a blade might stop working and fall on a cow! (I have never heard of such a thing.)

      Power, already cheaper than nuclear, just gets cheaper because there is no fuel or risk management regimes, no need for consistent water supply, no worries about earthquake or what on earth to do about NUCLEAR WASTE.

      Plus a wind turbine can be installed cheaply enough that local people can own their power supply like in Denmark, Germany etc. Can't do that with nuclear.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Kim Grierson

      It's always cheaper to build a system which doesn't work than to build one which does. French electricity generates <80 gm co2/kwh and has done so for 20 years. Germany? 450 gm co2/kwh and rising as they are building more coal again. Australia? 850 gm co2/kwh and higher than it was in 1990. Nuclear waste? That's a resource, not a problem. It's fuel for fast reactors. The Chinese are developing these as are the Russians, the Koreans. The US could have had them but pulled the plug.

      What's the worst that can happen with wind power? Climate change. Any significant weather related catastrophe makes nuclear accidents look trifling.

      You can have renewable electricity and climate change or you can have nuclear electricity. Your choice.

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    9. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Tell that to the Americans where nuclear reactors are breaking down regularly; supervisors/employees are testing positive for alcohol and where Gregory Jaczko, Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission until last year, arrived at the conclusion that all 103 nuclear reactors in the US should be phased out.

      He argued that all nuclear power plants in the United States have a “fundamental design problem”, which cannot be fixed by the continual band-aids being applied by the nuclear industry.

      Further once-through cooling (OTC) nuclear reactors continue to maim and kill billions of aquatic life every year. And that's just in the United States which has over sixty of the monsters. Multiply the billions by 50 years since commissioning and there's a catastrophic disaster occurring while nuclear proponents dream of that which is commercially non-existent and conduct public sing-a-longs with their eyes closed.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Yeah, saw that footage - still not quit ein the Fukushim aleague though, is it - even though a cow or two might have been frigtened an dthee was a slifght chance that a bushfire might have been caused...

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    11. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, it's reasonable to argue for nuclear power, but to say things like 'a system which doesn't work' is entirely unreasonable and unbalanced.

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    12. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      The richest country in Europe hasn't made renewables work despite a vast investment. Contrast the 1970s and 80s. People just built nukes and they worked. There wasn't a constant stream of excuses ... we need better grids, we need energy efficiency, we need smart meters, we need satellites to monitor and predict cloud cover, etc, etc. They just worked and have been working ever since and have saved a couple of million lives and 64 Gigatonnes of CO2. Had the anti-nuclear movement not stopped the rollout, we'd all have low carbon electricity by now and our climate problems would be considerably reduced. But we blew it.

      Unbalanced? Unbalanced is evacuating 150,000 people from an area which is considerably less carcinogenic than anywhere in Australia. That's nutter stuff.

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    13. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Yes, they just worked....... and then they got old. A bit like me really......! And now they all need replacing. And it won't happen (except maybe in China). It's Peak Civilisation. Though I prefer Peak stupidity.

      Had we listened to the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth forty years ago and acted on their predictions THEN...... we would be in a far far better position now.

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    14. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Speaking of carcinogens, let’s not forget that Australia was bombed from 1952 – 1957, at Monte Bello Islands off the coast of WA, Emu Field and Maralinga in SA.

      Seven atomic bombs were detonated at Maralinga with a further series of "minor trials" of which another 300 nuclear devices were exploded. Shamefully, it took 43 years to "clean up" Maralinga and the atomic testing left a dreadful legacy.

      Pu-239 has a half life of 24,000 years and nuclear science tells us of the health and environmental trade-offs for these mad men of yesteryear.

      It's much easier to decommission a wind or solar farm with the assurance that future generations won't end up with insidious radiation illnesses from these benign forms of energy.

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    15. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Radiation disease toll from Fukushima? Zero with every possibility it will stay there. Death toll from a fear mongering evacuation? Several hundred deaths and a great deal of serious psychological trauma and on going homelessness. All totally unnecessary. Sunshine is far more dangerous and has no half life. Wood dust is a carcinogen and it too has no half life. If you are intent on worrying about something, then I'd suggest H7N9 is more worthy of panic.

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    16. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I'm not fearful of nuclear since it won't happen here in my lifetime.

      You haven’t allowed for the latency period for cancer induction by radiation. A period of two years after Fukushima is insufficient. The latency period for induction of leukaemia is 5–7 years, and for solid tumours, >10 years.

      WHO advises that males in France and Australia have the highest rates of cancer in the world. France got nukes and we got the bombs.

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    17. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      $EU 1 billion per nuke sounds a lot until you divide by the energy produced over its lifetime and compare it with something else ... like solar.

      E.g., 2x1GW nukes produce about 16 TWh/yr for 40 years. Germany will pay $EU 100 billion over the next 20 years for the 19 TWh/yr of solar it installed up till end of 2011. Now that's what I call ENORMOUS ( http://bit.ly/MFqUcw ) and those solar panels won't last as long as the nukes.

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    18. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      WANNA BET......... NASA has 50 yr old PVs that still work. They're not produing as much power as they used to (~80%) but they still work. And newer current technology will highly likely last even longer than that. The real Achilles heel of solar is the electronics attached to it, battery chargers, inverters, etc........

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    19. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Hysterical propaganda, Shirley. Read the medical reports, not Greenpeace.

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    20. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      You guys are slow learners. The problems with both solar and wind, apart from niche markets costed with hard economics, are
      1. Low power density. That means large infrastructure, large site areas, transmission lines, etc.
      2. Intermittency. This means that a reserve HAS to be kept spinning, only certain types can switch fast enough, so you might as well forget the alt energy and just power from the backup. Do not believe those who say it all averages out. To the contrary, you have to make your final…

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  10. Jonathan Adamson

    Brain Surgeon

    Clearly if peak demand is the problem then

    Solar panels should be compulsory on new buildings - when it is hot mostly the sun is shining
    In the same way new premises were wired for off peak electricity - new premises should be wired for a circuits - (switched off or cycled during the peak) that can be used for non critical appliances at a lower rate - eg pool pumps, battery charging maybe refrigeration (does not run 24/7 and give such a circuit maximum down time)

    There are a number of opportunities to spread the load outside the peak just needs a bit of brain power applied to the problem.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Jonathan Adamson

      Yes, completely agree, solar panels, cheaper every month, and about to become more effective, again. And I run my big saw, angle grinder and washing machine on the weekend only.

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    2. Kim Grierson
      Kim Grierson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      teacher

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Solar panels are the obvious way to go to get rid of those summer day time peaks. Incredibly cheap compared to gas peaking energy.

      Plus with a bit of encouragement you can get the public to subsidise the purchase of this energy capacity. Aus government need to support this, especially the liberal/ nationals and not downgrade policy every time they get in.

      IPART should recommend a reasonable price for solar pv as it is a producer at peak times. It is and can bring electricity bills down for everyone. Lets have more.

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Jonathan Adamson

      Jonathan,
      For that silly compulsory suggestion (the Constitution has bits about compulsion), try to write 100 lines on the complexity of managing alt energy inputs to grids in terms of quality, e.g. using terms like constancy of voltage between phases, quadrature, load factor, phase relations between voltage and amperage for a.c., transmission losses with distance, inverter design, transformer design to maintain these constancies, then another 100 lines on what happens when a large windmill explodes with resultant quality damage to the power supply, including large transient peaks.
      Honestly, do you guys have any idea how difficult this is?

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  11. Janeen Harris

    chef

    It seems to me that as soon as the words "carbon tax" got uttered power prices started to climb at a ridiculous rate. These power companies don't have to suffer through extreme heat or cold as do the people on pensions and low incomes. The miners exporting our gas overseas to line their own pockets don't have to suffer either. Why can't we use Australia's resources to benefit our people instead of allowing a privileged few to become filthy rich on what should be the wealth of the nation?

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      They atcually started climbing well before the introduction of the CT........

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    2. Kim Grierson
      Kim Grierson is a Friend of The Conversation.

      teacher

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      This is where solar pv and wind have special benefits. A citizen can own solar pv and a community or group of citizens can own a wind turbine unlike other forms of energy creation. It gives power back to the people.

      Again we need structures like in Germany and Denmark to allow us to purchase our power supply, rather than prevent it.

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      yup, at least 5 years before and, while the carbon price is averaging about 11% on total costs, the other price rises have been closer to 100% over the last 10 years or so.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      It's not just all about money Janeen but certainly that comes into play.
      " Why can't we use Australia's resources to benefit our people instead of allowing a privileged few to become filthy rich on what should be the wealth of the nation? "
      Resources need development and developments around the planet mostly get financing from the big international finance houses who have to take into account the viability of projects being put forward.

      Be it from Australia, the US, Europe or wherever else there…

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    5. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Janeen, It is zero wealth to the nation or its people until explorers put in huge amounts of risk money to turn ordinary ground into an extraordinarily rare mineral discovery that pays well. If you have not put in any money, you are not entitled to be a free rider. It's like not paying for your tram ticket.
      At the very least, if you want to share in the mineral income for this country, you should be a shareholder in a mining company. Put your money where your mouth is. Next step is to work for one…

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Kim Grierson

      Kim,
      That's Germany which is furiously reviving coal power right now, when they realised that alt minus nuclear would leave them devastated.
      Germany is another victim of the Green Taliban. I wonder if Germany will survive its present economic crises, having read some of the cringe-causing, poor quality of politico-economic advice it is receiving.

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    7. margaret m

      old lady

      In reply to Kim Grierson

      YES absolutely but I think Germany pulled back the subsidies possibly worried about people power. Any thought?

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  12. John Barker
    John Barker is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University

    An excellent article, Gill, summarising an excellent report (http://www.monash.edu/research/sustainability-institute/assets/documents/peakdemandapr13.pdf), that I would commend to all TC readers.

    As you say, the critical issue now is alleviating peak demand- mainly due to householders switching on their air conditioners when they arrive home- for cooling in summer and heating in winter.

    I think that more analysis is needed on the benefits of "pre-cooling" dwellings with air conditioners and…

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    1. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to John Barker

      What is needed is Voluntary Time Of Use pricing. That would provide the incentive for people willing and able to shift their electricity demand to off-peak times without punishing the people who can't.

      Perhaps the distribution network operators could be charging the retailers on a time-of-use basis to give them incentives to spread the load.

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary,
      What is needed is many, many fewer people imposing their ides on the people and letting the people decide what they want to do.
      Governments are not here to mandate times for electrical use. They are here to undertake the will of the majority of people. First, they have to ascertain what the people want. In this they have failed. So they will be voted out. Easy..

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    3. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Perhaps you misunderstand what I mean by voluntary. It means people who want to switch their electricity use to off-peak times in order to reduce the transmission and generation capacity costs for everyone are given an incentive to do so. Those who don't want to can stick to the flat rate.

      It is not a government intervention - it is a market solution.

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      No Gary, I do not misunderstand.
      Compulsory Smart Meters are a Government intervention. They can turn your power down for you. Without even asking you. Without compensation for spoiled food or medical devices that play up. Without many homes even being outfitted to use off-peak rates, forced to use the highest rate.

      That is not a market solution. That is BAD GOVERNMENT!!!

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  13. Jade Summers

    Teacher

    Well- just checked to make sure, but my electricity account/bill is all peak.
    Did ring to ask why a couple of times and was told that it was the same for everyone ?

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    1. trevor prowse

      retired farmer

      In reply to Jade Summers

      Has anybody thought of lowering the price of the power of the very high electricity users in return for closing their businesses during the 40 hours per year that the peak demand time occurs. They could usually have a days notice. This would be preferable to the extra cost to have the extreme demand built into the system.

      I have heard that solar hot water systems were not installed in new housing because it would put up the price of gas .

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to trevor prowse

      Yes Trevor, except that the process works in reverse. Large users of electricity, like aluminium smelters, scour the world for cheap and reliable electricity. Good hydro is popular, so we need more dams. Our policy is???? Good nuclear is popular, and our policy is????
      Because they want continuous operation, they can't close down at peak. There are planned closures for maintenance and upgrading, but they are panned in minute detail months ahead of a day that is usually unable to be changed at the…

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  14. margaret m

    old lady

    Local Councils state governments federal governments should look to providing low interest if no interest loans to the most vunerable consumers to install solar or heat pumps whatever it takes and leave the power plants to service the valuable industries.
    It is unfortunate that big business and big business media that is not about community ONLY AND EVER PROFIT I suspect will block any such service to the community..

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to margaret m

      Margaret, I worked in the solar industry for six months in 2010. Back then, all solar companies offered no deposit no interest payment schemes to anyone who couldn't afford to pay up front, the only exceptions being people on pensions that could be removed from them without notice such as disability or single mothers, but old age pensioners were not restricted.

      Today, at least one company I'm aware of in Qld, Ingenero, is offering a solar leasing program, and an Australian community group has launched a solar leasing initiative.

      It will allow customers to avoid the initial expense of installing solar panels and is designed to push Australia closer to achieving its solar energy target. http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3724675.htm

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    2. margaret m

      old lady

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thank you for the information the last time I looked into the possibility the interest free term came with a much higher cost for the system.
      There is a South Australian manufacturer which gives a better guarantee I think 25 years and the system is made in Adelaide I like that idea coumpany called TINDO but the initial outlay at this time for me makes it impossible at this time.
      I will look into the company you mentioned.

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