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Analysis and Comment (188)

The renewable energy sector is looking a little gloomy thanks to record low investment. Is RET uncertainty to blame? Stephan Mosel

Why has investment in renewable energy projects stalled?

You may have seen recent reports that Australia’s renewable energy sector is suffering. According to a Bloomberg analysis, investment in the sector in the year to September 2014 was down 70% on investment…
Republican senator Mitch McConnell says the new climate deal will let China “do nothing” until 2030. Far from it. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS/AAP

FactCheck: does the new climate deal let China do nothing for 16 years?

“As I read the agreement it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and around the country.” – US Republican Senate…
Protesters say the government’s planned cuts to the Renewable Energy Target will endanger Australian jobs in the sector. AAP Image/NewZulu/Josephine Lim

Why fixate on 20% renewables? It’s never been the actual target

Labor has walked away from negotiations with the government over changes to the Renewable Energy Target, saying the proposed cuts of almost 40% are too deep. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane says he is…
Plants use photosynthesis to build molecules and energy they can use. By copying plants, humans can make cleaner fuels. Ranjit Bhatnagar/Flickr

To shift away from fossil fuels, we need to copy plants

Most of the energy that fuels our lives comes from plants. Whether it is a fossil fuel that was formed hundreds of millions of years ago or the food we eat, all carbon-borne energy has its ultimate origins…
China’s embrace of technologies like solar roofs has seen it become the world’s biggest renewable energy investor. Climate Council

Australia is losing ground as the climate policy race gains pace

Climate change, now belatedly added to the agenda for this month’s G20 meeting in Brisbane, is a perennial topic whenever leaders gather for international summits. That’s understandable, given that countries…
Falling demand and prices are leaving no incentive to invest in Australia’s electricity sector.  Indigo Skies Photography /Flickr

Why Australia’s entire power sector should support the RET

There’s been much talk about how uncertainty over the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is affecting the renewable energy industry. Investment in renewable energy is at its lowest level since…
The government knows that solar panel subsidies are very popular with voters. zstock/Shutterstock

The pitfalls of using renewable energy as a political football

Federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane has finally revealed his opening gambit on negotiations on the future of the Renewable Energy Target (RET). He and environment minister Greg Hunt have pledged to…
A green trade deal would encourage the development of renewable energy in big carbon emitters such as China. Kaj17/Flickr

Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens a green trade deal

Ten years on from the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, Australia is entering another round of negotiations towards the new and controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership. In this Free Trade Scorecard series…
The German switch to green electricity has demanded quick thinking. Martin Capek

Germany’s green power surge has come at a massive cost

Germany is well on its way towards having a predominantly green electricity supply. The transition from nuclear and fossil fuel electricity to using renewables is happening faster than anyone had anticipated…
The government’s energy green paper is seeking reform on electricity prices and gas supply; but avoids climate change. Rae Allen/Flickr

Energy green paper scores ‘pass’ on electricity, ‘fail’ on climate

The Energy Green Paper 2014 released this week by federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane provides more clear direction and coverage of critical policy issues than did its 2012 predecessor. However, while…
Australian coal needs to find some new customers. Stephen Codrington/Wikimedia Commons

China’s war on pollution could leave Aussie coal out in the cold

China’s recent move to limit imports of the dirtiest coal from 2015 onwards is a scary prospect for Australian miners. The proposed restrictions will ban the burning of coal with high levels of ash or…
A protester at recent Australia climate change rallies in the lead up to the UN climate summit in New York. AAP Image/NEWZULU/ZOE REYNOLDS

Australia can get to zero carbon emissions, and grow the economy

Today more than 120 world leaders are gathered in New York for the Climate Leaders’ Summit. With global emissions continuing to rise, it is easy to be pessimistic. But new research released today shows…
There are numerous methods for maintaining electricity supply when renewables are in the grid. Johan Douma/Flickr

How to get renewable energy into the grid — without losing power

The recent review of the Australian Renewable Energy Target has once again raised the issue of the “unreliability” of some renewable power sources such as wind and solar power. Their variability, which…
Australia does have the capacity to produce more electricity than it needs - but that’s not a reason to scale back the Renewable Energy Target. Indigo Skies Photography/Flickr

FactCheck: does Australia have too much electricity?

We have 9,000 megawatts (nine big power stations equivalent) of excess capacity in electricity generation … We have more than 15% overcapacity in generation in Australia - Industry minister Ian Macfarlane…
Tony Abbott may have planted a few trees, but he’s also sought to bury many of Australia’s environmental safeguards. Britta Campion/AAPImage

Abbott’s environment agenda is even harsher than he promised

Before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott gave us fair warning that he would turn the clock back on the environment. As promised, his government has devoted itself to short-term economics and the sort of hardline…
Is the ABC biased against fossil fuels? The IPA thinks so, but it’s not really the most constructive question to ask. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Claims of ABC anti-coal and gas ‘bias’ aren’t backed by the facts

It’s tempting to view The Australian’s latest broadside at the ABC as just another salvo fired between our nation’s two biggest media organisations. But the coverage, based on an Institute of Public Affairs…
The Green Army will plant lots of trees: good for mopping up carbon, but not always good for water catchments. Britta Campion/AAPImage

We mustn’t waste water while taking action on climate change

Should we pick and choose our climate strategies based on how water-wise they are? As our new research published in Climatic Change shows, some activities aimed at tackling greenhouse emissions can also…
Clouding the issue: the latest analysis of the impact of the Renewable Energy Target contradicts previous reports. Bo-deh/Wikimedia Commons

How does the Renewable Energy Target affect your power bills?

The review of the Renewable Energy Target is due to be handed to the federal government any day now, yet amazingly there are still conflicts over whether the policy makes electricity more or less expensive…
Battery costs can make up a quarter of the cost of an electric car such as this Tesla Model S. Shal Farley/Flickr

Affordable batteries for green energy are closer than we think

At the heart of the current debate around energy is the question of storage. In cars, how to build batteries that run for hundreds of kilometres; in electricity, storing energy from solar panels for when…
Even when the wind doesn’t blow, it is technically possible for Australia to get all its electricity needs from renewable sources. David Clarke/Flickr

Renewable energy is ready to supply all of Australia’s electricity

In a recent article on The Conversation, University of Melbourne Professor Emeritus Frank Larkins wrote that Australia’s targets to increase renewable energy will make electricity more expensive, thanks…
Water storage is used to smooth the output from hydroelectric power - but it can be used with other renewables too. Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons

How pushing water uphill can solve our renewable energy issues

More and more renewable energy sources are being plugged into Australia’s electricity grids. South Australia, for example, will get 40% of its electricity from wind and solar once the Snowtown wind farm…
Clive Palmer announced his climate policy at a press conference with former US vice president Al Gore last night. AAPImage/Alan Porritt

AUDIO Q&A: What’s in and out of Palmer’s climate strategy

In a surprising announcement last night Clive Palmer promised to abolish Australia’s current carbon price, and block the coalition’s Direct Action policy. But Palmer has said he will vote to retain the…
While Australians love Michael Leunig’s whimsical ducks, there’s another ‘duck’ pushing your power bills higher. Used with permission from Michael Leunig

Slash Australians’ power bills by beheading a duck at night

Rooftop solar power has slashed Australians' demand for electricity during the day, but left evening peak power demand largely unchanged. That’s why, as strange as it may sound, we now need to behead a…
New Delhi at night: India’s surging electricity demand may prove a challenge for renewable energy. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr

India’s energy future: Australian coal or renewable revolution?

India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inherited the ongoing problem of supplying energy to one of the world’s largest economies. The challenge is made even bigger by India’s ambitions to meet rigorous…
Treasurer Joe Hockey didn’t even mention the word climate in his budget speech. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The budget shows we’re now flying blind on climate change

The word “climate” was conspicuously absent from Joe Hockey’s first budget speech as treasurer. It’s not hard to guess why – the full budget sets out major cuts to climate research, and strong moves against…
The new budget has served up a big hit to Australia’s environment. Anton Balazh/Shutterstock

Litany of deep cuts for environmental programs

Budgets are often framed as give and take. But in the case of the environment, the government is taking large amounts of money in cuts, while giving little back beyond funding the Direct Action climate…
Many long-promised renewable and low-emission energy programs have been scrapped or cut back in the Coalition’s first budget. Lukas Coch/AAP

Billions axed in clean energy: renewable target is next

There are billions of dollars of broken promises in the Abbott government’s first budget for low-emission and renewable energy programs – and wiggle room to break even more in the next few years. Among…
Australia has a possible path to 100% renewables – if governments and business can be persuaded to take it. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Renewable energy target can go all the way to 100% – if we let it

The political outlook for renewable energy is not great – and I’m not just talking about the view out of Joe Hockey’s car window. The Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to deliver 41 million megawatt-hours…
Lake George, complete with “offensive” wind turbines. Expect more views like this around Canberra soon. Darcyj/Wikimedia Commons

Sorry, Joe Hockey – Canberra is Australia’s home of wind farms

We now know that Treasurer Joe Hockey is not a fan of wind farms, on aesthetic grounds at least. On Friday he told Macquarie Radio’s Alan Jones he finds the view “utterly offensive” and “a blight on the…
Automatically labelling people as NIMBYs if they have concerns about local power projects is not a constructive way to proceed. Grahamec/Wikimedia Commons

Calling people NIMBYs won’t stop development arguments

From coal seam gas to wind farms, new resource projects seem to be pitting communities against corporations, and people against their neighbours. We often see, in such cases, community concerns labelled…
The medical establishment needs to acknowledge that people can worry themselves sick about wind turbines. Terence Doust/Wikimedia Commons

Wind farm reviews are pointless if they leave out anxiety illness

The Australian Medical Association has released a statement once again affirming that there is no evidence that wind farms harm human health. Geoffrey Dobb, chair of the AMA’s Public Health Committee…
A mini power plant in a North Sydney basement. Trigeneration plants like these generate electricity, heating and cooling far more efficiently than with mains power. AAP/Short Communications, Girrit Fokkema

How to save business billions, without cutting renewable jobs

The debate about the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has largely focused on the issue of immediate costs to business. But if we’re thinking about Australia’s long-term economic interests…
One in five Queensland homes have gone solar, like this house in Brisbane’s Alexandra Hills. Melanie Cook/Flickr

Killing renewables softly with endless reviews

You have to feel sorry for people working in renewable energy. Their industry has been reviewed to within an inch of its short life, and the goalposts have been shifted so many times that they don’t know…
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has announced a review of Australia’s renewable energy target. AAP/Alan Porritt

Renewables inquiry leader vows ‘open mind’ on target’s future

The head of the Abbott government’s new renewable target review says he is going into the inquiry with “a very open mind”, despite his scepticism about humans' contribution to global warming. Former Reserve…
Cooling towers at Yallourn, one of Victoria’s major brown coal power generators. Flickr/ccdoh1

Is $15 a year really too much to pay for renewable energy?

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target looks likely to be weakened or even axed, with the Prime Minister saying the scheme needs to be reviewed because it is causing “pretty significant price pressure”. But…
Using industrial hemp for the production of bioenergy has been promoted by enthusiasts for a long time. Shutterstock

Is industrial hemp the ultimate energy crop?

Bioenergy is currently the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Cultivating energy crops on arable land can decrease dependency on depleting fossil resources and it can mitigate climate change…
We need more types of electricity in our mix. Flickr/Chip_2904

Act now on Australia’s power system or pay more later

Australia has a problem with its power system that goes to the core of many issues we’re facing at the moment — increasing coal and gas prices, changing electricity usage, and climate change. That’s the…
Despite being the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, China is increasing its renewable sources of energy. AAP/HOW HWEE YOUNG

China roars ahead with renewables

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has just released some remarkable data on the addition of new electric generating capacity in 2013. China’s electric power system has been growing at a tremendous…
Can Scotland generate enough energy to go it alone, or is it blowing in the wind? Ben Curtis/PA

Scotland benefits by paying for its energy, not UK’s mistakes

Could Scotland benefit from having an independent electricity system? Our report published this week found that it could – if it meant Scotland paying for (and benefiting from) its own renewable energy…
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is supporting industry - like the world-leading Sundrop Farms - in a way no other body does. Sundrop Farms

A modern economy needs a Clean Energy Finance Corporation

This week, the Australian Senate is considering the government’s package of “carbon tax” abolition bills – bills abolishing the carbon tax, the Climate Change Authority (CCA) and the Clean Energy Finance…
Community activists in Boulder, Colorado rally outside Xcel Energy’s Valmont coal plant. Flickr: 350.org

What Australia could learn from a US energy uprising

Around the world, people concerned about global warming and wary of higher energy costs are turning away from big power distributors in favour of local and “distributed” energy technologies and services…
Building in their backyard will annoy them - but the public know energy decisions have to be made. John Giles/PA

Hearts and minds must be won for us to fill the energy gap

On a clear day one can see North Somerset – the future site of Britain’s Hinkley Point C new nuclear power station – from Cardiff Bay, across the Severn Estuary. Deep in hilly Powys, arguments rage around…
If power can’t come to the village, the village must make its own. AbuBakr Bahaj

Solar power is the only answer to light up rural Africa

It is estimated that around one and a half billion people globally have no access to reliable electricity. Most live in developing countries where the cost of connecting rural villages to the electricity…
How often do you see this? Not often enough. Jaggery

UK lags behind as Europe adopts electric vehicles

The selection of cars launched and announced at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show underlines how the electric vehicle (EV) is finally showing signs of that long-awaited breakthrough to mass-market appeal…
Criticising renewable energy using antique data doesn’t help the debate at all. Andrew Blakers

Lomborg’s criticism of current renewables is years out of date

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report paints an authoritative picture of the dire consequences if we fail to rapidly curb our greenhouse gas emissions. Solving this will…
Electric mountain - the reservoir at Ffestiniog power station, Wales. Arpingstone

A renewable-powered future will need energy storage

The way we generate, transfer and use energy is changing, and our energy systems and infrastructure have come under increasing pressure to cope. Black-outs strike where we would expect reliable supplies…
When it’s hot, the sun is shining. That’s good for solar power. Flickr/jimwhimpey

When the sun don’t shine, the power don’t flow … or does it?

Renewable energy seems to be on a roll. One million Australian homes have rooftop solar cells. There’s so much renewable energy it’s reducing wholesale electricity prices. But then, that old chestnut pops…
China recognises environmental protection is good for the economy, and has gone all out to fund it. Dainis Matisons

Environmental protection industry a job creator

A very different approach is emerging between Australia and China’s treatment of jobs and industries providing goods and services for environmental protection. In Australia, major investors are reported…
Solar panels covering just 1 per cent of Australia’s landmass could provide all our electricity needs. Flickr/Rantz

How do we get to the next million solar roofs?

There are now one million Australian homes with solar electricity. That means 2.5 million Australians now rely on solar power – more than the population of Brisbane. Australians have clearly shown their…
Harnessing the energy in wood may help wean Australia off fossil fuels. Flickr/chriscardinal

Bioenergy a burning question for Tasmania’s forests

With Australia trying to meet renewable energy targets and reduce emissions wherever possible, we should be considering bioenergy. Bioenergy can be made by burning biomass in a variety of forms, including…
Sun and wind are intangible. It’s hard to sell them. But the State can make big money if it owns fossil fuels. Rory MacLeod

Should we extend property rights to the atmosphere?

While Australia aims to produce a fifth of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, non-renewable energy is still flourishing. But non-renewable energy sources such as coal and gas have a significant…
It’s hard to imagine a future without fossil fuel, but sound modelling can help. Dave Clarke

Carbon tax dumped: how do we get to 100% renewable energy?

The Federal Government has sparked significant debate with the confirmation it intends to move from a fixed carbon price to an emissions trading scheme next year. But where is the description of the long…
Scottish island energy would be transformative for the UK, and for the communities that build them. Andy Butterton/PA

Islanders can’t cash in on their rich seams of renewable power

The islands off the north and west of Scotland hold the UK’s best renewable resources, yet for more than a decade energy policies have prevented them from realising their full potential. Due to long out-of-date…
You don’t need to be Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis to be happy about renweables. Ben Birchall/PA

Farmers could use land to create power as well as food

One of Britain’s largest independent cheese producers, Wyke Farms in Somerset, picked up a commendation in the BusinessGreen Leaders awards this month for its efforts to become completely energy self-sufficient…
There’s more wind in Scotland than in England, and not just in the pipes. Danny Lawson/PA

It’s advantage Scotland when it comes to wind power

A frequent claim heard is that the UK is Europe’s windiest country. This is a partial truth; Scotland is the windiest country, whereas England is far from the windiest. To see the truth of this one need…
Whether more power stations should switch to burning wood or biomass is debatable. David Cheskin/PA

If we burn wood for energy, we can’t have our cake and eat it

Many countries have turned to the planet’s forests to meet their need for renewable energy, burning wood chips and pellets produced at home or abroad in power stations to generate electricity. But a report…
BBC presenter Quentin Willson fills up at Nottingham’s hydrogen station. Nottingham University

Hydrogen car progress hasn’t stalled yet

The promise that hydrogen cars would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the transport sector has been with us for a couple of decades. Readers may well have wondered what, like hoverboards, has…
Do they have any idea what they’re doing? Or is it all an act? Stefan Rousseau/PA

Osborne won’t usher in a renewable renaissance

In a dramatic flourish of energy policy announcements over the past two weeks, the government’s spending review was merely the first act. Soon after, a British Geological Survey report revealed our huge…
The Renewable Energy Target does a good job supporting wind power, but other agencies are needed to get a diversity of renewables. Matthew Kenwrick

Can we do without a clean energy finance bank?

The Opposition has clearly stated its intention to remove the Clean Energy Finance Corporation if it takes government at the next election. Will the Coalition introduce another mechanism to take its place…
We have the technology to decarbonise: now we need the will. Luke Westall

Looking back from 2030: how the climate war was won

Minimising serious debate about climate change risks and solutions looks likely to be a key feature of the Australian media’s approach to the 2013 election campaign. There are however two powerful reasons…
Australia has embraced clean technology, but if we want to make a big difference we should free up clean tech trade. Espen Klem

Want a big idea? Let’s lead the world and free up clean tech trade

In 2014, Australia will host the G20 Summit. The Prime Minister’s Office has been canvassing privately for a Big Idea to present, something to take the green debate forward and put Australia’s stamp on…
A trade dispute between China and the EU could blow up into full-on stormy weather. Ben Birchall/PA

International spat over solar must not turn into trade wars

Manufacturers and politicians embroiled in the dispute between China and the EU are closely watching the looming deadline of June 5th. By then the European Commission must conclude its provisional anti-dumping…
Without energy storage technology we’re leaving good energy blowing in the wind. Danny Lawson/PA

When the wind blows we must capture it for a calmer day

The handling of Britain’s energy strategy leaves much to be desired, subject as it is to short term politics over long term planning. We face a trilemma that stems from the opposing tension of climate…
How selfish! Are solar panels really pushing up the price of power for everyone? Elliot Brown

More solar, less power demand, higher prices: does it add up?

If I install solar panels and a car battery to run my air conditioner, should I pay higher electricity network fees? The electricity industry and Queensland’s Energy Minister would say yes, but is that…
The roots of Germany’s anti-nuclear stance go back many decades, and are stronger than ever today. Memkaos/Flickr

Nuclear futures: renewables blossom in Germany’s post-nuclear vision

When the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan was hit by a tsunami in March 2011, the disaster had a profound effect on German energy policy. Chancellor Angela Merkel reasoned that “Fukushima…
Ocean power can be harnessed for electricity generation using both wave energy and the tide. Scottish Government

Explainer: what is ocean energy?

Renewable ocean energy harnesses the power of the oceans to produce electricity. This can be done in several ways, but the resources that have the most immediate potential in terms of energy production…
Chapelcross, Scotland: decisions over our future sources of energy won’t wait until the cows come home. Magnox Sites Ltd

Nuclear subsidies: a gamble on the price of gas

Providing power to the nation is no small task. It requires considerable forward planning, involves huge costs and considerable risks. More risk and cost, in fact, than most energy providers can stomach…
The Federal Budget has attempted to fill a A$6 billion revenue hole left by the collapse of the EU carbon price - but has cut into renewables as a consequence. John Goodridge

Budget defers renewable energy development when it’s needed most

The decision to link the Australia’s carbon price to the European Union emissions trading scheme has wiped A$6 billion from the federal budget. Treasurer Wayne Swan has dealt with that loss of revenue…
Electrifying stuff: your clothes could power your gadgets - and soon. Stephen Poff

Smarty pants: wearable electronics will recharge your life

Imagine having a wafer-thin touchscreen on your sleeve which, like a scene out of a Philip K. Dick novel, gives you all the functionality of a smartphone without the awkwardness of a cumbersome battery…
The Australian Energy Market Operator’s latest report lays out what it will cost to switch on to renewable power.

Zero emissions power is possible, and we know what it will cost

To avoid 2 degrees of climate change, global carbon emissions will need to be reduced by at least 50% by 2050. For developed countries such as Australia with higher carbon emissions this will mean cuts…
Putting panels on your roof reduces your power bill, but it also reduces the risk of price rises for everyone on the network. murphyz/Flickr

Rooftop solar reduces the risk of price hikes … for everyone

How much would you pay to avoid another $250 a year hike in your electricity bill? Does $15 a year sound like too much to reduce that risk? We’ve heard a lot lately about rising electricity prices. That’s…
With improvements in enhanced geothermal systems technology the earth’s heat could become a major electricity generator. Flickr/xavierbt

Explainer: what is geothermal energy?

Geothermal means, literally, “earth heat”. The temperature of the earth increases as we drill deeper towards its core. We can use that heat for energy by circulating water through hot subterranean reservoirs…
Australia has so many energy sources to choose from: which way will we go? AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Energy revolution or bloody war – it’s our choice

Running a business in Australia’s energy sector is difficult. Proprietors have to contend with intense competition, rapid technological change, climate change, natural disasters…even complaints about rising…
Hydropower stations such as the Three Gorges in China are able to produce large amounts of electricity but they can also alter ecosystems and displace communities. EPA

Explainer: what is hydroelectricity?

Hydroelectricity is an established power-generation technology with over 100 years of commercial operation. Hydroelectricity is produced when moving water rotates a turbine shaft; this movement is converted…
Wind power now contributes 3.8% to the electricity market. Flickr/Bush Philosopher - Dave Clarke

Electricity prices fall: renewable energy deserves merit

Let’s be honest: the relationship between renewable energy and the electricity market is complex. So what does the latest report from Australian energy research firm RepuTex tell us? Well, for a start…
It doesn’t matter that wind and solar power are intermittent: the need for base-load power is a myth. Flickr/Eidoloon

Baseload power is a myth: even intermittent renewables will work

The future of civilisation and much biodiversity hangs to a large degree on whether we can replace fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – with clean, safe and affordable energy within several decades. The…
How do rooftop solar panels work? Abi Skipp

Explainer: what is photovoltaic solar energy?

There are two main types of solar energy technology: photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal. Solar PV is the rooftop solar you see on homes and businesses - it produces electricity from solar energy directly…
A change in Premier should be Victoria’s chance to re-embrace wind power. Instinia/Flickr

Napthine should revisit Victoria’s wind farm planning laws

Earlier this month, Victorians woke to the news that they had a new premier: Dennis Napthine, member for the South-West Coast District, would take over from Ted Baillieu to lead the state. As climate change…
The writing may be on the wall for Labor’s carbon policy, but that doesn’t mean the states should give up. Flickr/bk2204

States of decay: complementing the federal carbon policy

In a survey last year of 22,812 people across 22 countries (including Australia), the polling organisation GlobeScan found that environmental concerns had fallen worldwide since 2009, and fewer than one…
When comparing power sources, we have to take the costs of system effects into account. Flick/a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand

Counting the hidden costs of energy

A recent Bloomberg press release got wide coverage with its claim that wind power is now cheaper than coal. But a new report from the OECD shows that when you cover the full cost to the grid, variable…
It is not currently possible to find the energy source sold by any of the licensed electricity retailers in Australia. Flickr/dereckGavey

Do you know how clean your electricity is?

In Europe and America, electricity retailers let their customers know whether their electricity is coming from renewable energy or fossil fuels. In Australia, your retailer has no such obligation. The…
Australia’s hydro energy storage systems are getting long in the tooth: maybe it’s time to look at liquid air. Michael Mazengarb

The missing link: why Australia needs energy storage

In visiting Australia regularly for the last two decades I have never quite understood why greater value is not placed on the nation’s latent solar and nuclear energy assets. Perhaps it is because Australia…
Focusing on Australian electricity competitiveness will drive valuable investment in electricity-intensive industry. Jake Trussell

Australian electricity must get more competitive: here’s how

Electricity-intensive investment isn’t coming Australia’s way. We use our many natural resources to underpin our productivity and prosperity and we are extracting increasing amounts of metal from the ground…
To stop some countries doing all the renewable energy work and others doing none, we need incentives to cooperate. Stefan Svensson

The role of international law and economics in renewable power

The UN has set out its ambition for an international policy on sustainable energy. But is the UN’s lead enough? What will it take to make nations follow? Creating and harnessing incentives to participate…
Scientists let the climate change debate get by them. It’s not too late to own energy. David Reeves

Scientists, this is a call to arms over energy policy

Climate change no longer attracts the headlines it once did, as the recent conference in Doha showed. Global media attention since its 2009 peak during the Copenhagen summit has fallen off a cliff – according…
As the Indian delegate said, ‘If we don’t get cheap technology we will never be able to adapt to climate change’. But Doha was reluctant to discuss the matter. Danish Wind Industry Association.

The Doha deadlock: intellectual property and climate change

In November 2001, Doha hosted trade talks over intellectual property and public health. The discussions resulted in the landmark Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. The Doha Declaration…
Several countries have backed away from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. http://www.theenvironmentalblog.org/, http://www.flickr.com/photos/environmentblog

Fossil fuel subsidies up, nuclear power down: IEA

Market-distorting fossil fuel subsidies rose 30% from 2010 to 2011, stymying efforts to boost the renewables sector and reduce greenhouse emissions worldwide, a new global report has found. The 2012 World…
Australia could soon have millions of small electricity generators. absentmindedprof/Flickr

Energy White Paper underestimates solar

The 2012 Energy White Paper has much to commend it. In particular, the far greater acknowledgement of the need to shift to clean energy sources is a fundamental shift from previous White Papers. The emphasis…
Do you value this? The Energy White Paper doesn’t. Green MPs

Energy White Paper plans to burn, burn, burn it all

Burn it all. That is the plan in Australia’s new Energy White Paper. Released yesterday by Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, it talks about responding to climate change while planning the…
Wind and solar power appears to have been behind a drop in wholesale power prices in South Australia, leading to a proposal to reduce retail prices for consumers.

Power of the wind - how renewables are lowering SA electricity bills

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power appear to be the impetus behind a South Australian proposal to substantially drop electricity prices, just as other states are hiking theirs. The Essential…
Could waves and ocean currents hold a key to a renewable energy future? Sunova Surfboards

Ocean power making waves in Australia’s clean energy future

CSIRO recently announced that energy from the ocean could supply 11% of Australia’s demand by 2050. That is enough to power a city the size of Melbourne. It is a bold claim, but it’s time for Australia…
In the year to June 2012, 26% of SA’s electricity came from wind: how do they do it? Dave Clarke

Wind power: why is South Australia so successful?

The integration of wind energy generation into the electricity grid in South Australia is a success story. The gross statistic often quoted is the total electricity produced as a percentage of the supply…
New research has uncovered significant environmental benefits in converting to a water-based battery. oakridgelabnews/Flickr

Water-based battery a step up for renewable energy

Energy storage will be critically important as we work towards sustainable living. Developing cost-effective ways to store large amounts of electricity from wind turbines and solar farms will be essential…
Malaysia’s biofuel policies — which will be delivered by large multinational corporations — are contributing to a global food crisis. Rainforest Action Network/Flikr

Malaysia’s sustainability agenda reignites debate over food versus fuel

According to their 2005 Energy Policy Act, the US was supposed to have reached a 7.5% target for renewable fuel by 2012. While this may be good for the environment, there is growing concern that national…
The internet of the future could consume 10% of the world’s electricity supply. rachel_titiriga

The internet is sapping the world’s energy, so let’s improve it

Despite its new economy sheen, the internet represents a surprisingly large old economy drain on energy resources. Industry and academia must work together to ensure the internet is a positive contributor…
US development of wind energy is lowering emissions without reducing economic growth. Sam Beebe

Climate Commission: global climate action gathers momentum

Ninety countries representing 90% of the global economy are committed to reducing their greenhouse emissions and are taking action to do so. This is one of the take-home messages from the Climate Commission’s…
No such thing as a free lunch: nuclear power can do what many renewable energy systems have not yet done on a large scale - deliver. Flickr/Gretchen Mahan

Low-carbon electricity must be fit-for-service (and nuclear power is)

To paraphrase George Orwell: “All electricity is created equal, but some of its generating technologies are more equal than others”. This is a crucial point – emphasised but typically overlooked – in the…
Sign of things to come: a depleted Lake Hume in 2007, when the big dry still had a couple years to run. Flickr/Tim J Keegan

Climate change and Victoria: high time to innovate, adapt, and cope

Victoria has entered a critical decade in the race to adapt for the stresses of climate change, according to a new report from the Climate Commission. Following the release of Victorian climate impacts…
Green innovation: the upper compression ring of the Olympic Stadium main roof truss is made from 2,600 tonnes of surplus gas pipes. London 2012

Has the London Olympics really gone green, and what can the Gold Coast Games gain?

For seven years, the London Olympics Organising Committee has been striving to live up to the sustainability vision it set itself. It’s been a long, honest fight. On the eve of the Games, how well have…
Battery research is improving renewable energy’s ability to provide power around the clock. Argonne National Laboratory

Explainer: storing renewable energy

Storage is one of the highest technological barriers to the spread of renewable energy. When the sun is shining, the tide turning or the wind howling, how do we collect that energy and keep it to use when…
We’re banking on business as usual to solve our environmental problems, but we’re likely to be disappointed. Tony.../Flickr

The carbon tax: markets won’t deliver necessary emission cuts

Australia will introduce a carbon tax on Sunday at A$23 per tonne of carbon. In 2015, an emissions trading scheme (ETS) will replace the tax. The aim is to cut Australian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions…
A cleaner, more efficient Australia will blend smart grids and meters with renewable power’s growing capacity. Pictured: Spain’s Gemasolar concentrated solar thermal power plant. Gemasolar

Challenge 13: smart energy demand and renewable supply

In part 13 of our multi-disciplinary Millennium Project series, Mark Diesendorf argues that it is high time we got smart about power: how we generate it and how we deliver it. Global challenge 13: How…
Do you see the light? Solar costs are comparable to fossil fuels, and are falling 45% annually. Flickr/MyEye85

Newsflash: solar power costs are falling below fossil fuels

Recent postings to The Conversation have enlivened the debate over the “Great Transition” that is underway all around the world from the fossil-fuelled energy systems of the 20th century to the renewably…
The ones on the left are on their way out. Richard Brand

Energy myths exposed: King Coal or King Solar?

In our Conversation article, King Coal dethroned, we suggested that renewable energy investment was now outstripping fossil fuel power investment. Many welcomed the news that the future was arriving sooner…
Lack of political will is holding back Australia’s solar innovation: here, AREVA Solar’s CLFR technology. Solar Dawn

Serious about renewables? It’s time to refloat the Solar Flagships

Australia knows how to provide public leadership in the complex coordination of public events. Just look at the recent staging of the opera La Traviata on Sydney Harbour. It was a one-off event that required…
Australia is trying to decarbonise by 2050. The technology is there, but we need an economic revolution. Owen James

Australia to hit 2012 Kyoto target, but don’t get excited

The recent announcement that Australia is on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol target for greenhouse gas emissions is an indication of satisfactory performance, not an exemplary outcome. The target is 108…
The Big Dish, developed in Canberra, could be a renewable energy winner if the government focussed funding. WizardPower

Time for government to pick a renewable energy winner

Let’s start with a question: why has Denmark been so successful in renewable energy creation and uptake? It can’t be that Denmark is a windy place (although that helped) or that it was a social democratic…
ANU’s “big dish” solar is the envy of Asia, but the Australian Government has turned its back. AAP

Wake up Australia, and take a lesson on solar from Korea

I am here in Seoul, the burgeoning and confident capital of a burgeoning and confident Korea, to investigate the country’s formidable “Green Growth” strategy. Back in August 2008, the Korean government…
Campbell Newman says Queensland’s carbon-reduction policies aren’t needed under a carbon price, but what does he mean? AAP

State climate schemes still worthwhile under a carbon price

In justifying their recent abandonment of state-based climate schemes, the governments of Queensland and Victoria have both claimed that the schemes will be redundant under the federal emissions trading…
Emissions spiked, thanks to more intensive energy use. Louis Vest

The emissions rebound after the GFC: why greenhouse gases went up in 2010

Recessions are not the way to permanently cut greenhouse gas emissions. Global emissions surged during 2010, cancelling out the reductions from the global financial crisis (GFC). Emissions took off in…
Most forms of energy generation are a blight on the landscape: why single out wind? eidlog42/Flickr

Not a level playing field for wind power

Wind farms make noise. Coal fired power stations pollute the air and atmosphere. Coal-seam gas mines pollute underground water aquifers. All electricity generating sources, to some people, pollute the…
US-China competition could lead to a brighter clean energy future, or a trade war. whitehouse.gov

Who owns the sun? Patent law and clean energy

There is a trade war brewing between the United States and China over intellectual property relating to clean technologies – particularly solar power. Steven Chu, a scientist, Nobel Laureate in Physics…
There are dark days ahead for Australian forests if renewable energy plan gets the nod. jwbenwell/Flickr

Oakeshott’s call for wood-powered electricity means more logging

We are poised at a pivotal moment for native forests, the wood products industry and climate change. Australia is moving away from a damaging native forestry industry - and a damaging conflict over its…
Domestic solar panel use has risen dramatically in recent years; commercial uptake can’t be far behind. EPA/Patrick Pleul

We’re set to hit our renewable energy targets – now let’s aim higher

A recent report by the Clean Energy Council claims that the capacity of domestic solar panels in Australia has increased 35-fold in the past three years. This (among other factors) means we are well on…
The Federal Government’s draft energy white paper outlines a future where Australia still depends on fossil fuels. AAP

Australia’s draft energy white paper misses the big picture

The release of Australia’s draft energy white paper has outlined a future where Australia continues to be largely dependent on fossil fuels, embraces uranium and expands existing deregulation and privatisation…
India’s power needs are growing at a staggering rate and coal won’t do the job. NASA

How do you power a billion lives?

As the Australian Labor Party changes its stance on trading uranium with India, a pertinent question arises: why is India so keen to buy this controversial fuel? And what do India’s energy resources look…
Protesters have a point: big polluters' approach to patents isn’t helping developing nations clean up. Tck, Tck, Tck

Climate justice for intellectual property at Durban

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: In a global day of action for climate justice, thousands of protestors complained about the slow progress in international debates on climate change at the United Nations…
New climate institutions are finally putting Australia on track to meet its Kyoto obligations. amandabhslater

Getting closer to our climate obligations: Australia’s legislation for change

DURBAN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE: Australia’s new climate legislation is a historic breakthrough reform for the nation. Putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions ranks alongside any of the “big” reforms…
Passing the carbon price through the Senate is a victory, but there is plenty yet to be done. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Celebrate a carbon tax, then take three steps to a zero carbon Australia

At long last, the Gillard Government’s carbon price is law. On July 1 next year, approximately 500 of our biggest companies will start paying the government $23 for every tonne of greenhouse gas they emit…
Responses to climate change are becoming a crucial part of business strategy. AAP/Google

Google goes green … and others may follow

In early September, Google publicly disclosed details of its carbon footprint for the first time, launching the Google Green website in the process. The search giant revealed a carbon footprint of 1.5…
There are several options for future energy generation. We just need to get there. waldopepper

Stepping stones: the slippery path to a clean energy future

In news today, the Greens are calling for an end to federal funding for a proposed coal- and gas-fuelled power plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. Others have suggested the plant provides a source of “transition…
Victorian planning amendments treat wind farms as a menace on the horizon. greenery/Flickr

Regulating wind farms out of Victoria

Wind farms, like much new technology, have generated both strong community support and vocal opposition. Victoria has recently amended its planning laws and regulations to restrict locations for wind farms…
Taking on climate change can put us on the path to a green industrial revolution. Matt de Neef

Treading the economic path to green growth

Despite the poor outlook for the Earth’s climate, putting in place acceptable solutions is proving difficult. Mired in economic uncertainty, some countries are scaling back climate change efforts. But…
To meet the energy challenge we have to think big. AAP Image/Snowy Hydro Limited

Australia’s low carbon economy: do the heavy lifting here

Today’s carbon navel-gazing by politicians, business leaders and media scribes seems determined to constrain Australia to the stone age of industrial competence, workforce skills and international environmental…
Solar is now a viable industry that should be taken seriously. AFP Photo/Sakis Mitrolidis

Solar will force coal and nuclear out of the energy business

A solar energy revolution is brewing that will put the coal and nuclear industries out of business. Solar is already reaching price parity with coal in many parts of Australia. In contrast to coal and…
A renewables boom is on the horizon for Australia. Adrian S Jones/flickr

Australia must act now on renewables or be left behind

Last week, Griffith University’s Vlado Vivoda argued that renewable energy “makes no economic or political sense” for Australia. While we welcome Vivoda’s contribution to the national energy policy debate…
We can use renewable energy even when the sun doesn’t shine. Martin Cathrae/flickr

Renewable energy can provide baseload power - here’s how

The myth that renewable energy sources can’t meet baseload (24-hour per day) demand has become widespread. After all, the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and there’s no sunlight at night. But detailed…
Four times Australia’s GDP could be hiding in here. AAP

Will rare earth elements power our clean energy future?

Rare earth elements (REEs), for so long ignored by big mining companies, have recently become incredibly popular. But, contrary to what their names suggests, they are not particularly rare. They do, however…
Direct geothermal energy provides more than half this Vienna building’s heating and cooling requirements. Energietecknik GmbH & Co, Vienna

Direct geothermal energy could be key to our clean energy future

While direct geothermal energy is extensively used in other countries, it is rarely encountered in Australia. This might be because we have cheap sources of energy (although, regrettably, not the cleanest…
Plants are expert photosynthesisers, but humans are catching up. Galactic Circus Diplodocus/Flickr

New global solar fuel project to improve on photosynthesis

Plants have been making fuel and food from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide for billions of years. Oil, coal, wood and natural gas can be called “old-photosynthesis” fuels. As the human population approaches…
Renewables or fossil fuels, we’ll send them offshore when it makes sense. Flickr/nosha

Australian energy may be more useful abroad than at home

Australia is a major energy exporter. Are we going to continue to increase our contribution to Asia’s energy mix? Will it be clean energy? And is it possible that our best renewable energy resources will…
Large-scale solar could be Australia’s dominant renewable technology by 2030. AAP

Australia’s confused solar policy lacks energy

Australia has a huge solar energy resource. Solar collectors spread out over a square 50 km could generate all of Australia’s current electricity demand. Of course in practice, we would need a mix of renewable…
Battery-operated cars can plug a quickly emerging gap in the market. Thomas Bräunl

Why electric cars are in pole position

With global warming, carbon trading and record-high petrol prices in the news, not to mention the ever-looming spectre of peak oil, we need to find an environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable…
An accident in a nuclear station is much more worrying than an accident at a wind turbine. Flickr/Jaako

No need for nuclear, even in the face of climate change

Before the Fukushima reactor was swamped by a tsunami, there had been a wave of enthusiasm for nuclear power. The problems in Japan have probably ended the risk of Australia going down the nuclear path…
Is Australia waiting for other countries to do all the hard work on renewables? Torresol Energy

A carbon price won’t bring zero emissions

If Australia is truly serious about avoiding climate catastrophe we are going to need to move towards a zero-emissions economy. A price on carbon emissions is an important component of climate protection…

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Call to arms to capture energy

Storing electricity to use later is critically important to the energy sector and in reducing carbon emissions. In the US…