Friday, December 28, 2012

Community renewable energy - locally owned renewable power stations

Community renewable energy is something we will hopefully be hearing a lot more about in the future. The idea, which is popular overseas, is for members of a local community to get together, combine their money and build a much larger renewable energy "power station" than they could individually afford. The proceeds from selling the electricity created then provide a return on investment.

The classic example of this in Australia is Hepburn Wind in Victoria where roughly 2000 people got together and installed a ~4MW wind farm. Recently another project has been announced for Sydney where a community scheme will put 400 kW of solar panels on the roof of the new convention centre in Darling Harbour. Helping drive this (and many other proposed projects) is Embark a not for profit group aiming to spur along community renewable energy by providing know-how and also seed funding.

Although community owned renewables are unlikely to generate a large percentage of the electricity we produce any time soon, they provide an opportunity for people who can't otherwise create their own electricity (renters, people living in apartments, home owners whose roof isn't suitable for solar panels etc etc) to get involved. Importantly they also allow the local community to own and benefit from their local renewable energy resource (whatever that might be) and for people to make money out of being green.

For a more detailed look at community renewable energy and it's benefits and possibilies, see this article in Renew Economy.

So what about in QLD? Well, recently Energetic Communities, which aims to develop community renewable energy in SEQ got up and running. Hopefully I'll have more to say about them in the near future.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Emissions sink as consumers turn off coal

Interesting article in the fairfax papers a couple of days ago about how falling demand for electricity across the eastern seaboard is causing a drop in electricity generated from coal.

"Weak demand for electricity across eastern mainland states has sparked a “dramatic fall” in greenhouse gas emissions from Australia's power stations, the latest review of data by consultants Pitt & Sherry has found.
While demand for base-load electricity from black coal-fired power stations has been in retreat for about three years, the decline has extended in recent months to two of Victoria's emissions-intensive brown coal-fired plants, Hazelwood and Yallourn"
You can read the whole article here.

We have mentioned the squeeze that is being put on a lot of coal plants previously. The electricity sector is complex but several things seem to be happening at the moment.

1. Demand for (and use of) electricity is dropping and has been for several years. This is likely a response to higher prices causing people and businesses to use less electricity and, at the residential level, has been helped by the widespread uptake of solar panels and solar hotwater. This fall in demand then squeezes out the least competitive generators, which are often coal plants.

2. As the amount of renewable energy available increases but demand does not then the generators who can sell their power for the least cost have an advantage. The renewable energy target means that much of this renewable energy must be used and because their electricity costs so little to generate many renewable energy generators can undercut fossil fuel plant prices anyway. This phenomenon, known as the merit order effect, again squeezes the least competitive generators, often coal plants.

3. The carbon price, which makes makes more polluting electricity more expensive to generate then amplifies points 1&2, making the dirtiest generators even less competitive.

The net effect of all this: C02 emissions from the electricity sector are falling, which is a very good thing.

Update: Giles Parkinson at Renew Economy wrote about this as well, and his article also contains graphs showing the change in the generation mix and energy use in each state.

Common Spaces: Urbanism, Sustainability and the Art of Placemaking (from thisbigcity)

More links from the "This Big City" blog:

Common Spaces: Urbanism, Sustainability and the Art of Placemaking

A little to get your started:

"Whilst the majority of individuals in our society would hesitate to label themselves environmentalists, there is a growing appreciation of natural beauty and an eagerness for harmony in our urban design. Most of all, there is a core desire to live somewhere safe, happy and healthy – now and in the future. Nowhere is this shift more evident than in the design process for the renovation of public spaces. This is becoming far more inclusive and community-led; much to the benefit of both the planet and the populace."
  see the rest of the article here.

Friday, November 9, 2012

TTKD November 12 Meeting: Cleaning Products Demonstration and Chemicals in Household Cleaning Products

TTKD November 2012 Meeting

Sunday, October 14, 2012

1 million Aussie homes to have solar panel within 12 months

More evidence (if you really needed it) of how much Australian's love solar:

"858,000 homes have solar PV panels with an installed capacity of just under 2 gigawatts"

According to the story in the SMH, with current rates of uptake, we'll hit the million mark in the middle of 2013, by which time over 10% of homes will have rooftop solar panels (read more here).

Also, last week saw the switch flicked on Australia's first "utility scale" solar farm/ power plant in WA. It's just 10 Mw, but with the price of solar panels still decreasing hopefully it will be the first of many.

TTKD October meeting: Men's Shed (not so secret) Men's Business!

Chris Wright from Shed West Kenmore will discus the role of Men's Sheds in promoting men's health and wellbeing and helping to create sustainable communities.

*What are Men's Sheds all about?

*What do they get up to in there?

*How can Men's Sheds help towards a sustainable community?

Thursday October 18

7.15pm for a 7.30pm start

Kenmore Library Meeting Room

TTKD Meeting Flyer Oct 12

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Goodbye to arctic sea ice

The arctic sea ice is being obliterated. As has been widely reported, the sea ice melt this northern summer has smashed all previous records, shrinking to the smallest extent, area, and even more crucially volume on record. 

The arctic is one of the fastest warming places on earth and is already undergoing large changes due to global warming. One of the most obvious examples of this is the arctic sea ice. This is the frozen covering of ice that sits on top of the arctic sea, stretching from Greenland over the north pole to the top of Russia and around past Alaska and the Candian arctic. Every spring and summer the 24 hr sunlight and warmer temperatures melt the ice back northward and before it refreezes again in autumn and winter.

At the end of the 2012 met season sea ice extent had shrunk to just 3.41 million square kilometers according the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), 18% lower than the previous record in 2007 and 49% lower than the long term average. And unlike 2007, 2012 didn't have close to ideal weather conditions for melting ice either. The figure from NSIDC below shows the area of ice extent at the 2012 minimum (white) compared to the long term average (red line)

So why, with worse weather for melting did 2012 break all melting records? The answer probably lies in the volume of ice left. The volume of arctic ice basically relates to it's thickness, with thicker ice less likely melt in the summer. Since the late 70's, arctic sea ice has lost roughly 3/4 of it's volume, including big losses since the last extent (area of sea covered by 15% ice) record in 2007.You can see this progression on the animated chart below thanks to Tamino. Put simply the ice today is thin and weak and it doesn't take much to melt it.

So where to from here. Well, the bad news is that melting arctic ice causes a positive feedback loop. Ice reflects almost all incoming sunlight back in space, while open water absorbs almost all the sun's energy. So, when more ice melts, there is more open water to absorb the sun's rays, heating up the water and melting more ice. This means that the amount of ice is going to keep decreasing, (especially with continuing increases in arctic temperature due to global warming) with a number of predictions that the arctic might be seasonally ice free within a decade or so. Ice will continue to refreeze in winter, but it will be thin and weak and since there isn't much sun in the arctic that time of year it won't make that much difference to the amount of sunlight reflected whether it is there or not.

The arctic meanwhile is going to become a very different place. The loss of sea ice will accelerate arctic warming and completely disrupt the habitat of many of the species that live on or under the ice. Warming is also changing the arctic land environment as well. More importantly for those of us who don't live there, the arctic also plays an important role in northern hemisphere weather and some scientists have pointed the finger at changes in the arctic for extreme weather events in Europe and North America. For example: allowing cold arctic air to "break out" of the arctic and head south to chill the aforementioned regions. You can also find more about this on Skeptical Science.

Lastly, the massive loss of ice in the arctic demonstrates us just how fast things can change. No-one expected the unprecedented ice loss in 2007 and indeed IPCC model forecasts made before the 2007 melt season were not predicting the loss of summer sea ice until near the end of the century. Yet here we are with the possibility it will be gone by the end of the decade. This should remind us conducting an uncontrolled experiment on the earth's climate is going to have surprises, (and probably not many good ones) and that ecosystems can be much more vulnerable to destruction than we realized. It's too late to stop what's happening in the arctic, that would have required taking proper action of global warming decades ago, and only by taking action to halt global warming can we prevent the kind of breakdown occurring in the arctic from happening elsewhere, such as to the great barrier reef.

Reality Bites from Rachel Smith

Interesting article from Rachel Smith on her blog:

Reality Bites: Mass redundancies & sharing. 5 easy steps to ‘spend less + have more’

"The average power drill is used for between 6 and 15 minutes in its entire lifetime. We don’t actually need a drill we just want a hole in the wall. So why do we all spend large sums of our hard-earned cash and savings on things we rarely use?
In last Saturday’s Courier Mail Kathleen Noonan commented that people across Australia are too scared to spend money. That’s why in this week’s ‘Reality Bites’ I’m discussing sharing, renting, bartering and borrowing – or what some people describe as ‘access rather than ownership........."

Go here to read the rest.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yes Virginia, wind power really does decrease carbon emissions

In most technical or scientific fields, the response to self-proclaimed experts who are claiming everyone else has got it wrong should be cautious skepticism. Doubly so when they have little or no actual expertise in the field. Double again when this technical area is anything to do with climate change, which seems to attract self-styled "expert skeptics" like moths to a flame. Unless of course, you are a certain newspaper, then these sorts of claims need to be taken very seriously indeed and given lots of space, even if, for example they contain obviously nonsense, like claiming a huge drop in global temperatures that never actually happened.

Luckily we have journalists at The Climate Spectator and Renew Economy prepared to do a bit of fact checking. And from the latest stoush about wind power two things seem fairly clear.

1. Wind power does decrease the overall carbon footprint of electricity.

2. The growth of renewables (of which wind is a big part) and gas electricity generation, have coincided with a fall in coal power production as the squeeze is put on the most marginal coal plants. According to one energy analyst the combined effect of this and falling demand has been to reduce carbon emission from electricity generation to their lowest levels since 2003.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TTKD September Meeting: Microalgae Biofuels

Thursday 20 Sept
Kenmore Library Meeting Room 
Kenmore Village corner Moggill and Brookfield Roads 
7.15 for 7:30 pm start 
Light refreshments provided 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TTKD at the Moggill Markets

Transition Town Kenmore District will be holding a stall at the Moggill Markets on Saturday 1 September. Information will be provided on what Transition Kenmore is, what it is all about, what we try to achieve and how people can benefit from our meetings and network. The stall will also provide a backyard garden products exchange service – so bring along any surplus fruit, veggies or plants from your garden to swap for something else. We would also appreciate donations of backyard produce to sell (by donation) to those without anything to swap. 

Please only bring edible or native plants and please make sure the soil is free from fire ants as required by Queensland government regulations – see here.

The stall will also be offering native plants and trees from the Moggill Creek Catchment Group, a local land care group.

Proceeds from sales will go towards printing expenses.

Moggill Markets is a local farmers market held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month at 550 Brookfield Rd from 6.30am till 11.00am.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TTKD August meeting: Water Recycling – Facts and Myths

Water Recycling – Facts and Myths
Guest speaker - Troy Walker


The presentation will look at water recycling in Australia and around the world.  It will look to answer:

·         What are the different kinds of water recycling?
·         What are the technologies that are used?
·         Is it safe?


Troy Walker is the Technical Manager for Veolia Water in Australia.

He has worked in the water industry in Australia for the past 18 years, working in the operation of water treatment plants, the design and construction of water treatment plants and the manufacture of water treatment equipment.  His speciality is membrane processes such as microfiltration and reverse osmosis, especially in their application for sewage recycling applications.  He has worked on a number of these types of projects in the United States, Singapore and Australia.

He is a native of Sydney, but in 2007 emigrated to Brisbane to work on the landmark Western Corridor Recycled Water Project, which is operated by Veolia.  He lives in Mansfield with his wife and two young daughters.

And yes, he has, and will again, confidently drink recycled sewage.

TTKD Aug 2012 Meeting Flyer

Monday, July 16, 2012

TTKD July meeting: The UQ Solar Array Project

Professor Paul Meredith will share with us his passion for large scale renewable energy, by discussing the amazing UQ 1.2 mega watt PV array project he has recently managed.

Paul has extensive experience in the renewable energy field, and currently is a Professor of Physics at UQ, a Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow, and a co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Organic Photonics and Electronics.

We have blogged about the UQ solar array previously, see here. The 5000 panels that make up the array made it the largest flat panel solar array in the country when it opened. Paul might be able to tell us if that is still the case.

Also given the recent changes to the household solar PV feed-in tarrif due to the state governments' back-flip, we will have Garry Willet who works on the solar PV industry on hand to help answer questions about what this means for you and for the future of the solar PV industry in QLD.

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share. No need to RSVP.

Thursday July 19
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Top tips to reduce your power bill and 'beat the carbon tax'

The 1st of July marks the introduction of the carbon price. The major effect of the carbon price on households will be through increases in energy bills as the cost of producing highly polluting energy increases. But carbon price or not, energy prices have been increasing rapidly over the last few years, mostly due to the cost of network upgrades. Given the rapidly increasing price of power, no matter what the pollies do, it makes sense to take action to decrease your energy usage to save money on your bills.

Here are 30 simple things you can do (from the ABC), plus a few suggestions from me and other commenters on the ABC website:


    1. Turn off the beer fridge during the week or between parties.
    2. Dry clothes on an airing rack or on the clothes line, rather than using a tumble dryer.
    3. Clean the lint filter in washing machines, dryers, and heating and cooling equipment.
    4. Use a rake instead of an electric leaf blower, or a broom instead of a vacuum on sealed floors.
    5. Keep your fridge operating efficiently by keeping the door seals clean (replace them if they've deteriorated) and defrost the freezer if necessary.
    6. Buy efficient whitegoods when the time comes to replace them. The Energy Rating website has a useful search tool that estimates running costs. For example, one 4-star family fridge costs $72 per year to run, paying 25 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, while a similar sized 1.5-star machine costs $135 per year to run.
    7. If you have them, limit the use of heated towel rails to a couple of hours per day, instead of the full 24.


    8. Put lids on saucepans to reduce the heat that escapes.
    9. Cut your vegies into smaller pieces so that they cook faster.
    10. Boil the kettle with only as much water as you need. Heating water takes a lot of energy.
    11. Where possible, use a microwave instead of a conventional oven.


    12. Turn off the television and other entertainment devices manually, instead of leaving them on standby. Master/slave powerboards can make this easier (despite dodgy-sounding name): when you turn off the 'master' (usually the TV), the 'slave' devices are automatically turned off.
    13. Battery chargers can use standby power even when not plugged into the device they charge. Turn them off at the wall. This includes mobile phone, power tool and battery rechargers.


    14. So you've swapped your old incandescent bulbs for more efficient lights? Now, it's time to replace energy-hungry halogen downlights. Mains voltage (GU10 base fitting) 50 Watt halogens can be replaced with 11-watt compact fluorescent 'micro' downlights. Low-voltage (MR16 base) 50-watt halogens can be replaced with 20 Watt infrared coated (IRC) halogens or three Watt LED downlights. Note that 'low voltage' does not mean 'low energy'.
    15. Match your lighting levels to the needs of the activity you're doing. For example, you don't need every light on while watching TV.
    16. Combined light, heat lamp and fan fittings for bathrooms are compact and useful, but each heat lamp typically uses a massive 275 watts. Don't flick on the heat switch when light is all you need.

Keeping warm

    17. Dress for the season. Winter is the time for woollies, rather than wearing summer clothes and setting the heater thermostat to tropical.
    18. Similarly, suit your bedding to the season and use extra blankets (including underlay) rather than electric blankets or running a heater overnight.
    19. Don't scoff at a nana-rug to cover your knees while you're watching telly. Thousands of nanas can't be wrong.
    20. Cover windows with thick, well-fitting curtains.
    21. Put weatherstripping on external doors or use a door snake.
    22. Target heating to the rooms or zones in use, not the entire house.
    23. Set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature of 18 to 20ÂșC in winter. Each degree hotter can increase your energy bill by about 10 per cent.

Hot water

    24. The shorter your shower, the less energy you spend heating up water. 25. Install a water-saving showerhead; it's an easy DIY job. Many water retailers have free showerhead replacement programs.
    26. Consider insulated coverings for hot water systems and pipes.

Staying cool

    27. When the weather heats up again, remember it is easier to prevent your house becoming hot than it is to cool an already hot house. Make sure your home has adequate exterior shade, such as awnings, blinds, sails, shade cloth, shade trees or verandas.
    28. Install flyscreens to make it easier to ventilate your home.
    29. For active cooling, fans use the least energy, followed by evaporative coolers (which suit dry climates). Air conditioners are the most expensive to run.
    30. Fans work by moving air over your skin. If you're not in the room, the fan is doing nothing. Switch it off.


Finally, remember that every product you see in the shops has needed energy, water and material resources to be produced and has a carbon cost. We can cut our eco-footprints, save money and avoid some of the carbon tax by simply buying and wasting less stuff."

So lots of common sense stuff there, thanks Auntie.

A few other thoughts:

1. Hot water is a massive part of energy bills, other ways to save money include:

  • Turn down the temperature on your hot water cylinder, 65 dC works for us
  • Better yet, get rid of your hot water cyclinder, having a big tank keeping hundreds of litres of water hot 24/7 is crazily inefficient.  Look into some sort of instantaneous heating system.
  • Install solar hot water
2. Switch to an energy efficient pool pump. Old single speed pool pumps can use huge amounts of energy and cost over $500 a year to run. While the running costs of new 5 star and better rated pumps can be less than half that. Anecdotally a new pump can pay for itself in 2 years or less.  Even better, Energex is running a promotion for people in certain areas with extra incentives.

3. Install solar panels. If you live in QLD and have been thinking about going solar, you should get in before July 9th when the feed-in tarrif changes. You don't have to have the panels installed by then of course, contact a solar installer and they'll tell you what you need to do.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Solar scuttled - QLD govt slashes solar feed-in tarrif

The new Queensland LNP government has slashed the amount of money householders will be paid for feeding power from rooftop solar panels into the grid from 44 cents a kW/h to just 8 cents a kW/h for new installations, effective July 10.

Although existing solar PV owners will continue to receive the old feed-in tariff, it will also be lost upon the sale of a house, so anyone buying a house will also receive only the new 8 c kW/h. Although even this rate will be up for review in 2014.

Effectively households with solar panels are now going to earn 8 c kW/h for the power they produce but have to pay ~22 c kW/h for the power they use.*1 *2

This kind of out-of-the-blue promised-we-wouldn't-do-it-but-we-are reminds me of when the old NSW Labour government suddenly decided to slash their much more generous feed in tariff with no real thought as to how it might affect the state's solar industry and the people who work in it.

Despite what the new QLD energy minister might tell you, QLD had quite a well designed solar feed in tariff in that it was a 'net', not 'gross' scheme and so incentivised solar power without costing all that much. According to the energy minister the scheme has so far cost $112 million over 4 years, not a small amount, but not bad when you consider it has stimulated a reported $2.37 billion worth of private investment as well as providing renewable energy and helping to grow a reported 10 000 + jobs in the solar industry.

Many in the solar industry had been calling for a gradual reduction in the feed-in tariff as solar panel prices decreased and I think most people will have supported a gradual reduction down to around the retail price of electricity over several years ie: the price you get for the electricity you produce is the same as what you pay for it. However this government has already shown they Can't do clean energy, cutting highly successful programs like the Climate Smart at Home Service which was taken up by hundred of thousands of Queenslander's. Hopefully they will change tack and not try to scuttle the solar industry too but things don't look good currently.

Chances are that the PV power you produce is used by your neighbours, or another home/ business close by, so the cost of distributing the power is low, compared to say transporting it 500 km from a coal plant along high voltage lines and through a number of substations. So it would seem some company will be making a nice profit off your power.

Apparently 8 c k/w is the wholesale price of power, ie: what the big coal fired power plants get paid. However unlike you, generators can also take advantage of times when wholesale power prices are high (due to high demand) to sell power for much more that that. Also I imagine the carbon price will push up the price of wholesale power (because so much of it comes from dirty coal), but there'll be no increase for PV power to match this. Effectively this means you'll have to sell your clean solar energy for less than the big polluters get for their coal fired electricity. How's that for priorities? 

See also

Solar shame - election promise broken (Courier mail)

Can-do Campbell slashes Queensland solar PV tariffs (Renew Economy)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Transition Kenmore June 2012 Meeting: Backyard Beauties/Bushland Bullies!

This month we are very pleased to have Andrew Wills, Program Officer Invasive Species and Animal Management for the Brisbane City Council present on the topic of garden plants overstepping their boundaries.

He will inform us about the potential for Garden plants to invade, modify and threaten native vegetation communities. We will hear how such plants can be so deceptively beautiful in the garden setting, and equally can have devastating impacts on our native vegetation communities as a whole.

Thursday June 21 
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share. No need to RSVP.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Australasian warming since 1950 unmatched over last 1000 years

As widely reported in the media, Australian scientists have for the first time created a detailed 1000 year reconstruction of temperatures in Australasia. Although there were no man made thermometers over most of this time, nature contains a number of natural thermometers (like tree rings, corals and ice cores) that scientists can read to piece together many details of temperature and climate in the past. By combining records from a number of different sites scientists have created a temperature record stretching back to AD 1000.

Three main conclusions can be drawn from this paper:

  1. The warmth of the climate in Australasia post-1950 is not equaled or surpassed by any time period in the last 1000 years.
  2. The hottest 30 year period was 1970-2000.  (Nb1: the record did not carry on past 2000, Nb2: 30 years is a standard length of time used to look at "climate" as opposed to short term temperature fluctuations)
  3. "The unusual 20th century warming cannot be explained by natural variability alone, suggesting a strong influence of anthropogenic forcing (human caused warming) in the Australasian region"

The figure below show's their temperature reconstruction (click on it to embiggen):

Figure 4: Reconstruction of australasian temperatures since 1000 AD compared to 1961-1990 average from thermometers. Black line is 30 year average temperature. Green line is thermometer temperature record for Australasia. Thick black line shows periods with most reliable measurements, thin black line shows when temperature measurements are not so reliable. Shading above and below average line shows the uncertainty of the measurement (this represents the fact that the true average temperature may not be exactly what was reconstructed and shown in the black line, however there will be a very high likelihood the true temperature was within the shaded region).
Both the temperature increase and temperatures in recent times are not matched elsewhere on the graph. Note that although the top of the shaded uncertainty plots do rise above the 1961-1900 average temperature on several occasions the evidence does not support them being warmer. Whereas in recent times the average reconstructed temperature including uncertainty has risen above the 1961-1900 average temperature.
From Gergis et al, 2012. Copyright 2012 American Meteorological Society

Abstract of scientific article can be read here, unfortunately the full paper is behind the journals paywall.

Gergis, J., R. Neukom, S. Phipps, A. Gallant, and D. Karoly, 2012: Evidence of unusual late 20th century warming from an Australasian temperature reconstruction spanning the last millennium. J. Climate. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00649.1, in press.

King coal dethroned

Interesting article published at The Conversation about the skyrocketing amount of investment in renewable energy, which now far exceeds that invested into coal: King coal dethroned

In 2004, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the International Energy Agency, investment in renewables was $52 billion, with $250 billion invested in fossil fuels. By 2008 the peak in fossil fuel investment had arrived: it dropped to $140 billion, while renewables overtook it with $155 billion in investment.
By 2010 the amounts were $90 billion in fossil fuels and $211 billion in renewables, and by 2011 only 14% or $40 billion of investment was in fossil fuels while 86% or $260 billion was in renewables.
King coal has in fact been dethroned. It will take a while for the global power system to phase out old power stations and be dominated by renewables, but the transition is proceeding much faster than imagined by most institutions, as well as media

Reads the full article here.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Transition Kenmore May 2012 Meeting: Permaculture and Organic Gardening, Part 1

We are fortunate to have the very knowledgeable Bruce Ham deliver a talk on permaculture and organic gardening.  Bruce will introduce permaculture, discus characterising soils, and identifying soil improvement strategies.

He will pose the following questions:

What do we want to do?
How do we get started?

This meeting will be the first of two permaculture meetings. In June we will have an education officer from Northey Street discussing permaculture at the Northey Street city farm, and how permaculture fits into the Transition movement.

Thursday May 17
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share. No need to RSVP.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Public transport fare increases in South East Queensland have been a complete failure

Back in 2009/10 Translink introduced it's new "fare structure" and with it the 15% a year increases in public transport fares. The stated reason, by both then Transport minister Rachel Nolan and Translink was to reduce the percentage of each fare that was subsidised by the government.

From the 09/10 Translink annual report section on fares:
(The new fare structure) "introduces a series of staged fare increases to ensure the long-term sustainability of South East Queensland’s public transport system. These fare increases will enable TransLink to continue to rollout services to meet growing demand, whilst gradually reducing state subsidies to a more sustainable level... TransLink aims to reduce the total subsidy requirement from 75 per cent to 70 per cent of the total cost of delivering public transport services, over a five year period."
Now you might have predicted that 15% a year fare rises would impact negatively on public transport patronage, and that the combination of less passenger growth and more services would outweigh any extra money coming from increased fares. And you'd have been right. Since 2009 the percentage subsidy paid by the government has actually increased to 77%. So not only is the government subsidising a larger percentage of each journey, the dollar amount of subsidy per journey has also increased. Although the entire 5 years period has not yet passed, I think it is already safe to call this policy a complete failure.

Looking at the actual patronage numbers (by comparing the 09/10 Translink report with the latest numbers) it also looks like the strong yearly increases in passengers seen between 2003/04 and 2008/09 have ground to a halt despite new and extra services. With customer satisfaction around affordability also taking a dive, it's not unreasonably to think it is the fare increases that have caused patronage numbers to flat-line.

So what about the future?
The Labour govt who introduced the fare increases is now gone, but it doesn't seem that the new LNP govt have fully learnt the lesson either. Although they have pledged to halve the fare increases, they are still planning yearly fare increases of 7.5% over the next few years. The last three years have shown that big fare increases don't work and don't save money for the government. Instead the state government (and transport minister Scott Emerson) should limit fare increases to CPI and focus on increasing passenger numbers.

HT to BrizCommuter for pointing me towards the latest passenger numbers and for their useful public transport blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good on yer Dave

Now for a good news story. The ABC reports that winemaker David Bruer is on his way towards making his already organic winery carbon neutral. To do so he's persuing a number of strategies including lightweight bottles, carbon farming, revegetation and solar power.

Carbon neutral next step for organic winery

Best of luck Dave and I hope other wineries follow in your footsteps.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New ideas needed to combat rising power prices and drive energy efficiency

Power prices have been rising fast over the last few years and are expected to keep in rising into the future no matter what governments do about carbon pricing and clean energy. The major reason (as we have noted before) is all the extra poles and wires that are being put in to maintain and upgrade the electricity network. How much money is this you ask?

"A massive $45 billion over five years is being spent to upgrade and maintain the network, and that cost is being passed onto the consumer."
Basically our electricity network needs enough power plants, poles, transformers and wires to meet peak demand, even though this only occurs a few hours a year. As peak demand rises, more is spent expanding the capacity of the grid and our power bills rise to pay for it.

As the ABC outlines, people are now asking if this is the best way of doing things?

Currently power companies make more money from selling more power, but what if they could also make money from getting people to save energy? And what if households could also benefit financially by saving energy at times of peak demand? This way peak demand could drop, meaning less new poles and wires and lower bills for everyone.

Another benefit of such schemes would be increased energy efficiency, which is a key solution in tackling climate change. So both peoples wallets and the environment would benefit.

See the full story here, or listen to ABC radio program: Energy efficiency: Not in Australia mate!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I love when TT or Sustainability groups just get up and get going.
This is inspiring.....hope you think so too.
The Ultimate Grass Roots Experiment:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

TTKD April Meeting: Making Brisbane a Cycling City

DIY Brisbane -

A low-cost high-impact action plan of how we can all work together to make Brisbane a Cycling City

Presented by Rachel Smith

Thursday April 19
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

The talk will include:

·         Why cycling isn’t in Brisbane’s DNA

·         What Brisbane women (and men!) really want 

·         Targeting the right ‘target’ audience

·         How we can make cycling in Brisbane safer than sitting on the sofa

·         What we can learn from Jamie Oliver

·         Daring to share and sharing success

·         The peer produced city

·         Bottom–up self-organising

·         Emotions and engineering

We are lucky to have Rachel Smith present this months meeting. Rachel is a Principal Transport Planner within AECOM and one of Australia’s leading practitioners of sustainable transport. She has led the active transport team on most of the major transport infrastructure and policy development projects in Queensland. Rachel is part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile laboratory travelling to nine cities over six years led by international, interdisciplinary teams of emerging talents in urbanism, architecture, technology and sustainability. The Lab addresses issues of contemporary urban life and its goal is the exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and ultimately the creation of forward-thinking solutions for city life. Rachel was nominated by Enrique Penalosa, the former Mayor of Bogota. Rachel is the Founder and Creative Director of ‘Cycling Super Highways’ a vision for 7 metre wide cycleways completely separated from parked and moving cars, Co-Creator of Lazy Sunday Cycle, a crowd-sourced social-media cycling initiative, a freelance writer for multimedia in the UK, USA, China and Australia, a blogger at This Big City and Cycling Rachel Smith, on the curatorial panel for Queensland Arts art + place and guest lecturer at the University of Queensland.

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share. No need to RSVP.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can't do clean energy in Queensland?

One big area of change with the election of the LNP government in QLD will be in sustainability and climate change. Probably the easiest way to summarize it is that (baring the feed in tariff) the Queensland government will no longer be taking action on climate change or promoting clean energy*.

This means that along with the Office of climate change, the:
Queensland Climate Change Fund
Queensland Renewable Energy Fund
Queensland Smart Energy Savings Fund
Queensland Future Growth Fund
Solar Initiatives Package
Solar Flagships Program
Waste Avoidance and Resource efficiency Fund
Local Government Sustainable Future Fund

are all being scrapped.

These LNP plans didn't get much airing during the campaign, mostly because they weren't released until a day or two before the election. 

Most galling for supporters of clean energy will probably the the LNPs decision to pull out of the 250 mega watt Solar Dawn project in western Queensland. If this ends up killing the whole project another big loser, along with the environment and prospective employees, will be the University of Queensland, which, I have just discovered, was to get $60 million in research funding to use the Solar Dawn plant as a test bed for research into improvements and innovations in solar thermal technology.

Cambell Newman has stated that state based schemes are now unnecessary because of the impending national carbon price. However, I assume this is not a tacit admission that carbon pricing will be effective in tackling reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although it most likely will be.

Although there is some truth some Newman's argument, it also misses a very important point. Which is that climate action will bring with it investment in clean energy and pollution reduction technology. Investment means money and jobs for the states it occurs in. Call them what you want but states provide subsidies, co-investment, tax breaks and build infrastructure all the time to attract investment to their state. Not doing this in QLD just means we'll be less attractive to invest in.

The LNP policy document (view here) does state the government will instead help business access the $10 billion + dollars for clean energy that is part of the carbon price/ clean energy future package. However, since the state LNP opposes the clean energy future plan and the federal Lib-Nats plan to scrap the clean energy package if elected, this appears to be a policy the LNP hope not to implement. And again without the full support of the state government it is less likely QLD will get that money now anyway. 

There is also concern amongst conservation groups that the new LNP government will allow more pollution from farming to reach the great barrier reef due to their "regulation busting". With a new report indicating that the herbicide Diuron is being found way above safe levels on the reef at the moment, the impact of agricultural runoff on the reef will be an ongoing concern.

* If I'm wrong on this please comment and I'll make a correction.

This post represents my personal view and before anyone gets upset note that I've have been critical of Labour governments in the past as well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Household energy links from Dr David Mills

Here are some of the links for more information and government rebates Dr David Mills showed in his talk earlier this month on reducing your household energy use.

- Power your home or business with Green Energy (this is Green Energy in addition to the MRET: mandatory renewable energy target).

ClimateSmart Home Service
- Popular scheme to help households save on the electricity bill and help the environment at the same time.

Solar Hot Water
- states based rebates are still available to switch to solar hot water and slash your power bill

BCC Ezygreen program
- what's available from the Brisbane City Council

Green Vehicle Guide
- provides mileage and air pollution rankings for all new cars on the road. Find the most fuel efficient cars on the road.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Want cheaper clean energy for your home or business?

Howard Nielsen and Green Street are putting together a renewable energy bulk buy for South East Queensland, with the aim of allowing you to power your home or business with Renewable Energy (also called Green Power) at a lower cost.

Here's the details:

Want to buy renewable energy at lower than usual prices?

Green Street is partnering with PowerGroup to negotiate the best possible renewable energy bulk purchase from energy providers in South-East Queensland.

The Renewable Energy Bulk Buy (REBB) Scheme relies on householders and business owners registering their interest in buying green energy. The retailers then tender to supply the energy.

We believe that if tens of thousands of householders and business owners register for the REBB Scheme, this will apply enough pressure to energy retailers to bring green power prices down below that for coal-fired power. Their tender prices to REBB registrants should be very competitive. The registrants then decide to accept or reject the best tender offer.

All you have to do is go to either or the Green Street Renewable Energy Bulk Buy Scheme webpage and fill out the registration form. This costs nothing (other than about 2 minutes of your time).

This is a ground-breaking opportunity to pay less for green power, while reducing carbon emissions and putting the pressure on energy providers to produce more renewable energy. This is a classic win-win situation.

People already on green power or producing their own solar power should also register: you may be able to make further savings. 

Green Street are a reputable organisation dedicated to sustainability and obviously the more people who register interest, the better the deal. So if you are interested, please take 60 seconds to register. Note that registering does not commit you to take up the eventual winning tender, so you really have nothing to loose.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Transition Kenmore at the Moggill Markets

Some pictures of Transition Town Kenmore's successful stall at last weekends Moggill Markets.

Photos and captions by Gary

The Stall

These look interesting
Buying some plants
Having a chat

See you there again soon!

Friday, March 2, 2012

TTKD March Meeting: Sustainable Home Energy Use – The Facts

How many times have you heard the myth that solar energy won’t work unless your roof is facing north, or that more energy is used in making solar power systems than they ever produce?  In his presentation energy and sustainability expert Dr David Mills, will shed light on these and many other myths.

Dr Mills will also discuss what you can do, by showing where the best home energy savings can be found and how you can achieve a zero carbon home for zero cost.

We all want to use less energy without sitting in the dark, so whether you want to save the environment, save on your electricity bill, or both, our march meeting is sure to be illuminating.

 Thursday March 15
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room

Background: Dr David Mills
Dr David Mills has a Honours Degree in Environmental Science with a major in Environmental Policy and Economics and a PhD from UQ on the potential for renewable energy in Australia.

David has numerous publications on sustainability issues and has expertise in understanding how energy is used at the household level and looking at what households can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as knowledge of; greenhouse policy, energy industry reform, renewable energy, water savings measures, building regulations, impact assessment and broader sustainability issues.

David was responsible for developing Queensland’s sustainable housing regulations and has been instrumental in a range of sustainability initiatives including water savings requirements for new housing and commercial buildings, thermal energy performance standards and the proposed phase out of electric hot water systems. His work in Government and commitment to the environment has been acknowledged through multiple awards.

David held the position of secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australia and New Zealand Solar Energy Society (ANZSES) for over 11 years. He was the Convener of the last ANZSES solar energy conference held in Brisbane, Solar 2000. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Catch Transition Kenmore at the Moggill Markets

Transition Kenmore will be back at the Moggill Markets this Saturday the 3rd of March. We'll be swapping and selling produce from our own gardens and talking about Transition. So feel free to come and say hi.

For those not familiar, the Moggill Markets is our local farmers market held on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month at 550 Brookfield Rd from 6.30am till 11.00am. So if you like buying "straight from the paddock" in a relaxed setting you should check it out.

Some of us at Transition Kenmore fancy ourselves as backyard farmers and so our stall gives us the chance to provide a backyard garden products exchange service and offload surplus mangoes, pumpkins and saplings etc! For any other backyard farmers out there, bring along your surplus fruit and veggies or plants from your garden to swap for something else or sell to those without anything to swap.

If anyone wants to help us promote TTKD by helping man our stall, or if you have some produce from your garden you would like to swap or sell please contact us at: transitionkenmore'at'

See you there!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Solar air-conditioning forum

If you want to find out how solar panels can power your air conditioning either at home at or the office head along to the Sustainable Jamboree forum on Sat 25 February at Mt Ommaney Library.

Most people know about solar hot water and solar panels and how they can lower your electricity bills but did you know that solar can also directly power your air conditioning? 

Dane Muldoon of the Solar Guys will present a range of available technologies for commercial use including three methods of cooling: indirect evaporative – Coolerado; solar PV air-conditioning – Pioneer Air; and Adsorption – Invensor.

Mr Muldoon will provide an update on currently available technology for commercial installations, beyond what his own company delivers.

CSIRO solar air-conditioning expert, Dr Stephen White will also present (via remote link up) with an overview of cutting-edge solar cooling research.

It's a little difficult to find a good source of information on solar air conditioning that's not from a company but wikipedia does have some information. There is also some information at the Solar Guys, but please note this is not an endorsement. Otherwise the bestway to find out about solar aircon would be to attend the forum.

Sat 25 February 2012
1 – 3pm, 
Mt Ommaney Library, 
Dandenong Rd, Mt Ommaney

View Mt Ommaney Library in a larger map

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February Transition Town Kenmore Meeting: Keeping Chickens

Keeping chickens and enjoying fresh backyard eggs is becoming more and more popular. Would you like to learn about keeping chickens in your backyard? 

This month we are lucky enough to have Andrew O’Hara from Backyard Chooks in Moggill coming to speak to us.
Andrew is passionate about beautiful heritage chickens, and is keen to share information on all you need to know about taking care of your own.

As usual the meeting will be followed by supper and conversation. Please feel free to bring along a plate to share.

Thursday February 16
7.15pm for a 7.30pm start
Kenmore Library Meeting Room