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.