We have had a lot of interest lately in a report MEFL did for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on microgrids. A microgrid is a small local network that allows its members to share electricity generation and storage. The report is titled Here Comes the Sun.
Residents of ten council regions in southern Sydney are now set to receive free energy help and advice from the Positive Charge experts. The Sydney program, known as Our Energy Future, is a collaboration between Positive Charge and SSROC (Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils).
Our Energy Future was launched in Sydney last month and was a great success – there was a buzz of excitement in the air about the new program. The evening was hosted by the fantastic Ben Peacock, founder of The Republic of Everyone and there were great speeches from MEFL’s own Alison Rowe, SSROCs General Manager Namoi Dougall and the ever-inspiring Professor Lesley Hughes from the Climate Council.
MEFL welcomed the opportunity to appear before the Inquiry into Community Energy Projects, undertaken in November by the Parliament of Victoria’s Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee. This is an important area of consideration for the Committee, as community renewable energy has significant potential to drive local and regional economic development and renewable energy generation in Victoria.
At the hearing MEFL’s Gavin Ashley and Manny Pasqualini addressed the potential role of community energy in the energy sector; the benefits of community owned energy programs; and the best ways to support community energy projects, in the context of existing regulatory and other challenges. MEFL specifically called for the Victorian Government to establish a community energy target and policy mechanism to help achieve it, and funding for support services such as those that MEFL provides to community groups.
The Community Energy Congress, organised by the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE), is the premier event in Australia’s community energy calendar. It is driven by the desire for people to work together to develop and deliver sustainable, locally owned energy projects.
Congress 2017 will bring together up to 800 people, from the experts who pioneered the sector, to those who are just starting their foray into the community energy space, sharing information, developing skills, fostering new networks, celebrating success and planning for action.
Meet our team of international students! They are from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, and are working with us on a research project into the all-electric home. They have completed background research about several aspects of making the transition, collected homeowner input, and created materials to help Positive Charge assist homeowners in taking action and making the transition. There is more information about the project on the Posivite Charge website.
Over recent months we’ve looked at various small-scale battery systems that are suitable for domestic use. This time we’re going large-scale and looking at Concentrated Solar Thermal power (CST) – a method of generating electricity that also enables solar energy to be stored in the form of heat. You’re not likely to have one of these systems on your roof any time soon, but CST has huge potential for large-scale generation and storage.
How it works
A CST power station typically consists of an array of sun tracking mirrors (‘heliostats’) that concentrate sunlight by focusing it onto a target at the top of a tower. Some towers heat water directly to create steam to drive turbines, while others heat molten salt. Molten salt towers work by pumping ‘cold’ salt (about 280°C) up to the top of the tower where it is heated, and then it is pumped back down the tower for storage or immediate use. The advantage of molten salt is that the energy from the heat can be stored and used at a later time, or released immediately into a heat exchanger that produces steam to power a standard steam turbine. The molten salt has a 30+ year life span and can be repurposed as a high grade fertiliser.
The federal Election is in a few weeks so we thought we’d have a look at the policies (if any) that the major parties have in place regarding climate change.
The Coalition on climate change
The 2016 Budget provides no vision to transition away from coal to the renewable economy of the future. Emphasised by the refusal of a price on carbon and the announcement last week that, more than half a billion dollars has been spent on planting trees under the Turnbull governments Direct Action Plan, while nothing has been done to tighten the relaxed laws on land clearing in NSW and QLD. The Sydney Morning Herald discusses how this policy is illogical and unable to achieve desired emissions reduction while safeguarding the big polluters.
The budget will see fuel tax credits cost Australians almost $26.5 billion over the next four years as they pay 40 cents in tax on every litre of fuel they buy while some of the world’s largest mining companies will not pay tax on the fuel they use, says the CEO of Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Kelly O’Shanassy in an interview with VICE.
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet required a clean energy toolkit that local governments can utilize to develop mid-scale (30kW – 10 MW) clean energy projects. The project – a collaboration between MEFL and Net Balance – developed comprehensive, practical project models that overcome the barriers and assisted in facilitating clean energy projects by local councils.
Renewable Energy Precincts
The toolkit resources and associated reports were used to inform the work of the Renewable Energy Precincts program and utilised by local governments throughout NSW to scope and implement mid-scale clean energy projects. As well as providing the toolkit MEFL has delivered complementary training throughout NSW on how to use the toolkit and what other resources are available.
Implications of Federal Government carbon emissions policy developments
MEFL considers that the Renewable Energy Target is critical to maintaining our trajectory towards a cleaner energy industry and that moves to abolish it are not founded on reasonable assessment. There are several campaigns underway to advocate for retention of the RET, notably groups such as the Community Power Agency, the World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth and the Climate Institute. MEFL strongly advocates everyone who is interested in seeing a greener, and prosperous future for Australia to support these initiatives.
There have been substantial shifts in the climate change and carbon emissions policies adopted by the Federal Government over the last few months. Due to independents and minor parties holding the balance in the senate, moves to eliminate ARENA and the CEFC have faltered, and these organisations are continuing to operate (albeit in reduced capacity.) However, the government has successfully repealed legislation on carbon pricing, and current indications are that it may seek to revoke the Renewable Energy Target (RET).