Monthly Archives: September 2012

Coalition has launched a nationwide broadband survey

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Published on: September 23, 2012

 

Today the Coalition has launched a nationwide broadband survey which allows every Australian to see for themselves the speed of their existing fixed line and mobile broadband services.
The survey is available at www.fasterbroadband.com.au
The survey will provide important information to the Coalition about the speed of existing broadband in Australian cities, suburbs, towns and regions.
We want every Australian to have faster broadband sooner and more affordably.
Many suburbs and towns are inadequately served by existing fixed line and mobile broadband. But Labor’s NBN is not the answer. It reduces competition, will increase the monthly cost of broadband and is, for many Australian households, many years in the future.
The Government originally promised 511,000 households would be on the NBN fibre network by next June. But despite providing billions of dollars to the NBN, Labor now admits the real number will be just 54,000 – after almost six years in office!
So Australians have every reason to be suspicious about the Government’s promises of improved broadband. And it is households and businesses in those areas where broadband is poorest that have been hit hardest by Labor’s delays.
Our commitment is to fast-track upgrades in these areas and roll out the NBN according to need rather than politics.
In contrast, the Labor NBN has not prioritized better broadband for inadequately served areas. It will not reach some Australians until the 2020s. And it will increase prices: the NBN business plan states that the monthly revenues it earns from each customer will triple between now and 2021.
The Coalition has a better plan. We will encourage competition instead of stamping it out, and leverage existing infrastructure to complete upgrades sooner. We will ensure families have more choice and pay less for their monthly internet bill.
We urge all Australians to complete the broadband survey to help us ensure better broadband is available across the nation sooner, and those who need upgrades the most get it first.

Why TRUenergy hit the panic button over renewables.

By Giles Parkinson on 10 September 2012 .
Extract from:   http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/why-truenergy-hit-the-panic-button-over-renewables-38441

TRUenergy’s release of a report attacking the costs of the renewable energy target on Friday highlight the fears it has over the impact of wind and solar on its coal and gas-fired generators.

But the renewable energy industry has been quick to point out some giant holes in its argument.

The first is over the cost to the scheme. 

 
TRUenergy suggested that building enough wind and solar and other renewables capacity to meet the 41,000 gigawatt hour (GWh) target would cost $53 billion out to 2030.
Reducing the target to reflect “real demand” might mean only 27,000GWh is required, reducing the cost by $25 billion – a figure designed to attract headline and talk back radio time.
The renewables industry point to numerous flaws in the pricing calculations over demand, the use of inflation indexed costs out to 2030 brought back to sound scary in 2012 dollars, and the assumed cost of the certificates.
The question on demand is a technical one, and apparently is distorted because excludes rooftop solar and older wind farms, which are defined as “negative demand” by AEMO. But the point is that the market operator has been unable to make an accurate forecast of demand one year out, let alone eight, which is why the industry, including TRUenergy and Origin Energy, favoured a fixed target when the target was legislated.
For full details refer:   http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/why-truenergy-hit-the-panic-button-over-renewables-38441
Finally, there is a telling point, as we pointed on Friday, that TRUenergy is worried that renewables will push down wholesale electricity prices to the point where the business case for the current fossil fuel generators is compromised.
This is the merit order effect at work. In South Australia, and in Ireland, and to a lesser extent in other countries such as Germany, the reduction achieved in wholesale prices more than offsets the cost of the renewables energy target. Some estimates suggest that if South Australia’s wind-inspired merit order effect was repeated in Victoria, TRUenergy would lose about $200 million per year in revenue.
TRUenergy, on the other hand, admits that diluting the LRET will push up wholesale prices – enough, it suggests, to encourage the construction of new fossil fuel generation.
As the Germans are finding, the merit order effect is not an excuse to reduce the target. But it is a reason for having a sensible discussion about the structure of the electricity market.
And the question the government, or more particularly the Climate Change Authority, should ask itself is:                                                                                                                           These companies could have worked to reduce their carbon risk and diversified their generation portfolio year ago – why should they be rewarded for mismanagement?

What are the future megatrends all Australians need to know about?

5 September 2012, 6.45am AEST
Extract from: http://theconversation.edu.au/what-are-the-future-megatrends-all-australians-need-to-know-about-9317
AUTHOR Megan Clark Chief Executive Officer at CSIRO
DISCLOSURE STATEMENT
The CSIRO is a founding partner of The Conversation. The Conversation provides independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers.
We are funded by CSIRO, Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, UTS, UWA, Canberra, CDU, Deakin, Flinders, Griffith, La Trobe, Murdoch, QUT, Swinburne, UniSA, UTAS, UWS and VU.
clip_image001Founding Partner of The Conversation.
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Flickr/Tim Donnelly
What are the compelling economic, social, environmental, political and technological changes Australia must grapple with over the coming decades?
If hindsight is such a wonderful thing, surely foresight would be better. What if we could see what was coming at us and could position ourselves, our organisations and society to make the most of it?
In 2009 CSIRO asked itself this question and came up with a set of global megatrends. A megatrend is a particularly important pattern of social, economic and environmental activity that will change the way people live.
That 2009 megatrends foresighting work has proven valid and this week we are releasing an updated version, Our Future World 2012, which details six megatrends. These six megatrends unveil economic, social, environmental, political and technological change over coming decades.


Read the CSIRO’s Our Future World 2012 report here. http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Partner/Futures/Our-Future-World-report.aspx


The megatrends are: “More from Less” – the decline in resource availability while demand is increasing; “Going going gone” which addresses the risk of biodiversity loss due to human activity; “The silk highway” meaning the world’s economic centre is shifting to Asia; “Forever young” where the ageing population is both an asset and a challenge; “Virtually here”; the impact of increased digital connectivity; and “Great expectations”, reflecting the human desire for more intense personal experiences.
The six megatrends all have impacts on how we innovate, what we focus on and how we optimise our efforts.
The centre of gravity is shifting to our region, economically and in a research and development sense. Australia can’t meet the level of investment of our regional neighbours but we can be smarter and more focused about bringing the best we have together. We know we cannot compete on sheer volume of investment but we can bring the very best that Australia has together and we can connect with the very best in the world to ensure our innovation is visible from Shanghai, London, Frankfurt, Jakarta and New York.
Australia’s National Innovation System needs to continue to build collaboration, cooperation and trust in order to remain competitive. University colleagues of mine such as Vice Chancellor of UNSW Fred Hilmer and Vice Chancellor of University of Melbourne Glyn Davis have also called for innovation in the sector, allowing increased differentiation and increasing research focus and industry engagement.
The barbed wire approach to managing research and educational institutions is thankfully putting itself into extinction. But it’s not happening quickly enough. We still see these behaviours and they can cripple our ability to solve problems. However, when we do collaborate we know from experience wonderful things happen.
No one person has sufficient knowledge to build and fly a Boeing 747 from Singapore to London. Nor would one person have all the knowledge and skill to create a sustainable aquaculture industry. We can only achieve these outcomes by taking one person’s ideas and through collaboration, connection and trust, adding them to the ideas of many other people.
Major breakthroughs of the 21st century will come from this successful mixing of ideas and disciplines.
For example a group of CSIRO scientists in Melbourne has recently been contracted by a not-for-profit organisation called PATH to produce antibodies that could pave the way for safe, affordable and effective vaccines against rotavirus, which is a major cause of fatal diarrhoea.
Each year around 2.2 million people die from diarrhoea and most of these are children in developing countries. The story of this research effort is one of collaboration, trust and sharing of ideas.
The antibodies were originally prepared at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. They will now be produced in at scale our recombinant protein production facility in Melbourne.
The facility is Australia’s only non-commercialised laboratory that can produce proteins on a large scale and was initially funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy program and the Victorian State Government.
There is more we need to do so that success examples like this become the norm. This is not about investing more but changing the way we invest and work. We must bring together the very best that Australia has to offer in our research institutions, universities, industry players and connect them nationally and globally to the very best in the world.
One researcher can make a breakthrough but to have a profound impact on the challenges that face this nation and humanity it takes a team, or if you want to build the next Silicon Valley it takes a whole ecosystem. There is no reason why, as we head into what is undoubtedly the Asian Century, that Australia should not be a source of excellence in the region, in science, research and innovation.
CSIRO Chief Executive Megan Clark will launch the CSIRO’s megatrends update, Our Future World 2012, at the National Press Club in Canberra today.
The Conversation’s special megatrends series starts tomorrow.

Smart Meter Shielding Tips

Extracted from: http://www.electricsense.com/2431/smart-meter-shielding-tips/
Posted by Lloyd on September 1, 2011
What are smart meters?   Smart meters are a new type of meter used to measure your electric, gas or water usage.
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Photo via Wikipeadia
What Is The Difference Between Smart Meters And Conventional Meters?
1. Unlike the older analog meters that have a spinning dial, smart meters are digital.
2. More importantly, smart meters send information back to the utility company viawireless signal; instead of having a utility meter reader come to the property and manually do the monthly electric or water service reading.
Thus, smart meters save utility companies the cost of sending someone to come and read your meter, however they pose a risk to you and your family from electromagnetic radiation. The upside is that the utility company saves money the downside is your health is put at risk! Not to mention the infringement of privacy issue.
The Smart Meter Wireless Network
Smart meters are a part of an overall system that includes a series of wireless antennas at the neighborhood level, that collects and transmits wireless information from all the smart meters in that area back to a utility. They do so by using microwaves or radio frequency radiation, just like your cell phone or a wireless network at your home.
A smart meter produces microwave non-ionizing radiation that penetrates the walls of your home and into your home 24/7, 365 days. The utility companies argue that because the radiation being emitted is non-ionizing that it is safe. However numerous studies point to the adverse biological effects associated with non-ionizing radiation.
Is Smart Meter Radiation Worse Than Cell Phone Radiation?
Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer and expert in nuclear policy at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), has written a report that reveals smart meters emit 160 times more cumulative whole body exposure than cell phones. He states that:
the cumulative whole body exposure from a Smart Meter at 3 feet appears to be approximately two orders of magnitude higher than that of a cell phone, rather than two orders of magnitude lower.
The big difference between smart meter radiation and cell phone radiation is that having a cell phone or not is a matter of personal choice, if you don’t want a cell phone you don’t buy one. Smart meters, on the other hand, are being forced on populations around the globe.
If you are suffering from insomnia, dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, heart palpations, memory loss, lack of energy, tinnitus (ringing in ears) and lack of concentration, it could be the direct result of the smart meter that’s installed in your home. Smart meters are not optional, and utilities are installing them even when occupants don’t want them. What can you do?
How To Know If Your Utility Meter Is A Smart Meter
You might think you have a smart meter installed but you are not sure if it is one here is what you can do:
1. Find out if you have a smart meter installed
a. Find out if your utility company has replaced your analog meter with a smart meter by giving them a call. Providing you get someone reasonably competent on the phone you should get a straight answer to your question.
b. If your utility company can’t or won’t give you the information, first check to see if your utility meter has small dials on the face.If your meter has small dials like a chronograph on a watch then this would indicate that your meter is not a smart meter – smart meters nearly always have digital displays.
2. Test Using An EMF Meter
You can easily check the amount of radiation it’s emitting by using a radio frequency (RF) meter to measure the frequency of the radiation that the smart meter is emitting. Document the reading with a video camcorder or take pictures as proof of the levels of RF radiation you’re being exposed to. These could greatly help your case is getting the meter uninstalled by your water, gas or power utility.
3. Install an RF shield
The golden rule with shielding is to have an RF meter on hand and take readings before and after shielding to ensure its effectiveness.
There are two ways you can shield; you can either use an absorbent shield or a reflector shield. The absorbent shield absorbs RF radiation and the reflector shield deflects the RF radiation away from your home. Whichever you choose, you will need to install it between your home and the meter.
If the meter is on the outer wall, you can install the shield inside your home, directly behind the meter. But remember a reflector shield will reflect RF radiation both ways. So if you have devices like WiFi and cordless phones in your home which are situated near the reflector shield you could end up increasing the electrosmog levels in your home.
The best solution is probably to use a reflector shield directly behind the meter and then an absorber shield on top of that. This way the RF radiation that comes from the meter is reflected out and EMF radiation from inside of your home is absorbed and not reflected back into your home.
How Can I Shield My Smart Meter Cheaply?
http://www.electricsense.com/2431/smart-meter-shielding-tips/
As the video above shows, aluminum foil shields well – but I am sure if the RF meter is moved into different positions (taken out of the direct line trajectory) it will pick up radiation readings. Note: This video merely demonstrates the effectiveness of aluminum foil. This is NOT how to shield a building from the output of a smart meter, this set up would be more effective in shielding the street! And because this meter cannot measure short pulses it is not the ideal meter to use for measuring smart meter radiation.
For a more effective shielding solution, go down your local scrap yard and pick up an old Satellite TV dish (the bigger the better), this will give a nice parabolic shape on which you can stick your shielding material. Then cover with aluminum foil making sure you overlap and double fold the seams. Using an RF meter you can then move the dish into different positions (always positioning it between the smart meter and your home) checking your radiation readings inside your home to ascertain the position which offers optimum shielding.
This solution will not be possible where your smart meter is installed on an outside wall of your living accommodation, in which case it will probably be necessary to shield the wall.
However you shield you are strongly advised to ground properly. Without proper grounding the effectiveness of your shielding is likely to be greatly reduced.
It is difficult to understand why are utility companies are so intent on installing wireless smart meters when smart meters could do just the same job but much more safely by being connected to a regular telephone line.
What To Do If Your Utility Company Wants To Install A Smart Meter
If you don’t currently have a smart meter installed in your home but you find out your utility company is going to install one, there are several things you can do.  See this article for information on the steps you can take.
Take Action Now
The World Health Organization has listed RF radiation as a possible carcinogen. This means that your smart meter, that’s on all day and night-all throughout the year, increases your risk of cancer and other diseases. It’s time to get informed and take appropriate measures to protect your loved ones. Take action now!

A tipping point for the Australian economy?

Greg McKenna 9/4/12 10:46 AM

Extract from: http://www.theage.com.au/business/the-economy/a-tipping-point-for-the-australian-economy-20120904-25baw.html

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Synchronised diving: not just an Olympic sport. Photo: Getty Images

Tipping Point: The prevalence of a social phenomenon sufficient to set in motion a process of rapid change; the moment when such a change begins to occur. – Oxford English Dictionary

As social science writer Malcolm Gladwell says in his book of the same name, when the tipping point is reached little things can make a big difference.

While Gladwell was largely writing about society and ideas, in the markets the impact of the tipping point, the butterfly effect, or whatever you want to call the apparently minor change can be even more extreme. With the price for assets, both physical and derivative, already set at the margin, when sentiment shifts it doesn’t take long for things to change significantly.

Over the past few weeks, sentiment towards Australia and the sustainability of the mining boom has been shifting. While for some time at Macro Investor we’ve been talking about the fall in bulk commodity prices and the impact this move will have on national income, it’s now entered the mainstream consciousness globally.

Everywhere from Financial Times to the Sacramento Bee the talk is that the mining boom is over, that China is not going to stimulate its own economy in the manner it did last time, that the forward-looking indicators of global growth are parlous. Australia has gone in a short space of time from the lucky country to the country whose luck is running out.

But on the main stage we still see business leaders, top commentators and politicians in a tizz, either denying there ever was a mining boom, saying it never mattered anyway, or reassuring us that it will endure for another 20 years.

And just to add to the confusion, the Australian government has distracted the electorate by removing the carbon price floor of $15 a tonne and offering big new packages for dentistry and education. With risks to balancing budgets from mining now compounded by risk to budget blowouts from carbon, schools and teeth, our much-vaunted AAA-rating will come under question if the government isn’t clear and careful.

Less cocky

While we don’t want to get into a partisan slinging match, foreign investors and media are watching with incredulity.

Before, Australia looked so smart: it had escaped the GFC, its banks were worth more than Europe’s (despite serving a tenth the population) and its residential property market continued to outstrip wages, rents and inflation.

But now, Australia looks dumb: it’s hitched its wagon to a flailing Chinese dragon, its got a series of budgetary black holes and its political debate looks as crazy as a Republican primary.

In a week where the headline economic news is likely to be dominated by industrial production data, European central banks and US non-farm payrolls, there are some serious questions being raised about the state of affairs down-under.

What happened to Australia’s counter-cyclicality? What happened to Australia’s competitive advantage? Are Australia’s banks really worth that much when you can get a Credit Suisse and a Standard Chartered for the price of a CBA?

Moreover, are Australia’s houses good value when a shack in Byron costs more than a flat in Paris? Are Australian wages reasonable when a truckie in Kalgoorlie earns more than a team in Jo’burg? Is Australia’s dollar fairly priced when it buys you an ice-cream in Brisbane for the same as a dinner in Singapore?

Flagging

When those answers are met with incredulity or proclamations that we’re the best country in the world and that’s the way things are, don’t expect more than a cool response from the international hedge fund and asset management community.

Whipping up the patriotism might work when you’re playing for a home crowd, but it won’t impress those who observe our situation from the perspective of distance or neutrality.

Some are seeing this sudden crescendo of negative overseas sentiment towards Australia as a crowded trade, but it’s perhaps crowded for a reason.

If commodity prices do not recover sustainably then the mining boom is very close to its peak. A large current account deficit is in the offing as LNG construction and still-too-high consumption drives big imports but export revenues fall heavily.

Then there’s the drive to government surplus which supports the nation’s public and private credit ratings and keeps at bay the ever-present questions about our expensive houses.

Indeed, once the herd starts moving, those in the way better move out of the hooves’ way.

Short sighted

With the Australian dollar where it is despite no action from the US Federal Reserve and with Aussie bank credit default swaps pricing in smooth sailing despite brewing September storms in Europe, both these assets are looking like obvious shorts.

And with China facing a situation where it cannot risk stimulus without risking inflation, despite a rapidly weakening construction and export market, signs are few that there’ll be a rebound in mining in the short term.

Things look rosy when viewed within the prism of Australia’s unique position in the global economic landscape, but look beyond our shores or the last reporting season and confidence looks misplaced or worse.

Just like that fabled moment in time, when the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo were worth more than the entire real estate market of California, we wonder if a tipping point has been reached for Australia.

Greg McKenna is chief investment strategist at Macro Investor, Australia’s independent newsletter advising on stocks, trades, property and fixed interest. Macro Investor is running a series of specials on how profit from the end of the mining boom. Take up your free 21 day trial today.