Technologies for tomorrow

Why TRUenergy hit the panic button over renewables.

By Giles Parkinson on 10 September 2012 .
Extract from:

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:
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?

Facebook meets Gehry: two top cultural influencers team up …

By Reena Jana | August 29, 2012, 3:15 AM PDT

Extract from:
Facebook’s Katigbak snapped and posted a photograph of Gehry and Zuckerberg, both smiling while and looking at a physical model of the new building. In the shot, the two look like peers in their t-shirts, despite their 55-year age difference. The image, to me, says a lot about the parallel powers of both architecture and social networking in today’s culture–er, should I say, the power of Frank Gehry and of Facebook, specifically. Across generations and across disciplines, they are hugely influential shapers of human experience, physical and virtual, and both are using design as a strategy to innovate.
Last Friday, social networking giant Facebook announced it has hired renowned architect Frank Gehry to expand its current headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The pairing reflects the two parties’ ongoing, respective pursuits of design as an innovation strategy.
From the first report on the project, by Bloomberg architecture critic James S. Russell, to the thorough analysis of Facebook’s possible marketing goals related to the Gehry announcement by The Atlantic’s Emily Chertoff, journalists are combing over the architect’s plans in great detail. It’s going to be one, gigantic room that will house 2,800 engineers. Conference rooms and other meeting areas, including “micro-kitchens,” will pepper the huge open space, which “somewhat resembles a warehouse,” as Facebook’s Everett Katigbak, the company’s Environmental Design Manager, described the design on a blog post.
The big room is meant to make it easy for staff to move around and work flexibly with teams as needed, rearranging their desks as need be. The epic workspace, which Bloomberg reports as 420,000 square feet, or 10 acres, in size, will be sandwiched in between a parking garage below and a garden up on the roof. A tunnel under a highway will connect Gehry’s structure with the current Facebook campus. The company plans to break ground on the Gehry building by early next year, with a fast construction period to follow.
The design is far more subdued than the sparkling, undulating buildings that Gehry has created for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain or the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. With its intentionally unfinished feel, and its planned quick building timeline, the new Gehry Facebook edifice seems to suggest a sense of nimble iteration. This concept reflects how Facebook designs its products and services: speedily, in a current state of “testing,” and always open to change (often after much, ahem, honest feedback from its users).
In the case of Gehry, in this situation, it’s to rethink how physical space can affect how a major, public company structures (or un-structures) its daily operations in an era of start-up worship. And as we’ve discussed here on SmartPlanet, Gehry has also been pushing in directions beyond building grand, showcase structures, having recently designed an eco-friendly duplex in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina victims; he’s also expanded his business by creating software tools for designers, too. In the case of Facebook, more generally, the company is striving to establish how a clean-looking and yet ever-changing, often-debated social networking platform affects how we share and collect information about our lives in new ways. While some may say the pairing is a simply a meeting of big brands–which it is– it can also be seen as a meeting of ambitious and imaginative minds.
Image: Facebook. Photo by Everett Katigbak.

The End of the Industrial Revolution …….

Aug 23, 2012

Reproduced with kind permission of Paul Gilding.


Paul is an independent writer, advisor and advocate for action on climate change and sustainability. An activist and social entrepreneur for 35 years, his personal mission and purpose is to lead, inspire and motivate action globally on the transition of society and the economy to sustainability. He pursues this purpose across all sectors, working around the world with individuals, businesses, NGOs, entrepreneurs, academia and government.

What a privilege it is to be alive in these times, in such a significant period in human history. It’s not always easy to see moments of great historical importance when you’re in the middle of them. Sometimes they’re dramatic, like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the landing on the moon. But more often the really big ones appear, from within them, to be unfolding in slow motion. Their actual drama and speed then only becomes clear in hindsight.

That’s how it will be with this. But in the end we’ll look back at this moment and say, yes, that’s when it was clear, that’s when the end game began. The end game of the industrial revolution.

Hang on, you’re thinking. The industrial revolution? With its belching smokestacks, dirty industry and steam engines? You thought we left that behind long ago, right? You look at your smart phone, robots on Mars, the rise of Facebook and Google and think ‘we’re well past all that’. Isn’t this the age of knowledge, when we’re all hyper-connected in a 24/7 information rich economy? Think again.

Hiding behind those entertaining devices, information overload and exciting new companies, the real bulk of the economy is still being driven by those dirty belching smokestacks and is still being shaped by those who inherited the economic momentum of 19th century England – the coal, oil and gas industries. Look at any list of the world’s 20 largest companies by turnover and you’ll see around three quarters are either producing fossil fuels, trading them or converting them into transport or energy. So I’m afraid the proverbial belching smokestacks still underpin our economy. But they are now in terminal decline. Yes, after 250 years, their time is coming to an end – and faster than you, or they, think.

For those of us focused on social change, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this. When I was writing my book The Great Disruption during 2010, and even when it was published just a year ago, the ideas in it were still fringe to the mainstream debate – a radical and provocative interpretation of what was happening. Most thought my argument – that a crisis driven economic transformation was inevitable – were, if correct, certainly not imminent and would not impact for decades. Just two years later, we only have to look around to see the disruption underway, as the old economy grinds to a halt, and the incredible opportunity for change that is now all around us.

It’s going to be a wild and exhilarating ride, with winners and losers, crises and breakthroughs. There’ll be a fair amount of chaos and we’ll teeter on the edge for a while, wondering if we’ll get through. But we will, and we’ll then look back to this time and say, yes, I was there.  I was there when the third great wave of human progress began. The first was the domestication of plants and animals, enabling what we today see as civilisation to form. The second was the industrial revolution with its great technological and human progress but inherent unsustainability because it depended on taking energy from the past and ecological capacity from the future.

Now we shift to the third great wave, the world post the industrial revolution. To an economy designed to last, that is built around the present and nurtures the future. This will be an era where we…… well, that’s the exciting bit. We get to decide what comes next. We get to decide what the third great phase of human progress looks like.

Like many, I feel a great impatience sitting here on the edge of it all. Waiting for it to be clear to everyone that it’s time to stop pretending the old models will somehow get back to normal. We lurch from crisis to crisis, but never seem to face up to the reality that old normal is gone, that step change is now our only option. I’m not alone in that impatience. The legendary investment manager Jeremy Grantham recently said “The economic environment seems to be stuck in a rather unpleasant perpetual loop. ……I, for one, wish that the world would get on with whatever is coming next.”

The world actually is getting on with it, at an incredible pace, but building the momentum of the new takes time. And perhaps of more immediate concern, the dismantling of the old economy and the decline of the fossil fuel industry is being fiercely resisted by those who own it. To be fair, you can’t really blame them. I can’t imagine I’d take kindly to everything I assumed about the world being proven wrong and all my success now being blamed for the potential collapse of civilization. Denial and delay would be quite appealing!

But none of that really matters because the end of their world is going to happen regardless of anything they do. You can buy your way to political influence but you can’t buy new laws of physics. So we will change, not because of any great moral battle between good and evil, but because people and economics will respond to physical limits – the limits of the climate’s capacity to absorb our waste, the limits of our food production to keep pace with our demand, the limits of living on one planet.

Thus the need to act is no longer just a moral imperative, it’s now a social and economic necessity.

I will over forthcoming Cockatoo Chronicles unpack this argument in more detail, explore how this is unfolding around us, and why we should be excited rather than fearful. I realise many people look at the world events and feel fear – I certainly have those days. After all, as was argued in a recent oped in the NYT by US scientists: “There can be little doubt that what was once thought to be a future threat is suddenly, catastrophically, upon us.”

But when we look at the current US drought, at what is looking like the third global food crunch in just 5 years, and the extraordinary increases in the melt rates of arctic sea ice, all happening along side debt overload and the endless, lurching economic crises that Jeremy Grantham refers to, you can respond in two ways.  Yes, these things are cause for great concern, reasons to worry about the suffering that is now and will keep unfolding around us.

But they also say, with clarity and finality, the old economic model is dead. This is not a crisis, there will be no “return to normal”. This is the old world, the world that started in 1750 with the industrial revolution and the assumption that more stuff was all we needed for progress, steadily grinding to a halt.  The great economic expansion that drove us through the 19th and 20th centuries, is all but over. Over because it’s physically impossible for it to keep going. This is not philosophy. When things are unsustainable, they stop.

This process is going to be very messy. The climate is becoming highly unstable. The fossil fuel industry is going to fight a ferocious rear guard battle to hold on to the old ways. There is an incredible consolidation of wealth and power by the rich. And the economy is facing intolerable debt and financial pressures.

With the earth full, we are now trapped between debt and growth. If we grow, then spiking prices of oil, food and other commodities, along with ecological constraints will bring down the economy as they did in 2007/8. Yet our impossible levels of debt can only be paid off if we grow. Given we can’t, the financial system will soon break again and this time even more dramatically.

But we can no longer prevent any of those things – they are todays’ reality.  What we can do, and what will have the most impact on that situation, is to accelerate the process of dismantling the old and building the new. It is true that all the changes we need to make happen, would occur by themselves over time. But because ecosystem breakdown is driven by lagging causes – the impact keeps happening long after the pollution that caused it – we don’t have time. This makes acceleration the key challenge.  Within that context there is much we can do

For a start, we can slow down the last gasp expansion of the coal, oil and gas industries. This is a significant question because the carbon budget is nearly all spent. As Bill McKibben recently argued, the science is now very clear that we have a choice – we either face an out of control climate that will decimate society and the economy or we can rapidly remove those industries from the economy. There is no middle path. And the later we start, the more pain there will be.

We can also drive even harder, the incredibly exciting growth in solar. We can encourage investors to shift from the old to the new. We can implore governments to tax stuff more and people less. We can build a new economy that is focused on creating jobs and good lives for people, rather than bonuses for investment bankers and profits for oil companies. We can drive down inequality, a cancer that is now eating away at democracy and social stability.

Just a decade ago, the call to invest in this new economy was driven by the moral imperative or long-term economic benefit. Today it’s up and running, and is looking more like a sprint than a marathon – a sprint any investors who don’t see it underway will lose.

Solar is perhaps the most immediate and exciting example, with enormous investment now flowing. As Giles Parkinson explains in a recent article at it’s hardly a surprise. In many countries, you can now get solar on your rooftop with payments 20% less than your current electricity bill, while still leaving enough for strong profits by those installing and financing the systems. It’s an easy business proposition to understand and as a result, investors are piling in to the space. They look at the risks in fossil fuels with the inevitability of tightening regulation on carbon, then compare it to solar and see annual growth rates there of around 40% and dramatic and ongoing cost reductions. (The total cost of a rooftop solar system has fallen over 20% in the last year and the cost of solar panels fell around 50%!) So it’s no surprise that last year we saw another new record for the amount invested in renewables – over $250 billion. It’s now up over 90% since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. (How much proof do we need that there’s a new world coming?)

There are many other examples of such progress – too many to cover here. So this longer piece is the first in a series of Cockatoo Chronicles that will explore the great economic transformation now underway. I’ll be discussing more about the solar boom, along with the inevitable crash of the carbon bubble – with its potentially dramatic consequences for fossil companies’ share prices and some national economies. Another area of focus will be the food supply crunch and its implications for conflict and national security but also the economic opportunity for sustainable food production. I’ll also write about the emerging battle between the fossil fuel industry on one side and scientists, environmentalists and the renewables industry on the other. Clear battle lines have been drawn in recent months suggesting a heavily ramped up and economically sophisticated conflict is now emerging.

Sure, there’s plenty to worry about in what’s coming and we should do all we can to smooth the way for 7 billion people to get through this transition. But we must remember, we’re now over the top of the mountain. It’s a long way down and it will certainly be a wild and bumpy ride, but history is on our side and the momentum will take us through. So let’s celebrate and remember – we are privileged to be here now, to be the ones who shape the future. And amidst the chaos and crises, let’s keep our eye on the prize – the third great wave of human progress.



Geelong’s way forward – the inaudible sound of manufacturing

The new inaudible sound of U.S. manufacturing                                                          

By Rachel James | August 10, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT

Article source:


The BBC’s Jonny Dymond describes the future of manufacturing in the United States as “quiet”.

Not because demand is down. Not because of labor strikes. But because of educational requirements and robots.

“As employment has plummeted, productivity has soared,” Dymond writes.

Akin to the shift in labor brought on by the industrial revolution, today’s technological revolution has pulled the percentage of factory work in the United States down from a third in the 1950s to below 10%.

The pay is still great – $77,186 with benefits for a standard manufacturing job in 2010. The question is, what does standard now mean?

“That path to mass middle-class work is gone,” says Lou Glazer of the consulting group Michigan Future Inc.


“The only high-paid factory work left is going [to] people who both program and maintain machines. That work is going to be high-paid but it requires much higher skills.”

There will also be fewer and fewer of these jobs available.

The clanking of hand-operated machinery has been replaced with the light whir of hydraulic lifts.

“We don’t forge things anymore,” says Aaron Crum, the president of AMI, a Michigan-based maker of fuel cells. “We use lasers to cut metal, we extrude ceramics, we do things that are different. And so because of it, we need a different labor force to make it happen.”

American identity has relied heavily on the idea that hard work pays off – hard work no matter the kind. Looking today at the rapidly shifting labor landscape, this idea appears more like a mirage.

“You just needed to be a hard worker,” Gerry Gardner, a former GM factory worker told Dymond. “And you needed to show up every day, because it wasn’t easy work. You could put the kids through college, we had a couple of weeks vacation.”

If sparks are flying in factories like AMI (and the numbers show that they are), few people are around to see them.

[via: Jonny Dymond at the BBC]

Oceans could supply 10 percent power – in Australia

By Lieu Thi Pham | August 8, 2012, 2:30 AM PDT

MELBOURNE — A new study by the CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), revealed that Australia’s oceans could supply 10 percent of the country’s electricity by 2050. This is the equivalent of powering a city the size of Melbourne, which has a population of around four million.
The Australian science agency study investigated the potential of harnessing the energy of the oceans — from waves, tides, currents and thermal energy — to power the country’s electricity from 2015 to 2050.
Their report, Ocean Renewable Energy: 2015-2050, showed that there are tremendous energy resources in Australia’s southern oceans, in particular near the west coast of Tasmania, the southern ocean in Victoria, and the south-west ocean of Western Australia.
This is the first time in Australia that ocean-based renewable energy has been assessed from resource to market development. Dr Susan Wijffels, a spokesperson for the CSIRO, said that the findings showed that wave power could be integral to Australia’s renewable energy plan.
“The idea [of ocean power] has been around for a very long time,” Dr Wijffels said. “It’s getting attention now because some countries are currently looking at how viable some of these technologies are. I suspect it has to do with the policy setting in an energy market.”
There are at least 200 wave energy converter (WEC) devices that extract the energy from either the surface motion of the waves or the pressure fluctuations below the surface. The range of this energy capture varies between devices and to differing degree of success.Some companies are currently conducting pilot tests and commercial demonstrations.
There are three main classes of WEC devices that can be loaded in various depths: Point absorber (a float that is free to follow the movement of the wave and gather wave energy from any direction); linear attenuator (a float aligned in the direction of the wave); and terminator (a device that faces the wave directly to collect the energy).
The fact that around 80 percent of Australia’s population live in coastal areas, suggests that wave power will play a very significant part in the country’s energy future.
Dr Wijffels claims that wave power holds many key advantages over solar and wind power, including its consistency (waves are generated both day and night), and predictability as an energy resource.
Solar and wind are subjected to sudden changes in weather, whereas wave power comes from the momentum of an ocean storm that can often take days to reach our shores.
“If you get a longer lead time, then you know that wave plant will give you power. The people that manage our electricity supply in the future will want to know when and how much renewable energy is coming in and how it will fit in to the grid,” she said.
“The other big challenge we have is getting the grid ready. How to shift power across the country very cheaply, quickly and in large volumes,” Dr Wijffels said.
She contends that the technology has the potential to be cost-effective, but this will largely be dependent on overcoming engineering challenges such as creating efficient energy farms and harvesters.
“Water is really heavy. When water is moving, it gets moved by either tidal forces or waves, and that’s a lot of momentum. The energy density, as a resource, is much higher than wind. If we can get the turbines to work efficiency, we’re using less real estate for more power. If we can build really efficient extractors that can be made cheap enough to maintain, then that advantage could be realised,” she says.
The CSIRO are careful to point out that there are many economic, technological, environmental and societal challenges that will determine wave energy’s place in Australia’s future energy mix. These include investigating the wider impacts of the technology as it relates to issues such as as marine life and aquaculture.
The CSIRO hopes that their report will encourage the renewable energy industry, government and the public to think seriously about the opportunities, as well as the challenges, for ocean technology in Australia.
Photo: WHL Travel/Flickr
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The question … turning Bellarine into an innovation centre

Turning Paris into an open-air laboratory for innovation

By Bryan Pirolli | July 20, 2012, 1:22 AM PDT
Article source:

PARIS – With the Grand Prix de l’Innovation currently in the final rounds, the French are putting more and more focus on innovation, especially in Paris.

With the 11th annual competition and 12,000 euros at stake, contestants are striving to raise the bar to rethink new technology in fields like service industries, ecology, and health.
At the same time, under the direction of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, Paris is looking to become the capital of startups in France by increasing investments in business incubators for these fledgling companies. More than twenty such spaces, like the recently opened Pépinière 27, foster physical room but also provide advising and direction for new businesses, financed in part by the city. The city aims to add 30,000 square meters to the existing 75,000 square meters of office space available to small business citywide by 2014.
One of the main leaders behind this push to enhance pioneering startups in Paris is Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor in charge of innovation and university research. Since 2008, Missika has made developmental research and urban experimentation a priority in Paris, turning the French capital into a sort of living laboratory of innovators. Smart Planet reached out to the deputy mayor’s office to take the pulse of the French innovation and new business incubation.
SP: Innovation is very in vogue in France, so how do you interpret this idea?
JM: Innovation is a way to reinvent permanently. For a city, it’s obviously vital.
Innovation is, it’s about betting on the economy of collective knowledge and know-how. Open innovation exposes you to collect all the ingenuity and inventiveness throughout the world. A simple example: we have a wide experimentation policy, which transforms Paris into an open-air laboratory so that businesses, startups and designers can test their prototypes in real conditions, testing them on real live Parisians.
With this in mind, we launched a call for experimental urban projects and left it deliberately open-ended. Those with 30 years in urban development, the leading experts, predicted that we would have four or five responses. We had 50, and right now we are testing 40 prototypes across Paris. Some have already convinced investors and were purchased for broader use.
SP: In your opinion, do the French value innovation or is there a distrust of perpetual change?
JM: The French are attached to their traditions because they have a lot of very beautiful and very old ones.  Still, at the same time we can love Camembert, red wine, and smartphones. The French, like everyone, know how to recognize and appreciate innovation that will change their lives. We can recall, for example, that 37 percent of French connect to broadband Internet while only 30 percent do in America.
SP: What are the motivations for City Hall to support so many new small business incubators?
JM: Businesses that are creating themselves in incubators are the jobs and taxes of tomorrow. It’s a real investment and a wager for the future. Public power can try to help the players in the former economy that are disappearing and pay indemnities to the jobless, or instead they can help entrepreneurs to create new economic models, new wealth, and new jobs for the city’s inhabitants. We are lucky to have excellent universities and good infrastructure allowing incubators to set up on fertile ground.
SP: Are startups in France as fragile as they seem to be? Is the situation in France really that difficult for entrepreneurs?
JM: That’s like asking, “Are your kids so fragile that you have to help them go to university for them to make their way in life?” Sure, certain entrepreneurs could make it themselves, but with help, it’s even better. We’re not taking over the businesses, but on the contrary we are welcoming them and letting them find their own rhythm by giving them certain tools. It’s also the chance for them to enter the ecosystem, to meet other entrepreneurs, to form their first partnerships. It’s a model that proves itself in France but also worldwide like in Israel or the U.S.
SP: Are French investors intimidated by the risk of investing in a startup in sustainable technology, or in any field for that matter?
JM: The problem for investments in France is not limited to risky sectors, it’s more general than that. It’s based on one thing: the timidity of French and European financers. Something very symbolic, what we call “venture capital” in English, translates in French as “capital risque.” We see a difference there in the mentality of financial institutions. What you call in the U.S. an adventure, we in France call a risk.
There is a dramatic lack of financing, but the situation is getting better little by little thanks to, for example, the new generation of French millionaires of the internet age, who invest a lot.  International investors are beginning to look our way, and with good reason: there are excellent startups with very little competition, so there’s lots of money to be made.
Photo: RSLN

Is Australia & The Bellarine ready for the electric car ?

Charging station reflected in Holden Volt

MELBOURNE — Early this year, Victoria’s first solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station was opened for public use at the CERES Community Centre.
By Lieu Thi Pham | June 27, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT
Extract from:
Charging station reflected in Holden Vault
The solar charging station, located in Melbourne’s north, is currently generating clean and renewable electricity to power the city’s EVs.
The initiative is a result of a collaboration between the Australian and Victorian governments, solar companies Q-CELLS Australia, who donated 12 Q.PROsolar photovoltaic (PV) modules, and Delta Energy Systems, who donated the solar inverter.
Over the past few years, the Australia Federal and Victorian governments have, to a degree, supported the renewable energy sector, particularly solar PV, through feed-in-tariffs and other rebates.
Given the importance of energy security, the launch of the solar charging station is a modest but significant milestone for Australia’s energy future.
“Australia is following a trend that has started in Europe”, Pfeiffer said. “The community is much more aware of the need to be more environmentally friendly. The Victorian Government is actively supporting this trend through its EV Trial of which the station at CERES forms part of.”
To date, EVs (and their hybrid cousins) have been met with some skepticism in Australia (despite the country’s abundance of solar energy). The nation’s slow adoption of EVs is centred on four sticking points; how efficient, expensive, capable (i.e. their range) and environmentally sustainable they are, in comparison to their petroleum-fuelled counterparts.
“Of course the idea of EVs is to curb our carbon footprint and to make our lives more sustainable,” Pfeiffer said. “Provided they run on electricity generated from renewables, electric cars do go some way toward addressing the issues of oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as air and noise pollution from cars idling around densely populated cities.”
“But if they run on energy generated from coal-fired power, then they merely transfer pollution from Australia’s cities to rural locations and do nothing to reduce emissions. This is where solar PVs can greatly contribute,” Pfeiffer said.
Judy Glick, a CERES spokesperson, indicated that the CERES charging station is emission-free. “Our charge station is fitted with a 2.8KW PV system which is the size of a system needed to charge a standard vehicle. It is therefore possible to have no carbon emissions resulting from the use of an electric vehicle charged in this manner.

Solar modules donated by solar provider Q-Cells Australia capture energy from the sun to power greener electric vehicles.

Solar modules donated by solar provider Q-Cells Australia capture energy from the sun to power greener electric vehicles.

The CERES charge station is fitted with aChargePoint, which is the interface between the electricity source and the car charging apparatus.
The ChargePoint is compatible with all major electric vehicles on the market or about to come on the market.
According to research, electric cars have an average efficiency of 80%, which is much higher when compared to conventional gasoline engines that can effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content, or diesel engines which can only achieve efficiencies of around 20% [Source: Shah, Saurin D. (2009). “2”. Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington? (1st ed.). The Brookings Institution. pp. 29, 37 and 43].
According to CERES, current electric vehicles will take around 5 hours to fully charge from a flat battery and costs about $3 compared to around $15-17 for petrol to get the equivalent distance of 100km. The ChargePoint is designed to deal with advances in vehicle and battery technology to enable faster charging in the future.
“To date, prices of EVs are still higher compared to conventional vehicles. However taking running and maintenance costs into consideration, EVs will become a viable option within the next few years,” Pfeiffer said.
“Sustainability and renewable energy in particular are still quite new concepts in Australia and have not yet received the same traction as in Europe and especially Germany. Public education about the benefits of sustainable transport options and its relative ease of implementation are issues that need to be tackled,” Pfeiffer said.
ChargePoint Chief Executive officer James Brown claimed that Australia’s late entry into the market has been an advantage. “Other countries have been ‘debugging’ the technology on our behalf and developing the appropriate charging solutions…” he said.
The high capital investment required to get EVs to market in an economically viable form has, to an extent, depended on the initial take up in larger markets such as the U.S., Europe and Japan.
In 2009 the global EV market was worth more than $26 billion. This market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5% between 2010 and 2015, this will result in a $78 billion global market in 2015 [Source: the BCC].

The CERES charging station is part of the Victorian Electric Vehicle Trial, a government initiative that will help to roll out much more efficient transport options, to improve air quality in our cities and above all, to create new job opportunities for Australians.
Victoria is one of only 15 places worldwide where a car can be taken from design through to the showroom floor [Source: Victorian EV Trial website].
This Victorian EV Trial will run until mid-2014 with vehicle participants such as Holden, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Blade Electric Vehicles, and EDay, all on aboard. The general public can take part in the trial by registering their interest to drive an electric powered vehicle for three months.
In 2011, the top-selling EV (the Mitsubishi i-MiEV) in Australia sold only 30 vehicles [Source: Drive]. Despite this low figure, Brown remained positive about Australia’s uptake of the EV in the coming years. ”Ten years down the track the expectation is that up to 20% of all new vehicles sold in Australia will be EVs,” he said.
Of course, the big oil companies claim that electric cars will never outnumber gasoline and diesel models. [Source: Reuters].
However, the Australian Government is confident that EVs will make up 20% of new car sales in Australia by the end of the decade and 45% by 2030.
The public release of the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (soon to be followed by the Holden Volt and the Renault Fluence) in Australia, seems to suggest that the country is ready for the electric car — but it still remains unclear just how quickly and successful this uptake will be.
Photo: © GM, courtesy of Holden Australia (main), CERES (insert).

Renewable energy scorecard: How the G20 nations stack up

Renewable energy — once a mere blip on the world’s radar screen

— has finally gained a foothold, notably in the countries that compromise the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Governors known as the G20.

By Kirsten Korosec | June 12, 2012, 4:15 AM PDT

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Since 2002, the G20 countries have more than tripled the amount of their electricity produced from wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and wave power, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released Monday. Global investment in renewable energy also has boomed, growing 17 percent to hit a record $257 billion in 2011, according to a separate report released Monday by the UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainability Energy Finance.
Despite these advances, the share of electricity from renewable energy sources is still a small portion — just 2.6 percent for the G20 as a whole — of their overall electricity mix.

The NRDC’s Delivering on Renewable Energy Around the World: How Do Key Countries Stack Up? report ranks the G20 nations based on the share of electricity that comes from renewable energy. The report also aims to petition world leaders ahead of this month’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to commit to increasing the amount of renewable energy to 15 percent of total electricity by 2020 — more than double what is predicted under current trends.
The United States increased its share of electricity produced by renewable sources by 341 percent over the past decade. And it ranked second in total energy produced from wind, solar, geothermal and tidal with 111.93 billion kilowatt hours in 2011. Still, only 2.7 percent of its total electricity production came from renewable energy, putting it in seventh place behind France, the UK and several other European countries.
Within the G20, Germany had the largest amount of its electricity produced from renewable energy in 2011. The European Union as a bloc was ranked second. Italy, Indonesia and the UK rounded out the top five. (Check out the graphic below for the complete scorecard.)
All of these countries trail Spain, Portugal, Iceland and New Zealand, which produce 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and wave power, the NRDC said. For example, only 10.7 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources.
South Korea experienced the largest growth since 2002, followed by China and then Brazil.

Clean energy investments also increased in the past decade, according to the NRDC and separate UNEP reports. since 2004, new clean energy investment in the G20 nations grew almost 600 percent, far outpacing the growth in the overall economy in those countries.
This year could produce more disappointing results. Global investment in clean energydropped to $27 billion in the first quarter of the year, the weakest posting since the depths of the financial crisis in early 2009, according to an April analysis by research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Green Star – Communities: A MUST READ game changer

WED 13 JUN 2012 Romilly Madew, Chief Executive / Green Building Council of Australia

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For many years, a Green Star rating has been a symbol of environmental sustainability.  From towering skyscrapers to low-rise schools, Green Star has driven a market shift towards integrated, holistic design and construction.
However, buildings are just one part of the sustainability equation.

Broader sustainability issues around our communities and cities are just as significant, such as the design of our public spaces, the affordability of housing, engagement processes with our stakeholders, climate adaptation and community resilience.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has long recognised that improving the sustainability of our communities is Australia’s next great challenge.

And tomorrow, after two-and-a-half years of hard work and extensive collaboration, we will release our response to this challenge: Green Star – Communities,  one of the world’s first independent, transparent, national schemes able to assess and certify the sustainability of community-level development projects.

At Green Cities 2009 I led a discussion on how we could evolve from greening our buildings to greening entire communities. The feedback from industry was definitive: a rating tool to help transform and better plan our communities was the answer. This rating tool, industry said, should encompass the full spectrum of sustainability issues – economic, social and environmental.
Our first step was to establish a national framework for sustainable communities. By 2010, the framework outlined five national best practice principles to guide sustainable communities in Australia. These have since expanded to six categories: Liveability; Economic Prosperity; Environment; Design; Governance; and Innovation.
Once those principles were clearly articulated, the GBCA pulled together 135 talented people from across the industry – from academia, social and town planning, project, development and facilities management, economics, policy, built form and urban design, scientific and environmental engineering, and all three tiers of government – to work on the project. Thirty eight sponsors, including every state and territory government land organisation threw their weight behind the development of the rating tool. 
We believe tomorrow marks the beginning of a new voluntary national standard for our industry. The Green Star – Communities rating tool will provide federal government with a vehicle for delivering and measuring policy outcomes, state governments with guidance for planning, approval and benchmarking of significant projects, and local governments with a framework for greater sustainable development outcomes and collaboration with industry. 
The tool will also facilitate more efficient development processes and ultimately help developers get their products out to market quicker. Financiers will gain a framework for sustainable investment. And consumers will have the ability to make informed decisions about their lifestyles.
This next phase of the tool’s evolution is no less important than the development phase, and from tomorrow, Thursday 14 June, we are seeking expressions of interest from potential PILOT projects. The PILOT process will enable us to test the tool’s draft benchmarks and analyse feedback, which will then be incorporated into Version 1 of the tool. 
Fact sheets, a business case and a Green Star – Communities PILOT Submission Guideline and Scorecard can be downloaded from our website:
We will also be supporting the application of Green Star – Communities with new education and skills development opportunities, as well as an accreditation for practitioners who specialise in green communities.
With some of Australia’s largest greenfield and urban infill projects lining up to pilot the rating tool, Green Star – Communities is set to be a ‘game changer’

Paris launch of electric car scheme – December 2011

Four years after Paris underwent a "vélorution" with its hit low-cost rent-a-bike scheme, the French capital on Monday officially launched its electric car equivalent: Autolib’.


A car leaves a parking station for the Autolib’ electric car-share scheme on a street in Paris Photo: AP

clip_image003 By Henry Samuel, Paris 6:05PM GMT 05 Dec 2011

As of Monday morning, some 250 of the eerily silent four-seater electric vehicles are now available for hire in ranks in and around the capital. The fleet will expand to 3,000 cars in 1,100 ranks by the middle of next year, many strategically located near metro and railway stations.

Like the hugely popular Vélib bike system, users rent a car at one location and can drop it off at another.

Other major capitals, including London and Paris already have non-electric car share schemes. But officials say that France is the first to deploy an all-electric fleet using a new generation of longer lasting lithium-metal-polymer batteries.

"Now we can imagine the city without the stink and noise of exhaust pipes," said  French magnate Vincent Bollore, whose company is supplying the cars.

"You can walk behind an Autolib car with a pushchair and not worry about fumes."

But the scheme has its share of critics.

Some Greens claim it will "reorient those who had chosen public transport towards the automobile" and that the use of electric engines encourages nuclear power – France’s prime electricity generator.

Taxi drivers have tried to take the scheme to court for "unfair competition" while Paris’ conservative UMP opposition worry it will be a financial flop.

Paris’ Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë sought to silence the doubters at the launch, saying it was "a revolution" that would spell "fewer parked cars, less traffic and less pollution".

"A little more than four years ago we introduced the Vélib’, it was an innovation as well as a risk which was met with scepticism and sarcasm," the mayor said.

The cars have been made ultra-resistant in the hope they will withstand vandalism that has become the blight of the Vélib’ scheme.

Contracts cost 144 euros (£123) per year or 133 for families, plus four or five euros for each half-hour of use. Daily or weekly memberships are also on offer.

The cars contain GPS systems and a panic button with which users can speak to one of 1,000 "ambassadors" should they get stuck.

Bolloré said the scheme so far had 2,000 subscribers, but would need 80,000 to break even.