Thursday, 17 May 2012

Stay Focussed on Our Renewable Energy Future!

Over the passed few days some of you may have heard some outspoken environmentalists talking about the dangers of large scale renewable energy.

Aerial view of the PS10 solar tower plant outside Seville, Spain
It would seem to me a sensible thing to accommodate both localised and large scale forms of renewable energy. I have been talking about this here in Warrnambool for a number of years now as the SW of Victoria is possibly the richest renewable area in Australia. We have wind a plenty (if the Baillieu Govt would only let us use it), wave energy, geothermal and of course the potential for both solar panels and solar thermal.

In places like Warrnambool which supports a population of 35,000 it would be sensible to create power from our own sources of wind and waste with perhaps a booster from centralised large scale sources as well.

This is a picture of the Spittelau incineration plant which supplies heating to a district in Vienna.

Essential services already have their own emergency generators. It would be good to see these move immediately to renewable sources such as waste from our local tips and for organisations such as hospitals waste from the kitchens and other sources.

These are solar heating panels.

Renewable heat technology

It is good to have such conversations as long as they are productive because they may help us refine our understanding of what a clean energy future might look like and help us to work out what our country will actually require to transition toward a fully functioning clean energy future for all our purposes. However, in the light of catastrophic human induced climate change, it would be very unwise to allow these differing opinions to distract us from our united aim to create 100% renewable clean and efficient energy for our country and the entire world.

I agree with Ben Courtice from Friend's of The Earth. The Government of Australia must make a plan for the clean energy future which involves the restructuring of our energy grid to include both localised and centralised renewable power sources.

A centralised energy grid would seem to be more appropriate for urban communities with prioritisation of energy efficiency and the maximisation of domestic feed in potential with an eye on the development of future technologies.

It would seem to me that localised production makes more sense in rural and remote areas such as Warrnambool and if that means we need some centralised help to run our businesses and industries then that should be available too.

Many of us are already aware that we cannot go on forever with the 'business as usual' mentality but perhaps we can make the transition smoother by staying focussed and working with governments, industries and communities to make a renewable energy future possible. We need to work together, not against each other.

This is a picture of the Nesjavellit Geothermal power plant in Iceland.
File:NesjavellirPowerPlant edit2.jpg

Here is an example of what the localised renewable energy advocates have been saying.

Hello friends,
the following link is to a post by John Isaacs-Young, who is active in
Transition Sunshine Coast, He points out that there are serious
unexamined assumptions about movements to cut emissions and solve the
climate change problem with large scale renewable energy projects. The
probable almost certain future is one with drastically less energy not
more business as usual.
Big Green Tech - and the Beyond Zero Emissions movement could be
wasting vital energy and resources duplicating our existing
dysfunctional centralized energy infrastructure when what we will need
is locally produced electricity.
In the face of declining energy (money) availability and the
disintegration of the world as we have come to know it, we will tend
to want to cling to our big-system world and demand that it be fixed.
Most of us will continue to lend our support to those who claim to be
able to bring it back. Those who enjoy or have enjoyed positions of
power are even more invested and will be relentless in their efforts
to rebuild the big systems. Time and again this will look like it is
going to work, only to fail again - think Grecce. Eventually we will
get the idea. There will be a shift in values and a different way of
doing things with less energy.
"Climate activists in particular", says David Holmgren, "tend to focus
on the fossil energy industries as the 'enemy' (both for generating
greenhouse gases and funding climate change denial), but naturally see
any parties accepting the new climate change agenda as allies. I
believe that many of the global players promoting the climate change
agenda are as dangerous as those denying that agenda."
I commend this article to you.

Beyond Zero Emissions " BZE are developing a detailed, costed blueprint for the transition to a completely decarbonised Australian economy by 2020. The Zero Carbon Australia project will consist of 6 transition plans covering the 6 sectors of energy, buildings, transport, land use, industrial processes and coal exports."

1 comment:

  1. Some in the Transition Towns movement, and Ted Trainer in particular (apparently Holmgren too) have been quite outspoken in attacking BZE and renewable energy deployment in general. Their arguments may sound appealing on face value, but don't stack up very well when you look at the economics of scale.

    Some things work well on a decentralised basis (solar panels for example) others on relatively centralised/large basis (solar thermal plants, wind farms to a lesser extent). The great centralisation of coal or nuclear power is of course likely to be a thing of the past.

    Manufacturing and deploying any of these technologies, even solar panels, would be almost impossible without some larger scale, centralised resources in both energy and industry.

    I'd suggest that comments like this from Holmgren:

    "The out of control power of money and markets is leading us more rapidly towards the collapse of human civilization than the short-comings and impacts of any specific activity or technology including the burning of fossil fuels."
    is a bit off the topic. I'm all in favour of removing the power of money and markets, but we also have to act on the level of stopping our greenhouse emissions, soon, however long it may take to bring about a change in the economic system.

    One example, if we reversed Kennett's privatisation, put the whole power industry back in public ownership, I'd still be for renewable energy and in fact I think a public system would deliver that outcome more efficiently than the current one. It would have the ability to plan and balance projects across the state, and could make more resources available for community education and consultation than the small developers now operating in the sector.

    But renewable energy is not a diversion from bigger issues, a mere techno-fix; it is a great opportunity to break the power of the fossil fuel industry. We should all seize that opportunity. The naysayers are missing the real point.