Thursday, September 27, 2012

Click to Save on Hot Water

Electric hot water sucks. (Money that is). But here's your chance to lower your bills (and other people's too).

The old electric systems are cheap to buy, but cost a fortune to run. The ticket price lures us into buying them. Later we suffer the consequences - in the wallet and in greenhouse emissions).

Over time, the old electric system can easily cost $10,000 more than an efficient one. We should stop buying them. When they break, we should upgrade to something better. But of course, not everyone realises this. And landlords don't care, because it's the renter who pays the electricity.

So there's a rule here in Queensland that replacement systems (or systems in new homes) have to be more efficient. Sadly, the government is looking at scrapping that rule, and allowing energy-hungry systems to be installed.

Fortunately, the government is asking our opinion this time. So head to the survey page and let them know that you'd like the rule to remain in place. Hopefully the next home you move into will have a more modern system and you won't have to pay thousands for your hot water.

PS. The cost projections were done on system prices provided by the government, and on this year's electricity prices, allowing for a 8% increase each year (which if anything is possibly underestimating the cost - given recent history)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What if Australia was melting?

Last week i talked about the ice melt in the Artic, and ACF did a spot-the-difference picture. This week they are comparing it to Australia - because in a normal summer, that's about how much ice there is.

The extra melting would be the equivalent of all the eastern states of Australia - and then some more. That's a fairly massive amount of ice to melt - and this summer (in the Arctic) wasn't even a hot one!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Checking out the Leaf

I've been fairly excited that the new Nissan Leaf is now available in Australia. I was even more excited when a friend mentioned getting one. Recently i got to check it out - and take a ride. More on that soon. :)

UPDATE: Read my posts on Riding in the Leaf and Charging up the Leaf.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spot The Difference

The other day i wrote a relatively technical piece (with diagrams) about the melting of the arctic ice cap.

The ACF have gone for a much simpler visualisation... in puzzle format.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Walk for Solar

People from the town of Port Augusta are walking over 300km to Adelaide as part of their campaign to have the coal-fired power station (which is closing anyway) replaced with solar power.

You can follow their progress on the Walk for Solar site. As i write this, they have completed 74km, with 254km still to go. They aim to get to Adelaide by September 30.

Other walks (very very much smaller) will be happening around the country on that day, in support of the Port Augusta people and their quest for solar power in their town.

[Find a walk in your state]
[Read the background on Port Augusta]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arctic 2012

Each northern summer, the Arctic ice melts a bit (well a lot actually) and in winter it grows back. But recently it's been melting much more than usual. This year, the ice has reached its lowest point ever (even lower than last year).

Various agencies measure it different ways, but all agree this year's the lowest.

The Polar Research Group has an interactive graph of ice area throughout each year (the yellow is 2012 so far).

(The difference between the highpoint in March and the low point is greater than the area of Australia, Canada or any nation other than Russia.)

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has a daily image update of the area of ocean containing ice.

The Japanese Areospace Exploration Agency compare the last few years to recent decades (each one lower than the one before).

And then saw this summary which plots the minimum volume for each year. It seems that due to the thickness decreasing, the volume is dropping even more drastically than the area.

So why is this important? (Apart from confirming that climate change is already well and truly upon us.) It is important because it accelerates what is called a 'feedback loop'.

Where sunlight previously reflected off the ice, it is now absorbed by the water. This means the globe warms faster, which mean ice melts even faster, which means the globe warms even faster, which means ice melts ... etc etc.

The effect of having so much less ice has been compared to an addition 20 years worth of carbon dioxide.

It's now no longer a question of if the Artic will lose all its ice, but when.

[More information, and effects, are listed by the Climate Commission]

PS. Ironically, on the same day the Arctic reached it's lowest point, Britain was discussing plans to expand it's biggest airport, and the Republican convention in the USA was delayed by extreme weather (the kind that is exacerbated by climate change).

Also, something i find a bit sad is that people can now gamble on how fast all this takes place.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Repowering Port Augusta

In the South Australian town of Port Augusta, the coal-fired plant is reaching the end of its days. The question is whether to replace it with a gas-fired one, or with a solar thermal power station.

Though the final decision will probably be made by politicians, the locals decided to have their say by having a town vote. And in typical country Australia style, they used the local sports scoreboard to tally up the votes.

Clearly the people are heavily in favour of solar, with a score of 4053 to 43. Not surprising that the people want to move away from burning fossil fuels - the area has a lung cancer rate 50% higher than average. Or the vote might reflect the safety of solar, or that it doesn't affect the town's water.

Even the local council is behind it - possibly because of all the local jobs it would bring (many more than coal or gas).

It seems to be the obvious solution. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Job Creation

Occassionally you hear people worry about the jobs lost in the coal industry if we take action on climate change. I even had someone ask me about it at dinner last week. But the thing is that the alternatives create many more jobs than will be lost. This graphic from 350 illustrates the point well.

To be fair, they have compared the number of jobs per million dollars invested. In terms of job creations, coal is well and truly beaten by the climate-friendly alternatives. Renewable energies like solar, wind and biomass create around twice as many jobs, while investment in piblic transport is 3 times as job-rich.

It seems the planet-friendly options are also the employment-friendly options.

[Related link: Go Green for Jobs]

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Youth Decide Election

With the Australian government reviewing the renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, the AYCC have decided to let the voice of the Australia's young people be heard - with a Youth Decide Energy Election.

There are voting events happening on university campuses around the country, but you can also vote online. So if you're 25 or under, head over to the election site and have your say on Australia's energy future. Voting closes Sept 17.

UPDATE: The votes are in - 21,000 of them. 93% voted for Australia's renewable energy target to be lifted above the 20% it is now. 40% voted to increase it to 100% renewables.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Morroco 42%

This is a picture of Morocco's Ouarzazate solar plant. The plant is part of Morocco's 42% renewable energy target - significantly more than a lot of developed nations.

The African Development Bank described Morocco as a "leader in developing low carbon sustainable energy on a large scale" and their spokesperson had this to say:
"Green growth is about finding the pathway where you achieve your ambitions in terms of social and economic development, but doing it in a way that is environmentally friendly; not only to be a global agent, but also to leave for future generations economies that are more robust and more able to produce jobs and resist climatic risks and disasters.”
If only the so-called developed nations grasped this concept as well as Morocco has.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Calculate Your Savings (Lights)

If you still have incandescent lightbulbs in your house, here is the tool for you. A calculator that can show you the huge savings of switching to CFL lighting.

Just put in the number of bulbs, and their nightly run time, and it will tell you how much could save. It tried some numbers of a typical house, and found a fairly substantial saving of $213.

It's much more user-friendly than my old method.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

South Australian Wind

I read some great stats about wind power in the state of South Australia this past week.

  • On Wednesday, 55% of the state's power came from wind farms
  • At one point on Monday, a record 85.5% of the power was wind
  • In 2011/12 wind provided 24.2% of the year's energy
  • Coal use dropped 9% during that year
  • Over 5 years, South Australia has cut emissions by 27.4%

The Clean Energy Council points out 3 good outcomes from this.
  1. Proof that renewables can generate serious amounts of power.
  2. Being ahead of Australia's renewable energy target provides extra income for locals (particularly in regional areas).
  3. It means South Australian's pay a smaller carbon price than Australians in other states.
Hopefully other Australian states can learn from SA's example.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Cleaner Cars

Good news from the USA is new car efficiency standards. By 2025 new cars will have to average 54.5 miles per gallon (compared to 27.5 now). Obviously, that's almost twice as efficient. Climate Reality showed the impact with this graphic.

graphic showing environmental impact of fuel efficiency

153 billion trees, 2 billion tonnes of recycling, saving 14 billion barrels of oil, or turning off 1422 coal-fired power station. Whatever way we look at it - that's a significant change.

It's also a change that will help the hip-pocket. Estimates are that it might add $1,800 to the purchase cost of a car by 2025, but reduce the running cost by $8,000.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Minor Role

I've just received my latest electricity bill, and it included this little flyer showing the effect of Australia's carbon price relative to the other costs involved in electricity.

The tiny green box is the carbon price impact. The next two are power generation and retail/billing. The biggest one is network infrastructure (poles and wires).

The percentages might vary slightly from state to state, but the point is that the carbon price is not the major factor in electricity prices.

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