Monday, March 31, 2014

No Advantage in Fossil Fuels

Sometimes we get told that investing in fossil fuels has some economic benefit. But does it?

The Climate Proofing your Investments report finds that it's no more profitable than investing in non fossil fuel companies.

No benefit to fossil fuel investment

The difference with fossil fuel investments is risk of what finance people call "stranded assets". Basically it means that as the world moves away from fossil fuels the value of those companies drops. After all, a coal mine isn't worth as much if people aren't buying coal.

Anyway, it's a risk you don't have to worry about - unless you, you bank or your superannuation fund is investing in fossil fuels - which they probably are.

PS. Ben Caldecott, from Oxford University is speaking at Southbank, Brisbane this Thursday night, for those interested in the finance aspect. (Or hear his interview on ABC's Radio National.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

If the invisible was visible

If we could see greenhouse emissions, there would be a lot more action on climate change. That's the theory of David Holmes. So here's what Australia's daily carbon emissions would look like (if CO2 wasn't invisible).

Daily carbon emissions in Australia

A few years ago Eastern Australia experienced a dust storm - and the sky went orange. It was all anyone was talking about. Perhaps if carbon dioxide was purple, we'd see more action on climate change.

This graphic was done by Carbon Visuals, the same people who did the Carbon Quilt.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Earth Hour - I will if you will

Saturday is Earth Hour - now celebrated by over 7000 cities in over 150 countries - each turning off there lights for one hour at 8.30pm.

Earth Hour Lights out for the Reef

Here in Australia the theme is "lights out for the reef", recognising the damage climate change can do to one of Australia's most enjoyable destinations. There will be a special Great Barrier Reef documentary on Channel 10 at 4.30pm, in the lead up to Earth Hour at 8.30pm.

You can host your own event, or attend one of the public gatherings. To do a bit more, visit the I will if you will site to accept the challenge of someone else - or to create your own.

example of Earth Hour's I will if you will pledge

If you're outside Australia, check Earth Hour around the world for your local Earth Hour site and information.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I voted for Lappeenranta

At We Love Cities, I voted for Lappeenranta (Finland). Denmark's Copenhagen was also good, but I couldn't resist Lappeenranta's 90% renewable energy, heading towards 100%.

Cities are important for sustainability. Even though 70% of energy-related carbon emissions come from cities, they have the potential to do so much good, including public transport, and bicycle facilities, recycling programs, and efficient use of energy.

You can vote for your favourite sustainable city (up until March 27) at

PS. Obviously there are no Australian cities :(

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How hot will you get?

The Guardian's new interactive guide shows you what temperature increases you (or your child) can expect to see in your (or their) lifetime.

how hot will it get in my lifetime

Adding these kind of temps to last summer is a sobering exercise, but that's not the whole story.

4°C of warming brought the planet an ice age to what we have today. That's a lot of energy, and that's what causes climate change. Drought and bushfires become harsher, extra energy fuels hurricanes and cyclones, and polar ice melts to cause sea level rise.

Often people talk about taking environmental action to leave a better world for our grandchildren. Having seen this data, we can probably now remove "grand" from that sentence. If we don't get serious about this soon, it's our own children who will face the consequences.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spain almost halfway there

In 2009, I wrote about Spain predicting 25% renewable energy by year's end. They've now reached 42.4%. That 18% in 5 years!

Wind power (21.1%) and hydro electricity (14.4%) made up the bulk of it, and solar capacity is growing rapidly. With all this renewable energy, the amount of coal power has shrunk to less than 15%.

Meanwhile in Australia, we get excited when coal gets below 75%. And our small 20% (by 2020) renewable target is under review - with the potential to be reduced.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Landfill Harmonic - Recycled Music

This video is music to the ears of recycling fans, to music lovers, and to those inspired by the poor.

I normally just talk about recycling from the view of reducing waste and saving energy. But these kids show that recycling can do even more than that.

kid and their recycled musical instruments in the landfill harmonic orchestra

If, like me, you are inspired by these kids from Paraguay, you can follow the landfillharmonic facebook page.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Angry Summer 2013/14

The results are in and 156 record were broken. Here are just some of them:

Angry Summer. Australian Heatwave and drouight records 2014

Here in Queensland, we had the hottest day ever. Victoria had 4 days in row over 41°C (106F). Adelaide had 11 days over 42°C (108F). 5 of those days were in a row. And the nights were hot too. Perth had it's hottest night of 29.7°C (85F).

The worst part is when you remember that scientists are predicting a 4-6°C rise by the end of the century. Read the previous paragraph with another 6°C (11F) added on to those temperature, and it doesn't sound good.

Add to that the bushfires, and the drought areas (my state of Queensland is now 80% drought-declared - the most ever) and it doesn't paint a very nice picture.

Perhaps it's time to take global warming seriously.

Full report and high-resolution graphic
Last year: Angry Summer 2012/13

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Aruba to go 100% renewable

Caribbean nation Aruba plans to go to 100% renewable energy by 2020. Other Caribbean islands are looking to follow their lead.

There are plenty of benefits for the small island nation. Apart from utilising the plentiful sunshine and wind, there's financial savings to be made. Aruba used to spend 16% of its economy of fuel - purchasing 6,500 barrels of diesel a day. Already renewables have brought down the electricity price by 25%.

Jamaica and Barbados lead a group of nations looking to switch to renewables.

More info: News article

Related link: Philippines to go 100% renewable

Friday, March 07, 2014

So much for "Sunshine State"

Just when I thought the Queensland government was running out of the ways to attack renewable energy, they have announced the end of the 8 cent feed in tariff that householders get for each unit of solar energy they feed into the grid.

Of course, it's still quite a saving to produce solar energy to meet your own daytime needs. I wonder if this will spark a move to batteries, as solar owners look to store their own solar for night-time use also - and maybe even disconnect from the grid to avoid the ever-increasing fixed charge.

This was some of the reaction to the news:

Community group Solar Citizens, has more detail on the change - and a petition to stop this move.

The excuse for this is a 'projected' saving over the next 6 years. But spread across all electricity users, it's about $9 per household per year - or $2.29 off the quarterly bill. You could save more by installing one energy-saving light.

RenewEconomy points out that while the government gives the impression of being concerned about household bills, a much larger part of the electricity bill goes straight to the government's - as profits of the government-owned electricity distributors.

The same article reminds us of the QCA report that recommended that the solar tariff should actually be increased rather than scrapped.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Solar Win for an At-Home Dad

A good friend is looking at getting solar. He works from home and has a kid. I said that solar these days is especially good for his situation, as the more of the solar power you can use directly in your home, the greater the saving.

To explain, I did the maths (like on my Solar Maths page). This is the system he's looking at:

6kW solar panel system for $8184

For $8,184 his 6kW system should generate about 9072 kWh a year. That would be a saving of between $1,270 and $2,667 per year, depending on how much is for his own use. Or to put it another way - a 15.5 to 32.5% return on his money. Much better than paying it off the mortgage.

I surprised even myself when I did these calculations. The prices of panels are just so good now. It inspired me to update my Solar Maths page with today's panel prices.

PS. Just to clarify, household solar power goes to the home first (a saving of 29.4 cents per unit) and any excess is then fed into the grid (the credit you receive for this can vary but is often around 14-16 cents). Hence the variation in the amount of savings, and hence my comment about the savings being higher for people (like my friend) who are consuming electricity during the daytime hours.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Philippines to go 100% Renewable

Despite it's relative lack of wealth, the Philippines has decided to get to 100% renewable energy within a decade - to increase energy security, while reducing emissions and power costs.

Philipppines to go to 100% renewable energy within a decade