Knowing Where the Power Lies Helps All

Last week, ARENA declared that $425,000 will be used to fund a project creating online maps of electricity network constraints in order to increase the use of renewable energy and be able to inform network investments more efficiently. The lack of clear and consistent network information has been an ongoing issue but this project hopes to make that a thing of the past.

With the rise of rooftop solar and local generation in Australia, managing networks has been increasingly challenging over the years. The hope is to update these online maps annually to keep their findings accurate and lower costs in the long term. For more on this development, click here.

New community owned energy retailer, Northern Rivers Energy, impresses with vision

community solar

Sick of AGL, Origin and their greedy bedfellows? Then start your own retailer!

Fans of community energy got a boost this week with news of plans to launch the country’s first community owned energy retailer. Based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, a consortium of citizens under the name of Northern Rivers Energy (NRE) has “…won a $54,000 grant to develop a business plan and conduct a feasibility study,” according to RenewEconomy’s Giles Parkinson.

The plan shows again how community-based renewable energy such as solar power can be accessed and owned by the community. [Read more...]

Major CSIRO solar breakthrough underlines ARENA’s worth

CSIRO solar tower with mirror array.

These mirrors at CSIRO in Newcastle can focus the sun to create superheated steam. That is the same pressure and temperature of steam that a coal or nuclear fired power plant creates. Amazing. Picture credit: CSIRO

Further evidence emerged this week from the CSIRO of the value of the embattled Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to the nation. ARENA, you may well recall, is at the centre of the current government’s ideological campaign against renewable energy with its very existence now in doubt through savage proposed budget cuts.

The breakthrough was the successful heating of steam to a supercritical temperature using solar energy. Supercritical steam is very high temperature and high pressure steam, that is needed to run electricity generating turbines efficiently. Essentially this means that we can now use the sun to drive conventional electricity turbines, like those found in a coal fired or even nuclear power station. This development has the potential to be a “gamechanger” in the way we generate electricity, according to the CSIRO. [Read more...]

Who gets the blame for energy poverty in Australia?

wind turbine

87% of electricity price rises are nothing to do with renewables. But we still get the blame. Funny that.

Energy poverty in Australia is defined as when more than 10 percent of your household disposable income is spent on energy. It’s a newish problem in our country but one, due to rapidly escalating electricity prices, that we will unfortunately hear a great deal more about in coming years. With the skyrocketing electricity prices that have kicked in around the country, the question (from the point of view of the big energy companies and their politician friends) is not so much “Have we got a massive problem with energy poverty in this country?” as “Who the f!@# can we blame?” [Read more...]

Hollande’s merger initiative (outside the presidential bedroom)

french actress and solar panels

Oooh La La! What has a French actress got to do with solar panel manufacturing? Read on…

Here at the SQHQ we try to cover solar policy as often as we can in these pages. Let’s face it there’s nothing more enjoyable than covering the sorry policy efforts offered by the chair polishers in state and federal seats of power. With some exceptions (heads up ACT), policy that takes into account the advantages of solar energy in Australia might as well be made by a bunch of backward-looking, chest-thumping, narky neo trogs …. (or am I being too harsh here?). [Read more...]

The gutting of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation: is Howard a ray of hope?

John Howard and a ray of light

Is John Howard a CEFC fan?

Just when you thought the gathering of the dark clouds of the new government’s blitzkrieg against renewable energy initiatives was complete, a tiny ray of sunshine bursts through the gathering gloom. Or has it? I speak this week of the uncertainty over the dumping of the showcase Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

The ray of sunshine, if it is such, comes in the unlikely form of Arthur “Svengali” Sinodinos, who many will remember as being one of the inner cabal that served John “carbon tax” Howard, noted PM and Australia’s worst off spinner.

[Read more...]

Why the government’s direct action sideshow is a joke

An infographic showing why the government's direct action sideshow is a joke.

“Direct Action” is nothing more than a sideshow. Do you agree?

[Read more...]

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How to unlock a great solar payback (even with crappy rebates).

solar panels and a key

The key to good solar payback is system sizing.

Occasionally I venture out of my straw-bale, solar passive eco-cave and meet real people, in person instead of over the interwebs. When they inevitably ask me the standard icebreaker “what do you do?” and hear that I’m in “solar power”, the usual response is: “Oh – that must be a tough industry, now that the rebates / buy back rates have all ended?”.

The reality seems to be that most people who don’t work in the solar industry seem to use the words “rebate” and “feed in tariff” interchangeably. And who can blame them? Both are essentially government cash handouts.

Of course the truth is that the Solar Rebate“, is actually still available through the Federal government. The government frowns upon anyone who calls it a rebate, preferring the term “Financial Incentive”. But all that really matters is that you can get about $700 off the upfront cost of every kW of solar you buy. For a typical 3kW, that’s a $2100 subsidy. [Read more...]

Any positives for solar power under the new Coalition government?

How will solar fare under Abbott and the Coalition?

How will solar fare under Abbott and the Coalition?

Here at SQHQ — as with all of those supporting alternative energy — we’re surveying the damage after the Coalition’s expected yet stunning landslide win on Saturday night. Both the Liberals and Nationals took a slash and burn approach to solar power in Australia and the whole renewable energy sector during the campaign. This approach included policy announcements such as the gutting of ARENA and the end of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and “Sloppy” Joe and his finance mates have given no inkling of changing their minds on this all important issue. See last week’s article for more details. [Read more...]

Solar Farms: Re-election chance sees government invest in ‘very, very large’ projects

solar farming

Clearing the land for a solar farm!

Never underestimate the power of an election to get our pollies moving on environmental issues folks. Thanks to opinion polls showing the Ruddslide bringing both major parties neck-and-neck in the latest “Most Important Election Since the War” even solar farm policy is on the move. Or so it seems. [Read more...]