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    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish



    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart




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    Thursday, January 12, 2012


    Clean Energy Australia Report 2011
    November 2011 (Clean Energy Council)


    Across the world we are changing the way our electricity is generated and delivered. The question is no longer whether we continue relying on emission-intensive 20th-century technology to keep the lights on. It is how fast we move to embrace clean energy such as solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, marine and geothermal.

    Globally clean energy continues to set record levels for investment. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that a record US$243 billion was invested in 2010, well ahead of traditional energy and up more than 30 per cent on the year before. In Australia more than $5.2 billion was invested in renewable energy during the 2010–11 financial year, including approximately $4 billion on household solar power alone. This is more than 60 per cent higher than during 2009–10.

    In the year to October 2011, just under 10 per cent of Australia’s electricity came from renewable energy. This represents a large rise on previous years due to a resurgent hydro sector and more power generated by the country’s wind farms.

    Though we still have a long way to go, the introduction of a carbon price in mid-2012 and the associated government support for clean energy will provide the policy framework to attract both domestic and international investors to all forms of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

    In time these initiatives will fundamentally change the nature of our electricity grid, unlocking billions of dollars in investment and providing employment for tens of thousands of Australians in the clean energy sector.

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    Australian Renewable Energy Snapshot

    Australia’s electricity generators produced over 300 terawatt-hours of electricity in the last year to the end of September 2011.The contribution of renewable energy rose to 9.6 per cent of the total electricity produced during this period, up from 8.7 per cent the year before.

    Many of Australia’s key hydro catchments experienced the best rainfall in years following a long period of drought and additional generation from new wind power lifted the renewable energy generation total higher than in previous years. Household solar power still contributes a modest proportion of Australia’s renewable energy, but its record growth in 2010 and 2011 is starting to reduce demand across the country while making a significant contribution to the country’s energy mix.

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    The renewable energy generated during the 12 months to the end of September 2011 produced enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 4 million average Australian households.

    Hydro electricity accounted for two thirds of the renewable energy generated during this period, rising from its more modest contribution in recent years. Rainfall continues to be one of the strongest influences on the country’s clean energy generation, followed by wind.

    Although there was significantly more wind power generated compared to the year before, its relative contribution fell slightly (21.9%) due to the increased contribution by the hydro sector. Wind was followed by bioenergy (8.5%) and solar photovoltaic (PV) power (2.3%).

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    Renewable Energy Year In Review

    Household clean energy technologies

    The growth of solar power was one of the stories of 2011 following a record year in 2010, when 380 MW of solar power was installed. As at the end of August 2011, 1031 MW of solar power was installed across the country, representing more than half a million household systems. This is more than nine times the amount of solar power installed as at the end of 2009 and more than 35 times the total installed just three years ago in 2008. More than 230,000 of these systems were installed in the eight months from January to August 2011.

    Nationally it is estimated that 8% of all suitable homes are fitted with a solar photovoltaic (PV) power system.1

    The large uptake of solar power has helped to drive down costs for consumers, create thousands of industry jobs and make this technology an everyday part of mainstream Australia. The cost of solar PV continues to fall rapidly and is expected to reach the cost of grid electricity towards the middle of the decade.

    The growth of solar hot water has been more modest over the last couple of years. The generous government support available for solar PV systems has led many customers to choose PV over solar hot water, despite the excellent energy savings available from the latter technology. A national ban on the replacement of electric hot water systems from 2012 is expected to give the solar hot water industry a welcome boost.

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    Large-scale renewable energy projects

    There were modest gains for industrial-scale renewable energy over the last year, repeating the pattern from the year before. A dozen large-scale renewable energy power plants have become operational since October 2010, though most of the 400 MW in new generating capacity came from three wind farms and a hydro upgrade. Although this figure is higher than in 2010, it is still well down on the 993 MW of power that came online in 2009.

    At the end of September 2011 there were 346 large-scale clean energy power plants (larger than 100 kW) operating in Australia.

    Policy and investment uncertainty continued to be major issues for clean energy companies in 2011, as was the case in the year before. Investors watched the the lively political debate over a carbon price apprehensively.

    Although the Renewable Energy Target (RET) was split into a large and small-scale market at the beginning of the 2011 calendar year, the carryover of renewable energy certificates generated by household renewable energy continues to affect the large-scale market. As a result there has been a soft market for large-scale generation certificates (LGCs), an incentive that is designed to bridge the price gap between green and black electricity. Recovery of the LGC price is expected to begin. The industry is hopeful that the Federal Government’s carbon price package will signal the beginning of a new era of policy stability to act as a catalyst for a wave of major investment in clean energy power plants.

    Wind power is expected to be the dominant technology during the early years of the national 20 per cent RET. Wind is the lowest cost clean energy source that is ready to roll out on a large scale.

    Major projects under construction

    There were 10 new clean energy projects under construction as at September 2011.
    Together these power plants will add 1073 MW of new clean energy capacity to the national electricity market. Almost all of this new capacity will come from seven wind projects, with the 420 MW Macarthur Wind Farm in western Victoria the largest of those underway. If completed in its current form it will be the largest wind farm in Australia.

    Current Employment

    There were around 8000 full-time equivalent jobs in the Australian renewable energy industry in 2010.

    The number of accredited solar PV installers across the country has increased by six times in the last three years to over 4000 (figure 6). Not all of these are full-time solar installers; many will alternate between mainstream electrical contracting and solar power installation.

    The employment figures listed below are those directly involved with the construction, installation, operations and maintenance activities associated with clean energy power generation. They do not include sales, administration, management and other staff associated with the ongoing running of a business. An example of the flow-on employment can be found in the solar hot water industry, which employs an estimated total of 6000 people across distribution, sales and installation but has a listed workforce of just under 900 people.

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    Employment by state

    The highest number of employees in the renewable energy industry is in NSW.
    The decades-old Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme remains one of Australia’s major producers of renewable energy and is a major employer as well. Bioenergy directly employs more than 680 people in NSW.

    In Queensland, bioenergy such as bagasse generation from sugar cane waste provided the majority of the employment in the clean energy sector, while most jobs in Victoria and South Australia came from the wind sector. Most of Tasmania’s jobs were generated by its network of 27 hydro-electric power stations

    Projected employment

    By 2030 it is expected that the number of new jobs created
    in the renewable energy industry will have grown to almost
    32,000 with the largest increase being attributed to growth in
    the solar and wind sectors. Many of these jobs will be located
    in regional areas of the country.

    Electricity prices

    There are several factors behind the recent price rises. By far the largest is the need to replace and upgrade the ageing poles and wires of the national electricity grid, some of which have been in service for more than 40 years. Recent estimates suggest that more than $130 billion will be necessary to upgrade the network over the next decade, growing to $220 billion over 20 years.1 Research indicates that these network costs will cause price rises of up to 66 per cent in NSW and Queensland by 2015.2 Similar increases are likely in other states and territories.

    Other reasons for power price rises include the increasing cost to generate electricity with both coal and gas along with the increased use of energy-intensive appliances such as air-conditioners and flat-screen televisions, which increase peak demand for electricity and overall costs. According to analysis prepared for the Clean Energy Council by ROAM Consulting in 2011, the combined cost of both small and large-scale renewable energy comes to approximately $78 per year for the average Australian household. This works out to $1.50 per week. By 2020 the cost of renewable energy is expected to make up between 4 and 7 per cent of the average household power bill.

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    A Summary of Australia’s Nine Major Clean Energy Technologies


    The current installed capacity of the sector in Australia amounts to 773 MW, or 6.2 per cent of Australia’s total renewable generating capacity. A little under two thirds of the existing capacity is from the combustion of sugar cane waste, which is known as bagasse.
    The second largest contributor is landfill gas.

    Bioenergy grew only marginally in 2011, as has been the case for several years now. Nine small projects came online during the last two years, as shown in the table to the right. The challenging financial environment, the soft price of renewable energy certificates, and the issues with connecting some types of bioenergy to the grid continued to have a negative impact on the development of new bioenergy plants.


    Geothermal energy has the potential to play a major role in decarbonising Australia’s electricity supply by providing reliable, emission-free power generation. Modelling by ROAM and SKM MMA for the Department of Treasury in 2011 found that geothermal energy could account for between 13 per cent and 23 percent of our total electricity needs in 2050.

    Technical and financial challenges have seen the geothermal industry progress slowly in 2011 with just three projects having commenced deep drilling. As of 2011 only one commercial geothermal plant was operating in Australia, at Birdsville in Queensland.

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    Australia’s 124 operating hydro power stations produced enough electricity in the past year to power the equivalent of almost 2.8 million average homes. The estimated 19,685 GWh of power was 6.5 per cent of all electricity produced in Australia during this period.
    Increased rain in key catchment areas reinvigorated the nation’s hydro electricity generation sector and provided approximately two thirds of the renewable energy produced over the 12 months to 30 September 2011.

    Most of Australia’s suitable hydro electricity resources have already been developed. Work undertaken by hydro operators is generally in developing mini hydro power plants or in upgrading and refurbishing existing hydro power stations. The iconic Snowy River Hydro-electric Scheme and Tasmania’s network of 27 hydro-electric projects provide the majority of the country’s hydro power.

    Solar PV

    The number of Australian households with solar panels has increased more than 35 times over the last three years.

    There were 513,585 solar PV systems installed at the end of August 2011. Approximately 430,000 of these were installed during the last two years. More than 6 per cent of Australian houses have now installed solar power and the number of accredited solar installers across the country has increased by six times in the last three years to more than 4000.

    Data from the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator released by the Clean Energy Council in February 2011 showed that Australians from all walks of life were embracing this technology, including those from so called mortgage belt and retirement suburbs across the country.

    The cost of solar power continues to fall and many analysts expect it to meet the retail cost of mainstream electricity around the middle of the decade.

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    Large Scale Solar

    Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that concentrated solar power could provide Australia with 40 per cent of its energy by 2050.

    Large-scale solar projects of up to 500 MW are being constructed in places like Spain, Germany and the United States. This year Torresol Energy’s 19 MW Gemasolar plant in Spain’s Andalucia region was the first to produce 24-hour baseload power due to improved storage technology.

    Australia’s large-scale solar industry is still in its infancy, despite having access to some of the world’s best solar resources. The Federal Government announced the successful applicants to the first round of its $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program in June 2011. The program will deliver the first truly large-scale projects in Australia, building valuable local expertise that will help in the development of future projects.

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    Solar Hot Water

    The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the electricity required to produce hot water is the single largest source of household emissions, accounting for almost a quarter of household emissions.

    Source: Clean Energy Council Solar Hot Water and Heat Pump Study, Mito Energy, 2011

    The phrase ‘solar water heating’ refers to either a stand-alone solar hot water system or a heat pump, which heats water using energy from the ambient air. The installation of a solar water heating system can save the average household hundreds of dollars on their electricity bill each year compared to an electric hot water system. It will also save 2.4 to 3 tonnes of annual carbon emissions.

    Federal Government rebates introduced early in 2009 led to a spike in sales in that year. The rebate was reduced in February 2010, leading to a drop in the annual installation figures for the last two years.

    Many consumers have installed solar power rather than solar hot water due to generous government incentives and aggressive marketing campaigns, despite the excellent value for money offered by solar water heating systems.

    Federal Government rebates introduced early in 2009 led to a spike in sales in that year.
    The rebate was reduced in February 2010, leading to a drop in the annual installation figures for the last two years.

    Many consumers have installed solar power rather than solar hot water due to generous government incentives and aggressive marketing campaigns, despite the excellent value for money offered by solar water heating systems.

    Solar water heating systems can save the average household hundreds of dollars on their electricity bill each year.

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    Marine energy

    Around 80 per cent of Australia’s population lives within 50 km of the coast, placing wave and tidal energy resources close to the area of highest electricity demand.
    Australia’s long coastline and proximity to both the tropics and the Southern Ocean mean that there is an enormous energy resource available if we can develop cost-effective technology to harness it.

    In 2011 more than 15 companies have been actively investigating wave and tidal energy projects in Australia. Wave resources are mostly being explored along the southern and western coastlines, while the northern coastline is the focus for those exploring tidal resources

    In 2010 the CSIRO found that the levelised cost of electricity produced from potential wave energy systems could be reduced to around A$100 per MWh, by achieving efficiencies and improvements in operations and maintenance.

    Wind energy

    In the past year wind power generated over 6400 GWh of electricity, which was enough to power over 900,000 homes.

    Australia currently has 1188 wind turbines and 57 operating wind farms, including one small wind farm located in the Australian Antarctic Territory. The amount of wind power in Australia has grown by an average of 35 per cent per year over the past five years, and the efficiency and power output of turbines are evolving quickly.

    A report prepared by Garrad Hassan for the Clean Energy Council in 2011 predicted that there would be approximately 6.9 GW of wind power built under the Renewable Energy Target by 2020. This would be delivered from approximately 2000–2500 wind turbines, depending on their size and power output.

    Acciona’s Waubra Wind Farm north-west of Ballarat in Victoria is currently the largest in the country, with 128 turbines spread out over 173 square kilometres.

    In the 2010–11 financial year investment is wind power totalled $1.16 billion.

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    South Australia has the highest wind farm capacity in the country with over half of Australia’s installed wind capacity.

    South Australia has reduced its carbon emissions by 18 per cent over the last five years and most of this can be attributed to wind power, which now produces more than 20 per cent of the state’s electricity.

    The price of electricity produced from wind energy currently is around A$90–120 per MWh. Average prices for turbine supply contracts are believed to have fallen by a substantial amount over the past year, possibly in the order of 20 per cent.

    South Australia has reduced its carbon emissions by 18 per cent over the last five years and most of this can be attributed to wind power, which now produces more than 20 per cent of the state’s electricity.

    The price of electricity produced from wind energy currently is around A$90–120 per MWh. Average prices for turbine supply contracts are believed to have fallen by a substantial amount over the past year, possibly in the order of 20 per cent.

    Energy efficiency

    The Australian Bureau of statistics (ABS) found that energy star ratings were considered by around half of all households when purchasing or replacing refrigerators (51%), separate freezers (42%), dishwashers (52%), washing machines (49%) and clothes dryers (53%).

    According to the ABS in 2011, 69 per cent of Australian households have some form of insulation. The proportion of Australian households with insulation increased from 61 per cent in 2008 to 69 per cent in 2011. The states showing the largest increase were Queensland and New South Wales (15 and 10 percentage points respectively). An estimated 70 per cent of Australian households indicated that their main reason for installing insulation was to ‘achieve comfort’ although more than one in ten (11%) did so because of the rebate offered.

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    Community attitudes to energy efficiency

    Auspoll conducted a nationwide survey of 1000 participants for the Clean Energy Council in June 2011. The aim was to specifically consider what the key factors were affecting community appetite for energy efficiency. The survey found that rising electricity prices were the primary reason influencing consumers to change their electricity consumption.

    The key findings from the Auspoll research were:
    95% of people were concerned or very concerned about rising energy costs.
    89% were willing to take action to use less energy.
    73% wanted more information on how they could save energy.
    57% knew little or nothing about government programs available.
    50% knew little or nothing about key aspects of their energy use.
    74% support energy retailers being responsible for ensuring households use their energy more efficiently.
    88% said if a carbon tax is introduced, the community should be supported and able to save on their bills.

    An overwhelming majority of people were glad they participated in each of the government’s energy efficiency programs

    The ABS found that during 2008–09, 88% of large businesses took measures to reduce their energy consumption and 54% of small businesses participated in energy reduction measures.


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