September 2010

Julia Gillard went to the election vowing never to introduce a carbon tax. Now she’s set up a committee to look into it, although we’ve been here before with Labor and climate change committees. Remember Ross Garnaut? He’s on the new committee too.

Tax has become a toxic term in modern politics. Gillard still can’t quite bring herself to call a spade a spade, calling it a “climate levy”. But support for a carbon tax is growing.
It will cost us to act on climate change, but it will cost more if we don’t act. Most analysts agree a price on carbon is key to effective action. And. a carbon tax is better than carbon trading scheme because it’s simpler, less open to rorting and more transparent.

What’s more, it doesn’t put a ceiling on emissions cuts. The reason the Greens wouldn’t back Kevin Rudd’s CPRS was that its arcane workings would have prevented Australia from going beyond 5 per cent emissions reductions in future.

So let’s hear it for taxation. Tax isn’t bad. Tax doesn’t suck money out of the economy, as conservatives such as Tony Abbott would have us believe. It raises revenue for ventures of benefit to all society, such as hospitals and schools, and it redistributes income within the economy.

Traditionally that’s from rich to poor. A carbon tax represents a subtle but important shift in redistribution, based not on what you earn but on how much pollution you generate.
Now a report by the Australia Institute claims a carbon tax would leave a typical Australian family $1000 better off.

The report says, if the Government can resist lobbying for exemption and concessions from big polluters (and that’s a big if), then a carbon tax of $25/tonne on energy generators would raise $13 billion. That’s enough to pay a carbon dividend of $2100 to a family of four. Meanwhile, Treasury calculates the tax would increase electricity and other prices by $18.50 for the average family – under $1000 a year.

Of course, in real life this will depend on how much energy you use.

But that’s the whole point of a carbon price; to encourage us to be more energy efficient, to drive less and to switch to less fossil-fuel intensive products. Reduce your “carbon footprint” and you’ll be better off under a carbon tax.

Of course, if there are winners there must be losers. Shareholders of big polluting industries will see their dividends drop. And that might affect the level of your Super. So maybe it will all even out in the end on the tax money-go-round.

But if the net result is we reduce our use of fossil fuels and finally get on the road to tackling climate change, we’ll all be winners in the long run.

Source: Eco Directory.


By shrinking the thickness of solar cells down toward the nano-scale, researchers at Stanford University think that energy outputs could grow by huge amounts. Such changes might eventually make solar power far more competitive with cheaper fossil fuel-based energy sources.

The concept of light-trapping has been played with for decades as a way of keeping a photon within the confines of a solar cell for longer periods of time, but there has always been upper limits of what energy the technique can wring from incoming light. By reducing the thickness of the cell to far less than the actual wavelength of light, though, appears to have a dramatic effect.

According to a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the ultrathin-film cells could improve on the macro-scale limits by as much as 12-fold.

“The amount of benefit of nanoscale confinement we have shown here really is surprising,” said Zongfu Yu, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, in a press release. “Overcoming the conventional limit opens a new door to designing highly efficient solar cells.”

Yu and colleagues sandwiched the solar film between layers that act to keep light trapped for longer periods of time, increasing the chances that a photon will be absorbed. The technology is probably a ways off from commercial deployment, but it joins a growing array of new materials and methods that might soon dramatically increase solar power’s potential.

Source: IEEE Spectrum.

Emergent Ventures India is a division of the recently extended form of a U.N. program the Clean Development Mechanism that is designed to propagate the use of clean energy expertise in a larger way in third world countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The program is aimed at bringing the developing companies of smaller sized solar power projects together and assists them in earning U.N. carbon credits and increases their return on investments. The aim of the program is to provide such incentives to the small sized projects which otherwise would loose carbon credits due to costly CDM auditing fee and the extended process of approval.

EVI, said to be the first of its kind program in India has commenced contracting with the developers of 1 or 2 MW solar projects and hopes to achieve 50 MW soon. The signed project forms a part of the Indian government sponsored scheme to augment solar power generation to 20 GW by the year 2021. The first phase of the program meant for a total investment of 100 MW will include 1 MW or 2 MW solar power productions and each such installation will be offered with competitive electricity rates as an inducement. Each MW production can provide electricity to 1,000 homes and such ground mounted system will cost around $3 million.

According to Deepak Verma, Head and CEO of Carbon Finance and Technology Solutions of EVI, the program would require a minimum of 30 to 40 small sized solar projects to achieve no loss no gain position and each project can earn up to 1200 U.N. carbon credits or CER annually for every MW of power produced. He added that including 50 projects in a year will generate up to 75,000 CERs and can be traded in the European Climate exchange. He added that every CER was sold for €13.68 during last week. The CDM of the company allows the small investors to earn carbon credits for each of their projects.

Source: Carbon Offsets Daily.

Many environmentalists claim that we don’t need utility scale solar in our deserts because we could simply solar power America from our rooftops. Technically, this is true. Most houses do have the space for it. However, that fact alone is not enough. As someone who asks people if they would like to get (free) solar on their roof, for a living, I have disappointing news. A surprising number wouldn’t.

I would suggest that anyone who thinks that we can simply put solar on every roof, pick a block in any neighborhood, walk to each house and ask for yourselves.

Here’s what you’ll find:

Only six will have perfect solar roofs: but two of them will be Republicans instructed by Fox News that solar is a socialist plot; two will be renters who only wished they could go solar; and two will be too rich to bother about saving money or the environment. Two will say they’d love it, but their spouse won’t allow anything on the roof.

Four will indeed wish they could go solar, but have trees shading the roof, or have a mishmash of gables facing the wrong way (there must be some rule that if you love renewable energy and really want to do something about climate change, your roof will be just all wrong for solar!).

Three more will really just be too dumb to conceive of making their own electricity from solar. One can’t imagine how solar could be free, but is willing to take a look at it, but really wants to get back to watching American Idol.

One would love to do it but needs to fix the roof first and lacks the money for roof repair. One will be too old to contemplate any change. Only one will say: absolutely, let’s do it – that’s a really terrific idea!

And this is for free solar, because I’m telling them about a solar PPA: it competes with the utility with a lower price per kilowatt hour, so the cost issue has been resolved. This is how I learned that no matter how brilliant the solution to the impediments to solar adoption the free market alone will never put solar on every roof, the way that it put TV cable antennas on every roof.

This is why I support Feed in Tariffs and REC sales, so that people could actually earn cash from their solar roofs, as I think that could tip the scales more. And it’s why I support utility-scale solar. Individual consumers are just too fallible to be relied on to solve something as serious as climate change.

Or, here’s an idea. The government should use its wartime powers. It could simply requisition this energy resource beating down on all our roofs… almost as if we were in a war against climate change.

Source: Clean Technica.

Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula announced recently that 50 new low floor trams will be designed, constructed and maintained by Dandenong based company Bombardier.

While rail manufacturing might not normally be your thing, this is good news for the development of clean green jobs in Victoria, and another win for Environment Victoria’s campaign work.

Last year Environment Victoria released a report investigating five key opportunities for green job growth in Victoria, with the rail manufacturing sector being key among them. With a commitment to manufacture just 50 percent of rolling stock (the trains and trams) in Victoria, we found that the government would have the potential to create 2250 new direct manufacturing jobs and up to 6300 jobs in the supply chain.

In today’s announcement the new trams will have 50.3 percent local manufacturing content, creating 500 new jobs for Victorians when production is at its peak. That’s before additional indirect jobs along the supply chain are included.

It’s a good announcement, and we’re hoping it’s a sign that the government has started to see the huge potential to clean up Victoria’s economy and keep the wheels turning, so to speak.

But there could be catch. The government’s local manufacturing strategy measures the amount of local content based on a whole-of-life assessment, meaning for tram and train manufacturing the government could meet its own targets (of 40 percent local content for all major projects significant to the state economy) by making sure ongoing maintenance is carried out in Victoria but allowing most of the actual manufacturing to happen overseas.

We’ll be waiting to see the detail of the announcement to ensure that the policy really does deliver on the local manufacturing content rather than just maintenance work. However today’s announcement is certainly better than what we’ve had, and can be seen as a small but important step towards a clean economy and a truly sustainable transport policy in Victoria.

Source: Environment Victoria.

There is no shortage of smart metering communications standards, though there is a distinct lack of actual smart meter interoperability. European smart meter standards development was a major topic at the Metering/Europe event last week in Vienna, and it seems industry efforts to conform to the European Union’s M/441 mandate for open standards are unlikely to bring much order to the current chaos. Europe’s largest smart meter projects, including those in the UK, France (ERDF), and Spain (Iberdrola), are each effectively defining their own “open” standards. The OPENmeter project, formed and funded to respond to the M/441 mandate, appears to have capitulated by accepting all of these standards (plus some others, including the newly renamed “Meters & More” technology already deployed by Enel in Italy) into their framework. Each project is large enough to induce customized multi-vendor support, but this approach will not create the economies of scale that a small but robust set of standards might offer. Never has the old lament been more apropos: “the great thing about standards is there are so many to choose from”.

So it is notable that a small group of leading European meter makers is making progress toward actually choosing from the standards menu to deliver true multi-vendor interoperability. About a year ago, Iskraemeco, Itron, and Landis+Gyr banded together to form the Interoperable Device Interface Specifications (IDIS) Industry Association, leveraging their existing collaboration with ERDF (an EDF subsidiary) in France. The IDIS Association goal is not to specify yet another set of standards, but rather to “close the gaps” within existing standards implementations for certifiably interoperable smart meters. “IDIS Release 1, package 1”, to be fully published by year end, specifies a specific Power Line Communications (PLC) implementation, list of metering objects, and interface to a PLC data concentrator. A second “package” will define an IPv4 profile and additional interfaces. IDIS compliance requires conformance testing by an independent test lab, and membership requires actual delivery of compliant products.

Interestingly, the first release is focused on rather mature PLC standards, not the latest and greatest technologies being pushed smart meter vendors. Future releases that will add newer OFDM-based PLC protocols and IPv6 are planned for 2012. And no utilities have publicly announced support for, much less a requirement for, IDIS-compliant devices – not even ERDF who effectively inspired the collaboration. However, judging by the expressions of interest at last week’s event, I expect this effort will be a boon for small-to-medium sized utilities without the clout to attract multiple vendors to their own “standard”. By specifying IDIS-compliant systems, they can get multi-vendor competition and flexibility without having to do months-to-years of vendor cajoling and testing, reducing their overall risks.

What do IDIS vendors get from this? They hope to accelerate and grow the overall market, short- circuiting the “pilot-itis” at each utility that delays production deployment (and hence time-to-revenue) and endlessly consumes precious support resources. They see time as the most important result of “economies of scale”.

Sadly, this is the only true open, multi-vendor interoperability effort we can point to worldwide. The US-based NIST efforts have a considerable way to go to even have a decent communications standards menu to choose off of, and Asian countries are each specifying their own standards with an eye toward giving indigenous suppliers an advantage under the guise of supporting “special local requirements”.

Ultimately, the utilities that make the buying decisions are responsible for what vendors deliver. We’ll see whether European utilities will reward the IDIS vendors for their pioneering efforts.

Source: Pike Research.

The New York Jets are now more than just green in uniform with the completion of a new rooftop 3,000 solar panel installation on their Atlantic Health Training Center.

The rooftop project is owned by solar service provider Syncarpha Capital, who will sell the electricity produced by the solar panels to the New York Jets under a long-term purchase agreement. No capital outlay was required by the Jets, who expect to save tens-of-thousands a year in energy costs.

“We are proud to be green in color and also in deed,” Mr Sheely said. “We chose the right partners and are thrilled about what this installation will do for our organization, our community, and hopefully for inspiring the entire league.”

The panels were manufactured by Yingli Green Energy Holding (NYSE: YGE) and construction and design were managed by Sundurance Energy and Evolution Energies.

Source: Solar Feeds.

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