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The Forum > Article Comments > Galvanising the public sector into action > Comments

Galvanising the public sector into action : Comments

By Mike Pope, published 5/2/2009

Can governments be trusted to ensure the public sector acts responsibly by doing all it can to reduce CO2 emissions?

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Solar hot water does not reduce CO2 emissions. Most electric hot water systems are run using off peak electricity, which is waste electricity from baseload coal plants. The plants still operate at night producing power, but nobody is using it (except off-peak users like domestic hot water, desalination plants, etc).

The difference in electricity consumption between light bulb types is miniscule. The savings are trivial compared to the consumption of energy from commercial and domestic air-conditioners, industrial heating etc. Also, lights are usually used at night, outside of peak electricity usage, and so typically use off-peak waste energy. That is why lights is CBD building and security areas, etc are on all night.

It is currently technically impossible for 50% of our electricity to come from renewable sourcesdue to the intermittency of solar and wind power. It is a very popular but utterly mistaken belief that renewables will continue to scale up to replace fossil fuels. Of course, if you were to suggeswt that nuclear power might produce 50% of our power, then you are within the realms of technical and economic possibility.

Using ethanol is putting money into the pocket of the CEO of Manildra, who is a mate of John Howards. Bob Brown is on record as being completely opposed to the introduction of ethanol in fuels, because it is a capitalist conspiracy. Donít believe me? Check the Hansard. Seriously though, now that the Howard haters have finally accepted ethanol in fuels, it is a good thing to use it. Just be wary of using it in old vehicles as they can react badly, and vehicle failure is a big waste of energy. Just one call to the NRMA will outweigh all the CO2 emission reductions from the ethanol use.

Appointing an environment officer is just one more person getting in their car driving to work. I bet such an individual will not be able to save his department the electricity he/she uses on a daily basis. This is just another person to be employed on the public purse. Job creation? Good? Oh dear.
Posted by Greig, Thursday, 5 February 2009 6:52:18 PM
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Greig makes some astonishing claims in his comment, that I think need to be challenged:

1) Solar hot water does not reduce CO2 emissions. Most electric hot water systems are run using off peak electricity, which is waste electricity from baseload coal plants.

What is "waste electricity"? I certainly can recognize "wasted electricity" - just walk past most shops and feel them blasting refrigerated air out of the open doors!

For sure it takes a long time to ramp up or down the output of a huge thermal coal powerplant. But "off-peak" supply tariffs are an incentive to boost off-peak demand to suit the operators of the power plants (like retailers having post-Christmas sales). If coal-fired plants are really producing waste electricity, then just another argument for shutting them down...

2) The difference in electricity consumption between light bulb types is miniscule.

If so, why are most councils around Australia already running sustainable lighting programs for their public lighting to reduce costs?

3) It is currently technically impossible for 50% of our electricity to come from renewable sourcesdue to the intermittency of solar and wind power.

I disagree, at least if "impossible" means "not possible, that cannot occur, exist, or be done" (ref: Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Logically, if there is power storage capability in the system, then it does not matter, or matters less, that some significant individual power sources have low "dispatchability" (high intermittency). Power storage is not impossible (a battery is a storage device). Power storage is not currently incorporated in the grid system, but it is certainly possible.

Further to the argument, some other renewable generation technologies such as geothermal and solar thermal are anyway less intermittent than wind and PV solar.

Also, if we desired, it is possible to adjust demand as well as supply. Back in the last heatwave in Melbourne, I think it would have been much fairer if fit and healthy people had temporarily turned off their air-conditioners, rather that whole neighbourhoods having to be blacked-out because of the imbalance between demand and available supply.
Posted by JeffersonThomas, Friday, 6 February 2009 3:33:28 PM
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JeffersonThomas,

You are correct, it takes a long time for coal-fired plants to ďramp up and downĒ and that is why they operate 24x7. They operate at night, producing waste electricity. Off-peak electricity is essentially free, it would be there even if utilities didnít actively promote and sell it. And coal plants cannot be shut down, because there is nothing to replace them with, except nuclear power. As I am trying to explain renewable canít replace baseload power.

The fact that councils are running ď sustainable lighting programsĒ is only proof of their gullibility. It makes people feel good though.

And it is definitely technically impossible for 50% of our electricity to come from renewable sources due to the intermittency of solar and wind power, as suitable storage technologies are unable to handle the discharge rates of many applications. And any attempt to build enough storage (eg pumped hydro, batteries, etc) to carry 50% of the nationís electricity capacity would be absurdly expensive. Building such systems would be impossible, because the capital simply could not be raised to build such a system.

Solar thermal is just as intermittent as wind and PV solar, although there are more cost effective storage technologies available, they are still not able to make solar thermal power baseload capable. One cloudy day, the the solar thermal plant shuts down. You cannot run industry on such unreliable power sources.

It is not possible to adjust demand. Getting people to turn off their air-conditioners is not possible, (how do you imagine that would work?) and would not make that much difference anyway. The primary load on the grid comes from commercial air-conditioners and industry. They cannot be shut down, business is reliant on the power being available.

JeffersonThomas, there are many people in Australia who believe as you do. But really, if it was that easy, why isnít it being done now? I am explaining to you why renewable energy is a furphy, you can disbelieve it if you wish, but you are only fooling yourself.
Posted by Greig, Friday, 6 February 2009 8:46:34 PM
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"But really, if it was that easy, why isnít it being done now? I am explaining to you why renewable energy is a furphy, you can disbelieve it if you wish, but you are only fooling yourself."

Sir,
I never claimed it was easy or cheap - merely that it is perfectly possible and renewable power is not a mere 'furphy', and also that things like lower energy-use appliances and lights exist in reality.

Your comment also reminds me the bizarre belief system of economists that 'if it was possible, it would already be done.' But why should it have been done already? You are clearly very cynical about people in local governments at least. Perhaps you could indulge me in being a little cynical about the motives of people and institutions with vested interests in the status quo?

But even without imputing motives, simple conservatism is an obvious reason for maintaining past practices, which certainly applies to an expensive and complex system such as the national electricity grid. If there wasn't a problem with the status quo, no one would be advocating we endeavor to alter it.

Anyway, I can recommend a web-site to read some details about how grid systems can be managed differently, and how demand management can work (there are ways), and some discussion of the potential impacts of distributed power. It does require a technical bent through.

http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/Sustainable_Energy_Solutions_Portfolio.aspx
Posted by JeffersonThomas, Wednesday, 11 February 2009 10:39:28 PM
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JeffersonThomas,

It is encouraging at least that you recognise that implementing renewables is expensive and difficult. But I am trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to convey the fact that renewables cannot scale indefinitely due to their intermittency.

You refer me to a website, that you say will "require a technical bent". I then turn to the documents on renewable energy, and in particular their ability to handle peak and base load. In both cases, there is no data whatsoever suggesting a solution to these huge engineering problems, merely a lame assurance that renewables can do it.

I note also, that the documents reference Mark Diesendorf of the UNSW. Diesendorf is not an energy technology expert, he is a political scientist, and his work is (technically speaking) a compendium of complete BS.

If this is where the public sector is being led on energy technology, then we are definitely in serious trouble. Decisions are being made on energy infrastructure which I am certain is going to result in massive increases in the price of electricity (read: price inflation, lower export competitiveness), and a dramatic drop in energy supply reliability. The way we are going, large-scale rolling black-outs are certain to become the norm.

It is all very depressing.
Posted by Greig, Friday, 13 February 2009 3:35:27 PM
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When Malcolm Turnbull was Minister for the Environment, he accepted that replacing incandescent light globes with florescent lighting would reduce CO2 emissions by 1m. tonnes per annum. For that reason he introduced legislation making it illegal to sell incandescent globes in Australia beyond 2010. He has not changed his mind on this point, nor has the present government.

It has long been demonstrated that replacing electric water heaters with solar water panels (SWP) reduces domestic electricity bills by 20% - 25%. Most hot water consumed by the public sector is heated and used during normal day-time business hours. There is no reason to doubt that SWP installation would result in similar reduction in electricity consumption and financial savings, with commensurate reduction in CO2 emissions.

There is nothing intermittent about electricity generated from heat produced by hot rocks beneath the surface. Geothermal heat has supplied Birdsville with electricity for years and is about to do so for Innamincka in a few weeks time. This will be followed by Geodynamics constructing a number of 50MW power stations feeding base load power into the national grid.
Posted by Mike Pope, Monday, 16 February 2009 1:22:29 PM
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