News & Blog

Here you will find news and views of the Australian-German College of Climate & Energy Transitions.

Hazelwood closure: what it means for electricity prices and blackouts

Published on the Conversation at:

Victoria’s Hazelwood power station will be shut down this week after nearly 50 years of supplying electricity.

The imminent closure has led to concerns about blackouts, raised most recently by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, and rising electricity prices.

So what does the evidence suggest?

Severe heatwaves show the need to adapt livestock management for climate

During the recent heatwave in New South Wales, which saw record-breaking temperatures for two days in a row, 40 dairy cows died in Shoalhaven, a city just south of Sydney. ...Cattle are vulnerable to changes in rainfall patterns (variability and extremes), temperature (average and extremes), humidity, and evaporation. 

Read more of this article co-authored by College students Elisabeth Vogel and Christin Meyer and College supervisor Richard Eckard in The Conversation here.

Our power grid is crying out for capacity, but should we open the gas valves?

With high gas prices partly to blame for the electricity blackouts that hit South Australia this month, and gas-fired generators caught short in New South Wales two days later, it is hardly surprising to hear calls for Australia to expand production. ...But how much extra gas do we need? And how do we square this with the equally pressing need to reduce our use of fossil fuels?

Read more of this article authored by Dylan McConnell in The Conversation here.

Paris Equity Check Website

A new interactive website shows how equitable are countries' climate pledges under the Paris Agreement mitigation goals. This website is based on a Nature Climate Change study that compares Nationally Determined Contributions with equitable national emissions trajectories in line with the five categories of equity outlined by the IPCC.

Paris Agreement goals: equitable mitigation

Benchmarks to guide countries in ratcheting-up ambition, climate finance, and support in an equitable manner are critical but not yet determined in the context of the Paris Agreement. Global cost-optimal mitigation scenarios consistent with the Paris Agreement goals have been identified and emissions dynamically allocated to countries according to five equity approaches, which can be seen here

Read more of this article co-authored by Yann Robiou du Pont in Nature here

Will the latest electricity review bring climate and energy policy together at last?

Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) is under review following the state-wide blackout that hit South Australia in September.

The review, led by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, will “develop a national reform blueprint to maintain energy security and reliability". Importantly, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) specifically agreed that the review would consider Australia’s commitment under the Paris climate agreement, and how climate and energy policy can be integrated.

Read more of this article by Dylan McConnell in The Conversation here.

Closure of Hazelwood Power Station

What are the implications for Australia's power supply and carbon emissions of the closure of Hazelwood Power Station? Find out from Dylan McConnell, PhD student at the Climate and Energy College, and Roger Dargaville, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute and College supervisor, who were featured on ABC's 7.30 (3 November).


Equitably Determined Contributions to reach the Paris Agreement goals - the 1.5°C perspective

What are countries' fair shares of global mitigation to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 °C?
Yann Robiou du Pont, PhD Candidate at the Australian-German Climate and Energy College, presented at the International Conference - "1.5 Degrees: Meeting the challenges of the Paris Agreement", held at the University of Oxford in September. The full session on 'Mitigation Pathways' is available online.

Equitably Determined Contributions to reach the Paris Agreement goals - the 1.5C perspective

After Tasmania’s year of disasters, bushfire tops the state’s growing list of natural hazards

White, Trundle, McEvoy, Corney, and Remenyi


Tasmania has had a damaging year, with the island state hit by a series of bushfires and floods.

Now a comprehensive new assessment of Tasmania’s exposure to natural disasters shows that bushfire remains the number one hazard to people and property, while also highlighting a range of new threats. These include coastal flooding, pandemic influenza and – despite being Australia’s most southerly state – an increasing likelihood of heatwaves.

The 2016 Tasmanian State Natural Disaster Risk Assessment (TSNDRA) aims to provide emergency services with key information to help prepare for and reduce the impact of disasters.

Read more of this article from The Conversation here.

Habitat III: the biggest conference you’ve probably never heard of

Henderson, Trundle, Stephan, Kamalipour and Lowe


More than 25,000 delegates will meet in Quito, Ecuador, in October to set out the United Nations’ New Urban Agenda for member states. The Habitat III conference will mandate the UN’s work in cities and settlements for the next 20 years. But Australia, one of the world’s most urbanised nations, is yet to play a major role in negotiations.

If you haven’t heard of the Habitat conference series, you’re not alone. Steered by one of the UN’s smaller organisations – UN-Habitat – it is the key negotiation process within the UN for planning the development of cities and human settlements.

Read more of this article from The Conversation here.

Online Article

Australia is now pretty much the only major advanced economy where pollution levels are going up, not coming down. – Labor shadow minister for the environment, climate change and water, Mark Butler, speech to the National Press Club, May 18, 2016.

Read the analysis by College PhD candidates Yann Robiou De Pont and Anita Talberg in The Conversation article here

Online Article
Anita Talberg

As special envoy on climate change to the UN Secretary-General, Mary Robinson negotiated with world leaders ahead of the successful Paris climate summit in December 2015.

Through her work on climate change Robinson is an active proponent of “climate justice”, which advocates sharing the burden of mitigating and adapting to climate change between all parts of society, and particularly between developed and developing nations.

In this article (The Conversation) Anita Talberg, PhD candidate at the Climate and Energy College summarises the key points of Mary Robinson's University of Melbourne MSSI Oration on the 15th March 2016.

ABC 24 TV Interview with Climate & Energy College Director

Global-mean surface temperatures soared February 2016. ABC24 TV interviews A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen.
The interview is in part a reaction to the Q&A discussion the day before, in which Australia's chief scientist Prof. Alan Finkel said that we are loosing the battle against climate change.

Online Article

By Kate Dooley and Doreen Stabinsky. Originally published on 10 December 2015, 2.16 AEDT.

One of the final obstacles in the way of a binding agreement at the Paris climate talks comes down to a simple number: 1.5. Limiting warming to a 1.5℃ temperature rise above pre-industrial levels is one of three potential targets on the table as negotiations approach the crucial final days. The other options are a firm limit of 2℃ and a limit of 2℃ with an aspiration to reduce to 1.5℃ in the coming years.

Releasing the latest draft text on Wednesday afternoon local time, the summit’s president Laurent Fabius listed the target as one of three outstanding major issues, alongside finance and the question of how to differentiate the responsibilities of developed and developing countries.

Many industrialised countries have surprised the world at the talks with a new-found fondness for 1.5℃. The target has long been a key demand of most poor nations, particularly small island states and least-developed countries.

Scientists consider that as 1.5℃ is breached, we will risk passing critical tipping points. In particular, sea level rise associated with that level of temperature increase poses an existential threat to low-lying island states.

Despite more than 100 developing nations being firmly in favour of a 1.5℃ limit, countries came to a political agreement in 2010 to collectively set themselves a 2℃ threshold

Kicking the carbon habit

If a temperature limit of 1.5℃ is fixed in the new Paris agreement, that raises the question of what countries will need to do to stay below that level of warming.

The UN’s top climate science body has shown that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are cumulative, with residence times in the atmosphere of thousands to tens of thousands of years. Temperature rise has a linear relationship with carbon emissions, so we can estimate the remaining amount of CO2 that can be emitted before we risk passing any temperature limit with some probability. For a 50% probability of staying below 1.5℃, there was a remaining carbon budget of 550-600 gigatonnes CO2 in 2011. At current annual global emissions of around 36 gigatonnes CO2, this budget will be used up in less than two decades.

What does staying below 1.5℃ mean in practice? Nothing less than full decarbonisation of the global economy by 2050. We must stop burning all fossil fuels before the middle of the century, along with a massive effort to keep forests standing and protect biodiversity. That is no small feat.

While some say limiting warming to less than 1.5℃, or even 2℃, is out of reach, ultimately 1.5℃ is a political signal for greater ambition, and a more serious global engagement in addressing climate change. Late in the day as this signal might be, it is important that a new international agreement does not include a temperature limit that even the UN has recognised is not a safe guardrail.

But what does this mean in real terms – if a temperature goal is agreed that requires rapid decarbonization: who must do what, and by when?

Fair shares

At the heart of the standoff in the climate talks are fundamental differences over who has more responsibility to act, and what a fair approach to drive greater ambition looks like. A broad coalition of NGOs set out to define a methodology to answer that question, taking into consideration the remaining carbon budget, historical emissions (as impacts on temperature are cumulative, historical emissions matter), and differing capacities between countries.

Their numbers show that the ambition – UNFCCC jargon for emission reduction efforts – of all developed countries falls well below their fair share of what is needed to stay within the remaining budget. Top of the list of offenders are Russia and Japan who are making little to no contribution to what would be considered their fair share of effort, while the US and the EU have pledged around a fifth of their fair share.

In this context, we start to understand why many developing countries might not want to commit to a 1.5℃ limit without clear rules on how to divide up the effort. The current emissions trajectories of developed countries will take up far more than their fair share of the remaining budget, seriously impeding the poverty alleviation and sustainable development aspirations of developing countries.

But development trajectories that exceed the global carbon budget will not work for the planet – regardless of who has done what historically, all countries are now bound by the very limited carbon budget remaining. This means that even for countries who have pledged what is basically their fair share of global action, such as China or India, they will need to do a lot more to keep the world anywhere near a 1.5℃ pathway.

For poorer countries (India ranks 135 on the Human Development Index), committing to do more than their fair share needs to be in the context of international commitment to support.

Collective goals

In the end, the 1.5℃ conversation is not the real debate. The real challenge in Paris is to agree on language for emissions reductions that is even remotely compatible with achieving whatever temperature goal is set. This is referred to as the “collective global goal”.

Options for a global goal include peaking emissions, zero emissions, or decarbonisation or climate neutrality. But without a differentiated long-term goal – one that puts increased ambition in the context of more support for developing countries – whether the goal is for peaking or zero, 2050 or 2100, all becomes meaningless.

Ultimately, the call for 1.5℃ must not become a distraction from the real challenge: agreeing a collective goal that includes both ambition and equity. Without a clear sense of who needs to take the lead, who needs support to do more than their fair share, and how this will collectively keep global emissions within a carbon budget – everyone will lose.

Online Article

By Anita Talberg. Originally published in The Conversation on November 27, 2015, 3:04pm AEDT.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has proposed an emissions reduction target of 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, based on recommendations from the government’s climate change policy advisory body, the Climate Change Authority. Shorten has also pledged zero net emissions by 2050, and ongoing reviews of the target.

In its review, the Climate Change Authority recommended that Australia adopt a target of between 40% and 60% by 2030 on 2000 levels.

Converting this to the 2005 baseline gives a target of around -44% to -63% on 2005 levels. So Labor’s target would match the very weakest within the Climate Change Authority’s range.

We plugged this target into our interactive webtool. The website allows the effectiveness of climate pledges from G20 countries to be assessed using different assumptions of what is a “fair” distribution of emissions reduction efforts.

What we found was that, first, Labor’s proposed 2030 target meets the Climate Change Authority’s recommended 2025 target of -30% below 2000 levels, as you can see in the chart below.

Second, Labor’s target may or may not be sufficient to keep the world within 2C, depending on what you consider a fair distribution of emissions between nations. Let’s unpack that a little more.

Most people agree that globally we should be striving for equal emissions per person. However, there are two broad views on how to get there:

  • Either we acknowledge historic emissions and “punish” those countries that have used a disproportionate amount in the past
  • Or we ignore past emissions and all countries strive for equal-per-capita emissions from now until some point in the future.

Under the latter option, Labor’s proposed target is sufficient to give the world a 67% chance of staying within 2C (see image below). This assumes that Australia adopts Labor’s target and all other countries match the effort of the target by using the same formula for calculating equal per-capita emissions.

However, if historic emissions are included we assume that because Australia has one of the highest per-capita emissions in the world it has a responsibility to reduce its emissions more rapidly and severely. Using this approach, Labor’s target does not do enough (see image below).

Here, again, we are assuming that Australia adopts Labor’s target and all other countries follow suit in a way that takes into account historic emissions and aims for equal, cumulative per-capita emissions. There is of course no guarantee that this will happen.

Essentially, Labor’s proposal improves on Australia’s current target of 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030 and this is one step in the right direction. However, to be considered a good global citizen by factoring in past emissions as well as future emissions, Australia would need to commit to the tighter end of the Climate Change Authority’s target and do even more.

In fact, a target of -64% on 2005 levels by 2030 is what would be needed.

For more information on how to understand and use the mitigation-contributions website see this Briefing Note.

Radio interview: Greg Hunt is focussing on 1.9% of Australian emissions

The College is featured in an interview with The Wire.


Greg Hunt is focusing on 1.9% of total emissions

Monday, 9 November 2015

Produced by Francine Crimmins

Listen to the audio here.

The United Nations Climate Summit in Paris is less than 20 days away. So, how is Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt preparing to fulfill his promise of cutting Australia's emissions by up to 28%? Over the weekend he announced his commitment to cutting down hydrofluorocarbons. But controversially, this is only dealing with 1.9% of Australia's emission problems. Image from United Nations Photo on Flickr titled 'Only one earth -The Environment'

Featured in story

  • Malte Meinshausen, Associate Professor at University of Melbourne
  • Professor John Quiggin, University of Queensland Related

FactCheck: Has any country bested Australia in emissions intensity reduction since 1990?

From The Conversation,

By Graham Palmer and Roger Dargaville, 20 May 2015, 6.05am AEST

Has any other country achieved a greater reduction than Australia in the intensity of their emissions per unit of GDP over between 1990 and now? AAP Image/Dan Peled



From 1990 to now our real economic growth has been about 88% but our emissions are down. So our actual gross national emissions have gone from about 563 million tonnes in 1990 to 548 million tonnes or thereabouts at the moment. What does that mean? That we have nearly doubled our productivity relative to our carbon intensity. So there are very few countries in the world that have seen that decrease in their intensity… I would challenge you to indicate if there’s any other country that has achieved a greater reduction in the intensity of their emissions per unit of GDP over that period of history. Any other country. – Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for the Environment, to the Australian Emissions Reduction Summit in Melbourne, Wednesday May 6, 2015.

Reduction in emissions intensity is an important measure of how well a country is doing in cutting greenhouse gases while continuing economic growth.

Recent comments by Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, implied that Australia is leading the world in reduction of emissions intensity.

Is that right?

Emission intensity

To calculate emissions intensity for each country, you need its total greenhouse emissions and total GDP. You divide the emissions by the GDP and that tells you how much CO₂ equivalent it emits for each unit of output (for instance, per $US of GDP).

The change in emissions intensity between 1990 and now is calculated by taking a country’s emissions intensity now and dividing by what it used to be in 1990. You subtract that result from one. It’s usually expressed as a percentage, so you have to then multiply it by 100.

For example, say a country’s emissions intensity falls from 0.52kgCO₂ equivalent/$US of GDP in 1990 to 0.08kgCO₂ equivalent/$US of GDP in 2012. That works out to be an 85% reduction in emissions intensity.

The maths in that example would look like this:

Here’s how the states can dodge Canberra’s renewable roadblock

21 May 2015, 12.34pm AEST

by Dylan McConnell

The states could ‘top up’ renewable funding to encourage development.  Indigo Skies Photography /Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Labor and the Coalition government have now agreed to cut the federal renewable energy target (RET) from 41,000 gigawatt hours in 2020, to 33,000 GWh – a reduction of almost 20%. This agreement has been hailed as restoring stability to the industry, after a year plagued with uncertainty and featuring two reviews.

However, this is still a significant cut, particularly as the target is a significant part of Australia’s policy response to climate change.

Meanwhile, Victoria has committed to restoring its own renewable energy target, the VRET, following other states in developing renewable energy policy. However a clause the federal legislation prevents schemes similar to the federal RET.

How can the states get around this and support their industries?

History repeating

Australia’s RET began in 2001 with the Mandatory RET of 9,500 GWh of renewable energy generation by 2020. In 2004 the Howard government rejected the Tambling review recommendations to increase the target.

Following this decision, with a fledgling renewable energy industry threatening to fold, Victoria, NSW and SA all announced their own renewable energy targets and support measures.

In a case of history repeating itself, several state governments have again announced their own targets. South Australia already had a target for 50% by 2025 and the ACT has a target of 90% by 2020.

More recently, Queensland committed to generating 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and Victoria committed to re-instating a Victorian RET (though no target was specified).

BP’s extreme climate forecast puts energy giant in a bind

    Roger Dargaville, Research Fellow, Energy Research Institute at University of Melbourne
    Annabelle Workman,  PhD student, EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges at University of Melbourne
    Changlong Wang, PhD Student, The Australian-German College of Climate & Energy Transitions at University of Melbourne
    Dimitri Lafleur, PhD student, Australian German College of Climate and Energy Transitions at University of Melbourne
    Dylan McConnell, Research Fellow, Melbourne Energy Institute at University of Melbourne
    Martin Wainstein, PhD Student, Australian-German College of Climate and Energy Transitions at University of Melbourne
    Ryan Alexander,  Research Assistant, Australian-German College of Climate and Energy Transitions at University of Melbourne

BP’s energy outlook would make it difficult to keep warming below 2C. EPA/BERND THISSEN

BP’s annual Energy Outlook report, released in February, details the results from modelling of what it sees as the “most likely” energy scenario out to 2035. In this scenario global fossil use increases by 33%, consistent with a scenario the International Energy Agency (IEA) uses to describe the trajectory towards global warming of 6C – far beyond the accepted “safe” limit of 2C.

In its public presentation of the report, and elsewhere, BP admits that climate change is a problem, and that current carbon emission projections seem unsustainable, so what’s going on?

Setting Australia’s Post-2020 Target for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Submission to the Emissions Target Taskforce Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet


Setting Australia’s Post-2020 Target for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By: Annabelle Workman (1,3), Cathy Alexander (1,9), Ryan Alexander (1,7), Peter Christoff (4), Roger Dargaville (2), Kate Dooley (1,4), Jen Drysdale (1), Robyn Eckersley (5), Adrian Ford (1), Fiona Haines (5), Ben Henley (2), Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (6), David Karoly (1,2,3), Ellycia Kolieb (4), Dimitri Lafleur (1,2), Malte Meinshausen (1,2,7), Alexander Nauels (1,2), Graham Palmer (1,2), Chris Ryan (8,1), Robyn Schofield (2), John Wiseman (9)

(1) Australian-German College of Climate & Energy Transitions, The University of Melbourne

(2) School of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne

(3) EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges, The University of Melbourne

(4) School of Geography, The University of Melbourne

(5) School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne

(6) Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland

(7) Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

(8) Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, The University of Melbourne

(9) Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne


Summary of submission

  • It is imperative that Australia’s post-2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions supports the international objective of limiting global temperature rise to within two degrees Celsius (2°C) of pre-industrial levels.
  • An emissions reduction target of 60 per cent based on 2000 levels by 2030 represents a fair contribution from Australia.
  • By 2025, an Australian emission reduction target of at least 30 per cent below 2000 levels (or 36 per cent below 2005), would put Australia’s per-capita emissions on the same level as those of the United States (US).
  • The proposed target would facilitate Australia’s transition to a post-carbon economy. This is a transition that will positively impact Australia’s long-term standard of living because avoiding dangerous climate change is in Australia’s national interest.
  • Setting a clear long-term pathway could accelerate investment in low-carbon energy, industrial production, energy efficiency, and forest and land management. Conversely, a lack of certainty and clarity in Australia’s carbon pathway could increase long-term costs for Australians.

Summary of recommendations

To protect Australia’s national interests, it is recommended that the Australian Government:

Explainer: how countries could come to a global climate deal in 2015

12 March 2015, 6.25am , first published in the Conversation (there with links).

by Anita Talberg and Malte Meinshausen

Ahead of meetings at the end of this year in Paris, countries will submit draft contributions for a global climate deal. The goal: reducing greenhouse gases beyond 2020, and ultimately keeping global warming below 2C.

Countries are working towards meetings in Paris in November that could see the first global climate deal since the Kyoto Protocol.

At the end of this year, 196 countries from around the world will meet in Paris for the first attempt to reach a global deal on climate action since the much-hyped climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. Hope is building that Paris will see an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, and ultimately keep global warming to below 2C.

In the lead-up to the meeting, countries will submit intended contributions to a global climate deal, known as INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. These may be targets and baselines (for instance, greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030), but may also take other forms.

Essentially, an INDC is a public pledge from a country on how it plans to play its part in post-2020 collective action on climate change.

It is hoped that all countries that intend to publish an INDC will do so well in advance of the upcoming climate conference in Paris in December 2015. The secretariat to the UN’s climate change body is to produce a report on the total effect of INDCs submitted by 1 October 2015.

To date, Switzerland and the European Union have submitted INDCs and the majority of country submissions are expected before September.

But how will these INDCs fit into a global climate deal?

Paris goes more bottom-up

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, is often considered a top-down treaty because all the rules and parameters were agreed internationally. In practice there was still a strong bottom-up element, with countries setting their own emissions-reduction targets. A true top-down treaty would begin with a collective target (say, of staying below 2C) and then derive from that each country’s reduction commitment according to some internationally agreed method.

FactCheck: are Australian and US climate targets the same?

First published on The Conversation

by M. Meinshausen & A. Talberg (Climate-Energy College)

To match the US, Australia would have to increase its emissions reduction target to 25% below 2000 levels


If you use the full Kyoto period — 1990 to 2020 — the US is minus 5% and Australia is almost exactly the same. Environment minister Greg Hunt, Radio National, November 17.

We and the United States are pretty much on the same page. Over a 30 year period from 1990 to 2020, we have the same — roughly the same — reduction … If you compare apples with apples, the American position and our position on reductions are effectively the same. Treasurer Joe Hockey, Radio National, November 13.

Treasurer Joe Hockey and energy minister Greg Hunt were responding to claims (see here and here) that the US-China climate deal put pressure on Australia to revisit its efforts to reduce emissions.

The US target is a 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020 and, as pledged last week, a 26-28% reduction by 2025.

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Australia pledged an unconditional target of 5% reduction below 2000 levels by 2020, potentially moving to a target of 15% or 25% depending on international factors.

The current Australian government mentions the 5% target only, implying that conditions for moving to the 15% and 25% levels have not been fulfilled (the Climate Change Authority disagrees on this).

Why fixate on 20% renewables? It’s never been the actual target

By Dylan McConnell on 12th November 2014. 

This article was originally published in The Conversation. 

Protesters say the government’s planned cuts to the Renewable Energy Target will endanger Australian jobs in the sector. AAP Image/NewZulu/Josephine Lim

Labor has walked away from negotiations with the government over changes to the Renewable Energy Target, saying the proposed cuts of almost 40% are too deep.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane says he is only trying to bring the scheme back into line with its “original bipartisan intent” of 20% renewable energy by 2020.

Yet this wasn’t the original intent. The Renewable Energy Target has gone through a variety of iterations over its lifetime, but never has it been officially defined in terms in terms of a percentage target.

In 2000, Parliament agreed on a fixed target of 9,500 gigawatt hours (GWh) of new renewable generation by 2010, under the original Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET). This was implemented by the Howard Government in 2001 and was intended to increase Australia’s renewable energy supply by 2%.

In 2003 this target was reviewed for the first time, by a panel chaired by the Country Liberal Senator Grant Tambling. This Tambling Review made 30 recommendations, including this one:

MRET targets to continue to be expressed in gigawatt hours and not as a percentage of overall electricity demand.

FactCheck: does Australia have too much electricity?

By Dylan McConnell on 10th September 2014. 

This article was originally published in The Conversation. 

We have 9,000 megawatts (nine big power stations equivalent) of excess capacity in electricity generation … We have more than 15% overcapacity in generation in Australia - Industry minister Ian Macfarlane, ABC Radio, September 9.

Capacity and supply

In electricity markets, “capacity” is used to describe the total potential technical capacity (in megawatts) of a system. The total capacity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) is approximately 50,000 megawatts. “Energy” is often used to describe the output, or the electricity that is actually delivered.

The National Electricity Market is an “energy-only” market — capacity isn’t traded. We consider these markets in balance when there is 15% more capacity than the expected peak demand for electricity. The NEM has been in a state of structural over-supply for some time now — currently close to 30% over expected peak demand.

A key aim of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is to “promote efficient investment in and operation of Australia’s electricity and gas markets”.

As part of this AEMO, prepares an “Electricity StatementOpportunities”, that highlights generation and demand-side investment opportunities. In the latest update, rather than investment opportunities, Australian Energy Market Operator reported on the surplus capacity throughout the National Electricity Market:

“There is potentially between 7,650 megawatts and 8,950 megawatts of surplus capacity across the National Electricity Market in 2014–15. Approximately 90% of this is in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria.”

The operator modelled three economic scenarios — high, medium and low growth. For the first time in the history of the National Electricity Market, the modelling shows that no new capacity is required over the next ten years. The figure below illustrates that this surplus capacity may increase or decrease, depending on the scenario.

Range of surplus capacity forecasts in the National Electricity Market over the next 10 years. AEMO

Does Biochar hold the key to natural carbon sequestration?

By Laura Porter-Jacobs on 10th September 2014. 

Biochar technology is a novel approach to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations by retaining carbon in soils. Biochar is a manmade substance, an organic matter that is transformed into a charcoal by pyrolysis, the thermal decomposition of organic material, in a low oxygen (O2) environment. This process occurs at a relatively low temperature, below 700°C.

The product of this pyrolysis has a high chemical stability with a carbon content that can reside in soils for decades as evidenced in the discovery of Amazonian Dark Earth. This Amazonian Dark Earth otherwise known as 'terra preta do índio' is a soil that was developed by Amazonian civilisations hundreds of years ago in order to improve the fertility of the poor and acidic tropical soils in the region. A key component of the soil is its biochar.

This soil, and the biochar it holds, have remained stable for hundreds of years with sizeable deposits still found today, as shown in the below photo. Current research is analysing the persistence of biochar in a range of soils and ecosystems. To date, biochar has been determined as significantly more persistent in soil than any other organic matter.

Pre-Columbian biochar found in Kuelap, Amazonas, Peru, picture by Laura Porter-Jacobs  


To read the entire article, click here. 

Pumped hydro – the forgotten storage solution

By   2 July 2014

This article was origninally published in RenewEconomy.

Storage is in the energy news now, in more places than can be listed.

To pick a few, here is recent news from Europe,Tesla, and Queensland.  Everyone is looking to the day when battery technology can economically partner with the popular yet variable renewables: solar PV and wind.

But what if today there was a proven way to store vast amounts of energy at capital costs lower than what battery technologists hope they might achieve in 20 years time? A technology with high round-trip efficiency and one heck of a lifespan: 85 years and counting!

If you have read this article’s title, then you know where we are going with this: pumped hydro.

Australia Should Pursue Ambitious Climate Change Mitigation Policies

From an international perspective, Australia’s climate change policies have been all but consistent over the last decade. In 2004, when countries responsible for 55% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), thus bringing the Protocol into force, Australia refused to do so. It was only in 2007 that Australia signed the Protocol, which was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. This occurred shortly after both major Australian parties, Labor and Coalition, made election promises to implement a national Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). Yet, it was not until 2011 that ETS legislation was finally passed by Parliament as part of the Clean Energy Act. And today, that ETS, as well as a myriad of other long-running climate and energy policies, face an uncertain future. Sadly, the current domestic push to dismantle major pillars of Australia’s climate policies falls counter to evidence provided by the latest available science.