A chat with Sir Tim Smit – co-founder of the Eden Project

Today I had a chat with Sir Tim Smit, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Eden Project, ahead of his forthcoming presentation for the Planet Talks at WOMADelaide 2017.

In the prologue to his book, Eden, two sentences stand out, and they sum up the spirit of our chat: “Neither do I make any apology for being optimistic about the future. I am.”

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The government is right to fund energy storage: a 100% renewable grid is within reach

In a speech to the National Press Club, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared that the key requirements for Australia’s electricity system are that it should be affordable, reliable, and able to help meet national emissions-reduction targets. He also stressed that efforts to pursue these goals should be “technology agnostic” – that is, the best solutions should be chosen on merit, regardless of whether they are based on fossil fuels, renewable energy or other technologies.

As it happens, modern wind, solar photovoltaics (PV) and off-river pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) can meet these requirements without heroic assumptions, at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuel power stations.

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New plans for solar thermal at Port Augusta

On 7th June 2016 another important step was taken towards decarbonising the South Australian economy. Solastor Australia announced detailed plans to build a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta.
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Technology as if people mattered

A few months ago, new friends of ours came to visit for dinner. So shocked were they by the squat television in our living room that they insisted we accept a flat-screen version they had going spare.

Now, I’m usually of the ‘use it until it wears out’ school when it comes to my possessions and I was quite fond of the old box we had – its colours were still fine, it did its job. It was far from obsolete.

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Looking forward from COP21 Paris to COP22 Marrakech

What was unthinkable is now unstoppable – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

His quote resonated among the many speeches that followed French President Francois Hollande’s announcement that we now have a new global understanding on climate – the legally binding Paris Agreement.

Following Copenhagen 2006, it was unthinkable 196 nations would voluntarily sign up to the world’s first global agreement to work together on climate change in good faith, with 189 lodging Intended Nationally Determined Contributions INDCs before Paris.

Yet it’s important to state plainly that the net contribution of all INDCs now in hand still commit the world to 2.7-3 of warming, so we are not out of the woods yet, but at least we are starting to take it all seriously…

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David, Goliath and an Android App

When I was a kid – and gullible enough to take biblical stories literally – I was deeply impressed by the story of David and Goliath. Even now the notion that a shepherd boy with his slingshot and stones could defeat the giant armoured warrior Goliath still resonates in my work in independent media.

But in challenging the distortions and commercial bias of the mainstream media giants, it’s fortunate we have brilliant techie tools to use instead of slingshot and stones.

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The Tesla battery heralds the beginning of the end for fossil fuels

While wind and solar power have made great strides in recent years, with renewables now accounting for 22% of electric energy generated, the issue that has held them back has been their transience. The sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t blow year-round – these are the mantras of all those opposed to the progress of renewables.

Now the renewable power billionaire Elon Musk has just blown away that final defence. Last Thursday in California he introduced to the world his sleek new Powerwall – a wall-mounted energy storage unit that can hold 10 kilowatt hours of electric energy, and deliver it at an average of 2 kilowatts, all for US$3,500.

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Vandana Shiva – seed freedom

At WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks, Vandana Shiva, Paul Sutton and Tim Jarvis will be challenging the values that we place on our land, food and water, and what these values mean for the health of our planet and ourselves.

I spoke to Dr Vandana Shiva about seeds and freedom.

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The tipping point on the Great Barrier Reef

There is rarely a time when both reality and written word marry seamlessly as they do when our incumbent Prime Minister and his phonetic namesake represent more than just their respective entities, but rather an important ‘fork in the road’, one that will have long and lasting consequences. The other similar pair is Joe Hockey and the hockey stick of carbon dioxideemissions. They are both occurring at the same time. A sign?

We are currently faced with a government which – against all common sense and due diligence – is willing to turn Abbot Point into a dump for three million tonnes of dredge spoil to create one of the world’s largest coal ports, without fully understanding the effects on the Great Barrier Reef.

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