Snowy Hydro gets a boost, but ‘seawater hydro’ could help South Australia

The federal government has announced a A$2 billion plan to expand the iconic Snowy Hydro scheme. It will carry out a feasibility study into the idea of adding “pumped hydro” storage capacity, which it says could power up to 500,000 homes. The Conversation

Hydro is one of the oldest and most mature electricity generation technologies. And pumped hydro storage – in which water is pumped uphill for later use, rather than simply flowing downriver through a hydro power station – is the dominant form of energy storage globally.

But there are limitations to how much freshwater hydro can be accessed, so it’s worth looking at what alternate approaches are available. One promising prospect is to use seawater instead of rivers. This tactic could potentially help South Australia resolve its highly publicised energy problems. Continue reading

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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On wings of hope: Interfaith global call to action on climate change

I’m aboard QF11 from Australia to JFK Airport New York via Los Angeles.

For the past few weeks I have worked with a tireless and committed group of people to gather high level faith signatures for an Interfaith Climate Change Statement.

Thankfully, amazingly, over 250 senior faith leaders across the world have added their names to this combined call for urgent action on climate change. I’m flying to New York for 50 hours on the ground to witness the formal handover of this joint statement to the current President of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Combat Climate Change? There’s an App for That.

Fed up of folks Instagramming their dinners?

A new app from Melbourne-based climate action group Less Meat Less Heat will have you craning your neck to see what’s on other people’s plates.

Used to having control at the swipe of a touchscreen, millenials are turning to their devices for everything from financial management to weight loss to language learning. Now there’s an app for monitoring the carbon footprint of our food choices.

The aptly named Climatarian Challenge app is scheduled for launch on 1st July, and will be free to download, thanks to a bold crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of production.

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Last stand: saving the world’s forests

One of my vivid boyhood memories is of scrambling amongst granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield in the shimmering heat of a July afternoon.

I emerged from the forest into mottled sunshine and stretched out on flat, lichen-covered rocks, high above the black waters of a quiet lake. Stately white pines touched the sky. Underfoot was a cushion of sharply perfumed pine needles. The air was calm.

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The COP-out we cannot afford

One week on from COP21, Mark Pershin and Kari McGregor weigh in on the false promises of a flaccid agreement that leaves behind the innocent and most vulnerable.

Paris was a world-first: all of the major emitters huddled around the negotiating table, ready to write the script for a new era of climate action. No absences. No excuses.

It took 21 years of bureaucratic wrangling to transcend tactical boycotts and get everyone to the starting blocks. If nothing else, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) twenty-first conference of parties (COP21) can take credit for a full house.

Talks have often been fraught with tension: negotiations at COP6 at The Hague in 2000 broke down and talks were rescheduled for 2001 in Bonn; COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 collapsed in disarray without agreement.

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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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COP21 – Eavesdropping on an old family argument

I stayed up until 3am this morning, listening to every speech made on the new draft text delivered by the French Presidency and prepared during the first gruelling 10 days of discussions.

I wanted to hear, firsthand, the voices of all those sent to represent us, the people of the world.  A few voices stood out for me:

  • Australian Ambassador for the Environment, Peter Woolcott, disappointed but resilient on behalf of the Umbrella Group
  • Egypt speaking for Africa, the reality of the urgency facing the continent
  • Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) approving acknowledgement of 1.5°C target but calling for action on mitigation and adaptation to reach it.
  • Angola speaking for the LDCs, registering a proposal for unblocking political issues of finance and mitigation
  • Ramos Horta for East Timor, suggesting that Hollande will deserve a Nobel Peace Prize if he delivers a strong binding global agreement …

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