Latest Buzz...


Monday, December 26, 2011

National Energy Savings Initiative

The National Energy Savings Initiative Working Group has invited interested people and organisations to make a written submission in response to topics raised in its Issues Paper. (Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Media release 21 December 2011)
An Energy Savings Initiative is to place obligations on energy retailers to find and implement energy savings in households and businesses.

Senator Milne said in a press release on 21 December 2011:
The discussion paper and call for submissions into a National Energy Savings Initiative released by Minister Combet today is another great Greens idea coming to fruition.

"Energy efficiency is not only the easiest and fastest way to cut pollution, but it actually saves us all money while we're doing it," said Acting Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne.

"For too long, governments, businesses and householders haven't tackled our hugely wasteful use of energy because there has been no clear and urgent driver to do so.
Just a few of the topics raised in the Working Group's Issues Paper are:
Chapter 3: Major design elements

3.3 Sectoral coverage

27. The Australian Government has committed to investigating a broad-based national Energy Savings Initiative, that is, one that allows activities to be undertaken in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Are there sectors, or sub-sectors, that should or shouldn’t be excluded from undertaking activity in a national Energy Savings Initiative? Why? What costs would inclusion or exclusion of certain sectors impose?

Chapter 4: Improving energy efficiency in different sectors

4.2 Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

71. For different SME types, what is the opportunity and scope to improve energy efficiency?

72. What are the barriers that currently prevent SMEs from taking up available energy efficiency opportunities? To what extent could these be addressed by a national Energy Savings Initiative? Is there evidence that other policies or programs would be more effective in achieving this objective?

73. Are there particular Energy Savings Initiative design features that would increase the uptake of energy efficiency opportunities by SMEs? Are there design features that would impede such opportunities from being unlocked?

4.3 Commercial, government and community buildings

75. Can you provide evidence or examples where barriers limit uptake of cost-effective energy efficiency in the commercial, government and community sectors? Would these be impacted by an Energy Savings Initiative? If yes, how? Is there evidence that other policies or programs would be more effective in achieving this objective?

4.4 Industrial and mining operations

78. Can you provide evidence of where barriers limit uptake of cost-effective energy efficiency in the industrial sector? How would these be impacted by an Energy Savings Initiative?

4.5 Energy generation and networks sectors

83. Should activities which save primary energy be credited in a national Energy Savings Initiative? If so, what approach or methodology should be used to credit these activities and why?

84. Have barriers that could be addressed by an Energy Savings Initiative been effectively addressed by other policy mechanisms? Can you give specific evidence or examples as to why covering generators under a national Energy Savings Initiative would or would not produce positive outcomes?

85. Given the monopoly nature of energy networks and their unique regulatory environment, can you provide evidence that an Energy Savings Initiative is or is not an appropriate policy tool to encourage greater energy efficiency? Can you provide any evidence to suggest that the incorporation of energy networks will or will not provide a net benefit?

Chapter 6: Peak demand

6.3 Energy consumers’ response to peak demand reduction incentives

98. Do you see risks in implementing incentives designed to reduce peak demand outside of energy market frameworks?

99. Do you have evidence or examples to forward the case that certain activities should or should not be incorporated in a potential Energy Savings Initiative peaking component? In particular:

a. active demand response mechanism (such as load control)

b. passive mechanisms that change the load profile overtime (such as high efficiency air conditioning)

c. load shifting (where there may be no energy saved and greenhouse gas emissions may increase)

d. distributed generation or fuel switching (and which fuels), or

e. network management activities?

6.4 Design considerations for a national energy savings initiative that explicitly targets peak demand

104. Of the above examples of scheme designs, which, if any, are likely to drive greater benefits and uptake of demand response activities? Which options have higher risks and complexity? Please provide supporting evidence.

From Energy Savings Initiative Working Group Issues Paper, at page 5:

Projected composition of future electricity price rises

X other state-based schemes
X energy efficiency & demand management / state schemes
X Small renewable energy scheme
X Renewable energy target / large-scale
renewable energy target
X Retail
X Feed-in tariffs
X Distribution
X Transmission
X Carbon price impact
X Wholesale

TOTAL (cents / kWh)

Source: Australian Energy Market Commission, ‘Possible Future Retail Electricity Price Movements: 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014’ (2011). These projections relate to regulated electricity tariffs and prices have been weighted by the number of residential customers and the average residential electricity price in each state and territory. The Treasury estimates that the impact of the carbon price mechanism on average household weekly expenditure on electricity would be $3.30 per week in 2012–13.

NOTE: The "Possible Future Retail Electricity Price Movements" are for RESIDENTIAL customers only. Many large business customers have long-term fixed electricity price contracts.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Wherever you are and whoever you are with, we hope you're having a very merry Christmas.

The Askgerbil Team

Friday, December 23, 2011

AGL no Fan of Energy Efficiency

Limited-form dynamic pricing: applying shock therapy to peak demand growth
Paul Simshauser and David Downer
AGL Energy Ltd
Level 22, 101 Miller Street
North Sydney, NSW 2060.
February 2011

" aspect of energy policy that is gaining increasing traction at the federal level is ...[an] energy efficiency scheme, primarily as part of the suite of policies aimed at greenhouse gas abatement. Under such a scheme, efficiency targets would be imposed upon [electricity] retailers to reduce electricity consumption of their respective customer base via changing out lights, appliances and installing other energy saving devices. Ergas (2010) observed that this should only occur where benefits exceed the cost. In relation to a federal taskforce report on implementing such a scheme, he noted that:
A policy is effective if it does what it sets out to do. It is economically efficient if what it sets out to do is worth doing. The [federal government energy efficiency taskforce] report's premise is that we should reduce our energy consumption; what it fails to show is that reducing energy consumption would make Australians better off. The clear implication of this is that our levels of energy use are inefficient. But for this proposition, there is no evidence [presented in the report] whatsoever...
Ergas, H. (2010), “Saving energy will tie us in green tape”, The Australian, 15 October 2010."

Electricity Bill Shocks and Smart Meters

The above report is enclosed with a submission by Tim Nelson, AGL's Head of Economic Policy & Sustainability on 26 August 2011 to the Australian Energy Market Commission.

AGL is not in favour of reducing consumption of the product it sells (electricity). It does however support increasing the price for product it sells (electricity).

Tim Nelson's submission on Power of choice – giving consumers options [and electricity bill shocks] ... says:
Muted price signal – unless consumers are exposed to price signals that inform consumption behaviour and purchasing decisions, empowering users to be more energy efficient is unlikely to be fully obtained [sic].
Most importantly, the continued regulation of retail prices prevents retailers from developing innovative dynamic pricing structures which aim to overcome the allocative inefficiency [sic] which results from variable demand.

It is not realistic to talk about reforms to the electricity system involving new technologies (e.g. smart meters) when the very value they provide cannot be extracted [sic] due to rigid pricing structures enforced through ongoing retail price regulation

(Submission, 26 August 2011, page 2)
Tim Nelson enclosed a report that expands on this idea:
Above trend-growth investment across the energy supply chain is now driving retail prices to levels that triggered the sectoral assault in the first place. This pressure should initiate the last piece of the reform puzzle; removing price regulation, installing smart meters and implementing limited-form dynamic pricing to halt the primary cause of the problem [sic]; rapidly rising peak demand. 
(Report Abstract)

With smart meters and a mobilised education campaign, limited-form dynamic pricing could then commence, although crucially, outside the summer period to minimise the incidence of initial bill shock. 
(Report at page 19)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Universal Access to Renewable Energy

A Challenge, An Opportunity, A Risk and A Strategy 
UN calls for universal access to renewable energy
In its annual Human Development Report, the UN Development Progamme (UNDP) said the UN has designated 2012 as the international year of sustainable energy for all. 
400 million in India have no access to power
A huge potential for low carbon growth.....but will absolute emissions always grow...?
See details below on Health without energy? - Without clean, modern energy people's health can be severely affected
See this post on Doubling Energy Production with No Increase in CO2 Emissions
@StopSpewingCO2 Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
Stop biomass incinerators because they poison people, pollute the air, dry up rivers, and suck up clean energy money
Innovation Exchange (IX) is an online open innovation marketplace.

It's where diverse community members from all over the world respond to challenges sponsored by Global 5000 companies and not-for-profit organizations.

Do you have an amazing new product to sell but there’s no innovation challenge for it?

Do you have an amazing new product to sell but can’t reach the important decision-makers?

IX will sell your new product to its Fortune 500 clients … to make you BIG CASH!

In the world of business, sometimes it’s not what you know BUT who you know!!!

Recently we've had such great success opening doors for some of our community members, we thought we’d let everyone know!
Before you reach out to us, please keep in mind that although not a requirement, we prefer the following...
  1. Your product be commercialized or close to commercialization.
  2. Your product has a patent attached to it.

If you need our help...please email us at to schedule a call with an IX representative. In your email, please include a short description of your product, patent number (if applicable) and identify those sectors and companies most likely to be interested.

Innovation Exchange Inc.
2 Berkeley Street, Suite 300
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2W3

A clean energy future is part of a long term plan to reshape our economy, cut carbon pollution, drive innovation, and help avoid the increased costs of delaying action on climate change.
Find out more by following latest news, and stay connected via our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels.

Planting trees under Carbon Farming Initiative

Friday, 16 December 2011 11:57 am
Across Australia, farmers and land managers are now able to plant permanent native forest trees...

Biodiversity Fund now open

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 04:59 pm
Australia’s farmers and other land managers can now apply for funding under the Biodiversity Fund,...

International progress towards cutting carbon pollution

Monday, 12 December 2011 06:03 pm
The Durban climate change conference has concluded resulting in further progress towards a new international...

Clean Energy bills receive Royal Assent

Monday, 12 December 2011 02:40 pm
Central legislation is now in place to deliver a clean energy future for Australia, as...

Carbon Farming Initiative launches

Thursday, 8 December 2011 04:34 pm
The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) Administrator is now open for business, providing exciting opportunities for farmers,...

Australia-NZ links on emissions trading

Wednesday, 7 December 2011 11:09 am
Australia and New Zealand have agreed to strengthen links between their emissions trading schemes in...

  • Almost half the world's population - 2.5 billion people - have no access to decent fuels for cooking
  • 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity
  • In Africa 85% of the population don't have electricity
  • 60% of energy is consumed by just 20% of the world's population
This is a massive problem, one that destroys lives and stops poor people escaping the clutches of poverty.

Practical Action helps communities to develop and promote sustainable energy technologies - sustainable, not only because they use renewable energy sources, but also because the community can participate in designing, building and maintaining the project.

The benefits to communities can be dramatic.

Health without energy?

Without clean, modern energy people's health can be severely affected

One of the greatest energy needs across the world is for cooking, something which we take for granted. Without a decent energy supply, people are forced to rely on biomass - wood or animal dung - for cooking.

Women and children can spend hours every day searching for increasingly scarce resources.

Once they start burning biomass, the thick acrid smoke cause's serious lung diseases turning kitchens into death traps.

Children and their mothers are most at risk, choking, retching and gasping to get air to their lungs which are being attacked and destroyed by smoke.

More people die from smoke inhalation than malaria.

According to the World Health Organisation, diseases associated with indoor air pollution claim 1.6 million lives every year - that's one person every 20 seconds.

Further Reading: Fuel for Life - Household Energy and Health, World Health Organisation

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap

 The Roadmap Launch 

The final Intelligent Grid Stakeholder Forum was held in Sydney on 15 December 2011. 

Update, 20 March 2013

The second Australian Summer Study tackled Smarter Energy Market Reform from 27 February - 1 March 2013. 
Summer Study 2013 videos, photos and international events are now available.

Update, 16 January 2013

Some of the world’s leading energy thinkers to visit Sydney for the second Australian Summer Study - to tackle Smarter Energy Market Reform from 27 February - 1 March 2013 .

You can download a copy of the  Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap which was launched 15 December 2011 by the Honourable Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy; Minister for Tourism.  The launch of the report developed by the University of Technology, Sydney was a landmark event.  

The Roadmap is intended to provide a concise and practical blueprint for accelerating the deployment of distributed energy in the form of energy efficiency, load management, distributed generation and smart metering in Australia. 

Update, 14 March 2012

Long term investment in energy efficiency in our households,  communities and businesses will create new job opportunities and stronger local and international economies which will help us transition to a clean energy future.

That is the key message of some of the world’s leading energy thinkers, who visited Sydney for the inaugural Australian Summer Study on Energy Efficiency and Decentralised Energy from 29 February - 2 March 2012 . The event was proudly supported by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

In summary:

  • The lowest-cost deployment of decentralised energy could shave more than $2.8 billion dollars a year from electricity bills by 2020 according to a new UTS report
  • It says efficient use of energy, peak load management and localised small-scale generation would reduce the need for expensive centralised power stations, power lines and substations

Click here to download the Roadmap (3.55 MBytes) 

Decentralised Energy in an Intelligent Grid

Over $45 billion is being spent on network infrastructure in the five years to 2015. Network spending is concentrated most strongly in NSW and Queensland but is affecting all jurisdictions. ...The current and previous approved regulatory spend on network infrastructure, highlighting the massive growth in the 2010–2015 period. This investment is driving substantial electricity price increases around the country. Sydney metropolitan area customers face five-year nominal price increases as high as 83 per cent

... Around one-third of total approved network investment, or almost $15 billion, is driven by peak demand growth and is thus considered potentially avoidable if demand growth were eliminated through measures such as Decentralised Energy. If deployed strategically, Decentralised Energy presents a means of achieving substantial reductions in this component of network spending. 
(see Roadmap at page 8)

 Example of Technology in an Intelligent Grid

This Forum, the culmination of three years of research, marks the launch of the Australian Decentralised Energy Roadmap, the major component of the stakeholder engagement in the Intelligent Grid Research Cluster. Click to download the program.

The Roadmap is a concise and practical blueprint to accelerate the integration of decentralised energy into smarter electricity networks, was officially launched by the Hon. Martin Ferguson AM MP, Federal Minister for Resources and Energy.

Decentralised Energy (including energy efficiency, distributed generation, peak load management, and smart metering) will play a key role both in creating of a clean energy future and in ensuring that energy bills remain affordable for all Australians.

This event, co-hosted by the Australian Alliance to Save Energy, was the last in a series of six industry and stakeholder engagement forums held across Australia. The Roadmap is a key product of the Intelligent Grid (iGrid) Research Program, a major three-year research collaboration between the CSIRO and five of Australia’s leading universities, supported by the CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship.

The formal launch was followed by panel discussions with key stakeholders to discuss the Roadmap and its central themes of: the potential of decentralised energy, the benefits, costs and barriers associated with advancing decentralised energy technologies and policy options to address these barriers.

Date: Thursday 15, December, 2011
Aerial Function Centre, Wattle Room, Level 7, Building 10, 235 Jones Street Ultimo, UTS (parking is available at the Thomas Street Carpark)

: 8.45am to 12.30pm


The Honourable Martin Ferguson AM MP- Minister for Resources and Energy
Mr George Maltabarow
- Managing Director, Ausgrid

Dr Brian Spalding
- Commissioner, Australian Energy Market Commission
Mr Jon Jutsen
- Chairman, Australian Alliance to Save Energy

Prof. Stuart White
- Director Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS

Dr Muriel Watt
- Head of Energy Policy & PV, IT Power Australia

Mr Matt Levey-
Head of Campaigns, CHOICE

Ms Madeleine Lyons
- Manager, Origin Energy

Mr Chris Dunstan, Mr Edward Langham, Mr Chris Cooper and

Ms Nicola Ison
- Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS

  This landmark event took place on 15 December.

Stuart White
Cluster Leader, Intelligent Grid Cluster

20050920_csiro70.gif Australian Alliance Save Energy isf_lock_colfeb07_crop_jpg.jpg

Energy Strategy

Peak Demand

A recent Queensland government report estimates that the installation of a 2 kilowatt (electrical input) reverse-cycle air conditioner imposes costs on the energy supply system as a whole of up to $7,000 when adding to peak demand. 
(From the Executive Summary of the Draft Energy White Paper 2011 - Strengthening the Foundation for Australia's Energy Future launched on 13 December 2011 by the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Australia.)
"...Network and generation capacity is built to provide a very high level of reliability under peak demand, even when this additional capacity may only be used for a fraction of the time. For example, in 2008–09 in Victoria, about 25 per cent of network capacity was used for only 10 days. ..."  (From chapter 6C of the Draft Energy White Paper 2011 - Strengthening the Foundation for Australia's Energy Future)

Demand Response Management

A cheaper solution to under-utilised electricity supply infrastructure is to do away with the concept "base load demand" and add "discretionary demand".

For example, it may be less expensive to idle an aluminium refinery for a few hours a year instead of paying for electricity supply infrastructure that is only used for a few hours a year.

The US has introduced "Negawatts" to pay bidders to REMOVE demand in peak periods, instead of paying to increase electricity supply that is rarely needed.

For more on the "Negawatt":  FERC: Negawatts on a Par with Megawatts March 16, 2011 POWERnews
"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) yesterday established a new rule that puts demand response (DR) on a par with power generation. The rule requires organized wholesale energy market operators to pay DR resources the market price for energy, known as the locational marginal price (LMP), when those resources have the capability to balance supply and demand as an alternative to a generation resource and when dispatch of those resources is cost-effective...."
Update Monday, June 18, 2012 -

Source: Michael West, Sydney Morning Herald, June 16, 2012

Power play set to spark bill shock

It is no small irony that although the cost of electricity is rapidly rising, demand is actually falling. Economics 101 would suggest prices should fall when demand falls.

But when it comes to the supply of power, there is a flaw in the regulatory framework that leads to a "gold-plating" of the grid, the poles and wires that make up the network.

In NSW for instance, where consumers will be hit hardest, network upgrades will constitute 60 per cent of the total rise in electricity costs. The carbon tax is often painted as the villain in the piece, and that will hurt too, but network upgrades are the big offender.

Wholesale prices, meanwhile, are the same as they were 12 years ago.

The "gold plating" - something rejected by TransGrid last month when we put it to them - arises because the network providers make a margin on the size of their asset base.

The more they spend on their assets, the higher is the dividend they pay the government each year.

And they are proposing to spend big. TransGrid expects to expand its asset base by 24 per cent at a cost of $2.6 billion over the next five years, a cost that will drop straight into consumers' electricity bills.

There is nothing official yet but it is reasonable to surmise the NSW government may face a conflict of interest here.

Efficiency and Electricity Infrastructure Cost Burdens

Large electricity consumers have long-term fixed-price contracts. There are two adverse results.
  1. These consumers have no incentive to increase efficiency.
  2. Infrastructure costs are being shouldered by other consumers.
This issue is discussed further at The Great Carbon Tax Distraction that expands on the following survey findings -
  1. 40% of businesses that took part in an industry survey in December 2010 reported a DECREASE in electricity prices relative to the CPI over the last 5 years.
  2. Larger companies were more likely to experience no electricity price increases or reductions in electricity prices.
  3. More than 60% of businesses reported NO IMPROVEMENT in energy efficiency over the last 5 years.
The effect of energy efficiency  measures taken by domestic electricity consumers in New South Wales has led to an unprecedented decline in demand - (From: Unprecedented Increase in Energy Efficiency, August 15, 2011)
"It is the first time Ausgrid, which provides power to much of New South Wales, has seen a fall in demand since the 1950s.

The fall is expected to lead the national electricity market body, the Australian Electricity Market Operator, to forecast overall cuts of 5 to 6 per cent in demand in the next decade - the first cuts in living memory.

The slashing of demand forecasts is expected to result in little need for more large-scale power stations until the end of the decade, until 2020, at the earliest. The drop in demand forecasts has increased pressure on the government to curtail capital spending by state-owned electricity companies."

Renewable Energy - Intermittent and Despatchable

The ability to deliver renewable energy when it is needed and not just when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining is discussed in these recent articles - 

Lack Of Storage Hurting Energy Revolution, EARTHJUSTICE, December 8, 2011
"Currently, America's transmission grid—the power lines and electrical equipment that bring us electricity—has very few devices that store power from renewable clean energy sources such as solar and wind. This is hindering the deployment of these energy sources and limits their usefulness."
Will Energy Storage Play a Big Role in the Electric Grid?, Scientific American, November 22, 2011
" is considered vital to help intermittent renewable resources, such as the wind and sun, play a bigger role in U.S.—and global—energy supply..."
Draft Energy White Paper 2011 - Strengthening the Foundation for Australia's Energy Future launched on 13 December 2011 by the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Australia. (at Chapter 7)
"...Noting the multi‐decade focus of this draft Energy White Paper-
The best case supporting future consideration of nuclear power would be the failure to commercialise new low emissions baseload energy or energy storage technologies within the timeframe that economic analysis suggests is necessary to meet long‐term global and national emissions reduction objectives (from 2025 onwards). "

Using Solar Energy 24 hours a day ("Baseload" Solar Energy)

Plants Store Solar Energy

For example, a pine plantation and a sugar cane crop store solar energy while they are growing.

After harvesting, timber and sugar are separated leaving considerable "waste" mass with embodied solar energy.

Concentrated solar thermal energy can then be added to the "waste" mass, converting it to synthesis gas.

ALL of the energy stored in this synthesis gas is RENEWABLE SOLAR ENERGY.

It can be used to generate "baseload" electricity 24 hours a day, on demand.

See the related post Discussion of Electricity Prices