Anyone with half an interest in renewables will be following the political tussle over energy policies with a mix of discomfort and disbelief. The prospect of the coalition adopting a clean energy target is looking less likely by the day with the government distancing itself from Finkel’s key recommendation. Instead the coalition continues to support old technology and publicly calling on AGL to maintain operations at Liddell beyond the 2022 use by date. The 2000 MW plant has, perhaps, become a symbol of the coalition’s dogged determination to prop up old, polluting technology regardless of impact and economics.

The cost of a face-lift for AGL’s ageing plant would be prohibitive: estimates are in the region of hundreds of millions of dollars.

As put by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the coalition is intent on spending “hundreds of millions, billions of dollars propping up the coal industry. Coal is dead. It’s dead in Australia, trying to keep these clunkers going [and] at huge public expense is just crazy”.

AGL has been given until mid December to draw up plans for the plant it has already demonstrated financially unviable. One option is to create a dam in the open-cut mine and replace the plant with gas generation and pumped hydro, a proposal that would fulfill chief executive Andy Vesey’s pledge to avert a market shortfall.

In recent days the past coalition prime minister has publicly reinforced his stance, backing energy reliability (subtext: coal) over renewables. He describes a clean-energy target as “unconscionable” as is any move to wind back support for coal in favour of renewables; casts climate change as “very much a third order issue” and is calling on governments to build coal-fired power stations including “Hazelwood 2.0.” Some would argue the one thing that coal plants can be relied on is the harm caused to health and the environment.

On that, the spotlight has now fallen on Energy Australia’s 1400 MW coal-fired Mt Piper plant near Lithgow that supplies approximately 1.18 million NSW homes, 15 per cent of the NSW electricity supply.

Completed in 1993 the plant has an operational life to 2042 however where once six mines supplied the coal today it’s down to one, and that is looking shaky. Each day Centennial Coal’s Springvale mine pumps millions of litres of untreated mine water into the river supplying Sydney’s main dam, and the mine is now threatened with closure on environmental grounds.

Should an alternative supplier be sourced, or Springvale pipe the wastewater to a treatment plant (that is not yet in existence)?

EnergyAustralia chairman Graham Bradley told media “We are in a diabolically compromised commercial position; unexpectedly so.” He blames the “dysfunctional” state planning system.

An industry source told us that the complexity and uncertainty of state planning processes are resulting in refusal for many coal projects, or in some cases deterring proponents from taking projects into a planning process.

Gas shortages and a moratorium on exploration exist in both Victoria and NSW, the latter now experiencing a shortfall of secure coal for power generation. In the bid to conserve coal each of the three large NSW generators are pricing it above gas and the situation is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

Added to the mix are the protests by environmental groups (whose agendas have been widely misconstrued in some publications).

The emerging scenario is thus: the concept of reliable base load generation from coal and gas, considering fuel uncertainty, is no longer guaranteed. This does nothing to help industrial customers or retailers because while fuel supplies are uncertain, generators are unable to offer firm or future contracts. Stalemate!

Solution. Renewables and storage technology are advancing at a rapid rate while becoming cheaper. Better still, wind, sun and gravity pose no risks over fuel supply. With storage, renewables can provide dispatchable generation which is just what the market needs.

The signs are that these contemporary, clean technologies will soon be providing the contracts to support the electricity market.

In short, the weakness of uncertain baseload generation to deliver outcomes for customers needs to be recognised as the nation moves to smarter generation that does not rely on fuels with supply constraints and social dependencies.

More and more people regard solar thermal, pumped hydro backing wind, battery storage combined with distributed energy as the way forward, the path to a more rational future.

A recent Climate Council survey found the majority of people (almost 75 per cent) believe solar batteries will become commonplace, given household solar storage holds the key to cheaper and more reliable energy. Citizens also see little merit in maintaining old coal fired plants. (See following item.)

Economics certainly help determine energy choices according to Emma Herd of the Investor Group on Climate Change who says more Australian businesses and households are pursuing renewables based on the sound financials.

Senator Wong agrees. Speaking on Q&A the senator alluded to Australia’s decade long political conflict over the energy market, but says “Australians get it. They want to be making energy out of the sun and the wind, but they also want to be able to store that [now they can].”

This story was found at https://www.solar.org.au/industry-news/electricity-shock/


Power stock exchange to be put to the test

Energy trading right down to household level is being touted as one of the pillars for energy reform, but just how well it may work is still unclear.

Electricity customers have been able to offer their own power, from small-scale generators such as solar, back into the grid or to other consumers directly, since July 1.

The Australian Energy Market Commission says a peer-to-peer trading platform could help lower energy prices, by filling the dispatchable power gap in the market by using excess energy from solar panels.

Dubbed “deX”, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency-funded exchange is promoted as a style of demand management that would enable the network to overcome increased usage.

The decentralised energy exchange creates a localised “smart grid” that provides back-up supply during peak demand, although it is still in its infancy.

The Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said while it could help reduce energy prices, “the physical and commercial arrangements will need a lot of work, and there will be issues associated with safety”.

“The biggest issue is that the trading would still presumably involve the use of the existing network – I can’t meet you at the local cafe and give you a bag full of electricity – and how that is priced,” Mr Wood said.

“As with anything to do with the [electricity] system, there are regulatory and commercial issues that need to be addressed. We should strongly be supporting well-designed and well-managed trials.”

A new start-up, Power Ledger, is exploring consumer power trading and trialling automated technology with energy retail giant Origin, using blockchain technology.

Power Ledger’s trading platform uses anonymised and historical customer data and the blockchain process to explore how an exchange would work across a regulated network.

The blockchain technology creates a transparent and auditable record of energy generation and consumption, allowing consumers to trade energy with their neighbours automatically.

The process works as a clearing mechanism between residential and commercial businesses to decide at what price and to whom they want to sell their excess energy.

“Peer-to-peer energy trading presents an opportunity to unlock enormous value for consumers, it disintermediates the energy supply model putting consumers in direct contact with other consumers,” Power Ledger managing director David Martin said.

“Exploring technology options with Origin that could allow consumers to take more control of their energy purchasing options highlights how the needs and expectations of energy users are changing in Australia.

“The technical trial with Origin allows us to test this new and potentially disruptive technology with one of the industry’s biggest players.”

Origin executive general manager for future energy, Tony Lucas, said the work is part of Origin’s wider commitment to investigating emerging technologies.

“While it’s still early days for this technology, we are keen to explore the potential benefits that peer-to-peer energy trading could offer our customers,” Mr Lucas said.

“We hope the trial will help us better understand the value proposition for consumers, as well as the regulatory and technical implications of the peer-to-peer trading model,” he said.

The trial will begin in October and run for three months.

Watch the video embedded on the SMH website to see a healthy overview of how batteries and energy trading are set to disrupt and transform the energy industry. 

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/business/energy/power-stock-exchange-to-be-put-to-the-test-20170921-gyltdy.html

Death Spiral: why electricity prices are set to climb ever higher

Peter Martin

Published: September 21 2017 – 1:20PM

What’s most terrifying the electricity industry isn’t the threat of price control or a clean energy target or even being forced to keep open power stations that have long since ceased to work properly.

It’s not even the government’s inability to come up with a clear set of rules.

It’s a fear more primal – the same one gripping the national broadband network, public schools, and private health funds.

Analysts at AGL Energy call it “the death spiral”.

US economist Craig Severance popularised the term six years ago.

“In this nightmare, a utility commits to build a very expensive new power plant,” he wrote. “However, when electric rates are raised to pay for the new plant, the rate shock moves customers to cut their use. The utility then has no way to pay for the new power plant unless it raises rates even higher – causing a further spiral as customers cut their use even more or walk away.

“In the final stages of that death spiral, the utility’s more affluent customers have drastically cut purchases by implementing efficiency and on-site (solar) power, but the poorest customers have been unable to finance such measures. The utility is then left attempting to collect higher and higher rates from poorer and poorer customers.”

It’s been playing out in Australia since the late 2000s.

Most of each electricity bill is the cost of the network – poles, wires and transformers. The companies that own them are necessarily monopolies, often government-owned. What they can charge is regulated, but since the late 2000s, regulated to their extraordinary advantage.

It’s a cost-plus arrangement. The monopolies forecast demand every five years, estimate how much they will need to spend to meet it, add a margin, and get a tick from the Australian Energy Regulator. If it doesn’t give them a tick, they can appeal to the Australian Competition Tribunal which has given them more on 31 out of 52 occasions and has never given them less.

At the very end of the 2000s the network monopolies forecast big increases in demand and even bigger increases in their investment programs to cope, so-called “gold plating”. It allowed them to demand big price rises. That mightn’t have been that much of a problem had demand actually climbed as they forecast. Instead, in 2010, for the first time in history, electricity use fell. At first it looked like a response to the global financial crisis, but it wasn’t limited to industry and it didn’t stop. In 2010 demand per residential customer slid 4.4 per cent in NSW and 0.7 per cent in Victoria. Then 2.1 per cent and 5.4 per cent, and so on.

Seven years on, NSW consumers use 17 per cent less than they did in 2009, Victorian customers 15 per cent less.

The curious rules governing the regulator allow the monopolies to charge more per customer each time their customers use less, to recover the same amount. We’ve not only been switching to fewer devices, we’ve also been putting in solar panels and, increasingly, batteries. So far few of us have left the grid completely, but a downward spiral could start nonetheless.

Economists call it “adverse selection”. The customers that remain are more likely to be poor, either renters or owners without easy access to finance. As prices rise and even those without good finance find it worthwhile to escape, those who remain get poorer still, and are charged still more.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute, who wrote a report on this in 2013, says there’s no obvious way out. In a proper market, a business that produced such appallingly inaccurate and self-serving forecasts would fail and be taken over by firms that could charge less. But there’s nothing free about the market facing the monopolies, as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg knows full well. He is trying to abolish their right to appeal to the tribunal, which would be a start.

Competition and Consumer Commission chief Rod Sims told the Press Club on Wednesday that network charges were by far the biggest driver of electricity price increases, accounting for 41 per cent. Retail margins account for 24 per cent, generation 19 per cent, and green schemes 16 per cent. Yet it’s the green schemes about which our leaders most often speak. Getting to grips with adverse selection is hard, but essential.

The national broadband network is about to face it big time. Costing billions to build and having to charge billions to break even, for many city users it’ll be uncompetitive with 4G and 5G. As they go wireless, it will have to charge more to those who remain, and so on. It’s a design flaw. Private health funds face adverse selection too. As their fees go up, they lose healthy customers who find them poor value, and have to charge even more to the less healthy, who also leave, and so on.

And public schools. They’re losing the good students, leaving behind those that are harder to teach, making classes harder to teach and encouraging still more good students to leave. It’s not only the electricity industry that wants a way out.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

Follow Peter Martin on Twitter and Facebook

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-electricity-prices-are-set-to-climb-ever-higher-20170919-gykx0w.html

Smart Commercial Solar And The Regional Solar Revolution

Smart Commercial Solar’s Nathan Henkes has written about the solar revolution sweeping regional Australia across many Fairfax titles this week.  Here is one link to the story, we’ve also published the full piece below:

Working in the energy industry in regional Australia, I have seen the country emerge as a leader in the solar revolution. Even two years ago, solar was still a relative unknown. It was common to encounter people who would clearly benefit from solar but who delayed the purchase because they were unsure about the technology.

What’s changed? First, solar prices have kept dropping dramatically – almost 150 per cent in the past three years. Second, utility prices are exorbitant. Some businesses have seen their rates double in the past six months alone. Third, people are seeing solar work for others. Fourth, the market has matured and professional operators are delivering quality systems, sound technical follow through and comprehensive customer service.  

The upshot is that country people can see how solar saves their communities money and works without a hitch for a much lower price tag.

The economics of solar have become so strong that we have seen farmers getting returns as good or better than during the 60 cent feed-in tariffs. It’s also meant innovations like PayG Solar are becoming common. This allows businesses to install solar for no upfront cost, save money on electricity immediately and then own the systems outright in seven years or less. We’ve seen massive growth in these and conventional systems across NSW and VIC with towns like Dubbo, Mildura, Walgett and Ballarat leading the way.

Skepticism is a powerful and effective strategy that helps people work out things that have real value. Solar has now passed the skepticism test, and for most people in regional Australia it’s now a question of when, not if, they’ll get solar. 

This story was found at https://www.smartcommercialsolar.com.au/news/2017/9/19/smart-commercial-solar-and-the-regional-solar-revolution

Case Study: Hillsong Church HUB – Baulkham Hills 140 kW Solar System

Hillsong Church located in Sydney’s Hills district in NSW has recently embarked on a mission to decrease its carbon emissions, save on grid supplied energy and by doing so generate substantial savings on their energy bills.

Hillsong Hub 140kW Solar Installation p1

After consulting with industry experts the church decided to proceed with the installation of a 140 kW Solar system on the rooftop of one of its primary hubs of business. The ‘Hub’ is where church staff work from and are primarily based during the week, where the worship team rehearse most days and church services are held on Sundays.

It was a privilege for Smart Commercial Solar to be selected as the most suitable company to perform the task of project managing and installing the 140 kW solar system on the Hub rooftop. Smart Commercial Solar in partnership with Verdia have at present completed and commissioned 1 of 3 sites where solar energy is to provide up to 33% of a sites total energy needs.

In this video – titled “Hillsong Church – Hills Campus – 140 kW Solar Installation on the Hub pt1.” I give a brief overview and insiders look at the progress the installation team have made within the first 2 weeks of installation commencing. The inverters are installed, most of the AC cabling complete to the secondary mains protection and the switchboard. At this stage only the rails are down and pre-wiring underway before the panels arrive on site.

In this video – titled “Hillsong Church – Hills Campus – 140 kW Solar Installation on the Hub pt2.” I follow up with part 2 of the Hillsong HUB 140 kW Solar installation where the panels have arrived and for the most part, less one pallet of panels, are being lifted onto the roof and secured onto the flush mounted railing system.
Once all the panels are appropriately installed, the system will be checked and assessed by Smart Commercial Solar and Verdia to ensure the safety requirements are met in preparation for energisation of the solar system. For Generation and Payback Figures please see the Free Download CASE STUDY below the Summary.



Smart Commercial Solar in partnership with Verdia (Westpac Banks Energy Efficiency Division) installed a 140 Kw system of 438 x 320 watt JA Solar Panels, five SMA inverters, and Schneider Electric Coms and IPD secondary mains protection. Their web-based monitoring and Smart Commercial Solar’s 5 year generation guarantee  insures that the system will deliver its full potential for years to come.

Download CASE STUDY click here –> Hillsong Church HUB – 140kW Case Study email res

No Other Name has The Power to Save

Cross = Love Solar Designs

Which of these images is your Favourite?

1 . The Hills – Convention Centre

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2 – Waterloo – Sydney City Campus

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3. Mount Gravatt – Brisbane City Campus

Cross = Love100kW Solar System Mount Gravatt Brisbane Campus.png

Please note: None of these are actual solar installations on the Hillsong Church buildings and are only images created using software. However wouldn’t it be great if they were really aerial photos?

Please comment and share if you like the idea of Cross = Love, custom solar designs.

Upcoming Trip for solarmikedudley

Monday from Melbourne to Deniliquin and beyond… following the 5 day boot camp on how we make it happen? if not – then you too can join the ride and jump on-board here… I’m heading back to UTE Muster territory where this year none other than Keith Urban will be playing in-front of an expected 18000 strong crowd. #solarizingthebush#equipedtowin