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Another sandpit

January 26th, 2013

Another sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on – the old one is still going strong.

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  1. January 26th, 2013 at 10:37 | #1

    I’ve been thinking about feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar and how high they should be. Many Australians installing new solar now only get a feed-in of tariff of eights cents for each kilowatt-hour they provide to the grid. As this is only a cent or two above the price of wholesale electricity during the day, and solar doesn’t have the negative externalities or transmission costs associated with burning fossil fuels, this seems low to me.

    I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what feed-in tariffs should be. Perhaps they should consist of three components: The wholesale cost of electricity, a component to reflect transmission costs avoided, and a component that represents savings in health costs and environmental damage avoided as health externalites are not currently paid for by fossil fuel generators and the cost of greenhouse gas emissions are not fully covered by the carbon price.

    And possibly feed-in tariffs should be fairly high, say two thirds or more of the retail price of electricity, in order to prevent people installing home and business energy storage. High feed-in tariffs will keep energy storage on the grid and help preserve the current business model of electricity generators and distributers. They’ll have to adapt, but it could stop them from being pretty much wiped out if people start installing their own energy storage and potentially going off grid.

  2. Jim Rose
    January 26th, 2013 at 10:42 | #2

    Penn and Teller in their ‘Bullshit’ TV show put forward this argument:
    1. 96% of the population of prisons are male
    2. women are fall less likely to commit crimes or kill others with guns
    3. issue a gun to every women
    4. require the gun to be pink so that macho types are reluctant to carry it
    5. assume that only 50% of women actually carry this pink gun with them

    If there is 50% chance that a female potential victim of crime is armed, what would happen to crime rates against women?

  3. quokka
    January 26th, 2013 at 11:32 | #3

    Since when does roof top PV reduce transmission system costs or avoid transmission system costs? It probably increases them. There is little doubt that in Germany PV and wind increase transmission system costs.

    External costs of fossil fuels should not be “accounted for” by subsidizing PV. Just have a proper price on carbon and a level playing field.

  4. January 26th, 2013 at 11:56 | #4

    Quokka, since I’ve already gone into this with you, I’ll wait and see if anyone else wants to chime in on the subject before I answer your question.

  5. Hermit
    January 26th, 2013 at 13:49 | #5

    Supply and demand suggest the PV export price should be lower on a cool sunny day. That is high supply low demand. As the sun sets on a hot day with heavy aircon use the price should be higher. I suggest the price should follow the hourly NEM spot price which for Queensland recently (if I recall correctly) was $12,000 per Mwh or $12 per kwh. OK maybe there should be price ceilings. I can confirm this for 2/7/12

    A sufficiently smart meter that can handle time-of-use export pricing could be programmed to turn off appliances when the price is high. Conversely the freezer and washing machine could run harder on a day when the export price is low i.e. use it or lose it. The problem is who is going to pay for all this hardware and software. Do the frail elderly without PV keep the aircons on when it is 45C and power is dollars not cents per kwh?

  6. Ikonoclast
    January 26th, 2013 at 14:11 | #6

    @Ronald Brak

    I had conctractors install a 5.5 kW (nameplate capacity) solar PV system just before the high feed-in tariff cutoff. Plus I had an evacutated tube split-system solar hot water system installed. Basically we make enough power for our house (4 adults, plenty of mod cons, no pool but a biocycle waste system pump) and another house that would use about 3/4 of our power. Clearly, the grid is my “free battery system”. I feed in in the daytime and take power whenever I want.

    This whole area gets very emotive. I have had people telling me I am free-riding and that they pay more for power because of people like me. Often those complaining about free riding are the same ones who took all the water tank subsidies and insulation batt subsidies (which I did not actually) when they were in vogue. They also tend to be first in line to get seniors’ cards and other freebies. There is a lot of hypocrisy about when accusations of “free-riding” are made. Other people simply say, “smart move, I wish I had done it.” or “I did it too.”

    I agree that the subsidy and the rules favour homeowners against non-homeowners and those who “got in” in time against those who did not. The subsidy field needs to be levelled. I would only agree that solar subsidies be removed entirely when all fossil fuel subsidies are removed and these are still massive and dwarf renewable subsidies.

    A “fair price” is always subject to debate. The market alone cannot sort out a fair price when fossil fuel negative externalities are uncosted or undercosted and when fossil fuels still get more subsidies than renewables.

    Principles of fairness would dictate;

    (a) the rules and feed-in prices should be the same for everyone who runs a household.
    (b) if the assistance is worth x dollars p.a. on average to home owners then non-homeowners should get an equivalent energy allowance (like and in addition to their rent allowance).

    A fair price might take some calculation but I would settle for one-for-one on own use and wholesale price for excess if any is fed in over the billing period. Generators should carry the fee-in grid costs and add it to the retail price. A simple and arguably fair set-up.


    (a) In the daytime I feed in say 40 kWh (quite possible in summer)
    (b) I use 15 kWh during the day and another 15 kWh at night.
    (c) I get the above power “free” (one for one) except for my capital and interest costs.
    (d) the extra 10 kWh is sold for wholsale price to the generator.
    (e) I pay a normal connection fee like any other user.

    I get to use the grid as a “storage” for apparently for free but this can be recouped by the generator in higher fees.

    And BTW I would compulsorily re-nationalise the entire power grid and pay any private shareholder millionaries in generation only 50 c in the dollar for their shares. If they demur or shift capital, hit the rich with a super-tax. It’s time to re-nationalise and re-socialise our economy.

  7. January 26th, 2013 at 14:15 | #7

    Hermit, I doubt we will get smart meters with smart feedback throughout Australia anytime soon, but if they are available they could certainly take into account the spot price of electricity. At the moment with our current meter stock and quarterly readings we’ll probably have to settle for a flat feed-in tariff for most rooftop solar. There could be seasonal adjustments in the tariff, but they’d be fairly rough as meters aren’t all read at the same time and the information is instead collected over months.

  8. Fran Barlow
    January 26th, 2013 at 14:22 | #8

    @Ronald Brak

    Personally, I’d think it apt if the feed-in tariff was exactly the same as the feed-out tariff, less a percentage for network “handling” charge. It’s apt that at least some of the extra costs associated with handling “uploaded” power and retailing it to others be borne by the seller. Or you could look it as “a commission”. If I sell someone else’s goods surely that’s worth something to the “wholesaler” — in this case, the operator of the PV system.

    Depending on the circumstances, a “commission” or “handling fee” of say, 20% might be justifiable. Thus, if at the time of sale, an identical property would be paying $0.32 per kWh then the FiT would be $0.24 * 0.8 (i.e $0.24). This would encourage the householder (or a business with lots of roof space) both to capitalise (and to minimise demand especially during the peak, using their own power at the lower cost). If the operator could find a storage solution that cost less than the network charge, they’d be tempted to adopt it.

    I understand the costs of PV are continuing to decline, and recently saw that some thin film technologies have become as photo conversion efficient as crystalline. If the peak could be knocked off demand then a lot of coal will be forced to get more out of the late-afternoon/shoulder period, which will in turn drive more solar, in a virtuous circle as coal is edged to the margin, Sumo style and then out of the ring or at best into a narrow corner.

    As wind also become more efficient, (and perhaps wave technology too) or better grid-based storage solutions arise, even the evening will be lost to fossil HC and eventually, they will be set aside as power of last resort. When that occurs, the big complaint against electric vehicles — that they use dirty power as well, will evaporate.

  9. January 26th, 2013 at 15:09 | #9

    Ikonoclast, on the topic of “free-riding” I would point out to detractors that the Small Scale Technology Certificates, which are the Renewable Energy Certificates for solar, only comprise 0.5% of household electricity bills and that feed-in tariffs are only 0.85% of household electricity bills. Then I would mention that solar power reduces wholesale electricity prices for everyone and that South Australians with non bastardly electricity retailers received an 8.1% cut in electricity prices at the start of this year, partially due to South Australia have the most solar per capita in Australia. (AGL has ads in the papers saying they are cutting standing rates by 9.1%)

    Because all Australians benefit from reduced electricity prices, reduced medical costs and increased average lifespance due to a reduction in fossil fuel pollution, and a safer environment due to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, I’m not sure roofless Australians need to be compensated as a result of feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar. However, I can’t be sure if there is a good case or not without looking into the actual numbers. But I do think that Australians might need protection from being taken advantage of by monopoly power. Currently home owning neighbour Joe might be quite willing to sell electricity at a reasonable rate to home renting neighbour Jane, but at the moment legally can’t. The middle-men (middle people?) who Joe is not permitted to sack might be tempted to run the grid for the benefit of a few rather than for the benefit of Australia.

  10. Hermit
    January 26th, 2013 at 15:23 | #10

    Even if the capex of realtime PV doesn’t reduce any further we need a cost breakthrough on safe longlife batteries. There has been talk of recycling 13 kwh Chevrolet Volt batteries for home use
    Rather than a shed full of clunky lead acid batteries these ex-traction batteries could reside in a wall mounted cabinet. There may be limits to this weight reduction as we see with battery meltdowns in Boeing Dreamliner aircraft.

    The problem is after a rainy week and the batteries are flat we’ll need the despised fossil fuel or nuclear to make the electricity. This seems to have gotten out of hand in cloudy Germany with at one time 25 GW of installed PV that gets a guaranteed feed-in tariff. Hence the Germans are building 8 GW of new coal fired plant while retiring 1.5 GW. I spent $20k on PV in 2005 and I’m not so starry eyed.

  11. January 26th, 2013 at 15:25 | #11

    Fran, personally I’d be interested to see what the price of electricity exported from rooftop solar would be if we ran a computer simulation of a “free” market where all electricity produced was auctioned off with rooftop solar only paying local distribution costs and not parying for the long distance transmission and electrical substations that it does not use. I suspect that it’s value would average well above eight cents a kilowatt-hour. Currently I pay about 11 cents for distribution for each kilowatt-hour I buy from the grid. As a complete guess, if rooftop solar saved five cents of that, with a wholesale electricity cost of around seven cents during the day, electricity from rooftop solar should be worth about 11 cents. Of course this does not mean a reasonable case can’t be made for a higher feed-in tariff, particularly when other factors are taken into account.

  12. January 26th, 2013 at 17:09 | #12

    Or even 12 cents if you subscribe to the theory of addition.

  13. Hermit
    January 26th, 2013 at 17:21 | #13

    I guess the electrical grid (ie poles and wires) is a natural monopoly in the sense it would be daft to have multiple transmission lines side by side. Some might like that however to separate water from mountain dams and water from processed effluent. Grid tied PV owners happily pay around $1 daily connection fee to have the despised grid bail them out when the sun goes down. They can’t even console themselves with the thought that wind is always taking up the slack. On a still frosty night neither wind nor solar are of much help. The truly green will of course content themselves with a small fire of yak dung on such nights rather than turn on a gas or electric heater.

  14. Ikonoclast
    January 26th, 2013 at 17:45 | #14


    On a still, frosty night heat from concentrating solar power stored in a molen salt storage tank can be converted back to electrical power.

    On a still, frosty night thermal convection towers still produce power due to the temperature differential between the surface and the top of the tower. Every hundred metres you go up from the surface, the ambient temperature drops by about 1 degree (except in conditions of temperature inversion).

    On a still frosty night other heat needs can come from local heat storage. Solar hot water is heat storage. There a number of other ways of collecting day time for night heating. I would be using these before yak dung.

    On a still frosty night electrical power from wind can come from other regions. Rarely or never is a state or country windless over its whole extent.

  15. January 26th, 2013 at 18:07 | #15

    Hermit, I susptect the $1 a day grid connection fee will need to be scrapped. This is because $365 in savings a year may make it worthwhile for people with battery storage to buy a small generator and go off grid. Obviously this needs to be avoided as each person who disconnects is a person not feeding their surplus rooftop solar electricity into the grid, and from the point of view of the grid it is one less customer they can sell electricity to.

  16. Fran Barlow
    January 26th, 2013 at 18:50 | #16

    @Ronald Brak

    I read somewhere a couple of years back that a significant problem in waste management was lead acid batteries from cars. I also read that the possibility of reconditioning these batteries at reasonable cost — not for cars but potentially as storage was very near.

    It seems to me at least notionally possible that some sort of “community storage hub” run by a local co-op might fund a storage hub from reconditioned lead acid and lithium ion batteries (there should be a lot coming on line). People could in theory sell their rooftop power to the co-op and then “buy” it back at a discount when they needed it.

    This might be more feasible (and probably safer) than everyone having their own homebased storage.

  17. January 26th, 2013 at 19:16 | #17

    Fran, I have wondered about something like this community energy storage being done in Australia, but not by surburban neighbourhoods, but by local councils in rural areas. Western Australia appears to have realized that solar can save a heap of money in supplying grid power to remote areas and while a new PV system in Perth might only get an 8 cent feed-in tariff, in some remote areas in WA it can be 50 cents a kilowatt-hour. I suspect that once enough solar capacity is built local energy storage will be installed (if locals haven’t already installed enough of their own) and a small local generator will be added. Then the high voltage transmission line to the area will be rolled up and sold for scrap.

    I don’t think recondtioned lead batteries will catch on. Different chemistry batteries being produced now are economically superior. While lead has a low upfront cost the new batteries win on lifespan, lack of maintenance, and high safety.

    And I doubt we will follow a cooperative model in Australia. There are several reasons why I think this, but one is the cooperative model is a big target that is easier for opponents to block and throw spanners in the works of. By the time community energy storage gets under way one in ten houses might have individual home energy storage, which will hurt the economics of community storage and reduce support for it. But I could be completely wrong. I do think Germany and Italy will be the places to watch to see what is likely to happen.

    But I doubt this will happen outside of rural Australia because of competition from individual home and business energy storage, which I think won’t take long to come down in price. The latest batteries being produced are economically superior than to due to their long life, lack of maintenance, and lack of acid and lead.

  18. January 26th, 2013 at 19:17 | #18

    Sorry, meant to edit out that last paragraph in the post above.

  19. Fran Barlow
    January 26th, 2013 at 20:45 | #19

    @Ronald Brak

    It occurred to me that in some areas, community energy storage coops might buy energy wholesale at off peak rates from the grid and store it along with what else they had, retailing it as needed during the peak. They could thus be an energy retailer.

  20. quokka
    January 26th, 2013 at 21:18 | #20

    @Ronald Brak

    Be that as it may, you are simply making stuff up and offer no supporting evidence.

    The reason intermittent generators cannot reduce transmission and distribution costs is that they are err… intermittent. The transmission and distribution infrastructure must be capable of dealing with the times they are AWOL. The peak load it must be able to carry is not reduced even if it’s average load may be. In fact the reality is that transmission systems need to be longer (eg north to south of Germany) and and of higher capacity to deal with peak loads from low capacity factor generators.

    Here is the German reality:

    “Germany’s energy agency has called on the government to allow power grid companies to raise tariffs to provide a greater incentive for the billions of euros of infrastructure investment needed to support the shift to renewable energy.”


  21. January 26th, 2013 at 22:08 | #21

    Fran, the coop could do that and they could pay spot prices for electricity they import and recieve spot prices for electricity they export, which is a lot more profitable for energy storage than just normal peak and off peak prices.

  22. Salient Green
    January 27th, 2013 at 07:07 | #22

    I receive a $0.54c FIT and have been told it ends in 2015. I paid $3999 for my system in Sept 2011 and since then both the FIT and Government subsidies have dropped markedly YET, I can buy the same system for around $2500 now.
    Early movers were paid a higher FIT but also paid a higher price for their systems.

    Hermit@ #9, The Germans are building only those coal plants which were in construction or planned at the time of fukishima.
    The new plants are highly efficient and designed for quick startup for load following of renewable power.
    There are sure to be dirtier coal plants retired as more renewables come on line, including Geothermal power down the track a bit.

  23. Salient Green
    January 27th, 2013 at 07:13 | #23

    If rooftop solar reduces power use, and it does, then it must reduce transmission costs.
    http://www.ies.unsw.edu.au/docs/GridParity.pdf Page 4

  24. Hermit
    January 27th, 2013 at 09:03 | #24

    @Salient Green
    If I recall from last year Hazelwood was to be retired in 2032 and Yallourn in 2031. I suspect that has since been fudged. The coal plants that have closed (Playford, Collinsville, soon Brix) were small and clapped out. I don’t think there has been an official net emissions figure yet announced for 2012. It was around the 550 Mt mark in 1990 and I suspect the new figure will be similar unless some kind of numerical swiftie is used.

    As for geothermal a few years back it was going to supply 25% of Australia’s baseload. Now Geodynamics appear struggling to get an 11 MW demo plant running in the outback far from any transmission. You’d think by now some reality would come to the debate.

  25. Ikonoclast
    January 27th, 2013 at 09:03 | #25

    Fossil fuels still produce about 80% of all our energy use. After tackling coal (25%) we still have to tackle oil 35% and gas 20%. The task is enormous. Even if we lick the stationary electrical energy generation problem and retire coal that would leave 55% of our energy coming from fossil fuels. Virtually our entire transport fleet has to be retired and replaced by electrical vehicles, mass transit, bicycles and pedestrianism.

  26. Fran Barlow
    January 27th, 2013 at 09:13 | #26


    If I recall from last year Hazelwood was to be retired in 2032 and Yallourn in 2031.

    Yes, wasn’t that an absolutely fabulous ALP policy. In the unlikely event that Hazelwood is still trading in 2031, it will be 66 years old.

  27. Jim Rose
    January 27th, 2013 at 09:27 | #27

    @Ikonoclast “Replaced by electrical vehicles, mass transit, bicycles and pedestrianism.”

    • Electric vehicles are pointless if the grid uses coal. They still take hours to recharge and are aluminium death-traps.

    • Mass transit is there to take the middle class to their jobs in the CBD. employment is more and more decentralising especially manufacturing and service jobs of the working class. These jobs require point to point transport for which even buses are hopeless.

    • Bicycles and pedestrianism – tell that to single mothers and pensioners in an ageing society.

  28. Ikonoclast
    January 27th, 2013 at 09:50 | #28

    @Jim Rose

    1. Thus I presume you agree electrical vehicles have a point of the electrical recharge energy is renewable? (Solar power, wind power etc.)

    2. Look at the gridlock in Brisbane (or Sydney or Melbourne). Are you telling me extra trunk route and feeder route mass transit in trhose cities would not reduce car use and energy use?

    3. There are still plenty of healthy (and even otherwise healthy but somewhat overweight people like me) who would benefit from more use of bicycles and shanks’s pony.

    None of your objections are really obstacles at all. They are essentially objections people raise when they don’t want to change. However, the facts are we will be forced to change our energy profligate ways whether we want to or not. This will be dictated to us by the laws of thermodynamics. Useable energy (energy available for useful work) will get scarcer as easy to exploit eneergy sources run out and/or a phase out is forces as climate change becomes undeniable. A combination of a switch to renewables plus much greater energy efficiency and energy saving will be required to survive.

    The age of ‘voluntarism and cornucopianism’ * is behind us. The age of consequences and the re-establishment of man’s intrinsic subjection to natural laws and limits is now upon us whether we will it or no.

    * Note : crudely interpreted as “man can do whatever he wants and have whatever he wants”.

  29. quokka
    January 27th, 2013 at 11:22 | #29

    Salient Green :
    If rooftop solar reduces power use, and it does, then it must reduce transmission costs.

    No, as I stated above even if average power carried by the network is decreased, there is no guarantee at all that peak power is decreased.

    Even your reference makes no such claim. What it does say is this:

    CSIRO also modelled the impacts of PV systems on the transmission network. It was found that carefully sited PV systems can reduce congestion on transmission networks and reduce the average price of electricity.

    However, if there is one thing that rooftop PV is not, that is “carefully sited”. It’s an unplanned mish mash. There is zero system planning. Throw some subsidies at PV capacity and hope the major operators can sort out the associated system issues – supposedly for free. This kind of works up to a point and then things start to get a bit sticky. See Germany.

    Furthermore there is no CSIRO “smart grid” that the claim was based on. There is really no experience at all of any such thing having been achieved in practice.

  30. Fran Barlow
    January 27th, 2013 at 11:32 | #30


    It’s so tiring to here these memes repeated by the Rose troll.

    1. Electric vehicles, including those using a grid that is 80% coal fired, produce fewer emissions per unit of distance than an equivalently powered ICE vehicle. That’s because they use the energy they draw down more efficiently than comparably sized ICE vehicles do, most of the time.

    2. Plug-in EVs can make use of renewables, where ICEs cannot. Not only that, but the ability to function as quick ramp supply for the network makes networks for flexible and can reduce redundancy requirements. This would reduce the need for fossil thermal redundancy.

    3. Overnight charging of EVs from the grid is likely to make use of existing under-used capacity, meaning that the demand is likely to have a low marginal cost as the efficiency of plants is approached.

    4. As the grid is decarbonised, EVs will become even more relatively CO2-efficient. Having a substantial EV fleet improves the CO2 abatement return on closing coal and other fossil thermal plants, because the vehicles automatically become cleaner without further innovation.

    5. Electric vehicles, by moving emissions from the city to the fossil thermal plant will inevitably lead to lower levels of airborne contaminants in the palces where population is most dense. Assuming the government cares about pollution, the cost of cleaning up the emissions is sharply cut and the proces rendered far simpler.

    6. While it is true that the infirm will not be riding bicycles or doing so much walking, it’s a mistake to assume old = infirm. I’m not sure of “Jim” ‘s age but those of us born in the late 1950s became used to seeing people in their seventies as frail. One of the reasons our population is ageing (apart from declining birth rates and a tightening of immigration) is that older people are living longer and in better health. We have had nearly three decades of public health campaigns on smoking. Working hours have shortened. Occupational Health & Safety has improved. The health system has also improved, including in the care of older people. I regularly see people who are surely 70+ riding bicycles and walking unaided by frames without apparent discomfort.

    In any event it’s a poor argument to find someone who is an anomaly in order to show that a whole system cannot work. We certainly need to reconfigure our urban areas to make public transport far more feasible for more people. When EVs and better designed cities intersect, we will radically reduce the human footprint and yet have better quality of life.

  31. Fran Barlow
    January 27th, 2013 at 11:33 | #31

    Oops {hear these memes}

  32. January 27th, 2013 at 11:45 | #32

    Japan is a good place to see plenty of octagenarians riding bicycles.

  33. Ikonoclast
    January 27th, 2013 at 12:05 | #33

    @Fran Barlow

    Yes, to all those points about an electrical economy. I think the target should be to have a near 100% electrical economy. It would be far more energy efficient.

    The elephant in the room is subsidies to fossil fuels.

    “The IEA, within the framework of the World Energy Outlook, has been measuring fossil-fuel subsidies in a systematic and regular fashion for more than a decade. Its analysis is aimed at demonstrating the impact of fossil-fuel subsidy removal for energy markets, climate change and government budgets. The IEA’s latest estimates indicate that fossil-fuel consumption subsidies worldwide amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up from $412 billion in 2010, with subsidies to oil products representing over half of the total. Changes in international fuel prices are chiefly responsible for differences in subsidy costs from year to year. The increase in the global amount of subsidy in 2011 closely tracked the sharp rise in international fuel prices.” – IEA Energy Subsidies summary.

    I have seen other estimates of up to $1 trillion if you widen the transfers and externalities costing framework. Add in the gulf wars 1 & 2 (which is a fossil fuel subsidy in many ways) and what number would one get?

    It’s funny but I NEVER hear the free marketeers say “remove all fossil fuel subsidies” (outside of the energy policy wonks in the IEA and OECD). The neoliberal belief in “free” markets is very selective. Actually, they mean a market where they are free to do what they like including successfully lobbying govt. for big subsidies.

  34. Fran Barlow
    January 27th, 2013 at 14:17 | #34

    @Ronald Brak

    I heard a few years back that in Sardinia, they’ve a chap of 113 who still rides his bike to work. It could be one of those stories one likes to think is true, but apparently, the place does pretty well on avoiding degenerative disease.

  35. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 14:34 | #35

    It is just so easy make sweeping statements on electrification, when the reality is that it is moving at a snails pace. There are 2 reasons for this.

    One is that battery technology is close, but not there yet. Not there yet to the extent that the US government (directed by Barak Obama) is to fund a $200 million “back to the drawing board” battery technology project with the funds spread over 5 universities. The current grounding of 787′s highlights the problem.

    The second impediment is with our government’s, more bureaucratic obstructionism than political incompetence, failure to recognise the importance of this transition and develop management structures to fast track electrification. A classic case is with electric cycles which have been pinned at a 200 watt power level for decades. Recently the cycle associations put a case to the Victorian government to allow a power level of 250 watts where the power could only be accessed through pedalling, ie no power with pedals idling. The whole argument was that people would be encouraged to become fit, rather than transported. What a magnificent concession from the bureacrats who with one hat allow only a 25% increase in power level, equivalent to a dim light bulb, for efficient transport, while with another hat applaud V8 super cars with power levels, both Holden and Ford, of around 650 hp, where the only exercise the user gets is applying pressure on the brake pedal.

    There is supposed to be a review of low powered vehicles in NSW this quarter, though where Stuart Ayres has promised to inform me of the announcement of this review, I have heard nothing yet. The point here is that it does not take many bureaucrats to stonewall an issue to favour their own interests. Anyone who has sat on a committee will appreciate that with a spread of opinions or interests the outcome can only ever be a luke warm representation of what is actually necessary (the whole climate “debate” being a prime example).

    So where there is an opportunity to involve a very large section of the population with the advantages of electric transport (eBikes) at minimal cost to the consumer/user, with no cost to the government, and while giving a very significant section of our manufacturing industry the green light to develop products that people will actually buy, it only takes one or two smug self interested bureaucrats to blockade eVehicle development for another 30 years.

    The Victorian legislation (accommodation) was allowed citing the Swiss eBike standards. This is how the process works. Scan the world for a standard that gives little but appears to be totally reasonable. When you examine this you quickly see that European standards on bicycle use are completely inappropriate for Australia. Throughout Europe distances travelled are short, villages are very close together, roads are narrow, and footpaths are scarce. Furthermore population to land area gives each European less that on third of a hectare per person. In Australia distances travelled are greater, roads are wider, and we have footpaths as standard nearly everwhere. Australian’s also enjoy 28 hectares per person. In Europe helmet use is not a requirement, the bureaucrats take only the standards that suit their purposes.

    The US powered cycle standard would have been far more applicable for Australia. Our roads are similar, distances travelled are similar and our population density is sparcer but similarly arranged. So the US 750 watt power level for eBikes would be most appropriate. Only it does not suite those with hidden agendas, and absolutely no direct answerability to the public at all.

    Another technology that will have to wait a decade or more is our GenIIPV system which has the ability to dramatically accelerate uptake of rooftop solar while significantly boosting Australian manufacturing, and that is despite the technology upon which it is based increasing its conversion efficiency from 40.5% a few years ago to over 50% just recently. With this increase taking the GenIIPV overall efficiency to well over 60%. We could not even get a discussion with government to demonstrate how this works, and there is a reason for that.

    Go to the CSIRO’s eFuture “explore future scenario’s” website (hat tip to Barry Brooke’s BNC thingy) and see if you can make this modeller give any result other than a thin line for rooftop solar PV 50 years into the future. Further you have to specifically exclude Nuclear to get anything other than a future entirely powered by Nuclear.

    If this is the best advice being given to government it clearly explains the “we’ve got this covered” fob off reply I got from Greg Combet’s office where we had requested a 10 minute phone conversation to discuss how GenIIPV technology had the ability to rescue our failing automotives componentry industry (GenIIPV has a large mechanical element), and the employment in creates.

    Even the CSIRO are not familiar with the full field of established solar technologies on the one hand, but have a very thorough handle on nuclear technology that we do not use in this country, and are only likely to be skewered with if the Coalition ever get their hands on the reins of federal government again, a prospect which I suspect Campbell Newman is shooting down right now aided by another round of climate “fluctuation”.

    In other news thin flexible solar PV panels have achieved an efficiency of 20%. This is important for aviation, automotive, and a broad array of agricultural solar users.

    This will be a frustrating transition to our all electric energy future. But that is the future, no doubt at all. In between I am committed to have as my next vehicle the VW XL1 100 klm per litre 2 seat hybride which should be in production some time this year. Hopefully by the time production has progressed to the point where one is available for me to buy they will have increased the battery capacity to where it can perform most local tasks with more electric component than (bio) diesel.

  36. Ikonoclast
    January 27th, 2013 at 14:39 | #36

    I suppose many Qld people who blog here are currently (2:30 pm 27/01/2013) preoccupied with local flooding issues and household security from wind and water.

    I took a long inclement walk to look along the South Pine River before it enters Cash’s Crossing, Albany Creek. An eye-level check at about 1:00 pm confirmed for me that the South Pine River is well up and only about 2 vertical meters below its January 2011 flood peak. I note on the news Bundaberg is experiencing worse flooding than 2010-2011 and Grantham is being severely flooded again. No doubt much other flooding news is coming in.

    This supports the contention that parts of towns and suburbs severely flooded on a regular basis now need to be moved lock, stock and barrel to higher ground developments. I guess an economist or actuary (or both) could do the numbers but there must be a calculus which suggests that moving a chronically flooding area’s buildings and infrastructure to higher ground is cheaper than endless rebuilding once flooding frequency rises above a flood every x years.

  37. Ikonoclast
    January 27th, 2013 at 14:56 | #37


    “An interesting screed, written you have, Jedi BilB.” – Yoda.

    You refer to “bureaucrats… (who) stonewall an issue to favour their own interests”. I am sure you wrote that blogging quickly but the real causal chain I think is;

    Capitalists’ interests determine Politician’s interests detemine bureaucrats’ interests. We need to go to the top of the chain and look at why entrenched corporate capitalists are opposing change. In Australia, it is clear that mining magnates, especially but not only coal and gas interests, are in control of Australian politics. To change anything we will have to change the influence mining capital has in distorting Australian politics and getting what it wants rather the people getting the policies they need.

    It’s a tough ask. The first step is to stop voting for Labour, Liberal, National and Country politicians whose campaigns are all in pay from the mining industry via the disgracefully legal corporate donations system. The mining industry donates to both sides to buy influence and to always have the threat available of withdrawing donations if policies affect their interests.

    The main obstacle to the renewable energy, low fossil fuel economy is the fossil fuel industry. Eventually these people will have to be arraigned as climate criminals.

  38. January 27th, 2013 at 16:02 | #38

    Fran, I have no trouble believing a 113 year old rides a bike. Generally speaking the very long lived are in pretty good nick right up the end or close to it. Those without the ability to stay in reasonably good shape for 95+ years usually don’t have the legs to make to 100+.

  39. Fran Barlow
    January 27th, 2013 at 16:44 | #39


    In other news thin flexible solar PV panels have achieved an efficiency of 20%. This is important for aviation, automotive, and a broad array of agricultural solar users.

    IIRC is was 23.7% just tipping out crystalline by 0.1% … This was significant because the improvement from about 14% has occurred quite quickly — over the last five years.

  40. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 17:19 | #40

    Sorry, Ikonoclast, creating a revolution just to have a different way of being employed is now proven to be a really, really bad idea (think Egypt here). You might be thinking Marx, but the Quinkans are thinking Islamic Jihad, and as they are prepared to blow themselves up and everyone else nearby to get what their religion wants, they will win given the chance.

    Rule one. Know when you are well off. Please point to any where in the world where Marxism has worked and actually prospered, and the “people” have enjoyed a higher minimum wage than our $15 per hour.

    Rule two. Cut through the crap.

    The eBike is an interesting subject because the only way that there will be any real change is if the Federal government department responsible orders a wide ranging review of the subject. That portfolio falls under Anthony Albanese’s clutch. Now this is the guy who a year ago in Perth when Julia Gillard was opening something or announcing something, chose to raise the “very important issue that must be resolved and the Labour Government is the only government that can get on with the job” of Sydney’s second airport. Since then there has been nothing but side stepping. Meanwhile the options are steadilly being shutout or built over. The cause of the delay is bureaucratic bungling on the one hand, and political ineptitude on the other. (Now here I have to wonder why you think that a Marxist anti capitalist economy would be devoid of this kind of farting about when all evidence is to the contrary). As the decision gets dragged out it becomes increasingly more entangled with other issues, the latest being a high speed rail. Should we build a high speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne and have an international airport at Canberra?

    What is needed here is a method for stepping back and looking at the real issues.

    Let me give you a not unrelated example. When Sydney’s second runway was under construction a consultancy had been given the task for siting the radar that would serve the new installation. They had been on the task for 18 months at a cost of 10,000 a month and where not within site of a solution. My MBA brother who had been management review for the department of defense for a lot of years happened to be in an office where the manage of the runway project was complaining about the delays in siting the radar. So brother took the opportunity and said to the manager would he pay 10,000 dollars to have the matter resolved immediately. Even though he is an accountant he had considerable technical exposure with Defence, apart from being a good problem solver. So he collected the criteria, bought a basic design package and layed out the primary considerations. So even though there were endless technicalities the primary considerations to do with radiation exposure and local populations limited the siting of the radar to just one spot. Brother presented this to the manager with the proof, while pointing ou that this location was in between the two runways and out in the bay. To this the manager said good work, paid the money, issued a directive to the dredging contractor requesting that “from time to time we need a reserve of material for various sub projects, please place dredged material here”. An island quickly appeared, and that is where the radar for the second runway is to this day.

    Applying rule two to the second airport should eliminate the fast rail complication straight away. If in the middle of the best economic period Australia has enjoyed, the early noughties, we could not commit to high speed rail, and if later in the middle of a mining boom we still cannot easily commit to such a project, then it is never going to happen. Get on with job, name a sight for the Sydney’s second airport and build the dam thing. No matter where it goes someone is going to be disadvantaged (or rather believe that they are so).

    Getting back to eBikes, if Anthony Abanese cannot make a simple decision on the siting of a new airport for Sydney, then the tough decision of allowing people to have electric bikes with suitable power for Australian conditions is just way beyond him, and the Labour government, and any other government for that matter, as they have failed to achieve any realistic thought on this subject for my entire life. And I don’t see why the dramatic advancements in electric motor technology, battery technology, electronic control technology, the sevenfold increase in Australia’s population, the vast improvements in roads including the addition of cycling lanes, or the global need to conserve fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions,….. that have occurred over my lifetime would make the slightest difference to the evaluation process on power levels for eBikes, because these things had absolutely no influence on the Victorian government bureaucrats last year when they brushed aside the needs of the public with a power level increase barely sufficient to power an electric toothbrush.

    Rule three. Make the most of what you have got, and try to enjoy life. That does not mean buckle under to knucklehead politicians, or bureaucrats. Put up your best arguments and sometimes you will make a difference.

  41. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 17:23 | #41


    Good on you for being knitpicky and completely missing the point.

  42. Salient Green
    January 27th, 2013 at 17:47 | #42

    In regards to coal plant closures and Geothermal power I was still talking about the Germans. No one needs to lecture me on the Australian experience. As well as your examples of failure to shut down coal power, Australian governments have put more money into failed CCS projects than Geothermal efforts.
    If, and it seems likely, when the Germans commit themselves to Geothermal power you can guarantee they won’t piss-fart around like our governments have.

  43. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 18:08 | #43

    Your right, SG. Australia’s piss-farting around with geothermal is both disgraceful and has been an incredible waste of money. By not properly funding the initiatives failure has been guaranteed for a project where success should have been the outcome. CCS was a failure guaranteed project for so many reasons.

    Meanwhile the CCS term is getting a greenover with a change of focus now to Carbon Capture from Seawater.

    I would expect that the political disruption across the top of Africa, Mali most recently, which threatens the stability of the Desertec programme will divert focus for the present towards other technologies. Geothermal would be a good candidate.

  44. Chris Warren
    January 27th, 2013 at 19:07 | #44


    This is so fatuous, I don’t know where to start.

    the “people” have enjoyed a higher minimum wage than our $15 per hour.

    Wages do not consist of an amount of money. No where in the world is the minimum wage A$15. To judge a wage you have to look at what commodities it buys.

    Australian $15 buys a basket of goods that are based on freetrade with rancid capo regimes where, often enough, there are paltry minimum wages. In Amerika, the minimum wage is half the rate as in Australia.

    The worth of a minimum wage is not measured by its level, but by the living standard it purchases. So in a capitalist country you will always need a higher minimum wage because housing and other vital services are priced at capitalist prices and include GST at varying rates.

    If you want to look at capitalist minimum wages – try Bangladesh.

    There is nothing stopping a socialist economy paying higher minimum wages, provided the economy is not a victim of economic warfare from the West. The Mondragon enterprise demonstrates this principle.

    Why would you wave minimum wages, when the system paying those wages can be destroyed simply by a Howard-type politician appointing a Harper-like fool to head a fake Fair Pay Commission?

  45. Ernestine Gross
    January 27th, 2013 at 19:50 | #45

    BilB @39, I assume you mean the ‘third’ runway at Sydney Airport when you write ‘second’ runway.

    If I may say, your example of an MBA graduate finding a suitable solution for the location of the radar quicker than a committee is a good one to illustrate how essentially trivial problems are solved efficiently in the process of creating a much bigger problem.

    The expansion of KSA (Kingsford Smith Airport) by means of the third runway is a planning disaster. The airport is difficult to access by any form of transport other than planes. There was a substantial cost overrun and special levies had to be introduced to cover noise insulation costs for the inner west. The noise insulation entails more CO2 emission because of artificial ventilation. The so-called flight management plan had to be reworked under the Howard government because there was a revolution under way. People from as far north as Hornsby down to Sutherland went to protest marches. Hornsby is about 35 km to the north of KSA. There was a Senate Select Committee on Aircraft Noise in Sydney, which produced a report with the apt title “Falling on Deaf Ears”. The so-called noise sharing plan introduced by the Howard government never worked well – it was merely a measure to give people ‘respite’. I am talking about more than 250 000 people who, according to the planning document – the Environmental Impact Statement – were not affected by aircraft noise. These people are still paying a cost which does not enter an accountant’s records because ‘property rights’ apparently exist only for the owners of airports, airlines and associated industries but not for the acoustic environment within residential houses . Now, how is it that more than 250 000 people were overlooked while the propaganda was that the building of the third run way would reduce the number of people ‘seriously affected’ (there is a report which makes this term precise)? Easy. You don’t see what you don’t want to know. Specifically, the authors of the Environmental Impact Statement used data collected from areas extending less than half way of the approach path from the north and they didn’t bother to check for land elevations and they dismissed the comments from local residents. KSA is now an expansive shopping mall (local monopoly) with horrific parking fees. (The profitability of KSA as ‘an airport’ is sensitive to these commercial fees. If environmental costs – noise and air pollution – would be counted, KSA would be a monumental economic loss manufacturing business.

    This planning disaster was not the bureaucrats’ fault, if I may say. Australia had a first class environmental protection (noise and air) system in place when so-called bureaucrats were working as professionals in an independent public service system. This planning disaster happened during the time when the public sector was corporatised. The Environmental Impact Statement was written by a private consulting company. The method of ‘project evaluation’ was straight out of an introductory corporate finance text. This document (several in fact) introduced me to a language and a ‘communications strategy’ which, I later learned, had been successfully used by the tobacco industry (and taught in some MBA schools). It is a way of writing which flows and sounds comforting. The give away is, when the reader asks him or herself a few questions of details then he or she finds that the answers are nowhere. Another give away is that false histories are created to deflect complaints.

    A few years before the KSA planning disaster started, the then Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, announced there will be no expansion of KSA. The reversal of the Hawke government’s decision to not expand KSA (Kingsford Smith Airport) took place with the collaboration of the Greiner (MBA) State government.

    I agree with you, good old Karl Marx is quite irrelevant to the contemporary issue of corporatism.

  46. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 20:25 | #46

    C’mon Chris,

    “You can’t handle the truth!!!”

    …is what I’m watching at the moment. I’m laughing, and agreeing. Most of us can’t handle reality.

    Yes 15 is just a number. It is not the number itself that matters, but what you do with it. That number multiplied by another number gives you yet another number that defines ones options, for that week. If the number is not satisfactory then one has options to change their future. I can handle that kind of truth.

    Let’s consider your co-operative truth. No numbers. Sleep over there and you will be provided for, all you have to do is work all day,…for the good of everyone else. It is a bit hard to multiply that one out. Impossible to predict or change ones future.

    I wonder how many Australians would be able to handle that truth?

  47. BilB
    January 27th, 2013 at 21:32 | #47

    ……and it all ended with an old Slovenian proverb, Ernestine G.

    “Speak the truth! Then leave immediately afterwards”

    In 1970 I lived for a year in a little house in Newtown. On a main bus route, right beside the railway (ten tracks wide there if I recall), and directly under the flight path to the KSA main runway (before noise sharing). I chose to live there, and barely noticed the noise becasue it was part of the place. I worked for several years as a lift mechanic. In that job you spend a lot of time on the tops of the buildings in a city. You don’t realise how a city throbs with noise until you hear it from above. Yet people chose to live there. In other cities near the airport is a prestigious area to live. It all depends. Last week I was standing in the water near a little jetty in Hunters Hill enjoying the ambience, several planes flew over, no big noise yet I’ve heard those wingers moan on, and on about the noise. Yet everyone of them fly 10 to 1 to the rest of Sydneysiders. How they suffer. I was on a headland in the mid coast on Friday, the sea breeze in the trees was very loud, that would be very hard to take. The cicadas in the west can drive a person quite nutty, and it goes on for months.

    It is not the truth that we can’t handle,…it is the reality of our own decisions.

    Stop moaning I say, if it bothers a person that much, move somewhere else. In this country you have that choice.

    ….uh..uh let me guess, you’re going to talk now about stamp duty and real estate charges.

    I’m outa here.

  48. January 27th, 2013 at 21:40 | #48

    Ikonoclast, with regards to people who say those with rooftop solar are free riding on those without, I might also point out that while solar received subsidies in the past, new solar may now be subsidising the rest of the grid. A lot of people now only get an eight cent feed-in tariff, which I doubt covers the actual value of electricity exported from home PV systems once savings in transmission costs, health, and so on are added in. And while solar still receives Renewable Energy Certificates, the solar multiplier has been cut short and the Renewable Energy Certificates that remain will fall in value as solar becomes cheaper and will of course eventually disappear.

    You might also want to ask detractors if they own an air conditioner as currently the largest free riders in Australia with regards to grid electricity are probably those with air conditioning compared to those without. Air conditioners increase peak demand which pushes up generatring costs and requires a lot of expensive infrastructure expansion. Since everyone pays the increased electricity rates that result, households without air conditioners apparently pay an average of $330 a year as a subsidy to those who do. People with rooftop solar are of course heroes as their solar lets them reduce their own demand during peak times, or better yet export electricity at these times. The true heroes are those with rooftop solar and no airconditioning.

  49. BilB
    January 28th, 2013 at 02:00 | #49

    Ernestine G,

    Yes you are right it was the third runway, the second main runway that was built into Botany Bay. It was a team of consultant engineers that was displaced for failing to realise the obvious. It was an MBA who studied for 17 years to complete his degrees and masters in night classes while working supporting a family, and at the time was a seasoned professional public servant whose role in management review was to perpetually prune back the expansion of government departments while also being deft at avoiding IBM sales men who wanted to install million dollars mainframes into every public office space.

    Frankly I have no sympathy for those noise affected by KSA. It is a feature of Sydney established when this area was considered to be remote to the city. The area was for decades heavily industrial of the most noxious industries such as tanneries. The runway directions were set in 1933 and have not changed since.

    You should be venting your anger at Anthony Albanese for not resolving the second airport issue in his five years on the front bench. But also at Howard and Abbott for failing in the previous eleven years. Sydney’s noise problem will only get worse until there is a second airport and it will be many years after a site is announced before there will be any relief.

  50. Fran Barlow
    January 28th, 2013 at 07:37 | #50


    If there must be “a second airport” I can’t see why it shouldn’t be a large floating airport, placed perhaps in the waters just off Sydney Heads.

    There’d be no land to acquire, a radically simpler EIS process, the possibility of moduralisation of the build, capacity to build to conservative scale and add as required so a more maintainable solution, improved security, proximity to CBD, minimisation of noise impacts, capacity for renewable energy (wave power; wind) …

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