Jandakot Bioenergy Plant | Richgro


Richgro garden products is a family owned and operated business, established in WA back in 1916, and today is a nation wide supplier of compost and fertilisers.

Richgro’s team started researching viable renewable energy options in 2011 to reduce their $600,000pa electricity costs, touring Europe and America looking for the right solution.

They decided on anaerobic digestion.

As a licensed receiver of organic waste streams, predominately green waste from council collections, Richgro have formed a closed loop system, which produces electricity, a bio-fertiliser by-product which can be blended with existing products, heat and CO2 which can be used on-site.

With an input of some 35-50,000 tonnes of food waste available per annum, the anaerobic digestion plant can produce around:

  • 2MWe capacity electricity
  • 2.2MWth heat for utilization
  • CO2 for use within their blueberry hot houses
  • 100m3 of liquid bio-fertiliser

Read more ~

Renewables for All ~ A Priority Energy Policy Agenda for Australia


Late last year we shared  the launch of the The Renewables for All advocacy project. This innovative project is supporting the creation of a suite of policy settings and a regulatory and market context that allows all Australians to be able to directly benefit from clean energy solutions such as solar PV, storage and energy efficiency ~ no matter what their income or living arrangements.

This project is calling on governments to develop programs and support innovation in new social enterprise business models that increase access to clean energy for low-income households, renters, apartment dwellers and homeowners without solar access.

There are  now six policy briefing papers that set out what governments can do to support renewables for all.

An overarching policy briefing paper outlines the context of our changing energy system, the ‘social equality challenge’, and how a range of innovative new policy mechanisms and business models can address issues of clean energy affordability and accessibility and ensure all Australians benefit from a renewable energy future.

Solar Gardens are central solar facilities, where households and businesses own shares or a number of panels and the energy generated is credited on those customers’ energy bills. These facilities are especially useful for customers who are unable to put solar on their own roof. This may be because they rent, live in apartments, have shaded roofs etc.

The Rates-based financing and Rent-based financing briefing papers outline the role that council rates-based and rent-based financing can play in increasing clean energy accessibility and affordability in Australia and what state and local governments need to do to enable them. One of the key barriers to uptake of new energy technologies by low-income customers is the high up-front cost. To overcome this issue, a range of organisations are developing finance products and mechanisms that enable the customer to pay back the cost of clean energy over a period of time. One of these finance mechanisms is rates-based financing, whereby a council enables finance for clean energy measures on a property and then levies a special rate on said property to payback the cost of finance over time. Just as rates-based financing eases the burden of up-front cost for new clean energy technologies, rent-based financing provides an additional mechanism for both housing providers and their tenants to address the ‘social equality challenge’ and increase access to the benefits of clean energy technology. This policy mechanism is designed specifically for the most disadvantaged energy users; namely those in community or social housing.

The Community owned renewable energy briefing paper outlines the wide-ranging benefits that community owned renewable energy (CORE) projects typically deliver and the exciting role they could play in the Australian energy system, particularly with respect to increasing clean energy accessibility and affordability.

And lastly, this paper defines and gives an overview of the different approaches to mini-grids. It lines out some of the benefits for its adoption in Australia and specifies what policy changes and measures are to be taken to support this innovative approach to community energy. Mini Grids and embedded networks :mini-grids (also known as ‘micro-grids’) are one way to meet the electricity demand locally. As a combination of energy generation and distribution that typically operate as isolated systems in a range of 10 kW to 10 MW, they can serve tens to several hundred customers. Although mini-grids mostly exist in remote areas, there is also a growing interest in grid-connected or embedded mini-grids because it allows for greater control of the electricity generation e.g. from renewables and reduce network costs.

Discussion Papers
A series of state specific Discussion Papers  have been produced : NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia  and the ACT , which inform policy, and National Energy Market advocacy work to help state governments proactively support and better facilitate the uptake of new business models that enable energy consumers greater access to the benefits of new technologies.

Renewables for All is a strategic initiative of the Coalition for Community Energy, led by the Community Power Agency and auspiced by Starfish Initiatives. This project was funded by Energy Consumers Australia as part of its grants process for consumer advocacy projects and research projects for the benefit of consumers of electricity and natural gas.

To learn more about the project click here.

Re-post ~ Renewables for all- resources | Community Power Agency

Bottled water… what the?!

Bottled water

Perth heatwave putting city’s water supplies under pressure

Canning Dam, Perth

Perth recently sweated through a severe heatwave, and pressure is now mounting on the city’s dwindling water supplies.

Dried tree stumps litter the baked earth at the edge of the Canning Dam, 33 kilometres out of Perth. It was not long ago they were submerged by billions of litres of water but low rainfall and high temperatures in recent years have now made the dams virtually redundant.

Western Australia’s water utility said Perth had felt the effects of climate change more than anywhere else in the world, and it has had to bring forward its planning to ensure there is enough water to go around.

“Last year the run-off into our dams was the lowest since records began [in 1911], we got 11 billion litres in the dams and we lose about 14 billion litres a year in evaporation,” Water Corporation chief executive Sue Murphy said.

annual-temperature-records-for-south-west-australia-data“So that means that our dams contributed nothing. In fact, took away from our water supply. We have a problem which is probably more extreme than other cities around the world. Every year we seem to have the worst case scenario worse.”

It is a dire outlook, but the Water Corporation insists it is one that has been planned for. More than 40 per cent of the water supply for Perth and surrounding areas already comes from desalination but it is a costly process.

In a state currently grappling with unprecedented levels of net debt, Water Minister Mia Davies said any expenditure would have to be carefully considered.

The focus has now turned to recycling water, and a wastewater treatment plant is expected to open in Perth later this year.

In an Australian first, water from toilets, showers and laundries will be treated and injected into the city’s groundwater supplies but it will take about a decade for that water to be drawn out for household use.

It is estimated Perth’s water will eventually be split 50-50 between desalination and wastewater mixed with groundwater.

The Water Corporation’s Sue Murphy said lessons learnt in WA were being closely watched around the world. “WA certainly has felt climate change more than anywhere else in the world,” she said.”We’re seen as the canary in the coalmine for climate change by most of our water utility brethren around the world and I think it’s incumbent on us to work with the community in how to deal with it.”

The weather bureau said the city’s climate had been drying faster than expected.

“I don’t think that we were able to say with any degree of certainty that there would be an acceleration of that drying trend as we’ve observed over the last five years,” the Bureau’s spokesman Neil Bennett said. The bureau is not expecting any reprieve. It is forecasting temperatures will continue to rise, and rainfall will continue to fall.

Minister Davies is not worried. She believes Perth has been drought-proofed through good planning.

The Water Corporation has flagged further water restrictions or higher prices in the meantime, but said that would depend on how consumers respond to the shortage.

“We live in the driest corner of the driest part of the whole world, we need to be respectful of that as a community and use water wisely,” Ms Murphy said.

“If people continue to use water at a very high rate, we’re going to have to make some hard decisions.”

Re-post ~ Perth heatwave putting city’s water supplies under pressure | ABC News 

All electric bus gets from Melbourne to Sydney on one charge

Electric bus

The Australian all-electric bus launched by Brighsun in Melbourne at the end of last year has set a new world record for the greatest distance covered by an electric bus on one charge, at 1,018km!

In November, the bus backed up its inter-state performance with a world-record breaking effort, travelling 1,018km on Victoria’s South Gippsland Highway, between Tooradin and Lang Lang.

According to Brighsun, the bus started its journey at 10pm Saturday November 14 and achieved the record distance just before midnight on the following Sunday, in the presence of a Guinness World Record adjudicator.

What it means, said Brighsun communications director, Gladys Liu, is that commercial electric buses can now travel the whole day or interstate without having to find somewhere to recharge.
“We believe it will bring a whole new concept of public transport with no pollution to Australia and to the world.”

The prototype e-bus was launched at Yuroke, one hour north of Melbourne’s CBD, by Australia-based company Brighsun, as one of four full electric buses ranging from high range capacity route service passenger buses to touring coach.

The bus is the creation of Australia-based company, which has four prototype full electric buses ranging from high range capacity route service passenger buses to touring coaches.

The buses run on a high performance lithium-ion battery combined with proprietary eMotor, battery management and a regenerative braking system.

Brighsun CEO Allen Saylav, also a director of the Society of Automotive Engineers Australasia (SAE), said the technology behind the bus ~ which has been in development for four years ~ had evolved from a desire to deliver clean and sustainable public transport options.

The company also has plans to open manufacturing plants for the e-buses across Australia.


Re-post ~ Australian all electric bus drives into record books – 1018 kms on one charge | One Step Off the Grid

See also ~ All electric bus unveiled in Melbourne, heading to Sydney on one charge  | One Step Off the Grid

Uniting Communities becomes Australia’s first carbon neutral charity

Uniting Communities is carbon neutral

Uniting Communities have become the first registered charity in Australia to receive certification under the Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program.

Uniting Communities provides a range of community services including aged care, alcohol and drug support and mental health counselling.

The Carbon Neutral certification follows a five year commitment to significantly reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint. The project, named Towards Carbon Neutral, was spearheaded by a steering committee that oversaw policy, strategy and progress. A working committee continues to be responsible for developing emissions reduction initiatives.

“Uniting Communities committed to our Carbon Neutral program in 2010,” said Chief Executive, Simon Schrapel. “Becoming carbon neutral makes sense for our organisation; we have a strong moral compass and research tells us that climate change will most affect people in our client base ~ the elderly, socially disadvantaged and people on lower incomes.”

Their actions to become carbon neutral included:


  • Reduction in waste to landfill through more effective management of recyclable and organic waste
  • “Y-Print” campaign – staff commitment to reduction in printing and paper consumption


  • Lighting upgrades to energy efficient LEDs
  • “Switch off” campaign – staff commitment to lowering emissions through switching off power sources when not in use, including PCs, lights and air-conditioning
  • Energy reviews of sites via the Green Hub program through the Conservation Council SA
  • Energy reduction reviews by our Uniting Communities Energy Workers


  • Transition of company fleet to hybrid petrol-electric vehicles
  • Purchase of carbon offsets for fleet vehicles through CMI Toyota
  • “Drive Green” campaign to encourage staff to develop more fuel-efficient driving habits and purchases
  • Joined Adelaide Carpool to encourage car sharing for employee commuting

And lastly, the purchase of Australian Gold Standard Carbon offsets to bring emissions to zero.

“It’s a tremendous example of a locally based company taking leadership and ‘walking the talk’ to reduce emissions and transit to a low-carbon economy,” added Shrapel. “We are hoping other businesses will follow suit and take up the challenge and opportunity to become carbon neutral.”

Uniting Communities will continue ongoing implementation of building energy efficiency upgrades and further emission reductions through its procurement policies, such as converting the company fleet to diesel electric.

Re-Post ~ Australia’s first carbon neutral charity | ProBono

Read more ~

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy

Uruagay Renewables

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint and lowered electricity costs ~ and all without government subsidies.

The country’s head of climate change policy, RamĂłn MĂ©ndez, says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.

Now the biggest item on import balance sheet is wind turbines, which fill the country’s ports on their way to installation.

Biomass and solar power have also been ramped up. Adding to existing hydropower, this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%.

There are no technological miracles involved, nuclear power is entirely absent from the mix, and no new hydroelectric power has been added for more than two decades. Instead, Méndez says, the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.

As a result, energy investment ~ mostly for renewables, but also liquid gas ~ in Uruguay over the past five years has surged to $7bn, or 15% of the country’s annual GDP. That is five times the average in Latin America and three times the global share recommended by climate economist Nicholas Stern.

“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” MĂ©ndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

There is still a lot to do. The transport sector still depends on oil (which accounts for 45% of the total energy mix). But industry ~ mostly agricultural processing ~ is now powered predominantly by biomass co-generation plants.

MĂ©ndez attributed Uruguay’s success to three key factors: credibility, as a stable democracy that has never defaulted on its debts so it is attractive for long-term investments; helpful natural conditions with good wind, decent solar radiation and lots of biomass from agriculture; and strong public companies which are a reliable partner for private firms and can work with the state to create an attractive operating environment.

Re-Post ~ Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy | The Guardian
Read more ~

Nuclear priced out of Australia’s future energy equation

Australia’s official economic forecaster has found that the cost of nuclear energy is more than double the leading renewable energy alternatives, suggesting it would likely play no role in a de-carbonised grid based around lowest costs.

The Australian Power Generation Technology Report ~ a 362-page collaborative effort from more than 40 organisations, including the CSIRO, ARENA, the federal government’s Department of Industry and Science and the Office of the Chief Economist ~ clearly shows that solar and wind will be the cheapest low carbon technologies in Australia.

The report has essentially ruled out nuclear power for the whole of Australia, revealing that the technology is becoming more and more prohibitively expensive ~ at around double the capital cost estimated three years ago and double the cost of competing renewable technologies.

The research ~ undertaken by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Worley Parsons in Australia and Ernst and Young, and peer reviewed by the Australian Government Bureau of Resource Research Economics (BREE) ~ has been used to provide “credible technology cost and performance data for 2015 to 2030.”

The cost estimates of building new nuclear generation go from roughly $4,500/kW (AETA 2012) to $6,000 (AETA 2013) to $9,000/kW in this new modelling.

As shown in the tables below, based on the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) ~ which is the the average cost of producing electricity from that technology over its entire life ~ nuclear is found to be more expensive than wind and five out of six solar technologies in 2015.

Cost of Energy Production

By 2030 (below), nuclear power is predicted to be more expensive than every other option. And this is the figure that counts, because it is an impossibility that nuclear could be built in Australia before that time. Some would suggest it would take another 10 years in addition to this.

Cost of Nuclear Energ 2030

Re~Post: Nuclear priced out of Australia’s future energy equation in new report | Renew Economy

100% Renewables is not just cleaner – it’s about equality

Renewables is about equity

As the world’s energy system shifts from fossil fuels to renewable sources, the question is no longer if the world will transition to sustainable energy, but rather, how long will it take and whether the transition can be made in ways that maximise the benefits today and for future generations.

Changing our energy system is about more than replacing fossil resources with sun and wind. In fact, the economic model for renewables is completely different: 100% renewable energy can lead us to a more equal distribution of wealth.

The differences start in the way our energy system is structured. The fossil fuel-based energy system is characterised by complex, centralised infrastructures where the fuel is transported to the power plant, and energy production and distribution is controlled by very few entities. The supply chain is vertical, and the benefits are shared only among a few stakeholders.

Most renewable energies offer opportunities for more decentralised energy production and consumption. They have a horizontal supply chain and require innovation in infrastructure and energy markets. New stakeholders ~ including citizens, farmers and small businesses ~ are entering the system. They claim ownership rights and have direct impacts on the implementation.

Some countries have begun to realise the benefits. A recent German study [pdf] reveals that some €5.4bn was generated in Germany in 2012 through projects that were partially or fully owned by local investors, including individuals. Local private investments created a total of around 100,000 jobs that year in both the construction sector and operation.

By 2050, Vancouver will obtain 100% of the energy it uses from renewable sources and emit 80% fewer greenhouse gases than in 2007.

A study by Brand Finance estimates that Vancouver’s brand is valued at $31bn due to its reputation as a “green, clean and sustainable” city. Steering the city towards 100% renewable energy and focusing on local sustainability, has helped create more than 3,000 new local green jobs in only five years.

The district of Kasese in Uganda, comprising approximately 130,000 households, is radically transforming. By 2020, Kasese will supply the energy needs of its population by only renewable sources. This ambitious target will be achieved by adopting a people-centered approach, with a wide variety of renewable sources such as biomass, solar, geothermal and mini-hydroelectric technologies. This will help the region overcome health issues strongly connected to the uncontrolled use of charcoal, firewood and kerosene, the main energy sources used for cooking and domestic electricity production.

By implementing a decentralised renewable energy system in the region, several clean energy businesses have been started since 2012, creating jobs for locals. They sell solar equipment, construct solar hubs, build biogas systems, improve cook stoves and deliver mini-hydro projects. The number of businesses in the local green economy has increased from five to 55 since 2012, and at least 1,650 people have been trained in the process.

Re~Post: A Global Shift to 100% Renewables Is Not Just Cleaner ~ It’s About Equality | Common Dreams 

Carbon dioxide options for commercial greenhouses

Effect on temperatures

Schematic showing the effect on extreme temperatures when (a) the mean temperature increases, (b) the variance increases, and (c) when both the mean and variance increase for a normal distribution of temperature.

Starfish Associate Ian Gesch has been selected as the lead article for the current edition of Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses.

The changing landscape of fossil fuels presents increasing business risks for Australian domestic industrial and commercial energy consumers. Rising costs and uncertain supply of natural gas and the existing high price of Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) represent a significant portion of this risk. Adding complexity to this changing landscape is mounting international pressure on Australian policy makers to replace fossil-fuelled energy with renewable alternatives. Horticulturists use natural gas and LPG for greenhouse environment management and as a result are left exposed to an uncertain future.

The use of protected cropping practices is a form of climate change adaptation. However, these practices need continued modification to prepare for a changing climate, particularly in response to rising temperatures and increasing fuel costs. Modification of protected cropping practices to accommodate climate change has the potential to create opportunities for strengthening the business viability of horticulture and augmenting food security for domestic consumption and export.

Horticulturists have options for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and adapting to climate change. Most of these options, however, have low or no appeal due to relative cost (such as heat pumps and wind power), complexity (generating syngas from industrial or agricultural processes) or physical footprint (such as solar energy collection). Industrial symbioses (using waste CO2 from industrial processes) also have low applicability due to the continued placement of greenhouses in regional areas as opposed to locating them adjacent to sources of waste heat and carbon dioxide.

Those remaining options for adapting further to climate change require an innovative approach to testing and integration and include:

  • Using the combustion of natural gas and LPG not only as a source of CO2 but to also power absorption refrigeration plant. This would not only provide continued supply of CO2 for enrichment but allow longer exposure times without the need for venting greenhouses.
  • Cleaning the CO2 emitted from the flue of existing coal and biomass furnaces and using this for enrichment. This solution has the potential to make the combustion of expensive natural gas and LPG a secondary source of CO2 for enrichment.
  • Locate new greenhouses adjacent to sources of waste heat and CO2.
  • Perform an assessment of the total volume of CO2 consumed by commercial greenhouses (existing and potential) in Australia in order to inform climate change policy development and recognise horticulture as a legitimate consumer of CO2.
  • Develop tools and methods that simplify the calculation of the true cost of CO2 enrichment so that the efficiency of this practice can be improved.

Climate change will require a response from all commerce and industry. Horticulturists have the choice to either wait for the risks or prepare for the opportunities.

Read the full article ~ Sustainable energy: Carbon dioxide options for commercial greenhouses | Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses

Read more about the Green Glasshouses initiative