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

Green Glasshouses research project completed

GreenhouseStarfish’s newest Associate, Ian Gesch, has successfully completed the ‘Green Glasshouses’ (Sustainable Environment Management for Commercial Greenhouses) research project.

The purpose of this research was to inform horticulturists who are currently reliant upon LPG for glasshouse heating about options for renewable and sustainable energy resources. The renewable sources considered include solar PV, Concentrated Solar Thermal, wind, geothermal, bio-digestion and biomass. Integration of product and waste streams from other processes, particularly as applied to carbon dioxide enrichment inside the facility, were also considered.

The Green Glasshouses project identified options for sustainable alternatives to natural gas and LPG combustion in commercial greenhouses. A range of case study greenhouses were chosen in order to compare and contrast the experiences and practices of each.

The findings identified that many sustainable heating and CO2 enrichment options exist for greenhouse operations when compared to the consumption of fossil fuels. Most of these, 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 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.

However, there is scope for the development of a properly functioning carbon market in concert with the tailoring of greenhouse design and operational practices to the Australian landscape. This has the potential to create opportunities for strengthening the business viability of commercial greenhouses, adapting to climate change and augmenting food security and export.

The recommendations identify the need for additional research into:

  • Existing and potential demand for energy CO2 in commercial greenhouses
  • CO2 capture, scrubbing and reuse from small coal and biomass furnace exhaust
  • Greenhouse environment management practices that increase exposure times of CO2 enrichment such as reduced venting and active cooling of the growing space
  • The applicability of the Emissions Reduction Fund to the use of waste CO2 for environment management in commercial greenhouses
  • Development of tools and methods that simplify the calculation of the true cost of CO2 enrichment and investigation into the potential for industrial symbioses between commercial greenhouses and producers of waste heat and CO2.

An electronic copy of the abridged report is available by contacting Ian Gesch (see Starfish Associates).

Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy

Sustainability diagram

A sustainable Australia is possible – but we have to choose it. That’s the finding of a paper published today in Nature. The paper is the result of a larger project to deliver the first Australian National Outlook report, which has been more than two years in the making.

CSIRO found that collective policy choices are crucial, and that Australia could make great progress to sustainability without any changes in social values. In fact, the authors found that collective choices explain around 50-90% of differences in environmental performance and resource use across the scenarios that are modeled.

Few topics generate more heat, and less light, than debates over economic growth and sustainability.

At one end of the spectrum, “technological optimists” suggest that the marvelous invisible hand will take care of everything, with market-driven improvements in technology automatically protecting essential natural resources while also improving living standards.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence to back this worldview, particularly in protecting un-priced natural resources such as ocean fisheries, or the services provided by a stable climate. Instead the evidence suggests we are already crossing important planetary boundaries.

Other the other end of the spectrum, people argue that achieving sustainability will require a rejection of economic growth, or a shift in values away from consumerism and towards a more ecologically attuned lifestyles. CSIRO refer to this group as advocating “communitarian limits”.

A third “institutional reform” approach argues that policy reform can reconcile economic and ecological goals – and is attacked from one side as anti-business alarmism, and from the other as indulging in pro-growth greenwash.

CSIRO used nine linked models to assess interactions between energy, water and food (and links to ecosystem services) in the context of climate change, with projections for more than 20 scenarios, exploring different potential trends for consumption and working hours; energy and resource efficiency; agricultural productivity; new land-sector markets for energy feedstocks and ecosystem services; national and global abatement efforts, climate, and global economic growth.

They find economic growth and environmental impacts can be decoupled ~ in the right circumstances. National income per person increases by 12-15% per decade from now to 2050, while the value of economic activity almost triples.

But here is the real crunch: CSIRO finds that these substantial steps toward sustainability could build on policy approaches that are already in place in Australia or other countries. This implies Australia could make enormous progress towards a more sustainable future without a major change in what we value. We can be confident that a values shift is not required to achieve these outcomes ~ at least before 2050 ~ because none of the scenarios modelled assume change in values or a new social or environmental ethic.

Instead, this shows that people will make choices to change their behaviour to make the best of particular policy settings. These choices shape production and consumption. Collective choices are often, but not always implemented through changes in government policy, legislation, and programs. Further, bottom-up individual choices play a greater role when private and public benefits are aligned.

Repost ~ Study:Australians can be sustainable without sacrificing lifestyle or economy | The Conversation

See more:
Australia is’ free to choose’economic growth and falling environmental pressures |
Australian National Outlook 2015 | CSIRO
Making sense of contrasting views on climate change | The Conversation
An ecomodernist’s manifesto: save wildlife by embracing new technology | The Conversation
Planetary Boundaries |Stockholm Resilience Centre
Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy and why you might actually enjoy it | The Conversation

Starfish going global as it welcomes Ruy Anaya de la Rosa

RuyStarfish is pleased to welcome Dr Ruy Anaya de la Rosa as Project Director for our global Biochar for Sustainable Soils (B4SS) initiative.

Ruy is passionate about the potential of biochar to improve soil fertility and sustainability. Ruy’s experience includes biochar, carbon markets, life cycle analysis and the uptake of appropriate technology in less developed countries. Ruy has a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, a Masters of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology and Bachelor of Science in Mechanical with Electrical Engineering.

While born in Mexico, Ruy’s life and work have taken him around the globe and he is fluent in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Swedish.

The purpose of B4SS is to share knowledge and build capacity regarding the use of innovative biochar-based organic amendments for sustainable soils and land management. In this way the project aims to support rural livelihoods for small landholders, enhance productivity, improve the capture and efficient use of nutrients, address declining soil fertility, contribute to watershed management and strengthen resilience to climate change.

Funding of USD2m has been secured from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for this purpose. The project will leverage an additional USD1ÂŒm of value through collaboration with existing biochar projects from six countries. These projects span a range of different soils, climates and cultures with the core focus being:

  • Vietnam ~ rice straw biochar to improve soil fertility and sequester carbon
  • Ethiopia & Kenya ~ use of biochar to aid the return of nutrients to depleted cropping soils
  • Indonesia ~ working with an existing network of 1,750 small-scale women farmers with dryland cropping systems to improve soils affected by the 2004 tsunami
  • China ~ testing biochar for immobilising heavy metals
  • Peru ~ biochar to reduce deforestation and improve crop productivity.

Renewables for ALL

CPA Graphic

Renewables for All is a new initiative working to develop government policies which can increase the access to clean energy for segments of the community who currently face barriers to do so, particularly:

  • Low to moderate income households
  • Renters
  • Apartment dwellers, and
  • People who live in shaded or heritage listed buildings.

The project is focused on a range of new clean energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaics (Pv), energy storage, energy control and management systems and energy efficiency measures.

A range of barriers exist for these customer segments, which if left unaddressed will exacerbate inequality. However, this inequality should not be used as a reason to stifle clean energy innovation, but rather a driver for greater innovation.

Around the world, social enterprises, charities, companies and governments are establishing new business models and policy settings and programs that increase access to new energy technologies such as solar PV and battery storage to those customer segments that are currently not able to access them.

A series of state-specific Discussion Papers have already been produced (NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and ACT) and are currently being workshopped with policy makers and key stakeholders in each jurisdiction to develop policies which can support access for the above community members.

Renewables for All is a new 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.