Generation Anthropocene ~ How humans have altered the planet for ever

Plastic and rubbish floating in the ocean. Photograph: Gary Bell/zefa/Corbis. Source: The Guardian

In 2003 the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term solastalgia to mean a “form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change”. Albrecht was studying the effects of long-term drought and large-scale mining activity on communities in New South Wales, when he realised that no word existed to describe the unhappiness of people whose landscapes were being transformed about them by forces beyond their control. He proposed his new term to describe this distinctive kind of homesickness.

Where the pain of nostalgia arises from moving away, the pain of solastalgia arises from staying put. Where the pain of nostalgia can be mitigated by return, the pain of solastalgia tends to be irreversible. Solastalgia is not a malady specific to the present but it has flourished recently.

“A worldwide increase in ecosystem distress syndromes,” wrote Albrecht, is “matched by a corresponding increase in human distress syndromes”. Solastalgia speaks of a modern uncanny, in which a familiar place is rendered unrecognisable by climate change or corporate action: the home become suddenly unhomely around its inhabitants.

Albrecht’s coinage is part of an emerging language-set for what we are increasingly calling the Anthropocene ~ the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record. And what a signature it will be.

A total of 50m kilometres of holes have been bored in the search for oil. Mountain tops have been removed to get at the coal they contain. The oceans dance with billions of tiny plastic beads. Weaponry tests have dispersed artificial radionuclides globally. The burning of rainforests for monoculture production sends out killing smog-palls that settle into the sediment across entire countries. Humanity has become a titanic geological agent with a legacy which will be legible for millennia to come.

The idea of the Anthropocene asks hard questions of us. Temporally, it requires that we imagine ourselves inhabitants not just of a human lifetime or generation, but also of “deep time” ~ the dizzyingly profound eras of Earth history that extend both behind and ahead of the present. Politically, it lays bare some of the complex cross-weaves of vulnerability and culpability that exist between us and other species, as well as between humans now and humans to come. Conceptually, it warrants us to consider once again whether – in Fredric Jameson’s phrase – “the modernisation process is complete, and nature is gone for good”, leaving nothing but us.

There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through.

Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Conservationists, environmentalists, policymakers, artists, activists, writers, historians, political and cultural theorists, as well as scientists and social scientists in many specialisms, are all responding to its implications. A Stanford University team has boldly proposed that ~ living as we are through the last years of one Earth epoch, and the birth of another ~ we belong to “Generation Anthropocene”.

The word “Anthropocene” itself entered the Oxford English Dictionary surprisingly late, along with “selfie” and “upcycle”, in June 2014, some 15 years after it is generally agreed to have first been used in its popular sense.

‘What will survive of us is love’, wrote Philip Larkin. Wrong! What will survive of us is plastic!!

The Anthropocene Working Group of the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy was created in 2009. It was charged with answering two questions: whether the Anthropocene should be formalised as an epoch and, if so, when it began?

The group’s report is due within months. Recent publications indicate that they will recommend the designation of the Anthropocene, and that the “stratigraphically optimal” temporal limit will be located somewhere in the mid-20th century. This places the start of the Anthropocene simultaneous with the start of the nuclear age.

Plastics in particular are being taken as a key marker for the Anthropocene, giving rise to the inevitable nickname of the “Plasticene”. We currently produce around 100m tonnes of plastic globally each year. Because plastics are inert and difficult to degrade, some of this plastic material will find its way into the strata record. Among the future fossils of the Anthropocene, therefore, might be the trace forms not only of megafauna and nano-planktons, but also shampoo bottles and deodorant caps ~ the strata that contain them precisely dateable with reference to the product-design archives of multinationals.

Re~Post: Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | The Guardian Australia

We can reduce carbon emissions while growing GDP ~ 21 countries already have…

Is it possible to have economic growth at the same time as a country is transitioning to a new climate economy?

There’s a debate about whether growth can drive, or even coexist with, climate stabilization. On the other side of the coin, it’s also a discussion of whether climate stabilisation can drive growth. The debates on growth and resources are complex, fractious and centuries old, and while they won’t be resolved in the immediate future, recent developments show that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions stayed flat in 2014 and 2015 while GDP continued to grow.

This emerging trend is supported by 21 countries that have managed to reduce GHG emissions while growing GDP over the period from 2000 to 2014.

A year after the Australian government implemented its carbon tax, there was no significant negative economic impact

The UK is an example of a country where economic growth and CO2 emissions have increasingly diverged. Between 2000 and 2014, the UK achieved six years of absolute decoupling where real GDP grew at the same time that carbon dioxide emissions declined. Over the 14-year period, emissions dropped from 591 to 470 million metric tons of energy-related CO2, while GDP grew from $2.1 to $2.7 trillion (constant 2005 U.S. dollars).

How Have Countries Decoupled?

There is not a single formula, policy or demographic trend that’s driven GDP-GHG decoupling across all countries. Sweden, for example, implemented ambitious policies including carbon taxes that supported its decoupling. Denmark’s rapid increase in renewable energy reduced emissions while stimulating local production.  As illustrated in the table below, another key factor in many countries is a structural shift of the economy away from emissions-intensive industry.

Graph of gdp and change in CO2

Across the 21-country group, the average change in the industry share of GDP was a 3 percent reduction over the period, with an average CO2 reduction of 15 percent.

Shifting to a Low-Carbon Path

Decoupling of GDP and GHG emissions in numerous countries demonstrates the feasibility, and increasing prevalence, of the transition to cleaner modes of economic activity. These country-level decouplings are driving the global trend toward decoupling in 2014 and 2015. Beyond the aggregate trends described here, more information is needed on the potential leakage of carbon emissions to other countries as nations move their industries overseas, factors that enable sustained and absolute decoupling, and what’s needed to support larger-scale emissions mitigation.

Over the 14-year period covered here, the aggregate annual CO2 reduction for these 21 countries amounted to slightly more than 1 billion metric tons. Given that total annual global carbon dioxide emissions grew by more than 10 billion metric tons over this period, it’s clear that decoupling needs to be scaled up rapidly to have any chance of limiting average warming this century to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels ~ the current international target for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

As countries focus on implementing the Paris Agreement, decoupling presents one option to address global climate challenges while preserving economic security.

Repost ~ The Roads to Decoupling: 21 Countries Are Reducing Carbon Emissions While Growing GDP | World Resources  Institute

What’s the scenario with global biodiversity?

Fishing boat off the coast of Spain, near the CĂ­es Islands. Modelling future scenarios for biodiversity could be used to build more sustainable fisheries. Image: Armando G Alonso / Flickr

When the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) ~ the leading international body for the assessment of climate change, consisting of 195 member countries ~ reviews and assessed the most recent scientific information on climate change, one of the central things they were concerned with are climate projections and future scenarios. That is, what the future climate is likely to be and what impact that might have on our economies, societies and ecosystems.

The IPCC regularly update a range of future scenarios based on factors that affect climate, like greenhouse gas emissions. They can show us what the future climate might look if we continue on the same greenhouse gas emissions trend, or if we reduce or increase our rate of emissions. They can then predict what is likely to happen if certain policies are implemented or actions are taken to curb emissions. Having commenced this work in 1988, the IPCC’s ability to model these future scenarios, and how we are tracking against them, has become increasingly refined.

Now, the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems is benefiting from this kind of scenario modelling.

Recently, in Kuala Lumpur, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) ~ which does for biodiversity what the IPCC does for climate ~ adopted an approach for using scenarios and models to inform policy making related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The approach that was adopted by representatives of IPBES’s 124 member nations is spelled out in the report, The Methodological Assessment of Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The assessment was conducted by 83 experts and cited in more than 3,000 scientific papers and, in two rounds of peer review, received 4,066 comments from 230 independent reviewers.

“IPBES’s goal is to give policymakers and all of society a more complete understanding of how people and nature interact, and how policy and management decisions made today might affect these interactions in the future,” said Dr Simon Ferrier, the scenarios and models assessment’s Co-Chair and Senior Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO.

Examples include the use of scenarios and models to sustainably manage fisheries or to carry out land use planning that balances needs for development and biodiversity protection.

In setting out the rationale for using scenarios and model, IPBES had as an objective to move away from the current reactive mode of decision-making, to a proactive mode in which society anticipates change and thereby minimises adverse impacts, and capitalises on important opportunities.

“The scenarios and models assessment is the starting gun for mobilising scientists, decision makers and other stakeholders to jointly embark on an ambitious, global effort to better understand and use scientific information about biodiversity and ecosystem services,” said Dr Karachepone N. Ninan, the other Co-Chair of the scenarios and models assessment and Chairperson of the Centre for Economics, Environment and Society in Bangalore, India.

IPBES’s member nations also approved the commencement of a new global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services, which will be completed by 2019, and will measure progress towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, 2011-2020, and the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Mobilisation of work on scenarios and models across the broader scientific community will allow this assessment to also explore the potential consequences of alternative policy options for maintaining and improving the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services into the future.

Repost ~ What’s the scenario with global biodiversity? | ECOS

Read more ~

Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels

Solar & wind crush fossil fuels

Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable.

While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

“We’re in a low-cost-of-oil environment for the foreseeable future,” Liebreich said during his keynote address at the BNEF Summit in New York recently. “Did that stop renewable energy investment? Not at all.”

Here’s what’s shaping power markets, in six charts from BNEF:

Chart of solar & wind

The reason solar-power generation will increasingly dominate: It’s a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. What’s more, the price of batteries to store solar power when the sun isn’t shining is falling in a similarly stunning arc.

Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. Even wind power, which was already established, doubled four times over the same period. For the first time, the two forms of renewable energy are beginning to compete head-to-head on price and annual investment.

Meanwhile, fossil fuels have been getting killed by falling prices and, more recently, declining investment. It started with coal. It used to be that lower prices increased demand for fossil fuels, but coal prices apparently can’t fall fast enough. Richer OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries have been reducing demand for almost a decade. In China, coal power has also flattened. Only developing countries with rapidly expanding energy demands are still adding coal, though at a slowing rate.

The best minds in energy keep underestimating what solar and wind can do. Since 2000, the International Energy Agency has raised its long-term solar forecast 14 times and its wind forecast five times. Every time global wind power doubles, there’s a 19 percent drop in cost, according to BNEF, and every time solar power doubles, costs fall 24 percent.

And while BNEF says the shift to renewable energy isn’t happening fast enough to avoid the catastrophic legacy of fossil-fuel dependence-climate change-it’s definitely happening.

Repost ~ Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels | Sydney Morning Herald

Can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone?

Organic plant

Critics of organic agriculture have argued for years that organic agriculture is inefficient, requiring more land than conventional agriculture to yield the same amount of food. Proponents have countered that increasing research could reduce the yield gap, and organic agriculture generates environmental, health and socio-economic benefits that can’t be found with conventional farming.

Organic agriculture occupies only 1% of global agricultural land, making it a relatively untapped resource for one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: producing enough food for a population that could reach 10 billion by 2050, without the extensive deforestation and harm to the wider environment.

That’s the conclusion doctoral student Jonathan Wachter and John Reganold reached in reviewing 40 years of science and hundreds of scientific studies comparing the long term prospects of organic and conventional farming. The study, Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century, published in Nature Plants, is the first to compare organic and conventional agriculture across the four main metrics of sustainability identified by the US National Academy of Sciences: be productive, economically profitable, environmentally sound and socially just.

They found that although organic farming systems produce yields that average 10-20% less than conventional agriculture, they are more profitable and environmentally friendly. Historically, conventional agriculture has focused on increasing yields at the expense of the other three sustainability metrics. In addition, organic farming delivers equally or more nutritious foods that contain less or no pesticide residues, and provide greater social benefits than their conventional counterparts.

Conventional and organic farming graph

With organic agriculture, environmental costs tend to be lower and the benefits greater.

Biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and severe impacts on ecosystem services ~ which refer to nature’s support of wildlife habitat, crop pollination, soil health and other benefits ~ have not only accompanied conventional farming systems, but have often extended well beyond the boundaries of their fields, such as fertilizer run-off into rivers.

Organic farming can help to both feed the world and preserve bushland. In a study published this year, researchers modelled 500 food production scenarios to see if we can feed an estimated world population of 9.6 billion people in 2050 without expanding the area of farmland we already use. They found that enough food could be produced with lower-yielding organic farming, if people become vegetarians or eat a more plant-based diet with lower meat consumption.

The existing farmland can feed that many people if they are all vegan, a 94% success rate if they are vegetarian, 39% with a completely organic diet, and 15% with the Western-style diet based on meat. Realistically, we can’t expect everyone to forgo meat.

Organic isn’t the only sustainable option to conventional farming either. Other viable types of farming exist, such as integrated farming where you blend organic with conventional practices or grass-fed livestock systems.

How we farm for food has massive implications for biodiversity. A recent analysis of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List has found agriculture to be the second largest threat to, and killer of, global biodiversity.

The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers 1 1 A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 | V O L 5 3 6 | N A T U R E | 1 4 3 © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.

The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers
1 1 A U G U S T 2 0 1 6 | V O L 5 3 6 | N A T U R E | 1 4 3
© 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature.

Sales of organic foods and beverages are rapidly growing in the world, increasing almost five-fold between 1999 and 2013 to $72bn. This 2013 figure is projected to double by 2018.  Organic food and beverage sales in 2015 represented almost 5% of US food and beverage sales, up from 0.8% in 1997.  Australian sales are equally robust.

Scaling up organic agriculture with appropriate public policies and private investment is an important step for global food and ecosystem security. The challenge facing policymakers is to develop government policies that support conventional farmers converting to organic systems. For the private business sector, investing in organics offers a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities and is an area of budding growth that will likely continue for years to come.

In a time of increasing population growth, climate change and environmental degradation, we need agricultural systems that come with a more balanced portfolio of sustainability benefits. Organic farming is one of the healthiest and strongest sectors in agriculture today and will continue to grow and play a larger part in feeding the world. It produces adequate yields and better unites human health, environment and socio-economic objectives than conventional farming.

Repost ~ Can we feed 10 billion people on organic farming alone? | The Guardian Australia
Additional reading ~ Commentary: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers | Nature

Global map reveals ‘unsafe levels’ of biodiversity across 58% of Earth’s surface

‘Beaufront’ grazing property near Ross, Tasmania | Source: ABC News

Biodiversity has dropped below the “safe limit” across 58% of the Earth’s surface according to the most comprehensive analysis of global data to date.

The international study, published recently in the journal Science, suggests that the degree of lost biodiversity across more than half of the world’s surface is substantial enough to question the ability of many ecosystems to support human societies.

“We’ve found that across most of the world, biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists,” said lead researcher Dr Tim Newbold of University College London.
“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear.

“What we do know is that in many parts of the world we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.”

Other environmental experts said the research was impressive in its scope. But they said it is too soon to say we are on the verge of an ecological disaster and more work is needed at a local level.
Previous work has proposed a threshold whereby continued loss of biodiversity may impair an ecosystem’s ability to function.

“The main implication of crossing the safe limit of biodiversity intactness is that the ability of biodiversity to support important ecosystem functions ~ things like food production, nutrient cycling and pollination ~ becomes uncertain,” said Dr Newbold.

To assess the extent to which these limits had been crossed, Dr Newbold and a team of international researchers analysed a database of some 2.3 million records covering more than 39,100 species living in 18,600 sites.

Global map of biodiversity intactness

Global map of biodiversity intactness

Their global map (above) reveals that the average abundance of original species in much of the world has fallen to 84.6%.

The analysis suggested at least seven of the 14 terrestrial ecosystem types ~ or biomes ~ have crossed the suggested safe limit for biodiversity. Grasslands, savannahs and shrublands were most affected by biodiversity loss.

“This is where a lot of the world’s farmland is currently,” explained Dr Newbold.

Tundra and boreal forests were the least affected.

According to the global map, much of Australia is below the safe limit.

“Generally the most change in biodiversity has occurred in places where there are more people, but this isn’t always so,” said Dr Newbold. “In the case of Australia, the maps of the different land uses 
 suggest that a lot of Australia’s area is used for grazing livestock. This probably reflects reality to some extent, but is perhaps an overestimate [as] the extent of grazing land has proven difficult to estimate by global models.”

Professor Hugh Possingham, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland, said the link between biodiversity and species abundance within ecosystems is still not well understood.

“I wouldn’t like to think because we’ve crossed these safe operating boundaries it’s a disaster” he said, adding that many ecosystems around the world had experienced significant losses of original species but had not collapsed.

Professor Possingham said it was important to quantify biodiversity loss, but the question is what to do about it.

He said conservation decisions needed to be based on factors such as what actions could be taken to restore the abundance and richness of species; how much those actions were likely to cost; were they likely to succeed; and whether or not there is a net benefit.

Repost ~ Global map reveals ‘unsafe levels’ of biodiversity across 58pc of Earth’s surface |ABC News
See also ~ Has land use pushed terrestia biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? | Science

Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management

Sacred mountain handback

What began as a bold experiment ~ handing over control of two national parks in New South Wales to traditional Aboriginal owners a decade ago ~ is today being hailed as a landmark act of reconciliation.

In 2006 the NSW Government formally handed back Gulaga and Biamanga National Parks on the far south coast to the Yuin people, because of the significant cultural sites they contain and the living links to local Indigenous groups.

Gulaga, which was previously formally known as Mount Dromedary, is an imposing 823-metre mountain rising near the coastal town of Narooma. Biamanga National Park includes Mumbulla Mountain, further south in the Bega valley.

To the Yuin people, Gulaga is known as the Mother Mountain, and has always been a woman’s place. It includes sacred sites where Aboriginal women would retreat for storytelling, ceremony and childbirth.

Meanwhile Mumbulla was a traditional men’s mountain, and contains initiation sites where boys would become men of the Yuin tribe.

The Board of Management Chair for Gulaga, Iris White, said the park was a “beautiful” and “spiritual” place.

The energy the Yuin people have harnessed from Gulaga mountain took a very practical form when they successfully lobbied the NSW Government for traditional ownership back in 2006. Biamanga Board chair Paul Stewart said it was the culmination of decades of struggle for legal recognition of Indigenous links to their land.

“I’m just so happy to put something back,” Mr Stewart said. “Something 10 years ago that we used to drive past and say to our kids, ‘that’s ours’ … now we have got the chance to manage it.”

Traditional ownership of the national parks areas means they are managed in very different ways to other parks. For instance, a recently released Plan of Management allows Indigenous owners to close the parks to public access for cultural purposes such as initiation rites. It also allows for the possibility of traditional fire management and hunting on site.

National Parks area manager Preston Cope said those land uses required a rethink for their agency. “There are a lot of native bush tucker foods around this park,” Mr Cope said. “In a normal park, it would be illegal to collect plant material, but in this park if you’re an Aboriginal owner and you get permission from the board, then you can come and do that. “Guns cannot be used ~ they have to use traditional methods for hunting.”

Under the joint management arrangement, decisions about the running of the parks are made by the two boards, and implemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. “One of [the board’s] aspirations is for developing tourism on the park,” Mr Cope said. “If we were managing the park without Aboriginal owners involved, it would be a much more straight-forward business. We have to have everybody in agreeance with how the cultural heritage will be interpreted, and to do that, requires a fair bit of work that we wouldn’t normally do.”

However, all parties agree that traditional ownership of the two sacred mountains has led to a cultural revival, especially for young people who are now learning their culture.

Re-post ~ Sacred mountains celebrate decade back under Aboriginal management | ABC News

Read more ~ National Parks & Wildlife Service NSW Management Plans

Rammed earth wall keeping the top end cool

Long rammed earth wall

Composed of 230m of simple, natural materials, this earthen structure may look unassuming, yet it is actually the longest rammed earth wall in Australia. Built to accommodate cattle workers during mustering season in the scorching Western Australia outback, the eco-friendly formation represents a shift in the approach to architectural design of this sort. Built by Luigi Rosselli Architects and tucked into the edge of a sand dune, this “Great Wall of Australia” is a brilliant example of simple, eco-conscious design.

The wall is constructed primarily using iron-rich, sandy clay obtained from the building site and gravel from a nearby river, which are bound together using water from a local bore.

This ancient technique forms the exterior façade, that is then built into a sand dune which forms the rear and roof of the building. Simple in theory, this results in a structure that naturally stays cool, even in the intense heat of the outback.

rooms

The continuous building contains twelve earth-covered apartments, separated by angled verandas to maintain privacy. Designer Sarah Foletta creates an interior space with a minimalistic yet liveable style, and a central hub on top of the wall provides a place for residents to meet and socialize.

Roof lght

It may seem decidedly elementary, yet this natural, energy-efficient approach towards housing development will save time, money, and resources. The design has been acknowledged by Australian Institute of Architects, and hopefully represents a shift towards similarly eco-friendly architecture in the future.

Re-post ~ Eco friendly “Great Wall of Australia” Naturally Protects Residents from Sweltering Heat | My Modern Met

Tasmania’s crazy lurch back into the (expensive) fossil fuel era

Tasmania's crazy lurch

Only just recently, Tasmania ~ courtesy of its rich hydro resources, excellent wind conditions, and even a little bit of sunshine ~ could boast of having 100% renewable electricity, with all the economic possibilities that could afford in a world rapidly transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

The state had closed down its last fossil fuel generator, and the combination of a large hydro fleet (2,200MW), a growing portfolio of wind farms (310MW) and a small amount of rooftop solar (80MW) accounted for its electricity needs.

Tasmania supplemented and profited from these resources through the BassLink cable to the mainland, more for exporting clean power rather than importing from the heavily coal-reliant Victoria. Only a short time ago Tasmania, with its giant hydro battery, was perfectly positioned to become a fully green state, becoming the first to use renewables to supply all electricity, road transport and many industrial processes.

All it would require was a bit of vision and forward planning ~ encourage rooftop solar, build more wind farms, use the green electricity as a prompt to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles; maybe even build a new link to the mainland to become an export of green electricity.

Not any more. Due to a combination of bad luck and rotten planning, old school thinking and ~ guess what ~ climate change, Tasmania has found itself with little water in its dams to generate hydro electricity, no power link to the mainland, bushfires shutting down generators, and not enough renewables to fill the gap.

The Tasmanian government finds itself in the midst of an energy crisis ~ facing soaring costs and electricity rationing because it resisted a push to build new wind farms, and sought to put a lid on rooftop solar. It blithely believed that its dams would never fall to such critically low levels.

Last year, Tasmania began to import more electricity from Victoria, and then the link to the mainland was suddenly damaged and cut in late December 2015. No one knows when it will be repaired.

So what does it do in a crisis? Tasmania has no choice but to lurch back to the fossil fuel era. It switched back on its gas-fired power station early this year and has now begun to switch on containerised diesel gen-sets. The use of diesel generators, which sets the marginal cost of power (which is then paid to all other operating generators under the rules of the National Electricity Market) means that Tasmanians are paying the same price for generation as a remote mine in the Australian outback.

Note this graph below:
Tas Hydro Fossil Fuel

For the last seven years, Tasmania has had the lowest electricity prices of any state. But last month, the average price has remained at more than $250/MWh, barely any different from the peak power price. With the addition of network and retail costs, the cost of electricity is about $500/MWh. As a comparison, rooftop solar probably costs around $150/MWh in Tasmania.

The crisis has sparked some interesting initiatives. Apart from having to fly in replacement parts for the gas-fired generators and diesel gen-sets from Abu Dhabi, the government is also accelerating its “cloud-seeding” program to try to bring forward some autumn rains.

It has struck agreements with three major industrial facilities and employers to shave more than 110MW of capacity from demand.

No effort has been made to encourage household and smaller business consumers to increase the efficiency with which they use electricity.

The output of rooftop solar is still being valued at just $60/MWh, one-fifth of the price of diesel. The state’s pricing regulator recently said it could see no benefits from rooftop solar, and delayed an assessment on battery storage because it was “too hard”. Perhaps in its next review it might change its tune.

A year ago, the government said Tasmania could provide the equivalent of 1,00MW of “base-load” power to Victoria, substituting one of the big brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley with clean power. Now it can’t even meet its own needs.

Re-post ~ Tasmania’s crazy lurch back into the (expensive) fossil fuel era | Renew Enconomy

See also ~ Cross post: Marcus: Tasmania’s energy scandal | Catallaxy Files