Not to be missed: The top RenewEconomy stories of 2013

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It’s THAT time of year again, to let you know which were the top stories of 2013, in terms of popularity and importance.

So here we go, too. Here’s a list of the top 1o most read stories from RenewEconomy. And we’ve added some more on the end which were also popular, and we think important too. Some holiday catch-up for those that missed them.

1. Tony Abbott’s business advisor attacks “myth” of climate change

In a year when Australia had not one, but two changes of Prime Minister – both, according to the current Liberal government, driven by a public rejection of the former Gillard government’s carbon pricing scheme – the popularity of an article about the deeply ingrained anti-climate sentiment in the ranks of the Coalition is no surprise. This particular tale concerned Maurice Newman, the former chairman of the ABC and the ASX who, in the same week he was tapped as chair of Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, launched an attack against the CSIRO, the weather bureau and the “myth” of anthropological climate change in an opinion piece written for the Australian Financial Review.

2. Renewables now cheaper than coal and gas in Australia

Written back in February, this article was based on newly released analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which concluded that electricity from unsubsidised renewable energy was already cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas-fired power stations in Australia. The modeling from the BNEF team in Sydney found that new wind farms could supply electricity at a cost of $80/MWh –compared with $143/MWh for new build coal, and $116/MWh for new build gas-fired generation.

3. The battery storage system that could close down coal power

Part of a series of interviews and stories written by Giles when on location in Germany, looking at the country’s Energiewende, and the transition of its energy grid to one dominated by renewable energy. This particular story focuses on Berlin Adlershof-based battery storage company, Younicos, which is developing 10MW-sized battery parks, using battery systems that it says can stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation. It also says these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost.

4. UBS: Boom in unsubsidised solar PV flags energy revolution

From back in January, this story was the first in a two-part series (Part II: Why subsidy -free solar is a no brainer for households) based on a report by analysts from the global investment banking giant UBS, who said that the arrival of socket parity – where the cost of installing solar is cheaper than grid-sourced supplies – was about to cause a boom in un-subsidised solar installation in Europe, and the energy market may never be quite the same again.

5. How battery storage will change household energy market

To March now, a story based on a series of questions about battery storage in the household energy market, posed by Energetics’ Gordon Weiss at the 2nd Summer Study into Energy Efficiency and Decentralised Energy in Sydney. Weiss estimated, then, that the levellised cost of solar PV was between 12c/kWh and 14c/kWh – half the cost of electricity bought from the grid. But what about for battery storage? Weiss crunches the numbers.

6. Deutsche Bank: Solar, distributed energy at ‘major inflection point’

This story looks into a Deutsche Bank report led by US-based analyst Vishal Shah which estimated that, in less than two years, three-quarters of the world’s solar market would have flipped from being largely “unsustainable” – needing big subsidies – to one mostly sustainable without subsidies, and able to resist a backlash from utilities.Said the report: “Solar appears to be in the beginning stages of transitioning between ‘alternative energy’ and a truly cost competitive source of energy that may help both producers and consumers hedge against rising electricity rates and fuel costs.”

7. Return of the steam engine: cheap storage for solar

This is the story of a group of Australian engineers who have “re-invented” the steam engine and combined it with solar thermal energy to deliver a cheap solar storage solution. What’s more, it works on the distributed level and can operate behind the meter, and is far cheaper than PV combined with batteries.

8. World’s biggest coal company turns to solar – to save energy costs

We like us some irony here at RenewEconomy, and obviously our readers do too. This story, from June, is about as ironical as it gets: world’s largest coal mining company to reduce energy bills by installing… solar! Coal India, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of the sub-continent’s coal production, is installing a 2MW plant at its plant in Odisha, and plans to do the same across all its operations, including its mining research arm. But, as Giles wrote back then, the most striking aspect of this story is “the company’s own recognition that fossil fuels are depleting, and that solar is approaching grid parity.”

9. Citigroup: How solar module prices could fall to 25c/watt

Another solar pricing good news story, as more of the world’s top energy analysts – this time from global investment bank Citigroup – suggest that the cost of solar PV modules could fall beyond most expectations in coming years, to a cost of just 25c a watt by 2020.

10. Queensland solar households face dramatic tariff changes

We were the first to pick up on some of the attempts by the Queensland-government owned networks to change the tariffs in a bid to recoup some of the lost income caused by the dramatic increase in solar. We later documented how the QCA recommended changes that even it admitted were unfair, inefficient, and possibly illegal. Queensland is the first state to break the 1GW mark in solar.

Rising with a bullet!  Warren Buffett’s energy rules: Wind power is cheaper than coal

And we had to make a late, late addition. This story was only published one day ago (Thursday), but is already pushing the top 20 for the year with more than 10,000 views. The headline says it all – when the world’s most admired investor understands the new dynamics between renewables and fossil fuels, then the rest of the world will surely follow.

There were some other important stories during the year: Here is a sample.

How solar and EVs will kill the last of the industry dinosaurs

Stanford University’s Tony Seba, who wrote a book called  Solar Trillions, which predicted how solar technologies would redefine the world’s energy markets long before others, is working on a new book that predicts solar will make the fossil fuel industry more or less redundant by 2030, and electric vehicles will do the same thing to the oil industry by around the same date.

Energy Darwinism: Fossil fuels and utilities at risk

One of the big themes of the year has been realisation from mainstream analysts about the fundamental changes occurring in the global electricity industry. None summed it up better than this report from analysis done by Citi - “Energy Darwinism – the evolution of the energy industry“ - which said the global energy mix is shifting more rapidly than is widely appreciated, and this has major implications for generators, utilities, and consumers, and for exporters of fossil fuels such as Australia.

Culture shock: Network offers solar storage leases to customers

New Zealand Vector decided to break from tradition and offered storage and solar leases to its consumers. A later interview with CEO gave some fascinating insights into Vector’s view of the market.

100% renewables: It may be closer than we think

Our analysis on the implications of the falling cost of wind energy, and solar PV, the arrival of solar thermal with storage, the growth of the self consumption market driven, and the impact of energy efficiency schemes, and how this will reshape global electricity markets.

HSBC: World is hurtling towards Peak Planet

HSBC has one of the best climate teams in the world. This story looked at its analysis on the global “carbon budget”, and its prediction that meeting this was possible, and would likely be driven by the so-called Carbon 5 countries – comprising China, Russia, India, the EU and the US. Turns out they might be at least half right.



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  • adam

    well done to the team in 2013. Ive really enjoyed the site.

  • Lindsay Wilson

    That Parkinson Report box is doing a hell of a job ;-0