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Tide turns as solar, storage costs trump ideologues and incumbents

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Looking at the machinations over the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin this week, or seeing certain Coalition Senators howling at the moon over wind turbine “emissions”, or the Treasurer brandishing a lump of coal in parliament, it is hard to imagine that any sort of progress has been made in Australia in what all but a determined few accept is the inevitable clean energy transition.

Alpha Males and the Lump of Coal.

Alpha Males and the Lump of Coal.

But there is no doubt that the transition is happening. Over the last few months, small but significant gains have been made as key politicians, regulators, market operators and many incumbents realise just how quickly the cost of new competition technologies are falling, and how quick the transition to a smarter, cleaner, more reliable and cheaper grid might be.

Awareness about the plunging costs of wind energy, solar energy and battery storage, along with the enabling software that could lead to a complete redesign of the way we generator, share, transport and use energy, is growing each day.

Politicians – both to the left and the right – are starting to embrace this change. The public is supportive, while the fossil fuel incumbents are slowly and surely losing their social licence, both due to the pollution levels of their plant and their manipulation of prices. Even the regulatory barriers that currently protect their business models are starting to unwind.

This is not to say that victory is at hand, or that this transformation will suddenly be complete within a few years. It won’t. But change is starting to happen quickly, old plant is being replace by new, rules are being changed, industry leaders are starting to talk of a new energy vision. Consumers are picking up new technology with increasing speed.

And here are a bunch of key developments in Australia over the last few months that indicate that the plunging cost of key technologies costs will trump the resistance of conservative ideologues and fossil fuel incumbents.

The new boss at the Australian Energy Market Operator

Audrey Zibelman’s last job was head of New York’s transformative “Reforming the Energy Vision” program. Now she looks set to do the same in Australia. Already she has made an impact, talking of the need to migrate from centralised, fossil fuel generators to a distributed grid dominated by renewables and storage.

She says this will create a grid that is faster, quicker, smarter, cleaner and more reliable than the current model.

Zibelman has engaged with energy ministers, the Finkel review and the industry in her conversations.

This is critically important: The appointment of a person who sees the future and works towards it as head of the Australian Energy Market Operator is transformational. It will change the public and the political discourse, and the incumbents now know they are dealing with someone who genuinely puts consumers first rather than vested interests.

South Australia’s energy plan

The South Australia government finally got sick of what it saw as the mismanagement of the grid by the market operator (pre Zibelman), being held to ransom by the private generators, and by the cheap point scoring of the federal government, so it decided to act.

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It streamlined the use of “emergency” powers by the energy minister, announced it would build its own back-up generator, tendered for 100MW/100MWh of battery storage, and flagged a new “energy security target.” For good measure, premier Jay Weatherill shirt fronted federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg at the launch of AGL’s virtual power plant.

The effect has been immediate. It attracted 90 expressions of interest for battery storage, and the EST, which requires retailers to source more than one third of their demand from local “dispatchable” generation and 50 per cent by 2025, is having an impact.

AGL has torn up its plans for the state, and Origin has brough Pelican Point back into full service and written the contracts for a major new solar farm. Others are busily planning storage facilities that will help manage the variability of wind and solar as it soars above the 50 per cent level.

And the beauty of it all? South Australia has added security, has called the bluff of the incumbents, and will probably not have to spend anywhere near the $550 million it has set aside for the task. And it will lower prices.

The billionaire tweets:

musk headThe tweets between billionaires Elon Musk and Australian software entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes didn’t really tell us anything new, but brought the message about the plunging cost of technologies, and the attraction of battery storage, to the front pages.

It also reached the ears of prime ministers and premiers. All of a sudden, the terms baseload and peak load energy were replaced by a focus on “flexible generation.” The discussion was about what happens when the fossil fuel dinosaurs finally leave the market.

Both South Australia and Victoria attracted around 100 offers each for their respective 100MW battery storage tenders, while Malcolm Turnbull was singing the attractions of a Snowy Hydro 2, and some 2GW of pumped hydro capacity to fill in the gaps between wind and solar.

Falling costs of renewable technologies:

The cost of building large scale wind and solar farms is falling to a fraction of the cost of new coal or gas plants. If you don’t believe us, or the environmental groups, or the investors and local and international developers and analysts who say the same thing, then take the word of someone who should know, Tony Concannon, the former head of Hazelwood brown coal generator.

Concannon now heads Reach Energy, which this week began construction of what could end up being a 300MW solar farm, with storage, near Port Augusta – the biggest solar farm to begin work without a government grant.

Concannon says the cost of large scale solar and storage is already competitive with gas-fired generation, and within a few years the combined cost of solar and storage will be well below $100/MWh.

Think about what that means – it is well below the current price of wholesale electricity, and makes predictions by the likes of ANU’s Andrew Blakers that a 100 per cent renewable energy grid – priced at around $75/MWh – eminently achievable.

Cheap electricity for consumers:

Australia has among the highest electricity prices in the world, thanks to the gold plating of its electricity networks, the manipulation of wholesale prices by the fossil fuel generators, and the huge margins extracted by the retailers. Soon, however, they may soon have the cheapest.

SA Power Networks, which runs the grid in South Australia, says that within five years the combined cost of solar and storage will be just 15c/kWh, or less than half the current cost of grid power.

In W.A. there is no reason why the same costs should not apply, and the new Labor government has flagged that it is looking to remove the huge subsidy that hides the cost of the fossil fuel-dominated grid from consumers. If the subsidy is removed, the cost of power will jump by around one third, making it the most expensive in the country.

Little wonder, then, that both S.A. and Western Australia are adding rooftop solar at record rates, both reaching 17MW in the month of March, as consumers looked to shield themselves from soaring consumer prices and get ready for battery storage. Consumers can see the future. And they can read electricity bills.

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 10.49.13 AMFossil fuel generator price rorting:

It is now clear that the rising price of wholesale electricity has nothing to do with wind and solar, but has everything to do with the soaring price of gas and the market control by the fossil fuel oligopoly, whose greed and focus on putting profits before people has resulted in a massive own goal.

Indeed, the fossil fuel generators have been rorting the wholesale markets for years, adding billions of dollars to the cost of wholesale electricity. When this shocking state of events has reached mainstream media (which is not often because they seem so focused on wind power), the competition regulator has waived it away as an “exercise of market power.”

The network operators, fearing a backlash from consumers, are now calling them out, and even their great defender, the AEMC, documented in extraordinary detail the cynical manipulation of the markets in South Australia.

The proposed new 5-minute rule will be one of the biggest changes in the market for decades, and the falling cost of battery storage technology should accelerate this change, as will the huge rush of new large scale solar farms and wind farms across the country as gentailers are finally forced to the table to sign contracts with new .

We can expect to see the fossil fuel generators party on for a few years until this new generation comes online, and the 5-minute rule is introduced after a three year transition period. But then, the pillaging pricing party should come to an end.

sundrop

The transformation of Port Augusta

Much has been and will be written about the challenges facing the Latrobe Valley, and soon the Hunter valley as their massive coal-fired generators close down.

Leading the transformation, though, is the city of Port Augusta in South Australia. Its two brown coal generators, Playford and Northern, have closed in the last few years – and are now being replaced by solar thermal, solar PV and wind energy.

The greenhouses at the Sundrop tomato farm are now heated and powered by a statuesque solar tower, a 300MW solar farm that is “battery ready” has already begun construction, and a contract for a 212MW wind farm was also signed this week.

Many other projects are also looking to begin, none more so than the 110MW Aurora solar tower and molten salt storage facility, which looks to have gained the promise of a $100 million concessional loan from the federal government.

Nothing highlights the clean energy transformation more dramatically than what is happening in that city. Good on the council, and good on the people at Repower Port Augusta for having the vision and drive to help make it happen. And good on the project developers and financiers for delivering.

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  • Greenradagast

    “Politicians – both to the left and the right – are starting to embrace this change.” Politicians in The Greens not only embraced this decades ago, but have actively driven the change. I wouldn’t trust the other just yet.

    • D. John Hunwick

      I view with contempt those politicians who have been told over many years about the need to deal with climate change by moving to renewable energy and storage. They have not changed their minds because of logic but because the changes at that time would threaten their bottom line mainly through corporate sponsorship or short-term unpopular community support. Those with coal in the federal parliament should be the first to be defeated in the next election. Jay Weatherill must be re-elected – SA Lliberals would have us in the dark and costing us even more.

      • humanitarian solar

        See my post on the developmental continuum on the experience of self. Your judging from a later stage when leadership is compassion and understanding for those earlier. If the gravity of the public elects a particular strata, it’s not those people’s fault. Of course as evolution proceeds and new leaders discern the strata of development, those at earlier stages will still naturally be demoted or mentored by peers further along the track.

        • neroden

          Kohlberg’s stages of moral development are probably relevant here. The right-wing elected officials are typically at moral development stages 2 (raw self-interest), stage 3 (social conformity) and stage 4 (authoritarian “law and order”).

          Those electeds who are doing the right thing — and even those who are doing the wrong thing for good reasons — are in stages 5 (social contract) and 6 (principles).

          Oddly, the shift to renewable energy is also being adopted by people in moral development stage 1, who are realizing that they’ll be punished if they don’t switch.

          • humanitarian solar

            Yes the rule followers will follow along when the leadership changes. A paradigm shift only takes a small percentage. It’s likely to be exponential although the beginning of the upward curve will likely take years or decades. These templates of character development are derived from social science and psychology researching large numbers of people. They’re a generalisation and inevitably biased by inevitably projecting the researchers own character structure onto the research participants. The highest stages are an inner realisation because each subject has a unique history and resolution. The higher stages also depend upon consciousness moving primarily to observe it’s own workings rather than indirect learnings from observing others.

          • humanitarian solar

            If we look at the foundational structure of Kohlberg’s model we see an inherent bias in his perception of moving from self interest to love. This is a structure of his consciousness. It’s not completely accurate because the self interest part of development is a distinct energy in character and has a trajectory into something else of value, once blended with the primary energy featuring in Kohlberg’s development of love. So we see a hierachical judgment in Kohlberg’s consciousness, a bias, where Kolhberg is yet to integrate the not yet fully empathised with and unknown part. This doesn’t therefore mean Kohlberg lacks what Maslow calls “peak experience” or what Maslow calls the “high plateau experience”, however it signifies a history and archetypal path of development. This is important because not recognising these resident archetypes, which are themes in character development, can lead us to be at cross purposes with others.

    • humanitarian solar

      Greens politicians are part of something that’s happening culturally. Those leaders are also a reflection of the gravity of awareness in the party generally and are not reflective of the furthest stages of development in the party.

      • Alastair Leith

        “gravity of awareness in the party generally ” & “reflective of the furthest stages of development in the party.” Try English sometimes!

    • Martin Sevior

      We could have have had the revolution 5 years earlier and at a much cheaper price if the Greens had not shot down Kevin Rudd’s original emmission trading scheme. Talk about an own goal!

      • Greenradagast

        If you read your history, you would know that Rudd ‘froze’ out the Greens so that he could do a ‘climate change lite’ solution with the conservatives. So when the Liberals did their ‘Ides of Mar’ moment and stabbed Turnbull, that left Rudd out in the cold. It would have been the easiest victory in the world for Rudd if he had used his head and worked with the experts on Climate Change (The Greens), but instead he squibbed it. The missed opportunity lies at the feet of a malfunctioning Labor movement which has forgotten what it stands for. Pseudo Capitalists, they are always trying and failing to play the businessman. Having been a Shop Steward in the Glasgow shipyards, I have witnessed fist hand the death spiral of the Labor movement to a point where no matter how bad the Conservatives are, Labor still can’t win an election (Look at last election). But Labor still hates the Greens so much they will preference the zealot capitalists ahead of them )presumably because The Greens still believe in left wing values such as fair pay). This is a mess of Labor’s making, and it was the beginning of the end for them. Massive fail.

      • Alastair Leith

        Oh god that zombie fallacy walks again, reborn once a month, but not usually on reneweconomy usually in The Oz comments.

    • Alastair Leith

      ACT?

  • rexalfielee

    Whilst I fully concur with the sentiments I must ask if the author proof read this article. There are several mistakes in grammar & for a paid editor, this is not great to read…

    • Cooma Doug

      There isnt a more visionary writer on this vital issue in Australia.
      I am certain that coal and gas are dead assets no matter how you spell it.

      • rexalfielee

        Didn’t say he wasn’t, it’s just not been proofread. He’s a professional writer & should proofread his work. Your excuse for his poor grammar doesn’t help him at all & also inflames the situation by highlighting it. Better you shut-up if you support him..

        • humanitarian solar

          No you’re projecting your own standards onto the author, when another person has highlighted allot of us don’t care for the spelling or grammar. You shut up with your extraneous wants.

    • Ian

      Wahst Ah fuwie conquer, wid de centemore Ah mus arseque ifde awter pwoove weed dis ahtickew. Dere is sebwil musticks in gamma , an faw a payed Erita dis isnit grate t’weed.

      • rexalfielee

        Yeah fair enough but I’m not a pro, I’m a nurse. Your comment about you not caring is about you not caring. You don’t speak for everyone. Neither do I but I know this. I’m not the only one who gets annoyed when professional articles aren’t proof read properly because it makes the arguing party appear poorly educated & from his commentary I doubt that is the case…

        • Rod

          Speaking for myself, I am mildly bemused but not quite at the annoyed stage. I put it down to some sort of dictaphone or SIRI or something.
          I am just pleased to be getting truthful energy related articles with lots of links to further information as opposed to some of the over hyped drivel in the mainstream media.
          I mean, these days there are even typos in the headings of your major newspapers! It is enough work investigating then compiling an article. To then proof read each one takes time and money.

          • rexalfielee

            Oh I agree completely. I just think that someone who’s professional should proof read their articles. That you don’t, that’s you, I have a right to my opinion. The fact that you don’t like my opinion upsets me zero. Btw, he’s being paid to proof read his work, is part of the job…

          • Rod

            I don’t really care about your opinion.
            My response was more to support the author.
            You could always ask for your money back. Oh wait…..
            If those who pay for the site, the sponsors, have a complaint then I could understand. But hopefully they wouldn’t air it in a public forum.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Or have someone else proofread them. It’s often hard to spot errors in your own work, because you know what you meant to say.

        • Ian

          Hey, I just asked if the word is proof read or proofread, nothing about caring or not caring. I would leave that to the Carebears, or to nurses;)

          • rexalfielee

            Rod you’re a wanker…

  • Cooma Doug

    All politics aside. All climate debate on the shelf for a moment.
    From a point of view in control of generation, market responses and security issues of the past 40 years, it is hard not to predict the following.
    The Australian eastern grid supply profile in 25 years will essentially be a flat line 24/7.
    All demand adjustments will be managed by load shifting in milli second time frames on the load side. So too some voltage and frequency control on the supply side. There will be no blackouts.
    The major energy source will be wind and solar. The storage required to enable a super efficient flat grid profile will mostly be on the load side.
    This will enable security and certainty with greatly reduced infrastructure. The possibilities are endless.

    • humanitarian solar

      Speak for yourself. I won’t be making any adjustments nor will my inverter receive software updates or directives from central command HQ on the grid. Get fucked.

      • Trevor Toomer

        If we had a truly free market, energy price would be set by supply and demand AT THE METER. Smart meters and inverters would switch appliances batteries etc as programed by the consumer, without need for centralised command and control.

        • Ian

          Nice thoughts. When managing loads behind the meter or in an off-grid situation a load management device or devices are needed. There does not appear much of this on the market.

          Load management comes into its own in the home setting when solar is cheap, but storage expensive and where feed in tariffs are curtailed or very low. aka the current situation.

          Solar may be cheapish but why waste this resource? Without load management the balance is maintained in two ways. 1 Energy is withdrawn from or exported into the grid, 2. The inverter reduces power output from the solar panels.

          For instance, in the home there are a hierarchy of loads that can be switched on and off. Enphase and SMA seem to do this. When you want to boil water, you may need to switch off the fridge and hot water heater just for the 10 minutes it takes to boil the kettle. When your solar is performing 100% midday you might like to run your pool pump etc. These types of changes are stepwise adding and subtracting load.

          There is maybe also a need to vary the load more smoothly. This seems not to be done by anyone. Frequency control air conditioners, pool pumps and hot water heat pumps could be one such load, variable resistive hot water heating another, a third could be the battery inverter chargers.

    • Robin_Harrison

      Much sooner than that.

    • humanitarian solar

      When you turn a key in your SUV or whatever it is you drive, how long does it take the low current side of a relay to throw the high current side of the relay, to supply battery power to the starter motor, to turn the engine? This system is part mechanical and part electrical. In contrast, an inverter is all electrical. If you flick the switch on a kettle, how long does it take the inverter to source power from the battery? Is there a noticeable delay? Do you have a battery fed inverter at your place? This speed of the inverter to match demand with supply, is why the inertia issue, along with the load management issue, will end when the last fossil fuel generator is taken from the network and network storage is added to backup the renewable energy. I purposefully said network storage, because networks need their own storage, households need their own and networks can buy utility level storage cheaper than I can.

    • Ian

      Are you saying behind-the-meter storage? One of the things cheap and widely adopted BTM storage would enable is a much greater tolerance of a dirty grid supply: The grid could have blackouts, voltage drops, wider frequency variances and spikes of current . With suitable storage and electronics this would not matter. This might sound dystopian , and a backward step, were everyone will be obliged to filter their grid electricity supply , but the idea does point to a concept that has not been properly discussed or managed, the cost of reliability. Why should homes with solar and storage with a high tolerance of unreliability cross subsidise larger consumers with a very low tolerance for unreliability?

      Not advocating a cheap and nasty grid, but the fact is that the grid is not all that indispensable and it’s operators ought not be so full of themselves to think they can have a feeding-frenzy at our expense.

  • Terry J Wall

    I can see the day coming when we have so much renewable energy (wind / solar) that the Snowy River scheme will become a backup, to be used to iron out the troughs in renewable output. Like a bloody big battery. Pretty cool eh.

    • Andy

      I’m not sure its used all that much now.
      When I did a tour through one of the Tumut power stations in 2003 I queried the output, and was told (roughly re-membered) ” We only run it when the price is really high in Sydney, eg during a heatwave, the rest of the time its not doing anything”.
      And today for example its generating about 3.6% of total power in Vic & NSW.

    • humanitarian solar

      I can see a day, when we no longer talk of superficial interests like markets and technology, and focus more on the nature of awareness itself, how awareness progress, how a human being finds meaning and purpose, what it means to no longer seek external fulfilment and instead look for quality of life from the transformation of our own consciousness.

    • Richard

      Even better Terry. I can see the day when the dams are drained becasue they are not needed and rivers can go back to being how they always were.
      For instance Lake Pedder in Tasmania. There is already a movement to drain it and return it to its former glory. The rise of solar and wind just might make that possible.

  • phred01

    In 2 yrs The captain, Turncoat Barnaby & Josh will still be playing pass the parcel with the lump of coal

    • Coley

      Aye, but hopefully in a care home for failed politicians-;)

  • humanitarian solar

    This website has an assumption the next industrial revolution will be in the field of industry and commerce. For anything meaningful to happen at all, there needs to be an industrious dedication to shelve our addictions, like the alcohol, drugs, pharmaceutical abuse, sexual addictions, emotions of wanting external fulfilment and psychological dissociation. After all that is done, then we’ll be in a better position to discuss the outcome of the revolution and what was thrown out and what is left.

    • Ian

      I vote we put you in charge of our human foibles. We need proper thought police to ensure that no one oversteps your high puritan ideals. We should definitely outlaw alcohol, peanuts, fast-foods, sporting activities, internet, socialising with anyone of any sex. We should all definitely work long hours for no pay with the only satisfaction being that we have helped charitable organisations in foreign lands helping the faceless poor and disinfranchised. We should be subjected to lengthy prison terms if we are found to enjoy anything or to have desired anything but the collective good.

      • Richard

        And whipping ourselves every morning a hundred times just to get the day started. That will fix it.
        Humanitarian solar, unfortunately there is one thing that can’t be fixed and that is human nature.

        • humanitarian solar

          It’s more the lantern covered in soot analogy. If you think there’s a problem with human nature, your lantern is covered in shit.

          • Lightfoot

            There are two deep inclinations in human nature. One is Service to others. The other is Selfishness. It is just as valid to see the soot, for it is real, as it is to see the light shining from humanity, for it, too, is real…and coming forth more slowly than some would prefer.
            It is a wonderful time to be alive, Humanitarian Solar, and I am pleased to share the journey with you.

          • humanitarian solar

            Ditto. Thanks. Much appreciated. With the spot, it’s merely a volley of thoughts or a pattern of emotion yet to be released. So it’s real enough in experience though has an experiential origin in particular usually traumatic experience or even just generational styles of coping or “achieving” notoriety. So there’s a definite difference between temporal phenomena in subjective experience and the stripped back bare attention having the luminous self radiant and effortless quality.

          • Richard

            I didn’t say there was a problem with human nature. I just pointed out that it is what it is. It took a million years maybe longer to evolve and it ain’t going to change soon.

          • humanitarian solar

            True and there’s the tipping point phenomena. Happens with technology. Happens with cultures. I think Giles really is onto something here. There has been another tipping point reached. A cultural tipping point. It started at a more “grassroots” level then slowly filtered up the chain until it pressured leaders and institutions to finally redress corruption and the resulting exploitation of consumers. This tipping point is a tipping point in evolution. Humanity getting empowered enough to hold leaders accountable and ultimately get better leadership to begin a new exponential curve. Once people discover our environment really is under threat, this will awaken fear and motivation to fight a terrific battle. That will involve kicking inadequate people out of leadership and replacing them with teams to swing the needed changes into action. It’s not going to be a slow grind. Not after the process is finally under way. It does need a certain cultural consensus.

          • Richard

            I would argue that the problem is well recognised and that advanced forward thinking governments worldwide have assisted in the process of change and helped scale clean energy resources. Sometime in the last 5 years their was a tipping point where forward thinking private investors really started ramping the flow of funds into what everyone(except the most blinkered)
            can see is the future of energy production. This has now made renewable generation cost competitive with dirty energy. It will start leaving fossil behind soon.
            In places like China and India where air pollution is so appalling, they have the most incentive to get out of coal and are doing it as fast as possible without trashing their economies.
            So the change is now inevitable and will be driven primarily by market forces.

      • humanitarian solar

        I’m highlighting there’s an inner process needing attention on the inside before anything happens on the outside. Like the top picture in the article.

        • Ian

          Oh, cool, the lump of coal antic. Why yes of course. Bunch of degenerates. They certainly need a change of heart. For an atheistic puppy you certainly are very religious. Be that as it may, we can harness a very human emotion, selfishness, for the common good. Preservation of our resources and environment. Even Stalin set up wilderness preserves.

          • humanitarian solar

            A large part of universities are into understanding human awareness. It’s a science. Science is defined as applying reason to the data. Psychology began with behaviourism because that data was easiest to measure. Then cognitive behavioural psychology began mapping cognitive processes and developmental psychology began mapping how these cognitive processes emerged from childhood to adulthood. It’s a process as much as a machine or the workings of a market. It’s really a sincerity of purpose to want to understand and help people and to do that requires dedication to ones own competency. One of the great things about science, is it removed religious “belief” and instead put in place experiential processes for genuinely unfolding human awareness. Those who make the effort, get to see what that leads to. Those who dedicate their lives to other pursuits or are satisfied with mere “beliefs” inevitably to come to a point of crisis.

          • humanitarian solar

            What we’re talking about here is you becoming realised regards what your “life” is. No need to wait to death to explore the reality of whatever religiosity you are or are not carrying around. It’s something in you that you can become directly aware of. So many parts of the community are undergoing so a journey and it appears you have been dismissive of these experiential paths to self development and awareness. Which raises what else is it that you have been doing? Why is it you remain so ignorant of what is going on around you and within you? Those of us in the helping professions don’t have such a luxury. We need to be aware of all the various things people explore, be a stranger to nothing, so that we can work with people from all walks of life, not merely our own philosophy or belief system. Why not get out and explore something new? It’s a wondrous thing to do.

          • humanitarian solar

            I know what it is that’s stopping you more passionately taking up this quest. Your presently comfortable in your own way, looking outward to accumulate more of something, prestige (Tesla sports car?), energy independence (home storage system?), better woman?, better wealth and toys?, bigger home?, career recognition?, professional qualifications? – something residing in the “future” which you think will make life that much easier, that your inner state will suddenly feel better. Unfortunately, this is an illusion. In humanistic psychology, that moment a person has the first basic realisation that the state of their awareness is what determines their suffering or relative freedom, that moment is called “self actualisation”. The human service worker is trained to look for such things. Otherwise we merely help people achieve more of their present goals, knowing this external quest will build faculties, that will eventually enable an inner orientation. Sadly, this first part of the journey is slow. Exponential change only happens after “self actualisation”.

          • Ron Horgan

            Dear HS I think that you are mapping out the path by which the human race will achieve long term survival in harmony with our beautiful earth. Thank You.

          • neroden

            Actually, there’s something you said which is simply not true, and is a nasty and insulting piece of junk pop-psych. I hope it was simply an accidental mistake of writing.

            The state of your awareness is NOT the only thing which determines your suffering. Your suffering is often determined by objective outside factors such as externally caused physical pain, whether from being assaulted or from genetic degenerative illness or from infection.

            You can have as good an inner state as you possibly can (through meditative practice and yoga) and still be suffering if you’re, you know, actually *suffering*. Desire is not the only cause of suffering, contrary to pop Buddhism.

            And you know what? I have actually acquired things which made my life easier and improved my inner state. Like getting medically treated for illnesses. Fact.

          • humanitarian solar

            I don’t do junk pop psychology. If you look closely at physical pain, most of the suffering is a reaction to the physical component. The purpose of pain is to draw attention to the area of the body which needs it. Pain can also be a strong focus for meditation because it is such a powerfully visceral experience and many traditions do that – not that deliberately suffering pain is useful. Not that perspective. Being with what is already there rather than attempting to withdraw awareness which can create further problems.

            Assault is again often suffering of an emotionally triggered kind. The martial artist trains to be in the present to respond to what is happening. This is why many martial arts, all the best, progress to meditation as part of the practice.

            Infection, is a whole complex topic, however I’m HIV positive and I went almost 17 years without any kind of medication at all and now I’m presently on the lightest experimental drug regimen used in the world, and to my knowledge, the only person in my country. So again meditation increases energy and wellness. Really though neroden it’s best not to theories about the worst things you can think of and better to stay with your own experience, otherwise we’re theorising.

            Suffering, again I person can’t for example stop hunger, though having fasted for three days I’ve found the hunger stops after the first day and a half, when the body gives up its not getting food. This can also bring a euphoric feeling because consciousness tends to get weighted down by processing food. So the majority of suffering really is emotional, mental states and even drama in the body generated by the mind effecting the body. Most people I talk to have found the sense of responsibility and empowerment to effect things thought beyond possible, comes into the realm of possibility as the years unfold.

          • humanitarian solar

            Hi neroden, I’ve been a bit engaged with a few things. Answering this question, rather engaging with this discussion, because your not really asking your telling, requires a bit of knowledge of fields such as psychotherapy probably especially body psychotherapy. Eg I did a course for a few years in one called gestalt as well as what I picked up at uni. It’s been a long time since I did my research, so I can’t say where these fields are today though I’m aware of some of the basics. You can look these fields up. My perspective is before people begin meditation (not saying anything about you because I don’t know you) their body awareness is practically nil. This means people are largely unaware that awareness is not evenly distributed throughout the body and not consciously in all areas of the body. In part this is developmental, in part developmental on character types and also can be a reaction to trauma, physical, emotional. With trauma for example, people may unconsciously withdraw awareness from areas of the body suffering trauma, and this can produce a physical weakness. To discern these gaps or areas of weakness, one passes one’s awareness through the body, and notes if there are any irregularities. It is hard to do this without a strong observer awareness, although if discovered these irregularities could take applied effort to correct. The reason is they are often developed because of character or habits of attention, or lack of attention. This can also happen to “high consciousness” people (especially even) because they often persist along their favourite faculty or style of character development, reluctant to integrate other faculties or streams of development. Eg people who like their intellect and despise feelings, or like action and despise resting their body or whatever. Balance is the safest path of development.

          • humanitarian solar

            If your interested in pursuing body psychotherapy, Transpersonal Institutes are prevalent in the US and body psychotherapy is often available as elective stream.

  • phred01

    Horror shock
    “California’s solar installations are feeding so much power into the grid
    that they have driven wholesale electricity prices at times as low as
    zero — or even below, meaning the companies that generate power pay
    utilities to take it. It is an environmental success story that is
    beginning to pose unexpected technical and financial challenges.”

    • Nick Thiwerspoon

      Solving that problem is simple enough: stoarge.

      • Calamity_Jean

        It would also help to finish retiring all the coal burning generators.

    • Greg Hudson

      It happens here in Australia too. It is not a California phenomenon.

  • humanitarian solar

    All this talk of resources and resource use, people in power, people feeling powerless, what does this struggle have to say about the nature of self and self in relation to nature?

    • Robin_Harrison

      We are part of nature and we are just now learning how to live with our world, in co-operation with our environment, and the energy transition is part of that. We obtain energy by co-operating with the energies around us and the beautiful part is, it makes way better economic sense.
      The energy transition is part of our larger transition towards a sustainable future which will probably be just as economically smart…..if we make it.

      • humanitarian solar

        If we look at people and their relationship to nature, for probably two of the three politicians above their version of a relationship with nature is most likely the disenchanted phase, characterised by a fundamentalist religion and nature as object to be exploited. These people are largely devoid of deep feeling and their experience of self is rational, their goal is to develop their analytical capacities and expand their grasp of different contexts of knowledge.
        The next major strata is those people who become disillusioned with all of life as a seemingly meaningless play of mechanistic and materialistic happenings, a mere emergence out of a biological and instinctual nature, covered by a veneer of cognitive processes. These people can be super analytical having deconstructed the projections of human nature onto an old man in the sky kind of fundamentalist God and their analytical process can deteriorate into pessimism and skepticism.
        Next we have the person who “senses” a vague connection with nature within their most profound experiences of life. This could be fishing, sitting with nature, feeling in love with a new romance and that morphing into feelings of beauty of all of nature, a sense that something “sacred” is going on, though it remains largely mysterious and beyond an intellectual comprehension. Many in the Greens are most likely solidly in this strata, though also the previous phase involving the “sceptically oriented” who can achieve an intellectual sense of a justice needed for nature for us to survive.
        The next group are the more explicit experiences where the sense of sacred experiences deepens and becomes a recognition of being catapulted out of the normal volley of thoughts and emotions, emerging into a definite oneness with a sacred reality, a “something” very special and never experienced before, though remaining a mystery exactly what it is and how the person got there, then the old emotions and thoughts become re-energised locking the person out again. Then later the more enduring experience of the reality re-emerges as a more profound ongoing experience, with few interruptions or regressions. Finally the unshakable experience eventually arrises.

        • Robin_Harrison

          You are certainly describing part of our specie’s pathway towards environmental awareness. Logic, reason and knowledge play a large role too.
          It’s no secret the way we humans are living on, and somewhat separated from, our earth is not sustainable. Logic and reason tell us, one way or another, that will stop. Either we move towards sustainable living or our species will cease to sustain; extinction.
          Communities with greater levels of communication and co-operation tend to prosper, not least because that makes better economic sense.
          A landscape managed with permaculture, or similar systems that co-operate with the earth, will be considerably more productive than conventionally farmed land and also be environmentally beneficial. Not only that, a permacultured landscape will also provide optimal human habitat at minimal cost. A combination of the built and planted environment can provide close to automatic, seasonally adjusted climate control. Massive benefits from co-operation with the earth.
          50 years ago, practically the only argument we environmentalists had was pointing out the incredible damage we are causing. We now have a far better tool to help push us towards a sustainable future; superior economics.
          It’s even odds on whether we will make it through this transition, but that’s a big improvement on the negative odds I would have given 10 years ago.

          • humanitarian solar

            I agree 100%. Logic and reason play an important and ultimately equal role to feelings. I also think permaculture is as important as planning buildings and solar panels.

          • Robin_Harrison

            We’re in a desperate race, our survival depends on creating earth repair systems that can grow faster than the damage is growing. The accelerating energy transition with its growing economic driver shows possibilities in other sectors.
            Our sustainable future depends on how we live with each other and our earth. Currently that’s dictated by our planning instruments which, in turn, are restricted to the available options. All the currently available options are variations on suburbia, deeply embedded and thoroughly unsustainable, not unlike the fossil fuel industry.
            There’s been a lot intentional community experimentation over the last 50 years. They have raised, codified and are teaching enough knowledge to create sustainable development models likely to be considerably more attractive, affordable and prosperous than anything else in the marketplace. It would have the side benefit of being an earth, society and economic repair kit.
            I think there’s the potential for an entrepreneur to do to the housing development sector what Elon Musk is in the process of doing to the energy and transport sector.

          • humanitarian solar

            Yes. I’m in a small group planning a small project three to five dwellings, kind of passive solar (involves retrofitting), solar power, permaculture, probably community title with a coop legal structure. It’s really just a small house with a shed office presently. Will take decades or the rest of our lives. The challenge with urban permaculture is utilising the space (1000m2). Presently got the DA to the stage of dual occupancy with an office in a third building and architecture plans for the other options. So it’s a small scale equivalent.

          • Robin_Harrison

            What an excellent adventure and you’ll be surprised what you can fit into 1000m2. Have the best time.

          • humanitarian solar

            Im also concerned we’re not doing enough to offset the widespread environmental challenges, expecting we’re heading into a dip or lowpoint in “civilisation”. Looks like a natural death and renewal cycle on a large scale. Can just hope the death and destruction doesn’t keep going on and on.

    • neroden

      Look up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What it says is that most people are not out of the physiological and safety needs stages yet.

      • humanitarian solar

        I have a 50k thesis based upon Maslow and other developmental writers. Work said to be on par with best in world by professor in prestigious university, don’t need to look anything up. Maslow founded the journal of humanistic psychology in 1960 then the journal of transpersonal psychology in 69. One of my three degrees was situated in the transpersonal field and said professor gave the thesis a HD and another degree same professor gave me a HD for every single academic subject in that degree.

        • neroden

          Well then, you knew the answer to your question before you asked it. Were you just asking a rhetorical question? 🙂

          I answered it as if it was a genuine question:

          “All this talk of resources and resource use, people in power, people feeling powerless, what does this struggle have to say about the nature of self and self in relation to nature?”

          It says most humans are still struggling with those bottom two stages of the needs hierarchy, and are therefore not analyzing their relationship with nature more deeply than that (as they would if they were at higher stages on the needs hierarchy). That’s what it says. But I see you knew that before you asked the question. 🙂

          • humanitarian solar

            The question can’t really be answered intellectually, it has to be discovered through various practices to feel and know the answer. The most common practice psychologists use is now called “mindfulness meditation” which increasingly brings mastery to bring the mind to a standstill and feel the answer. Although most people have had through luck or a favourable time in life, an occurrence where they felt a profound peacefulness and sense of togetherness with nature. People often organise getaways to bring this feeling about. This feeling, when developed, can become vast and awe inspiring, so gripping, the subject forever after becomes captivated with reawakening the state again and later at will.

            We in developed countries often have security needs over and above those in poorer countries and in a way, this can make it easier to access higher states of awareness because these people don’t have the complexities of culture and distractions to get in the way. Yes your right, as environmental problems increase it will likely trigger huge fears and so on. Could challenge the fabric of society. People who have never put effort into their inner awareness will suddenly be dealing with heightened emotions as well as their immanent new situational and physical challenges.

  • Ian

    Nice summery of recent events and conversations in this field.

    A couple of points:

    Why can’t battery storage or renewables not benefit from the same rules as the fossil incumbents in the 30 minute bidding periods? These technologies are exceedingly quick and nimble at dispatching power. And could out-bid fossils anytime. The same largess that keeps gas operating could encourage renewables deployment.

    Storage is the big enabler of renewables, it is the bridge between sluggish gas and inflexible coal, and the weather dependent renewables. At present, it seems to be the one weak-link in the whole chain of renewables deployment, and for that matter, in the survival of the fossilised generators. Should there not be a requirement that utilities of all descriptions install at least 1 hour’s worth of their generating capacity in storage . For coal generators to create dispatchability, for gas to enhance rapid response, for wind and solar to help extend their generating time period. No subsidy of any kind unless this is requirement is met.

    • Chris Fraser

      Most of the vertically-integrated brand name generators are investing in storage. Though I suspect they don’t want to concede publically it is superior technology. If they did, they would be under pressure to replace older thermal plant sooner. And there is still money to be made through threatening the public with blackouts, holding out their hands for money, and manipulating the NEM 30-minute settlement period.Indeed why couldn’t a few market-controlling brands armed with lots of storage manipulate the market again ? I’m hoping this will be harder in future because 1) the generation side will be open to more investment by more industry players and 2) Overbearing market control will be balanced by more industry taking generation into their own hands (Sundrop Farms, Sun Metals, etc), as well as homeowners accessing storage technologies for their independence.If this is not true, yes by then we will be on our second tyrant and the petrol generator will be beckoning.

      • Ian

        I thought I might share this. We all know the benefits of plug-in hybrids, this is a good evolution on the petrol engined car, a decent range on pure grid energy can be achieved before the onboard petrol engine activates. We have been totally unaware of these vehicles’ potential. These could be remarkable back-up generators for those with off grid aspirations. Plug-out hybrid if you like. Is there such a thing? Could we not harness the huge KW capacity of our vehicle fleet for back-up purposes?

        A quick google check does actually call up an American company that offers a Plug-out conversion kit. ConVerdant Vehicles.

        We need this sort of technology available to householders to enable them to go off-grid relatively cheaply. This would drive storage prices down, and make the grid more modern and consumer-oriented simply by providing a viable alternative. A sword of Damocles.

  • Gary Rowbottom

    One does sense a shifting of the Force, but there is a long way to go, and too early to celebrate. Nothing exists until it is built. The demonstrated success and benefits to the communities and states where these projects are built will win over more people, slowly but surely, and politicians will follow. But there will be further ugly skirmishes before the tide truly turns and we need to keep collecting STEM based facts for our arsenal. The “Battle over the Basin” (Gallilee) is a major threat to progress. Similar for Port Augusta, the transformation does appear to be starting. Yay! But again, more progress is possible and there to be advocated for. On behalf of the Repower Port Augusta team I thank you Giles for your kind mention of our group and council. Reneweconomy has been a constant source of relevant information and the STEM based facts that underpin what many of us around Australia are trying to achieve. Onward.

    • Coley

      Best of luck, your hoped for success will be a turning point, not only in Australia but for all nations blessed with ample solar resources.
      We, in the UK,will hopefully keep on developing wind based generation.
      Lend us some of your bliddy sunshine-:)

  • solarguy

    What is the current average wholesale price for incumbent coal fired electricity per MWh?

  • Andrew McKenna

    Isn’t the Snowy Hydro expansion just a ‘thought bubble’ of a desperate PM? He’s not interested in renewables, but he is interested in trying to be remnembered as a ‘nation builder’. He announces a year-long feasibility study, and announces work will begin and take four years and cost $2 billion straight after the feasibility study. Doesn’t make a great deal of sense if the feasibility study finds it unfeasible, or unaffordable.

    • Chris Fraser

      Snowy 2.0 may have an ulterior motive with the following all feasible;-
      It steals the media limelight away from Jay Weatherill and the proposed batteries,
      It promises action to appease voters who are light green,
      Storage assists with grid stability,
      Even though action is promised the study creates a delay favouring incumbent fossil fuel generators,
      Yes feasibility is a second order consideration (Snowy has been binned before),
      It isn’t a source of clean energy by itself, it needs energy from somewhere to run,
      Cue Tony Abbott arguing for the closure of Hazelwood to be delayed (to run Snowy pumps),
      When Snowy 2.0 is commissioned all remaining unswitchable thermal generators will need something to put power into late at night to better justify their continued operation.

  • Charles Hunter

    “For good measure, premier Jay Weatherill shirt fronted federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg at the launch of AGL’s virtual power plant.” To be fair to the excellent Jay, he didn’t lay a finger on Josh. He Used His Words. And what a joy it was to behold. Would that there was more of it.

    • Alastair Leith

      ABC online is responsible for that catchphrase being attached to that incident. Giles just referencing it the way we all came to hear it.

  • Alastair Leith

    “This is critically important: The appointment of a person who sees the future and works towards it as head of the Australian Energy Market Operator is transformational.”

    Really hope so, some forward looking engineers within AEMO seemed to have moved over the years on out of frustration over their projects halted and general lack of leadership within AEMO on this most pressing task in Catastrophic Climate Change mitigation. Can understand the need for prudence when managing such a complex system that has so much public and private infrastructure hanging off it, but we are sleep walking into climate catastrophe and a little drive wouldn’t go astray at all.