The Virgin tycoon believes all-electric and solar-powered racing cars will prove more attractive to sponsors and racing enthusiasts within the next four or five years.
Richard Branson, the British billionaire and owner of the Virgin brand, suggested at the weekend that the pace of development of electric vehicles (EV) is so great that the all-electric Formula E racing series will soon surpass Formula 1 as the de facto choice for racing enthusiasts and sponsors.
Speaking ahead of the U.K.’s first-ever 100% electric motor car race in London at the weekend – which featured solar-charged vehicles at the Battersea Park track in front of 60,000 spectators – Branson was bullish on EVs’ potential to seriously disrupt the automobile industry in all its guises.
“I think there is still going to be room for Formula 1 in the next few years, but four or five years from now you will see Formula E overtaking Formula 1,” said the tycoon. “Just as clean energy type of businesses will power ahead of other types of businesses.”
Branson said that he is “willing to bet” that 20 years from now no new vehicles will be made anywhere in the world that are not powered by an electric battery. “The current technology is antiquated and polluting and will disappear. Like other sectors, everything will be clean and companies that move quickest in that area are going to dominate the marketplace.”
The Formula E racing series – the first season of which was fittingly won at the weekend by Nelson Piquet Jr, the son of Formula 1 legend Nelson Piquet – has attracted a strong following in a relatively short space of time since its opening race in Beijing last year.
Hailed as a “sexy” breakthrough in clean energy by Branson, the Formula E series is set to push clean technology to its limits in the same way that Formula 1 drove the development of traditional motoring. “Ten or 20 years ago, people might have thought electric cars were what granny drove, but now they see wonderful hybrids, Elon Musk’s cars, or Formula E vehicles going 140mph around the track,” added Branson. “I think it will spur on the revolution the world needs.”
Showcasing the power of solar
The final race in London at the weekend was the first in the world to use cars that have been regularly charged by solar, with even the safety and medical cars powered by solar-powered batteries located in the pit lane. The entire event was also connected to a small off-grid solar station consisting of 26 solar panels. This tiny array was used to power the big screens that displayed the race, as well as cell phone recharging stations and ticket scanners.
Although the 10 two-car teams were not directly solar-powered, the potential is there in the future, said FIA Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag. “The problem with solar is the rhythm at which the energy is generated or the amount of panels you need at any given moment. To charge all the racing cars, we would have to cover the whole park with solar panels.”
Agag added, however, that Formula E’s denouement demonstrated what is possible. “Now what you need is to be able to store the energy because if you can store it [the solar power] for a day you have enough energy to charge the cars.”
Agag spoke at the annual Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership conference in London last week, where it was revealed that the U.K. plans to have “every car on the road ultra low emission” by 2050.
“One day, electric vehicles will be the clear choice for the majority of drivers,” said Andrew Jones MP. “This is a huge opportunity to make the U.K. one of the world’s leading markets and producers of electric cars.” According to government forecasts, replacing the country’s fleet of private cars with EVs would help to prevent as many as 29,000 deaths – caused by pollutants – annually.
A study in March by Cambridge Econometrics found that the U.K. could cut its oil imports by 40% if six million EVs were deployed on British roads. This would also lead to a 47% drop in carbon emissions by 2030, saving each motorist more than $1,500 a year in fuel bills.
The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership surveyed motorists about their future purchases and found that almost half polled expect their next car to be an EV.
“The world is moving in our direction,” said Agag. “It is not so easy to change the minds of 50 and 60 year olds, but the important ones are the kids because when they become 18 they will want to buy a car. We can have an effect on new generations.”
Source: Renew Economy
There was a brief exchange on the ABC TV’s Q&A program on Monday night that neatly summed up all that is wrong with Australia’s energy policy.
Grahame Morris – a former chief of staff to Coalition prime minister John Howard, and a corporate lobbyist who is influential in the government of Tony Abbott – had, in the words of host Tony Jones, steam coming out of his ears at the idea that wind and solar could offer a future energy solution
Flapping his arms about and pointing his finger, Morris exclaimed: “Look, not everyone wants a bloody big windmill in their backyard … nuclear power is clean … one of the problems with the third world with poverty is that they don’t have electricity. We have coal and we have uranium that can provide energy sources for those people. You are talking about poverty … that is the answer.”
Morris also scoffed at the idea of climate change and, with that, pretty much summed up the policy position of the Abbott government, its principal advisors, and the conservative think tanks that influence and applaud it.
A victory for McMansions? Fixed charges to households surge, while small business may pay two-thirds of their bill on fixed charges, as government owned utilities move against solar and energy efficiency.
The Queensland government managed to get some sympathetic coverage on the ABC and in the local mainstream media – and even some specialist websites who should know better – about the supposed “fall” in electricity bills in the upcoming year.
But what they did not mention – presumably because it wasn’t in the Queensland Competition Authority press release – was a huge jump in fixed charges that will penalise households and small business, and reduce the incentive to install rooftop solar.
Fixed charges for households will jump more than 20 per cent to $1.07 a day, meaning that with GST, households will pay a minimum $428 a year on fixed charges, no matter how little electricity they consume.
The consumption rate has been cut to 22c/kWh but this means nothing for households that consume around 7kWh a day – pensioners and single person households for instance, and others who pay attention to energy efficiency.
Their annual bill will now be more than $1,050 – which equates to a rate of 42c/kWh, probably the highest in the world. And their ability to offset that with solar is greatly reduced because so much of the cost is unavoidable.
But small businesses – butchers, restaurants, takeaway food installations, or anyone using refrigeration and cooking – face an even greater proportion of fixed charges under the new scheme.
According to the new tariff 44 (above) – which will now be compulsory for businesses consuming more than 100MWh a year (275kWh a day) – the fixed charge will be $50 a day, or $8,000 a year including GST.
The consumption rate is slashed to just 10.6c/kWh, or around $27 a day, which means that if a business uses just over 100MWh a year, its bill will be two-thirds unavoidable fixed charge, and one-third on consumption.
But it gets worse. If, on just one day a month, the business’s consumption goes over 30kW on average in any one 30 minute period, the business will be hit with a “demand charge”. If it uses 40kW in that time period, for instance, it will pay another $400 for that month, even if that day’s consumption was a one-off.
And to top it off, all consumers will face as-yet unspecified “metering charges”.
As we reported last year, fixed charges for the biggest consumers have jumped even more extravagantly to nearly $500 a day.
Steve Madson, from Country Solar, says the new tariffs will penalise anyone “who has done the right thing”, such as install energy efficient appliances and LED lighting, and installed solar.
“It goes in direct opposition to the marketing of these companies about being sustainable, turning down air conditioning, using pool pumps more wisely.”
Madson says it also kills the case for rooftop solar in many incidences, because it removes the ability to reduce bills. Businesses that last year paid 30c/kW for electricity will now pay 11c/kWh plus unavoidable fixed charges of twice that.
Madson says many consumers are furious. “They’re telling us they just want to cut the line. They say ‘just give me a back-up generator’, because they don’t want to pay those charges.”
The warnings about using fixed charges as a response to solar have been countless; from the CSIRO Future Grid study, to numerous studies in the US – even former US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu.
Rooftop solar and battery storage will account for more than half of Australia’s electricity needs by 2040, reducing the need for fossil fuel generation, as the share of fossil fuels falls by more than half to around 40 per cent.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance says Australia’s power sector will fundamentally change over the next two decades, as households and businesses turn to rooftop solar and storage and utilities shift to renewables to replace ageing coal and gas plants.
It is part of a massive global shift, with more than $3 trillion being invested in small-scale solar and battery storage worldwide, as the global energy system becomes largely decentralised.
The report predicts more than 50 per cent of Australia’s generating capacity will be located “behind the meter” by 2040, meaning that consumers will become “pro-sumers”, generating and consuming their own electricity. BNEF predicts 37GW of small-scale solar PV – mostly on rooftops – and 33GW of battery storage will be installed by then.
“This will be driven by the superior economics of these technologies, which will be able to supply consumers with electricity at a lower cost than the grid” said Kobad Bhavnagri, the Australian head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and co-author of the Australian chapter of the report.
The BNEF report follows predictions from the Australian Energy Market Operator, and even some of the main utilities, which follow along the same lines. Last week, AEMO forecasts suggested that rooftop solar capacity would overtake coal capacity by 2030 and that, within 10 years, rooftop solar would be providing 100 per cent of grid demand at certain times in South Australia.
The BNEF predictions for Australia are part of a global trend that will see energy systems move from centralised to decentralised grids, including in developing nations.
Some $2.2 trillion is expected to be spent globally on small-scale solar, as capacity grows 17-fold to 1.8TW (that’s 1.8 million megawatts). But nearly half of this ($US1 trillion) will be in developing economies, in many cases bringing electricity to remote villages for the first time.
The legislation for a bipartisan deal on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has passed through the Australian Parliament tonight, opening the way for Australia to now unlock the massive potential for renewable energy investment and jobs over the next decade.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the return to bipartisanship was the critical factor that would allow investment to resume and for major renewable energy projects to move forward.
“While this has been a challenging process, and we are disappointed by the level of reduction of the target for large-scale renewable energy, the passage of this legislation provides the platform for a doubling of renewables over the next five years,” Mr Thornton said.
“The legislation also removes the two-yearly reviews of the scheme and ensures no changes to the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, which is great news for thousands of people working in the rooftop solar and solar hot water sectors.
“We have fought hard for a resolution of this review over the last 18 months and are confident this will see a return to work for our industry, with between 30-50 major renewable energy projects and hundreds of medium-sized projects to be built over the next five years.
“This legislation will lead to more than $40 billion of investment and the creation of 15,200 jobs over the life of the RET. Importantly it will also protect the livelihoods of the 20,000 Australians directly employed by the renewable energy industry, whose jobs have been under a cloud for the last 18 months,” he said.
Mr Thornton said the final bipartisan deal was only possible due to a huge effort by the industry’s supporters in the Federal Government, the federal Labor Party, the Greens and key cross-bench senators.
The final negotiation to secure passage of this deal through the Senate involved a government commitment to a range of initiatives and measures relating to the regulation of the wind sector and promotion of the solar sector.
“We are disappointed about moves to introduce further red tape on the wind sector, given the stringent and robust regulatory framework already in place for wind energy in Australia. The industry will however work closely with the government to ensure these measures genuinely improve the regulatory framework and are developed based on credible scientific research by independent expert bodies,” Mr Thornton said.
“This commitment also includes a range of welcome initiatives to further support and promote solar power in Australia, and we look forward to working with the government on these initiatives.
“The renewable energy industry is now looking forward to exceeding expectations and realising the huge potential of this industry over the next five years. Australians overwhelmingly want more renewable energy, and our industry is now ready to start delivering that.”
Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.
This article was emailed to Driftwind Electrical from Clean Energy Council. This article can be sourced from their web address Clean Energy Council
The "Solar Panel Rebate" (that we are not allowed to call a rebate!)
If you buy a solar system today, it is subsidized by a government scheme worth about $700 per kW installed. That's around $3,500 off a typical 5kW system, which is usually applied at the point of sale.
You may have heard talk recently of the rebate being 'under threat' by a government review. Thankfully, the review has passed and the government has decided to keep the scheme in place until at least May 2017.
But what most people aren't aware of is that the dollar value of this 'solar rebate' could plunge at any time over those 2 years.
How so? I go over the exact mechanism (known as STC creation) further down the page, but in a nutshell, the system is designed to 'self regulate'. What that means is that if the market for solar runs hot, the value of the 'rebate' goes down in step with a thing called the 'STC price'. The STC price can be valued from $0 to $40. In other words $40 is the highest value it is allowed to go to by law.
The higher the STC price the more 'rebate' you get.
At the time of writing the value of the rebate is $39.85. Let's call it $40. So it is basically as high as it can be. This translates into a rebate of roughly $700 per kW installed. But if anything causes a rush on solar systems, the rebate is likely to drop.
How low could it go? The lowest it got to was a few year ago when it hit about $17. If it hits that again, the 'rebate' would be worth under $350 per kW installed.
Just to be clear, no-one can pretend to know what the STC price will be next week or next year. All we do know is that it can not go any higher from here - it can either stay where it is or drop lower.
What could cause the STC price to fall in the next 12 months? Batteries.
There has been a lot of talk recently about solar energy storage, especially Tesla's announcement of its PowerWall battery storage system (which sold out until mid 2016 immediately after it was announced).
This has generated a lot of interest in solar energy, especially for households that want to reduce their reliance on energy companies as much as possible by using their stored solar power at night.
If you believe that these recent developments in the solar industry means that demand for solar systems is going to increase,then you may want to get quotes for solar sooner rather than later to lock in the current STC price and maximise your 'rebate'.
How grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will compete with traditional electric service, and why it matters
The Economics of Load Defection
Recently the Rocky Mountain Institute released The Economics of Load Defection, a new report that analyzes how grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will become cost competitive with traditional retail electric service; why it matters to financiers, regulators, utilities, and other electricity system stakeholders; and possible paths forward for the evolution of the electricity grid.
A little over a year ago (February 2014), RMI published The Economics of Grid Defection detailing when and where off-grid solar-plus-battery systems would compete with traditional electric service. It was the first comprehensive and publicly available analysis on the subject, and in the months that followed, a number of financial institutions—including Barclays, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs, among others—came to similar conclusions. In the face of declining costs for solar PV and batteries, current utility business models will face serious challenges. By early this year, Greentech Media identified “grid defection” as one of the top industry buzzwords of the year 2014. In fact, the topic surfaced yet again just last week in a widely circulated Washington Post article.
But we said then and we’ll say again now: just because grid defection may become an economic option doesn’t mean customers will actually choose to cut the cord with their utility, and there are plenty of reasons why doing so would be a suboptimal outcome. So in The Economics of Load Defection we focused our analysis on a much more likely scenario that could represent an even greater challenge: customer economics for grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems. Since such systems would benefit from grid resources, they could be more optimally sized, thus making them smaller, less expensive, economic for more customers sooner in more places, and adopted faster.
INSIDE THE ANALYSIS
One of the key questions the report addresses is how system configurations and economics would evolve over time when grid-connected customers have the option to source their entire load either from a) the grid, b) a solar-plus-battery system, or c) some combination of the grid, solar PV, and batteries. The report evaluates the economics through 2050 for a median commercial and residential customer in five representative U.S. locations. We found that:
Solar-plus-battery systems rapidly become cost effective. The economically optimal system configuration from the customer’s perspective evolves over time, from grid only in the near term, to grid-plus-solar, to grid-plus-solar-plus-batteries in the longer term. New customers will find solar-plus-battery systems most economic in three of our five geographies within the next 10–15 years.
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The RET deal is looking unstable as the government finds new ways to frustrate and retard renewable energy.
Instead of passing the legislation last night, the Abbott Government has thrown yet another land mine in the way of the renewables industry.
In an effort to include native forest wood waste into the RET, (itself a cynical ploy) the Government has teamed up with anti-wind crossbench Senators to stifle the RET and impose a whole bunch of new conditions on the wind industry.
You can find the news story here
The Abbott Government has attacked renewables for 14 months.
It's not going to stop now.
We said this week was absolutely critical. We warned the Prime Minister would roll back the RET as far and as fast as he could.
We urged people not to be complacent and it pains us to say we were right.
The Abbott Government cannot be trusted on renewables. They take every compromise as a victory, and then push for the next compromise.
The strategy of appeasement with this government on renewables is a mistake.
The only thing they understand is political strength.
The Solar Council will never play the appeasement game. We have stood up for solar and for all renewables.
All political parties are on notice now. Do you stand for a renewable future or not?
Are you going to facilitate the relentless roll back?
Will you play into the Prime Minister's hands when next he says "see, I told you the target could never be reached"...
One thing you can be sure of is that the Solar Council will hold all our political leaders to account.
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