14 March 2007

ActewAGL comes with the guilts on Green Power

| johnboy
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The Canberra Times reports that ActewAGL’s John Mackay has noticed that many intelligent people don’t see a need to pay more for green power (when the solution to greenhouse emissions is a system that charges more for high carbon power). Having failed with reason he resorts to emotion to try and get the conscientious to pay through the nose while the rest party on (rather similar to his water restriction regime).

“I’m a bit disappointed because I think Canberrans are very, very environmentally conscious, reasonably affluent and [despite] the fact that it costs a little bit more, I would have thought more of them would have taken it up.

“For a relatively modest amount of money you can make a big difference to greenhouse gases.”

Bugger all difference more like.

And to think, just 11 days ago they were telling us just how thrilled they were with the take up.

We’d also love to know if the statistic showing Canberra being the highest per capita greenhouse emitter accounts for having to heat our domiciles through winter.

UPDATED: Ari sent in the following as a story on the same subject:

ActewAGL boss John Mackay has been snivelling in today’s Crimes that Canberrans in general aren’t such idiots that they’ll pay more than they have to for a service.

Apparently only a “paltry” 7 per cent of households have chosen to pay more for exactly the same electricity as everyone else (via the GreenChoice rort).

“I’m a bit disappointed because I think Canberrans are very, very environmentally conscious, reasonably affluent and [despite] the fact that it costs a little bit more, I would have thought more of them would have taken it up.”

What is of concern, however, is that the rest of the country has a take-up rate of less than 1.5 per cent, proving that Canberra has 5.5 per cent more feel-good fools than the rest of Australia. To anyone living in the Inner North, this comes as no surprise.

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you are making sense! NOT

Ingeegoodbee9:35 pm 15 Mar 07

You’d think that the logical approach would be to have ‘green’ electricity cheaper than the garden variety and to have the people who were prepared to pay more for unsustainable power generation fundimng research into more efficient ways to run our light bulbs.

Ah yes, but it’s so much more believable now than in the more naive 70’s.

Soylent Green people, Soylent Green.

In order to have electricity, the researcher paid his dues in bicycle time when he wasn’t too busy thinking about assisted suicide…

Moral of the story is, it’s already been thought of so long ago…

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt4:06 pm 15 Mar 07

What we need is a huge fleet of exercise bikes with generators attached to them. We then put a tax on being a fat bitch or fat bastard. You can claim tax credits for hours spent on the bike. Not only do we get electricity, but we improve the health and wellbeing of the entire population. And we don’t have to look at fat people any more.

neanderthalsis1:37 pm 15 Mar 07

I am considering a trip to Peru next year and plan on indulging in the local delicacy of Guinea Pig. If the government wants to fund my trip in the name of scientific research into the potential application of small furry animnals in solving our energy issues, I will gladly accept.

I like the idea of putting the leaders on a treadmill. We could make their lighting/heating/cooling dependent on it.

it’s a bit like the idea of rigging the tele up to a bicycle generator – you get to watch the box and exercise at the same time.

But surely hamsters aren’t big enough. Perhaps we can breed genetically modified, super-fit, oversized hamsters?

Or we could put our illustrious leaders on a treadmill and get them actually doing some good for a change.

Hamsters sound good, though, and the old, frail ones can be used to supplement lamb and beef sales at the butchers.

Like the Guinea pigs of south America.

Hamsters sound good, though, and the old, frail ones can be used to supplement lamb and beef sales at the butchers.

neanderthalsis12:51 pm 15 Mar 07

Toad, the best way to get rid of the C is through trees, they take in the CO2 and release O2. Plant trees, lots of em, and preferably ones we can eat.

Only trouble with hydro is that you need water.

barking toad12:23 pm 15 Mar 07

Just burn the C

Well, CO2 is what you get when you burn something in O2 – it releases energy as heat which we can then use to generate electricity etc.

To convert it back you basically need to put in the same amount of energy.

Why can’t we just burn CO2 and turn it into O2 ?

Or is that just silly ?

Trouble with tidal is that all the power would arrive down the east coast at roughly the same time. And storing electricity remains problematic.

But as part of a huge bundle of systems providing power it would fit in just fine.

It all comes back to one basic thing: Until there is a cost put on emitting CO2 all other power is uneconomical compared to burning fossil fuels.

neanderthalsis10:19 am 15 Mar 07

I was reading a report recently on a trail system at Port Kembla that uses wave power to generate electricity. The Generator sits offshore and the tidal movement drives a turbine generating enough power to run 500 homes. It is a small trial system that the company plans to expand if there is interest. The generator also has a desalinator built in, some of the power generated drives the desalinatorproducing a few megalitres of water a day. The report claimed the Generator only cost $6 million to produce and weighing under 10 ton.

At the risk of sounding like a pinko, tree hugging lefty, this sounds like a better option than nuclear power or even coal fired power. It’s cheap, easily produced and as long as the tide keeps turning (which I am told has been known to occur up as often as twice a day) we have power and water.

what about large scale hamster wheels?

That, and they’re forever tainted by their association with the torture device in The Princess Bride.

Water wheels were much more important, but everyone’s down on Hydro.

At least they’ll be big Thumper 🙂

Tagline Nomination: Ralph, Way off the mark about me being a lefty. – Comment by GreenTrees March, 2007

Low Carbon alternative option: Windmills.

Since we were successful in starting the industrial revolution on windmill power, no reason why we can’t finish it using them either. All you need is a few thousand rocks, some mortar and a few well machined logs of wood at its most simplistic.

It may be radical idea, but what about just using less electricy?

TroyWilliams7:22 pm 14 Mar 07

Interesting point of trivia. The Jervis Bay Territory falls within the Fraser Electorate.

Put the nuke reactor in Jervis Bay.
No state governments to worry about and in god knows whos electorate.

A nuclear reactor for Canberra – Bring it on.

I’ll live next to it. Hell, it might be the only place in the ACT where I could afford to +buy+ a house.

James-T-Kirk, the idea that solar photovoltaics don’t ever repay the energy used to manufacture them is a myth (but a fairly persistent one). Research on the subject is not hard to find – see this FAQ published by the US DOE, and the papers it references, as a starting point.

Energy payback periods for solar PV installations are in the order of 3 years (for comparison, the energy payback period for a nuclear power station is around 2 years).

Well said Woody Mann-Caruso.

Well then you better stop farting, driving and breathing.

No need to be so sanctimonious


Way off the mark about me being a lefty, but anyway.

Feel free to shit in your own backyard, but if you want to polute you are shitting in everyone’s back yard.

barking toad5:31 pm 14 Mar 07

Hippies that want to pay more for electricity that’s ‘green’ are welcome to do so.

Not that it makes diddly squat difference to anything apart from giving them a warm inner glow thinking they are saving the planet. But from what? Global warming? Pfft.

The whole thing is a con. Like the Gorebal one buying carbon credits from himself to offset the megawattage use in his mansions or his jetting carbon footprint. Or Tampon Charlie telling the peasants to ride pushbikes while he gets a jet to fly his missus’ shoes to Kuwait ‘cos she left them home in the castle.

By all means research better ways of providing energy but don’t sacrifice economic reality on the green altar of alleged man made global warming (opps, climate change).

No need to be so sanctimonious, and smug.

Now you go read an economics textbook, and come back when you’ve read how JB’s statements about taxing pollution are correct.

Woody Mann-Caruso4:55 pm 14 Mar 07

why not offer Geenchoice 100

Like I said last time you mouthbreathers had this “debate”, you can buy as much green power for ActewAGL as you like – it just takes a phone call to let them know you want more. The plans are just for people who want to buy something off the shelf, and pay a predictable amount per quarter. There’s nothing whatsoever stopping you from saying “I paid for x kw, but I used y kw, so I’m going to buy (y-x) kw to make up the difference.”

Anyway, it seems you should have all your concerns addressed now. You know that it doesn’t matter that the exact same green electrons don’t come to your toaster – it’s the total offset against non-green energy that counts. You know it’s all independently audited (not that you could be arsed looking – far easier to claim that there are no controls without checking first, you f*cktards), you know why it’s better than carbon trading (it stops the waste in the first place), you know why it’s more expensive (economies of scale, which can only be improved through investment), you know you can buy as much as you want whenever you want. You’ve got countless other examples of increased pricing completely and utterly failing to kerb demand of inelastic goods – petrol, alcohol, cigarettes, water – but for some reason you believe it will work with energy.

Can anybody give me a rational reason why they prefer johnboy’s idiot paradise in which the world is full of pollution, but it’s OK, because it’s been duly taxed? A world in which pollution becomes just another cost of production to be passed on to consumers, who also get to live with the pollution anyway?

My children will look back on threads like this in the same way I read about race relations in the early 20th century, or blood letting to cure common ailments, or the Salem witch trials, or the belief in a flat earth – “How could people be that stupid, selfish, ignorant and irrational?”

chrisjeanemery4:48 pm 14 Mar 07

More people would pay the extra if they built some wind farms around Canberra using their money.

I should clarify – my concern with Ralph’s comment was only re: current energy consumption of fossil fuels. If you’re talking renewables, like VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt mentioned – different matter altogether.

I much prefer that governments just get the hell out of all markets wherever possible and let the private sector do it properly.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt4:36 pm 14 Mar 07

No worries Widdershins – it’s good to see that my observation about the emotional nature of nuclear power proved true…

Focusing in using less energy is a stopgap solution at best. I think we should be thinking about ways to harvest plentiful, cheap energy such that our planet is preserved.

Like GreenTrees said, the result will have to be combination, not a single source.

I also like the idea of the govt. investing in new energy harvesting methods. As was correctly pointed out, the costs will be recouped from consumers anyway.

Um…no. Did I say I was against technological change? I don’t think so. Nuclear may well be the way to go – but I was just taking issue with something VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt said, adding some of my current concerns with nuclear.

And your comment re: energy consumption is really quite sad. There’s plenty of right-wingers who would heartily disagree with you as well.

Indonesia had planned nuclear reactors for the area that has just had those earthquakes. Good thing they hadn’t built them yet.

The negative consequences of a nuclear accident are huge, and for that reason alone I don’t support it.

But people need to look at REDUCING their energy consumption.

No they don’t. We live in a free society and people can choose to consume as much energy as they desire. Statements saying that people need to reduce their consumption usually come from left-wing socialists.

While I’m on it, Widdershins, you’re a Luddite. Your green social utopias in Europe all reckon nuclear is the way to go.

Last time I checked we don’t get much of a tide on Lake Burleigh Griffin, but maybe just enough to power the one or two little green men on the walk sign. A low carbon future is likely to be a mix, something like:

* Nuclear for some base load
* Clean coal (shock horror)
* Hydroelectric
* Renewalble (solar, wind, tidal, etc)
* Other techs like solar hot water

But people need to look at REDUCING their energy consumption. There is no magic pudding but a rather a complex mix.

Why doesn’t the government just pony up the x million dollars to create a diverse selection of renewable energy genreation solutions, and then just push the cost onto the consumers. Then everyone pays for it not just those willing to subscribe to half arsed solutions like green choice. We would also get the economical and operational benefits of a larger scale solution.

Johnboy — What *Low Carbon* solutions?

For a start efficiency becomes more attractive to more consumers (vast majority in industry not the home we should note).

We get a sensible guideline to the viability of nuclear, and lower emitting fossil fuels will become more attractive.

Also the renewable start to look attractive AND have their real fossil energy cost factored in.

One thing to remember about solar and wind is that once in situ they don’t need to have coal lugged to them every day.

Wind power perhaps? Maybe tidal power? Forget the hydro, it’s destroying our rivers.

If by ’emotional’ you mean ‘concerned about the toxic nature of nuclear waste that sits around for 1000s of years, and the enormous impact nuclear power plants can have on the environment (do you know how much concrete these things take to build?!), and also being unimpressed with the economics of nuclear power, etc etc’, then yes, people are ’emotional’. Or, you know, rational.

So solar is not 100% perfect and greenchoice doesn’t change the world overnight, so we should all keep doing what we’re doing cos that is working so well. yeah.

Supporting greener alternatives encourages more research and develpment into these forms of energy. I don’t see anything wrong with greenchoices.

James-T-Kirk2:43 pm 14 Mar 07

Johnboy — What *Low Carbon* solutions?

James-T-Kirk2:41 pm 14 Mar 07

VY – Yep – Fossil fuels are cheap – Just guess where the silicon providers get their energy to make the solar cells….

I wonder if they subscribe to “Green Choice”? That’ll make it all better

Or start taxing the carbon and let genuinely efficient low carbon solutions prove their value.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt2:34 pm 14 Mar 07

If it’s so easy and obvious, why not offer Geenchoice 100 (100% renewable). Perhaps the cost is scary?

Traditional forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, are waaaaaay too cheap for anyone to seriously give a crap about large scale alternative energy. The only real alternative at the moment is nuclear, but everyone is too emotional about the issue for there to be any sensible planning.

GreenChoice is independently audited. It must meet certain standards in order to receive the GreenPower accreditation. These standards include purchase of renewable energy from new sources.

You don’t have to use ActewAGL. There is a comparison of different products here:

Regarding the quarrantine of green electrons. When green power is purchased, it displaces a certain amount of non-green energy because the power grid must be kept in balance. This is the main issue, because displacement of coal power is the thing that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. It is not like buying carbon credits, because carbon credits don’t actually prevent the carbon pollution from occurring in the first place.
At approx. $50 per quarter for Greenchoice 10 I don’t consider it a lot of money.

James-T-Kirk1:46 pm 14 Mar 07

“allowing people to install solarpanels and sell the unused electricity back into the grid? Great idea as far as I can tell!” – LG

LG – Great idea in theory, except that it never pays for itself.- The *big* problem that many fail to see is that over the life of the solar cell, you don’t get more energy out of it than you put into manufacturing it….

Remember that to manufacture a solar cell, you take kilograms of Silicon, and melt it in a furnace at 1410 Deg C. Then you grow a crystal out of the molten silicon (Takes many hours). Then you create a semiconductor junction by diffusing something like phosphorus onto its surface. Then you screen print some contacts… In the higher efficiency solar cells, you might like to laser etch some grooves into the surface of the silicon to increase the active surface area, prior to the diffusion step.

The simple step of melting the Silicon over 20 – 40 hours, requiring about 2Kw of energy during that time to keep the material molten, Then you need to grind the silicon ingot, then perform slicing into wafers, do edge grinding to round the edges, then lapping the surface to remove surface irregularities caused by the slicing process, then chemical etching to make the wafer optically flat. All just to create the lump of silicon that is used to create the solar cell itself.

Lets not *start* to look at the energy costs of obtaining the Silicon, or phosphorus, from the earth, or building the plant. OMG.

Finally, you need to replace cells every 10 or so years, as they tend to get damaged – In fact, 10 years in a remote location is pretty good from my experience in working on repeater sites.

The great thing that Solar Cells are useful for is providing an energy source where no other is available.

Then you should look at the energy and environmental costs of producing the batteries…

I personally like the green energy that comes from the Snowy Mountains scheme – We have already produced the system, and as long as gravity still works, it is basically all good…

Whatever the problems with Greenchoice, is anybody seriously suggesting Greenchoice subscribers should get ‘different’ energy to everyone else (VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt mentioned this)…once the electricity is in the grid, how can you tell one charged particle from another? (green choice electrons are not, in fact, green) And even if you could tell them apart, how are they supposed to be quarantined and magically directed only to Greenchoice subscriber power lines?

Surely the point is supporting ‘green’ power – now it might just be mini-hydro and burning old woodchips, but if there’s demand it might expand…no?

queen_vic_toria_II1:19 pm 14 Mar 07

Dusty, the feds have a rebate for anyone who installs photovoltaic panels. I have them at home. Call the MBA in Lyneham as they have the contract in the ACT to provide the rebate.

Much better than spending money and not knowing where it is going.

Yes you can get a household generator connected to the grid, and the electricity you generate gets reduced off your bill. This is a better solution than using batteries, as they have a lot of embodied energy, and there is a lot of loss in both the charging and discharging cycles. And your house can be happily generating away during the day when it is sunny (almost always here) and noone is home consuming power…

The AGO has subsidised “grid-connected” PV since about 1999 – a display I was involved with received the first such subsidy. Unfortunately Howard has been reducing it steadily ever since, and the maximum you can get is now down to $4000, plus the money you get back through trading your RECs has been vastly eroded due to Howard not increasing the Mandatory Renewables target.

But on the other hand we have him (via Ziggy’s report) proposing propping up nuclear power to the tune of at least $3 billion. At $4000 per household PV array, that would be 675,000 houses with one. Up the subsidy to something more reasonable – say $6000 – is still 500,000 houses – a lot of clean power for the money.

mentions ‘controls’ via an independent audit.

If only they’d let any sort of power get paid back into the grid.

childhood obesity solved in a stroke as bogan parents get the fatties on the exercise bike to pay for another slab of woodstock and cola. All that sugar in their diets finally put to good use.

It’s be like Conan on the treadmill and we’d have a generation of barbarian warriors unleashed on the world as soon as they manage to escape their homes.

You know it makes sense.

barking toad12:40 pm 14 Mar 07

Don’t tell ’em that VY/V8.

I want their money to plant trees so they feel good and get some wood for the fire

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt12:38 pm 14 Mar 07

Hey Dusty – did that price include any electrical storage (ie batteries) or was it simply to get solar cells plumbed in to your house with any excess going back to the grid?

Yes caf, you’re almost correct actually, I was quoted recently on the installation of photovoltaic panels on my home at $14,000 for installation and supply. And that was the minimum price.
Needless to say, I have abandoned that idea until some effective subsidies/ incentives are introduced.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with_added grunt12:20 pm 14 Mar 07

Waste of $$, we don’t, and won’t, sign up for green energy. We have no assurance that the energy we would get is any different to anyone elses, and there don’t seem to be any controls to ensure that the $$ spent on green energy actually end up there.

Spend a few bucks and buy a couple of new trees for your garden. It’s probably a better environmental investment.

Can someone explain to me clearly what the problem is with ActewAGL’s GreenChoice products?

LG, nothing happened to it – you can do that today if you want (and have the spare $5k – $10k you’ll need to set such a system up).

And for a few more $$$ you can sponsor a Chinese/Indian to help offset their carbon footprint too. Send us money now, Gaia is dying.

The ActewAGL GreenChoice thing is a ripoff in my opinion. Paying extra for power that is generated out of minihydro fitted to the sewerage works or the water treatment plant is nuts.

If the extra money we paid for Greenchoice went into new green generation facilities instead I could see the point.

barking toad10:32 am 14 Mar 07

Pretty damning statistics those. The ones that show we have a higher percentage of tree hugging hippies than with more money than sense than the rest of the country.

A bit like the feel good business of paying someone to offset your cat’s farts that are making Gaia cry.

But, for all those who feel a need to off-set their evil carbon footprint so they can feel smugly superior, send me money and I will plant something for you.

This might be a strange question… but is anyone checking if energy companies are reinvesting the extra $ they reap into purchasing / producing / investing into more renewable energy?

Another question, will energy companies tell subscribers that they’ve used their alloted renewable energy and can’t take any more subscribers? Eg. Energy company ‘provides’ 5% of its energy from renewable sources, if subscribers ‘buy’ over that 5%, what happens? do they just get charged their ‘dirty’ amount?

Like carbon credits, these schemes allow those that can afford it feel guilt free, yet make no substantial changes to their lifestyle (and subsequently reduce greenhouse gases).

Side note, what ever happened to that idea of allowing people to install solarpanels and sell the unused electricity back into the grid? Great idea as far as I can tell!

I got the GreenChoice electricity and I haven’t noticed a change in my prices. Probably cos I get the “bundling” discount which is more of a discount than the GreenChoice increase anyway.
I actually forgot that I had it until reading this story.
When I signed up at my new house they really guilted me into it.
But I am a sucker for these types of things anyways….

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