Wednesday, June 28, 2017

World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts

Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is still just about possible, but will require unprecedented effort and coordination from governments, businesses, citizens and scientists in the next three years, a group of prominent experts has warned.

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres: “We
 stand at the doorway of being able to bend the
emissions curve downwards by 2020.”
Warnings over global warming have picked up pace in recent months, even as the political environment has grown chilly with Donald Trump’s formal announcement of the US’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement. This year’s weather has beaten high temperature records in some regions, and 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record.

But while temperatures have risen, global carbon dioxide emissions have stayed broadly flat for the past three years. This gives hope that the worst effects of climate change – devastating droughts, floods, heatwaves and irreversible sea level rises – may be avoided, according to a letter published in the journal Nature this week.

Read the story by Fiona Harvey on The Guardian - “World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts.”

Security and Stability in the NEM: Energy Futures Seminar

Read our summary and listen to the event audio from our most recent Energy Futures Seminar featuring Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.
Dr Alan Finkel.

The final report from the 'Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market' led by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, was presented at The University of Melbourne on Thursday 22 June as part of our second Energy Futures Seminar for 2017, co-hosted by the Melbourne Energy Institute and the Grattan Institute.

Dr Finkel was joined by Audrey Zibelman, CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Tony Wood, Director of Energy Programs at the Grattan Institute, and Sabra Lane, Journalist and Presenter of AM on ABC Radio. Discussion focused on what the findings from Dr Finkel’s recently released report will mean for the future of the NEM.

Both the report and Dr. Finkel’s presentation emphasised the importance of achieving security, reliability, cost and emissions objectives for the NEM.

Dr Finkel said ‘Our vision with this report is for Australia to have a world-class electricity system that supports our economy and prosperity. We found that the ‘business as usual’ case is not sustainable – we need to manage the transition going forward, and we need to optimise the energy system. The review proposes we can achieve this through an orderly and managed transition, comprehensive system planning, and stronger policy and governance. The Commonwealth Government has accepted 49 of the 50 recommendations, which we are very pleased with, and we look forward to working with the government through this transition.’

Tony Wood from the Grattan Institute.
In her own presentation, Ms Zibelman said ‘Energy market design and regulation are the main issues in the sector. The Australian Energy Market Operator’s job is to make sure the needs of consumers are being met, and we support the recommendations made in this report. The greatest threat to markets is power insecurity, and the government must deliver the essentials.’

Mr Wood ended the panellists opening remarks, saying ‘The report, while not perfect – and frankly no report of this kind was ever going to be – is a very good start. We must balance market and regulations; the Energy Security Board proposed by the report is a good proposal but will be a challenge at state level. Nostaligia for energy prices has no place in this debate. Just as we cannot go back to candles, nor are electricity prices going to go backwards.’

There was significant discussion with the audience covering the emissions abatement trajectories used in the report, as well as the report’s recommendations on generator reliability and security. Several audience members questioned whether the report goes far enough in its plan for decarbonisation. On this, Dr Finkel said ‘if we can achieve the outcome trajectory that we want, we should use the mix that has naturally unfolded to deliver the best system.’

As part of the Review, the Melbourne Energy Institute was commissioned to assess the security of the power systems that might arise under different emissions reduction policy scenarios. This work was led by our Chair of Power Systems Engineering, Prof. Pierluigi Mancarella.

Recently appointed CEO of the
Australian Energy Market
Audrey Zibelman.
Our work supported the Review’s findings that business as usual is not an option. Regardless of the abatement policy chosen, operation of the NEM must be reformed in order to maintain system security and reliability.

Our work then suggested how a range of emerging technologies and services could take part in a reformed NEM to enhance system security. Such measures include demand response, energy storage of several forms, and synthetic inertia in newer wind turbines, all of which can provide Fast Frequency Response (FFR).

For those interested in looking further at the Review report, as well as the supporting reports from engineering consultants Jacobs and MEI, they are available on the Review website.

Listen to a recording of the June 22  event at the University of Melbourne’s Carillo Gantner theatre - "Security and Stability in the NEM: Energy Futures Seminar."

Rick Perry loses his cool when confronted by Sen. Franken on climate science

After a week full of misleading and inaccurate statements, Energy Secretary Rick Perry remained incredulous and defiant when confronted with climate science-related facts in a budget hearing Thursday.

 Energy Secretary Rick Perry remains incredulous and defiant
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) informed Perry that scientists have concluded that “humans are entirely the cause” of recent warming, to which Perry responded, “I don’t believe it” and “I don’t buy it.”

And when Franken reminded him this was the conclusion of a team of climate science skeptics funded by conservative petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, Perry raised his voice and said: “To stand up and say that 100 percent of global warming is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible.”

“Read the story by Joe Romm on Think Progress - "Rick Perry loses his cool when confronted by Sen. Franken on climate science.”

Inside Melbourne's secret suburban hydro power system

From the outside, it looks like a green shipping container on an industrial block in the suburbs. But on the inside, there's plenty going on.

Melbourne water senior project manager Ian
 Royston at a new ''mini-hydro'' plant in Dandenong North.
The box is part of a little-known but growing Melbourne Water network of "mini-hydro" electric plants generating electricity in suburban Melbourne, and in the hills beyond.

With the addition of Melbourne Water's 14th hydroelectric plant, a "mini-hydro" to be turned on on Thursday in Mt Waverley, Melbourne Water's hydroelectric system generates enough power to supply more than 14,100 homes. Eleven of the plants are "mini-hydro" plants.

It's a system that the water company hopes to expand further.

Read Darren Gran’s story on the Melbourne Age - “Inside Melbourne's secret suburban hydro power system.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The world’s tropical zone is expanding, and Australia should be worried

The Tropics are defined as the area of Earth where the Sun is directly overhead at least once a year — the zone between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

‘Tropics’ may conjure images of sun-kissed islands,
but the expanding tropical zone could bring
drought and cyclones further south.
However, tropical climates occur within a larger area about 30 degrees either side of the Equator. Earth’s dry subtropical zones lie adjacent to this broad region. It is here that we find the great warm deserts of the world.

Earth’s tropical atmosphere is growing in all directions, leading one commentator to cleverly call this Earth’s “bulging waistline”.

Read the thoughts of the Adjunct Professor of Environmental Geography from, CQUniversity Australia,  Steve Turton, on The Conversation - “The world’s tropical zone is expanding, and Australia should be worried."

Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future

Climate scientists rarely speak publicly about their personal views. 

But in the wake of some extreme weather events in Australia, the specialists who make predictions about our climate reveal they're experiencing sometimes deep anxieties. Kerry Brewster reports.

Watch the ABC Lateline story - “Climate scientists reveal their fears for the future."

New Ice Core Drilling in Northeast Greenland to Help Us Prepare for Climate Change

“We are the first and only ones in the world to drill through an ice stream. Half of Greenland’s loss of ice sheet mass occurs by way of ice streams, which are are like rivers of fast-flowing ice within the ice sheet that slide towards the sea and eventually calve to become icebergs. The prospects are significant, as we expect research results to provide improved forecasts with regards to rising sea levels in the future – an area now subject to great uncertainty,” according to the Niels Bohr Institute’s Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.

Researchers will study the ice core ice’s fluid-like properties by measuring physical properties and performing deformation studies of the ice core to better understand the material characteristics of the ice. The drill hole’s movement and deformation will also be measured.

Read the Science and Technology Research News story - “New Ice Core Drilling in Northeast Greenland to Help Us Prepare for Climate Change.”