12 November, 2008

Target Energy 2020

South Australia is on target to generate 20% of its energy needs from renewable energy with this wind farm.  Call me a hardliner but I don't think 20% as required by K-Rudd is enough.  SA should now try going for 25%, and then 40%, 50% - I think the terms of the requirement are not the way I'd phrase them.  I'd have said that I wanted 50% of energy to come from clean or renewable energy sources, and then grudgingly accept 30% or 35% (knowing all along that this is all I could have hoped for - so in actual fact, Ive reached my target...)

Also, while we're at it.  Let's make distributed systems a much bigger feature.  This makes sense from a lot of points of view.  You want to use a lot of wind power?  Fine.  Spread it around, if the turbines in the hills aren't producing due to low wind, the turbines along the southern coast will probably be spinning.  All out of wind?  And clouds have occluded the solar collectors?  Luckily you've got localised nuclear energy plant to keep each location going.

"Whoa!" you're saying.  "WFT is that?  You want to save the Earth and yet you're recommending nuclear energy?"  Well as a matter of fact, yes I am.  And there you go again, having read the article, you say "But - TWENTY-FIVE MILLION DOLLARS...  Ummm... ?"

Actually, that's about $30mAUD, but don't forget that this is among the first attempts to make local nuclear power plant.  There will be more, the price wil come down.  Then also, don't forget that you're generating (by this stage) at least 30% of your energy from renewables, so one Hyperion will suffice for 20,000 houses, bringing the price per household to $1500.  They are cleaner than traditional nuclear power plant, and have a pretty respectable useful life.  Spread that cost out per household over 20 years, and you can see that the cost is under $20 per household per month.  You'll surely get at least that much in metered useage.  These (and other non fossil fuel based power plant) will pay for themselves quite early.

Also keep in mind that appliances and equipment is slowly coming around to realising that energy efficiency sells.  And that energy consumption will most likely become the subject of legislation, so energy use per household will drop significantly.  Population will increase, yes; but useage per person will reduce as more and more of our gadgets go for legitimate green standards.

In the budgets of most States, there has got to be room over the next ten years for several hundred of these, leading to several tens of gigawatts of energy at around $3bnAUD.  That is easy to absorb into the costs, especially when you figure in the cost benefit of shutting down fossil fuelled plant, not having to build any new ones, and the thus reduced cost of fixing the environment.  (That latter is not counted in many cost/benefit analyses - the cost doesn't stop at cleaning coal plant, for example - there's still an environmental cost, and any government that's looking at this realistically will see that the cost of repairing environmental damage over the next twenty years or more will add up to many times more than the original plant or any savings made by installing it.)

Distributing our energy generation is also sensible from a defensive point of view.  After all, that's the reason bunkers have their own power sources that don't depend on grid power.  In a similar way, if an enemy is good enough to take out a few power stations, that's going to inconvenience the grid, but if they have to carpet-bomb the equivalent of three Asian countries to bring our grid to a standstill, the cost/benefit of attacking power infrastructure goes way pear-shaped.

Also, distributing things like nuclear local generating plant means much the same thing.  One nuclear power plant is easy to disable.  A hundred, many in unknown location, well that begins to be a much more difficult proposition...

Lastly, the waste.  As the (admittedly press release optimistic) article says, there's not a lot of waste, and it's "environmentally friendly" whatever they mean by that.  But don't forget that in 20 - 30 years' time, if we do things right, right now, we'll have time to focus research on how to dispose of those Hyperions and similar units, at minimum impact to the environment.  Or the human race will have become extinct despite our best efforts, in which case it won't be a problem to us.

But the time to set realistic - and stringent - requirements on clean/renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances is definitely here, and now is the time to set those standards, not "next year" or "nearer to the end of our term in office" or whatever else.  And this is NOT the time to say things like "but China isn't doing it, and poor us we'll be sooo disadvantaged by it, economic ruin, oh woe!"  To the companies (and the people who work at those companies) I suggest considering that they're gonna have to deal with it, so deal.  I'd rather take a cut in pay and increase my productivity for the next ten years than die in a heatwave in eleven years' time...

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