Wednesday, 14 February 2007

The Easy Way To Renewable Clean Energy

The short answer is, there isn't an easy way. I am tending to agree with Tim Flannery (via PerthNORG) on his assessment of the situation. This is a situation far more serious than war. A war can devastate *most* of the planet . . .

If you make the Government responsible for driving the change to sustainable clean energy sources, you are putting them between a rock and a hard place. And you will still end up with the situation I propose. Why? Well, in order to make energy available to us from clean renewable sources, the Government first has to scrap existing plant. That has probably not amortised yet, nor returned the investment and ongoing costs. They have to do this themselves in the case of State-run plant, or by proxy in the case of privatised plant. But the cost has to be borne.

Then they have to buy and install renewable energy sources. These don't come cheap either, and Western Power / Synergy (here in WA, used as an example only) would be increasing electricity costs substantially in order to recoup the costs and losses.

Also, wwhenever Government gets involved, the contractors and suppliers automatically add a nought to the figure. Come one, they think of a profit and double it for the consumer, and to such people, the Government resembles a very warm, very welcoming , very squeezable udder of milk honey and money. Of course they'll do it.

At the moment the average West Aussie must be spending somewhere in the vicinity of (gets calculator out, hums and harrumphs a bit) $1200 to $2200 per year for electricity, and about a third less for gas., say $800 to $1500. I know a few people to whom the energy bill already presents a substantial obstacle every six weeks or so. How are they going to fare when those costs double or even quadruple?

Over at the Zen blog I present some ideas for reducing your energy use but even optimistically I can only expect the average West Aussie might reduce their energy demand by 25%. The brings the electric bill down to $1650 per year now, and possibly $6600 instead of $8800 if utility prices go up as predicted. That is still scary shit for the average Aussie, very much there will be less lights switched on, back to sitting around one TV, etc.

Oh yes and the price of the electrically pumped water supply will go up by a similar amount, too.

SO . . . What's the solution I propose? Okay as Flannery says let's put this on a war footing. Anyone exceeding their quota of greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, is a traitor in this war, and traitors really do get shot. That removes the temptation to pull a swifty and make money undeservedly, a squad or three of REAL ecological response teams will start making the public aware that we do not mess around.... (Sorry - I know this is radical but I also know that human nature and greed being what they are, even this measure will not discourage everyone from trying their luck, to the detriment of the environment.)

Then make some war type efforts. During the war, munitions ordnance and machinery were cheaper than beans, because they were the entire focus of the war industry. We need to do the same thing with wind generators, solar panels, geothermal turbines. Again, I'm working on the ideas for making them cheaper, making them smarter, and making them more efficient so we'll need less of them to do the same amount of energy. But the machines need to be tooled to produce these things, in HUGE quantities.

By the Government subsidising the plant that makes them and sticks to the prices, and by the Government then subsidising each home installation per watt produced - certified watt produced - it would become as expensive as two years' electricity bills. Banks would be required to provide energy loans at the most reduced interest, no questions asked, no balking allowed, if the borrower had an approved set of plans for their house and a work quote from the installer.

You pay the bank about as much as you'd been paying on your electricity bill before solar activation, for two years, and the rest of the power is yours. If you produce surplus power, you feed it back into the grid and Synergy / Western Power pay you for that electricity. But not immediately. For a few years they accept your energy for free, until the credit equals the amount of subsidies that were provided. Are you seeing this? 100,000 houses in one city each producing a spare 5KW/hrs a day will no doubt repay their subsidies inside the same two years that the bank loan runs for. After that point, all electricity harvested by your installation is yours, and free, and you can sell it to the grid and earn money on it. Want to install a second installation just to put power back in the grid? Go ahead (within local zoning laws) and make some money!

You see, for each home that puts power back into the grid, it will do so during the work day when people aren;t home using electricity as much. And that's a time that commercial air conditioners are running in the business and industrial districts, and all the machinery is switched on. So Western Pwer don't need to build a bigger power plant, just clean up the emission of the existing ones. And in the atfernoon when the "people getting home" peak once used to hit - nothing, a tiny ripple . . .

Using solar stills, you can also recover your own grey water for washing and watering plants, reducing the demand on the water grid in turn. As proven recently you can use wind to extract water out of thin air - but you can also do that with solar energy and diesel energy if you like, the machines I'm working on just need a power source (grid or solar) and unlike wind powered extraction plant, work steadily no matter what the wind conditions. If using them for asgricultural purposes, they are perfect because when it's raining, there isn't enough solar energy to keep them running, and when it's hot and dry and the air is incredibly transparent, they work at their best.

Again, subsidise both ends of the chain (but not so heavily as solar power - see next paragraph) to make them more affordable, and by decentralising water gleaning you again produce economy by sheer numbers.

Why one can't subsidise this too much is that you do NOT want anyone returning water to the water grid. First, it will play havoc with carefully designed hydrostatics, and second - but VERY importantly - it gives anyone who rents a house with water gleaners access to the city's water supply, from pretty much any place around the city. A real terrorist/nutcase/anyone with an axe to grind Heaven, that would be.

That's why I say the war on weather-altering greenhouse gas emission will be won house by house, home by home. Not State by State, not by the hair on John's chinny-chin-chin. Read the zencookbook blogsite through, and grab the RSS feed - there will be a war, and the chains of communication go out as of now. (Also, there's some ideas on what you can spend the tax cheque on in order to save the value of that tax cheque in the next six months to a year. That makes sense doen't it?)

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