Turning point: Al Gore’s new hope

Al Gore has written an impressive long article in Rolling Stone magazine. I read it with gratitude and wanted to recommend it to others. It’s a highly readable text packed with rich detail which reflects the wide spectrum across which Gore operates and the considerable intelligence which informs his thinking. It deserves wide readership.

The article proclaims new grounds for hope that we will yet find our way to a low-carbon global economy in time to prevent the worst effects of unchecked climate change. Gore opens with an affirmation that a powerful yet largely unnoticed shift is under way in the needed transition. Here is the surprising fact that signals hope:

“Our ability to convert sunshine into usable energy has become much cheaper far more rapidly than anyone had predicted.”

The cost of solar electricity has decreased by an average 20 percent per year since 2010. Gore sees an ongoing decline in cost to the point where by 2020 more than 80 percent of 0the world’s people will live in regions where solar will be competitive with electricity from other sources.  This is already the case in at least 79 of the world’s countries.

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The Climate Show #33: Salinger, carbon carnage and recursive fury

In this week’s news-packed edition of The Climate Show we have an exclusive interview with Jim Salinger, probably New Zealand’s highest profile climate scientist, talking about extremes and the shape of things to come. John Cook discusses his new paper with Stephan Lewandowsky, Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, which is already upsetting climate cranks around the world, plus we look at carbon bubbles, renewable energy beating coal on price, and a simply superb iPad app.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

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Domestic solar PV: practical for NZ?

This is a guest post by Jason Kemp of DialogCRM. It originally appeared at Jason’s blog last week, but I thought it deserved an airing here because it directly addresses many of the issues HT’s readers have been keen to discuss. With luck, this won’t be last time Jason’s work pops up at Hot Topic

Many NZ consumers will be wondering if solar power for the home is a practical option. In simple terms despite New Zealand having mostly renewable energy our power costs to the home have continued to climb in the past few years despite low inflation. In real terms power costs have pretty much doubled for me in the last 4 years and some of that is due to changing power use but most of it comes from cost increases made by the lines companies and the electricity retailers.

According to one source: Andrew Booth of Solar City re intelligent roof tiles

“The price of power in New Zealand is more than 70% higher than in Australia and the United States. There is very little point switching power companies in the face of such high prices. Homeowners would be far better off switching to solar.”

I suspect having an unprofitable aluminium smelter sucking up huge amounts of power at a huge discount and a government hell bent on selling shares in power companies ( that we already own – double dipping anyone?) complicates the math on why NZ power costs are extortionate but having high power costs should incentivise us to investigate alternatives – shouldn’t it? Continue reading “Domestic solar PV: practical for NZ?”

Grand final: Sustainable Energy NZ #16 – counting up the dollars and sense

Welcome to the sixteenth and final post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series.

To recap, we started with a bit of energy accounting and worked out that Kiwi’s use around 88 kWh/d/p (methodology for what the kWh/d/p means is here), and that of this, about 33kWh/d/p came from sustainable sources or we couldn’t substitute. As a result, we’ve been looking for how to shift the remaining 55kWh/d/p of our current energy use to renewable energy sources. We approached this in two ways:

How much could we increase our energy generation capacity in renewable sources?

Here, we looked at hydro power, geothermal and wind (and a summary on the big three), solarbiofuelsmarine and waste energy and did some basic calculations on the overall potential of these sources. Then:

How much could we achieve a BIG reduction in our personal and national energy consumption, and where those savings would come from.

We went through the areas of energy use for Kiwis, including roadair transporthome energy use and general consumption before doing some calculations on the overall reductions we think we could make.

What might it cost to achieve an all-renewable energy economy?

Today, we’re looking at how this might translate into action at a national level. This post contains both some costing, and suggestions for action that might effectively be channeled into effective change.

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Sustainable Energy NZ #6 – our place in the sun – doing the math on solar power

Welcome to the sixth post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. Today we’re crunching the numbers on solar potential in New Zealand. For the background to the work please our introductory post here. Also check out our earlier posts on the potential of hydro power,  geothermal and wind, and yesterday’s summary. Note: the units are in kWh/day/person – ie. if you ran a 40W lightbulb for 24 hours, it’d take ~1 kWh over the space of a day. We then divide it by person to give you a sense of the scale of the resource proportionate to the size of the population. Be sure to check out the methodology. For reference – we’re looking to replace around 55 kWh/d/p of energy currently generated by fossil fuels. 

So, solar! We’ve got a lot of it, or do we? Our lower latitude means that New Zealand’s solar potential is certainly rather better than that of the UK and the current world leaders Germany. A roof inclined at the optimal angle in NZ gets on average 181W/m2 in Northland, 178 in Auckland, 195 in central Otago, 185 in Canterbury. (This is based on averaging all available NIWA hourly radiation data at suitable measurement sites). This is impressive compared to the UK average of 110W/m2 and 130W/m in Germany.

There are 4 ways to harness solar energy:

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