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CEFC announces landmark agreement with Investa to push boundaries of energy efficiency

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2016-12-01 11:24
The CEFC and Investa have joined forces to push the boundaries of energy efficiency in commercial property.
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Flows underway to reduce the impact of low dissolved oxygen levels in the Lachlan

Department of the Environment - Thu, 2016-12-01 11:23
Fish refuges are being created with environmental water in the Lachlan River to reduce the severity and duration of poor water quality being experienced in local waterways.
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COzero announces its first major multi-million dollar international deal with Japan’s ENNET Corporation

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2016-12-01 11:17
More than 24,000 Japanese businesses will now have access to COzero’s cloud-based energy management platform, EnergyLink, to save energy and costs.
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Fronius installs inverters in a former nuclear power plant

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2016-12-01 11:11
Clean energy production on a historic site.
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Nice proposes 'smooth driving' measures to cut air pollution

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 10:38

Variable speed limits, removal of speed bumps and ‘no idling’ zones near schools among recommendations

Speed bumps should be removed, speed limits made variable on England’s motorways, sometimes dropping as low as 50mph, and a congestion charge considered in more cities to cut air pollution and save lives, health experts have said.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) released a series of recommendations on Thursday which it said would “promote a smoother driving style” and help keep emissions down.

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Siemens' £310m Hull plant will take windfarm technology to new level

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 10:06

Greg Clark welcomes 700-job factory, the first to produce 75m-long blades for a new generation of offshore windfarms

The first 75-metre-long blades destined for windfarms off the UK’s coast will roll out of a factory in Hull when it officially opens on Thursday.

The inauguration of the Siemens plant at the city’s Alexandra Dock employs 700 people and was hailed by campaigners as an example of how curbing carbon emissions could create jobs.

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Snorkeller suffers heart attack from Irukandji sting in far north Queensland

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 10:05

Victorian woman spends two days in hospital after being stung on neck off Fitzroy Island

A female snorkeller is lucky to be alive after suffering heart failure following an Irukandji jellyfish sting in far north Queensland.

The 39-year-old Victorian woman was snorkelling off Fitzroy Island last Friday when she was stung on the neck by the deadly, thumbnail-sized jellyfish.

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Tasmanian tiger sightings: 'I represent 3,000 people who have been told they’re nuts'

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 07:37

The Thylacine Awareness Group is ‘dedicated to the research, recognition and conservation of our most elusive apex predator’ – officially extinct since 1936

Six years ago Neil Waters moved to Tasmania. There, he says, he had a “brief encounter” with a thylacine, the carnivorous marsupial known as the Tasmanian tiger, declared extinct in 1986.

Two years later, in January 2014, he was doing work on his house when a smaller animal walked up a dirt track leading out of a tin mine and past his bedroom window.

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Network fault causes outages in South Australia, Portland smelter

RenewEconomy - Thu, 2016-12-01 07:16
Major fault on Victorian transmission network separation of South Australia grid, power outages in South Australia for up to an hour, and disconnection of Portland smelter in Victoria.
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Reliable renewable electricity is possible if we make smart decisions now

The Conversation - Thu, 2016-12-01 05:20
Renewable energy poses a number of challenges for the grid. Wind turbine image from

The Australian government is reviewing our electricity market to make sure it can provide secure and reliable power in a rapidly changing world. Faced with the rise of renewable energy and limits on carbon pollution, The Conversation has asked experts what kind of future awaits the grid.

Unreliable electricity supply can cause many inconveniences, such as the inability to check Facebook, being forced to play board games by candlelight in the evenings, and even, God forbid, missing out on a punt on the Melbourne Cup. But electricity blackouts have a more serious side too.

Findings from research overseas and in Australia show people are more likely to die during power outages. This is because of the increased risk of accidents, extreme cold or heat, food poisoning and communications breakdowns that can delay emergency responders.

So whatever our electricity grid looks like in the future, it will need to be reliable.

Meeting demand (most of the time)

Electricity demand varies during the day, so reliable electricity grids must be able to vary their output. Power supply needs to be constant and regular (this is known as “baseload power”) but also able to respond quickly to unexpected surges in demand (so-called “dispatchable power”). Finally, the grid must be responsive when extreme circumstances (such as storms or bushfires) affect supply.

Our current fossil-fuel-dominated electricity generation system is able to match supply with demand all but 0.002% of the time. It does this by relying largely on coal baseload power (64% of generation) which works together with other dispatchable power technologies – primarily gas (21%), as well as hydro (7%), oil (2%) and biomass (2%).

Generators in eastern Australia are also part of an interlinked transmission grid across New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania.

Variability in renewable resources (such sun and wind) is one of the main challenges to achieving the same reliability (or better) for a grid with more renewable energy generation.

There are several ways to manage this. First, there can be more generators than are required at any one point in time – power in one area can then be moved to areas that need it across a dispersed but highly interconnected transmission grid.

Second, we can avoid too much reliance on one particular technology (such as more than 30% wind). Having a mix of technologies provides a buffer.

Finally, we can include sufficient dispatchable energy sources or storage technologies. The list can include hydro, biomass, concentrated solar, geothermal, or batteries.

But herein lies the cost. Having more generators than needed at any point in time means that spare generators may sometimes sit idle.

Varying renewable resources also means that electricity may be produced but not purchased at times of low demand (and therefore wasted).

Buffering variable electricity supply would require an expansion of the transmission network across our vast continent to access our rich supply of renewable resources. But as distances increase, so do transmission losses.

So the question remains, at what cost would these strategies work?

The cost of reliability

Our recent research took a highly conservative approach to testing the cost question.

We assumed that there would be no future improvements in technology from what is currently viable and no future decrease in electricity demand. We also used renewable resource supply (sunshine and wind) from 2010 because this was one of the most challenging years for renewables.

Our findings indeed showed that strategies to manage the variability of renewable resources were effective in a 100% renewable energy mix of rooftop solar, wind, large-scale solar, hydro and biofuels.

In one scenario, for instance, current demand could be matched with supply at a cost of producing electricity around 20c per kilowatt hour (the current levelised cost of coal-fired electricity is 7.8-9.1c per kWh), with overall installed capacity of 162 gigawatts (2.5 to 3 times what is installed today), relatively low transmission losses and with less than 20% wasted electricity.

The interconnected eastern Australian transmission grid would need to be 2.5 times the current size, and would need to be linked to the grids in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Recent developments look positive for renewables

But recent developments mean that the costs and constraints for reliable renewable energy are not likely to be as conservative as our scenario.

Battery storage has benefited from rapid improvements in technology even in the short period since our research in 2015. Significant battery storage could even mean a restructuring of our largely centralised (big power stations) network to a more decentralised one that includes rooftop solar panels and battery storage.

Decentralisation of power generation opens up the possibility of using waste heat from power generation in buildings to reduce power demand (such as tri-generation).

Our research also indicates that investing in more dispatchable technologies can reduce wasted energy, the cost of energy, the grid expansion required, and overall generation capacity.

With the price of renewables decreasing, the transition to renewables may have benefits for power producers and power consumers.

Future constraints and opportunities for renewable energy are uncertain, but we can’t wait for perfect certainty before we plan and act. In Australia we have some of the world’s leading experts in the field with a range of sophisticated modelling capabilities at hand. These assets could be the foundation of collaboration with policymakers to transition to reliable renewable energy.

Bonnie McBain will be on hand for an Author Q&A from 2-3pm AEDT Thursday December 1. Leave your questions in the comments below.

The Conversation

Bonnie McBain does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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Our cities need to go on a resource diet

The Conversation - Thu, 2016-12-01 05:19
Think of all the resources needed to transform Shenzhen, a fishing town 35 years ago, into a megacity of more than 10 million people. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Cities are the epicentres of human activity. They cover less than 2% of the earth’s land surface but generate about 70% of GDP and house more than half the human population. The importance of cities is only going to increase in coming decades as another 2.5 billion people move to urban centres.

This intense production and consumption requires huge quantities of natural resources. Cities account for more than 60% of global energy use, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global waste. Current practices are depleting the Earth’s finite resources, changing its climate and damaging its natural ecosystems. With our planetary life support system in the red, we need to put cities on a serious resource diet.

Resources efficiency in the New Urban Agenda

The New Urban Agenda adopted at the Habitat III conference outlines a vision for sustainable urban development. These global guidelines, along with the related UN Sustainable Development Goals, recognise the need to use resources more efficiently.

Habitat III included a number of sessions on resource efficiency and associated tools and initiatives. Organisations such as UNEP, UN-Habitat and the European Commission and its research centres typically led these events. The New Urban Agenda includes many references to efficiency and reduced consumption in cities.

We must now act urgently to translate words into actions. This will ease pressure on ecosystems and produce a range of co-benefits, including health, wellbeing and resilience.

How do we create more resource-efficient cities?

Cities use resources directly, such as burning fossil fuels for electricity and transport. However, indirect uses, such as water for growing food crops, are much wider-reaching.

It can be overwhelming to consider the resources used for all goods, processes and infrastructure in cities. Yet it is possible to measure this using a systems approach. Instead of considering components in isolation, the entire city is considered as an open system, connected to others.

This perspective ensures a much broader understanding of complex relationships between scales, resource flows, the built environment, socio-economic factors and ecological outcomes.

There are tools that embrace a systems perspective. For example, the urban metabolism approach considers cities as ecosystems, across which flows of resources (such as energy or water) are measured. Life cycle assessment measures resource use through the entire production, consumption and degradation process of a good or service.

These approaches have been successfully applied at various scales such as cities, neighbourhoods and buildings. This reveals that we are using more resources than shown by traditional assessment techniques (see this example on building energy efficiency regulations).

But measurement without action has no impact on the ground. How can these tools be used to transform our cities?

Recent research enables us to map the quantities of materials in buildings and predict when and where we can reuse or recycle these. Here a map of estimated steel quantities in each building of Melbourne, Australia. Source: authors' own; left: Google and TerraMetrics; right: Stephan, A. and Athanassiadis, A. (In Press) Quantifying and mapping embodied environmental requirements of urban building stocks, Building and Environment

Many initiatives are targeting urban resource efficiency. The circular economy paradigm is a good example, where materials are reused, upcycled and recycled. It demonstrates that waste is a human concept and not an inherent property of cities. Waste does not exist in natural systems.

A range of projects by UNEP, the European Commission and other organisations support local resource efficiency initiatives and encourage local governments to implement related regulations. Blogging, data visualisation and disseminating research all help promote the adoption of resource efficiency concepts. In addition to the pioneering work of groups such as metabolism of cities, the uptake of open data is helping with this.

Learning from those who already live on less

Informal settlements provide interesting lessons in resource efficiency. Construction materials in these settlements are typically not very durable. However, because they are in short supply, they are constantly reused or repurposed, almost never discarded.

Other residents often reuse replaced materials, such as metal sheets, or store them for later use. This practice avoids additional resource use to produce new materials.

Although informal slum areas are often the focus of “upgrading” and improvement, lessons learnt in these settings can enhance material flow management and reduce waste elsewhere in cities.

Informal settlements like Karail next to Banani Lake in Dhaka, Bangladesh, can offer lessons in resource efficiency, waste reduction and material flow management to most cities. Alexei Trundle Co-benefits of resource efficiency

More resource-efficient cities tend to result in better health outcomes. For instance, encouraging walking, cycling and public transport instead of car use can reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and improve population health through increased physical activity.

Food systems that promote consumption of fresh, local produce can benefit both the environment and nutrition. Energy-efficient housing reduces energy and water use and can improve occupants’ health at the same time.

Resource efficiency can also contribute to urban resilience. Nature-based solutions use relatively few non-renewable materials to increase resilience to environmental change and natural disasters. For example, a park can be designed to be flooded during storms or a tsunami, reduce the urban heat island effect, support urban ecosystems and provide areas for community activities, recreation and urban agriculture.

Efficiency can also ensure that redundancy – a core principle of resilience – is built into urban systems. This means resources can be repurposed in the event of an unanticipated shock or stress. For example, during the recent blackout in South Australia, a household with solar battery storage was able to maintain power for 12 hours “off grid”.

Working together for better solutions

Although these steps move cities in the right direction, more action from governments, the private sector and civil society is needed to transform our growing urban footprints.

Focusing solely on resource efficiency may neglect opportunities to generate co-benefits across sectors and will not provide robust solutions. We need to look at the entire city as a system and work together, across all disciplines, with effective and strong governance structures that support integrated policy definition and long-term implementation. If we don’t, we might simply shift a problem from one area to another, increase resource demand elsewhere, or create social divisions and tensions.

Strong leadership, political stability, effective institutions and awareness-raising among citizens are vital factors for success. Urban resource efficiency is critical, but it should be considered along all other pressing issues highlighted in the New Urban Agenda.

The Conversation

André Stephan receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Alexei Trundle receives research funding from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), and an Australian Postgraduate Award from the Australian Government.

Dave Kendal receives funding from the Clean Air and Urban Landscape hub of the National Environmental Science Program

Hayley Henderson receives an APA scholarship from the Australian Government.

Hesam Kamalipour receives IPRS and APA scholarships from the Australian Government. He is also a Doctoral Academy member at the Melbourne Social Equity Institute (MSEI).

Melanie Lowe receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the National Environmental Science Programme.

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How do we deal with the coming waves of climate change refugees?

The Conversation - Thu, 2016-12-01 05:19

On average, one person is displaced each second by a disaster-related hazard. In global terms, that’s about 26 million people a year.

Most move within their own countries, but some are forced across international borders. As climate change continues, more frequent and extreme weather events are expected to put more people in harm’s way.

In the Pacific region alone, this year’s Cyclone Winston was the strongest ever to hit Fiji, destroying whole villages. Last year, Cyclone Pam displaced thousands of people in Vanuatu and Tuvalu – more than 70% of Vanuatu’s population were left seeking shelter in the storm’s immediate aftermath.

However, future human catastrophes are not inevitable. The action – or inaction – of governments today will determine whether we see even greater suffering, or whether people movements can be effectively managed.

Human impact

International law does not generally regard people displaced by disasters as refugees, and national responses are ad hoc and unpredictable, resulting in protection gaps.

However, on July 1, a landmark new intergovernmental initiative kicked off: the Platform on Disaster Displacement. Led by the governments of Germany and Bangladesh, and with Australia as a founding member, it addresses how to protect and help people displaced by the impacts of disasters and climate change, one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of the 21st century.

The Platform does not merely envisage responses after disasters strike, but also policy options that governments can implement now to prevent future displacements.

For instance, if effective building codes are put in place and enforced, then people will be safer. If disaster warning systems are installed, then people will have time to get themselves out of harm’s way.

The provision of prompt and adequate assistance after a disaster can also reduce longer-term, secondary migration. In a study of displacement following severe floods in Bangladesh, it was found that people who felt adequately assisted and compensated were less likely to move on.

The Platform on Disaster Displacement succeeds the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement, led by Switzerland and Norway from 2012–15. Through its groundbreaking work, there have been huge leaps and bounds in global understandings about how people move in anticipation of, or in response to, disasters, and what kinds of proactive interventions can help to avoid displacement – or at least avert some of its negative consequences.

The Nansen Initiative’s chief outcome was the Protection Agenda, which provided a toolkit of concrete policy options and effective practices that governments can implement now, both to avert displacement where possible, and to protect and assist those who are displaced.

Strategies such as disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation can help to mitigate against displacement if disaster strikes. Temporary, planned evacuation can provide a pathway to safety and emergency support.

In 2015, Northern Australia was battered by two potent tropical cyclones within six hours on the same day, Cyclone Lam and Cyclone Marcia. NASA

Implementing long-term, sustainable development projects can enhance community resilience over time, creating new labour opportunities and technologies, and building capacity for self-help.

Governments also need to develop more predictable humanitarian and temporary stay arrangements to assist those displaced across a border after a disaster. They also need to ensure that those displaced internally have their needs addressed and rights respected.

Facilitating migration away from at-risk areas can open up opportunities for new livelihoods, skills, knowledge and remittances, at the same time as relieving demographic and resource pressures.

Planned response

Indeed, in this context, the Australian government has acknowledged that the promotion of safe and well-managed migration schemes is a key part of building resilience.

The Kiribati–Australia Nursing Initiative is a good example. Kiribati is a Pacific Island nation that is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and which lacks extensive educational and employment opportunities.

The Initiative enabled around 90 young people from Kiribati to train in Australia as nurses, providing them with an opportunity to secure a job in the healthcare sector either in Australia, overseas or back home.

On a larger scale, planned relocations can also help people to move out of harm’s way before disaster strikes, or to relocate to safer locations in the aftermath of a disaster if it’s not safe for them to go home. This requires careful consultation with those affected, ensuring that their rights and interests are safeguarded.

The Platform on Disaster Displacement will implement the Nansen Initiative’s Protection Agenda by building strong partnerships between policymakers, practitioners and experts.

While it does not intend to create new legal standards at the global level, it will encourage governments to build more predictable legal responses at the national and regional levels, including through bilateral/regional agreements relating to the admission, stay and non-return of displaced people.

The Platform is a significant opportunity. Governments that act now can make a major contribution to reducing future displacement and its high economic and human costs.

The UN Secretary-General recently highlighted the displacement risk posed by disasters and climate change, and emphasised the need for strengthened international cooperation and protection.

It is essential that the new Platform on Disaster Displacement continues this forward-looking agenda, placing the needs, rights and entitlements of individuals and communities at the forefront of its activities.

Scientia Professor Jane McAdam is Director of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law and head of the Grand Challenge on Refugees & Migrants at UNSW. She is speaking tonight about climate change and refugees at UNSOMNIA: What keeps you up at night?, the launch event for the University of New South Wales Grand Challenges Program.

The Conversation

Jane McAdam receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Platform on Disaster Displacement, and was a member of its predecessor, the Consultative Committee of the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement.

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'Walking sharks' at greater risk of extinction than previously thought

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 05:05

New analysis of nine species that ‘walk’ by night on shallow reefs shows their range is much smaller than was known

Bizarre “walking sharks” are at a greater risk of extinction than previously thought, with new information about their distribution leading researchers to expect greater efforts to protect them from human threats such as fishing and climate change.

Bamboo sharks include nine species of sharks that swim and “walk” in shallow waters around northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia. In 2013 a new species of the genus was found in Indonesia.

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'Walking shark' takes a stroll along the seabed – video

The Guardian - Thu, 2016-12-01 05:04

A new analysis shows these bizarre creatures have much smaller distributions than previously thought, making them more vulnerable to human pressures such as fishing and climate change. The findings could spark greater protections

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Private plan to send Moon rover to Apollo 17 site

BBC - Thu, 2016-12-01 04:27
A proposed private space mission is planning to visit Apollo 17's landing site on the Moon.
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Curbing immigration spells 'disaster' for science

BBC - Thu, 2016-12-01 04:21
The President of the UK's Royal Society warns that onerous restrictions on immigration of scientists would spell "disaster" for the UK economy
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Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study

BBC - Thu, 2016-12-01 04:20
A warming world will release vast amounts of soil carbon into the atmosphere, which in turn risks triggering dangerous climate change, scientists warn.
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EU energy use to fall by 30% under new efficiency plans for 2030

BBC - Thu, 2016-12-01 00:11
New proposals from the European Commission see binding targets for energy efficiency as key method of curbing carbon.
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Platypus venom paves way to possible diabetes treatment

BBC - Wed, 2016-11-30 23:30
Australian researchers say platypus venom could pave the way for new type 2 diabetes treatments.
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Saturn mission approaches tour finale

BBC - Wed, 2016-11-30 23:26
The Cassini spacecraft is beginning the end phases of its mission to Saturn that will eventually see it disposed of in the giant planet's atmosphere.
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