Some people think that “renewable energy” is all about solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. They can be trapped into thinking that if they can’t afford to install solar panels and batteries or buy green power then there’s no useful action they can take towards increasing the take up of renewable energy.
Climate energy solutions are about re-inventing our complex, 1-way energy distribution systems. There’s a lot more than just plugging in a couple of new power sources to replace coal-fired generators.
So it can really be worth looking at the broader picture – because you might have options you didn’t realise - at home, where you work, or in your community. Let's explore just some of the fascinating solutions being implemented in Australia and around the world.
Local renewable energy
Refrigeration solution in Africa: https://www.fastcompany.com/90489600/this-pay-as-you-go-solar-fridge-helps-poor-african-families-save-money-and-food
Totally Renewable Yackandandah: http://totallyrenewableyack.org.au/
Indigo Power: https://indigopower.com.au/
Enova Energy: https://enovaenergy.com.au/
Australian Community Energy Coops: https://c4ce.net.au/
Solar garden in the Riverina: https://pingala.org.au/haystacks-solar-garden/
Community hydro in the Yarra Valley: https://upperyarra.net.au/upper-yarra-community-power/
EV recharging with wave power: https://www.thedrive.com/tech/39885/ocean-waves-alone-power-the-ev-charger-on-this-remote-scottish-island Lamp post EV chargers: https://thedriven.io/2020/03/24/siemens-converts-all-lamp-posts-on-residential-street-to-electric-car-chargers/ and https://www.ubitricity.com/
Australian Ace EVs https://www.ace-ev.com.au/
Lifetime costs of EVs: https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/09/electric-cars-can-cost-40-less-to-maintain-than-gasoline-cars/
EV cost calculator: https://electricvehiclecouncil.com.au/about-ev/cost-calculator/
Wholesale market access: https://www.amberelectric.com.au/how-it-works
Solar without panels: https://onestepoffthegrid.com.au/batteries-with-no-solar-changing-market-gives-households-new-energy-options/
Factories as solar farms: https://onestepoffthegrid.com.au/new-rooftop-solar-urban-power-stations-to-play-both-sides-of-the-meter/
Floating solar: https://reneweconomy.com.au/massive-60mw-floating-solar-plant-secures-25-year-ppa-in-singapore-25262/ and
https://reneweconomy.com.au/china-completes-new-70mw-floating-solar-pv-project-on-old-coal-area-93542/ and https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-16/australias-first-floating-solar-farm-will-be-buoyant-in-lismore/9157878
Plant-saving solar farm: https://reneweconomy.com.au/gupta-solar-farm-to-employ-innovative-construction-method-to-save-bonsai-forest-86366/
Farms as solar farms: https://www.energymatters.com.au/renewable-news/how-a-solar-and-agriculture-partnership-can-rescue-aussie-farms/
Enabling financial shifts
Blockchain-enables local energy tradinghttps://www.me-solshare.com/what-we-do/
Solar AND battery as a service: https://thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/energy/so-now-you-can-pay-for-your-solar-on-a-planit-looks-like-a-phone-plan-and-business-is-doing-really-well
Community-funded renewables investing: https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/energy-lead/business-energy-lead/green-loans-on-the-rise-with-plentis-opensolar-deal
Green hydrogen from Fukushima: https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/japan-opens-worlds-largest-green-hydrogen-plant-near-fukushima-disaster-site/2-1-769361
Large scale hydrogen storage: https://reneweconomy.com.au/regional-nsw-town-to-host-large-scale-hydrogen-energy-storage-project-states-first-79334/
BP and hydrogen: https://reneweconomy.com.au/bp-looks-to-add-1-5gw-wind-and-solar-for-huge-renewable-hydrogen-project-in-w-a-45931/
Home hydrogen energy storage: https://ideaspies.com/posts/residential-solar-hydrogen-energy-storage-solution
Project Drawdown: https://drawdown.org/solutions
Original music and audio editing assistance by Ian Hopkinson, Human Hacker and serial digital entrepreneur.
Project Drawdowns 2020 solutions catalog lists 32 different commercial energy solutions Welcome to Regenomics Down Under .
Hello, and welcome to Regenomics Down Under - a podcast exploring the wealth of Climate Solutions happening on the ground in Australia and around the world. I'm your host, Leigh Baker, a supply chain analyst turned regenerative business blogger and podcaster. Today we're taking a look at renewable energy solutions, many in Australia, but also some innovations from other parts of the world.
Some people think that renewable energy is all about solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. They can be trapped into thinking that if they can't afford to install solar panels and batteries, or buy green power, then there's no useful action that they can take towards renewable energy adoption. Or worse, they can end up installing solar panels, then find they really don't get the benefits that they expect it.
So it can be really worth looking at the broader picture. Because there might be options you didn't realize at home, where you work, or in your community.
Climate energy solutions are actually about reinventing a complex old fashioned energy distribution systems. So there's lots more fun to be had than just plugging in a couple of new power sources to replace coal fired generators at the end of the line. The grid is a whole network of wires, transformers, power conditioners, batteries, inverters and other gear - not to mention a massive number of people computers and management systems - all working to keep electricity flowing to where it's needed (most of the time).
That means that there are lots of ways to increase efficiency, to reduce consumption, to shift to cleaner sources, and to support local community benefiting solutions. And if you understand how the game is developing, there could be powerful energy system leverage points that you could be part of
Project Drawdowns 2020 solutions catalog lists 32 different commercial energy solutions - from building automation systems to ocean energy. And for every evidence based solution that Drawdown could find peer reviewed data for, there are many more that are too new to have numbers, or which have just never been consistently measured. So today, we're going to explore a few of the happening solutions that are worth knowing about, if you're a budding climate solutionist.
The wealth of new ways that people are thinking about energy generation energy supply is amazing. Some of it is hard technology. Some of it is new software around the hard technology we already have. Some of it is new organizations and smarter business models. And some of it is just practical saving solutions.
The aim of this episode is to illustrate the growing breadth of entrepreneurial thinking around energy. So it's about the scope of possibility, not necessarily the success of any one example in the short term.
There are a whole raft of innovations that light my spirits. There are bottom up implementations with citizen entrepreneurs are building local community solutions in all sorts of places. They're focusing on local needs, designing multi win solutions, then delivering just enough relevant technology, technology because it's useful, not just because it exists.
One example is a company that's not just delivering solar energy in Africa. They're delivering a household solution. in Sub Saharan Africa, a Brazil based company called Youma offers a small refrigerator that's efficient enough to run on a single solar panel along with a pay as you go system that makes it affordable even for families living on the most limited budgets.
Their fridges are packaged into a solar home system - one that also includes an efficient solar panel, some lighting and a phone charging point. Food doesn't go off. Necessary medicine can be stored. Children can study at night. Women don't spend hours walking to market, that's multiple Drawdown solutions. The original number three Drawdown solution for reversing global warming was reducing food waste, refrigeration ticks that box. And rooftop solar is number 11 - but this is rooftop solar with benefits to women smallholders - number 62. And education - number seven.
nobody just put in grid power. Nobody just put in solar panels. The solution is fit for purpose, stand alone and made affordable by Pay As You Go finance - a creative solution that fits the context for that particular group.
Coming closer to home, renewable energy co ops are happening in Australia - another local multi benefit solution. In rural Victoria, a community cooperative called Totally Renewable Yackandandah started an energy independence campaign in 2014. They began as a buying group for solar panels, they expanded into smart grid installations and home energy storage, then they use crowdfunding to establish an Energy Retailer called Indigo power. Last heard of indigo power was targeting 100 townships across North Eastern Victoria.
Meanwhile, Totally Renewable Yack have continued on their energy independence adventure. They commissioned an award winning community virtual power plant in 2020 - by covering the roofs of many public buildings with solar panels and adding in batteries. They followed up with Victoria's first community owned big battery in July 2021. And the Yack mob are just one of more than 100 Community Energy cooperatives around Australia.
So if you're thinking renewable energy, think community first, go and have a look at the list of Community Energy retailers in the show notes and see if there's one near community renewable energy is a multi benefit solution. Because they're not just putting in solar panels to create clean power - they create local jobs. And with Cooperative structures, profits go back to their local communities to build their local economy instead of overseas somewhere.
Community Energy co ops are doing more than just installing domestic rooftop panels and batteries. One Riverina Co Op is creating solar gardens. They put in solar panels on behalf of people who can't install their own panels because they rent or because they have bad sun.
So the solar gardens create opportunities for people to access renewable energy without putting solar panels on their own roof. They make the scope of regenerative climate action broader because you can buy from them invest in them, or even just publicize their existence so that they're better known.
And they're not limited to solar out to the east of Melbourne in the Yarra Valley, one Community Enterprise is operating a renewable energy project that's got nothing to do with solar panels. It's micro hydro.
They take a certain amount of water out of a local creek, and pipe it down hill using gravity. The water pushes against the turbine - that turns a generator and that creates power. Then the water goes back to the creek while the power that's generated is sold into the local electricity grid. It goes into a transformer in our local golf clubs carpark. The golf club gets a benefit for rental and maintenance on the power pole. And profits from the energy sales go back to the community enterprise which also runs their community banks.
Renewable energy comes in all shapes and sizes- and local citizen entrepreneurs are doing some fascinating things. While we're talking meet local needs from local resources - in the remote Shetland Islands of Scotland, they're running their EV charger on wave power.
And in one residential street in London, a tech giant and a charging solutions provider got together and converted all the lampposts in that residential street into hidden electric vehicle chargers. They upgraded existing lampposts on the street. And that keeps the cost of the installation down. EV owners on those streets can charge where they live without disruptive electricity works. They get to plug into an unobtrusive structure and that makes for cleaner city air and better health outcomes.
Australia is a bit slower in EV uptake. But more and more business people are starting to realize the advantages of low maintenance electric vehicles. So we probably won't stay low uptake once we really get it. And it's worth noting that we do actually still have a local vehicle manufacturer, and they are making electric vehicles, particularly for the small commercial market.
It's easy to think that an EV is too expensive. But before you decide that for sure, it's worth doing a full lifetime cost analysis because the overall economics are changing rapidly, and they might will be better than you think. EVs have far fewer moving parts and much lower ongoing maintenance costs as well as significantly lower fuel costs - particularly if you have your own solar or access to market based pricing option.
So if you've wondered about an EV it could be worth your while to check out the cost calculator in the show notes. And it's also worth thinking about the status of this and the social side of this. If you're an employer or you can influence an employer. It could be that an onsite EV charging station is an excellent investment in your business profile in employee engagement, and even customer relations.
EVs are a bit like smartphones, everybody's a little bit hesitant, but that is not a permanent state. So a little bit of preparation could see you having a whole lot of advantages.
Wherever your renewable energy comes from how you get it is a whole other interesting game.
If you think back to the ongoing information revolution, bits replace materials. The things that we used to buy physically like CDs and DVD have largely been replaced with data will get the music or the movie through a streaming service without a single atom of material ever changing ownership. In the same way, the information revolution is also creating some excellent new opportunities in the way watts of power are delivered, and how much those watts of power cost consumers.
We're not tied to a few big gen-tailers anymore. One example in Australia is company called Amber Electric who use information technology to get round the limits of old fashioned feed in tariffs. Their smart systems mean that their customers can buy directly from the wholesale market with visibility of what price they're buying. Plus, if they have solar to export, they pay the real time wholesale price for their solar not and netted off total.
So if you had the flexibility to choose when you want your appliances and upgrade your appliances, this type of business model could be an alternative to installing your own solar panels and batteries, particularly if you don't have the sun or you don't own the house.
And what about batteries without the solar? There are lots of places in Australia where there's too much solar energy all at the same time. There's an energy tech startup called IO energy working with a local retailer in South Australia to give their customers the opportunity to use batteries to become smarter energy consumers.
Even without solar, if you can buy grid electricity during the day to charge up your home battery when the price is really low (and sometimes the price goes negative, which means you get paid to take the energy) then you can use the energy lighter as you need it without paying peak rates. When you think about it, it's essentially solar without the solar panels, other people's solar panels your battery so that you have energy at a good price when you want it. Fascinating model be interesting to see how it develops.
There's solar energy being generated and all sorts of places now that you wouldn't have thought of a decade ago. Most people think about residential rooftop panels and big land based single purpose solar farms. Up until now there have been many big roof spaces that are not filled with solar because it's just hard to get a decent return on feeding solar energy into a limited old fashioned grid.
Tech startup EVO has developed some behind the grid software that uses AI that feeds the maximum amount of solar energy possible into the grid within its capacity to accept that power. What you don't feed into the grid you can use in the factory or you can store in some other way. But during periods when you can sell to the grid, why not sell to the grid? As technology like that, combined with batteries becomes increasingly common, more and more factory roofs are going to look like solar farms.
So let's get off the buildings and off land and talk about floating solar. Floating solar plants are being installed in all sorts of places from water reservoirs in Singapore to old Chinese coal mines. And in Australia, the first installation was on top of sewage ponds in Lismore.
Integrated thinking is happening to create regenerative solar farms. Not long ago, an energy company would buy a piece of land, bulldoze plants off it and install solar panels over grassland. Today that's changing.
One example is a regenerative solar farm in South Australia. Rather than grading the site and removing all the native plants, they put a roller over. That meant that the tough deep rooted shrub was able to survive while they built the solar plan. Once the solar panels were up, the scrub grew back and the added benefit to the solar farm was much less dust because there was plant cover already there.
Next up, a whole new area called agri voltaics - farms that stay farms and become solar farms. Because it turns out that solar panels and agriculture aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, in harsh environments, solar panels create plant friendly microclimates so that a broader range of crops can be grown for longer periods of time.
The farmer can have solar energy to power his operations. Excess solar gets sold into the marketplace. And it's a win win win that keeps a farmer on the land, doing work that they love, enabling a broader range of crops to be produced, as well as renewable energy.
What does all this mean? One thing it could mean is that if ever, there was a time to be an electrician specializing solar installations this year.
Along with smarter management technology, new community oriented business models, there are some other fascinating financial shifts happening. Everything from blockchain to artificial intelligence.
Most people have heard of Bitcoin, and many have heard of the blockchain technology as it drives it. What blockchain does is protect transaction data making all sorts of trading possible and trackable without having to use a banking system. And that means a blockchain is an enabler for local energy trading, not just in the developed world.
But for example, in Bangladesh, where a company called Sol Share is enabling local solar trading in peer to peer Smart Village grids, which means that the households can sell energy to each other within the village without connecting out to a big grid or without having an extended Information Technology Network. Blockchain technology validates the transactions and lets each household know what they've generated, what they've used, and what they've sold.
Another transition that's happening is the ability to buy your solar and battery as a service. So in the same way that if you want an expensive smartphone, you can buy it from a communications provider as part of a package that you pay off over time, you can do that with solar and battery too.
Another interesting shift is the impact of crowdfunding. When crowdfunding first became a thing. It was for artists, writers, and private individuals seeking to achieve a particular cause. But it's moved on since then. Crowdfunding is now a way for investors of all sizes in all locations to make their own decisions about what they want to invest in, without having to find a financial investor who would do it for them. So in the US crowd funded investing became legal in 2016. Australia has legislation to allow crowdfunding investment in 2018.
Crowdfunding investment is what enabled Totally Renewable Yackandandah to create Indigo Power. It let them raise the capital that they needed to do the work of becoming an accredited retailer.
You as an investor now have the ability to fund the solar energy installations for other people. FinTech company Plenti is basically in the business of making solar installations easier.
Hydrogen is rapidly developing as a way to store energy both for mobile uses and in other forms. I found it really fascinating that in Fukushima in Japan, there's a consortium using a solar array and other forms of renewable power to run an electrolyzer that makes green hydrogen, which is a long way away from nuclear.
And in another community energy story, the Manilla community solar farm has formed an alliance with tech developers to store the excess energy in hydrogen form. Not to be transported away from them, but to be able to be short term storage to convert the hydrogen back to energy and sell it on the market during high demand periods.
You may well have heard Twiggy Forest of Fortescue talking about green hydrogen development in the Northern Territory, or maybe new tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon Brooks from Atlassian. But it's not just big projects for big business. In Australia, we have a venture underway to develop residential hydrogen energy, where hydrogen storage can be used instead of batteries.
If you're tired of waiting for some government somewhere to do something more, it's worth getting an understanding of what's going on in the renewable energy space. It's a space that's going to be offering more and more and more opportunity. Whatever your business or your career is, it's just a matter of thinking a bit laterally.
I'm a big fan of Australia's Renew Economy and the related newsletters, One Step Off the Grid and The Driven. Links to those will be in the show notes.
Renewable energy isn't just something for big retailers to do. Renewable energy is offering an increasing range of individual and organizational opportunities. It really is worthwhile to get your head around. A useful framework is the Drawdown evidence based modeling and use that to survey what's going on in your region and what's going on in the world.
Because think globally, act locally, doesn't just mean think about the global problems. In a world of social networking and smart platforms. Think globally, act locally also means find the best global and local solutions, and put them to work where you are. And you can't do that if you don't understand the playing field.
So read the Drawdown modeling to get a scope. Get on to some sources that will keep you in touch with what's happening, and then start asking the question, what's in it for me?
Where are my opportunities? Is there a community organization I can be part of? Is there a new initiative I can start? Is there a new market offering that I haven't heard of because I assumed it was just the gen-tailers? Clean energy is fundamental to climate solutions. And we have a choice. We can leave it to the big players to do what they've always done, or we can scope the game for ourselves.
So thanks for listening in on this episode of Regenomics Down Under. I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of the many creative energy solutions out there. And if you have stories you'd like to add, click the show's contact button on the climactic website and let me know.
Don't forget to check the show notes for links to the different solutions we explored along with some of the resources.
Regenomics. Downunder is brought to you by the Climactic Collective, a podcast network that's by and for Australia's climate community. My name is LeighBaker, and I've been your host today. I'd love to hear your feedback, especially any stories that you have on the climate solutions happening on the ground in your region, benefiting your local economy.
You can give the show a rating and review. That would be excellent. From our website or on pod chaser.com which is the IMDB for podcasts. And of course, if you enjoyed this episode of Regenomics Down Under, follow the show for what's up next.
There's a wealth of other climate content at the climactic.fm website, or you can find on follow the collective on social media where we are @climacticshow.
Here's to making the 2020s a decade of powerful action on climate solutions at all levels. Don't miss out on your piece of the action