Technology questions for Cleantech

Kristin: Today I’m sitting in a forum presented by The Water Industry Alliance and the Australia New Zealand Business Council  with the theme of growing cleantech business into national and global opportunities. The first part of the forum is focused on technology solutions. The recurring ideas that have come up in the introduction are Carbon Pollution Reduction Schemes, technologies, market economies and resource limitations. Yet as the morning developed, the bigger picture around community needs and the driving forces behind clean technologies starts to emerge.

The first speaker of the morning panel was Andrew Dickson of Wind Prospects. Andrew made the point that cleantech is not necessarily new – the use of wind energy has been around since 6AD – but it is evolving. As wind is a variable source, the market limit is expected to be 20% of market (until energy storage can be developed futher). Intermeshing to manage variability is important for further penetration and the connectivity of remote renewable supplies is a critical issues that Andrew and the members in my small group discussion identified as a barrier to further development. Andrew also spoke about the broader system considerations in developing wind technologies – ecology, Indigenous heritage, noise, signal interruption and public consultation – there are lots of pieces to the puzzle that need to be managed for the successful uptake and acceptance of wind technologies. On the posiitve side, wine development has also provided diversity of income for marginal agriculture areas.

Simeon Caric of Aerogel Australia talked about energy efficiencies in building developments. He explained the ‘heat island effect’,  ie the effect of materials in urban areas produces a drying and heating effect that results in surface temperatures higher than air temperatures. This means air conditioning is used at a higher rate than would be necessary compared with expected area temperature. This is why effective insulation against this effect can deliver energy savings. Simeon stressed that products do behave differently in the build. The theory of how insulation behave can be substantially different to the performance and the resulting energy efficiency. Bad design can result in the need to use heating and cooling systems  over the weekend to ensure comfort on Monday morning!

Prof Gus Nathan from the University of Adelaide spoke about the opportunities for synergistic development of renewables. Existing power infrastructure requires high capital and has long replacement times. The challenge is to move alternative energies faster up the technology learning curve. High solar energy radiation flux and geothermal temperatures tend to be in central and north-west Australia, away from major population centres. But they do exist in the same area, might provide good load matching (solar for peak) – and reduce capital cost if managed together – might there be synergies?

Arif Paul of the Emission Finance Advisory spoke elegantly about the how developed countries need to shift the way they think towards a more external, customer focused perspective. He said that sustainability is about providing social-economic benefit to people on the ground to allow them to be self-sustaining. And that it is easier to get projects up in developed countries because there are fewer barriers to the uptake of cleantech. He also alked about the potential barriers and opportunities arising from climate chnage and global finanical crises.

My personal frustration – why are we still hving these discussions around renewables as part of an overall energy portfolio and pursuing indivudal and corporate energy efficiencies? Most people seem to be in agreement about the general direction, the ‘how’ is obviosuly more difficult. Let’s start working on removing barriers to change and enabling these chnages to happen quickly.

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