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Issue #1643      June 18, 2014

From nukes to renewables

Last week the Conservation Council of WA and the activist group 350 Australia organised a forum on renewable energy in Perth.

Left to right – Senator Scott Ludlam, Dr George Crisp, Jamie Yallup, Dr Gavin Mudd, and Cameron Power. (Photo:Desire Mallott)

The forum was held at the Alexander Library in Perth and was attended by over 100 people who came to see a number of recent short films on the issue and listen to a number of speakers followed by a Q & A.

The first speaker of the forum was Dr Gavin Mudd, a senior researcher in renewable energy (Monash University), who spoke of the coming end of the nuclear power generation era as the price of uranium continued to fall and the price of nuclear power generation continued to increase.

Dr Mudd presented a number of charts and graphs which showed the nuclear industry in decline. One of these was the number of nuclear power station shut downs were increasing as the power stations reached the end of their 30-35 year lives, while the number of nuclear power station start-ups in the last 10 years were just a few.

Dr Mudd pointed to a number of renewable energy plants around the world that are feeding clean energy into the energy grids of those countries, such as the Kramer Junction facility in California (354 Megawatt), the Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada (which supplies power to the military community on whose land it sits), the Abengoa Solar Array in Seville Spain (20 MW), the Solana project in Arizona (260 MW) and a proposal to build a 110 MW facility at Antofogasta in northern Chile.

In Australia there are plans to build a 50 MW plant near Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields of Western Australia.

Dr George Crisp from Doctors for the Environment spoke of the link between environmental health and public health as all levels of non renewable energy produced health issues from the upstream (mining and processing of energy sources such as coal, oil and uranium) to the operation of the power plants (air pollution and greenhouse gases) to the downstream processing or waste.

Jamie Yallup of 350 Australia advised the forum that this northern summer in Europe had just witnessed levels of CO2 exceeding 400ppm (parts per million) for the first time – the significance of which is that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to be reduced to 350 ppm to avoid runaway global climate change.

However, Yallup was encouraged by a survey in which 72% of respondents were concerned that super funds or finance institutions were financing coal or gas extraction or processing.

Zaheer Allam from Mauritius spoke of the challenges facing his country which relies heavily on five existing coal fired power stations to meet the island nation’s power needs. Mauritius obtains the bulk of its remaining energy needs from oil and bargasse or the fibrous waste which is a by-product of sugar production (all three produce air pollution).

A grassroots campaign is underway in Mauritius to stop further development of coal mining and coal fired power generation including public demonstrations and a number of hunger strikes. The problem in part is that senior government ministers have vested interests and condemned the protests.

However, French and Japanese interests have begun the installation of wind and solar power generation facilities on the island and it is predicted that by 2015 renewable energy will produce 60 MW of the island’s annual 400 MW annual requirement of energy.

The final speaker was Cameron Power, the Chair of Sustainable Energy Now (SEN) who spoke of the attitudinal change in human beings to bring about greater acceptance and use of renewable energy.

This included communities organising the construction and operation of their own renewable energy facilities such as the Mt Barker Community Wind Farm (which is easily visible from Albany Highway when one is driving from Perth to Albany) and solar panels on people’s houses. Power said it was a little known fact that the suburb of Coodunup in Mandurah had the highest concentration of solar panels in Australia.

“When renewable energy is off grid in remote communities or mine sites it is a natural choice and the cheapest choice rather than diesel fuel,” Power concluded.

The Communist Party of Australia encourages further development of renewable energy and the take up in our communities as a way of ensuring the development of a sustainable future both economically and environmentally. The CPA acknowledges that it will be a difficult process as capital and the governments which support non-renewable energy producers are intimately connected through subsidies and commodity royalties.

Next article – The Normandy landing and WW2

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