SustainableEnergy.com.au is dedicated to exploring Australia's pathway to urgently needed renewable and sustainable energy sources. Not only is it important to harvest clean energy, but it is also critical that we find ways to better use energy and cut down our current energy use.
For many years now we have known about the issues our generation faces, and with every day passing, we lose time we don't have to make a change. Many of those big decision makers are stuck in their old mind and proven ways of doing things and probably don't have as much concern for consequences of these decisions a younger generation trying not to end up in a world of extreme temperature swings, mass extinction, desperation, war and natural resource depletion.
This site is aimed at looking into proven green technologies which are ready to go, and ways in which we can do our bit, whether it be by putting pressure on local business, reps, ministers and politicians, or simply cutting back on every day energy consumption.
No one wants to live in a polluted world where the climate swings to extremes and land is constantly flooded out or dry as a bone. No one is going to rob our generation of the chance to live out our future sustainably and no one is going to use the environment or carbon trading as a political football anymore. It is time to take serious action whether it be protest, letters to representatives, sustainable business development or clean energy promotion.
About Me (The Author)
I hope to see this project develop much further, however at this stage everything has been put together by me (Richard Watson). I have a double degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and have worked for almost 3 years at Western Power (the government run power distribution and transmission company). During my period of employment at Western Power the company was divided into 4 sections, so I can also say that I worked in a coal fired power station which is now owned by Verve. During my time at Western Power I worked in Asset Integrity, Power Station Maintenance, Power Quality, Protection Design, Protection Commissioning and System Management which gave me a very strong understanding of our energy infrastructure and many of the issues associated with it.
I now work for a private researcher on a low powered air conditioning technology aimed at improving living conditions in third world countries. I have also been involved to an extent with the local organisation SEN and look forward to making further contribution to this fantastic grass roots group full of intelligent people who have a passion for sustainability. I also attend as many workshops, forums, talks and events related to sustainability (funds permitting) so that I can learn as much as possible about the intricate challenges we are faced with when it comes to moving into a sustainable era.
It is because of my experience at Western Power and also my enthusiasm for research and development got me thinking about smart grids and the way often intermittent sustainable energy sources can interact using electric vehicles and other mechanisms for energy storage. Although there are many people waving their arms about wanting more roof top solar and wind farms, there are few who understand the incredible challenges associated with distributing this power reliably, efficiently and safely. But there are ways of doing things, it just requires some thorough research, cooperation between organisations and smart long term development strategies.
So why make a website about Sustainable Energy?
This site is only a small part of the process. It is a central hub of information, sustainable resources and links to environmentally friendly business. There is so much damning of the big polluters, yet little praise of the sustainable ones doing it tough in financially uncertain times. If this site can boost revenue and exposure for those promoting research and growth in the sustainable energy field then it has made a small positive difference.
In addition to maintaining this site, I also have been involved a little with the Western Australian group Sustainable Energy Now. If you haven't heard of this group then you must have a look now even if you are not from WA. There is a wealth of important research information on their site about the sheer availability of renewable energy in WA, and yet the lack of economic and political inertia towards making it a reality.
Electric ConversionLastly I am very interested in Electric Vehicles. It is a project on the cards as soon as I can get some funds together to repair my hail damaged vehicle and buy the necessary parts for conversion. In 2007, through an introduction to EV's through my friend, I realised how our society would become electrified and how electric vehicles were the missing link to a variety of research and development. The combination of electric vehicles as electric storage, sustainable energy and smart metering will shape our future, and every day I see new momentum towards this future reality.
Why not apply for a grant?
Many have asked me this over the years, however I have as yet been unsuccessful with almost a dozen grant applications. I see a lot of money go towards education these days, which is a great concept in principle, however there must be some sort of follow through and reinforcement on this spending otherwise the money is wasted. Often committees in a position to offer financial support take the easy road due to accountability. If someone offers a grant to an individual, then there will be questions asked if nothing comes of it no matter how great the reward, yet education seems to always be an acceptable use of funds, even though many of the educated can find them selves sound on inspiration and initiative but short on support to develop those ideas.
In fact I have spent so much time writing grant applications that I may aswell have spent that time on developing all my ideas, which is what I am hoping to do now. The other thing I have noticed is that in many cases these green grants will be well disguised marketing campaigns used to draw attention to a company or organisation. Often we see things like "$10,000 to fit school with fluorescent light bulbs" which is great of course, but there is little research value in such a strategy, and that money could sometimes be used much more effectively, say in improving insulation or managing switching times of air conditioners in the school to counter demand.
What is my vision?
2 years ago I did some extensive travelling around Europe, and whilst overseas I took the time to visit several energy museums and centres. I visited the sustainable energy centre in Vienna, which was like an adults version of SciTech with excellent information and exhibits. One day I hope Perth (WA) to be renowned for its sustainable energy portfolio and that there can be a similar centre for sustainable development where people could come and visit the latest and greatest green Perth innovations. It would almost be ironic to see one of the worlds worst emitters per capita do a backflip and become one of the cleaner ones, and it would promote a whole new industry after the mining boom resides. WA is home to some extraordinary research, ideas and innovations, many of which have come from the challenges of mining minerals and natural gas in our arid north WA regions. Why not do some value adding and promote sustainable growth, and become a world leader in the export of sustainability solutions and carbon credits? That is if we ever become part of a global emission trading scheme.
The one thing I hate more than a business or person who proudly lives unsustainably with little regard to the environment is one who does this whilst promoting the fallacy that they are the opposite in order to save face in the media, those who voted for them or their peers. I see examples of this every day from businesses, political parties and governments. The point of being green is not to feel good or maintain face to the media, it is to actually make a balanced difference towards our sustainable goals. There are far too many giving an inch and taking a mile. These are some of the kind of things that I am talking about:
- Adding the line "please consider the environment before printing this email" to the bottom of every inhouse and outgoing email the result being that printed emails sometimes come out with an extra page.
- People who use green shopping bags yet choose unsustainable foods, overly packaged foods, or throw out food that goes off frequently (I would rather you just used a plastic bag and bought more sustainably as this would have a far smaller impact on the environement
- Companies that destroy an environment whether it be through leeching heavy metals into rivers, maintaining open cut mines with little rehabilitation effort - yet donate money to community events and environmental preservation programs - giving an inch and taking a mile is not s sustainable approach
- Those that make unsustainable decisions so that they look good on paper, yet actually have done the opposite through achieving this. As an example an unnamed company purchased additional parts to stockpile so that the percentage of contamination leakage per quantity of parts sat below the legislated requirement instead of fixing the problem causing the leakage
Think of how often you hear how green everyone is being now compared to say 5 years ago, yet if you look at the statistics, our pollution, emissions, and energy use has accelerated. This is largely due to greenwash, loopholes in legislation and a poor appreciation of what sustainability actually means.
Can we afford to change? What about jobs?
I have grown up in Albany, WA which used to be home to one of the worlds largest whaling centers. The humpback whales were almost extinct at the peak of operations and changes were made. Around this time the town was divided over the option to close the whaling operations as many feared that Albany would be no more if one of its main industries closed. Of course there was short term economic slowing, but people retrained in other work and now the city is a thriving growing place to live. The same fear is going through everyone's mind when we talk about closing mines, coal fired power stations, introducing environmental taxes and reducing pollution and emissions. We may lose jobs, but so many will be gained, and these jobs will be far more secure in the future as the world changes.
In Australia we have been a victim of urban sprawl and our own success, which leaves some tough decisions. Let's hope our generation and those in positions of power can make smart and ethical ones which don't rob us of a sustainable and renewable future.
What can we do?
Here are some basics:
- Look into the facts and do a bit of reading about where the things you buy come from. Choose your purchases sensibly and slowly there will be new products on the shelves meeting a new demand
- Do an energy audit on your home, or simply use your energy smarter. Put a jumper on instead of your heater, put sheets up to isolate air flow between rooms you are not using, get into the habit of living a minimalistic life
- Convert your car to electric and build some solar panels for your roof. A significant capital investment which will pay off both economically and environmentally
- write letters to politicians and reps, write to community papers, join Facebook pages about protecting natural resources, make blogs and websites to promote a sustainable future and expose the truth of unsustainable actions
- If you are in a positive financial position then consider forgoing some of that wealth to make a difference. There are a number of organisations run by people with no money who are putting in an incredible amount of work to get us back on track and they could really use your support in what ever form it comes.
- Just talk about it! Word of mouth is incredibly powerful. If you tell a few people at work that the government is planning to put a highway through a precious wetland, then they may tell 10 people and so on. Before you know it, the person or parties making reckless decisions based on short term profit will be voted out!
Lastly, enjoy the ride and have fun with it! There are too many people down in the dumps because of how badly things seem to be going sometimes. Try and stay focused, positive and believe that there are better ways of doing things, and people will want to see and make changes and preserve our environment, economy and growth for many generations to come.
Fashion and social attitude is a big part of the process, I mean just go to Germany and you can really appreciate how different it feels being surrounded with a large majority of individuals with respect for their surroundings. Happiness is infectious, if you smile and have fun doing things differently and being the change you want to see in the world then people will want to get on board.
And remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it, so let's make it a good one!