Victoria bans the bag

Victoria bans the bag

The Andrews Labor government has announced it will ban single-use, lightweight plastic shopping bags in Victoria.

Experience in other jurisdictions shows that banning lightweight plastics can lead to undesirable results, including increased use of heavier duty plastics, which can have an even greater environmental impact.

That is why the Labor government will work with the community on how to best manage plastic pollution, and deliver a workable scheme that doesn’t unfairly impact on consumers, retailers, industry or the environment.

“We will work closely with Victorian communities and businesses to design the ban; we’re proud that we’re doing our bit to reduce the impact plastic bags have on our environment,” said Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio.

Plastics in the environment break up into smaller and smaller pieces over time, becoming increasingly difficult to manage. They can end up in our waterways, lakes and oceans — contributing to litter and posing a significant hazard to our marine life.

Reducing the number of plastic bags we use is an important part of addressing the overall impacts of plastic pollution in Victoria.

“Banning single-use plastic bags will slash waste, reduce litter and help protect marine life in Victoria’s pristine waters,” said D’Ambrosio.

The 2015/16 Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index reported that Victoria has the lowest litter count in the country for the fifth year in a row.

The Victorian Budget 2017/18 builds on this success, providing $30.4 million over four years in new funding to improve the ways we manage waste and recover resources.

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Clean Energy Innovation Fund and Right Click Capital invest in Redback Technologies

Clean Energy Innovation Fund and Right Click Capital invest in Redback Technologies
Redback inverter sky

Investment firm Right Click Capital and the Clean Energy Innovation Fund have announced an investment of $8.99 million into renewable energy start-up Redback Technologies, as part of its Series A-2 capital raising round.

The equity investment supports Redback’s innovative approach to the development and integration of innovative smart software and hardware technologies to optimise the generation, storage and management of solar energy for households and businesses.

The Innovation Fund — which uses finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to invest in innovative clean energy companies and projects — has committed $6.42 million to Redback. Right Click Capital’s Growth Fund, which invests in early-stage, high-growth tech businesses in the Asia–Pacific region, has meanwhile invested $2.57 million, and will also contribute its specialist experience to support Redback’s expansion in Australia and the wider Asia–Pacific region.

Redback Technologies Founder and Managing Director Philip Livingston said the investment will allow Redback to expand its R&D capabilities, accelerate development of its smart software suite and strengthen its technical and professional workforce by over 30 full-time employees in the next six months.

“This investment will enable us to further develop our next-generation energy intelligence platform and devices and further cement our vision to ensure Australian households and businesses are entirely powered by renewables,” he said.

“Redback’s smart software uses machine learning to predict solar generation and customer usage, using inputs like weather data, and then makes intelligent decisions on how to use energy to achieve the best outcome for customers. Its capabilities ensure effective management of energy at the customer’s site, resulting in lower bills and a reduction in fossil fuel reliance.”

Redback’s Smart Hybrid System embeds a high level of energy intelligence and the ability to control loads into a streamlined hybrid solar PV inverter and battery enclosure at a disruptive price point, driving down energy costs for end users by optimising energy usage. The company’s software also enables thousands of systems to be aggregated to form a virtual power plant to provide grid services, demand response and support the increased integration of renewables into the grid.

Right Click Capital Partner Benjamin Chong said, “The inherent inefficiencies within the energy sector in Australia make it ripe for disruption. Redback Technologies is uniquely positioned to seize this opportunity, with the power to provide everyday Australians with an alternative, low-cost solution to energy generation, storage and consumption.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht added, “We’re proud to get behind Australian innovation that helps Australian households and businesses make better use of their rooftop solar and battery storage, improve efficiency and save on energy costs.”

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2020 sustainablity goals on target at Brambles

2020 sustainablity goals on target at Brambles

Brambles commits to achieving zero wood waste and plastic waste to landfill by 2020. This is one of the goals included in the company’s Better Business, Better Planet, Better Communities sustainability program. The goals have been closely aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The global supply-chain logistics company has now published a review that includes updates on CHEP and IFCO’s sustainability program and its progress towards its 2020 Sustainability Goals.

Brambles Head of Global Sustainability Juan Jose Freijo said: “This has been another fantastic year for sustainability at Brambles, in which we have continued our excellent progress towards our 2020 goals.”

Examples of Brambles’ achievements reported in the 2017 Sustainability Review include:

Better Business

Brambles operates a circular business model, specialising in the sharing and re-use of unit load equipment, including more than 590 million pallets, crates and containers. In FY17, customers’ use of CHEP and IFCO platforms saved 1.6 million trees, 2.5 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions and 1.4 million metric tonnes of solid waste. Brambles also initiated transport collaboration projects with over 200 customers to remove 64.7 million empty truck kilometres from the world’s supply chains.

Better Planet

In FY17, 99.1% of the timber used by CHEP came from certified sources. Brambles also eliminated plastic waste and raw material costs by recycling 22,600 tonnes of end-of-life plastic materials into new CHEP plastic pallets and IFCO re-usable plastic crates. Brambles operations also achieved a 7.8% reduction in carbon emissions per unit and 14.3% of the electricity it consumed came from renewable sources.

Better Communities

Brambles supports food rescue organisations, educational opportunity and environmental restoration projects by providing volunteers, corporate sponsorship and in-kind donations. All permanent Brambles, IFCO and CHEP employees have access to three days of paid volunteer leave every year. In total, Brambles’ FY17 community investments were worth over US$4,376,000, a 44% increase from FY16.

“Our commitment to sustainability is at the very heart of everything we do. Through the successful combination of our circular, ‘share and re-use’ business model, global scale and supply chain expertise, we are able to reduce operating costs and demand for natural resources, both in our own company and a cross the world’s supply chains,” concluded Freijo.

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how does Melbourne meet its future water needs?

how does Melbourne meet its future water needs?
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Sustainability Matters asked AECOM’s Water Resource Practice leader, Melanie Collett, about future urban water security challenges from a local perspective.

Is there a risk that there will be insufficient water supplies in Melbourne to meet the needs of the predicted future population growth? If so, when?

Melanie Collett (MC): The recently released Melbourne Water System Strategy suggests that water supplies will need to be supplemented sometime within the next 50 years to meet the growing population in Melbourne. Water supply is dependent on two things: the amount of water (supply) and the use of water (demand). Insufficient water supply occurs when the demand is greater than the supply.

There are many ways to mitigate this problem including increasing supply or decreasing demand. Melbourne’s current water is mostly sourced from rainfall in the water supply catchments, which is stored in our large reservoirs. One of the biggest risks to supply going forward is the impact of climate change, which may reduce runoff in the catchment, which may reduce water supplies. Land use changes such as urbanisation, natural rainfall variability (droughts) and degraded water quality (due to bushfires) can also impact on water supplies.

The demand for water increases with population growth, but can be reduced through education campaigns and the use of alternative water sources for non-potable water requirements such as toilet flushing and outdoor use.

On the supply side, alternative water sources may be used to supplement the current potable water from catchments. These alternative sources include desalination, stormwater harvesting and recycled water from treatment plants. With each of these alternative water sources, treatment is required to improve the quality of water to make it suitable for use.

When will we run out of water? — We can’t say for certain. This will depend on both the supply and demand of potable water. Water authorities such as Melbourne Water are constantly modelling different scenarios of both supply and demand to predict what could happen in the future and plan for any eventuality.

Monitoring of the catchment conditions, supply and demand against the plan can help decision-makers to refine the plans as changes become apparent. Implementation of the changes to the plans is required to ensure that we don’t run out of water.

How is climate change expected to exacerbate the demands on water resources and how can this be counteracted?

MC: Current science estimates that temperatures in Australia could increase by four degrees by 2100. This increase in temperature will cause many changes to our environment. These changes include drier soil conditions, increased evaporation and less rain in winter, which all lead to less runoff in the water supply catchments.

These same changes could lead to more bushfires. Bushfires can have significant impacts on water supply — including decreased water quality straight after a bushfire due to the ash. In the years after a bushfire, as the trees are recovering and regrowing, they need more water, which will reduce the amount of runoff in the catchment. Research indicates that it can take up to 100 years for water supply to return to pre-fire levels.

Other changes include more intense rain and sea-level rise, which both lead to more severe flooding in low-lying areas. This will cause more damage to infrastructure and risk to human life. For example, we currently build our houses above the 1-in-100 flood level, which is equivalent to a flood that occurs on average once every 100 years. By 2100, this flood level could be caused by a 1-in-20 or 1-in-50 flood, and we could have up to five of them every 100 years.

Higher temperatures also mean decreased water quality and more algae blooms. This is a risk to human health and can lead to more costly water quality treatment. Higher temperatures also lead to increased demand for water for drinking and recreation.

Sea-level rise will lead to higher groundwater levels and higher salinity in our soil and water. This can have several impacts including increased corrosion, which would lead to decreased asset life, which would increase the cost of maintenance of in-ground assets like sewers, drains and water supply pipes.

In Victoria, the water infrastructure sector is one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of climate change. It is estimated that the sector contributes 24% of the total Victorian Government emissions.

The only way we can reduce the impacts of climate change is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The Victorian Government has set a target of net-zero by 2050, with the potential to offset using carbon sequestration.

The catch-22 is that many water recycling options are energy intensive, which could increase greenhouse gas emissions. We need to find ways to integrate water-saving and energy-saving measures rather than looking at them in isolation, otherwise emissions could increase to meet higher water demand rather than reducing.

Another way that we can counteract the impacts of climate change is to reduce the losses in the water supply system. This includes reducing evaporation from open water storages, reducing transmission losses in open channels and reducing leakage in pipes.  Every bit of water that we can save will help make our water supplies last longer.

Do you think that technology could help to ensure Australia’s future water security? If so, how and what types of technology could be utilised by the water industry?

MC: Technology is critical in enabling the water industry to meet the future water supply and demand challenges. We need to find more efficient ways to do things. This means we need more data, more modelling and analysis, more research and smarter ways to treat water.

The biggest challenge going forward will be to improve water quality. Finding ways to treat stormwater and wastewater for re-use and recycling, using cost and energy-efficient methods.

What other types of solutions could be implemented to ensure Australia’s water security?

MC: Integrated solutions are required to address the issue of reduced supply and increased demand for water. The Victorian Government is investigating the best mix of legislative, regulatory, financial and market based incentives to do this. This includes the establishment of the Integrated Water Management Framework.

The traditional methods used by the water authorities to address water supply and demand problems won’t be effective in the future.  The water authorities need to work with local, state and federal government agencies, industry, private developers, community groups and domestic consumers to make a change. Solutions will vary in scale from household rainwater tanks to precinct-scale stormwater harvesting systems and sewer mining all the way through to recycling wastewater and large-scale stormwater harvesting. We need to address both the supply and demand issues in a way that does not increase the cost of water or level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Are there any specific solutions that could be implemented to meet the water demands from industry?

MC: There are many options that industry can investigate to modify their water supply, use and demands. Each industry and business will have differing water supply demands and uses, requiring an individual review to identify methods of firstly reducing potable water usage, then seeking alternative sources for non-potable uses. Water supply solutions could be at any scale from a small single rainwater tank through to a precinct-wide integrated water management solution such as that proposed for the Doncaster Hill development in Melbourne.

This could result in more cost- and energy-effective solutions for industry if implemented appropriately.

How will our cities ensure water sharing is fair and equitable for the future?

MC: In our modern Australian society, access to fresh, clean water is a basic human right. This principle underpins our current water policy and the actions of governments and water authorities. However, at present, potable water is used in many applications where it is not essential and non-potable sources could be used. As demand grows and supply of potable water is constrained, policy and legislation will evolve to ensure essential potable uses can be supplied and other uses moved to non-potable water sources.

Updates to policy and legislation are crucial in this transition. We will also need to exploit alternative sources of water supply, and integrated water management. The natural alternative is the desalinated sea water, but this is energy intensive so it will only be economically and environmentally viable if the energy source driving the desalination process is renewable.

Clean, fresh water is essential for people and the environment, to maintain our current health and livability standards.

In the UK, water authorities are moving to more natural solutions for water quality treatment and flood mitigation works. The natural flood risk management project in York is a great example of this. By increasing the natural storages, recharging groundwater aquifers and revegetating the waterways and catchments, they can reduce the risk of flooding on the Rivers Ouse and Foss.

Revegetation of the catchments and waterways has many benefits, from improving water quality to reducing flood impacts and reducing the impact of the urban heat island effect. Then there is the benefit of storing carbon to combat the increase in greenhouse gas. Revegetation of rural catchments and urban areas is essential and has a multitude of benefits. Care needs to be taken not to reduce the capacity of waterways in doing this.

How does leadership thinking need to change in order to respond to water security challenges of the future?

MC: We need to understand that this problem requires a long-term plan and long-term investment. By investing in integrated water management solutions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can make our limited supply of clean, fresh water last longer. This will also make our waterways and catchments healthier and more resilient to climate change, flooding and fire. This will come at a cost though, and the price of water may increase to cover the costs associated with the treatment, storage and transfer of water in the future.

Water-sensitive cities require detailed planning, monitoring and implementation. This will ultimately improve the livability of our cities and the health and happiness of residents.

Melanie Collett, Associate Director, AECOM, leads the company’s Water Resources practice. Released for World Water Week, CDP’s infographic report ‘Who’s tackling urban water challenges’, produced in partnership with AECOM and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, shows a comprehensive dataset of global water action by cities and companies. Using information gathered from 569 cities and 1432 companies, each reporting their water management activity, it illustrates how global cities and companies are responding to the escalating challenge of climate change and urban population growth.

Image credit: ©

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Call for papers now open for 2018 Irrigation Australia conference

Call for papers now open for 2018 Irrigation Australia conference
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The 2018 Irrigation Australia International Conference, to be held from 13–15 June at ICC Sydney, has opened its call for papers.

According to Irrigation Australia CEO Bryan Ward, the conference theme of ‘Addressing the Big Issues’ will focus on topics such as energy provision and affordability, urban water policy and reform, infrastructure development and drought-management strategies. The Abstract Review Panel is looking for submissions that reflect these topics, Ward said, though it will consider all abstracts submitted.

Ward encourages people to submit original papers addressing these big issues through solutions, research, innovative product insights, technology advances and industry case studies. Presentations can be oral seminars, workshops, panel discussions or posters. As a guide, Ward has outlined several subtopics for the event:

  • Agriculture: new technologies, wastewater and reclaimed water, micro-irrigation, drought and salinity management, water rights, transfers and mitigation, and site-specific irrigation and precision agriculture.
  • Turf and landscape: sports turf, alternative water resources, flow-sensing and water management, auditing and scheduling, low-impact development irrigation, plant factors and the landscaper’s role.
  • Key national areas: the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, National Water Infrastructure Development, urban water policy and reform, developing Northern Australia and Tasmania-specific issues.
  • Future planning: issues surrounding supply and demand, energy affordability, sustainability and education and training.
  • International matters: case studies, research and innovative projects.

“The conference audience will be diverse, covering every aspect of Australia’s irrigation industry,” said Ward. “We are looking for concise, informative abstracts, so the committee can properly understand what the paper offers.”

Ward also revealed some of the keynote speakers who have recently been announced for the event:

“This event brings together irrigators, suppliers, equipment manufacturers, researchers, water supply organisations, advisors, government officials and policymakers from across the rural and urban irrigation industries,” said Ali Mead, event director with conference organiser Exhibitions and Trade Fairs (ETF).

“It’s an opportunity for key people and companies who are committed to this important industry’s future to showcase their knowledge, solutions, products and services. I encourage people to submit their abstract for consideration.”

The closing date to submit abstracts is 27 October, with successful applicants set to be notified on 17 November. For more information on guidelines, and to submit abstracts via the portal, visit

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sonnen To Build Innovative Residential Energy Storage Community in the US

sonnen To Build Innovative Residential Energy Storage Community in the US


Soon 3,000 homes in Prescott, Arizona will produce, store, and share their own power in sonnen’s newest US project with Mandalay Homes.

Each home in the new community will have solar PV and a sonnenBatterie installed, enabling every household to produce and consume most of its own electricity, according to sonnen.

The energy storage systems will be interconnected and able to communicate with each other using the same technology that is already used for power sharing in the German “sonnenCommunity.”

Together the homes will serve as a virtual power plant with a capacity of 23 MWh and output of 11.6 MW. The batteries can store energy during peak production times and then feed it back into the grid later when consumption is very high. In addition, the sonnen-City will also be able to contribute to the public power grid.

“This is the city of the future, a place where all residents produce, store and share their own energy,” said Philipp Schröder, Managing Director of Sales and Marketing at sonnen.

The sonnenBatteries is also able to interact with a smart home controller to store solar power as well as distribute it to each home’s air conditioning systems, lighting, and other power consumers such as pool pumps, according to the company.

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Read more: Letter from the Editor: If We Could Talk to the Batteries

Lead image: sonnenbatterie in a German home. Credit: sonnen.

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UK’s First Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Up and Running

UK’s First Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Up and Running

Editor’s Take:

The project also incorporates Batwind, a 1-MWh lithium battery storage facility that Statoil will use to test the viability of energy storage coupled with offshore wind. 

Floating wind is important to watch, and Renewable Energy World will keep an eye on developments in this exciting offshore wind space.

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Are you part of the the growing offshore wind industry? If so, we’d love to have you speak at our Offshore Wind Executive Summit, taking place in September 2018 in Houston, Texas. You can propose your topic idea at this link.

Video of the Making of Hywind Scotland

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Nigeria Asks World Bank, IMF to Scale up Renewable Energy

Nigeria Asks World Bank, IMF to Scale up Renewable Energy

renewable energy
Editor’s Take:

As reported by Nigeria Electricityhub, the financing of infrastructure to support renewables was discussed at a G24 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Washington D.C.

Of note was a call from the ministers and governors for Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to deliver on their ‘Joint Declaration of Aspirations on Actions to Support Infrastructure Investments’ to help develop new risk mitigation instruments and infrastructure investment as an asset class. That joint declaration included a commitment from the African Development Bank Group of $7.3 billion in 2017 and $6 billion in 2018 for infrastructure.

Other MDBs include Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank.

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Those banks are part of a growing financial network dedicated to funding climate initiatives.

Climate finance is a critical and ongoing issue for those countries that are committed to the Paris Agreement but also are financially insecure. Green & Resilience Banks reported in 2016 that $13 trillion in investments is required just to meet the pledges made by countries supporting the Paris Agreement. 

More Reading

Power Crisis in Nigeria: Technology, Policy or Citizens?

The Year of Climate Finance: 2017 Outlook

Banks Pledge $7BN to Scale Up Clean Energy Investment

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The Effect of Natural Disasters on Electricity Prices

The Effect of Natural Disasters on Electricity Prices


Solar leasing promoters have long claimed that electricity costs will keep rising, but we haven’t see this happening – yet.  Actually, almost all of the standard generation sources are benefiting from lower costs – natural gas is low, coal is low, and nuclear is… well it’s not dramatically more expensive than it has been. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that prices are going to go up.

So why do I say that the prices are going to go up?  Three reasons – and they have nothing to do with generation: deferred maintenance, retrofits, and liability expenditures. These are structural and market issues that have nothing to do with the price of fuel sources. The recent dramatic weather events (which are only going to get worse) highlight just how these factors are coming to the forefront. 

Let’s take a look at these three items in light of recent events: fires, hurricanes, and re-expansions in the grid.

California Fires.  Remember a few years back there were devastating fires in San Bruno from a ruptured gas line, that in retrospect had needed upgrading and maintenance? Just this month, there have been equally devastating fires across quiet neighborhoods that would have never worried about fire damage.  In both these cases, it looks like the grid and power infrastructure needed substantial maintenance and retrofits to upgrade and accident-proof the network. The costs for these are in terms of 10’s of billions, and these costs are passed on to the consumer. 

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Hurricanes. Consider the hurricanes that have devastated regions and left them without power. There has been massive mobilization of resources to restore power, and in places like Puerto Rico, to start from scratch. Rebuilding will be extraordinarily costly and those costs will have to be paid for sooner or later. 

Sadly, however, events like these are becoming less “extra” ordinary, and more just ordinary.  To build a sustainable grid means building power substations that can withstand flooding, erecting power lines that won’t be blown over, etc.  These all come with a substantial price tag.  There is a scientific study looking at flooding in the mid-Atlantic states and just how many of the power stations would be incapacitated by just moderate flooding.  It’s not a pretty picture.

The retrofit costs to aging power generating facilities are expected to go into the 100’s of billions, and that is with using the same fuel sources.  Once you talk about retrofitting the transmission grid, then costs go up, literally, by the mile.

If it becomes clear that wires in trees and older transformers were the ultimate cause of the Calif. fires, this will highlight that deferred maintenance and the need for retrofitting are crucial requirements.

Then of course there is the legal liabilities that may result from either the power disasters, or from the lawsuits that can come along, which are also likely to increase. Liability expenses could change utilities in ways that are unknown – perhaps leading to smaller, regional power companies (that might well rely on microgrids).

Why We Should Be Investing in Microgrids

How do microgrids play into all of this? First, they can offer substantial savings compared to grid regeneration or refurbishing, and they become viable cost alternatives to the increased prices of grid electricity. 

Today in Brooklyn, ConEd has agreed to install a local microgrid to avoid a substation expansion – saving close to $1B, according to the utility.  This example shows that the microgrid is a win-win solution that benefits the community through local control and price management, and the utility-through saved costs.

Microgrids are not yet cheap enough to have one in every neighborhood, but the harbingers are already showing that they can provide cost-effective alternatives in a world with increasing weather disruption and utility bill price increases. 

Nothing like living on borrowed time or borrowed money.  At some point you gotta pay.

Lead image: California homes on fire. Credit:

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Listen Up: Running a Successful Local Solar Business

Listen Up: Running a Successful Local Solar Business


Large companies are predominant in most industries. But when it comes to rooftop solar installations, small is beautiful. Although there have been several large national-scale solar installers, in the aggregate the smaller, local companies dominate. As with most other construction businesses, local companies generally understand their local markets better and have lower overhead — enabling them to provide better customer service at lower prices.

On this week’s Energy Show we have the pleasure of speaking with Vince Battaglia, the CEO of Renova Solar. Renova started as Vince’s MBA thesis; eleven years later Renova is now the leading solar installation company in the Coachella Valley. Like many other local solar installation companies, Renova has expanded its residential solar installation business to include commercial installations, system maintenance and battery storage.

Granted, the Palm Desert area is blessed by an abundance of sunlight and high electric rates — a combination that is perfect for a thriving solar business. But dealing with the ups and downs of the Solar Coaster is challenging. For more about the challenges inherent in building and running a successful local solar business, Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World.

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About the Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices.

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

This podcast was originally produced by Spice Solar and was presented here with permission.

Lead image credit: Patrick Breitenbach | Flickr

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