SwitchedOn podcast on Energy Equity

Delighted to be on RenewEconomy & Boundless Earth SwitchedOn podcast kicking off a discussion of how to *truly* improve energy equity https://reneweconomy.com.au/switchedon-podcast-free-electricity-to-cover-essential-needs/

“A popular refrain of the renewable energy transition is it will deliver an energy system that is more democratic, as well as decarbonised. That the political power of generating energy will shift from big power companies to households, as a result of us being able to generate and control electrical power from our rooftop solar, batteries, electric vehicles, etc.

But this decentralised, democratic narrative isn’t a foregone conclusion…”

Response to Saul Griffith’s “The Wires That Bind”

This correspondence was originally published in the June 2023 edition of the Quarterly Essay, in response to the March 2023 edition by Saul Griffith.


While the pivotal role of electrification in decarbonisation has been understood for decades, it has rarely been described as vividly or enthusiastically as by Saul Griffith in The Wires That Bind. Griffith recognises that electrification is a story, at its heart, not about decarbonisation but about cleaning the air in our kitchens and streets, improving the liveability of our homes and communities, and “keeping wealth in our households and communities” – and nation. In short, electrification is a story about a better future.

While attuned to this human story of electrification, Griffith is, at heart, an engineer so it’s no surprise that The Wires That Bind is packed full of figures. Emissions are carved up, the grid is mapped and fossil machines are counted. This achieves Griffith’s goal of “clarity about the job in front of us” and complements his persuasive case for electrifying everything. The question that remains is: how can the transition best be accelerated and steered towards just and enduring outcomes?

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Community batteries are popular – but we have to make sure they actually help share power

New article in The Conversation today. Excerpt below.


The idea is for these batteries to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills while benefiting all energy users nearby, rather than only those with access to rooftop solar. These are great ambitions – small wonder they’ve proven a hit.

But the success of these batteries is far from certain.

Over the last four years, our research has found two areas we have to fix to maximise the chances these batteries actually do what we want them to do.

First, we need greater clarity on how we decide whether community batteries are a good investment.

Second, we need better measurement and evaluation of what these batteries actually contribute to the grid and to energy users.


In a new discussion paper, this article’s lead author argues the primary purpose of community batteries ought to be addressing constraint in the local electricity grid. This reiterates a consistent finding from our research.

While this sounds reasonable, community batteries aren’t the only option to fix local grid issues. That means we should only turn to them where they are clearly better than the alternatives, such as upgrading transformers.

What about storing solar and shoring up the grid? These tasks may be done more efficiently and with less environmental impact with grid-scale batteries, pumped hydro or electric vehicle batteries.

And what about sharing the benefits of solar with people who can’t afford an array or who have nowhere to put one? While this vision is in line with public sentiment, the complexity of the privatised energy system makes it very difficult to redistribute financial benefits.

Community batteries are also no panacea for the desire of people to see and be included in national planning for the decarbonisation transition. An inclusive planning process can address uncertainties in how the transition will affect us and our communities and ensure it upholds public values.

Time will tell if the newly announced Net Zero Authority will deliver this.

Yahoo news: Call for energy rules, not cheap loans, for landlords

Home owners may welcome cheap loans for double-glazing or battery-ready solar but making negative gearing conditional on upgrades has been suggested as more effective for landlords.

Research shows up front costs are not the largest barrier to rental property investments in solar, and it may be the same for energy upgrades, energy expert Bjorn Sturmberg has warned.

Property investors do not believe spending money on new energy sources and appliances will get them higher rents – that’s the biggest barrier, Dr Sturmberg said on Wednesday.

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Solar for renters: Investigating investor perspectives of barriers and policies

New research from a collaboration with ANU policy and economics experts has just been published in Energy Policy – available free of charge here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421523000022

The policy implications of our findings are summarised below.

Policy interventions that seek to redress the near exclusion of rental properties from solar PV face a delicate balance in both perceptions and impacts: creating benefits for tenants, who may be worried about having to pay higher rents, without overly benefiting property investors, who are relatively wealthy.

The core policy implication of our study is that policies that focus primarily on addressing high upfront costs (as have historically been used) are likely to be limited in their reach. The BWS survey indicated that respondent property investors are on average concerned that they would be unable to benefit from installing solar PV by charging higher rents.

Correcting information asymmetries by focusing policies on mechanisms to make the value of solar more visible to all parties in the market could be a means to release policymakers from the loaded challenge of balancing the incentives offered to property investors and the benefits flowing to tenants.

One way through which to increase visibility of the value of solar PV is through active monitoring and disclosure of the performance of solar PV systems to the rental market (providing the market with assurance that a system is operating well). This is most effective when the value is presented in tangible financial (dollar) terms, rather than more abstract ratings such as energy efficiency stars.

Woodford Folk Festival 2022-23

I had a wonderful time at the Woodford Folk Festival over the summer. I can now confirm that it’s no less fun with a toddler than childless! So much excitement and good vibes all around.

I gave an hour long presentation on “Watt’s in store for the energy system?” in the main festival, with special guest Prof Ian Lowe, as well as spending an hour doing some readings of Amy’s Balancing Act in the children’s festival. Both were very fun and engaging with the switched on crowds.

My slides for the adult presentation are below, together with a few pics – more on instagram

The clean energy revolution isn’t a techno-fix – it needs to be guided by communities’ local needs

New piece in The Conversation

Context is everything

Under the previous federal government, Australia’s approach to emissions reduction was narrow and technology-centred.

The new Labor government – elected on the promise of climate action – has the opportunity to move to a community-based approach. This should ensure any new infrastructure integrates with people’s lives, values, and aspirations.

Such an approach requires proponents and funding bodies (both government and private) to genuinely listen to communities’ needs – right from the early design stage.

If local circumstances are not considered, a trial can be plagued with problems.

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