Ironically (see the top and bottom positions of the chart), I spent the first 40% of my life in Norway where things do get proper cold as opposed to in Australia where it's accepted to just have a heater pumping hot air through literal slits in the building (e.g. 0.5cm gaps under the external doors, that sort of nonsense), resulting in houses that are never properly comfortable at horrific expense. Yet in Norway the houses are actually insulated for deep, real winters and don't even need active heating at the temperatures costing Australians a fortune (eg 5-15c). I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get single glaced windows in Norway (because it's actually illegal to use), yet here it's a "luxury" item which is priced as you'd expect when not a standard. This gets my blood boiling (hey, free heating).
On a side note, I just started ETH mining on a Pascal GPU, and can still turn a profit. If I still lived in Norway I'd buy a lot of GPUs..
My family back home couldn't believe I'd walk around my apartment in shorts and a t-shirt with bare feet on floorboards and tiles in Sweden during winter. Turning on the heater in my apartment made you sweat when it was around -15 degrees celsius outside.
Australian's have a similar complex about wearing appropriate clothing during winter. Everyone complains about how cold it is, while wearing a light jumper or t-shirt in winter, even though it's no where near as cold as other countries.
The truth is that fixing these problems is going to be expensive. Governments are just kicking the can down the road because they don't want to be the ones that raise taxes to pay for it (fixing existing houses I mean). But it will have to be done.
Maybe the biggest tragedy is that we are still building NEW houses that will have to be fixed in the future (except in the above countries and some others I no doubt missed). Not mandating higher standards is, however, just loading future generations with more debt, because they will be the ones that have to fix the quality of the housing stock.
(FWIW, Sweden's neighbours like Norway, Finland and Denmark also have houses where it's warm inside in the winter without horrific leaks. And yes, Iceland, even if it has practically free, abundant geothermic heating energy.)
(But what horrifies me in England is not the wind through walls and puny glazing, it's the carpets in bathrooms, including around toilet seat. Experiences are not recent, though, so perhaps they've changed?)
I was referring to retrofit, sorry for not being clear.
Also, the costs are not passed on to customers. Very few houses in the history of the world have been priced according to what it cost to build. The market sets the price.
Carpets in bathrooms is a kind of baby boomer 1970/80s thing I think - plenty of it still about. Check the corners of the room where condensation pours down the wall into the carpet... after a few years you get a nice dark grey brown mould line.
But still, it's not the government that carries this cost.
Retrofit cost goes to government if the government decides to subsidize it. I live in Finland, which is considerably colder than Britain, not to mention Australia, and here the requirement for insulation is simply mandatory in building permits (which is required also for major renovation, not just new houses).
There are no real subsidies for this. Also, there are no heating grants which I hear are a thing in the UK (and a thing big enough to have an impact on how people vote).
Whether insulation is actually installed? Who cares about that - quarterly dividend payments all round.
Normally, doing that would be additional work and additional cost, so if they do it, there must be a real reason.
There's a lot of folksy wisdom in the UK building trade about natural ventilation (which isn't really true). Many builders will deliberately expose small gaps because they have not been properly educated. Having gaps gives poor ventilation - it becomes dependent on ambient pressure differentials which are difficult to control.
All of these are excuses for poor design and workmanship in the first place.
This might seem like more work for minimum wage labourers on site, but it's less work for highly paid designers, so it costs less. But costing is a difficult thing to sum because it's a complex supply chain with opportunities for efficiency all over. It's just that the volume builders (in particular) have a conservative interest in keeping the status quo, and carrying on without rocking the boat.
> Newer housing surely has better insulation
You only really know if you test and measure.
On the other hand I can run a homelab at home and don't feel bad about wasting electricity - I need to heat my apartment, anyway.
Say what now? Is the UK the only western country you've visited? because what they describe for Australia is not the rule of mainland western europe, serious insulation and at least double paned windows was the standard in the 90s.
And all that doesn't help with ventilation and maintaining healthy levels of fresh air.
Noone is a bad generalisation here. There are designers and builders who do know and do care - you just pay extra for the design and extra for materials. If you get a project house on a new estate (like lots of people do)... you're basically getting cheap and simple result that's cheap and simple.
Source: talking to a designer about just that.
Most investment properties are done on the cheap, shifting the cost asymmetrically to the renters - cross ref the whole negative gearing debate and all.
Minimum standards need to be increased dramatically, yet very little is happening. When some of the earlier Energy Star "standards" were released a few years back, they were just a bad joke - eg door gaps still came part and parcel, however you'd get like a "solar water heating" checkbox.
It will probably feel useless because it won't make a difference right away, but it's got a better chance of a good outcome eventually than a rant on HN.
I know I froze to death one year in a very cold flat which I couldn't heat with a 1 or 2 cm gap under the doors. Every time I'd cook I'd cut myself because my hands were too numb to control the knife. (The rest of the time it was okay because I'd just wrap up under my doona on the couch or wherever.) Now I live over a bakery in an old building so there's lots of old heat and heavier construction keeping it tolerably warm.
We do spend a bit on air conditioning (we sometimes get several days in a row over 40C) but the difference between winter and summer bills is not that great. Our bills are still very high. We have just replaced our fridge and water heater and I am hoping newer, more efficient appliances will help.
> "Rapid changes in power output from VRE generation need to be balanced with generation technology that has
the ability to increase (ramp up) or decrease (ramp down) power output at the same time. Gas-fired generators
have the ability to ‘fast ramp’. Most of Australia’s coal-fired generators do not"
In America the EIA's latest energy outlook projects a (gentle) decline in coal usage out to 2040. This is a pretty conservative government agency.
I really don't understand the obsession with coal.
 - http://www.environment.gov.au/energy/publications/electricit...
 - https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/
Apparently it does cool the atmosphere though, so it's good against global warming.
In case it's not: particulates do indeed cool the Earth. This mitigates the warming effect of CO2 emissions to an extent. The problem is that particulates don't last very long in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 lasts centuries.
To maintain a constant level of cooling, you have to keep burning more coal, which steadily increases the atmospheric concentration of CO2, which steadily increases warming. Before long you'll have overcome the cooling effect entirely and will be on a steady path to increased warmth.
Whatsupwiththat.com is a notorious climate change denial site, and the second sentence in the Wikipedia page you linked says:
This hypothesis had little support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s and press reports that did not accurately reflect the full scope of the scientific climate literature, which showed a larger and faster-growing body of literature projecting future warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, if your goal is diversity, that requires me to consider one's cultural background before discriminating against them. Why wouldn't you do the same for masculine guys?
Specifically in the context of coal mining, while I appreciate that communities get built around it that doesn't mean it should be extended beyond wider economic and environmental sense. Coal mining is both dangerous and literally toxic for those involved, but somehow people not involved in it invoke its macho status.
Similar, in dating statistics it is very clear that women will preferential choose well earning men over low earning men. This pushes men in general to take high risk high reward professions.
Unless you redefine masculinity to include how people perceive and treat men you can't define it to be the causes for higher suicide rates and higher risk seeking.
People also have a habit of being very nostalgic about the coal industry. I never understood that. It's a pretty nasty dangerous occupation.
Ha. It's nicknamed the "sunburned country".
Coal mine not coal plant. AFAIK it'd mostly be for export (through Abbot Point and Hay Point, the former being very close to the Great Barrier Reef).
The actual report this comes from is here:
Note how they pick the one stat where AU prices are high. They say 'excluding taxes'.
Looking at the full report a lot of Australian prices INCLUDING TAX are actually fairly cheap.
Australians in general are hesitant to use their AC or electric heaters, opting to just layer up when it's cold or try to use fans in the summer. Many (most?) households don't have clothes dryers, using clotheslines instead.
I would like to see how much energy the average Australian household consumes. I'm not sure how much consumption would go up if power got cheaper, but mine sure would... I really dislike being cold inside my own house. That said, I much prefer living in Australia to the U.S., especially while raising a family.
Why bother having a clothes dryer when for most of the year you can hang them up in the shade and they will be dry within the hour. There are only a couple of states/regions where it makes sense to use a clothes dryer. The blue mountains and I imagine Tasmania where it gets too cold to hang your clothes up in the winter.
> I would like to see how much energy the average Australian household consumes.
From memory for just myself in a small apartment I used around 9-12 kWh / day. That is rarely using the A/C but having at least one PC running 24/7.
Clothes get dry regardless of the temperature: if it's cold enough, the water will freeze and then the ice sublimates into the lower-humidity atmosphere.
The temperature was only around 23c. In the same temperature in Melbourne, they dry in an hour or two.
Anecdotal, but I don't think I know a single person here who is hesitant to use heating/AC - could just be down to the people I know, but I get funny looks when I tell people just to wrap up.
Something that did surprise me here is the near-complete lack of double glazing. Everywhere I've lived has been thin single-glazed windows which just let out all of the heat/cold. It's bizarre.
I lived in Canberra, which sits in the middle of a valley so it got very cold in winter (for an Australian city) and uncomfortably hot in summer. Wikipedia tells me that lowest average low is −0.1 C in July and highest average high is 28 C in Jan. In winter heating was a necessity. And in summer owing to lack of any source of breeze AC was 'nice to have'.
I now live on the South Coast of NSW much more temperate climate 8 C to 26 C I use neither AC nor heating we have a nice coastal breeze most days during summer so is not actually that unpleasant. This is quite similar climate-wise to Sydney though you would not get cooling effect of coastal breeze if you lived there so A/c probably more desirable but I would say not essential.
The worst thing I see across the country is the lack of fly screens with security screens on them. I grew up in a house with them (Southern Queensland) and the were a fantastic and free way to moderate the temperature, you could leave them open all day when it's warm or just during the day during winter and not have to worry about people breaking in.
Are you suggesting these are bad things? I think they're positive however, it varies wildly across different locations and demographics.
Again, an average figure wouldn't be that insightful, as there are probably massive differences in different populations. Additionally, building standards change things considerably (presence or lack of insulation, double glazing, ceiling height, aspect) - certain eras and locations (often due to regulations) get these things right, others don't.
I'm not sure how much consumption would go up if power got cheaper, but mine sure would... I really dislike being cold inside my own house. That said, I much prefer living in Australia to the U.S., especially while raising a family.
As a local; yes it is a bad thing. I want cheap energy. Cheap access to energy is literally one of two things separating us from animals. The other thing is higher intelligence.
There is room for an ideological debate on the meaning of good, but this is an outcome of regulation that the government didn't push for and that the votes would not choose if they had to tick a box.
I didn't think I suggested these were bad things. Perhaps I was just over-generalising. I was just pointing out (badly) that my observations from living in Newcastle are different than my observations living in Southern California. I agree that they are positive.
A/C was limited to a single in-wall unit that was only to be used when outside shade temperature reached 95 F / 35 C. If you wanted to cool down, it was a fan or go for a swim.
Heat was whole-house, natural gas with floor registers, set to inside 65 F / 18 C max.
House had both fiberglass and blown insulation, automatic ridge-line roof venting, tall tree shade, multi-pane windows, weatherstripping, room isolation manual practices (door and register closing), etc. This was in the 1980's-1990's before "green" was standard practice, it was self-interested to save TCO money.
We have a clothes dryer in our home (in Australia), and have used it about once a year over the last 10 years. Usually only in an "emergency". Generally speaking it's always warm enough to dry laundry naturally here, which is why dryers are not so common.
> opting to just layer up when it's cold or try to use fans in the summer.
Insulation in Australian homes is generally terrible. I wish it were different. But I have rarely seen people hesitate to use a heater or AC.
Why is that?
2. Government support. If I lost my job I wouldn't have to worry about how to pay for health services. We're a healthy family, but peace of mind is great.
3. Government support. My 7 year old was diagnosed with mild ASD, ADHD and Dyslexia in Kindergarten. The National Disability Insurance Scheme has helped us pay for Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology and Psychology. She has very much thrived here, and we are grateful for it.
4. Professional environment. This might be anec-data (all of it might), but mine and my wife's workplaces are very flexible when it comes to taking care of family matters.
There are TONS of things I miss about living in Southern California (it still feels like home in many ways, good Mexican food, Disneyland, running my AC non-stop all Summer!, etc), but, for us, the pros outweigh the cons.
Isn't there a health program in the US (Medicaid?) specifically for people with limited/no income? Is it insufficient?
In general Australia has a lower crime rate than USA. Of course, there are absolutely areas within USA that would have a lower crime rate than certain areas of Australia.
- Health Care
Australia has well established free public health care that covers general illness, radiology, necessary surgeries, disabilities etc. Higher income earners are expected to also have private health insurance and are penalised in their taxes if they don't have it. However, if you're a low(er) income earner or simply prefer the public health system it works quite well.
There's also a pretty solid Welfare system if you are worried about income stability for whatever reason.
The free public education system is also quite good, although I'm unclear on how it compares to the USA.
Of course, there are also many benefits to living in the USA over Australia - particularly if you're working in the tech sector. There is a strong tech scene in Australian capital cities, but it's fairly quiet elsewhere. There's nothing comparable to Silicon Valley.
Depending on your business, the USA can also be a better place to start your own business - larger sales capacity (if you can deal with the fact States have very different taxation rules etc.) and significantly more VC opportunities (although Australia is slowly picking up its game).
Film and TV industries are also obviously miles behind LA or even New York. So if that's an industry you're interested in then USA is the place to be.
However, Australia seems to compare fairly favourably when raising a family is your biggest priority, say over career advancement.
I also feel like there was more pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" in SoCal. Mind you, I live in Newcastle, so I kinda avoid the housing problem that we have in Sydney and (now) Melbourne.
Also, foreigners that move here after the age of 35! We have private health cover as well and it's great.
LA gets 284 sunny days a year (which is a lot!). By comparison, Sydney gets 236,but Perth gets 265.
Here is a site listing Australian cities: https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Australia/Cities/suns...
Plenty of places hotter than LA if it is the heat you are interested in. Adelaide had a heatwave a few years ago where it didn't drop below 35C for 10 nights straight, and had days over 46C.
Why would somebody ever want that?
(I was suffering from 31C at lunch today)
Victoria? Only in Summer where temperatures occasionally exceed 100 Fahrenheit, winters are cold.
Tasmania? No, never.
I wasn't, I meant what I wrote, and nothing more specific than that.
Nonetheless, even comparing those two cities, I'm not sure "wrong" is an appropriate conclusion. It really depends on what metrics you're using.
LA certainly has more hours of sunlight, but it's not nearly as warm. However, hours of sunlight probably isn't what people mean when they say "sunnier", or else the Arctic would be a popular tourist destinations for "sun seekers" during its Summer.
My last bill in Ontario had about $10 in usage in kWh but on top of that there are mandatory 'delivery' charges which, in my case, amounted to $90.
The real rate I pay (before taxes) is essentially 10x the supposed kWh rate.
And from the news reports locally, I'm getting off very lightly.
My bills are multiples what they were in the UK (for the same usage) and based on that and the chart in the article, of the UK @ AU$0.30 vs just under AU$0.40 as the AU peak price, it seems more likely Canada (specifically Ontario) is much more expensive.
Supply charge: $1.10/day
Usage rate: 28.6c/kWh
Therefore, my standard quarterly bill will have $100 of supply charges in addition to any usage that occurs.
I am super lucky that I got on to PV when there was a large (unsustainably so) government incentive, so my feed-in rate is 54.6c/kWh (not including GST) which more than offsets my normal use since I am never home during the day and thus feed that all in, then use power at night at the 28.6c rate. I essentially get a negative bill as a result (told you it was unsustainable).
Nowadays, the feed-in for new contracts is just 6c or so, hence people now look to invest in using that power, or having battery storage.
That may be the case, but it's unrelated to whether you're paid back or not.
It's also my understanding is that's not how the infrastructure works. It's simply not set up such that my feeding in could be sent arbitrarily to a storage point. Indeed, a colleague of mine was having his inverter trip during summer because his + many of his neighbours were all feeding in however none were drawing out. The grid was therefore being overloaded locally and all of the inverters were hitting their automatic cut-off points because of it.
So yes, in theory it could be sustainable, but this particular situation absolutely wasn't and if you were to get solar now, you would not end up making money off feeding in like I do. It's now purely to offset self-usage.
Nowhere near as cheap as the US but I'll take it.
Couldn’t imagine living in one of the leaky sheds built before modern regs...
This is an ignorant criticism. Every way of structuring utility markets has one problem or the other. If you deregulate the market, you end up with limited competition because of high barriers to entry. If you set rates to guarantee a fixed return on investment, you incentivize gold plating the network. And if you have the government set price caps, you get politicized prices that are too low and starve the utility of money needed to improve the network. Out of the alternatives, rate of return regulation is probably the least bad option.
Also, there are worse things than high prices limiting demand for coal-based electricity.
The problem really comes down to competent regulators, but sadly that's often a major hurdle.
I'm pondering an updated version where in hell the healthcare system is American, the energy market is Australian... Anyone care to finish it off?
(I have lived in the USA / Canada / Australia, my sister in France & England for many years)
Naw, that Canadians find that joke hilarious is part of why it's a great place to live.
I've heard similar but it was organising a party ...
Good party :
Wait german beer is quite nice, well you get the idea.
These principles are still mostly respected today.
This author sounds confused. An electrical network operator is a regulated monopoly whether it is government or privately owned. The regulation may be good or bad, but it is independent of who owns the assets.
And why is it a surprise that building ANY sort of distribution network is inefficient in the third most sparsely populated country in the world? At least in the West there is now a strong push for standalone power projects with a view to decommissioning some of the redundant infrastructure.
 - https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_popul...
This is a government which earlier this year brought a lump of coal in to parliament as a prop to say that they were 'not afraid of coal' and to attack the opposition for 'attacking the jobs of rural workers at the coal mines'. I'm not even joking:
Things could have been much better if we'd taxed the hell out of the miners, like Norway's Oil Fund.
There was plenty of tax money floating around back then but it was probably spent buying votes and posting budget surpluses so government could pat themselves on the back for being such good economic managers...
And now that the technology is cost competitive, there are many plans afoot: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-29/australia-on-cusp-of-l...
So often I see stories where the PM is saying that Global Warming is a hoax and Coal is the future and every Aussie online is screaming "YOU'RE KILLING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF, AND EVERYTHING ELSE!" and going out of their way to install personal solar or wind power.
Funny you call it "the outback". Their final proposed site was 20km from my then family home :)
I was disappointed it never went anywhere, and yes, Australians should be adopting solar much, much faster than they are.
Last year saw overall production increase by 13% and there are a lot of big projects in the pipeline.
I think that you'll find people have been biding their time until the economics looked favourable, which isn't so silly in my opinion.
That said, my per kWh charge is about half the "market" price shown for Victoria there (although I do pay $0.94/day on top of that, which I guess brings it up a little), and that's after a 10% price hike about a year ago. Who's paying those prices?
Prices seem to be highly variable even within the state, which I didn't realise. My rates in VIC are about half those quoted for VIC, well under the price of NZ. It would be interesting to see these prices broken down in more detail geographically.
As grid electricity prices rise:
1. Insulation and rooftop solar/domestic battery storage become more competitive / cost effective
2. Which drives adoption (including retrofitting to existing structures), reducing the demand for grid electricity
3. Which, due to the fixed network and distribution costs, becomes more expensive per kwh.
Australia is primed for boom in domestic battery storage.
Why? There's already a significant amount of roof top solar installed. And feed-in bonus tarifs (up to 40c/kwh which were used to drive roof top solar adoption) don't transfer when you sell a house. This means it's far more cost effective to keep the energy on site rather than sell it to the grid at 6c/kwh and buy it back at 25c/kwh. This combined with rapidly dropping costs for battery storage... It's going to be an interesting time to be a politician.
Pay for it to be built, give crazy good loan deals etc. whatever it costs really to have energy independance has got to be worth it.
The real reason for it though is that, unlike what HN thinks, Tesla is also not the only company in the world capable of building a battery.
That, and batteries are a terrible solution to long and medium-term energy storage.
For a country that generates so much wealth <sic> from digging stuff out of the ground and burning it (or selling it to other people to burn), the regrettable state of the nation could appear to the casual observer to be quite mysterious.
It varies by where you live and what tariff you're on but I pay ~10p/KWH, and this website suggests similar before the 5% VAT charge is put on .
The solar exposure is extremely high and the outback has limitless sunny land... You could build and charge all the world's batteries with solar there and ship it out on the Pacific or Indian oceans...
No, it will probably cost the same because business.
The flip side is that the power grid is now going into a death spiral where falling kWh sales are pushing up prices per kWh, making solar even more competitive, etc. etc. They're going to have to start charging a large flat rate for connection (which they can't do, politically) or the whole thing's going to fall in a heap within a decade.
Of course it'll never happen, the privatised incumbants will fight innovation tooth and nail to the grave like you say
At the same time, we have signed long-term LNG contracts while simultaneously large gas projects are delayed by various red tape and doesn't look like it'll clear up any time soon. I read at some point Australia is importing LNG just to reexport it to meet contract requirements.
Right now it's mostly for conspicuous consumption and virtue signalling. Those of us number nerds are waiting for the tech to improve and the price to drop more. A move off toxic/flammable lithium tech would be good too.
Unlike that debacle, this might even make economic sense once you factor in the government rebates/sweetheart deals and the PR bonus. Alas, nobody gives me anything on the side for buying a powerwall.
can anyone confirm this?
Sure you could guarantee your energy and completely disconnect from the network with enough power walls and solar panels, but the capital investment would be relatively huge - so it will be a principle based decision and not based on pure economics.
I agree that it is part of the final solution - but getting there is going to be very expensive with the current regulation.
South Australia went "all green" shutting down all their coal plants and betting big on wind and solar. However due to the peak issues etc. they now buy a lot of their power from the eastern states.
Victoria uses brown coal (about 20% less energy when burned)
The buying of peak electricity from interstate is more likely a factor of higher gas prices as mentioned in the article. This is because the coal fired plant in the port has gas turbines that get used when load spikes.
Source: I used to live there, still have family and friends there.