Another Good News – Renewables

1. By the end of March next year there will be only be about six major economies, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Russia and Australia, which do not have a net zero pledge by 2050 or 2060 in the case of China. 

2.About 150 GW of solar PV and 80 GW of wind will be installed around the world next year.. There will be about 20 GW of hydro, biomass, geothermal and solar thermal as well. Just the wind and solar is enough to supply the combined load of Germany and Switzerland or more than the total electricity generation in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia. Every year that will increase. To put that in context, the best ever year for nuclear power installations was about 15 GW which would have supplied 1/5th of the energy that next year’s wind and solar will provide.

3. According to the International Energy Agency who have in the past been way too low in their forecasts of renewable volumes, generation from renewables will pass coal by 2025. It has already in the US, Germany, Russia, the UK, Spain, Turkey, Italy, France and Denmark, not to mention high hydro countries such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Brazil.  

4. Assuming NSW REZ plan is 25% complete by mid 2025, 90% of currently financed renewable projects are completed and rooftop solar continues at its current installation rate, the NEM will be more than 55% renewables by spring 2025.

5. Spring this year is on track for 30% renewables on the NEM and the full year will crack 26%, proving my “wildly optimistic” forecast from 2014 of 24% in 2020 to be somewhat pessimistic 

5. Fortescue Metals has announced a plan to become a major wind/solar/hydrogen company building 235 GW of wind and solar around the world. Assuming a 40/60 split between wind and solar that will provide almost as much electricity as Britain, Spain and Italy combined.

6. Shell, BP and Ineos (a US$60bn per year chemical company) have all committed to large renewable powered hydrogen electrolysers. The bad news is that the market for export hydrogen from Australia is not likely to be as big as we would like if Europeans and by extension, Asia can make their own

7. The anti domestic gas coalition is growing, 40 cities in California including San Francisco have put a moratorium on connecting gas to new houses as has the Netherlands and gas free subdivisions are opening up in the ACT and Victoria. Commercial buildings with gas connections can no longer granted the highest green ratings.

8. The Halliade X wind turbine prototype produced 312 MWh in one day. That is enough to power 90 Australian households for a year or drive a fleet of Tesla Model 3 vehicles 2,600,000 km. At the Australian average of 13,000 km/ year, the annual output of one such wind turbine at an average 185MWh/day would power 43,000 EVs for a year.

650 of them would power the entire Australian road transport fleet, cars, trucks, buses the lot. This turbine is running at 13 MW. Siemens Gamesa has already announced a 14 MW machine

8. To the end of October 2018 in Germany plug-in car sales were 54,000 for the year. In October 2020 there were 48,000 for the month. Next year the Volkswagen ID 3  (Golf sized) will be at full production the ID 4 (RAV4 sized) will be available and the German Tesla factory producing Model 3 and Model Y will be up and running so it is possible that EVs will achieve 30% market share in Germany and exceed 20% for the whole of Europe by Q4 2021.

 9. During the past three weeks, in the USA seven utilities have announced plans to close or convert almost 9,500 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation across the U.S.* At the same time, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that a record 23 gigawatts (GW) of new wind generation capacity will come online this year, shattering the previous record of 13.2 GW set in 2012.

10. At the end of 2019 there were about 600 GW of new wind and solar proposals in the queue for grid connection approval in the US and about 60 GW of gas, 2GW of nuclear and no coal. Not all of these plants will actually be built because some are competing for the same market, but there is good reason to believe that the failure rates in gas will not be much different to wind and solar. If 70% of the wind and solar plants are built, they will account for 35% of the US current electricity demand to bring renewables to a55% rate.

How Much Backup is needed for a 95% renewable NEM?

The Answer – Very Little

Examining the data from openNEM in one day, three day, one week and three week periods to find the lowest renewable shares, it was possible to calculate how much renewable energy was delivered at those times. As a further check I looked at the peak demand day. Unfortunately because of the changing renewable mix and locations, looking back more than a year is not very useful, However at least as far as peak demand is concerned 31st of January 2020, was the highest demand day for 10 years.

To understand why backup is not a serious problem one needs to think about the power grid as an energy supply system rather than a power supply system. All reliable grids usually have about 30% excess power capacity. For example, in 2010 the NEM had 48GW capacity for a peak of 34GW worst demand. But grids also have excess energy capacity even at sensible capacity factors say 90% for nuclear 75% for coal 50% for gas and 15-50% for hydro. At those rates (obviously without nuclear) the NEM could have safely generated 280-300 TWh in 2010 but demand was only 210 TWh.

If a renewable system is designed to produce 280 TWh per year with 10-15 TWh from gas, then based on 14% CF for rooftop solar, 29% for tracking solar and 43% for additional wind it is possible to calculate the amount of generation required.  One possible mix is about 40-50 GW of wind 20-30 GW of utility solar and 50-70 GW of behind the meter solar. Germany with about 20% of the area available for renewables as the NEM, already has 54 GW of onshore wind and 53 GW of solar so space is not a problem. Spain with an economy about the same size as ours plans to install an additional 60 GW of utility wind and solar by 2030, we only need an additional 55 GW, so if they can afford it why can’t we.


There will also be some biomass, waste to energy, landfill gas etc. and there seems to be a small revival in solar thermal with storage around the world and possibly some geothermal. Lets say in total there might be 2 GW of dispatchable, non hydro renewables and 10 GW of existing gas. With generator upgrades and 3 or 4 smaller pumped hydro projects there will be about 11 GW of hydro/pumped hydro but no increase in annual output from hydro.

Returning to periods of low renewable supply and calculating the current renewable generation on those days and multiplying them by the capacity increase eg if there was 5% of supply from wind, it was multiplied it by 8. If utility solar supplied 3%, it was multiplied it by 9, rooftop solar by 5 and so on and on only a very few days per year did renewables not supply more than 60% of the energy. On most days, outside Tasmania, neither hydro nor gas were required at all or ran at 10-20% of capacity for 1-4 hours

On the worst days I used to check the 5 minute minima and I found that even running 11 GW of hydro and 10 GW of gas and 2 GW of other at 85% there are still gaps. There is still a need for backup, however the periods are quite short. The worst case I could see was about 15 GW for 30 mins trailing off to zero in around 12 hours. Other longer lower production periods would need to run gas and hydro for perhaps 70% of the time ranging from 10-90% capacity but need little additional backup. Put a different way, the longer the period considered, the the closer to average the renewable output will be, so the less long term backup will be needed. By illustration the worst renewable hour was 9% of supply, the worst day was only 17.3% of supply, the worst renewable week 20% and the worst renewable month 22%, the annual average was 25%

There are many forms this backup can take, grid batteries almost being the last in the queue, although they do have fantastic advantages in frequency and voltage control. The cheapest backup is flexible demand. Even on the hottest day at least between 10 and 2 there will be excess solar, so a smart grid will use the excess to run hot water heaters, move municipal water around, make ice or freeze phase change materials in cool stores, precool residences etc, to drive down evening demand. I am not a great fan of home batteries but many customers are and it is quite likely that most of them will be linked into Virtual Power Plants. In the US attachment rates for batteries on home solar are running around 30%. In 10-15 years time we will have 5-7m behind the meter solar systems. if only 1/3rd of them have batteries which can only contribute 2.5 kW for 4 hours, mostly by self consumption but also by feeding excess power back to the grid. That is around 5 GW reduction in grid load.

Initially I was opposed to batteries at generators because for a whole variety of reasons, storage near the load is more effective. It reduces grid losses by reducing peak transmission loads and eventually the need for expensive upgrades to Transmission &Distribution assets. It also protects against transmission as well as generation failure.

However grid management and price stability is much easier if most wind and solar farms have some sort of storage, not necessarily a large capacity, even 10% of the peak capacity for 30 minutes,  can improve managability and profitability of a wind or solar farm, while simplifying grid access. (see Dalrymple in SA)


If current trends hold, in 5 years time a wind farm will cost about $1.6m/MW to build and 3 hour storage about $0.5m/MW so adding 15% storage to a wind or solar farm will only increase costs by about 5-10%, By avoiding curtailment and selling some power at evening spot price at say 3 times day minimum it is not hard for batteries to pay for themselves. If the above forecast of capacity is correct, then when wind and solar are fully built out and 70% of facilities have 15% storage attached (hydrogen, pumped hydro, batteries, power to heat for nearby industry, whatever) that is about 7 GW peak capacity so combined with gas, hydro, customer batteries and flexible demand there should be adequate capacity 24/7/365.

Smart charging of EVs will also be a big part of the solution and even some V2G (Vehicle to Grid) on 5-10 days a year. Most cars only need to be charged off a single phase home or work charger for about 8 hours a week (20-50KWh = 170-450km/week) and on average at full charge carry a weeks worth of energy. So in an emergency it is easy to limit charging for 4-5 hours to perhaps 2-3% of vehicles. The rest of the time they can soak up excess wind and solar. While EV penetration is contentious, next year in Europe EV share is expected to be around 20% so by 2030 probably 75-80%. That would mean by 2030 almost half the vehicles on the road would be electric or plug in hybrid. Lets say in Australia it is only 15% (3m) and of those 20% are capable of supplying V2G and at any time half of those in turn are plugged in (i.e. 350,000 or 1.6% of registered vehicles) and make half of of their battery capacity available, that is another 2 GW/20GWh.

There are many ifs and buts in this scenario but I have been studying this in detail for seven years and so far my predictions of renewable penetration have turned out to be underestimates. In 2014 I assumed supportive government policy and underestimated the difficulties in grid connections, bankruptcies of contractors etc. But I forecast, (accoding to others, an unbelievably optimistic) 24% renewables for the year 2020 including 12 TWh of solar. This year the NEM will actually hit 26% renewables and probably 19 TWh of solar. This is despite this year being cloudier than last year and therefore renewable capacity factors are down. Even if next year weather isn’t any better, there is enough capacity being installed to increase renewable share by another 6% to 32%.


On the other hand there is a huge amount of development work being spent on smarter solar trackers, special coatings for panels etc – not to increase peak power but to improve efficiency on cloudy days and early and late in the day. Similarly new wind turbines are being optimised to generate power at lower and lower speeds, so that rather than put a 4.5 MW generator behind a 126 m rotor on 90m tower for less money you can put a 3.5MW generator on a 130m tower with a 155 m rotor. The taller tower and larger rotor will catch more and faster wind, so will probably generate just as many MWh per year, but most importantly will be generating twice as much power when the winds are light so it needs less backup. Thus the system cost is lower. My calculations above do not include any such advanced technologicalsolutions.


To summarise the short term storage, 1-12 hours will either be installed by economic actors or, like the Victorian Big Battery, to obviate the need for much more expensive transmission upgrades. One interesting example is that transmission upgrade required to make Snowy II useful to Victoria could be completely eliminated by about 4 of these batteries for about half the cost.


As an aside, in practical terms the whole Snowy II project including transmission and extra generation to make up for the pumped hydro losses will cost $8-10 bn and cause significant environmental damage. Based on the costs of the latest large scale battery projects, 3 GW eight hours (2GW x12 hours) of batteries distributed thoughout the grid would provide more practical support, reduce system losses and bushfire threats and cost about $5-6bn


In summary a 95% renewable grid needs little to no storage that won’t be installed by generators and customers for their own economic reasons. For longer term backup we already have hydro and gas.

Peter Farley FIE Aust

Another View of Energy Transition

If we can’t prosper in our sparsely populated, vast, resources rich continent, blessed with sun and wind (not to mention uranium), and practical, intelligent people – we’ll have to hang our heads down in shame before our grandchildren.

But we’ll have to cast off our colonial cringe that subjugates us to almost anything foreign, even a French submarine, at four-times the 1st world benchmark price with all manufactured parts imported from France, and the same story for the British designed frigates and German designed offshore patrol vessels.

And we need to shed the Thatcherism-like religion that we can’t manufacture cost effectively in Australia and we should just be a services driven economy, circulating the earnings from the mining/agriculture exports, with the view that the market is best placed to deliver (long-term) infrastructure.

For example, let’s find a solution to reliability of renewable electricity supply without using (imported) batteries that consume rare resources and pollute the environment on disposal – it’s not rocket science.

We also need to recognise the massive opportunity to regenerate our vast degraded agricultural lands (especially the few hundred million hectares of rangelands), as Minister Taylor has in including soil carbon measurement (by remote sensing) in his five priority low emissions technologies.

This can not only transition Australia to a net negative emission economy by 2050 (with sufficient surplus carbon credits to staple to our exports with embedded carbon emissions, eg, LNG, coking coal, aluminium), but also improve the productivity and health of the agricultural lands, whilst improving bio-diversity and human health, and avoiding environmental damage (eg, chemical nutrient runoff to riparian systems and estuaries/reefs, erosion, etc).

But is our National Leadership capable of the transition, when we can’t break the pattern of practically all Government approved infrastructure spending being based on the self-interested political efficacies of the next electoral cycle?

I don’t expect large corporates in Australia will provide the leadership, as many are foreign owned and are here as rent-seekers harvesting the spoils of our couple of decades of poorly implemented privatisation experiment.

I suspect we will have to learn to live with COVID, which may keep the community’s focus on more self-reliance and a healthier more diverse environment, and drive our self-interested political class to broaden their vison.  Who would have expected “ScMo from marketing”, ‘with a lump of coal in hand’, to come up with the Modern Manufacturing Strategy (MMS).

What an opportunity he now has – to cancel the French submarines and British frigates, avoiding a quarter trillion dollars flowing to France and Britain over the next 40 years – lock-in a process to get suitable submarines and frigates designed and built in Australia, at one-third the cost with over 70% Australian industry content (as per Collins subs and ANZAC frigates) – and commit the surplus $200 billion to the sorts of programs Peter set ourt in his email below and I mention above.

Continuing the Energy Transition Discussion

From my point of view climate change is almost irrelevant to the energy debate at this point. The bids being received in India for example, for wind and solar are lower than the operating costs of existing coal plants. In parts of the US and Europe wind is half the cost of running a coal plant.  One of the large Indian conglomerates is proposing the the government enforces the closure of 40 GW of old coal plants which have failed time and again to meet pollution deadlines. Many of these “old” plants are newer and more efficient than most Australian plants.  The closure call is partly to reduce pollution but partly to reduce overcapacity which is making everyone lose money and partly to reduce water stress – a coal power plant uses as much water as a town of 400,000 people. The coal plants in India are only running at about 55% capacity so a few closures wouldn’t risk energy security

A similar situation is occurring in the US, Germany Spain and the UK. Now the gas peak has long passed in the UK and Spain and some US states and Germany. There are some new gas plants on order in Asia and the USA but even before Covid all the Gas power plant manufacturers were laying off 10’s of thousands of staff.  In the last 2 years 18 GW of gas fired generation capacity was installed and about 320 GW of wind and solar.

Then there is transport. With the closure of yet another refinery and the other three on the brink we face a cascading failure like the car industry. As EVs now have a lower lifetime cost of ownership than equivalent petrol cars, wouldn’t we be far better off to subsidise EV purchases than subsidise refineries and continuing to import fuel?  Although at this juncture because of Morrison’s and Taylor’s absolute failure we may have to do both. By the way Angus Taylor’s nickname has gradually morphed from Anxious Failure to AnGas to Absolute Failure now that refineries are closing and fuel security is supposedly enhanced by leasing fuel on the other side of the world

We have an even more urgent problem than coal and gas, in bulk grains. Last year France exported more wheat than we did and Russia more than twice as much. Russia has enough abandoned farmland, 200m hectares, that even at half its current wheat yield could still provide about 5 times as much grain as we grow. Russia is getting warmer and more hospitable to grain growing while our wheat country is getting dryer and less productive.

One final threat that we might be forced to consider after Tuesday. A very effective counter China strategy is a border adjustment tax, that penalises countries exports that have high embedded emissions like China does. This is being planned already in Europe, if the US joins in, it is on. Guess which country has the most CO2 intensive economy outside the Middle East, even worse than the USA and will get whacked in such a scenario (good old OZ).

So whether we take action because of climate change or because our energy markets are going to disappear sooner rather than later, or for domestic energy security, or even for climate change reasons, it is not important. The fact is that the cheapest fastest way to solve all these problems is to bring on the energy transition here as fast as possible. Imposing a carbon tax on exports particularly of LNG would be a good start.

Further Progress on the Energy Transition

More Progress

  1. In Australia
  • On 3rd of October Renewables produced 50+ % of NEM demand for five and a half hours, reaching a peak of 55% the first time ever. For almost 4 hours wind and solar alone provided half the generation. Hydro was running at about 5% capacity providing 1.6% of demand and gas 1.8%. For the whole day wind and solar produced 31.3% of demand- gas and brown coal combined 19%.
  • For the third time wind produced more power than brown coal for a whole day. Five days in a row peak renewables were above 50% of demand
  • On the 11th of October around noon for an hour solar produced all the power SA was using. Exports were more than wind and gas combined, wind and solar produced 73% of demand for the month of September in SA and 67% for the last 12 weeks.
  • Across the NEM for the 12 weeks to 1 November renewables including rooftop solar produced just under 30% of generation – gas and brown coal combined less than 23%.
  1. The US
  • Four years ago NextEra one of the largest US power generators which has the largest privately owned wind and solar fleet outside China, had a market capitalization of a bit over US$50bn and Exon Mobil was $400 bn. Now both are valued at around $140 bn. More precisely, Next Era is currently worth 5% more than Exxon. The renewable company almost tripled in value while the oil company did the opposite.
  • The world’s largest battery has just opened in California.  LS Power’s 250 MW Gateway project storage is still being expanded until it is built out to 1,000 MWh. By comparison Hornsdale is now 150MW/190MWh
  • Vistra Energy, one of the largest US Power producers has announced it will close all its coal plants by 2027 or sooner.
  • This year Texas which is 2/3rds the size of NSW is on track to generate over 120 TWh from wind and solar. That is 70% more electricity than NSW uses.
  • Output from wind  in Q3 was up 19% on last year. There is 110GW of wind installed, 43 GW of wind under development Australia has a total of 7 GW of wind installed and 5 GW under development
  1. China

China has committed to net zero by 2060.

In the 9 months to September 30 power generation was up 0.9%  but in spite of all the new coal plants it is building, coal and gas was down about 11 TWh and wind and solar was up by 48TWh. This year the increase in China’s wind and solar will be more than NSW total power consumption and China’s total wind and solar output will be about double all the power generation in Australia

  1. Japan has announced that it will close about 100 coal plants by 2030 and be net zero by 2050. That means that any new coal plant cannot make a return on investment in its remaining life so no new plants will be ordered and some already approved plants will be cancelled.
  2. Korea: As for Japan but with a bigger nuclear share it will result in an even faster coal and gas phaseout.
  3. The UK
  • In May 2016 when the UK ran for four hours without coal, it was described as a fluke, a one off, irrelevant etc. It took almost a year until April  2017 to run a whole day without coal. Year to date 31st of October Britain has run for 4,650 hours without coal including a run of 67 days straight. Since 2016 nuclear and gas have also fallen 30% and wind now supplies more energy than nuclear and coal combined. The new wind farms under construction, due to come on stream in the next four years will allow wind to overtake gas.
  • If Boris Johnson’s plans for offshore wind alone are realised, it will supply 40-45% of the entire UK energy demand including transport and heating by 2030.
  • The UK’s total solar pipeline now stands just shy of 12 GW, around one-third of which has come to the fore in the last six months alone
  1. Greece generated 50% of its power from coal in 2015. It has already reduced it to 6% YTD and has called tenders for enough wind and solar to close its last coal plant in 2028.
  2. The worlds biggest solar+ storage installation 2,200 MW solar 200MW/200 MWh storage just opened in China. It was built in 4 months and is expected to supply more than 70% of the annual output of Liddell.
  3. The new governments in Belgium and the Netherlands are accelerating its renewable transition and France is investing A$10bn in Renewables next year
  4. Taiwan is installing 5 GW of offshore wind by 2025. That will displace about 10m tonnes of coal per year


  1. Vestas and Siemens Gamesa  have announced three new wind turbines
  • 155/3.3 which on 120m towers in low wind areas will supply three to four times as much energy per year as the 112/3 machines at McArthur wind farm
  • The 162/6.0 which in many parts of Australia will provide 24 GWh/y enough for 6,300 households,  35 of them would supply the entire annual electrical demand of Bendigo
  • The SG 14-222 offshore machine which at somewhere like Sale will produce around 70 GWh/y just 100 of them would supply the same amount of energy per year as all the brown coal plants in Victoria.
  1. Floating solar is becoming practical with recent installations in the US, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and China. It is used mainly on artificial water storages and the water improves the efficiency of the solar panels by keeping them cooler and reduces evaporation from the water storage and no new land usage, win win win.

Floating solar averages 15-20% CF. Australia has 10,000 square km. of water reservoirs not including private dams and sewage ponds. At 17% CF and 80 MW per square km and 10% coverage that would supply about 500 TWh or more than double the current total electrical supply across the country.

Restricting the installation of floating solar to dams which already have hydro and therefore electrical connections. there are about 650 square km on the mainland NEM of dams with hydro generators which already have electricity connections with a capacity of 5.400 MW. If 6,500 MW of floating solar was installed that because of geographical differences and or occasional limiting of output never exceeded the capacity of the electrical lines it would generate 9,400 GWh almost double the output from the hydro, with no new transmission lines and only a few hectares of land use while covering about 1/10th of the water surface


  1. More than 60% of Norway’s new vehicle sales are battery powered and more than half of Swedish sales are hybrid or battery powered. Even in Germany with major new electric models yet to come from Volkswagen and Tesla’s new German factory, EVs have exceeded 15% of sales in September. Worldwide EV sales this year will be close to 4 million vehicles about 5% of the total market.
  2. BEVs and hybrids outsold diesel cars across Europe
  3. “As the pace of change continues to accelerate, we need to act sooner to meet these challenges head-on. I’m delighted to announce that all of Honda’s mainstream models here in Europe will be electrified not by 2025, but three years earlier, by the end of 2022, just 36 months from now.”
  4. This ute will ruin the weekend GMC hummer electric dual cab 4×4

Coronavirus Shutdown Perspective

One of our members, Peter Farley, would like to share his perspective on the Corona shutdown and open with quotes form widely read international newspapers

No country has been able to control the virus without a fence. Fences are not enough to stop the virus on their own, but they’re a necessary part of the solution. European countries and U.S. states had hoped otherwise. They were deluded. They opened their arms to their neighbors too soon and got infected in the hug.

They need to realize that not every country or state is effectively fighting the virus. Why should their citizens sacrifice so much for so long, with lockdowns and business closures, only to waste their efforts when their neighbors visit?

And as long as states fail to control their borders, the coronavirus will come back.

Across Spain, Covid patients occupy 8.6% of hospital beds, but in Madrid, the figure is 21% – and climbing. Two of the region’s hospitals said their intensive care units (ICUs) were already operating at 100% capacity.

Here are the big developments from Sunday:

Coronavirus is heat tolerant, self-healing and very resilient in lab tests

If you think the virus will go away, just look at the data from US states and European countries that have opened up quickly or the chaos in Israel.

The reason for distance restrictions are, a) to stop people traveling at all if possible, For example my friend Fred isn’t going to the plant nursery at all because it is more than 5km away. b) because when they travel they meet people and can spread the virus further and the longer time they are traveling, the more likely they are to forget at least one individual they met c) to cut down the contact tracing task. If you double the radius traveled you quadruple the number of likely interactions and more people will travel so the contact tracing task gets less reliable and 4-6 times as big, then like Victoria 8 weeks ago and the UK now, it just falls apart.

The same is true for restrictions on churches and family visits. Religious and family gatherings have proved to be among the strongest sources of serious illness because people stay together for long periods and both involve an older cohort.

Then we come to the alternative, just shield the vulnerable:

  1. It is no by no means foolproof, as we can see from the number of health workers infected even people who are trained all their lives to be careful still get infected
  2. The vulnerable aren’t just the elderly in nursing homes, it is almost everyone on this mailing list and many younger people with health issues, asthma and diabetes being just two. Therefore you must also quarantine their partners and therefore their families and then the carers and health workers who look after them and kitchen staff and cleaners, and all their families or housemates so 30-35% of the population indefinitely.
  3. Quarantines will go on for nine months to years because the other 65% of the population may not be dying of Covid but they will be keeping it spreading through the community and ready to pounce as soon as people make a mistake.

If the virus is allowed free rein in the community how many people will skip the night at the restaurant, the visit to the CBD shops, the day at the footy  or the lecture concert etc etc. Most might risk it, but not as often and 35% won’t be allowed to. In my wife’s family they wanted to have a family gathering between lockdowns but two of the eleven work in healthcare so it was all called off. Net result is restaurant, discretionary retail trade, sport and entertainment will still see a 20-40% fall in trade for a year or more, that will in turn affect commercial real estate and spread throughout most of the rest of the economy.

This is not to say that the Victorian or federal governments have not made many mistakes but Victoria’s death rate is still one fifth of Sweden’s and the unemployment rate is still the same or better. The commentators and business press may argue, but none of them have come up with a viable plan that has any less long term pain for the economy and all of their suggestions will result in more illness and death.

If you want to hug your grandchildren in the next 12 months and keep hugging them, you will support the very gradual relaxation of restrictions now and continuing wearing of masks and social distancing rules till long after a vaccine has been proven.


For the second year running, it was a privilege for Peter Sutton and Jack Parr of the Vernier Foundation to attend the Dandenong High School Awards Night 2019 and present the Foundation awards to 3 of the school’s outstanding STEM students!

The event was held in December at the Robert Blackwood Hall in Monash University and was packed with proud students and parents and the night was particularly pleasing as it was the culmination of celebrations for the school’s centenary “1919 -2019: A hundred years celebrating the past, present and future”!

The evening was a mix of presentations and musical and theatrical interludes, showcasing the amazing talent of some of the young people and was a compliment to the school’s professionalism, the discipline of the students and the accomplishment of the teachers.

The three Foundation awards were for individuals, chosen by their teacher, who made both an individual and a team contribution in each of the three disciplines; STEM, Robotics and Systems Engineering.  The awards were funded through donations from Sutton Tools and from individual donations of members and both Peter and I were pleased to be invited to personally present them to the winning students.

The STEM award went to Mohammad Mohsen Ali who completed 3 STEM based elective in Year 9 – STEM, IT and Graphs and Technology.  His teachers were proud of his leadership skills within the group, his perseverance and a strong understanding of the design process.

Mohsen, as he is known to his teachers, main project was the design and build of a small moving car and he believes the project gave him “a better view of how the world of STEM works “.  Mohsen says that engineering is one of his interests for the future as he always wanted to design and build his very own technology. Mohsen states “The Vernier Foundation scholarship has given great support to my family but has given me the determination and pride for my future engineering to come.  In the future I hope I take part in a computer engineering career”.

The Robotics Award went to Vaishnav Vengilat who was a key contributor in his Year 10 Robotics class.  He was an integral part in the class’s best functioning team; constructing a robot that could complete almost all of the required tasks, an impressive achievement!  His teachers also complimented Vaishnav for his academic contribution to the robotics class, contributing helpfully to the class discussions and demonstrating and admirable work ethic.

Vaishnav is seen here with his donation certificate and Vernier Foundation representatives Jack Parr and Peter Sutton of Sutton Tools.

The final recipient of the Systems Engineering Award with Adeel Jaffrey. Adeel was unfortunately not able to personally receive his award on the night but it was well deserved for the highest overall score in systems 1&2 and a consistent commitment to his mechanical project and documenting the process.  He responded to inevitable setbacks with resilience and innovation and above all the drive necessary to persist though the variety of problems that practical tasks create!


A poor PMI result for November is only one part of a much bigger question!

by: Jack Parr Vernier Society Member

Those eccentrics who, while driving, listen to the Senate would have caught this week a debate following the release of the latest PMI manufacturing figures for November.  It soon predictably  became a polarised argument with the opposition manufacturing spokesperson seizing on the result to lampoon the government for having no policy for the economy; no plan to lift wages, productivity, employment.  Apparently, it also demonstrated a government led by a heartless PM who does not care for the millions who will go without this Christmas – all on the back of one negative PMI.  The Government response was equally perverse; this is a strong economy with 1.4m jobs created, a budget back in balance, the low personal tax rates increasing disposable incomes to their highest level.  Just ignore all the other economic signals! 

Above all this political rhetoric though there is a much bigger macro picture  about the reality of manufacturing, which was well articulated by Adam Creighton in his article “Manufacturing Further Decline” (Australian 3/12).  These are some of the points he makes:

  • The number of manufacturing jobs collapsed by 30% across the decade to 2016 and has now shrivelled to 7% of the workforce far below comparable nations.
  • Manufacturing makes up 16% of the workforce in Germany, Japan, Switzerland; Canada with similar economy has 1.7m workers compared to ours at 0.7m.  In Sweden and Israel with far smaller populations, advanced manufacturing is thriving.
  • Quoting Economist Bob Burrell, we are now dependent on commodities and immigration to pay our way and generate growth
  • Last year our trade deficit in advanced manufacturing was $185b, while our surplus in commodities was $187b.  The only way we can afford these advance.
  • Manufacturing and farming have traditionally been the drivers of productivity and hence high living standards; higher productivity means higher wages both in manufacturing and across the economy
  • Today, wages will be determined more by the price of minerals
  • All countries have seen a steady fall in manufacturing employment but most have fostered new hi-tech sectors.
  • The government pins its hopes on population growth and a weaker exchange rate to bolster growth as the last gasp of the resources boom plays out.

Creighton and others clearly realises, as all in the Vernier Society do, that a vibrant manufacturing sector is vital for the prosperity of the nation.  The question is how are we to develop the direction and policies that will sustain and regenerate this sector?.  It seems that neither side of politics can or even wants to answer this question!  The question of ‘how’ should be the question for the imminent, next decade.  Vernier, along with all who understand the real productive value of manufacturing must keep this question front of mind!

Engineers Australia Panel Event – Distortions & Delusions: Lessons from the Silicon Valley Grand Illusion

The panel discussion will begin with an examination and a recognition of the failures of innovation to commercialisation systems over the past twenty years throughout the US, Australia and Silicon Valley:

Upcoming Engineers Australia Event – The Road to Autonomous Vehicles

One of our members, Bob Weekes, is helping organise this very interesting event in conjunction with Engineers Australia on 20th August.

Come along and listen to some great speakers talking through how Australia defines autonomous capability and what are the technological steps required to go from driver assistance to driverless?

Networking/refreshments at 5:30PM followed by the presentation at 6:00PM-8:00PM.