Will Australia regret banning its renewable energy fund?
With the government banning its $10 billion renewable energy fund to invest in the industry, Australian wind farming has reached an obstacle it needs to clear.
As the nation seeks a shift away from wind technology to focus more on new emerging technologies, it has become more difficult than ever for wind developers to do business in Australia.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was recently terminated by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in an attempt to reduce the pressure on power prices to keep it as low as possible. This also includes solar power technology such as rooftop panels that generate up to 100 kilowatts of power.
The federal fund was initially established by the Australian parliament in 2012.
One-third of CEFC’s current funding previously went to solar projects, most of which were small-scale. Funding for renewable energy in Australia was struggling to meet its commercial needs, leading to the majority of Aussie technology going to China, Spain and the U.S.
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Although wind turbines provide a clean, effective way to produce power, some of the drawbacks include loud noise, possible threat to wildlife and unpredictability of when and where large amounts of wind will strike.
“This is a country which supports renewable, but obviously we want to support renewable at the same time as reducing the upward pressure on power prices,” said Abbott. “We want to keep power prices as low as possible and consistent with a strong renewables sector.”
The senate already voted against government legislation to put an end to the CEFC on two separate occasions, as many believe it will put thousands of Australian jobs and billions of dollars of investment at risk only to ensure the viability of the coal and gas sectors.
Initially, the CEFC’s plan was to help Australia create an economy less reliant on carbon and assist renewable energy projects with its finances in order to create more jobs in the country. With about 18,000 Aussies employed in the solar industry, the loss of funding is expected to have an impact on the jobs the country is currently looking at other ways to create.
Although some agree with the need to crackdown on wind power, many still support the idea.
According to the Clean Energy Council, Australia’s wind farms produced over 30 per cent of the nation’s clean energy in 2014. Australia had 1866 wind turbines spread out across 71 wind farms at the end of 2014, as wind power created 4.2 per cent of the country’s electricity.
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The Clean Energy Council also revealed over 15,000 Aussie businesses have solar power systems that combine to save more than $64 million in electricity. Small-scale solar is also very popular, as an estimated 87 per cent of Australians are in favour of rooftop solar.
With so much money and so many jobs tied to wind energy, it appears Australia is one of the few nations around the world that isn’t fully embracing the opportunity.
Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC
Courtesy of current estimates, it looks like Asia-Pacific AI will be worth US$136bn by 2025. Its governments and corporations invest more money than the rest of the world in AI tech, the data of its citizens is considered fair game, and its pilots are small-scale and, as a result, ruthlessly effective. This is why, according to Jeff Olson, Cognizant’s Associate Vice President for Projects, AI and Analytics, Digital Business and Technology, the APAC region ‘is right on the edge of an AI explosion’.
Now, startup Beyond Limits is pushing the boundaries of what AI can do, mirroring humans in its ability to find solutions with even limited information. As of this July, it’s partnered up with Mitsui, a global trading and investment company, to expand its impact in APAC.
How Does Beyond Limits Work?
Most AI companies claim that they can help businesses make better decisions. But many need astoundingly large stores of data to feed their information-hungry algorithms. Beyond Limits, in contrast, takes a different tack. Perfect data, after all, is largely a pipe dream kept alive by PhD students. In reality, systems must often make decisions from small, incomplete sets of intel.
But Beyond Limits’ AI is no black box. ‘When little to no data is available, Beyond Limits symbolic technologies rely on deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning capabilities’, explained Clare Walker, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. While making these leaps in logic, however, the system also keeps track, ensuring that humans can review the AI’s ‘thought process’.
Why Partner With Mitsui?
Beyond Limits is built for specific applications such as energy, utilities, and healthcare—but lacks the extensive industry network of Mitsui. Partnering allows Beyond Limits to access a portfolio of firms specialising in minerals and metals, energy, infrastructure, and chemicals. ‘We’ve been working on this deal for several years’, said Mitsui’s Deputy General Manager Hiroki Tanabe. ‘Mitsui’s global portfolio and Beyond Limits’ AI technology will...deliver impact’.
In the first test of that dramatic statement, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will soon deploy Beyond Limits’ new system. If everything goes according to plan, LNG will optimise how it extracts and refines energy, making money for both itself and investors—including Mitsui. This, in fact, is Mitsui’s strategy: go digital and don’t look back.
Why Does This Matter?
Forty-five percent of Asia-Pacific companies surveyed in Cognizant’s thought leadership ebook consider themselves AI leaders. Positivity bias, that oh-so-common tendency of humans to position themselves as above average as compared to others, strikes again. (Most small companies fail to launch successful AI projects on their own.) And partly, this is because firms fail to integrate AI with industry expertise.
‘A large part of the focus on talent for AI today has been getting the people who are strong in mathematics, AI, and technologies’, said Olson. ‘But where you make your money out of AI projects is when you apply them to your business’. In short: APAC nations looking for ways to bridge the gap might follow Beyond Limits and Mitsui’s playbook—coupling startup AI with a corporate network.