Friday, 14 September 2007

Grabben Gullen wind farm

Goulburn Post
Wednesday 12/9/2007 Page: 10

The proposal for another wind farm, over four sites near Grabben Gullen, has been lodged with the State Government. But the company behind the proposal - Epuron - could not specify how many turbines would be in the final proposal. "The director general of the NSW Department of Planning will shortly prepare its requirements and issue these to Epuron," an Epuron spokesperson said. "Once these requirements have been issued Epuron will commence preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be lodged together with the DA."

Upper Lachlan Shire Council (ULSC) has sent a submission to the State Government detailing its concerns over the project, which would be located 25km northwest of Goulburn on four ridges of the Gullen Range at Kialla, Gurrundah, Bannister, and Pomeroy. The council has asked the Planning Department to ensure certain issues are addressed in its environmental assessment of the project.

These include: compliance with the council's Wind Power Generation DCP, impacts on the Crookwell airstrip, impacts of the illumination of the turbines, noise generation, social disturbance to the local community, impact on the ULSC economy, structural adequacy of the towers, impact in the landscape (more than just visual aspects), impact on land values, and impacts in local roads and transport routes.

Following the preliminary reports, Epuron will take their final proposal to the local community in a series of open house sessions planned for later in the year. "This Open House will provide details of proposed turbine locations, and results of planning work to date including noise assessment, visual impact assessment and flora and fauna assessments," the spokesperson said.

Pedalling the hydrogen way

Herald Sun
Tuesday 11/9/2007 Page: 33

PEOPLE maybe sceptical about China's green credentials, but the world's most populous country has now produced a hydrogen-powered bicycle. Shanghai Pearl Hydrogen Power Source Technology unveiled the environmentally-clean, hydrogen fuel-cell bike at an international fair in Shanghai over the weekend. The bike is similar to a conventional electric bicycle except for two hydrogen gas bottles and a small fuel-cell.

Many hail hydrogen as the ultimate power source because it "burns" without any by-products other than water and can be produced by renewable energy sources such as wind energy. In a country where the bicycle is still a hugely important form of transport, the hydrogen bike could have a promising future. The big advantage of the bike is that the gas bottles can be refilled or exchanged quite quickly compared with several hours to recharge a battery-powered bike.

The gas bottles and fuel-cell are also lighter than comparable battery packs. So far the just-completed bike has shown it can complete a trip of about 100km at about 25 kmh. As you would expect with a new technology, the cost is fairly high at the moment at around $3200. However, the company is confident that will drop to about $670 once it begins mass production. It is also confident of getting the weight of the bike down further.

General manager Tian Binglun said there had already been inquiries and trial orders from interested overseas buyers. "Most of the buyers at present are individuals keen on clean energy applications," said Tian. He is confident of domestic success too and is compiling a list of designated gas suppliers for refills. Tian said the company had also been approached by potential partners who wanted to use its patented technology on a wider range of vehicles, including motorbikes and golf carts.

Wave power and hot rocks to top up desalination plant's output

West Australian
Wednesday 12/9/2007 Page: 4

Alternative sources of renewable energy such as wave power and hot rocks which are yet to be commercially tested will be sought to provide up to 20 per cent of power needed to run the State's second desalination plant. Tenders to provide 200 gigawatt hours of renewable energy for the main electricity grid to offset the power needed for the $1 billion Binningup plant will be called today. The Water Corporation will seek 160GW from conventional renewable sources such as wind farms but will invite tenders from less established sources to provide the other 40GW in a bid to drive development and innovation in the industry.

Greens MP Paul Llewellyn said it was essential the system was monitored to ensure there was no "double counting" of renewable energy supplies and whether the renewable sources were providing additional renewable energy for the grid. Announcing the tenders, Premier Alan Carpenter also released a report by the UWA Centre for Water Research which found that fears about the $387 million Kwinana desalination plant reducing oxygen levels in Cockburn Sound were unfounded.

Most want renewable energy

Ballarat Courier
Wednesday 12/9/2007 Page: 10

NINE out of ten Australians believe a quarter of their electricity should come from renewable energy by 2020, a survey has found. According to figures released by the Australian Conservation Foundation, close to 90 per cent of the 1200 adults contacted for the phone poll over the first weekend in September, agreed that Australia should aim to produce 25 per cent of the country's electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

The strongest support for that target was from people in the 35-49 age group (94 per cent). Ninety three per cent of respondents living outside the major cities agreed Australia should aim to become a world leader in renewable energy.

ACF executive director Don Henry said Australia was well endowed with renewable energy resources, like sun, wind and geothermal hot rocks. "An overwhelming majority of Australians want our political leaders to do more to get our electricity from renewable energy so we get on with the job of cutting greenhouse pollution and tackling climate change," he said.

Fashionably second hand

Herald Sun
Tuesday 11/9/2007 Page: 33

AT least someone is listening to the voices calling for greater use of renewable energy. In its latest voluminous report, the Australian Energy Regulator looks at Australia's national electricity market and how it is travelling. Tucked away on an inside page of the hefty tome is the revelation that the entire report was printed on recycled paper. Not only that but Australian wind energy was used to recycle the paper.

Companies admit ignorance on greenhouse gas emissions

Tuesday 11/9/2007 Page: 2

ONLY one in 10 Australian companies know how much greenhouse gases they are producing and only a quarter have tried to save water, according to the biggest ever survey on environmental management in Australian industry. In a surprisingly frank self-assessment, most of the companies surveyed admitted they were poorly informed about how to cut their greenhouse gas emissions or how climate change might affect their bottom line. The better news was that the overwhelming majority (78 per cent) agreed they had a responsibility to reduce their greenhouse pollution, and were willing to do so even if it cost them money.

The survey of 810 manufacturing and construction companies, with a combined sales revenue of $41 billion and 56,000 employees, was carried out by the Australian Industry Group, with funding from Sustainability Victoria. Sustainability Victoria chief executive Geoff Mabbett said it was alarming that only 10 per cent of the companies said they knew enough about climate change to manage the risks to their businesses, but that the survey's findings could help industry and governments work together to improve their environmental management.

Awareness about the environment was typically much better among large companies than in small to medium businesses. While half the companies surveyed agreed that they had a community obligation to save water, only a quarter had done anything about it, with most of their efforts focused on staff kitchens and bathrooms and on complying with local water restrictions. About 60 per cent of companies - including 30 per cent of large firms - said they had not done anything to reduce their greenhouse pollution. Among those that had, most were still in the planning or research phase.

The vast majority also said they did not know anything about regulations or government support programs aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from industry. Only 1 per cent of the companies bought renewable energy. The body representing sustainable businesses in Australia has released a study to support its call for binding greenhouse targets. Environment Business Australia claims it would be possible to cut national greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 per cent by 2020, and by 60 per cent by 2050. It says the biggest savings could be delivered through energy efficiency, recycling, replacing coal-fired power plants with gas and co-generation, and more renewable energy including solar thermal power.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

€20bn listing boosts wind farm growth

Independent News and Media Limited
11 September 2007

Spanish group to float world's largest renewables company as green power industry blows hot

Iberdrola, the Spanish energy giant that bought ScottishPower last year, will raise up to €4bn (£2.7bn) when it floats the world's largest wind energy company. The Spanish hope to list their Iberenova division, which analysts say will be valued between €16bn and €20bn, next month – in Madrid and not in London, like the parent company.

Iberenova is the world's largest wind farm operator and owner, with a portfolio of wind farms with 6,500MW capacity, as well as 350MW of hydro power in operation – equivalent to about a tenth of the UK's total generating capacity – and a further 40,000MW of planned wind farms in the pipeline. Included in the portfolio are the wind farms owned by ScottishPower, made up of 1,750MW operating capacity in the US and 360MW in the UK.

By selling one-fifth of the subsidiary's shares, Iberdrola will raise capital to finance its planned developments. The construction of wind farms requires a large upfront investment – typically just under £1m for every MW of an onshore farm. However, wind farms cost almost nothing to run compared to coal and gas plants.

Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and the Spanish bank BBVA are handling the float. Bankers are still working on the shareholder prospectus and are planning roadshows for prospective investors. Iberdrola confirmed last month the division would be spun off in the final quarter. It wants to get the float away early next month if possible, with the new company having an English name.

Iberdrola bought ScottishPower in November for £11.6bn in cash and shares. Banks arranged a debt financing package of £8bn to pay for the acquisition and help refinance debt. Raising up to €4bn from the float to fund Iberenova's expansion will help free up Iberdrola's balance sheet.

The wind farm industry has grown massively in recent years as government subsidies, high oil prices and economies of scale start to take effect. Airtricity, the Irish wind farm company run by Eddie O'Connor, with over 10,000MW of wind farms at the planning stage, is rumoured to be looking to sell its US operations for a reported £1.5bn. The company, which is 51 per cent owned by infrastructure company NTR, could also be floated by its parent.

Mr O'Connor has ambitious plans to build dozens of huge offshore wind farms between the UK, Germany and the Netherlands in the North Sea, connected by a European offshore "super grid" to provide the continent with renewable energy. Spreading the wind farms wide enough should ensure that the wind is always blowing and the turbines turning somewhere.

Airtricity has already submitted plans for the first stage of the project, to build a 10GW wind farm – enough to provide power to over three million homes – consisting of about 2,000 turbines which would cover an area of 3,000sq km.

Despite moves towards more economic and regulatory integration, a Europe-wide electricity market has yet to emerge. A North Sea grid, which would need international regulation, could be the first step towards this. Mr O'Connor wants support from the three countries and the European Union, as well as a commitment from the European Investment Bank to underwrite the debt required to finance the project.

China Urges Electricity Suppliers to Buy 'Green' Power
September 10, 2007

Starting this month, China's State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) will assume nationwide oversight over power companies that are required under the country's renewable energy law to prioritize purchases of the maximum amount of 'green' electricity available in their coverage areas, according to a recent regulation released by SERC. This renewable power includes energy generated from sources such as hydropower, wind energy, biomass, solar power, tidal power, and geothermal energy.

The regulation also details the authority, measures, and responsibilities necessary for SERC to facilitate the integration of renewable sources into power systems. It allows all renewable power facilities, with the exception of medium- and large-scale hydropower plants, to receive government subsidies in power pricing rather than having to participate in competitive bidding.

China adopted its first law on renewable energy in 2005 and has since issued several supplementary rules and regulations to boost the use of renewable energy. Yet renewable sources still account for only a very small portion of domestic power supply, mainly because of the high generation costs. The cost of electricity generated from solar power, for example, is some 3 yuan [US$ 0.39] per kilowatt-hour, while that from a typical coal-fired power plant is only around 0.22 yuan [US$0.028] per kWh.

A supplementary regulation on renewable power pricing and cost sharing, authored by the National Development and Reform Committee, has helped break this cost bottleneck by requiring power suppliers on the grid to purchase renewable electricity at either a government-fixed or a government-directed price. The additional cost of renewable energy is to be borne by electricity users. An extra "renewable energy" charge of 0.001 yuan [US $0.013] for every unit of electricity has been added to household utility bills since June 2006.

China's rapid economic growth relies heavily on coal-fired power and poses a serious challenge to the nation's energy supply as well as to its natural resources and environmental quality. The central government has recognized the importance of promoting renewable energy as a fundamental national strategy to achieve the dual goals of energy efficiency and sustainable development.

According to China's middle- and long-term plan for renewable energy development, the share of renewables used in primary energy consumption is to be increased to roughly 10 percent by 2010 and nearly 16 percent by 2020, up from some 7 percent in 2005. "Green" electricity, meanwhile, is to account for some 6 percent and 8 percent of the nation's total power generation by 2010 and 2020, respectively.

The success of renewable energy typically requires both government supports and market incentives, according to some entrepreneurs in the power industry. They argue that in addition to the current price subsidy, the Chinese government needs to further develop a mix of strong policies to encourage renewable power generation, such as providing loans or tax credits to green power producers.

This article first appeared in ChinaWatch, a joint initiative of the Worldwatch Institute and Beijing-based Global Environmental Institute (GEI), and was reprinted with permission from the Worldwatch Institute.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Solar Power in the shade

Herald Sun
Saturday 8/9/2007 Page: 109

ANYONE wondering why overseas countries are clamouring for our solar power expertise while in Australia the sun is setting on this energy source's commercial potential might ask if the alliances the renewable sector has struck with large polluting companies could be a factor. In the wake of APEC 2007, where climate change has been a big issue, some solar energy experts have claimed that the renewable sector has made only half-hearted and late attempts to push their case, instead of hitting out hard with demands for concrete policy action in round one.

Expatriate Australian solar thermal scientist David Mills, whose company Ausra has major Silicon Valley investors behind it, cannot understand the ambivalence Down Under. "The studious avoidance of large-scale solar technology in Australia is incomprehensible," Dr Mills told Business Daily. An inability to find sufficient private finance to take his solar thermal technology to market drove him out of the country last year and into the incubating arms of Khosla Ventures in California.

Run by Vinod Khosla - whose other underwriting success stories include Sun Microsystems, Amazon and Google - Khosla Ventures will oversee a soon-to-be announced commercialisation of the innovation Dr Mills developed when he was at the University of New South Wales. "Silicon Valley is all about ideas and ideas are god here," Dr Mills told Business Daily. "It's easier to secure money for research and development here, there is no doubt about it. We are able to access more than six times the amount of funds offered to us in Australia. "Our Australian finance partner was running out of money and not meeting its goals. They never gave us a single penny. "We talked endlessly to banks in Australia and they wanted to give us very little for the equity they demanded. "Investors here are happy to fund innovation and they like to play a big role in sculpting a business they are not passive in the same way they are in Australia," says Dr Mills, whose company has to compete with more than a dozen other solar enterprises in Silicon Valley for deals with utilities.

Also on the board of Ausra is former Oracle president Ray Lane, whose private equity group Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers is about to kickstart Dr Mills' plans for building solar farms around the world that he says will produce electricity for less than coal can. AUSRA had planned to have a solar farm up and running this year, but the utility he has signed on with has asked for a plant twice the original size and the company now has to join a lengthy queue for delivery of massive turbines.

Dr Mills, whose company is still 40 per cent owned by Australian interests, says he looks forward to the day when Australian policies more openly encourage the development and deployment of technologies such as his. "We'd love to see that happening so we can come out and be a gorilla with lots of lobbying clout," he says.

From his Palo Alto headquarters, he has been watching the climate change debate evolving in Australia and his assessment is that there is much "parish pulpit politics" going on. "You have people there who instinctively want to protect the things they dig out from the ground," he said. "They are psychologically attached to it and I don't just mean the mining companies, it is also the unions who want to protect jobs who are helping to shape the government's pro-coal position." Dr Mills says the swing away from coal in the US is gathering speed.

"Eight coal plants were recently cancelled in Texas, a 2000-megawatt plant has been shelved in Florida and three have bitten the dust in Nevada. "Coal is definitely falling off its perch here." Dr Mills is sceptical about the $15 million plus commitments Prime Minister John Howard made during APEC 2007 this week to alliances with US geosequestration and nuclear research projects. "It looks like a show between two governments that have pegged themselves to fossil fuel technologies." Although solar energy is frequently cited as one of several panaceas for a carbon constrained economy, the fact is that this embryonic technology does not have solid representation in Canberra because so far, commercial solar operations in Australia are tokenistic.

Yet in Germany, China, the US and dozens of other countries, solar companies are making electricity and punching above their weight in energy policies that acknowledge solar has a major role to play in meeting renewable energy targets that in some cases are up to six times greater than our own. When the new peak group representing renewable energies in Canberra - the Clean Energy Council - has fossil fuel titans on board, it is hard to believe that group is single-minded about promoting technologies that are emission-free.

CEC chief executive Dominique La Fontaine denies that the organisation is in bed with the high carbon emitters, yet Paul Anthony, the chairman of her board, is also the chief executive of AGL. AGL in turn is part owner of Victoria's largest coal-fired generator, the Loy Yang A power station. Author of High and Dry, Guy Pearse, a former spin-doctor for the Liberal Party turned global warming warrior, says it appears the climate change jargon being used by the pro-renewables and the pro-fossil fuel camps is almost interchangeable.

The lines used over and over by all the voices within the energy industry go like this: "There is no silver bullet solution to cutting carbon emissions","We need a suite of low-emission technologies to address climate change","Renewables, gas and clean coal should all have a part to play in the mix". "It is interesting to see how the clean energy crowd have bought into the same language that the polluting industry uses," Pearse says. "They are all being very polite to each other and if this pattern continues, one of the dangers is that we will end up with an emissions trading scheme that keeps all sides happy, but is ineffective in reducing carbon emissions."

Pearse believes that it is feasible that when carbon trading is introduced in Australia, that big polluting industries could get sufficient free carbon permits that would nullify any incentive reduce emissions. He adds that in order to appease the renewables, the carbon price would be set high, thereby making it profitable for them to be in business. CEC's Ms La Fontaine, a former forestry industry lobbyist before joining the Australian Wind Energy Association, admits that the CEC conducts its lobbying in "a businesslike fashion" rather than tackling the fossil fuel sector head-on.

"If we are to be heard, we have to approach it from a mature perspective," she says. By contrast the clean energy industry in Europe is more confrontational, one source told Business Daily. "In Germany, in particular, they turn up to meetings in a very aggressive mood and tell the coal industry that they want to shut them down," he said.

Yesterday, CEC called for clear, meaningful investment incentives to be the centrepiece of any greenhouse policy framework from APEC. "To address the climate change threat requires multi-billion dollar investments to modernise our energy infrastructure. "The cold-hearted reality is that financiers are not willing to invest money based on aspirational statements," said Ms La Fontaine. CEC wants a renewable energy target of 20 per cent of the electricity market by 2020 to stimulate investment in the sector.

Colour us all green

Ballarat Courier
Monday 10/9/2007 Page: 4

MORE Victorians are going green as the impact of climate change continues to bite. The number of households opting for green energy has doubled in the past 12 months, according to Climate Change Minister Gavin Jennings. The rest of the nation ought to be going green with envy," he said. "Almost half of the nation's residential GreenPower users are in Victoria." Mr Jennings said Victorians were leading the charge for green power. More than 228,000 of the nation's almost 566,000 green energy customers were in Victoria, according to a Green Power Accreditation Program report. The State Government has set a renewable energy target of 10 per cent by 2016.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Heeding the warning signs

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 7/9/2007 Page: 26

Most of the world has turned its back on nuclear energy and now Australia should too, writes Ian Lowe.

As energy markets have liberalised around the world, investors have turned their backs on nuclear energy. The number of reactors in Western Europe and the United States peaked 15 to 20 years ago and has been declining ever since. By contrast, the amount of wind energy and solar energy is increasing rapidly. In the decade up to 2003, the average annual rates of increase of the different forms of electricity supply were as follows: wind increased by almost 30 per cent, solar by more than 20 per cent, gas 2 per cent, oil and coal 1 per cent, nuclear 0.6 per cent.

The figures tell the real story. Despite the recent pro-nuclear hype, most of the world has rejected nuclear energy in favour of alternatives that are cheaper, cleaner and more flexible. These figures also refute one of the oft-repeated lies about the Kyoto agreement. Most European countries have the same amount of nuclear power now as they had in the Kyoto base year, 1990 (the year against which future emissions are measured). Some have less. Finland is the only European country I am aware of that has commissioned a nuclear reactor this century.

So any carbon benefit flowing from use of nuclear power was already there in the European baseline and does absolutely nothing to make these countries' targets any easier to reach. In fact, it is easier for Australia to reduce its emissions precisely because so much of our energy now comes from coalfired electricity. We could produce the same amount of energy while releasing less carbon, just by moving from coal to gas.

Second, nuclear power is far too slow a response to the urgent problem of climate change. Even if there were political agreement today to build nuclear reactors, it would be at least 10 years before the first such reactor could deliver electricity, while some have suggested that between 15 and 25 years is a more realistic estimate. We can't afford to wait decades for a response given the heavy social, environmental and economic costs that global warming is already imposing. If we were to start today expanding the use of solar hot water in Queensland to cover half the households in that state - a similar level to the Northern Territory - we could save about as much electricity as a nuclear power station would provide, and do it years before any reactor would be up and running.

The third problem is that nuclear power is too dangerous. Not only is there the risk of accidents such as at Chernobyl, there is also an elevated risk of nuclear weapons proliferation or nuclear terrorism. As far back as 1976, the Fox report - the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry - warned that exporting uranium would inevitably increase the risk of nuclear weapons being developed.

Since then the situation has steadily worsened, with nuclear weapons having been developed by a range of countries. The experience of Iraq, being invaded by the US and its coalition of the willing, is clearly spurring on Iran and North Korea to develop their own nuclear deterrents. Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the 2005 review conference on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that "fears of a deadly nuclear detonation ... have been reawakened".

Nuclear power necessarily produces radioactive waste that has to be stored safely for hundreds of thousands of years. After nearly 50 years of nuclear power, the world has produced more than 250 million tonnes of radioactive waste - 10,000 tonnes of it highly radioactive - yet nobody has found a permanent solution to the storage problem. In the absence of such a solution, expanding the rate of waste production is irresponsible.

Fourth, nuclear power is not carbon-free. Significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy are used to mine and process uranium ores, enrich the fuel and build nuclear power stations. Over their operating lifetime, nuclear power stations release much less carbon dioxide than does the burning of coal, but in the short term they would make the situation worse; building nuclear power stations would actually increase greenhouse pollution.

A fifth, and related, problem is that highgrade uranium ores are limited. On best estimates, known high-grade ores could supply present demand for about 50 years. If we expanded the nuclear contribution to global electricity supply from the present level - about 15 per cent - to replace all coal-fired power stations, the high-grade resources would last only about a decade. There are large deposits of lower-grade ores, but these require much more conventional energy for extraction and processing.

Total life-cycle analysis has concluded that fuelling nuclear power stations from lower-grade ores actually releases more carbon dioxide per unit of delivered energy than burning gas. These calculations are disputed by pro-nuclear activists, but there is no doubt that the fuel energy, consequent greenhouse emissions and the dollars needed to produce uranium all increase as the ore grade declines.

Appropriate comparison is critical. It is sometimes claimed that exporting more Australian uranium will slow the rate of global climate change. It would have that short-term benefit if the only result were to cut the number of coal-fired power stations. On the other hand, I believe that it is now clear to any responsible decision-maker that we should not be worsening the problem by burning coal. So the real choice is between nuclear power and a mix of renewable energy technologies combined with efficiency measures.

If that is the choice, it would take creative arithmetic to make a case that our uranium is doing anything at all to save the world from climate change. I would be more impressed by the integrity of those arguing for us to export uranium to slow global warming if they were also calling for us to reduce our coal exports. Australia could do much more to help the global atmosphere by cutting our coal exports than we could by the most fanciful estimate of the potential benefits from our uranium. Of course, many of those urging uranium exports are also in the vanguard of calls to export even more coal than we do today. This shows that they are actually more interested in the short-term economic benefits of mineral exports than in any effect on the global environment.

A few technocrats have steadfastly advocated that Australia should mine and export uranium, enrich it for export, build nuclear power stations and (in some cases) even offer to take in the world's radioactive waste. These people had their day in the sun when John Howard assembled his taskforce in June last year. While the Switkowski report, Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy - Opportunities for Australia?, was hailed by some as a green light for the nuclear industry, a detailed reading shows that it is a very lame endorsement of the nuclear option.

The whole exercise was of doubtful merit. The taskforce was picked by the Prime Minister, certainly giving the appearance that the members had been chosen to give the result he wanted, while the terms of reference limited the study by excluding consideration of emerging renewable energy alternatives and limiting environmental considerations to the possible reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But the facts, even if carefully chosen, still speak for themselves. Despite the brave show made by Howard on releasing the report and some of the media commentary, the fine print shows that nuclear power is an expensive, slow and dirty way of making very little impact on the problem of global climate change.

A crucial political consideration is the public hostility to reactors. In Europe and the US, this has caused protracted delays in construction. Since there is similar hostility in Australia, it is naive or dishonest to base economic assessment on the assumption that reactors could be built in three years. At a recent Adelaide conference, the editor of the industry journal Nucleonics Weekly gave a paper warning on excessive optimism about construction times and costs. Mark Hibbs said Westinghouse had lost "several hundred million dollars" on a new reactor project in Finland, while the design for two proposed reactors in Taiwan is only about 65 per cent complete, 11 years after the signing of contracts with two US firms.

Some of the delays can be attributed to political divisions and consequent legal battles, but the costs of some components have increased by as much as a factor of six. Hibbs warned that the designs for new reactors are still on the drawing board, so there is real uncertainty about the actual costs. He also said it is unclear whether manufacturers would even be interested in building one or two reactors in a country with no infrastructure or past experience of nuclear power. In other words, it may not even be possible to interest the commercial nuclear industry in building an Australian reactor; even if a reactor were feasible, no one can really say how expensive it would be. By contrast, we have experience of building wind turbines and installing solar hot water systems, so we have both the necessary skills and confidence in the economics.

The Switkowski report says at least 10 and possibly 15 years would be a realistic time scale for building one nuclear power station in Australia. It would take more time still to "pay back" the energy used in construction and fuelling, so it would take 15 to 20 years for any such station to make any contribution to cutting greenhouse pollution.

Fifteen to 20 months is a more realistic time scale for large-scale renewables. Global warming is an urgent problem that demands a concerted response now, not a half-baked response after 2020. Besides, the scale of the potential effect on our greenhouse pollution is not impressive. The most aggressive pro-nuclear scenario analysed by the report projected 25 nuclear reactors dotted around the nation, but this would only have the potential to reduce the growth in our greenhouse pollution by between 8 and 18 per cent.

Even the higher figure would be a miserable attempt to meet our greenhouse responsibilities. The science shows we need to cut greenhouse pollution by at least 60 per cent, and probably by more like 80 to 90 per cent. Also, the nuclear option would involve a massive release of carbon dioxide in the next few decades, building and fuelling reactors, just at the time we should be cutting back. It doesn't make sense as a response to climate change.

The Switkowski report accurately concludes that disposal of high-level waste is "an issue" in most countries using nuclear power. Until the problem is resolved, it is irresponsible to produce more waste. It is contributing to a problem that currently does not have a solution, dumping it on future generations to resolve. On these grounds, it fails one of the tests of sustainability: inter-generational equity. Such an approach would not be morally defensible, even if we did not have alternatives; but we do.

We should also worry about the possible effect of our choices on proliferation of nuclear weapons. The report claims that "increased Australian involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle would not change the risks", but this seems naive. Iran's neighbours are nervous about an energy-rich country that clearly does not need nuclear power embracing this technology, suspecting its real motives.

It would be equally understandable if our neighbours drew the same conclusion. Any agitators wishing to spread the idea that Australia was planning to build nuclear weapons would find enough historical urgings from nuclear technocrats to make their case appear credible. The former head of the then Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the late Sir Philip Baxter, was an unashamed advocate of developing a nuclear weapons capacity. If our Government were so foolish as to go down this path, it would dramatically increase the risk of proliferation in our region.

Visiting Australia recently, the former US vice-president Al Gore observed that every problem of weapons proliferation during his eight years in the White House arose from a civilian nuclear program. In our area China, India and Pakistan all developed nuclear weapons in association with nuclear energy. The same could be said of Israel, while in Britain the nuclear energy industry began as a smokescreen to conceal the real agenda of building bombs. The more countries have nuclear weapons, the more certain it becomes that one will become deluded enough or desperate enough to use them.


This is an edited extract of Ouarterly Essay 27, Reaction Time (Black Inc, $14.95) by Ian Lowe, the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation. It will be published on Monday. Ian Lowe will talk with Phillip Adams at Gleebooks on Thursday.

Council backs waste-water plans

Augusta Margaret River Times
Friday 7/9/2007 Page: 3

THE Augusta-Margaret River Shire Council has thrown its support behind a possible plans for a waste-water treatment facility in Gracetown after the State Government invited expressions of interest for water service providers to supply infrastructure for the community. The State Government has advertised the expression of interest as plans unfold to develop the LandCorp 140-home site in the town.

Shire president Steve Harrison told last week's council meeting the council was "very strongly" in support of the State Government's request for expressions of interest, and hoped a similar project could be undertaken in Witchcliffe. Cr Harrison told his colleagues the council was gaining a reputation for being environmentally responsible, and he hoped Gracetown and Witchcliffe could be two of the State's "most sustainable communities".

In a statement issued last week, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the proposed waste-water treatment system in Gracetown would provide a high-quality, non-drinking water supply for the town to complement existing rainwater tanks. "The proposed recycled water system will be the first large-scale residential water system in the State which provides `A+ class' recycled water directly into toilets and laundries of individual homes," Ms MacTiernan said. "The proposed water system will provide non-drinking water for both the proposed (LandCorp) development and the existing townsite to complement individual households' rainwater tank supplies. "The new system will also supply water for fire-fighting."

Ms MacTiernan hoped the waste-water treatment could be powered by a wind-turbine system, capable of producing 60kW of electricity. Expressions of interest for the waste-water facility close on Tuesday, October 2.

Energy giant backs more wind farms

Mid-Coast Observer
Wednesday 5/9/2007 Page: 10

WIND, solar and other forms of renewable energy should make up 20pc of power needs within 12 years if Australia wants to cut the carbon emissions causing climate change, according to the head of the energy giant AGL. AGL's chief executive, Paul Anthony, is calling on the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, to set a renewable energy target of 20pc by 2020, a far more ambitious goal than either side has agreed to so far. "Look at the rest of the world," Mr Anthony said. "You can't effectively have a carbon abatement scheme without a very, very strong national obligation for renewable energy." Mr Anthony's comments come as the major parties are examining targets for renewable energy in the leadup to the federal election.

For a decade, the Howard Government has resisted raising the mandatory national target for renewable energy above 2pc. Mr Anthony also criticised the Howard Government approach to a carbon emissions trading scheme, which is supposed to set a price on carbon from fossil fuels that are causing pollution. "The piecemeal disclosure of the Government's thinking worries us," he said.

Electric revolution: Region home to two of the state's first renewable power stations

Shepparton News
Thursday 6/9/2007 Page: 4

Tatura and Longwood are home to the first two accredited renewable power generation stations in Victoria. Tatura Bio Gas Power Station is selling electricity into the grid after converting methane from waste water. Meanwhile, Elgo Winery is producing electricity from a large wind turbine.

Victorian Government policy states that all electricity retailers and wholesale purchasers are required to contribute to the generation of additional renewable energy by acquiring energy certificates. The Renewable Energy Target Scheme demands that 10 per cent of Victoria's energy come from renewable sources by 2016.

The Tatura plant is run by Diamond Energy, which managing director Tony Sennitt described as a "boutique" renewable energy generation company- It was formed by former energy industry executives. The company has been supplying power into the grid since January this year, with enough power to supply about 1000 homes a year. "We take the (methane) gas and produce electricity from it and supply directly into the grid," Mr Sennitt said.

This is produced from the gas from the waste water that would ordinarily be sent into the atmosphere." Elgo Estate Wines owner and manager Grant Taresch said the winery was supplying the grid from a 150 kW turbine, using power for the winery and feeding back into the grid. Mr Sennitt said the benefit to the region was more jobs. He said for the earth in general, there was a reduction in production of greenhouse gases, while energy was offered on demand. Tatura is a trial site for the technology, with Diamond Energy hoping to develop a Shepparton plant by 2009, followed by Mooroopna.

Wind farm rests on federal policy shift

Port Pirie Recorder
Tuesday 4/9/2007 Page: 2

A proposed wind farm at Clements Gap is still very much a live project, but a gap in federal policy-making is stalling the project. Andrew Richards, who is executive manager of corporate and government affairs for Pacific Hydro, said: "The wind farm is effectively ready to go. It-is one of the best wind farms in our portfolio." He said the delay had resulted from the Federal Government setting unrealistically low targets for renewable energy. States have to buy environmental credits and some cannot transfer them to other States. This may change soon when New South Wales puts through legislation in the coming months that may allow the Clements Gap wind farm to be built.

Aust can learn from China on climate change: Greenpeace

AAP Newswire
Thursday 6/9/2007

SYDNEY, Sept 6 AAP - The Australian government needs to take a leaf out of China's book and introduce practical strategies to reduce climate change, Greenpeace says. Speaking in the middle of the APEC summit, Greenpeace energy campaigner Mark Wakeham said time was running out for Prime Minister John Howard to implement real solutions. "Now we are reaching the pointy end of the APEC meeting, it seems that any chance of real progress on climate change is fairly slim," he said.

A new Greenpeace report on climate change, released today, renews appeals for the federal government to set a target for reducing greenhouse gases by at least 30 per cent by 2020. The report also recommends a funding boost of $200 million a year for renewable energy research and development. Mr Wakeham said Australia had a lot to learn from the Chinese, who were strong advocates of the Kyoto Protocol and had implemented real strategies to combat climate change.

Australia was undermining China's efforts by blaming it for a lack of progress while refusing to set its own greenhouse gas emission targets, he said. "The Chinese government has announced that between now and 2020 will see around $322 billion invested in renewable energy projects in China," he said. "They have introduced a renewable energy target of 16 per cent by 2020, by comparison with Australia's renewable energy target of less than two per cent." He accused the Australian government of being held back on climate change in the interests of the coal and oil industries, which he said were Australia's main focuses during APEC discussions.

Blowin' in the wind

Illawarra Mercury
Thursday 6/9/2007 Page: 20

HOME wind turbines may never become as ubiquitous as satellite dishes, but their popularity is steadily gaining momentum in America and they are appearing in Australia. To give an idea of their increasing popularity, in 2000 the American Wind Energy Association in Washington DC reported small wind system sales rang in at $US19.26 million. In 2006, the number rose to $US52 million, a 170 per cent increase, and while some homeowners find the allure in projected energy bill savings, many others are out to save the planet.

The numbers are nothing like that in Australia yet, and although Auswind (The Australian Wind Energy Association), admits some of their members are looking at home turbines, it says "the cheapest, simplest and best way of making a difference for everybody" at the moment is to buy accredited green power from the grid. Often people with wind turbines in Australia include them in solar/wind hybrid systems, while small wind turbines can also supplement solar-powered systems for cabins, campervans and boats.

Turbines work by taking energy produced by the wind and converting it into electricity for a home's power needs. Most turbines look a bit like an airplane propeller atop a flagpole or affixed to the side of a house. The blades are typically made of fiberglass and epoxy or carbon fibre, and are mounted on steel structures that can reach up more than 36 metres. Usually a home is connected to both a turbine and a local power grid. When the turbine cannot produce enough power, the home draws from the utility company. If a system produces more electricity than it uses, the excess can be sold back to many utility companies, which is called net-metering.

In Australia, according to Solar Online Australia managing director Brett Sutherland, wind turbines are usually used in remote areas and areas with unreliable power supply. He explains that a one-kilowatt turbine would produce about four to five kilowatt hours per day, and an average home in NSW would draw about 15 kilowatt hours of power, so the turbine would produce a little less than one-third of a home's electricity. "It would take a three to five-kilowatt turbine to fully power a house and in reality this would probably be too big for suburbia," he said.

Sutherland added that the installation of the turbines had to be council approved and they did make some noise, and his company lent more towards solar power for similar results. Earlier generators, he said, were usually connected to batteries and then the batteries used to provide power, but now there were grid-feed turbine systems that went straight into the power grid. The typical cost for a one-kilowatt wind turbine unit was about $4900, plus tower construction of about $2000, a grid-feed inverter, $3000, plus cabling, protection and installation.

In the US, according to retailer New England Breeze, the average price of a wind turbine sufficient to power a 1500-square-foot home that used 9000 kilowatt-hours a year would be between $US11,000 and $US14,000. But a saving that's of equal or greater importance to those purchasing turbines is the amount of clean air preserved.