Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Club is saving twice over

Bayside Leader
Tuesday 10/6/2008 Page: 6

Half Moon Bay Lifesaving Club is a shining light when it comes to conserving energy and leading by example. It is believed the 400- member club is the first in Victoria to install solar panels to generate its electricity. Club member Mark Slykhuis said the club's prominent location on the Black Rock foreshore served as a visual example of clean energy use.

"What we are trying to do is bring about change at a community level," Mr Slykhuis said. "Hopefully we can inspire people to make real changes and look at clean energy alternatives." The club was influenced by the Tathra, NSW club, which has installed solar panels and a wind turbine. Mr Slykhuis said it was hoped the panels would generate enough electricity to meet the club's power needs. Any excess energy not immediately used would be routed to the general power grid at a wholesale rate.

Mr Slykhuis said the project would not have been possible without the support of Bayside Council, which provided $5000, and Sandringham Community Bendigo Bank, which contributed $6000. Black Rock company Beyond Building provided the solar panels and contributed $5000, he said. "The plan is what we can save on the cost of electricity we can put towards lifesaving training and equipment," he said.

Seeing red over Rudd's green credentials

Newcastle Herald
Wednesday 11/6/2008 Page: 9

Means testing for rebates kills off our solar future, writes Vicki Brooke.

THE Federal Government's budget announcement that solar panel rebates would now be means tested to make the system "fairer" dealt a blow to Australians wanting to make a difference to climate change. It also killed off the fledgling solar energy industry in one neat stroke of the pen. This announcement casts doubts on the Federal Government's position in combating climate change.

How serious is the Government in reducing greenhouse gases when it makes it more difficult for people to go solar? Those with incomes of more than $100,000 are the people most able to afford solar systems, but the $12,000 price tag for one kilowatt of solar panels puts them beyond the reach of most households.

Professor Tim Flannery suggests that, rather than destroying the effectiveness of the scheme in an attempt to protect the less well-off, the Government could offer rebates, and deploy means-tested buy-back schemes, to assist those who can't afford solar panels. The irony is that the rebates are likely to run out anyway before the green loans kick in next year. The system has effectively cancelled itself and taken a whole industry with it.

According to Andrew McCarthy, from the Environment Shop in Melbourne, the balance of the solar rebate fund is now $45 million. This translates into 5625 solar systems, and over the past five months, rebate applications have been averaging about 900 a month.

There are no guarantees from the Government that any more money will be made available. The means test will also reverse the falling price trend for solar panels, according to Don Henry, the executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Since the budget announcement, the industry has experienced a huge downturn in business just when manufacturers were gearing up to mass production.

Without sufficient incentives there will be little competition and prices will remain unsustainably high compared to other countries. A recent report from the UK suggests a range of incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, loans and grants, is needed to stimulate the market for small-scale renewables - including solar, wind, biomass boilers, solar hot water and small-scale hydroelectric.

The Federal Government should focus on building up Australia's renewables generation capacity by scrapping the $100,000 means test and ploughing money into a longterm renewable energy rebate fund, which would embrace all renewable technologies including solar and wind electricity generation as well as solar hot water, with special assistance programs for low-income households.

Anxious Australians need reassurance that the Government is serious about addressing climate change. Countries such as Germany and Sweden are investing heavily in renewables and there is mounting pressure on governments worldwide to address this global issue.

Vicki Brooke is co-convener of Climate Action Newcastle.

Tunnel nears halfway, 330m underground

Border Mail
Tuesday 10/6/2008 Page: 3

THE $250million Bogong Power Station project Is on the brink of a major milestone. A giant boring machine digging a 6.5km tunnel for the hydro-electric power station is expected to reach the halfway point today. The 5m-diameter tunnel Is the key to delivering water from the McKay Creek Power Station direct to Bogong. Late last week the $12 million, 140m-long tunnel-boring machine was approaching the 3km mark and Is now more than 300m underground.

An AGL project spokesman said contractors were on track to complete the tunnel early next year. "The expected completion date Is February," he said last week. "We are about five days away from marking the halfway point on the tunnel. "The machine Is 330m below the surface but still yet to reach its deepest point. "Just last week we had our most productive day cutting through 54m of rock In 24 hours." The spokesman said there had been no repeat of the problems that plagued the machine late last year and sidelined tunnel works for three months.

"We are applying tender loving care to the machine," he said. "It Is a case of monitoring its progress and performance and making sure any problems don't get out of hand." The progress on the tunnel has also reaped dividends for the sealing of the Bogong High Plains Road. Rock from the tunnel is being shifted to the high plains for use as road base in what is a separate $10 million project.

"More than 75,000 tonnes of spoil have been shifted to the high plains so far," the spokesman said. "That's 2500 truck and trailer loads already." The spokesman said other elements of the project were also on track for completion early next year. "The power station building Is rising out of the ground," he said.

"In the next couple of weeks we will be loading the first turbine Into place and the second turbine Is about four weeks behind that." AGL's 140Mw hydro power station on Lake Guy, between Mount Beauty and Falls Creek, is the biggest addition to the Kiewa hydro scheme since the 1960s.

Suburb solar bonus

Herald Sun
Wednesday 11/6/2008 Page: 15

LOW-income households in Coburg will be the focus of efficiency measures in a $4.9 million solar project. Up to 100kW of solar panels will be installed on homes, businesses and schools and 1000 energy audits will be carried out. smart meters will also be installed, and the data used to see how household energy use changes. Coburg joins Central Victoria, Adelaide, Blacktown, Townsville and Alice Springs in the Federal Government's $94 million Solar Cities project.

NZ power crisis

Canberra Times
Wednesday 11/6/2008 Page: 10

New Zealanders will be urged to wash dishes by hand and turn off some of their household lights as the country teeters on the brink of a power crisis caused by drought. After two years of dry weather, the low level of water in lakes that drive New Zealand's hydroelectric power plants is causing concern.

The Energy Minister, David Parker, has denied claims that the country was facing rolling power cuts, but said that unless there was significant rainfall soon, households would be asked to cut electricity consumption by up to 15 per cent during the peak early-evening time. hydroelectric stations usually produce about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electricity but lack of rainfall has reduced that output in recent weeks to 50 per cent.

Harvesting energy from forest waste

Ballarat Courier
Wednesday 11/6/2008 Page: 25

THE Central Highlands community has been challenged to consider establishing energy plants that would produce electricity from forest wastes. Essentially, forest residues left after timber harvesting as well as forest thinnings and other woody material often looked upon as waste, including, trine, shavings, woodchips, sawdust, bark and other residues, would be harvested to make electricity, biofuels and other products. The timber state of Oregon on the north-west coast of the United States is putting this into practice.

The benefits of this approach are seen as:
  • Restoring forest health, fire resilience and wildlife habitat;
  • Finding renewable energy alternatives; and
  • Revitalising rural economies.
Professor Loren Kellogg issued the challenge last week at a Central Victorian Farm Plantations committee meeting in Ballarat. Professor Kellogg, who is Lematta Professor of Forest Engineering at Oregon State University, is coming to the end of a 12-month visit to Australia where he has been working with the CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) for Forestry based in Hobart and more lately as a senior research fellow with the School of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the Creswick campus of the University of Melbourne.

He will return to Oregon next month via New Zealand where he will be presenting a paper at a forest summit. Appropriately, Professor Kellogg addressed the farm plantations committee on World Environment Day. After giving a detailed explanation of the formation of the biomass industry in Oregon, Professor Kellogg presented two conclusions for consideration by the central Victorian region.

They were:
  • A regional working group could help accelerate the sustainable development and use of woody biomass; and
  • Commissioning a biomass energy and biofuels study that collects information and summarises opportunities, barriers and recommendations relevant to the central Victorian region could help significantly change the landscape.
In the question time following Professor Kellogg's presentation, farm plantations committee executive officer David Fisken said there was an opportunity to be involved in biomass energy production in this area.

Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum executive officer, Laurie Norman, who also attended the meeting, said: "This has maintained my enthusiasm for getting something going in this region." In his presentation, Professor Kellogg told of the formation of the Oregon Forest Resource Institute, which commissioned a study into biomass opportunities.

The website for the institute is www.oregonforests.org Subsequently, in 2007, the Oregon legislature passed energy legislation aimed at meeting renewable energy goals. In the conclusion of his address, Professor Kellogg said biomass could help solve forest health and habitat problems, create economic prosperity in rural Oregon and produce renewable energy.

Garrett signals a reprieve for solar industry

Wednesday 11/6/2008 Page: 3

ENVIRONMENT Minister Peter Garrett has signalled that a means test that makes it harder for households to get an $8000 rebate for rooftop solar panels may be abolished if it causes a dramatic fall in sales. The $100,000 means test, introduced in last month's budget, has been criticised by unions, the Opposition and the Greens and has drawn strong protests from the solar panel industry, which claims it faces losing up to 80% of its business.

While reiterating his support for the policy, Mr Garrett yesterday said the Government had listened to the industry's concerns and would track the impact of the means test on the solar photovoltaic market. "Let's monitor demand so that we have accurate figures... on the basis of accurate information we'll consider what the right action ought to be," he said.

The Opposition last week targeted Mr Garrett over the policy, with Liberal leader Brendan Nelson threatening to introduce a private member's bill in a bid to force the Government to backtrack. Under sustained attack in Parliament, Mr Garrett responded that the rebate scheme was overheating - attracting more interest than could be met by the funding the Howard government allocated last year.

Environment Department officials told a Senate estimates hearing that demand had grown to three times the level the funding allocation could sustain, and would have had to end within months unless means tested. The Government responded in two ways: by introducing the means test, and bringing forward funding so the number of rebates available each year doubled from 3000 to 6000.

But critics claim few households on less than $100,000 can afford solar panels, which cost between $12,000 and $21,000 without the rebate. They argue that the Government is treating the solar rebate as middle-class welfare, rather than a means to combat climate change. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has previously left the door open to the Government fine-tuning its renewable energy policies as it introduces a carbon trading scheme, which will require business to buy permits to emit greenhouse gas from 2010.

Mr Garrett's comments came as he launched a $4.9 million "solar cities" program in Coburg, fulfilling a promise made before last year's election. About 1000 poor households will be audited and refitted to become more energy efficient in a bid to cut greenhouse emissions and reduce electricity bills under a project led by the not-for-profit Moreland Energy Foundation.

Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said that assuming a carbon cost of $25 a tonne, research suggested the rise in prices under an Emissions Trading Scheme would push 206,000 households below the poverty line. The Coburg project is also a research exercise, with smart meters to be installed in homes to measure the impact of rising electricity prices on energy use.

Germany leads the way on solar generation

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 10/6/2008 Page: 25

THE commitment to a long term coal economy makes the doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration early in the next century virtually unavoidable, with the prospect of substantial and perhaps irreversible changes in global climate." A young American physicist named Amory Lovins wrote those prophetic words in 1976. He went on to criticise his world's unfortunate preference for what he called "hard energy" - fossil fuel-powered transport and big centralised electricity generators.

Big corporations like centralised energy systems because they're easy to control. Governments prefer them because they're big, visible and have an effect on the electorate. But they also have an effect on the environment. That bothered Mr Lovins, who advocated a shift to "soft energy", by which lie meant small-scale sources of renewable energy. including biofuels, geothermal and wind energy, located near where the energy is used - in our homes, offices and factories.

So after three decades we're finally starting to have the discussion we should have had then. And of all the technologies for distributing power generation, it's electricity from the sun using photovoltaic cells that has attracted most attention, and controversy. Solar P-V costs a lot and is less efficient than wind energy, but its clean, high-tech image has obvious appeal to those who think technology will solve all our climate problems. It won't - human behaviour is immensely more important - but solar still has a valuable role to play.

In Germany. which gets only about half the solar energy that falls per square metre on our own wide brown land. P-V energy output is many times that of Australia. A similar rate of solar uptake in sunny Australia could yield as much as 5 per cent of our energy needs.

In summarily slapping a means test on the subsidy for installation of solar panels. the Rudd government offered Australians no significant alternative incentive to go solar - such as a national feed-in tariff scheme guaranteeing a longterm return on high installation costs.

The most effective such scheme is in Germany, where private take-up of renewable energy, including other energy sources such as wind, has been astonishingly successful. Germany pays premium prices for all renewable power generated, not just the net surplus after subtracting what's used by the household. In Australia, only the ACT Government has so far opted for such a gross scheme in a Bill presently before the ACT Legislative Assembly. South Australia's scheme covers only "net" power: Queensland and Victoria have adopted a similar course.

In Tasmania (which also gets a lot more sun than Germany), the Government and electricity suppliers have yet to agree on a feed-in tariff scheme. Householders installing solar - or keen entrepreneurs like Nichols Poultry, which paid megabucks for its own wind turbine - must put up with low rates payable only on excess energy generated.

Germany's success is founded on a good bottom line - the turnover of its world-leading renewables sector was over $US25 billion last financial year - and leadership prepared to open up to the electorate about dangerous climate change. What is it about Australian governments and businesses that they find it so hard to get their heads around such things?

Peter Boyer is a Hobart-based science writer and a presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project.

Sun about to shine on $15m solar cities project

Bendigo Advertiser
Tuesday 10/6/2008 Page: 5

HOUSEHOLDS have been invited to become part of the solar cities initiative to be launched soon in central Victoria. The consortium set up to administer $15 million of federal funding for the project is seeking people to take part in Solar Cities Central Victoria, which will involve up to 3300 households in central and northern Victoria.

It is now finalising negotiations with the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, and the 14 councils in the region are expected to have an important role in promoting the project, providing information and supporting recruitment. In a statement released on the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance website, project organisers have asked supporters to be patient while final negotiations with the Federal Government are completed.

"While we understand the time delay between winning the bid and commencing the project is frustrating, we are asking people to please be patient for a little longer," it said. "We will be providing an update on the status and progress of the project to all those who have registered by June 30." The $15 million funding was announced last July. The project aims to ensure solar technologies, including solar hot water and solar photovoltaic products, are more accessible and affordable.

It will trial energy efficiency measures including smart meters and new tariffs as part of a pilot project that it is hoped can be replicated in other areas. The project is one of six to be funded under a $75 million program, which also includes projects in North Adelaide, Blacktown, Alice Springs, Townsville and Kalgoorlie.

The central Victorian project team includes 14 councils, Bendigo Bank, Origin Energy, La Trobe University, North Central CMA, Bendigo Access Employment, Bendigo Health Care Group and University of Ballarat.

As part of the study, two 300 kW solar photovoltaic parks would be established in Bendigo and Ballarat to help show how solar power is generated and then fed back into the electricity grid. If all homes and businesses in the region took up the energy efficiency measures in the Solar Cities project, it is estimated the region would save up to nine gigawatt hours of electricity, worth about $1.1 million, and 13,300 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.

Anger at sale of wind farm to Japanese firm

Tuesday 10/6/2008 Page: 6

A SOUTH Gippsland residents group has slammed a decision to sell the controversial Bald Hills Wind Farm project at Tarwin Lower to a Japanese company. But the move was yesterday strongly endorsed by the Brumby Government and defended by the Melbourne company that has developed the project so far. Tarwin Valley Coastal Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy said he was disappointed that the Japanese company Mitsui had acquired the wind farm project through its Australian subsidiary.

And he expressed surprise Mitsui had not spoken to the residents group yet about its plans. "Our rural landscape is getting sold off to foreign companies," he said. "It just doesn't seem to make sense to sell off our landscapes. .. to the benefit of a Japanese trading house." Mr Le Roy, a Walkerville property owner, said there were 1500 written objections to the project, and most locals remained strongly opposed to it regardless of its ownership. Opponents of the project would continue campaigning against it, he said. To date, wind farm developer Wind Power Pty Ltd has developed the Bald Hills project.

Last night Wind Power director Andrew Newbold rejected concerns regarding Japanese ownership, saying it made no difference to the project. "What we're interested in is making sure these renewable projects get built," he said. State Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said: "It is great to see international companies such as Mitsui investing in Victorian renewable energy projects such as this, which will boost the local economy and reduce our impact on climate change."

Monday, 16 June 2008

Oil shockwave hits G8

Courier Mail
Monday 9/6/2008 Page: 15

TOKYO: The US and Asia's four largest powers voiced "serious concern" yesterday about a record spike in oil prices but vowed to keep scaling back politically sensitive fuel subsidies. Oil prices, which have soared five-fold since 2003, posted their highest one-day gain of $US10.75 to close at a new record of $US138.54 in New York on Friday after hawkish remarks by an Israeli official on oil producer Iran.

Senior officials from the US, Japan, China, India and South Korea said in a joint statement after the Group of Eight industrial powers talks in Aomori, Japan, that they "share serious concerns" about the current level of oil prices. "These prices are unprecedented and against the interest of both consuming and producing countries. They pose a great burden particularly on resource-scarce developing countries," the statement said.

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman warned oil producers that it would do them no good if the US economy took a hit. "It's not good for producing nations to see the US struggling economically (as) they depend on us to be a significant engine in world economic activity," Mr Bodman said. Despite the political sensitivity, the joint statement called for a scaling down of fuel subsidies, saying it would "enhance energy efficiency" and lead to investment in alternative energy.

Developing economies tend to heavily subsidise fuel costs in a bid to ease the burden on the poorest members of society. India and Indonesia have recently been forced to hike prices amid soaring global crude-oil costs, triggering large anti-government demonstrations in the two countries. Japan's Energy Minister, Akira Amari, the chairman of the meeting, said that rising oil prices were "a major risk factor" for the world economy. Meeting with South Korea's minister Lee Youn-Ho. Mr Amari said he thought crude-oil prices were "abnormally high."

"We want to issue a message on this to the world," he said. Mr Lee added: "I don't think the oil prices are at normal levels either. It is fairly questionable whether the world economy will be able to develop further at this level of crude oil prices." Analysts said the sharp spike was a reaction to reported remarks by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz on Iran, a major oil producer.

Mr Mofaz warned that the Jewish state would attack Iran if it continued its alleged nuclear weapons drive, although he stressed such an operation could only be conducted with US support.

Next step to clean power

Monday 9/6/2008 Page: 5

THE power of the wind and the tide have been harnessed, now the footfalls of trudging shoppers are to become the latest source of emission-free energy. British-designed generators powered by "heel strike" may soon be installed beneath the floors in supermarkets and railway stations. The technology could use the footsteps of pedestrians to power thousands of lightbulbs at shopping centres. It works by using the pressure of feet on the floor to compress pads, driving fluid through mini-turbines.

Engineers who have modelled the effects of the technology at a station in central London have calculated that the 34,000 travellers passing through every hour could power 6500 lightbulbs. Structural engineer David Webb said: "It's just picking up on the fact that all structures move a bit. This technology says, 'OK, we can do something useful with that energy'."

Bega region dives into project to raise funds for energy revolution

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 8/6/2008 Page: 11

A TEAM of swimmers will brave the icy waters of the Bega River today to raise $10,000 to install a 400W wind turbine at Tathra Primary School.

The swim is part of a push led by the community run group, Clean Energy for Eternity, to make the NSWV South Coast's Bega Valley 50/50 by 2020 - with a 50 per cent reduction in energy use and a 50 per cent adoption of renewable energy by the same year. Today, 10 people will swine 7km along the river in water that could be as cold as 10 degrees.

" Wetsuits, booties, gloves and hoods will be mandatory," Clean Energy for Eternity founder Matthew Nott said. "Hypothermia's going to be a real risk, so we've got a couple of doctors on the water and we've got an ambulance on standby at the finish. It's going to be an event the like of which has never been seen before on the Bega River." Also this morning, an enormous sand sign will be constructed on the southern bank of the river.

Dr Nott believes it will probably be the world's largest sand sign. The Bega River Lifesaving Energy Big Swim is the fourth of a series of swims which have raised more than $50,000 for renewable energy infrastructure for surf clubs in south-eastern NSW.

Dr Nott said that with council support and federal government rebates, the money would allow Clean Energy for Eternity to install more than $100,000 worth of renewable energy in the six surf clubs in the region in the next couple of months. The wind turbine would be one of a couple of strategically placed initiatives. The swimmers will start at 10am at Blackfellas Lake in Bega and are expected to finish 2.5-3 hours later at the Mogareeka Bridge.

Japanese firm buys up wind project

Monday 9/6/2008 Page: 5

THE much-delayed Bald Hills Wind Farm in Victoria, notorious for being rejected due to a perceived threat to the Orange-Bellied Parrot, has been sold to Japanese interests. And the proposed cost of the project has blown out to $300 million, with the wind farm now scheduled to operate from 2011, five years after former environment minister Ian Campbell caved in and belatedly approved the project.

Japanese company Mitsui has acquired 100 per cent of the shares of Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd, a special-purpose company that held the development rights for the planned 52-turbine project near the southern Victorian town of Wonthaggi. Melbourne company Wind Power Pty Ltd confirmed the deal to The Australian.

Wind Power director Andrew Newbold said the company planned to enter into an agreement with Mitsui to assist in the project's construction. It also expected to manage the facility once it was built by the end of 2011. In December 2006, Senator Campbell backed down and approved the project eight months after blocking it over an alleged threat to the Orange-Bellied Parrot. Senator Campbell had previously overruled advice from his own department and blocked the wind farm, citing risks to the endangered bird.

It was revealed, however, that the predicted frequency of an orange-bellied parrot fatally colliding with turbines was, at worst, once every 1000 years. Changes trumpeted by Senator Campbell did not substantially alter the project, and serious doubts remained about whether the Orange-Bellied Parrot was ever under threat from the wind farm. The company was required to move only six of the 52 turbines that had been within 2km of the coast the parrot's potential migratory path.

By the time the project was approved, its cost had blown out by $30 million to $250 million. Mr Newbold said the estimated cost of the facility was now $300 million. He defended the deal with Mitsui, saying "basically, we needed an equity partner. The message from Wind Power is we are thrilled with the transaction," he said. 'We think it's reflective of our hard work and we're looking forward to building it to enable the Government to meet its renewable energy targets." However, both Mitsui and Wind Power suggested the deal was yet to be locked down.

Mitsui said it expected to be in a position to "make a final investment decision" on the project within the next 12 months. Mr Newbold said Wind Power was "working toward financial close" over the next 10 to 12 months, with construction work to start next year. "They are obviously making a strategic investment in renewables and we hope to do a lot more projects with them," he said. "We were never going to own it outright because of the equity required and we will still be assisting in the building process.

Moreover, we will continue to manage the facility once it's constructed." Mr Newbold said the drawn out approval process for the project had been costly. "What that did was cost us a lot of money, a lot of time and it probably set the company back in its growth path a couple of years," he said. The company will contribute funding to the recovery plan for the parrot.

Mr Newbold said there had been increasing commercial interest in renewable energy since the defeat of the Howard government last year. "We are getting a call a week now from both local and international investors looking to invest in renewables since the change of government."

Methane gas generates electricity

Mining Chronicle
May, 2008 Page: 64

While looking at ways to reduce its water consumption, Illawarra Coal was also working on its world-first WestVAMP power plant at West Cliff Mine and developing energy savings actions plans for its operations. The company's operations consumed 307 gigawatt hours of electricity and 2011 kilolitres of distillate to produce 6.89 million tonnes of clean coal in 2006-07. It recognised that there was more work to be done to reduce usage.

While methane, drained from underground mine workings, has been used to generate electricity at the Appin and Appin West methane gas engine power plants for almost two decades, generating up to 440,000 megawatt hours of electricity a year, the company saw another window of opportunity - using the methane gas from mine ventilation air to generate electricity.

It chose to trial Vocsidizer technology pioneered by Swedish emission control specialist MEGETC Systems, which works by merging two conventional technologies - emission control technology and a steam-cycle power plant. The resulting operation - which represented a spend of about $30 million including a $6 million Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program contribution - was officially opened by NSW Premier Morris Iemma on September 14 last year.

Mr Iemma said it was a "great day" for the region, the state and the nation. "This facility will make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas reduction in NSW and I applaud the ingenuity of Illawarra Coal and its technology providers MEGTEC Systems," he said. Illawarra Coal president Colin Bloomfield said the project was a fine example of BHP Billiton's Climate Change Policy in action.

"The policy is about delivering real reductions in the greenhouse gas intensity of our production processes and WestVAMP is making a significant contribution to reducing BHP Billiton's carbon footprint," he told the opening. "The support of the Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program with a $6 million contribution was also critical to the commercial viability of the investment." By the end of last year, WestVAMP had reduced the amount of electricity consumed by West Cliff Mine by about 35,000 megawatt hours per year.

The plant uses up to 20 per cent of the extremely dilute methane in the ventilation air from the mine to generate electricity. It is expected to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 250,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year - the equivalent of eliminating emissions from 45,000 cars annually or producing enough electricity for 20,000 homes. In its first six months of operation alone, WestVAMP abated more than 88.000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and exported about 10,000 megawatt hours of electricity to the West Cliff Mine.

The operation was almost immediately named the winner of the Australian Institute of Energy Award. Handed out just once every two years, the prize recognises and rewards individuals and organisations who have made an outstanding contribution to the energy sector in NSW and/or the ACT. Illawarra Coal's award in the Energy and Environment category acknowledged WestVAMP's contribution to improving environmental performance in the energy industry.

Together with its previous methane capture initiatives, WestVAMP makes Illawarra Coal one of the largest single contributors to greenhouse gas emission reduction in NSW. But saving (and creating) electricity and water weren't the only environmental issues on the company's mind last year. Noise and dust were its major considerations during the construction of a new coal sizer at Dendrobium Mine.

Approved by the Department of Planning early in 2006 following extensive consultation and a number of changes aimed at reducing impacts on the community, the sizer was completed last March. Its aim is to allow the mine to reduce the size of large slabs of material to a safer and more manageable size for transport and handling.

During the seven-month construction phase, the mine kept the local community informed of progress through meeting residents living close to the site, newsletters, information sheets delivered to homes and briefings to the community consultative committee including a site tour once construction was complete. Noise studies on completion confirmed noise levels were well within those specified in the consent applications.

Give solar credit

Werribee Banner
Wednesday 4/6/2008 Page: 98

A SYSTEM of credits could help give Australia's solar energy industry the stability it needs to grow, a Melbourne climate change expert believes. The Howard Government's pre-election offer of $8000 for households installing solar power panels had the desired effect of lifting sales, boosting production, increasing jobs and investment in the industry and leading to prices dropping by about 10 per cent. But suppliers say between 70-80 per cent of their former customers were rendered ineligible for the rebate when the Rudd Government restricted it to households earning under $100,000 in its first budget last month.

One Melbourne company said potential customers cancelled orders worth $500,000 the day after the budget announcement and others have already laid-off trained installers and other staff. Rupert Posner is the Melbourne-based Australian spokesman for the Climate Group, an international not-for-profit group that works with businesses and governments to address climate change. He believes the success of the rebate scheme inevitably led to its downfall.

"The core problem with the rebate scheme has been its stop-start nature; once it is successful it costs too much money." The solution, he believes, needs to combine emissions trading - putting a price on the environmental cost of producing energy - with a program to stimulate the solar industry. He suggests offering energy production credits to households installing photovoltaic cells, credits that could then be sold to power retailers.

"Electricity retailers already have to buy power from wind or solar power producers to meet the 20 per cent renewable energy target, so you could use this scheme to reward those investing in solar panels." Mr Posner suggests this support could be wound back as the industry became more efficient, so solar was competing on an even field by 2020. He said modelling showed that a scheme like this could see 100,000 households a year signing up by 2020. "It needs to be a policy that delivers transformation," he said,"not just a rebate that makes a few people feel good'.

Council to trial three electric cars

Mail Maribyrnong
Wednesday 4/6/2008 Page: 5

AS petrol prices climb at a dizzying pace, Maribynong City Council is taking a step towards sustainability, equipping itself with three electric-powered cars. In a move the council believes is an Australian first, it will establish the fleet of retrofitted electric Hyundai Getz vehicles - which cost $50,000 each. They will be delivered in about three months and used in a 12-month trial. Maribynong believes it will be the first council in Australia to operate such a fleet.

It expects to prevent about 13 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by using the fleet for its traffic and local laws operations for the 12-month trial. The cars will be partially funded by the Sustainability Fund of Victoria, which is testing seven electric vehicles in local government organisations. Such cars will also be part of a 12-month University of Ballarat study, analysing the potential benefits of running an electric vehicle fleet.

Electric cars use no petrol and are charged by electricity, with energy stored in a battery. A fully charged electric car has enough power to travel 100 kilometres. From a regular power point, they take about four hours to fully charge. However, with the council's 'super charger', the fleet cars take about one hour to fully charge from 'empty'. A full charge uses 10 kilowatt hours of power, or about $1.40 worth of the council's green electricity - from wind, solar and other renewable sources - in contrast to a petrol-powered car, which costs about $11.50 to drive 100 kilometres.

Action plan for beyond fossil fuels

Newcastle Herald
Friday 6/6/2008 Page: 25

A MEETING of business leaders, scientists and environmental experts has issued a 10-point plan to help Australia cope with diminishing fossil fuels. Issued during the three day Beyond Carbon conference in Adelaide, the plan could be adopted by individuals and businesses heading into a carbon-constrained world, the group said. It urged everyone concerned with climate change, global warming and the limited supply of fossil fuels to:
  • Create a sense of urgency by talking about 2010, not 2030.
  • Develop a shared vision of a better way of living beyond carbon.
  • Share ideas, collaborate.
  • Lobby local politicians to ensure the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme is driven by science, not politics.
  • Use and promote the development of a more integrated low-carbon public transport system.
  • Secure the economic benefits of immediate energy efficiency measures.
  • Promote and pursue the commercial opportunities presented by the emerging carbon market.
  • Buy green power.
  • Offset emissions that cannot be avoided.
  • Recycle and reuse.

Mitsui To Construct Y30B Wind Power Plant In Australia-Nikkei

Dow Jones Newswires
Friday 6/6/2008

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Mitsui & Co. intends to build and operate a large wind power plant in Australia and begin selling the generated electricity to retailers by 2011, becoming the first Japanese company to do so, the Nikkei reported in its Friday morning edition.

The plant, which is seen costing around Y30 billion, is to be built on the coast near Melbourne. Mitsui has already obtained development rights, handed down by the Australian government, from a local wind power firm.

The trading house aims to build 52 wind machines, each able to generate 2,000kW of electricity, for total output of 104,000kW. This will apparently lift Australia's wind power generation by more than 10% and is enough to meet the energy needs of 62,000 homes a year.

Construction is to start by next spring. In Australia, electricity providers can engage in wholesale operations as well as issue and sell accreditation for clean energy. This means providers can sell electricity at a premium. Even though it is more expensive to generate wind power than thermal and other forms of electricity, Mitsui anticipates its operations being profitable because of accreditation sales.

Australia is a latecomer to wind power, but a change in government last year has resulted in a policy reversal. The new Labor Party government, which is aggressively addressing the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2007. It is now targeting wind, solar and other types of renewable energy, hoping to make them accountable for 20% of household electricity consumption by 2020.

Liberals change tune on Mighell

Daily Advertiser
Friday 6/6/2008 Page: 9

HE MIGHT have dubbed John Howard a "skidmark" but it seems the Liberal Party is happy to claim the support of unionist Dean Mighell. Barely a year after branding the Victorian union organiser a thug, the Opposition yesterday circulated a letter from Mr Mighell backing his stance on solar energy rebates. Mr Mighell, the state Electrical Trades Union (ETU) secretary, wrote to Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt expressing shock at the government's decision to means test its $8000 rebate for installing solar panels.

"This appears to have been an overnight decision. The ETU is not aware of any industry consultation that has occurred prior to this decision being implemented," Mr Mighell wrote. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson cited the letter as he announced the Coalition would move a private member's motion to reverse the budget decision.