Monday, 16 November 2009

Red tape holding up bid for cheap, clean power

Courier Mail
Friday 13/11/2009 Page:44

COMPANIES aiming to develop carbon pollution-free power plants in Queensland say they are being held back by unexplained delays in the state energy department. GeoDynamics is a Brisbane based global pioneer of geothermal technology that taps heat sources over 4km below ground at its Cooper Basin project in which Origin Energy has a 30% stake. It aims to have a 25-MW commercial-scale demonstration plant operating at the site in South Australia in 2013.

GeoDynamics managing director Gerry Grove-White said it expects to produce continuous or baseload-capable, zero emissions power from the site for less than $100 a MW hour. That undercuts the estimated $120-$140/MWh price of coal-fired power from plants equipped with still-unproven carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. GeoDynamics says studies show its Cooper Basin site alone has the potential to support generating capacity of over 1O,000MW, which is about a fifth of Australia's electricity capacity.

GeoDynamics is now keen to get to work in Queensland. Several months ago it agreed terms for two tenements in the state's southeast with the Queensland Mines and Energy Department. But it has not been formally issued with permits. "We would be delighted to start work on our (Queensland) tenements that have been awarded. They're stuck in bureaucracy. I wish I knew (when work could start),"~ Mr GroveWhite said. Other companies are also waiting to be issued with exploration permits for paid-for Queensland tenements. State Energy Minister Stephen Robertson's office yesterday did not respond to requests for an explanation.

Years of global research into new ways of harnessing deep underground heat for emissions-free electricity have culminated in several advanced projects, mainly in SA. Governments have been warned that global greenhouse gas emissions - largely from coal, oil and gas - need to peak by about 2015 to have a fighting chance of averting catastrophic temperature and sea-level rises. But the International Energy Agency said it· could be at least 2030 before CCS can contribute meaningfully to carbon cuts. Investment is rising in technologies that· harness the wind, sun, tidal power and subsurface heat energy. Of these, solar thermal and geothermal art' seen as most able to provide 24-hour, baseload power and thus replace coal and gas plants.