Thursday, 2 April 2009

Clean inroads in keen India

Sunday Times
Sunday 29/3/2009 Page: 83

A Perth clean-energy company has helped develop an engine that runs on natural gas and hydrogen. Eden Energy, which tried unsuccessfully to have its technology installed in Transperth buses, is now making inroads in the massive Indian market. With Eden Energy's expertise, the giant Indian transport company Ashok Leyland has developed a six cylinder, six-litre engine operated by Hythane, a fuel that combines natural gas and hydrogen.

India and China are the markets driving the Hythane industry. Ashok Leyland claims to move more than 60 million passengers a day on its buses, more than the entire Indian rail network. In Australia, natural gas-driven vehicles are virtually limited to the 20,000 government buses, where fleets were turned over every 10-15 years. Ashok Leyland sells 100,000 buses a year.

"That's just one company and that's every year," Eden Energy's Greg Solomon said. "Take Transperth for argument's sake. I had meetings with them a couple of years ago when they were doing their hydrogen bus trials. "I told them that they could achieve a far greater benefit with the same amount of hydrogen if they used Hythane.

"I said 'you've got natural gas; the hydrogen is easily added. We had discussions, but they weren't particularly interested. Further, it was only a very limited market as the number of buses they were replacing that particular year was only 67." India's interest in Hythane technology is driven by a concern for air pollution and environmental problems.

Mr Solomon said petrol still ruled in Australia and the US because economics was the main driver. "They (India) are just starting the rapid expansion and roll-out of infrastructure for motor vehicles," Mr Solomon said. "They are moving straight to gas and are very conscious of air pollution." Speaking about the latest development with Ashok Leyland, announced to the Australian Securities Exchange on Friday, Mr Solomon said it was a significant step.

"It's a big project," he said. "The concept of what we're doing is really promoting the use of hydrogen-enriched natural gas as a premium blend of natural gas. "It's a step on the way to a full hydrogen economy. "The Indian Government has embraced that. They have a national hydrogen road map, which contemplates this and promotes the use of Hythane. They plan to have 20% of all vehicles running on a hydrogen-based fuel by 2020."

Ashok Leyland pioneered the use of compressed natural gas fuel for mass transportation in the country by rolling out India's first CNG bus in Mumbai in 1997. Mr Solomon said the technology was fully proven over a 20-year period. "Hythane can pay for itself with efficiency gains with a properly tuned, lean-burn engine or a stoichiometric engine with exhaust gas recirculation," he said.

"You can produce the hydrogen from the natural gas. "You can reduce your emissions, particularly of NO2, (a type of nitrogen oxide), which causes serious lung and respiratory problems, by up to 50% and also increase your efficiency. There is no reduction in power - nothing gets worse. It's a premium blend of natural gas. "All we're doing is taking a small amount of hydrogen and adding it in.

The hydrogen acts as a very strong combustion stimulant. You get a great benefit with a small amount of hydrogen. Hythane engines are arguably the world's cleanest and most efficient internal-combustion engines."

Carbon plan hard to credit

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 31/3/2009 Page: 27

HOW silly we've been! Here we were, thinking that the Rudd Government's "carbon pollution reduction scheme" was about reducing carbon pollution in Australia, when all the time it really aimed to cut emissions in places such as Indonesia and Papua New Guinea! Fancy us thinking that this scheme and other government measures were intended to cut Australian emissions by as much as 60% by 2050 when, really, a zero domestic cut will be a perfectly acceptable outcome!

How simple-minded we've been to have ever entertained the thought that the Government might really start to "knock a few heads together" (to use Prime Ministerial words) to force tough action on us in Australia, a world leader in per capita carbon pollution. We couldn't have been more wrong. We now know the Government intended no such thing.

In a Quarterly Essay published last week, former Howard government policy insider Guy Pearse wrote that Treasury modelling for Australia's 2050 reduction target depended not on cuts to local emissions, but on the purchase of carbon credits in developing countries to our north.

In 2007, John Howard's cosy relationship with big fossil fuel interests persuaded Mr Pearse to go public on how this "carbon mafia" was undermining Australia's effort to cut carbon emissions. It was the start of a new career for Mr Pearse as a public interest advocate in the climate policy wars.

Mr Pearse told ABC Radio last week that Treasury modelling incorporated a scheme of "reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries" (REDD), in which polluters in developed countries will be able to buy carbon credits from landholders in developing countries.

REDD is likely to come into effect after 2012 in a new climate agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen. Under the REDD scheme, as Mr Pearse explained it, "you pay a landholder not to log a forest and you can claim credit for the carbon that's stored in that forest, and you can use that towards your Australian emissions trading obligation".

Then Climate Change Minister Penny Wong came on the airwaves to confirm that, yes, offshore credits - "international trade", as she put it - will be part of Australian emissions trading, asserting that Australian companies investing to reduce emissions in developing countries was a good thing.

It is absolutely a good thing that people in richer countries care enough for our planet's future to put money into preserving tropical forests - vital resources in taking up excess atmospheric carbon - and in no way do I wish to undermine the establishment of a functional emissions trading scheme.

But it is absolutely not a good thing if unlimited offshore credits provide a way to avoid the effort of cutting excessive emissions at home. Senator Wong will deny that this will happen, but Mr Pearse's analysis of Treasury modelling is damning.

By 2050, the modelling says, Australian greenhouse gas emissions will be about 400 to 425 million tonnes a year - about the same as in the benchmark year of 1990 (418 million tonnes if we exclude questionable land-clearing figures that secured Australia's favourable Kyoto target).

Australia can only achieve its 60% reduction target "on paper", Mr Pearse says, by effectively outsourcing emission cuts through unlimited REDD credits. And it is very likely that this will be a cheap option - another reason for taking the outsourcing path - because the carbon price on offer in Indonesia and PNG seems set to be much lower than the Australian standard.

Duplicity and hypocrisy are ever present in our political processes, so we always knew it would be part of formulating climate policy. But we have good reason to expect a lot better than this.

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

Power bill price hikes in pipeline

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 31/3/2009 Page: 3

TASMANIANS face huge power price hikes and the State Government must introduce competition in the energy market if it wants to slow the rises, experts say. Energy Users of Australia executive director Roman Domanski said his members, including Rio Tinto, Alcan, TEMCO and Norske Skog, faced multiple pressures which would increase energy costs.

"Transmission charges, a price on carbon and a higher renewable energy target will all increase costs." Mr Domanski said. "That is on top of the already high prices being paid by Tasmanians on the National Electricity Market Management Company of not much less than $100 a MW hour." EUA plans to challenge the Transend rises with the Australian Energy Regulator.

Mr Domanski said Transend had proposed a 60% rise in charges - a 19% rise in July and a compound rise of 5.8% over each of the next five years. The Transend rises are expected to add $30 a year to residential power bills and a further $12 a year until 2014. Mr Domanski said the capital expenditure proposed by Transend was not justified.

He said the Government needed to announce when it would have full retail competition, including companies from interstate. "It is important the Government get on with this and announce when they will have full retail competition or customers here will be always beholden to Aurora," he said.

Mr Domanski said Tasmanian "mums and dads" were on regulated prices and needed competition for lower prices. "Retail contestability is the best and surest way to get more retailers into the market down here," he said. He said that in an environment of high wholesale prices it was difficult to move people off regulated tariffs.

"But until you make an announcement you will never create the environment for competition," he said. "It is inevitable it will happen. The Government might as well face it and make some sort of announcement about it." He said competition was limited with one dominant generator (Hydro Tasmania) and one dominant retailer (Aurora).

"It is a particularly bad situation for Tasmanian users because at the same time they are being tossed into the contestable market there is a lack of competition," he said. Mr Domanski said Rio Tinto Alcan would face formidable challenges when it came out of a longterm contract with Hydro in 2014. "That contract represents a premarket situation when Hydro Tasmania was a monopoly business," he said. "I aim sure people in Tasmania don't want to see operations like that put at risk."

Garbage guzzlers

Herald Sun
Tuesday 31/3/2009 Page: 4

GARBAGE could soon power cars, an alternative fuel expert has predicted on a visit to Holden officials in Australia. Wes Bolsen said anything with carbon could be the basis of ethanol, an alternative fuel that could cut the world's reliance on petrol and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

"Motorists want to have the choice of using a fuel that is cheaper than conventional petrol, is good for the environment and which provides local jobs," he said. Holden has formed an alliance with Mr Bolsen's company, Coskata, and plans to produce Commodores capable of running on E85 ethanol fuel from next year.

Hot water plan

Canberra Times
Tuesday 31/3/2009 Page: 6

Electric storage hot water systems would be banned from all new Canberra homes under new laws proposed by the ACT Greens. Greens planning spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur will introduce a Bill in the Legislative Assembly tomorrow that would make it mandatory for hot water systems installed in all new homes to be low-emission types such as solar, heat pump or efficient gas. The law would also apply to any replacement hot water systems installed from next year.

Charge car in Tassie to help save the world

Tuesday 31/3/2009 Page: 5

WANT to buy an electric vehicle and save the planet one recharge at a time? In some parts of Australia, particularly Victoria, you would be better off buying a hybrid or even a small-capacity petrol engined car. Figures released by the University of South Australia reveal how much carbon dioxide an electric vehicle will produce for each kilometre travelled in each state or territory based on how the electricity is generated.

In Victoria, where 85% of electricity comes from power stations burning more highly polluting brown coal, the figures show an electric vehicle will produce the equivalent of about 130 grams of carbon dioxide a kilometre - about the same as small-engined petrol hatchback. But recharge the same electric car in Tasmania, where almost all the electricity is generated using more environmentally friendly hydroelectric power plants, and the equivalent carbon dioxide output falls to about 13 grams.

This is far better than any car on our roads today - including petrol-electric hybrids - and lower even than the next wave of ultra-efficient vehicles slated for Australia. No mainstream car makers offer an all-electric vehicle for sale in Australia, although Mitsubishi last week announced that it would test a small five seat hatchback - the iMiEV - before making a decision to sell the car here possibly by the end of the year.

Senior research fellow at the university Peter Pudney said high levels of carbon dioxide from Australia's traditional methods of electricity generation highlighted the need for developing more renewable energy sources. Dr Pudney said motorists should be able to buy green electricity generated using renewable resources such as windfarms or solar stations.

Starfish ventures into bigger pool

Monday 30/3/2009 Page: 25

VENTURE capital firm Starfish Ventures is looking to broaden its exposure to the renewables/clean energy sector, having completed a $185 million raising late last year. The clean energy mandate was only added recently and investment principal John Dyson says he is now looking for an even spread across clean energy, life sciences (biotechs), and information/communications. Late last year Starfish took part in the latest round of raising by Australian-founded but now California based solar thermal company Ausra and has also invested in Tasmanian environmental management company Myriax.

Dyson says the effective closure of the public markets means venture capital is being inundated with approaches. Starfish intends to keep its focus on Australian or Australian-related companies (such as Ausra), and Dyson and clean technology partner Ivor Frischknecht are particularly attracted to water management. "We see lots of interesting possibilities in water management, such as software for better utilisation. It's an area that if all goes well, you can take into developed and developing markets."

New energy for green reporting

Monday 30/3/2009 Page: 3

THE energy supply industry has united to launch a sustainability framework aimed at helping companies better report, manage and communicate their environmental footprint. The Energy Supply Association of Australia has spent 18 months developing the Sustainable Practice Framework, which sets industry and participant benchmarks and minimum standards for business to meet.

ESAA chief executive Clare Savage said the framework had been instigated and created by business for business to provide clear direction as companies prepare to report, some for the first time, under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting legislation. "The Sustainable Practice Framework sets a standard that is in line with leading national and international sustainability practice and reporting that is seen as good management and is widely adopted by industry," she said.

While the framework is voluntary, the ongoing consultation with industry has meant about 70% of the association's members have already signed up. Russell Center, Loy Yang Power's senior manager of sustainability, said the previous code was too onerous in terms of auditing and had a low takeup rate. Mr Center said the drive to become greener stemmed from community expectations. "You need to provide some benefit to the society that you operate in or you may become unacceptable for factors such as the greenhouse gas you are emitting," he said.

"Once you take that step to start reporting, you don't want to have to say publicly, 'I have a poor performance in this area, you want to improve at each point." Ms Savage said annual sustainability awards would also provide an incentive for businesses. On Friday night, Hydro Tasmania was recognised for its sustainability reporting, which the judges found incorporated a comprehensive list of social impacts in addition to reporting on traditional environmental issues.

Return of the steam age

Independent Weekly
Friday 27/3/2009 Page: 14

Panax Geothermal can economically deliver substantial clean power from its Penola plant to the nation, recent feasibility studies show The company's managing director, Dr Bertus de Graaf, said the SA-based company would start drilling its first production well in September and expects to have its first 4.5 MW demonstration plant operating within a couple of years. "We will be on the national grid by 2011 and plan to meet the power needs in the South East before we expand to Adelaide," he said.

"By 2015 we expect to have 10 wells and be generating enough zero-emission base-load power at a total cost of $63 per MW hour to supply 50,000 people in SA." The Penola Project is part of the SA-based company's Limestone Coast Geothermal Project, which is located in SA's south-east, near Mt Gambier. The project has a Measured Geothermal Resource of 11,000 petajoules.

One thousand petajoules is sufficient to power a 100MW power station for 30 years. "Keep in mind that 1000 petajoules in theory can produce 100 MWs continuously and 100 MWs is enough to supply 50,000 homes," Dr de Graaf said. Pre-feasibility studies had shown the cost of Panax's geothermal energy compared favourably to $107/ MWh for wind and solar energy, $62 MWh for gas-fired power generation and $55/MWh for black coal.

Dr de Graaf said studies in the past five years in the Otway Basin, in SA's south-east, had indicated the site could produce hundreds of MWs of base-load power for up to 30 years at a competitive cost, with little impact on the environment. This made the company well placed to meet the Government's increasing focus on renewable forms of energy.

"These projected costs are highly competitive with other renewable forms of power generation, such as wind or solar thermal, and are on par with gas-fired power generation but without the carbon dioxide emissions and associated penalties," Dr de Graaf said.

"The feasibility study has shown the Penola Project to have the scope to be of national significance in the quest to reduce carbon emissions through providing competitively priced, zero-emission base-load power." Dr de Graaf said he believed the Penola Project, when opened, would be the first commercial grid-connected geothermal site in Australia.

Geothermal works by drilling down through a hot sedimentary aquifer, where heat is extracted to drive a turbine for power generation. The Penola Project is based on generating power from existing hot water or brine produced from a known sedimentary basin in the Penola Trough. Because the company's focus is on exploring reservoirs containing hot geothermal fluids it has a shorter development time and is less risky than hot fractured rock geothermal projects, Dr de Graaf said.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Climate action rises above hot air

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 28/3/2009 Page: 4

Those accusing the Government of scaremongering on climate change show signs of being a tad frightened themselves. writes Marian Wilkinson.

An earnest young scientist this week stood at the podium of the nation's most important climate change conference, flicking through a presentation of rising temperatures off Australia's north-west. She then moved on to global predictions out to 2060 showing the temperature rising steadily and dangerously.

The scientist was no academic, CSIRO boffin or environmentalist. Elena Mavrofridis is a chemical engineer with Woodside Petroleum Energy, the company that recently went toe-to-toe with the Climate Change Minister, Penny Won-, in a political battle to water down the Federal Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

While Woodside Petroleum's American boss, Don Voelte, has been at loggerheads with the Rudd Government over how to cut Australia's greenhouse gas pollution, his engineers have been working closely with scientists from the CSIRO and elsewhere to make sure Woodside Petroleum can protect its own multibillion-dollar operations from climate change impacts.

The company initiated its own climate change study to assess how warming temperatures, rising sea levels, storm surges and a possible increase in tropical storms could hit the bottom line of the super-profitable North West Shelf gas project. Mavrofridis told the packed auditorium that rising temperatures would probably affect Woodside Petroleum operations, because the company uses, in effect, huge refrigerators to liquefy North West Shelf gas before export.

An ambient temperature increase directly affects the efficiency of that refrigeration process,'' Mavrofridis said. "So predictions like these really help us to choose and design our facilities." As hundreds of scientists, policy makers and business executives came together at the Greenhouse 2009 conference in Perth this week, one jarring theme overwhelmed the program - the disconnect between the tortuous climate change debate in Canberra and the reality for business, farmers and public servants trying to plan for likely impact.

And many of Australia's scientists, caught in the middle of this disconnect, find it deeply troubling. In January, the National Party Senate leader Barnaby Joyce accused "environmental goose-steppers" of denying climate change sceptics a proper hearing. He likened climate scientists to "doomsayers" who wrongly predicted a Y2K crisis.

But as Joyce comforts sceptics, the peanut industry, once synonymous with the National Party in his home state of Queensland, is acting on scientific warnings about climate change. The Peanut Company of Australia is buying new farm properties in the Northern Territory to hedge against south-east Queensland's falling rainfall.

Andrew Ash, the CSIRO's senior scientific adviser on adapting the nation to climate change, says the peanut industry is acting now to protect its interests, but many other industries ignore the urgency. "In some areas much bigger changes will be needed," he told the Herald. "That's where things get a lot more difficult - working out what form those changes might take and when they might be required." Ash came to Perth fresh from Copenhagen, where a global scientific congress heard climate change impacts were tracking at the worse-case scenarios predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just two years ago.

These include rising temperatures and rising sea levels. With new evidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and many of the world's glaciers, are melting faster than predicted, projections for sea level rise have doubled. Ash said the fact that climate change's main indicators were tracking at the top level of projections mirrored global greenhouse gas emissions, which also were tracking at the top end of the UN panel's projections. His colleague, Mark Howden, told the Copenhagen and Perth conferences that Australia's food security was threatened.

Australia is a big contributor to world food security because it exports about 80% of its wheat. But CSIRO projections show the main wheat-growing areas in southern NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia face rising temperatures and big declines in rain. If climate change keeps tracking at the worse-case scenarios, "Australia could become a net importer of wheat by 2070", Howden said.

While Joyce plays down the urgency of climate change, many National Party supporters are likely to be the most damaged. The new head of the CSIRO, Megan Clark, a former vice-president for technology with BHP Billiton, underscored the threat. Our climate modellers have recently discovered that Australia could be hit even harder by drought," Clark told the Perth conference. Spring rain in the nation's food bowl - the southern Murray-Darling Basin - could fall by 30% .

The latest "crucial" science presented at Copenhagen illustrated Earth's abilities to balance or counteract our actions and maintain a stable climate are weakening", Clark warned. She cited rising sea levels as one of the more urgent threats. "This means, without intervention. a sea-level rise of one metre or more will be seen by the generation born today. Coupled with an increase in severe cyclones, and flooding, we could see coastal erosion, damage to infrastructure and extreme hardship for the delta regions of the world."

The growing gulf between scientific advice and Australia's political debate frustrates not only scientists but the head of the Government's Climate Change Review, Ross Garnaut, who told the Perth audience the Canberra debate was now dominated by the ignorant and the myopic. But as Opposition and Labor MPs step up warnings against tough climate medicine in times of economic crisis, nervous businesses and public servants are demanding help on to how to plan for climate change.

Three big electricity distributors in Victoria and South Australia have hired the the engineering consultants Maunsell Aecom to advise them on protecting power lines and poles. In Perth, Donna Lorenz of Maunsell told how this summer's unprecedented high temperatures and subsequent power failures ratcheted up energy company concerns.

Just last year, Victoria's most highly polluting brown coal generators slammed Wong, Kevin Rudd, the federal Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, and the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, demanding protection for the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions under the carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The British-born head of Victoria's TRUEnergy Richard McIndoe warned Wong and her Labor colleagues that, if generators were denied special consideration, lights could go off and innovative research could be abandoned.

In the highest temperatures on record this summer, lights went off anyway as generators failed to meet demand. Left wearing customers' wrath, however, were electricity retailers, not the big-polluting generators who keep insisting on dispensation to keep emitting greenhouse gases.

Power distributors are just some of the extending list of essential services lining up for advice on adapting to climate change. Michael Nolan, of Maunsell Aecom, advises the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority on threats to coastal roads from rising sea levels and storm surges. Nolan says the combination could threaten more than 200,000 NSW coastal properties, along with ports, bridges and sewerage works.

This week, the Rudd Government finally issued tenders calling for advice on how to protect the national infrastructure from the impacts of climate change. Planning for adaption to climate change, however difficult, is proving easier for the Government than cutting greenhouse emissions.

Small businesses warned to 'think carbon output

West Australian
Saturday 28/3/2009 Page: 60

Small businesses will be forced to start analysing their carbon footprint sooner than they think to stay ahead of the pack, according to a Perth carbon expert Carbon Planet WA managing director Scott McIntosh has warned small businesses of supply chain ramifications as bigger businesses face the prospect of paying for their carbon emissions.

An emissions trading scheme due to start next year will prompt big businesses to set about "greening their supply chain", forcing their suppliers to look at their emissions, Mr McIntosh said. He noted that some tenders were requiring businesses to list how they would address their carbon emissions when servicing the contract.

Call for B&B Wind to be prepared for sale

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 28/3/2009 Page: 81

A MAJOR shareholder of renewable energy firm Babcock and Brown Wind Partners Group has called for the former Babcock and Brown satellite to be broken up so investors can claw back value. The Children's Investment Master Fund, which owns a 14% stake in BBW, is concerned that its securities continue to trade at a substantial discount to asset value, despite BBW's separation from B&B, which has gone into administration. "Such value gaps are not uncommon for many listed small cap, illiquid assets, given weak equity markets," TCI said yesterday.

"In our view, this value gap is likely to persist while BBW remains a listed entity and can only be closed through a private market transaction, or series of transactions, leading to the ultimate sale of BBW." BBW board's should crystallise and maximise security holder value as soon as practicable by testing market appetite for the assets and moving to their eventual sale, TCI said in its letter to BBW investors.

BBW operates 41 windfarms in the Asia Pacific, Europe and North America. BBW chairman Graham Kelly said directors agreed the price of BBW did not reflect the value of its business.

Tough action urged on climate change

Courier Mail
Saturday 28/3/2009 Page: 75

SUPERANNUATION funds and other key investors have backed the Federal Government's planned 2010 emissions trading scheme but want it to consider taking tougher action to tackle climate change. The Investor Group on Climate Change is a collaboration of investors managing $500 billion in funds. IGCC members include AMP Capital Investors, Colonial First State, Vision Super, Merrill Lynch, Suncorp Investment Management and Catholic Super.

They say they want strong action to halt climate change because its impacts risk hurting future investment returns. IGCC chairman Frank Pegan told a Senate inquiry yesterday that the Government's planned emissions trading scheme should be introduced as soon as possible and he criticised "self-interested" companies creating scare campaigns and urging delays.

The IGCC members are part owners of many of Australia's largest companies, some of whom are arguing against the emissions trading scheme's introduction and are warning of deep job losses as a result of the scheme's introduction of a per tonne cost for greenhouse gas emissions. The scheme is aimed at driving the biggest emitters energy generators and large manufacturing and industrial companies to slash their emissions, while encouraging newer, low emission energy sources and production processes.

Mr Pegan said IGCC members were part-owners of many of these big emitters, some of whom he said were "arguing narrow self-interest over the longer-term economic and environmental prosperity" of Australia. He said the IGCC "does not support the views of these companies that the (scheme) will be damaging to the Australian economy and to Australian jobs in the longer term".

"We believe that the costs of the scheme to the Australian economy are manageable and rather. that the costs to the economy and society from further delay to the introduction of the CPRS, will be significant." IGCC spokesman Steve Gibbs said the scheme was central for getting investment in cleaner technologies and industries.

He said the IGCC wanted the Government to keep open the option of adopting tougher emission reduction cuts if talks this year achieved a global agreement on strong action on climate change. The Government says it could cut emissions by 15% in this event, but the IGCC says it should hold open cuts of 20-25% .

In December a group of senior Australian economists. including ANZ chief economist Saul Eslake, Citi's Paul Brennan and nabCapital chief economist Stephen Halmarick, said a well designed emissions trading scheme was better than a carbon tax to achieve a low-carbon economy with minimal restraint on economic growth. But they said that the design of the current scheme was flawed in giving shelter to carbon polluters.

The economists warned that excluding or giving special concessions "to particular polluters would come at a very real cost to the community in terms of lost incentives and opportunities to develop new technologies and alternative products".

Hidden costs of fossil-fuel power

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 27/3/2009 Page: 5

THE cost of Australia's cheap coal-fired electricity would more than double if the toll on human health and the volume of greenhouse gas emissions were taken into account, says a report to be launched today by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner.

The report, by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, says the health cost from Australia's black coal, brown coal and natural gas power was about $2.6 billion a year. This is roughly the same as the health costs from traffic emissions in Australia's capital cities. The study found gas had by far the lowest health costs among fossil fuels.

The Hidden Costs Of Electricity examines these external costs of Australia's power by adding a world carbon price for greenhouse gas emissions and a health cost for emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which can increase respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease.

The report says the combined cost of greenhouse gas emissions and damage to people's health would add - on average and per MW hour - about $52 to the cost of brown coal power, $42 to the cost of black coal power and $19 to the cost of natural gas. The report says these are "very significant" costs, given the average wholesale price of electricity is about $40 per MW hour.

Tom Biegler, who wrote the report, said it was the first time a study of hidden power costs had been undertaken in Australia. Dr Biegler said policymakers needed to look at the external costs of the nation's power in light of the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme to reduce greenhouse gases.

We need to know as much about them as possible", he said. "If there is a single message, it's: 'Don't forget the externalities."' The report draws on research and analysis by the European Union to estimate the monetary and environmental costs of coalfired electricity. The research by the EU found renewable and nuclear energy had far lower external costs.

Dr Biegler's report says the external costs of renewable energy in Australia are also likely to be low - about $5 per MW hour for electricity produced by solar panels and $1.50 per MW hour for wind energy. The costs would come mainly from the manufacture of the technology, not from generation.

Nuclear power also had a smaller external cost than fossil fuel power - about $7 per MW hour, largely from the construction and decommissioning of power stations. If coal-fired power stations used "clean coal" carbon capture and storage technology, their exhaust emissions could fall by about 90% . However, the volume of emissions from the technology itself were unknown.

Pricing call on power pollution

Herald Sun
Friday 27/3/2009 Page: 65

THE hidden costs of power station emissions to public health and to the environment can no longer be ignored, according to the nation's peak engineers' body. The impact on human and environmental health from pollution, or what the industry calls "externalities", should be "quantified in monetary terms", as it is in Europe, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering says.

In a report to be released today, ATSE calls on the Federal Government to encourage investment grade data on costs to be collected and analysed, to "inform policy and optimise the future portfolio of generating technologies". The burden on the health budget from increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease linked to proximity to power generators should be accounted for in future energy policies, ATSE believes.

It said environmental and social costs are not accounted for in the market price of electricity. Pricing in these factors would add a notional $52 a MW hour to the cost of power from brown coalfired generators, the report estimated. For black coal it would be $42 extra, and $19 for natural gas. In a scenario where carbon could be captured and stored, the external cost for black coal power would be just over $10 more.

Nuclear power's price over and above capital and production costs would be an extra $7. Solar technologies and wind energy would each attract less than an extra $5. With billion-dollar investments at stake, more work was needed to reduce the uncertainties of these extra costs of prospective technologies for reducing carbon emissions, ATSE said.

Hot rock project shows potential

Courier Mail
Friday 27/3/2009 Page: 44

Brisbane-based geothermal energy developer Panax Geothermal says a new study shows its major geothermal power project has the potential to produce Australia's cheapest clean energy.

Panax managing director Bertus de Graaf, pictured, said a pre feasibility study conducted internally and backed by US-based consultancy GeothermEx indicated its Penola project, in South Australia's Otway Basin, could generate baseload owes for a total cost of $63MW hour. That would put it on a par with the current cost of gas-fired power.

However, geothermal plants don't generate planet-warming greenhouse gases, whereas gas-fired plants do and will be subject to significant costs when the Federal Government soon launches a mechanism that will put a market price on per-tonne greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr de Graaf said the $63/MWh total output cost from its planned phase-two geothermal plant compared with $55/MWh for black coal, $62/MWh for gas-fired power and $107/MWh for wind and solar thermal projects. Panax is scheduled to start drilling this September its first production well, which is expected to lead to the development of a grid connected demonstration plant by late 2011.

The Penola project is located close to the national grid network and will harness heat from an already known hot sedimentary aquifer that will drive a turbine to produce baseload or continuous power. The project has a measured geothermal resource of 11,000 petajoules - just 1000PJ is sufficient to power a 100MW power station for 30 years, the company says. It says it has been approached by energy provider companies but won't discuss specifics at this stage.

Brisbane is home to two geothermal power developers Panax and GeoDynamics both of which are focused on developing geothermal resources in states other than Queensland, mainly in South Australia. The SA and NSW governments have had legislation and licensing in place since about 2000 that provides a clear process for geothermal development. But similar processes are not in place in Queensland.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Swing against emissions trading

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 26/3/2009 Page: 4

Growing concern about the economy and greater awareness about the details of the federal government's proposed emissions trading scheme has caused a noticeable shift in the sentiment of the business community. Corporate advisers say the delay in passing the ETS legislation is causing a problem for business as companies prepare budgets for the next financial year without knowing the fate of the biggest economic reform in decades. KPMG's head of sustainability Rob Hogarth, said the uncertainty was creating angst for many of his clients, especially power generators, who needed to factor in the cost of compliance.

Rob Fowler, an emission trading specialist at Booz & Co, said there was also the possibility firms would need to raise capital for permit auctions. Cement Australia's chief executive Chris Leon criticized the design of the scheme, saying it would send the industry offshore. Likewise, Carl McCamish, executive general manager of policy and sustainability at Origin Energy, said his company, which has $1.5 billion of investment in Australian gas-fired electricity in the pipeline, needed to be certain of the design of the system.

Bid for clean coal gets boost from US

Thursday 26/3/2009 Page: 4

THE Australian Government's planned Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute has received a big boost, with the Obama Administration signing up the United States as Climate Change Minister Penny Wong heads to Washington for climate talks. The purpose of the institute, announced last year and due to start on July 1, is to drive the commercialisation of carbon capture and storage by supporting large-scale demonstration projects.

The Government has promised up to $100 million a year for the institute. Last November it announced that Britain, Norway and South Korea had signed up, as well as nine companies in the oil, coal, gas and technologies industries, including Shell, Rio Tinto and Mitsubishi. Since then dozens of other companies and governments have agreed to join.

The US's participation is vital. It will mean information from its multibillion-dollar carbon capture and storage program will be shared with the rest of the world. President Barack Obama said after a meeting with PM Kevin Rudd yesterday that they had agreed clean energy was an area of "enormous potential" for generating economic growth.

"Both Australia and the United States have vast coal reserves, but we are all also very interested in figuring out how do we reduce the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming," the President said. He said that figuring out how to sequester and capture the carbon emitted from coal was an example of something that could create jobs and also deal with a potential environmental crisis.

Mr Rudd said American participation in the institute would be welcome around the world. "Generating jobs through clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies is critical. It's also critical in terms of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions." Meanwhile, Senator Wong, who left for Washington yesterday, said her discussions would centre around achieving a strong international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen later this year.

"It's in Australia's national interest to have a successful, effective agreement at Copenhagen, and we're going to work towards that," the Senator said. But critics of the Government's emissions trading scheme, speaking at a Senate committee hearing yesterday, have warned the Government it will be rendered impotent in global negotiations because of the low carbon reduction targets proposed.

Clive Hamilton, from the ANU, told the enquiry that Australia would be better off with no policy than the scheme proposed by the Government. The Government's scheme ensures free permits to heavy polluters, up to 90% of all emissions, for five years regardless of an international agreement.

Recovery unit will cut emissions from BassGas

Thursday 26/3/2009 Page: 4

CARBON emissions from the BassGas project in Gippsland will be cut by a quarter following a decision to build a $20 million recovery unit to capture greenhouse gas. The BassGas joint venture project, including Australian Worldwide Exploration, Origin Energy and CalEnergy, has signed an agreement with Air Liquide to construct the unit at the Lang Lang gas plant, 100 kilometres east of Melbourne.

The carbon captured will be purified, liquefied and then reused for various purposes including fire-fighting, winemaking, soft-drink carbonation, freezing and food preservation. Origin Energy and AWE each have a 42.5% share in the $750 million BassGas project, with CalEnergy holding the remaining 15% .

Paul Zealand, Origin Energy's executive general manager of upstream oil and gas, said the recovery unit would be up and running next year. "The amount of carbon that will be captured for reuse is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 21,000 cars or 4900 Australian homes," Mr Zealand said.