Saturday, 9 January 2010

Boost to clean energy

Herald Sun
Friday 1/1/2010 Page: 34

CLEAN energy developers will get a boost from a decision this month to instigate an energy market rule change aimed at helping climate friendly renewable electricity generation to link to the power grid. Australia's electricity sector is the country's biggest source of planet warming greenhouse gas emissions. Technologies that harness the sun, wind, underground heat (geothermal) and ocean currents for electricity generation hold the potential to slash emissions by replacing coal and gasfired power which provides more than 90% of power supply.

But emerging technologies are more costly than incumbents and project locations often far from the existing grid. Federal and state energy ministers this month voted to accept an Australian Energy Market Commission recommendation that will introduce a new framework for the more efficient connection of clusters of generation known as scale-efficient network extensions. Geothermal energy developer GeoDynamics says the AEMC's rule change will help to catalyse more private investment in clean energy projects generally.

Australia's energy sector will play a key role in tackling the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. But so far the lack of a carbon price, weak 2020 targets for national emission cuts, and flaws in a policy aimed to mandate more renewable energy capacity, have led to weak spending on low-emission power sources. The Total Environment Centre says further reforms are needed, such as introducing an environmental or energy-savings objective into national electricity sector laws, in order to more swiftly clean up the electricity sector. The Federal Government's biggest single direct investment in new energy technology is "clean coal" plants. These aim to catch a significant portion of emissions and pump them underground.