Thursday, 14 April 2011

$100m green energy demand

Adelaide Advertiser
6 April 2011, Page: 26

AUSTRALIA'S top renewable energy body is calling on the Federal Government to increase its existing $40 million set aside for emerging renewable industries to more than $100 million. The key recommendation in the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE) report, released yesterday, won industry support. Leading figures said a larger pool of funds under the Emerging Renewables program could provide vital help in advancing the sector.

Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said ACRE's independent advice would play an important role in guiding government support for renewable energy and his spokeswoman expected the minister to respond to its recommendations within the next few months. "Australia's great potential to produce renewable energy hinges on our ability to develop a range of renewable energy technologies and drive down their costs", Mr Ferguson said.

"The program of work ACRE sets out in its strategic directions is an important step towards achieving this objective:" Australian Solar Society chief executive John Grimes welcomed the final report's commitment to finding ways to support work into storage and grid connection technologies for solar.

And he particularly supported its finding that largescale solar showed more potential than small rooftop installations. It found: "Industrial scale solar generation located in Australia's best insolation zones provides the greatest prospect for lowest cost and abundant solar power". It said micro generation through rooftop systems was less prospective and current technologies meant they were below economic scale. "We need to move to big scale solar in Australia", Mr Grimes said.

"South Australia, in particular, has solar resources that are world class and the state is well placed to capitalise on that". The solar society now wants the Federal Government to also look at using part of revenue raised from a carbon tax to fund large scale solar projects. "And what we need for solar is a plan for the future that includes a strong Renewable Energy Target as well as an assessment of the best solar in Australia", Mr Grimes said.

The ACRE report, finalised after being released for consultation in December last year, also recognised the potential of geothermal energy. It said once proven, it could be competitive with fossil fuel sources. Yet it faced challenges in making the technology work and in attracting investment. Funding of $40 million has already been set aside under the Emerging Renewables program for developing ocean and geothermal, and Australian Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said the possibility of more funds being available to the sector was good news.

"We're very happy that the report has been released and very happy that it opens the door for us to put proposals forward to government", she said. "It's a commitment, if followed through, to support pilot demonstration plants". "It is a signal from the government to support the industry moving forward, we're very pleased that there is this acknowledgement of the importance of geothermal". Wind energy was also covered in the report, with an acknowledgment that the technology was now widespread and ACRE's priority would be in considering support for technology to improve grid connection issues.

Wave, ocean and tidal technology was listed as another priority. Fraser Johnson, renewable energy manager at Oceanlinx, supported the report's commitment to helping develop a regulatory regime around ocean jurisdictions. Oceanlinx, which is in discussion with the state government about a SA project, has previously built and operated three wave energy projects at Port Kembla, about 100km south of Sydney.