Wednesday 5 July 2006

Babcock & Brown reaps Illinois wind

The Australian Financial Review, Page: 16
Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Babcock & Brown Wind Partners has completed the $US50 million ($67 million) purchase of Crescent Ridge wind farm in Illinois, USA.

Poor score for Australia on climate

The Australian
July 04, 2006

AUSTRALIA is the least prepared of all the world's developed countries to tackle the issue of climate change, a report by a newly-formed environmental foundation says.

The survey by the Climate Institute Australia has identified the top ten world trends in what it says is a shift in the fight against greenhouse warming.

Its Top Ten Tipping Points on Climate Change report, launched in Sydney tonight, concludes that science is the number one trend in the fight against global warming, an issue the institute says Australia had “gone adrift” on. “As the US moves forward on climate, it leaves Australia politically and economically isolated as the least prepared developed country in the world on the issue,” the report says.

The national organisation was established in late 2005 with a $10 million grant from the Poola Charitable Foundation, created by a branch of the Murdoch family. More recently it has attracted the services of former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, who chairs an advisory council for the group.

The institute, which has set a five-year goal of raising public awareness of climate change, is chaired by prominent academic and researcher Clive Hamilton. The institute's chief executive, Corin Millais, said Australia would be “stranded” as the US joined the rest of the world in taking action.

“The US is moving even though it hasn't signed the (Kyoto) protocol,” Mr Millais said. “And that's probably of most political concern to Australia, because it leaves Australia stranded politically and economically.”

According to the study, climate change is intensifying.

“We've seen a significant amount, almost an avalanche, of data highlighting the impacts happening today and the great urgency of the impacts in the coming decade if no further action is taken,” Mr Millais said

After science, the changing position of the US on greenhouse gases is the second-biggest trend in the shift in the fight against climate change, the report finds.

The role of business comes in at number three, with Mr Millais pointing out there are a number of large global companies finding ways to make money from cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

Rounding out the top five is the role of the media, and energy security and oil prices, according to the report. These are followed by international policy, carbon profits and clean energy.

Popular culture is considered the ninth most significant trend in the shift in the climate change fight. The issue had up until recently been “pretty boring”, Mr Millais admitted, but celebrities such as Orlando Bloom were now the faces of global warming campaigns.

But this isn't a trend that has taken off in Australia, he added.

“It's an irony that the US is ahead with popular culture,” Mr Millais said. “There will be a bitter aftertaste for Australia because the American position has changed, but Australia is still in the olden days...”

Morality comes in at number 10, with Mr Millais pointing out that climate change is “not just a green-left issue anymore”. “This is an end-of-the-world type issue which involves everybody,” he said.

Study shows wind support

The Colac Herald, Page: 9
Friday, 30 June 2006

Developers say more than half the residents living near a proposed Port Campbell wind farm support the project. A survey of 140 people living near the wind farm site at Newfield revealed that 61.5 per cent supported the project, 17 per cent were opposed and 21.5 per cent were unsure.

Acciona Energy managing director Brett Thomas said the wind farm gathered valuable information about the community through a Social Impact Assessment process. "The survey response indicates that the local community is environmentally aware, supportive of renewable energy and the Newfield wind farm," he said. The SIA report also included a community profile and a range of potential impacts and benefits of the wind farm. Researchers interviewed stakeholders from government, environment, community and tourism groups with an interest in the south-west region and wind farms.

Mr Thomas said an information newsletter and consultation program had provided information directly to Newfield, Timboon and Port Campbell residents, and there would be a public open day in the future."As part of the program, a community reference group is being established to provide a regular forum for community input and to facilitate communication." he said.

Cloud still hangs over nuclear industry

The Australian Financial Review, Page: 12
Monday, 3 July 2006

Nuclear power is hot
Sixteen utilities have expressed intentions to build up to 25 new reactors across the United States. Just last month, NRG Energy in Princeton, New Jersey, unveiled plans to invest SUS5.2 billion ($7 billion) in two new reactors at an existing atomic plant near Houston. Is it a nuclear renaissance? Not yet.

While smart money is placing multibillion-dollar bets on ethanol, wind power and solar, it's not throwing cash at nuclear power. Memories of the delays, titanic cost overruns, and bankruptcies that ended America's love affair with nuclear power hi the mid-20th century are the most daunting obstacle the industry faces. And regulators could balk if proposed designs did not meet construction and safety standards. "Investors remain wary of construction risks," said Paul Ho, a director at Credit Suisse First Boston's (CSR) energy group.

That's why, five or so years from now, when the first construction and operating licences are likely to be granted, only the most creditworthy diversified players, such as Duke Energy and Southern Company, would be likely to dip a toe in these waters, explained Denise Furey, senior director of global power with Fitch Ratings. Such companies could finance projects for a decade or so using some combination of debt and equity. But that is a far cry from a new nuclear age. Historically, energy utilities did an "abysmal" job controlling building schedules and costs, said David A. Schlissel, an economist at Synapse Energy Economics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Between 1975 and 1989, the average period required to complete a plant soared from five years to 12. The bill for a group of 75 first-generation plants totalled $US224.1 billion (in current dollars), 219 per cent more than estimated, according to a 1986 Energy Department study.

In time, many utilities collapsed under debts even as customers' bills soared. Power companies say they can bring costs down, thanks to new, standardised plant designs and a streamlined, one-step licensing process. "People forget that the construction problems happened 30 years ago. There's been great progress since then," said NRG Energy chief David Crane.

The company plans to use reactors from General Electric and Hitachi that have been installed in Japan. This time around, the industry is aiming to build new plants for SUS1500 to $US2000 per kilowatt of capacity, compared with a peak, inflation-adjusted cost of about $US4000 in the 1970s. But the cheapest plants built recently, all outside the US, have cost more than $US2000 per kilowatt. And the advanced designs now on US drawing boards have never been built here.

"A first-of-its-kind facility always costs more," said John Kennedy, a director at Standard & Poor's. "Nukes ought to be part of the [energy] mix," said Southern chief David M. Ratcliffe, but nobody wants to be first to build. "Everyone would actually like to be No. 10," he said. Last year's Energy Act dangled SUS13 billion worth of extra treats before the nuclear industry, according to Public Citizen, a consumer interest group. These are focused on the first six plants and range from some $US2 billion set aside to cover construction overruns due to legal challenges to a production tax credit worth up to $US5.7 billion.

Yet all that still may not be enough. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman offered couched assurances on nukes. "I'm convinced we'll get the first six reactors, with construction starting by 2010," he said. "But we don't need six reactors. We need 16, or 26." Ms Furey said:"Wall Street isvery shortsighted." Or maybe it justcan't forget what it has already seen.

Wind farmers want more than the thin edge of the wedge

News-Mail, Page: 14
Thursday, 22 June 2006

HOBART: Australia stands to lose billions of dollars in wind farm investment if it doesn't give renewable energy a greater share of the national energy market, an industry leader has warned. Mark Kelleher, managing director of renewable energy company Roaring 40s, said companies were being forced to invest offshore as Australia lagged behind international renewable energy targets. renewable energy accounts for about 0.5 per cent of the Australian market, compared with 20 per cent in other countries.

The industry is calling for the Federal Government to revise its Mandated renewable energy Target or implement another measure to ensure future growth. "In the absence of something like that the industry won't be able to proceed," Mr Kelleher said. The MRET was introduced in 2001, requiring energy retailers to purchase an extra two per cent, or 9500 gigawatt hours, of renewable energy per year by 2010. But Mr Kelleher said Australia's economic and energy growth meant the specified 9500 gigawatts was now equal to only 0.5 per cent of the market.

The Government's refusal to lift its renewable energy targets had forced Roaring 40s to stall new projects, including its $230 million Musselroe wind farm in north-east Tasmania. Mr Kelleher warned that unless renewable energy targets were raised, wind farms would lose importance as a source of renewable energy in Australia. "The few farms that are built around Australia now obviously will run their course for the next 15, 20 years or so, but basically rather than it being the beginning of a very important industry, it will be seen as a few wind farms have gone up, and that's as far as it will go," he said. Mr Kelleher said the loss of wind farm companies and associated manufacturing businesses would result in a loss worth "in the billions".

"Firms like ours. will obviously continue to operate the (wind farms) we've got here but the activity will drop back to a care and maintenance role and all. the investment will go overseas," he said. Roaring 40s has already invested in wind farms in New Zealand and China, and is exploring new projects in Korea and India.

Cleantech As An Asset Class? Coming Soon

Ethical Investor, Page: 10
Wednesday, 21 June 2006

An amalgam of industries that have at their core an ability to generate sustainable business outcomes, new environmental technologies or 'cleantech' is an area of increasing interest for ethical and mainstream investors alike. As the Australian cleantech sector continues to emerge it looks set to attract the all important 'big money' from institutional investors just as it is starting to do overseas. Last year's first study entitled The Australian Cleantech Map: 2005 Benchmark Report defined cleantech as 'a theme for investments' across a range of sectors including: alternative and renewable energy, new materials, green buildings, water purification and conservation, recycling and waste management technologies. The study identified 71 companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with a business model that is related to cleantech, the majority of which are considered small companies or 'microcaps'.

In total they only accounted for 0.8% of the ASX stockmarket capitalisation. While there are more companies in the private sector, both large and small, and while they are also developing (or proving) an impressive array of new technologies, it is still too early to consider this range of investments as an industry in its own right. How to classify in portfolio investment terms. According to Peter Lunt, Manager of Sustainable Investments with the large superannuation fund VicSuper, the cleantech industry still has to be considered as a segment of private equity.

While specialist fund managers may consider the environmental or sustainable benefits involved with businesses in the sector, this is a rarity, he says. It has, however, progressed beyond the infant or purely venture capital phase in its development. 'You are starting to see secondary and bigger market transactions in the area that are typical of the management by-out, or middle market phase, ' he says. The fundamentals of the sector are encouraging and there is no doubt it will continue to develop.

Lunt says, 'It will provide a lot of growth in private equity over the next few years. 'Mainstream Australian funds manager Portfolio Partners' Manager of Sustainability, Amanda Me Cluskey says that cleantech is certainly gaining the attention of mainstream investors despite its private equity status. Relatively new investment funds that concentrate on cleantechs, such as Babcock and Brown's environmental and specialist wind energy funds and those of Starfish Ventures, are generating broad market interest, she says. But in terms of mainstream large company share investors, a typical cleantech company is just too small to be considered a viable investment at this stage.

Some of the small companies' funds are starting to build positions in cleantech companies particularly in the alternative fuels segment. McClusky says the Portfolio Partners' Long Short Sustainability Trust favourably views Australian Renewable Fuels, Australian Ethanol and CDS Technologies for example. 'We take a positive view on companies operating in the cleantech space because we recognise energy and water issues will be priced into share values in the future," she says. Following an overseas lead, in the United States the star of the cleantech sector is also on the rise.

Neal Dikeman, a partner with US-based investment bank Jane Capital Partners says the market is certainly 'getting there' when it comes to treating cleantech investments as a uniquely identifiable class of investment. Clear evidence of this maturity was the launch earlier this year of two stock market based indices based on cleantech industries: the New Energy Global Innovation Index (NEX) and the Cleantech Index. Each allows investors to monitor how a basket of business in the sector performs. 'This is the next step along the curve in terms of[cleantech] becoming an asset class,' Dikeman said.

The market is also starting to get a better idea of what exactly is included in the cleantech sector. The use of the umbrella term encompassing a range of industries is also probably helping low profile areas gain early recognition and acknowledgement from the mainstream investment community. By being considered part of the cleantech sector they are absorbing some of the credibility of high profile and successful sectors such renewable energy, he says. In the United States and Europe, solar and wind energy companies have experienced strong growth which has allowed venture capitalists to get in, make their money and then on-sell to institutional investors.

Dikeman points out that this positive experience sees venture capitalists look more positively at other businesses in the cleantech sector. But the really big money associated with mainstream institutional investors isn't there just yet, he says. As in Australia, although on a different scale, projects are still too small and can't get to t h e investment threshold that many of the institutions require for them to invest. When cleantechs get to this scale on a regular basis then the investment 'flood gates will open,' he says.

Institutions also look to diversify across a range of investment options particularly in new areas such as cleantech. When the industry is deep enough to be able to offer a range of fund investment options (a development which is currently under way) it will be another sign that it has matured and developed. It will also bring bigger institutional investment flows, says Dikeman. Overseas these processes are helped along by the fact that banks and other industry analysts are providing broader research on the cleantech industry.

As this picks up, so too more investors will be drawn to recognise the industry. The market in the US is also in the slipstream of the investment activity in England and mainland Europe. In particular, Dikeman nominates the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) operating out of London to be one of the first stock markets to truly give cleantech its due. The AIM draws companies operating in the US and Australia to list and raise funds in preference to home markets.

At least 2 Australian cleantech companies: Novera Energy and Ceramic Fuel Cells have taken advantage of this positive environment and completed AIM listings in the last year. 'For new public floats of cleantech companies the AIM has beaten out the NASDAQ. It puts the wind into the sails of the sector across the world,' Dikeman says. Dikeman says the success of AIM and new cleantechs is because it has the all important support of the European institutional investors: 'It makes the world sit up and notice.

' Another factor emphasising this process is the development of the new carbon economy in Europe. 'There are billions of dollars being pumped into the sector and it's all going through European asset managers and exchanges,' he says. 'In Australia and America they're talking but not really putting the money in yet. 'One US-based institutional investor that is getting behind cleantech is well known investment pioneer, Californian-based Calpers (California Public Employees' Retirement System) and CalSTERS (California StateTeachers' Retirement System).

The funds have earmarked US$1.5 billion in their Green Wave initiative to invest in clean technologies with at least US$200m going to venture capital sized firms. Winston Hickox, Portfolio Manager - Environmental Initiatives with Calpers, says, 'We don't see this sector as fleeting or marginal in anyway. Over time our exposure to the sector will just increase.

The investment is derived from a fundamental belief that the global economy will change over time as climate change and the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels make their impact. We need to find alternatives if we are going to continue to grow the economy, not in the next 100 years, not in 10, but now! 'Hickox's vision goes beyond renewable energy, citing water-focused technologies as another exciting area from an investment perspective. Water conservation and treatment techniques as well as new and efficient ways of handling sewerage will increasingly become important, he says, adding that China and other emerging nations will also be regions where these types of technologies can more easily prove themselves from an investment perspective. He also stresses that the various government subsidies and other development programs supporting the cleantech industry around the world must be sustainable in their own right, otherwise they are simply destabilising and counter-productive.

'Whatever governments do to stimulate cleantech industries it must not be taken away for some arbitrary reason, that is the worst thing they could do, ' he says. None of this is to say that the Australian cleantech sector isn't profitable as it is maturing. Long established local venture capital firm CVC, manages the CVC Sustainable Investments Fund, a pooled development fund dedicated to sustainable investments, and Sandy Beard says the business 'has no issues finding investment dollars or getting returns. We pioneered this [sector] 5 years ago [when the fund was launched as the Eco Fund] and there is certainly a growing appetite for it,' he says.

But as a specialist in the area Beard does admit that this prognosis is somewhat biased. 'It is still early days in Australia and pure play direct investments in environmentally friendly companies are not that common. Being a specialist we have greater access to opportunities and see deal flow from established networks,' he says. But it is not just the vitality at the small end of the market that shows that it is coming of age.

When industrial giants like GE start up whole divisions dedicated to cleantech technologies, and they have just generated US$10 billion, then you know it is an 'exceptionally healthy area,' he says.

'Rethink needed' on wind farms

The Examiner, Page: 4
Thursday, 22 June 2006

Australia stands to lose billions of dollars in wind farm investment if it doesn't give renewable energy a greater share of the national energy market, an industry leader has warned. Mark Kelleher, managing director of renewable energy company Roaring 40s, said yesterday that companies were being forced to invest offshore as Australia lagged behind international renewable energy targets. renewable energy accounts for about 0.5 per cent of the Australian market, compared with up to 20 per cent in other countries.

The industry is calling tor the Federal Government to revise its Mandated renewable energy Target or implement another measure to ensure future growth."In the absence of something like that, the industry won't be able to proceed," Mr Kelleher said. The MRET was introduced in 2001, requiring energy retailers to buy an extra 2 per cent or 9500 gigawatt hours of renewable energy a year by 2010.But Mr Kelleher said Australia's economic and energy growth meant the specified 9500 gigawatts was now equal to only 0.5 per cent of themarket.

The Government's refusal to lift its renewable energy targets had forced Roaring 40s to stall new projects including its $230 million Musselroe wind farm in the North-East. Mr Kelleher warned that unless renewable energy targets were raised, wind farms would lose importance as a source of renewable energy in Australia. Mr Kelleher said the Federal Government had indicated it could"rethink" the matter but meetings would be held to further discuss the issue over coming weeks.

Monday 3 July 2006

Outcry at wind farming attack

The Mercury, Page: 20
Friday, 30 June 2006

A TASMANIAN renewable energy company has accused federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran of being ill-informed and out of touch for criticising wind energy as a fraud. Roaring 40s managing director Mark Kelleher said he was disappointed at Mr McGauran's comments, which included statements that wind farms devalued land and were not producing measurable amounts of electricity. "You have to wonder whether the minister got out of the wrong side of the bed... he is ill-informed on the facts, and does not appear to understand this is still a new industry that is growing, particularly overseas," he said. Mr McGauran, who came under attack from several proponents of renewable energy as well as Tasmanian Greens senator Christine Milne, questioned the value of a $140 million wind farm in western Victoria. "Wind farms don't live up to the hype that they're the environmental saviour and a serious alternate energy source," he said.

"The deleterious effect they can have on their neighbours is so serious it means that [wind energy proponents] should not be allowed to get away with the exaggerated claims. "Their claims are fraudulent in regard to the environmental and energy terms. "These wind farms are not producing any electricity of any measurable amount and because they are having such an affect on rural communities they should only be permitted where the community is accepting of them. "Mr Kelleher said wind farms had very strong community and landholder support.

Roaring 40s' Woolnorth wind farm in the North-West was overwhelmingly supported by region. He said there was more than 750 megawatts of wind energy installed in Australia, enough to power 314,000 homes. Mr Kelleher said while "very small, very loud" minority groups had campaigned against some wind farm projects, globally the energy source was growing, increasing at an annual rate of 29 per cent during the past decade and producing 59,100 megawatts. Senator Milne said Mr McGauran was plain wrong about wind farms, and his ignorance had real implications for the Australian primary industry sector which he purported to represent.

Minister's wind farm comments just hot air

The Examiner, Page: 14
Friday, 30 June 2006

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran's swipe at wind farms should hardly be taken seriously. They should also come as no surprise. In a move that will no doubt anger many in Tasmania, Mr McGauran took a swipe at wind farm technology this week. He said the benefits of wind energy claimed by its proponents were fraudulent.

He also claimed wind farm turbines devalued land without producing measurable amounts of energy. His antipathy to wind farms makes more sense with some background. Tasmanian wind farm development has been torpedoed by the Federal Government, which decided not to extend its Mandatory renewable energy Targets. That decision derailed further Tasmanian wind farm developments planned for Musselroe Bay in the North-East and on the West Coast.

They are now on the backburner, at least for the short-term. The Government's decisionwas also backing for Australia's coal industry, which provides for much of the country's power needs. Unlike wind farms, coal-fired power stations are major greenhouse polluters. Mr McGauran is therefore following a simple formula of deriding the wind farms to support his Government's case.

But his comments also smack of a fair bit of political self-interest. Tasmanians will remember Mr McGauran as a critic of the Basslink project because overhead power lines went through his electorate of Gippsland. He's again looking out for his electorate. Gippsland includes the La Trobe Valley towns of Traralgon, Morwell and Moe: home to some of Victoria's major coal-fired power stations and coal mines.

It's a bit rich for him to speak about wind farms devaluing land when he lives next door to some of Australia's major greenhouse polluters. Mr McGauran's electorate might love him for the support, but his views on wind farms don't count for much.

Energy industry hits back at McGauran 'fraud' claim

The Moyne Gazette, Page: 7
Thursday, 29 June 2006

THE Australian wind energy industry has hit back at claims this week by federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran that the industry was "a complete fraud." Auswind president Andrew Richards said many of Mr McGauran's comments regarding wind energy were "quite simply incorrect." Mr McGauran, who said he was speaking as the Member for Gippsland, told dairy farmers at Allansford this week wind farms only existed on taxpayers' subsidies and devalued the value of adjoining properties. Wind farms have provoked controversy in Gippsland and in the Moyne Shire.

Moyne Shire is the site of two large proposed wind farms with one planning to erect nearly 200 wind towers between Macarthur and Hawkesdale and the other nearly 100 at Ryan Corner near Port Fairy and Hawkesdale. Wind farms of smaller scale already exist at Codrington and Yambuk. Mr Richards said wind energy had been embraced in India, China, Europe and the United States because it delivered substantial quantities of clean green energy, stimulated investment and employment and provided valuable income to farmers and local communities. "Many of Minister McGauran's own parliamentary colleagues, including the local member, David Hawker, Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell and Prime Minister John Howard have stated that alternative forms of energy, including wind, must play a part in Australia's future energy mix.

He said developers did not receive government financial assistance to build wind farms and consumers who bought green energy did so at a small price premium. He also said that rather than destroying land values, wind energy drove regional investment and created substantial financial benefits for regional Australia. He said wind energy could provide significant quantities of clean green energy.

Projects to swell Moyne's coffers

The Moyne Gazette, Page: 4
Thursday, 29 June 2006

MOYNE Shire's spending power would be greatly boosted by the proposed gas-fired power station at Mortlake and a wind farm at Macarthur. Moyne Shire chief executive officer Graham Shiell said the shire's two existing wind farms contributed about $127,000 a year in rates. Mr Shiell said the two proposed projects would have an ''enormous boost to our rate revenue. ''He said the extra revenue could help reduce the council's asset renewal gap.

Mr Shiell said the shire had forecast a rate increase of under six per cent over the next four years. However, the rate of increase may have to be reviewed to decrease the asset renewal gap further. Moyne Shire Mayor Gerald Madden said the council relied heavily on grant funding, which accounted for 38 per cent of its revenue. ''Council makes it a priority to source as much grant funding as possible and our success in this area can be seen when comparing Moyne to shires of approximately the same size, '' Cr Madden said.

''Moyne Shire receives a significant level of support from government thanks to the hard work of its staff, and this means we are able to keep rates as low as we can without compromising the delivery or quality of services. ''.


Australasian Science, Page: 1
Wednesday, 28 June 2006

In the political satire Yes Minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby likens an independent inquiry to "a train, and the terms of the inquiry are the tracks. Once the tracks are in place, the train will follow the way they go." The same could be said about the "full-blooded debate" that Prime Minister John Howard wants Australia to have on developing a home-grown nuclear industry (see pp. 30-32).

In recent weeks his government has fast-tracked the debate, having received costings from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and appointed a pro-nuclear Taskforce that will produce a draft report by November. The final report is due by the end of the year, leaving little time -or desire -for public consultation. The debate has been driven by a sudden desire by the government to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. It's a desire that lacks sincerity, the government having opted out of the Kyoto Protocol and abolished several renewable energy research programs.

Global warming is also a disingenuous trigger. While nuclear reactors don't emit greenhouse gases, the energy inputs over the reactor's lifetime -from mining, milling and enriching uranium to building the power station, decommissioning it and reprocessing and storing its waste -can emit more CO2 than an equivalent gas-fired power station (AS, July 2005, pp. 39-40). The best-case scenario is a payback of 7-10 years if limited high-grade ore reserves are used.

But why is the Taskforce only considering nuclear energy as a solution to Australia's impending power shortage? What roles do oil, coal, gas, hydro, wind, solar, tidal, hot rocks and biofuels have in Australia's energy portfolio, and how much will their efficiencies improve in coming decades? Even ANSTO's report limited itself to modern uranium reactors and ignored a new breed of reactors that can use Australia's vast thorium reserves as fuel. These reactors have much better safety and environmental credentials as they can incinerate their own waste and do not produce plutonium that contributes to weapons proliferation. ANSTO's report also found that nuclear energy would require large government subsidies if Australia commissioned a modern reactor. To avoid "flrst-of-a-kind" costs we would have to wait for a later "copy" before the price of nuclear energy would be competitive with coal or gas.

An alternative would be to introduce a carbon tax to drive up the cost of electricity by 50%. However, this could cut demand as consumers adopt more energy-efficient measures, such as better insulation and solar panels that would pay for themselves much more quickly than presently. Under this scenario, the demand for electricity would drop, as would the need for nuclear power.

New website has all the latest on proposed wind farm

The Advocate - Daylesford Hepburn Shire Edition, Page: 4
Wednesday, 28 June 2006

AUSTRALIA'S first community-owned wind farm, the Hepburn Community Wind Park, launched a website last week. The Hepburn Renewable Energy Association developed the website as a means to keep the community up-to-date on the wind park planned for Leonards Hill. President Per Bernard said the association was moving towards 300 members and a website was needed."This is a great way for people to get the latest information onthe wind park.

And there's an on-line application form for people to join up," he said. The association's communications spokeswoman Jane Knight said the website would be a valuable way to interact with the community."The website has a description of the project, newsletters, wind energy articles and research as well as a facility for people to ask their own questions."We plan to respond with answers as soon as possible and then post the most frequently asked questions on the website for everyone to see," she said.

Mr Bernard said the website was well set out and very user friendly."We've had some good feedback from users so far but we're really keen to hear any suggestions," he said. The communityowned wind park will consist of two turbines each of two megawatts capacity and is expected to produce enough energy to power more than 2000 homes. Inquiries: Per Bernard on 5348 1298 or

Spain says "adios" to nuclear power

Fourth European country to begin phase out
June, 1

Madrid.– The nuclear industry recently launched a multi-million dollar campaign to try and revive the most expensive, dangerous, and polluting way to boil water ever invented.
Spain is having none of it. The nation's president has confirmed that the country's 8 operating plants will be phased out in favour of clean, renewable energy.

Industry lobby groups have been trying to sell 10 new nuclear plants in Spain, and have fought hard for legislation that would allow existing plants to operate past their planned retirement dates. But President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has confirmed the government's commitment to the phase-out in his State of the Nation address.

“Zapatero has shown true leadership in preparing the phase out of this dangerous and polluting problem and phasing in safe renewable energy sources,” said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International.

“All across the world the nuclear industry is drowning in debt, controversy and its massive waste issues. It is only kept afloat by the likes of Blair and Bush who are pouring billions of dollars of public money into an industry which reached the end of its life over a decade ago.”

Greenpeace was part of a national coalition of environmental and civic groups which on May 20th unanimously petitioned the government to deliver on election promises of "safer, cleaner, cheaper" energy.

Zapatero agreed not only to the phase-out, but to a widely consultative process to find a solution to what to do with existing radioactive waste. In a bid to resurrect a failing industry, regular claims of a nuclear power revival have been made – the most recent using climate change as an excuse to spend further billions to build more reactors.

But renewable energy is now taking the lead, with a single source such as wind energy adding more than 6,000 megawatts to the European grid every year, the equivalent to two large nuclear reactors. In only a few years, wind power in Spain has grown to 8 percent of the national electricity production.

In 2005 alone, some 1680 megawatts of new wind power were installed, generating four times as much electricity as the Zorita nuclear power plant which Spain closed last month.

Spain joins Sweden, Germany and Belgium as the fourth European country to abandon nuclear power.

Should We Embrace Nuclear Energy?

Australasian Science, Page: 30
Wednesday, 28 June 2006

During his recent tour of North America, Australian Prime Minister John Howard called for a "full-blooded debate" about the place of nuclear power in the nation's energy mix. "I have a very open mind on the development of nuclear energy in my own country," he said. Treasurer Peter Costello said that only economic arguments precluded Australia's move to nuclear energy. "If it becomes commercial, we should have it," he said on 23 May.

But in reality the "debate" had already been adjudicated. Three days later the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) presented Science Minister Julie Bishop with a report that delivered Costello's economic justification for nuclear power. Bishop said the ANSTO report"concluded that the latest types of nuclear power stations would be competitive with newly-built coal-fired power stations in Australia. It also concluded that nuclear power is the safest, most secure way of generating electricity with greater price stability in comparison to gas or coal power generation.

"While Bishop described the report's author, Prof John Gittus, as an "independent consultant", an annex to the report reveals that: "He and Mr Michael Dawsori now run Lloyds of London Insurance Syndicate 1176, the biggest commercial insurer of nuclear power stations and other facilities in the world". On 6 June Howard announced "the establishment of a Prime Ministerial Taskforce to undertake an objective, scientific and comprehensive review into uranium mining, processing and the contribution of nuclear energy in Australia in the longer term". Former nuclear physicist and Telstra CEO Dr Ziggy Switkowski will lead the taskforce, which includes the Head of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University, Prof George Dracoulis. Switkowski has resigned from the ANSTO Board to avoid allegations of a conflict of interest.

The Taskforce will report by the end of this year. Chief Scientist Dr Jim Peacock will facilitate a peer review of the inquiry's scientific aspects. Peacock has already lobbied the government on the nuclear issue, stating in his Presidential address to the Australian Academy of Science AGM on 4 May that he had approached Howard to discuss "the place of nuclear power in the global effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions." Much of the economic justification for Australia embracing a nuclear future centres on modern reactor technologies that are safer and more efficient.

"Many of the concerns that people have expressed about nuclear energy would be solved by using thorium instead of uranium to generate energy," says Dr Reza Hashemi-Nezhad of the University of Sydney's School of Physics, who is Australia's only expert on accelerator-driven systems (ADS) that use thorium as fuel. "Apart from the fact that Australia has the world's biggest reserves of thorium, the ADS using thorium does not produce plutonium and can incinerate its own nuclear waste as well as plutonium and other very long-lived radioactive waste, such as that produced by the experimental reactor at Lucas Heights. The nuclear waste produced requires only 500 years of storage time as opposed to hundreds of thousands of years for conventional nuclear reactor waste. In these reactors a meltdown like the Chernobyl disaster is virtually impossible.

"However, the government is not considering an ADS reactor. Gittus' calculations were based on Australia waiting for the costs to come down on Westinghouse's AP1000 nuclear power plant, which can produce 1117-1154 MWe of energy." The cost of generating electricity in Australia from the 'nth copy' of a nuclear power station such as the AP1000, including financial provision for managing the spent fuel, radioactive wastes and ultimate decommissioning, is cheaper than generating it from coal or a CCGT [combined cycle gas turbine] station," Gittus concluded.

"The 'nth copy' has settleddown costs, both capital and operating, unlike the first and other early copies which will have 'first-of-a-kind' costs." For instance, Gittus found that an early copy of the AP1000 would need "a government subsidy of 14.31% of the fifth-of-a-kind cost together with a subsidy of 21.41% of the cost of electricity for the first 12 years of operation" to bring the costs into line with the 'nth copy' scenario.

Therefore, Australia's nuclear future will still be some time off without government support. Such support would need to come from the present Coalition government, as Labor leader Kim Beazley has declared that"there will be no nuclear power in Australia under a Beazley government". But while the debate has been engineered by politicians and nuclear industry advocates, little has been heard of the views of scientists about the role of nuclear power in Australia's energy mix. Dr John Price, an engineer at Monash University's Mechanical Department of Engineering, has worked on the design of coal and nuclear power plants and alternative energy.

"Australia must add 9-10 GW of electricity capacity over the next 10 years to keep pace with demand," he says. "Currently there appears to be no option but to use black and brown coal and gas to generate this extra electricity. Thus the debate should be around whether or not we're happy to commit to so much more carbon dioxide production." Prof Aidan Byrne, Head of Physics at the Australian National University, also believes that "nuclear power could well be part of our energy mix in future, along with wind, solar and other renewables."

All sources of energy have their advantages and disadvantages, and each has to be considered on its merits. "Australia's particular circumstances - with an abundance of sunlight, space, coal and nuclear resources - will decide on this mix. Other countries are not so fortunate so the decisions that other countries make to go nuclear may not need to be replicated in Australia." Prof Peter Johnston, Head of Physics at EMIT and a scientific adviser to Maralinga Tjarutja, who are traditional owners of the former nuclear test site at Maralinga, says: "I think we should be interested in nuclear energy options.

We don't necessarily need a nuclear power program right now but we certainly should have the capability to choose this option in future if and when we want to. Our existing fossil fuel sources may last a long time but we might decide that we need to use coal for things such as liquid fuels instead of burning it for base load energy, especially if oil becomes very expensive in future."Unless we have the capacity to use nuclear power then we may be at a disadvantage. Other countries may be in a position to produce energy by nuclear power much more quickly and cheaply than us. We need the skills and expertise in nuclear science to ensure that we can also do it."

Price concurs:"The nuclear power option would be nice to have. The past 50 years of experience has shown that the safety of nuclear energy and its fuel cycle is very attractive, and modern plants will be even better." The current debate has gained momentum due to increasing support for initiatives that reduce Australia'sgreenhouse gas emissions.

According to Prof Hugh Possingham, a mathematical ecologist at the University of Queensland: "This debate is not about renewables versus nuclear, it is about how quickly we can wean ourselves off energy generation that releases greenhouse gases. The increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels has already begun to contribute to the loss of biodiversity through its impact on the climate. It has been estimated that we could lose 10-30% of all species around the globe as a result of climate change. This places climate change among the top three threats to biodiversity along with land clearing and invasive species."

According to Gittus:"The five measures that Australia currently plans to mitigate global warming will, taken together, reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 38 million tonnes per year. An equal reduction would be provided by substituting 4-5 GWe of nuclear generation for present and planned coal-fired power stations. This would comprise, for example, three or perhaps four APlOOOs."However Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor at Griffith University and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, says that "nuclear power is certainly not a cost-effective answer to climate change.

Various forms of renewable energy supply are more attractive without having the environmental, social and political disadvantages of nuclear power. Energy efficiency is a more cost-effective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions than any supply alternative, and should be pursued vigorously."Dr Joel Fleming, an environmental scientist and Managing Director of Climate Friendly Pty Ltd agrees."Whether Australia should go nuclear is the wrong question," he says.

"The question we need to ask is: what is the best strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% and avoid dangerous climate change?" Renewable and efficiency technologies are available now. With these, there are companies in Australia right now who have reduced their emissions by 60-100%. So why take the safety risk with nuclear when there are clean energy options available? In the long term, with nuclear we would end up using low grade uranium with roughly the same greenhouse emissions as gasfired power stations." Frank Muller, an Adjunct Professor at the University of NSW Institute for Environmental Studies, says Australia's decisions will have implications for our role in the global nuclear industry.

"This is not really about whether Australia should meet its energy needs through nuclear power," he says. "It's a much bigger debate about whether the world should make a major shift to nuclear power and whether Australia should become a big supplier of nuclear fuel cycle services and a nuclear waste dump for other countries." Muller, who previously headed greenhouse policy in the NSW Cabinet Office and spent the 1990s in Washington advising governments and the United Nations on climate change, says: "The reason we are having this debate now is because it meets the political needs of conservative politicians in Washington and Canberra on the defensive over oil prices, climate change and other issues, not because there has been any real commercial progress in overcoming the proliferation, economic and environmental risks of nuclear energy. If we are serious about tackling climate change now there are many other energy options that we should be debating - options that are cheaper, safer and can be deployed much more quickly.

"Nuclear power requires not only big subsidies, but also big government to deal with its risks - and it is a great irony that is should be embraced by conservative politicians."Lowe is also suspicious of the government's agenda."The nuclear power option makes so little sense for Australia that I suspect 'the debate' is really aimed at softening up the electorate to accept increased exports of uranium. It remains true, as the Ranger inquiry found 30 years ago, that exporting uranium adds to the problems of proliferation of fissile material and production of radioactive waste.

There is no convincing technical or political solution to either of those problems, so exporting uranium inevitably makes the world a dirtier and more dangerous place."

Back to the news...

My apologies to regular readers who have wondered about the lack of news lately. I was unable to access the regular news feeds I usually receive. The problems have been solved and I should now be able to keep you informed with regular updates on developments in alternative energy. Murphy's Law allowing...