Thursday 30 November 2006

Growing number of states requiring alternative energy

Posted 11/23/2006

A view of wind turbines on the Campo Reservation outside of San Diego. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in September that accelerates the timetable for 20% of electricity to come from solar, wind and other clean power sources.DENVER — Renewable energy is gathering steam in several states as voters and governors push electric utilities to generate a set percentage of electricity from clean sources such as wind and solar power.

In Washington state, voters approved a measure Nov. 7 mandating that 15% of electrical power come from renewable sources by 2020.

That makes 20 states and the District of Columbia with such requirements, according to the Department of Energy. Two others states — Illinois and Vermont — have non-binding goals on using renewable energy sources.

More states are forcing utilities toward wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, such as geothermal and biomass, to cut the use of coal and natural gas and spur greater U.S. energy independence. Burning coal produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that contribute to climate change. Power plants fueled by natural gas pollute the air with sulfur dioxide.

Opponents, including some utilities and industries, say the switch will be costly for consumers and businesses. In Senate testimony last year, the National Association of Manufacturers opposed a proposed federal requirement to use renewable energy because it would reduce the flexibility of utilities in choosing fuels and harm businesses trying to remain competitive by containing costs.

Other states taking action:
  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in September that accelerates the timetable for 20% of electricity to come from solar, wind and other clean power sources. The compliance date is now 2010, seven years earlier than previously required by state law.
  • New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson proposed last month that the state increase its current requirement that 10% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2011. He wants utilities to produce 15% of their power from renewable sources by 2015 and 25% by 2020.
  • Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is developing a legislative package calling for 25% of electrical power from renewable energy by 2025.
In Colorado, Gov.-elect Bill Ritter made renewable energy a centerpiece of his campaign.

"We're going to move aggressively" on increasing the use of solar and wind power, says state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. "Colorado ought to be a leader in this field, and it's been lapped by more aggressive states."

Colorado voters in 2004 approved a referendum requiring that the state draw 10% of its electricity from renewable sources. In October, the state's largest utility, Xcel Energy, announced it will meet the 10% target by next year. Xcel's quick success reflects, in part, the abundance of solar power and wind in Colorado, which is not the case everywhere.

Xcel, which serves 1.3 million customers in Colorado, is studying how it could attain a higher percentage, spokesman Tom Henley says. That's "something we're looking at. ... The only question is whether it would be prudent." He points to the intermittent reliability of wind and solar power.

Xcel was moving toward large-scale purchases of renewable electricity before the 2004 vote, Henley says. It has contracts with four large wind-electricity producers, is awaiting regulatory approval to build a large solar plant in southern Colorado and pays credits and rebates to homeowners and businesses that install solar panels.

Progress in the states could spur Congress to enact a federal standard, predicts Anna Aurelio, director of the Washington office of U.S. PIRG, a national environmental group. The Senate in 2005 approved a 10% mandate that failed in the House, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., incoming chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said he will try again.

"This is a huge opportunity right now," Aurelio says.

Caldicott blasts nuclear report

North Side Courier
Wednesday 29/11/2006, Page: 5

Australia's pre-eminent anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott last week delivered a blistering attack on nuclear power at a Mosman Rotary Club lunch at Taronga Zoo.

Coming just hours after the release of the Switkowski report, which gave a green light to Australia's nuclear power and uranium industries, Dr Caldicott slammed the "scientifically illiterate politicians" leading the charge towards a nuclear future.

"I testified before that committee and it was clear that those gentlemen had already made up their minds," Dr Caldicott, a former Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the inaugural winner of the Australian Peace Prize said.

Dr Caldicott has written several books on the perils of nuclear energy, and her speech at Taronga drew heavily from her latest offering, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer.

In her discussion about the dangers of global warming and radioactive waste, Dr Caldicott was scathing of those selling nuclear power as a "clean, green" alternative. "The Switkowski report is a Trojan horse," Dr Caldicott said.

"It's for Howard to open up the whole country for uranium mining and bring America's nuclear waste back here" In his report on the viability of Australian nuclear power, former Telstra Chief Ziggy Switkowski envisioned 25 nuclear reactors generating a third of Australia's electricity by 2050.

"Our observation of modern nuclear reactors is that they are very impressive bits of technology, very safe, arguably safer than alternatives," Mr Switkowski said when interviewed on Channel Nine.

These conclusions fly in the face of Dr Caldicott's assessment of nuclear energy, which she insists creates not only grave environmental risks, but security liabilities as well. "To be promoting nuclear power in the age of terrorism is sheer lunacy," she said.

Dr Caldicott argues that, given Australia is in possession of 40 per cent of the world's uranium, it is in a unique position to "stop the nuclear industry in its tracks." "We should have a solar panel on every house and wind farms all over the country," Dr Caldicott said.

Spaniards' $29b tilt at windmills

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 30/11/2006 Page: 26

MADRID: Spanish power company Iberdrola has agreed to buy ScottishPower for $US22.5 billion ($28.9 billion), a move that would create one of Europe's largest utilities.

The board of ScottishPower said on Tuesday it would approve the bid, which would amount to 777p a share, slightly more than half of that in cash.

Iberdrola is Spain's second largest power company, behind Endesa, and one of the world's leading producers of wind power.

The deal with ScottishPower would enable it to increase its wind power capacity by as much as 50 per cent, analysts said, and to broaden its access not only to the British market but also to the American one, where it has been looking to expand.

Spanish companies, buoyed by a robust economic expansion that has lasted more than a decade, have been aggressively looking abroad for investment opportunities in recent years, particularly in Latin America and, more recently, in Britain.

The deal would allow Iberdrola to lower costs and to diversify beyond the Spanish market, where opportunities for growth are increasingly limited. "Together we will be able to guarantee immediate synergies and to access future economies of scale," Ignacio Galan, the chief executive of Iberdrola, said in a statement.

"The resulting group will be very well positioned for the future European energy market and will have a strong platform for growth, especially in renewable energies, a market in which it will be world leader." Iberdrola, which is based in Bilbao, in northern Spain, has operations in 28 countries and had $US15.3 billion in sales last year. The combined company would be worth $US84 billion, the companies said.

ScottishPower, based in Glasgow, has been considered a takeover target for more than 18 months, after a foray into the US failed to generate the expected revenue.

There has been heavy activity recently in Spain's energy market, with E.On of Germany and Gas Natural of Spain vying for Endesa. This led analysts to speculate that Iberdrola saw itself as a possible takeover target.

"This deal is away for the company's directors to protect themselves from takeovers from abroad and within Spain," said Jordi Padilla, the director of equities at Atlas Capital in Madrid.

Over the longer term, Mr Padilla said, the deal could allow Iberdrola to eventually make a move for a Spanish energy company, such as Gas Natural, without having to subject itself to Spanish regulations, which would probably require it to sell assets to avert monopoly concerns.

By joining with ScottishPower, he said,"a large part of its business would be outside of Spain, so regulatory authority could lie with the European Union rather than Spain if it decides to make a move for a Spanish company".

"Iberdrola is offering what we considered a high price for ScottishPower," Citigroup said in a note. "We estimate a slightly negative impact in our Iberdrola evaluation, although we consider that the company's medium/long-term fundamentals could improve, particularly in the wind power business." The deal, which Iberdrola said should be completed in April, is subject to approval from European regulators and shareholders of both companies.

Desalination plant delivers

Business Review Weekly
Thursday 30/11/2006 Page: 9

The $387 million desalination plant at Kwinana, south of Perth, is delivering drinking water to Perth after the project was completed on time and within budget.

The plant, developed in a joint venture between Multiplex Group and French company Degremont for the Water Corporation of Western Australia, is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere and the third-largest in the world.

It is the first big sea water reverse-osmosis plant to be delivered in Australia and will produce 45 gigalitres of water a year - about 130 million litres a day
- and provide 17 per cent of Perth's water needs.

Electricity for the plant is being sourced from the Emu Downs Wind Farm, which was commissioned in October.

Is solar an alternative to going nuclear?

Inner Western Suburbs Courier
Tuesday 28/11/2006, Page: 32

Incentives key to solving the power predicament, Dave Berick writes.

The sun is shining on Balmain resident Cornelius Van Der Weyden. Three months ago, Mr Van Der Weyden installed 18 photovoltaic panels on his roof. "We decided we could afford it and we wanted to do something for our children and grandchildren," he said.

Mr Van Der Weyden expects the panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, to halve his dependence on power coming from the main grid. Not only that, Mr Van Der Weyden's roof has become a mini power station. Each day, any surplus power is sold back to the electricity providers. Last quarter, he received $73 return on his electricity bill.

But the real winner is the environment. The panels, if you factor in their 30-year lifespan, stop the equivalent of 130 tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. Climate change has become a big issue in Australia, fuelled by images of the current drought and apocalyptic warnings from economists, scientists and film-makers.

The question is then, why aren't more Australians taking up solar? The answer is in the bottom line: solar remains incredibly expensive to set up. It cost Mr Van Der Weyden, even with the $4000 rebate from the Federal Government, $24,000 to install his system.

Markus Lambert from Conergy, a renewable energy company, said the problem was the poor price energy companies paid solar owners for the electricity they funnel back into the grid. Currently, solar homeowners are paid 12 cents per kilowatt hour, the same price that comes from conventional power plants. Most households use this money to pay for their systems, but because of its undervaluation, it can take upwards of 30 years to get a return on their investment, Mr Lambert said.

"There's no incentive for people to put solar on their roof," he said. "It's just too expensive." To make solar more attractive, Australia needed a "feed-in tariff", the concept powering Germany's remarkable growth in renewable energy, he said.

Called the EEG law, the tariff was imposed by the German Government on all electricity consumers (industry is exempted), guaranteeing and rewarding homes with a high price (45 cents per kilowatt hour) for their solar energy. Power companies, forced to buy renewable energy at elevated costs, shift the costs back onto ordinary consumers, who, in turn, are encouraged to put in their own renewable systems, creating more jobs and power.

Since it was brought in, the EEG law has revolutionised how Germany meets its energy needs. Currently, wind, solar and biomass account for 10 per cent of Germany's power, and this is expected to grow to 20-25 per cent as nuclear power is phased out over the next decade.

In Australia, the Federal Government is currently deciding how it will secure the country's future energy production, while reducing carbon emissions. Recently, solar has come back on the Government's radar. In May, the rebate for solar panels was extended to 2007, and in October, the Government committed $75 million to build a huge solar factory in rural Victoria.

And the rollout hasn't stopped there. This month the Government, in conjunction with BP Solar and Integral Energy, unveiled a $15 million investment to convert Blacktown into a solar city.

But the Government has made it clear Australia's future base power will be met by exploiting cleaner fossil fuels, not renewable energy. Speaking at the Solar City launch in Blacktown, the Prime Minister, John Howard, said: "If you want to produce base-load power, the cheapest and most immediate way of doing it is of course to use existing coal, and in some cases gas.

"Now solar and wind power have a significant role, but on all the advice I have, solar power can't replace power stations, it can't provide base load power generation. It can provide peak power, it can provide an augmentation, and a very significant one to the contribution made by coal fired power stations, so it will have a role. But I believe very strongly that if we are serious about this issue, we have to look at the nuclear option".

Last week a taskforce appointed by the Federal Government recommended nuclear as a "green" energy option - even though the 25 plants won't come online until at least 2020. Ultimately, the Government is pinning its hopes on developing clean-coal technology, such as carbon capture and storage, and efficient brown coal drying plants, like the pilot project under way at Hazlewood in Victoria.

And as this technology is more expensive, the cheapness of coal will be eroded, making nuclear much more financially competitive.

But former chair of the Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society, Mahalath Halperin said the Government was paying lip service to solar power. "As they say, you can't spell Coalition without coal;" she said. "It's obvious that a feed-in tariff would create a viable, workable solar industry; all it takes a bit of political will power.

Unfortunately our Government listens to a very strong fossil fuel lobby group."

"Devon North suitable for turbines" - says Terry

Yarram Standard News
Wednesday 22/11/2006, Page: 5

WIND turbines should be erected on the site proposed for the Devon North wind farm as the property is zoned rural, according to renewable energy supporter, Terry Willmott.

And the Devon North resident believes objecting neighbours have no case against the wind farm as many of their properties are also zoned rural.

"It astounds me given that these people bought properties in a rural zone. What else do they expect?" Mr Willmott said. "These people are not full time farmers but they live in a rural zone. The only property out there used for rural activities is the site proposed for the wind farm.

"The other people out there bought properties for a country lifestyle in a rural zone. The council should not have allowed them to do so" Mr Willmott said rural zonings are comparable to industrial zonings in a metropolitan area: 'They would have no rights to object to a factory being built next door to them in an industrial zone in a metropolitan area.

"Many of the houses in question are old farm houses but they're not zoned rural residential. They're zoned rural. I don't know how the shire has allowed things to get where they are" Wellington Shire Council's director of community and development, Steve Dickson, confirmed most objectors to the wind farm lived on land zoned rural.

"People are saying that wind farms would detract from their rural lifestyle. At the end of the day, people living in a rural zone have a right to raise a matter that affects them;' he said.

"But that does not mean that someone else has no rights." Mr Dickson said he did not believe objectors' properties should have been re-zoned to rural residential. "At Devon North, some areas are targeted to be changed to rural residential under council's residential and rural residential review.

"Under State Government changes that are now in place, a lot of rural land will be changed to a new farming zone to discourage people from living in farming areas if they are hobby farmers, and instead live in a rural living zone" Mr Dickson said that zoning would cater for people wishing to live on a small parcel of land without impacting on farming activities.

People living on lot sizes under 40ha must now prove to council they are farming on the property. Mr Willmott said people relocating to properties zoned rural should expect land uses such as wind farms to be proposed for such locations. 'What if pine trees were put on this property instead of the wind farm?" he said.

Wellington councillors overturned planning officers' recommendation to approve the wind farm. The company proposing the wind farm has now taken council's objection to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Mr Dickson said council expects to receive a date for the VCAT hearing by Christmas. Mr Willmott said councillors should have followed planners' advice.

"Once again we have the council paying the wages of these professional planning people to advise the councillors on this, but the councillors do not have expertise in these matters and still they ignore the planners;' he said.

Mr Willmott said council had set a precedent for hobby farmers' views to take priority over proposals by neighbouring full-time farmers.

He also queried tactics adopted by wind farm opponents. "One minute these people are saying their views would be obstructed and the next they're saying a bit of compensation would help;' Mr Willmott said. "They say how useless wind farms are but now they're saying they're all for wind farms but not in a residential area. They keep changing their arguments.

"If the 20 objectors want these lovely rolling hills to be maintained as they are, then why don't they form a co-operative and give the money to the people who own the wind farm site, to have it maintained in the manner in which they want it maintained"

Tuesday 28 November 2006

Further "hot rocks" exploration

South Eastern Times
Thursday 23/11/2006 Page: 3

INVESTIGATIONS are about to get underway to determine the geothermal potential for so-called "hot rocks" in the Furner district. Geothermal Resources Limited has been granted two geothermal exploration licences in the Otway Basin, taking in almost 1,000 square kilometres of the region.

They expire on October 31, 2011, and exclude the Furner Conservation Park and the Reedy Creek Conservation Park. The licences were recently issued by Dr Barry Goldstein and came into effect on November 1.

Dr Goldstein is the State Government's Director of Petroleum Minerals and Energy Resources and was acting under the authority of Mineral Resources Development Minister Paul Holloway.

It is thought there could be sufficient heat from volcanic eruptions 4,000 years ago in the region to warm water to drive turbines. The "green" electricity generated by such turbines would then be channelled into the national grid. The district is already a major energy hub, thanks to the two wind farms along the Woakwine Range, a peak gas-fired turbine generating plant at Snuggery and the Katnook natural gas plant.

Last November, Sydney-based company Scopenergy was granted a geo-thermal licence for 142 square kilometres in the Lower South East. Scopenergy executives have announced they intend to drill numerous test holes at Mt Burr to determine the extent of the "hot rocks".

If matters go to plan, a small power generation plant could be built at Mt Burr.

Wind farms are the future

Portland Observer
Friday 24/11/2006, Page: 13

ONE Portland company expects to increase its direct workforce by nearly 300 per cent when work on the Cape Bridgewater wind farm starts in the near future.

G.R. Carr Pty Ltd managing director Peter Carr told the wind energy forum hosted by People Power South West Coast candidate Mike Noske on Tuesday night of' the employment and expansion opportunities associated with wind farms in the region.

He said that while contracts were yet to be finalised, his firm was looking to employ an additional 30 to 40 workers once work on the wind farm started - up from the current 22 workers. The company is hoping to work on the concrete foundations for the wind towers.

Mr Noske reaffirmed his position of supporting the VRET based on job opportunities and economic benefits to Portland, and also for environmental reasons.

National Party candidate David O'Brien also attended the forum and differentiated his party's policy on VRET and wind farms from the Liberal Party which would abolish VRET. Mr O'Brien said The Nationals supported VRET, albeit with a bit of fine tuning.

"I also believe a form of compensation or royalties should be paid to adjoining landholders, perhaps on a diminishing scale according to distance from turbines," he said.

AusWind president Andrew Richards rejected the notion of paying royalties to adjoining landholders, saying there was a code in place regarding community consultation. Mr Richards also referred to the community fund Pacific Hydro would establish once the PWEP was finalised, saying that fund would spread the benefits across the community.

The threat of climate change

Waste Management & Environment
November, 2006 Page: 17

Australia is not known as the sunburnt country for nothing. Climate change will dry us out completely if we don't take systematic action. Climate change and water are the two sides of the same coin, and Australia desperately needs a strategy for both. Increasing temperatures and water shortages mean the harsh reality of climate change is here.

Everyone knows it's happening and that the science about climate change is right. Carbon pollution is making the greenhouse blanket around the Earth way too thick, trapping heat and distorting our climate and drying up our water supplies. The 10 hottest years ever have occurred in the past 14, and 2005 was the hottest year on record. The Murray River is at its lowest level for over 100 years.

Saying the drought is linked to climate change is as obvious as linking speeding to car accidents. If we don't take action, we are headed for an economic and environmental crash. For example, the 2006 grain harvest was cut by 36 per cent due to reduced rainfall and ongoing drought, cutting Australia's export income by $2 billion.

The Stern Report has focused the world's attention on the potentially dire economic impacts of climate change. It has reported that taking action to avoid dangerous climate change will be significantly less costly than the cost of inaction.

Taking action is an environmental and economic imperative for Australia.

The report is a sharp repudiation of the climate change sceptics in the Howard Government who are frozen in time while the globe ,varms around them. According to the report, climate change could cost the global economy more than both World Wars and the Great Depression combined. Unless the world begins to act now to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere, global economic output could be cut by up to 20 per cent.

Time to harness our natural advantages

While greenhouse emissions are causing the problem, Australia's natural advantage with solar and wind energy places us well to exploit clean renewable energy.

The Howard Government has rejected expanding its renewable energy target, yet Solar Systems' project in Mallee, Victoria was only possible because the Victorian Labor Government adopted such a target. The Victorian target of 10 per cent power from renewables by 2016 made the project viable, but the Howard Government has rejected expanding the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) beyond its pathetic two per cent.

Renewable energy projects are going ahead in Australia despite, not because of, Howard Government policies. In fact, Australia is the only country where renewable energy projects are being closed.

While Labor welcomes one-off announcements, what we need is a systematic response to climate change. Australia needs to significantly increase its renewable energy target and develop economic incentives to encourage long-term investment in renewables and clean coal technology.

We need decisive national leadership to ensure we get a decent share of a global market in renewables, estimated to grow into a trillion dollar industry in coming years. The recent renewables manufacturing plant closed by Vestas Nacelle in Tasmania cost 100 jobs, and Roaring 40s' decision not to proceed with two renewable energy projects cost regional Australia $550 million and 200 full-time construction jobs. Both companies said it was because of a lack of Federal Government support.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, additional investment in clean and renewable energy projects in developing countries, such as China, will be $133 billion by 2012. Currently, the only way Australian companies can access investment under Kyoto is by setting up offices in countries that have ratified Kyoto, such as Fiji or New Zealand, or by being minority joint venture partners. This is shameful.

The business sector needs clear targets that encourage investment certainty for the transformation to a carbon constrained economy. Only with a comprehensive plan will we he able to take up opportunities that are available, whilst avoiding dangerous climate change.

Pricing of our natural resources is one of the most pressing reform agendas facing Australia, and no more so than in the case of climate change. Labor supports not only the development of renewables, clean coal and other low emission technologies, but also the market mechanisms to ensure their widespread deployment to drive greenhouse emission reductions. The push of technology combined with the pull of the market.

Projects such as Solar Systems' highlight the fact that clean technology is available right now. The real challenge is to ensure the technology is commercialised and widely applied, and not just a one-off announcement

New Year's resolution makes a difference

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 28/11/2006 Page: 16

It was during the stifling heat of January 1 this year, when the mercury reached a staggering 42 degrees, that Bega's Dr Matthew Nott had an epiphany. He had gone to the beach to try to escape the oppressive heat and sat reading Tim Flannery's book The Weather Makers. It was then he realised thinking locally could actually make a big difference globally.

"He just got this idea and ran with it," says Nicholas Graham- Higgs, who has been involved with Nott and his Clean Energy For Eternity campaign since it began after that New Year's Day insight.

Within weeks, Nott had organised a community meeting of more than 3000 people to try to significantly reduce the region's greenhouse-gas footprint. Just weeks after that initial meeting he had rallied more than 3000 people to get together down at Tathra Beach to create a human sign that read Clean Energy For Eternity.

His charisma and passion for what he was doing was infectious and the Bega Valley Shire Council was soon on board, formulating a policy in conjunction with the group to introduce its 50/50 By 2020 project. The council plans to introduce 50 per cent renewable energy into its operations and reduce the amount of energy it uses by 50 per cent by 2020.

"The Bega Valley has a population of about 30,000 and Matt managed to get 10 per cent of those to come along to the beach, out of school holiday time, to make this human sign," Graham-Higgs says. "He organised everything, even buses to get people there. He then rode around on a quad bike getting everyone in position."

Nott's enthusiasm for what he was doing did not end there. In July the orthopaedic surgeon decided to take the message closer to the nation's capital, firstly making a splash by swimming across Lake Jindabyne on a day when the sleet was falling almost horizontally and with only a support boat by his side, then organising a rally in October to create another human sign on the grounds of Parliament House.

"He is incredibly dedicated and really does believe in this issue," Graham-Higgs says. "As a surgeon he doesn't have that much time, but he is out there doing all this as well. And he is a pretty humble sort of bloke. He knows that if Bega Valley Shire can do the 50/50 by 2020 it can be used as an example for other regions."

AGL cleans up power market as renewable demand soars

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 28/11/2006 Page: 16

Consumer demand has forced AGL's GreenPower scheme to grow by 88 per cent in the 12 months to June. The public's greater demand for cleaner power is forcing the gas and electricity provider to investigate more renewable-energy sources. In the past year, the company has pursued clean-energy initiatives to make it a leader in the field of green energy.

After a number of acquisitions, AGL now sources nearly 37 per cent of its generation capacity from renewable-energy sources which produce no greenhouse-gas emissions. Already more than 35,000 AGL customers have switched to accredited GreenPower.

"Generally most of the green power people buy comes from hydro-electricity schemes, wind farms and landfill-gas facilities," says AGL's manager of carbon and renewable strategy, Tim Nelson. "What we are seeing in the marketplace is an interest and an awareness of green power and its effect on climate change."

The power company is increasing its portfolio by buying a number of green-energy sources, including the 140-megawatt Bogong hydroelectric project in Victoria. The plant is set to be the largest of its kind to be built in Australia in the past 25 years. AGL has also invested in the 95-megawatt Hallet Wind Farm project in South Australia. Once again it is the biggest facility of its kind in the country.

"The company perspective is consistent to where we have been positioning ourselves in the market," Nelson says. "AGL is making some serious decisions about where we are sourcing our energy, which are all producing low emissions. "If you look at projects we are announcing to build, they are all renewable-energy sources. Of course it is a transitional process to move our customers to accredited Green Power but AGL has always been focused on the outcome." Nelson says the progressive nature of AGL's business strategy will mean significantly fewer greenhouse emissions.

And the education of consumers is a large part in trying to convert its energy users to accredited green power sources. As part of its retail product advertising, AGL is using considerable resources to promote renewable energy. Its Energy Matters campaign is a grassroots program to educate staff and customers on how energy efficiency can help improve the environment.

The company practises what it preaches by powering its offices with 100 per cent greenhouse neutral energy sources. It also offsets 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions from its fleet of vehicles.

Shire wants Dollar closure

South Gippsland Sentinel Times
Tuesday 21/11/2006, Page: 10

South Gippsland Council will ask Dollar Wind Farm proponent AGL about its long-term plans for the 48-turbine project, to obtain some certainty for local landholders. AGL suspended the project last month, stating it had other priorities elsewhere that it needed to address.

Cr Kieran Kennedy moved a motion last week that the council write to AGL CEO Paul Anthony and Merchant Power general manager Jeff Dimery "respectfully requesting written responses regarding their companies' long term intentions' in relation to the project.

Cr Kennedy said land owners in the Dollar area had been "in limbo" since the plans were first made public in 2003. ...The purpose of the motion is to create some certainty in the real estate industry in the Dollar area, which has been at a standstill for a number of years.

"Property owners haven't been able to decide what to do, given the uncertainty surrounding the project. "The price of the land has dropped, in some places marginally, and others more than that." He said real estate sales had been at a stagnant level for the past three years.

But those comments were refuted by Wilma Western, who was in the gallery at last week's council meeting.

"Fair enough that you ask AGL about its intentions, but where did you get the information from regarding prices?" She said Landmark in Leongatha had made 16 to 20 successful sales in the Dollar area during the past two years.

Fundraiser to celebrate wind farm application

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 22/11/2006, Page: 17

A FUNDRAISER to celebrate Hepburn Renewable Energy Association's planning application to build two wind turbines will be held next week. The planning application was lodged about three weeks ago at the Hepburn Shire Council.

Organic and slow food chef Gary Thomas will create a sumptuous buffet of seasonal organic produce. Organic One will donate the wine and Harvest Cafe will donate the food. Musician Adrian Kosky will provide the entertainment.

Cost is $50, or $30 concession, which includes dinner and three glasses of wine. All proceeds will go to the HREA. The dinner will be on November 29, at Harvest Cafe, Daylesford, from 7pm. Tickets are available from Unicorn House or Harvest Cafe.

Wind power tide turns

Goulburn Post
Wednesday 22/11/2006 Page: 5

THE NSW Government's commitment to a Renewable Energy Target of 10 per, cent power generation from green sources by 2010, increasing to 15pc by 2020, has been branded "a positive step" by Veolia Environmental Service (formerly Collex).

The company, which earlier this year put its approved Woodlawn Windfarm on hold on economic grounds, believed the move might turn the tide for wind power. "This target creates a market for green electricity produced from renewable sources such as wind and solar in NSW," Veolia Environmental Service's marketing manager Tony Cade told the Goulburn Post.

The target also means that electricity retailers must purchase green electricity, which puts wind and solar on the same playing field as traditional sources of power generation, such as coal and gas. "This commitment ensures the renewable energy industry continues investing in NSW and projects already in the pipeline can be built, such as the Woodlawn Windfarm." However, Mr Cade warned that this would only occur once the target came into effect after the NSW State election next March 2007.

Mr Cade also revealed that generation units were presently being installed at the Woodlawn Ecoprecinct for the conversion of methane captured within the bioreactor. "We expect to be commissioning the generation units in January or February, and for them to he fully online generating green electricity by April," Mr Cade said. "We have entered a very exciting stage in the development of the Woodlawn Eco-precinct and the capacity to produce 'green' electricity further expands the facilities' sustainability credentials," Mr Cade said.

His comments follow the release last week that planning approval for a new $220 million windfarm between Tarago and Bungendore had been secured. The proposed 63-turbine Capital Wind Farm was rated to generate enough electricity to provide power for 52,000 homes, eliminating 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

Special open day for visitors

Central Midlands & Coastal Advocate
Thursday 23/11/2006, Page: 5

THE opening weekend of the Emu Downs Wind Farm on Bibby Road in Badgingarra was a huge success and a great community effort from everyone involved.

Premier Alan Carpenter officially opened Western Australia's second biggest wind farm on Friday November 10 and then the public had their opening on Sunday November 12. There were 596 people at the opening on Sunday from Perth and other areas outside the Shire. Visitors could take a bus ride up to the turbines and see them closely and learn more about how they work.

Located 30 kilometres east of Cervantes the $180 million wind farm has 48 wind turbines and will generate 80 megawatts of renewable energy. Griffin Energy and Stanwell Corporation commissioned the facility and used local labour where possible.

Dandaragan south ward councillor Michael Russell was a co-ordinator of the event. Mr Russell said Griffin Energy, Stanwell Corporation and the entire community were to be congratulated for their efforts. "Both Friday and Sunday were great and there was so much community support - it was just fantastic," he said.

At the opening on Friday the guests were treated to a lunch by chef Martin Gillespie from Waddi Bush resort. Local schools, the CWA, sporting clubs and several other community groups also joined together to work as traffic controllers and general assistors. The Badgingarra CWA provided morning and afternoon tea while the Cervantes P & C Association supplied a sausage sizzle. The Cervantes Women's Forum also offered cool drinks and an ambulance was on hand with a big tent to keep everyone cool in the shade.

"The Badgingarra women were just fantastic in their support and assistance:' Mr Russell said. "In fact all the people in Cervantes too were so helpful. It was really good to see the community getting together for the event. "There was not one glitch - everything was planned so well and everyone pitched in. It was all really well organised:' The local football club offered a marquee and were paid $700 to put it together and the traffic controllers were also paid for their efforts. Mr Russell said it was unfortunate that they couldn't pay all the volunteers but it was still good of people to help in any way they could.

The wind farm will power Perth's new $387 million seawater desalination plant in Kwinana. The desalination plant will be the largest facility of its kind in the world to be powered by renewable energy.

Nuclear trail paved with carbon tax.

Weekend Australian
Saturday 25/11/2006, Page: 21

Nigel Wilson, Energy Writer

EXPANDING Australia's contribution to the world nuclear cycle beyond mining and supplying uranium yellowcake will not be easy. The draft report of the Prime Minister's review of uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy, released this week, is as much about the hurdles developing a vertically integrated nuclear industry faces as about identifying the pathway to a nuclear future.

And to achieve nuclear power will require Australia to make some fundamental choices about lifestyle, not only in the way energy is generated but also in the way that it is priced and delivered.

The very first page of the review sums up the position clearly. Nuclear power, it says, would be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce than coal or gas-fired power. "This gap may close in the decades ahead, but nuclear power and renewable energy sources will only become competitive in Australia in a system where the costs of greenhouse gas emissions are explicitly recognised," it states.

In other words, Australia needs a carbon tax, or at the very least a sophisticated carbon trading system. That means electricity consumers, but commercial and household, will pay more, not less. This is a point that appears to have been accepted by Prime Minister John Howard in the past few months, after initially rejecting the push by some Labor states for a carbon trading scheme while hitching the federal Government's wagon to clean coal technology through carbon capture and storage.

The lack of a recognition that electricity consumers in Australia which are, in contrast to Europe, the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions should be held accountable for their impact on global warming was a key failing of the federal Government's 2004 energy White Paper.

The nuclear review headed by Ziggy Switkowski, addresses this, saying the challenge to contain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably eased (not solved) by nuclear plants. "Australia's greenhouse challenge requires a full spectrum of initiatives and its goals cannot be met by nuclear power alone," the draft report says.

It maintains greenhouse gas emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 18 per cent of national emissions by 2050, painting a scenario that 25 nuclear reactors could be built in Australia between 2020 and 2050, producing more than one third of the nation's electricity.

That means there will have to be significant contributions by other energy sources, not only renewables, but also gas and possibly even coal in the carbon capture and storage configuration to meet Australia's future energy demand.

The Switkowski review is conservative in its energy projections, taking an annual growth rate to 2050 of around 2.1 per cent, which is the same as that promoted by the Energy Supply Association of Australia and which corresponds with ABARE forecasts out 30 years.

But the cost equation is the one that may determine the public policy outcome. Switkowski says that assuming Australia built a series of nuclear plants, not just high cost first-of-a-kind operations, the price of electricity generated from nuclear power could fall within the cost range of $40 to $65 a megawatt hour.

While this is double existing coal-fired generation costs, it is comparable with the low-end cost expectations for clean coal technology plants into the future while being cheaper than expectations of wind power, solar and thermal power and considerably cheaper than photo voltaics.

"Nuclear power could become economic even with conventional coal-based electricity at low to moderate prices for carbon emissions at approximately $15 to $40 a tonne of carbon dioxide," the review says.

While initial coverage of the Switkowski review has concentrated on it view that 25 nuclear plants might be needed by 2050 and that an uranium enrichment and processing industry might add $1.8 billion a year to the national economy, ultimately it will be how nuclear power can be introduced without curbing lifestyle options that will engage the federal Government during the next few years.

Norway to fund major energy projects

Waste Management & Environment
November, 2006, Page: 14

Norway is to subsidise renewable and energy efficiency projects under a 20 billion crown ($4 billion) fund as water shortages threaten the hydroelectricity plants that supply 99 per cent of its power. From 2008 to 2023, bio-energy producers and other pioneering technologies will get 2 cents/kWh, wind power producers 1.6 cents and small hydropower plants 0.8 cents.

It comes as the government-appointed Commission on Low Emissions released a report finding Norway could slash greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80 per cent by 2050 without constraining economic growth. It outlined 15 measures, particularly improved efficiency and carbon capture and storage.


Switkowski report misses point on energy efficiency

Canberra Times
Monday 27/11/2006, Page: 9

The panel couldn't ask key questions, but there's no reason for us to avoid them, says JIM FALK.

GIVEN its origins and the composition of its panel, the nuclear taskforce report chaired by Ziggy Switkowski, and issued last Tuesday, is in some respects surprisingly downbeat.

It supports uranium mining and nuclear power, but - for at least the medium term - effectively rejects uranium conversion, uranium enrichment, fuel fabrication and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, and all but ignores the original requirement to investigate the "business case" for establishing a repository accepting high-level nuclear waste from overseas.

The Switkowski report stresses that nuclear power could be competitive only if a substantial carbon tax is imposed, and estimates the cost of nuclear power to be 20-50 per cent greater than the cost of electricity from coal. Even this seems an optimistic assessment.

The narrow terms of reference set by the Federal Government restricted the Switkowski panel to a study of nuclear power, not a serious study of energy options for Australia. As a result, the main problem with the report is that it simply misses the point.

A panel with a broader range of expertise and a less limited brief could have been asked to explore the impact of carbon tax and other policy measures on energy demand. It could have tackled the most effective means by which that demand could be met, and greenhouse emissions reduced, taking into account all the energy options, costs, time frames, waste, safety and other relevant issues.

The report simply accepts that energy demand will grow remorselessly along a projected curve. But it also proposes imposition of a carbon tax in which the cost of electricity will significantly increase.

Of course, as we know with water, in this situation, the simplest thing when a resource becomes harder to buy, is to use it less wastefully. Similarly, a host of studies show that the potential for removing energy wastage is large, and that a dollar invested in energy efficiency will produce some two to seven times the returns in energy and emissions savings versus a dollar invested in new nuclear power.

While the Switkowski panel was prevented from asking key questions, there's no reason for the rest of us to avoid them. A body of existing research indicates that the objectives of meeting energy demand and reducing greenhouse emissions can be met with a combination of renewable energy and gas to displace coal, combined with energy efficiency measures, without recourse to nuclear power.

For example, a study by AGL, Frontier Economics and WWF Australia published in May 2006 finds a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation in Australia can be achieved by 2030 at the modest cost of 43c a week a person over 24 years. A detailed study, A Clean Energy Future for Australia, by Hugh Saddler, Richard Denniss and Mark Diesendorf, identifies methods by which a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions from stationery energy generators and uses can be achieved by 2040.

The Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, and the Renewable Energy Generators Australia, have produced research on climate change abatement strategies. Many studies dispel myths which, unfortunately, have been promulgated by Stvitkowski this week, such as the claim that only coal and nuclear power are suitable to provide reliable baseload power.

This claim is an oversimplified rendition of the complex question of how to provide statistical reliability in an energy generation system. Different technologies present different challenges. Nuclear reactors are stable while they work, but when they have an "outage" they can leave a big hole in supply. Once a reactor shuts down it can take days or even weeks to restart.

There are renewable energy sources which are at least as reliable as nuclear power, such as bio-energy, while geothermal "hot rocks" technology may provide another energy source in the near future.

While a single wind turbine cannot be relied upon as a constant source of power, wind farms spread over a wide area provide a reliable power source. Studies of Australian wind patterns have shown wind power, supported by a small amount of peak-load plant, can substitute for and hence may be regarded as equivalent to base load.

Energy efficiency and waste-saving measures are too often ignored. Apart from their other advantages, energy-efficiency measures can reduce the demand for both base-load and peak-load power. Energy-efficiency measures can also deliver large reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse emissions.

The Australian Ministerial Council on Energy published a report in 2003, Towards a National Framework for Enemy Efficiency, which concludes that "consumption in the manufacturing, commercial and residential sectors could be reduced by 20-30 per cent with the adoption of current commercially available technologies with an average payback of four years".

But as Switkowski has stressed in recent appearances, the taskforce was not charged with assessing those issues. Rather it was to look at the possibilities of a nuclear future.

Will the Prime Minister now convene a panel to explore the potential of a non-nuclear future for Australia supported by rapid development in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency? It is hoped he will, or better still, the Government will simply get to work supporting the implementation of the myriad of clean-energy solutions to the problem of climate change, such as those identified by the Ministerial Council on Energy.

Professor Falk is director of the Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Melbourne. The centre assists the development of the Energyscience Coalition which provides briefing papers at