Friday 22 December 2006

Stage two turbines being installed

South Eastern Times
Monday 18/12/2006 Page: 3

THE first of the 53 turbines which comprise the second stage of the multi-million dollar Lake Bonney wind farm have been erected. Construction personnel engaged by Babcock and Brown Wind Partners have placed the latest turbine in close proximity to the existing structures on Poonada Road and Thiele Road, west of Tantanoola.

The newest turbine is distinctive as it is larger than its predecessors and is currently non-operational. Other turbines are currently in the process of being erected nearby as their towers, nacelles and blades are on site, along with cranes and associated construction apparatus. There is no public access to the construction sites.

An official ceremony to mark the commencement of Lake Bonney stage two was held on site last month and attended by Energy Minister Patrick Conlon and officials from Wattle Range Council and Babcock and Brown Wind Partners.

Preliminary siteworks got underway in June for the 53 turbine towers, being erected along the Woakwine Range to the south of Lake Bonney stage one. Stage two involves a local workforce of between 30 and 50.

When completed in 2008, the first two stages of the windfarm will have 99 wind turbines, generate almost 240 megawatts and will be the largest operational windfarm in the Southern Hemisphere. The nearby Canunda windfarm, with 23 wind turbines, is operated by a separate company, International Power.

Strong community support for wind farm proposal

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 20/12/2006 Page: 6
By Erin Williams

A PLANNING application for a community-owned wind farm has received overwhelming support with 150 submissions. Lodged at the Hepburn Shire Council on November 15, the proposed wind farm to be built on private land at Leonards Hill received the submissions early this week.

Hepburn Renewable Energy Association president Per Bernard said the number of submissions showed the continuing support from the council. The council's director of infrastructure and development Rod Conway said the planning department had received "a few objections" to the proposal from the community.

Worth $8 million, the proposed community-owned wind farm would compromise two wind turbines. The HREA was awarded a $975,000 State Government grant in August for the project.

With 400 members, the HREA has formed a steering committee that will be responsible for setting the rules for the co-op. Mr Bernard said the committee would determine the cost of shares and be responsible for setting up a community fund.

"A certain amount of money will go into community funding," he said. "It may help with other programs and will be a substantial amount of money." Mr Bernard said the community owned wind farm was more than an idea. "These people and local community are going something for themselves." he said.

Senator Campbell's Foolish Parrot Plan

The Australian
Friday 22/12/2006 Page: 11

The Environment Minister blundered over Bald Hills

IN a statement timed for the start of the Christmas silly season, federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has finalised the farce that has been his handling of the great Orangebellied Parrot controversy (no, this parrot is real, Monty Python's was the Norwegian Blue). Back in April, Senator Campbell vetoed a $220 million proposed wind farm, at Bald Hills in Victoria's Gippsland, because it would put the parrot at peril. According to the minister, with only 50 breeding pairs left, all these parrots are precious and the risk that the wind farm could kill even one of the birds was unacceptable.

That blocking the project might give the Coalition an edge in the marginal local electorate did not get a mention. Nor did the way the minister ignored his own department's advice, acting instead on a commissioned consultant's report that concluded the wind farm was a risk, albeit a small one, to the parrot.

However, the more the facts of the matter were considered, the more absurd Senator Campbell's reasons for blocking the project appeared. A minister charged with encouraging alternative energy had blocked a major wind farm when an expert suggested that on all the evidence the facility might kill one of the birds once every thousand years.

For months, Senator Campbell attempted to dig his way out of trouble, claiming that he was both pro-parrot and anxious to expand alternative energy. In the process, he annoyed on the one hand the environmental activists who think the benefits of Bald Hills in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are worth the risk to the parrot, and on the other the sceptics, who suggest wind energy is inefficient and expensive. And he upset the Bald Hills project backers, who took him to court.

Senator Campbell finally clambered out of his hole yesterday, announcing that he had agreed to a revised Bald Hills proposal, which was better designed to protect the orange-bellied bird" Some of the changes are worded to seem significant, such as the requirement that no turbines be built within two kilometres of the coast. Others do not appear of epochal importance, such as the requirement to keep wind turbines up to 800m away from a wetlands reserve. And some seem severe.

The new plan specifies that after the death of a second orange-bellied or swift parrot, or a white-bellied sea eagle, across the life of the project, all operations for a kilometre around "the mortality site" will cease immediately and only start again with ministerial approval. Senator Campbell is well-known for getting worked up over wildlife, conducting himself like a sea-green zealot in his campaign against whaling, but even by his standards this is over-kill.

What started as a win-win for the minister, collecting kudos from people who did not want a wind farm on the their patch by knocking back the project on environmental grounds, has turned into a lose-lose. Senator Campbell has made a fool of himself by blocking and then allowing the Bald Hills wind farm. And he has demonstrated an absence of policy nous and basic political skill to all, especially John Howard. Whether or not the Prime Minister has a reshuffle in mind, the case for moving Senator Campbell to a less-demanding job is incontestable.

Maybe the minister will complain this is all unfair, that he has been the butt of too many Monty Python parrot jokes. Perhaps, but another of the conditions of the Bald Hills approval requires an independent on-site monitor, charged with advising the minister in writing of the death of a member of a threatened species within 48 hours. "This is an ex-parrot" should do it.

Excess emissions can only fuel Australia's poor showing

Friday 22/12/2006 Page: 14

The Federal Government must look further than resolving its own hardline stance on climate control. It is a global concern. JUST as a week is a long time in politics, any finite period must seem an epoch to Government politicians involved with environmental change: over recent months, weeks and even days, the environment has inconveniently refused to keep in line with political confidence.

In October, Environment Minister Ian Campbell told this newspaper that Australia was on track to meet the Kyoto target on greenhouse gas emissions. We have not ratified Kyoto, but the Government has consistently said it would, in principle, abide by its targets. On Wednesday came the startling - and, for the Government, humiliating - news that Australia is projected to exceed this target.

Figures in a report from Senator Campbell's own department, Environment and Heritage, reveal Australia was 1 per cent above its target of an 8 per cent increase in emissions on 1990 levels by 2008-12, and that projected emissions for 2020 could be 127 per cent of 1990 levels. Another nemesis for a Government trying to catch up with the relentless capriciousness of climate control has emerged more swiftly.

Last week Prime Minister John Howard established an emissions taskforce to find by the end of May a way in which Australia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions without sacrificing its trading advantages in traditional energy areas such as fossil fuels. This was criticised for various reasons, but, in particular, how a taskforce composed of bureaucrats, banking and energy representatives but not a single environmental expert, could have the depth of knowledge essential to dealing with climate change.

Lo! Just 10 days later, following the taskforce's first meeting that was attended by Mr Howard, he announced the group would issue a discussion paper in February, to which interested parties, including environmental groups, the renewable-energy sector and the states, would be invited to respond. Dare we suggest this was as it should have been in the first place?

In recent months The Age has expressed its increasing concern with the Federal Government's generally non-anticipatory reaction to climate change, which has become a bigger public issue than terrorism. The Prime Minister's turnaround, slower than a supertanker's, has, we suspect, been predicated more on voter concern than personal epiphany.

The awkward fact that Australia has not ratified Kyoto continues to place us in the outer reaches of international debate on environmental control: how can we be taken seriously in the climate-control debate by other developed nations (excluding, of course, the US, which also didn't ratify the protocol) when we have refused to endorse their common and binding treaty of agreement? The Government may say it intends to keep within the Kyoto target emission figures, but it should be remembered that while most countries under Kyoto were required to take emissions below 1990 levels by 2008-12, Australia negotiated an 8 per cent increase.

Without that increase, our excess would be far higher. Indeed, the departmental report forecasts that by 2020, when the benefits of reduced land-clearing start to fade, Australian emissions will be 17 per cent higher than its Kyoto target.

Whatever the figures, Australia is exceeding greenhouse gas emissions in a way that does little to salvage our reputation as one of the lesser players on a more globally responsible stage. We continue to have the highest per capita emissions in the Western world after F Luxembourg, and it has grown by 1.5 million tonnes a head since 1990. Mr Howard, despite the creation of the taskforce, is still doing little to show leadership or, indeed, to do much else other than react when it seems necessary.

There is at least some hope in that the taskforce will now make provision for the views of those with the knowledge, wisdom and vision necessary to find alternative ways to deal with something that is changing the world and the lives of all those who live in it with frightening speed and intensity. The environmentalist Tim Flannery summed it up when he said,"The fossil fuel industry is on global notice: business cannot long continue as usual." It is time for all voices to be heard.

Market gets wind power

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 22/12/2006 Page: 15

THE Central Market will receive a boost in power after a mini wind turbine was installed on its roof. The SWIFT Mini Wind Turbine, put in by Adelaide City Council, has been connected to the market's power supply and is expected to produce up to 3.5kw of sustainable energy in the next year.

The turbine is one of five provided by the State Government in an initiative announced in September. A 12-month trial of the machines, to be placed in the city and at Mawson Lakes, will measure the long-term benefits of wind-generated power. If successful, the government will consider installing another 20 machines.

Adelaide and Salisbury councils have been been provided with a turbine. The installation of the city machine cost council about $5000.

Campbell wind farm backflip may end up very costly:report

AAP Newswire
Friday 22/12/2006

SYDNEY, Dec 22 AAP - The federal government faces a costly lawsuit from a developer after Environment Minister Ian Campbell backed down and belatedly approved a controversial Victorian wind farm, it was reported today.

Senator Campbell announced yesterday the Bald Hills Wind Farm project in Gippsland could go ahead, eight months after blocking the Victorian government's approval for the project because of concerns for the rare orange-bellied parrot.

The delay has caused proposed construction costs to blew out by $30 million to $250 million and developer Wind Power Pty Ltd said it had sought legal advice on recouping the difference, The Australian reported. "We are getting legal advice on whether we can sue the government on any losses we sustain," Wind Power director Andrew Newbold told The Australian.

The controversy flared amid allegations Senator Campbell had acted not out of primary concern for the parrot but to appease anti-wind farm voters in the marginal federal seat of McMillan. Lobby group the Coastal Guardians has urged banks not to provide finance for the project, and local residents will hold a community meeting tomorrow to try and block the wind farm.

Local federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent expressed his disappointment in the ministerial backflip. "This is a real blow to the people of this area who have fought long and hard to protect endangered wildlife and the amenity beauty of the Gippsland coastline," Mr Broadbent said.

The company had agreed to changes such as removing any planned turbines from within a two-kilometre coastal strip and to create an 800m buffer between turbines and a wetland. Senator Campbell said the changes greatly reduced the risk to wildlife.

Lawsuit in wind as farm gets nod

The Australian
December 22, 2006
Ewin Hannan

THE Howard Government faces a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from the developer of a wind farm after Environment Minister Ian Campbell caved in and approved the project - eight months after blocking it over an alleged threat to the orange-bellied parrot.

The proposed cost of the Bald Hills wind farm has blown out by $30 million to $250 million, and its developer, Wind Power, revealed it had sought legal advice about recouping the extra costs in the wake of Senator Campbell's reversal yesterday.

"We are getting legal advice on whether we can sue the Government on any losses we sustain," director Andrew Newbold told The Australian.

In April, Senator Campbell overruled advice from his own department and blocked the proposed wind farm southeast of Melbourne, citing risks to the endangered parrot. It was revealed in The Australian, however, that the frequency of an orange-bellied parrot fatally colliding with turbines was, at worst, once every 1000 years.

Opponents and supporters of the wind farm yesterday condemned Senator Campbell over his handling of the project, with the Victorian Labor Government claiming his "humiliating backdown" had been preceded by months of cynical politics.

Lobby group the Coastal Guardians urged the banks not to provide finance for the project, and local residents will hold a community meeting tomorrow to consider new moves to try to stop the wind farm.

Local federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said he was "very disappointed" by Senator Campbell's decision. "This is a real blow to the people of this area who have fought long and hard to protect endangered wildlife and the amenity and beauty of the Gippsland coastline," Mr Broadbent said. He said the fight against the wind farm was not over, given that no energy company had yet agreed to buy electricity from the project.

Senator Campbell said yesterday that his department, which had previously approved the project only to be overridden by him, had backed the wind farm "subject to key changes to the turbine layout, and strict conditions to protect the orange-bellied parrot and other threatened species".

But the changes do not substantially alter the project, and serious doubts remain about whether the orange-bellied parrot was ever under threat from the wind farm. As previously reported by The Australian, the company has only been required to move six of the 52 turbines that had been within 2km of the coast - the parrot's potential migratory path.
"My concern with the initial wind farm proposal was the risks posed to the threatened orange-bellied parrot which I believed were unacceptable," Senator Campbell said.

Under other minor conditions, turbines or related infrastructure cannot be built within 300m of the boundary of a local wetland reserve, or within 800m of the edge of the largest area of open water habitat within the reserve.

The company must submit an avifauna management plan, including the identification of a qualified independent observer to undertake monitoring on site of listed species as well as any bird strike. Any death of threatened or migratory species must be reported to the Government within 48 hours. A second death would result in the temporary shutting down of the project while the developer provided a further management plan.

"Having thoroughly considered all information presented to me in relation to the proposal, I am satisfied that the strict conditions attached to this approval will address the risk to threatened species that may use the area," Senator Campbell said.

The company, which will provide $30,000 a year to help protect birds, said the delay had blown out construction costs from $220 million to $250 million. Victoria's new Planning Minister, Justin Madden, said Senator Campbell "should hang his head in shame for needlessly delaying a project that will help combat global warming".

"We can only hope that Senator Campbell has learnt a valuable lesson from his humiliating backdown today, and that he will refrain in future from playing politics with other important state infrastructure projects."

Windfarm Is A Goer

Crows Nest Advertiser
Tuesday 19/12/2006 Page: 1

"Considerable environmental and economic benefits for region" - Mayor Judge Wilson in the Planning and Environment Court has issued a consent order providing planning approval for a 75-turbine wind farm proposed for Crow's Nest and Rosalie shires.

A development approval for the project issued by Crow's Nest Shire Council on October 7, 2005, had been subject to appeal. Wind farm developer Allco Wind Energy will now seek a power purchase agreement. Allco said the project could be operating within 18 months of obtaining a power purchase agreement.

Discussions were currently under way with the State Government on a proposal for power distribution companies to secure a percentage of their supply from renewable resources with the State. Currently the Victorian, South Australian and West Australian governments had these arrangements in place.

Allco said the Crow's Nest-Rosalie project would produce enough power to supply the Darling Downs, including Toowoomba. Crow's Nest Shire Mayor Geoff Patch praised all parties involved in the legal process: "It was gratifying to see that the applicant, the appellants, Crow's Nest and Rosalie shire councils and the Department of Natural Resources were able to sit down and arrive at a consensus, thus avoiding a lengthy and costly court hearing." Cr Patch said he fully supported the project. "The wind farm will have considerable environmental and economic benefits for the region.

"Not only will it save many millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases in the life of the project, but also twice the water usage of our whole shire each year of operation - compared with coal produced power." More than $100 million would be spent in the region during construction, and a significant number of local jobs would be created, Cr Patch said.

"The project will also considerably enhance the tourism potential of our shire." No Wind Farm group spokesman Jim Harper said he did not wish to flag the group's future intentions, but added: "All Australians have a right to appropriate development, and they have a right to see this development in the nature and the process of it. There's plenty for us to do in that regard.

"There are serious matters in this wind farm, and the people responsible for it, and there are plenty of other avenues to deal with these matters," Mr Harper said.

Crow's Nest Council CEO David McEvoy said he understood the only way of changing the Planning and Environment Court approval would be by appeal to a higher court on a point of law. "I think any suggestion the decision is appealable is basically incorrect," Mr McEvoy said.

Coal fires greenhouse emissions blow-out

Canberra Times
Thursday 21/12/2006 Page: 2
By Rosslyn Beeby Science and Environment Reporter

Greenhouse gas emissions generated by rising demand for coal-fired electricity will increase by 62 per cent over 1990 levels within the next four years, according to an Australian Greenhouse Office report.

The annual national emissions trend report, Tracking the Kyoto Target, predicts Australia's greenhouse emissions will reach 109 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012 - failing to meet the Kyoto Protocol target by an estimated 585 million tonnes. Australia's emissions for 2020 are projected to reach 127 per cent of the 1990 level, driven by "emissions growth from the energy sector in particular", with transport emissions already 29 per cent higher than 1990 levels.

Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell said the figures showed Australia was "within 1 per cent" of meeting its target to achieve an emissions target of 108 per cent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012. "While meeting Australia's emissions reduction target remains a challenge, we are tracking well and remain committed to reaching it," he said.

Australian Greens climate change spokeswoman Senator Christine Milne has called for a national emissions reduction program, including mandatory energy efficiency targets, an emissions trading scheme and increased commitment to renewable energy technologies.

"It's evident that emissions are spiralling out of control, with big increases across all major sectors, and the Government is doing little to address the situation. That is simply not acceptable after the global economic implications of climate change recently outlined in the Stern report," she said.

Opposition climate change spokesman Peter Garrett described the figures as "a blowout", calculating they amounted to "approximately 5.5 million tonnes of annual greenhouse emissions, the equivalent of about 23 days of total transport sector emissions. . . or 1.4 million extra passenger cars on the roads in 2010".

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Tony Molir said the Government needed to investigate a range of emission reduction strategies,"instead of focusing so intently on carbon capture and storage as a solution". Overseas trends toward distributed energy - decentralised generation of power using a mix of renewable energy options -were "virtually untouched" by Government policy, he said. `There are currently certain structural and legal roadblocks to distributed energy under the current way electricity is generated.

Climate Institute adviser Irwin Jackson said the report showed the need for Australia to introduce a price signal on carbon emissions. "The report is fairly damning in terms of the Government's response to climate change. Not only are we looking to exceed the Kyoto target but, more importantly, there are big increases projected in our emissions after 2012.

"In the 2005 report, the Australian Greenhouse Office said emissions would increase by 22 per cent by 2020 and now they're saying 27 per cent by 2020." Mr Jackson said the Government needed to introduce laws and incentives to drive emissions down. "We need more investment in solar technology other renewable energy sources, and we need a price on carbon to reward industry for investments in emissions reductions."

Worrying rise in greenhouse emissions forecast

The Age
December 20, 2006

Australia will slightly overstep its greenhouse emissions target by 2012, but a worrying big rise is predicted within the following decade, a new report has found. Australian Greenhouse Office's annual Tracking to the Kyoto Target report forecast that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, by the year 2012, will be at 109 per cent of the 1990 emissions level.

This is slightly above the 108 per cent Kyoto Protocol target which last year's report found the country was on track to reach. The higher figure reflected stronger growth of emissions from electricity generation, the report said. A worrying aspect for the country is that emissions for 2020 are projected to reach 127 per cent of the 1990 level, reflecting the impact of continuing growth in emissions in the energy sector.

"This emphasises the need to focus on lowering Australia's greenhouse emissions over the longer term, while maintaining a healthy and competitive economy,'' the report stated.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell said that, while meeting Australia's emissions reduction target remained a challenge, the government was tracking well and remained committed to reaching it. "Australia is committed to achieving an emissions target of 108 per cent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012 and the report shows we are within one per cent of meeting that target,'' he said.

Senator Campbell said the annual estimates were influenced heavily by the rate of economic growth, the global demand for resources and domestic circumstances such as drought. "For example, in 2002 and 2003, Australia was projected to be three per cent and two per cent above the 108 per cent target respectively, but with emissions reduction measures put in place was back on target to 108 in subsequent years,'' Senator Campbell said.

"Australia is experiencing strong economic and employment growth and has a booming resources sector. "This in turn means emissions levels go up.''
Climate Institute adviser Irwin Jackson said the report showed the need for Australia to put in place a price signal on carbon emissions sooner rather than later.

"The overall report is fairly damning in terms of the government's response to climate change,'' Mr Jackson said. "Not only are we looking to exceed the Kyoto target but, probably more importantly, they've revised up how much our emissions are to increase after 2012.

"In the 2005 report, it said emissions would increase by 22 per cent by 2020 and now they're saying 27 per cent by 2020. "It really shows the government should pull its socks up and get serious about taking some short-term action to start to drive our emissions down and not let them continue to rise.''

He said Australia should be putting in place laws that require Australia to drive its emissions down and not let them continue to rise. "It needs to put in place laws to make sure that we start using more wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources, and we need a price on carbon to reward industry for investments in emissions reductions.''

Australia failing to meet Kyoto emissions targets

The Age
December 21, 2006

AUSTRALIA is projected to exceed its Kyoto target on greenhouse gas emissions, in a humiliating blow to the Federal Government, which has repeatedly pledged to meet the commitment.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell conceded yesterday that his own department's forecasts revealed Australia was 1 per cent above its target of an 8 per cent increase in emissions on 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Emissions for 2020 were projected to reach 127 per cent of 1990 levels.

The Opposition and the Greens claimed the forecasts were an indictment of Government inaction on climate change.

The report by the Australian Greenhouse Office, 2006 Tracking to the Kyoto Target, also showed that energy emissions from electricity generation, transport and the processing of fossil fuels, were projected to increase 50 per cent by 2010 from 1990 levels.

Emissions from non-energy industrial processes were also projected to increase 50 per cent by 2010 and emissions from agriculture by 5 per cent. However, emissions from waste were forecast to fall by 19 per cent and the emissions from land use change, such as forest clearing, were predicted to fall by 65 per cent.

Senator Campbell said Australia was experiencing strong economic growth and had a booming resources sector, which meant emissions levels went up. "While meeting Australia's emissions reduction target remains a challenge, we are tracking well and remain committed to reaching it," Senator Campbell said.

"Historically, Australia's emissions projections have moved around. The estimates are influenced heavily by the rate of economic growth, the global demand for resources and domestic circumstances such as drought."

Senator Campbell said without the action taken by Australian governments and people, including a $2 billion commitment by the Commonwealth to tackle climate change, Australia's projected emissions would be riding at 125 per cent of 1990 levels.

The Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated in 1997 and came into force last year, set compulsory targets for developed nations. Most countries were required to take emissions below 1990 levels by 2008-2012, but Australia negotiated an 8 per cent increase.

Australia did not ratify the protocol, arguing it did not include fast-growing nations such as China and India and would harm local industry, and so is not bound to make cuts. However, in October, Senator Campbell told The Age that Australia was on track to meet its target.

Greens senator Christine Milne said the only reason Australia was even close to its target was because Queensland and NSW had new laws to restrict land clearing. Forests soak up carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. "If we didn't have that windfall gain we would be in absolutely diabolical trouble … greenhouse gas emissions in almost every single area are skyrocketing out of control," Senator Milne said.

Opposition environment spokesman Peter Garrett said the forecasts made it clear the Government's paltry policy reforms put Australia's economic and environmental future in jeopardy. "Their climate change policy is in tatters as a consequence of failing to meet the target given they had made so much of meeting it," Mr Garrett said.

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Mini-wind farms in pipeline

Warrnambool Standard
Tuesday 19/12/2006 Page: 9

PLANS for two small wind farms totalling 30 turbines on properties at Caramut and Woorndoo have been revealed. Energy company NewEn Australia has lodged planning applications for a 15-turbine project on each of two farms on the border of Moyne shire and the Southern Grampians Shire. The sites are at Woodhouse, near Caramut, and the Salt Creek Merino stud at Woorndoo.

Project manager Grant Flynn yesterday confirmed that planning applications had been lodged with local councils and plans were being displayed for public comment.

If approved, each will deliver as much as 30 megawatts to the power grid. The company had spent three years conducting studies on a range of issues including wind and birdlife, he said.

Unlike recently approved wind developments such as the 180-turbine farm near Macarthur and the 116-turbine Mount Gellibrand project near Colac, NewEn's proposals do not need state government approval. It required only planning permits from local councils.

Mr Flynn said it was unusual to have a project on two shires' boundaries but the company had decided on land best suited to wind development and the councils were co-ordinating the permit process. By law, however, each has to make an independent decision.

The towers will stand 103 metres high - taller than those along the south-west coast, to reach strong winds. Due to unprecedented worldwide demand for wind turbines, the company is yet to finalise the number which may range from 13 to 15 at each site. The number depended on availability. If the projects are approved, the company hopes the farms begin generating power by late 2008.

Moyne planning director Greg Anders said the shire was coordinating the submission process. If any submissions were received, a hearing would be held at the shire's Mortlake office on February 13 and the council would consider its officers' recommendation in March.

No hope for Vestas plant

Burnie Advocate
Tuesday 19/12/2006 Page: 7

FEDERAL Labor's renewed commitment to an increased renewable energy target will not save Vestas' wind turbine nacelle plant at Wynyard.

However, hopes remain another opportunity will be found for the site which may provide jobs for some of the Kevin Rudd committed to increasing the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) at a meeting with regional mayors and the Cradle Coast Authority yesterday.

The Federal Government's decision not to increase or extend the MRET beyond 2010 has been widely seen as a stake 65-strong workforce through the heart of after the factory ceases Vestas' Tasmanian production this week. operations and other New Labor Leader now sidelined Tasmanian renewable energy projects.

Vestas' Wynyard managing director, Lee Whiteley, said there was no hope Vestas would continue at Wynyard. "I will be continuing to look at options in the new year. "There's nothing concrete." All the workers had stayed together to date, with Vestas providing generous redundancy conditions which allowed that, he said.

Mr Whiteley stopped short of blaming Federal MRET policy for the closure. He said increased transport costs was Vestas' main reason for the decision. Market demand also played a role, he said.

"We've received very strong support from the Federal Government should we decide to look at other opportunities here in future." Braddon Labor candidate Sid Sidebottom said Labor had not decided on the size of the MRET target it would have if elected next year.

Braddon Liberal MHR Mark Baker would not say if he agreed with Government policy on the MRET. He said energy costs and environmental issues must be balanced in energy policy.

EU trade commissioner slams green tax

Fairfax Business Media Summary
Tuesday, 19th December, 2006

A special green tax proposed by the French government has been rejected by the European Union's trade commissioner despite rising support for the proposal. The tax would be levelled against the imports of countries that have not signed the Kyoto treaty on climate change, including Australia. Commissioner Peter Mandelson has moved to head off the proposal, warning that there was no legal basis for imposing penalty taxes because it was not illegal to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Wind farm court threat

Wednesday 13/12/2006 Page: 3

A COURT battle is in the offing over the proposed Bald Hills wind farm at Tarwin.

Wind farm proponents Wind Power Pty Ltd. last week wrote to Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell warning they would take the Government to court again unless they received a decision on their proposal by this Friday.

"By then we would have been waiting 30 days. We think he has all the information to make a decision," said Wind Power spokesperson Andrew Newbold. "We're of the view that there are compelling arguments to build the wind farm. We wouldn't have gone to all this trouble if we didn't feel so strongly."

Senator Campbell rejected the Bald Hills wind farm proposal in April, saying that it proposed a threat to the endangered Orange-bellied parrot, despite advice to the contrary from his department. Following a Federal Court appeal from the developers, Senator Campbell is now reconsidering that decision.

Mr Newbold said that if Senator Campbell accepted their proposal construction of the wind farm could begin as early as the next 12 to 18 months, depending on the manufacturer.

Newfield wind farm questions answered

Cobden Times
Wednesday 13/12/2006 Page: 8

Locals' questions about the Newfield wind farm were sent off to Acciona Energy, Auswind and Coastal Guardians representatives, It was planned to publish all groups' responses In one forum. However, unfortunately Coastal Guardians did not respond. The Cobden Times will continue to seek a response from the group for publication in the near future.

Q: The wind fault turbines are visible from the Great Ocean Road, an environmentally sensitive area. So why was the site selected?
A: The proposed site of the wind farm is 8kms inland from Port Campbell at Newfield next to the existing gas plants. The site is not on the coast, but has a good wind resource and a connection to the electricity network. Acciona Energy commissioned specialist consultants in video animation of wind farms to prepare a realistic simulation to determine what would be seen from the Great Ocean Road. As seen in the video, the 15km drive from just past the 12 Apostles car park into Port Campbell takes approximately 12 minutes when travelling at the speed limit. On this drive the wind farm would be seen in the distance at three separate times for approximately 30-60 seconds each time. The rest of the time the view to the wind farm is shielded by the terrain and roadside vegetation. The conclusion of the independent expert who undertook the landscape and visual assessment was that the impact of the proposal on the Great Ocean Road was low I insignificant.

Q: Does the noise of the wind turbines travel and if so (a) how for, (b) does the surrounding landscape and/or wind direction have an impact on this?
A: Wind turbines produce some aerodynamic noise as the blades move through the air, which is like a `swooshing' sound. The surrounding environment, wind speed and wind direction can affect how much noise is heard. Existing background noise at a residence, can 'mask' (be louder) than the noise of a wind turbine. For example, on a residence with trees around it, the background noise of the wind in the trees can mask any noise from the wind turbines. The planning requirements for Victoria sets a standard that requires noise levels at residential dwellings should not exceed the background noise level by more than 5dBA or level of 4OdBA, whichever is greater. The proposed Newfield wind farm has been designed to ensure these regulations are met.

Q: Each turbine is 110m, what is the diameter of a tower? For example is it like a multi-storey building?
A: The wind turbines proposed at the Newfield site would be under 110m in height, to avoid the current Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) requirement for lighting, which can contribute to visual impact. The diameter of the base of the tower is about four metres. The blades would be up to 40 metres long. The nacelle which houses the turbine components would be on a tower of about 69 metres in height. For example, they would be similar in height to the wind turbines at the Yambuk wind farm (extension of the Codrington wind farm).

Q: If this proposed wind farm goes ahead, will it just mean one of many? Is the proposed wind farm an industrial estate? If so will it be one of many in the Newfield Valley?
A: The proposed Newfield wind farm project has taken over two years of environmental assessments, wind monitoring, and consultation with landowners, neighbours and the local community to develop a proposal to submit to council. Any other proposals in the region would have to comply with the Victorian planning policies and regulations and would take a similar amount of time to develop. The proposed wind farm is not an industrial estate. Under the Victorian planning scheme, it is possible to submit a wind farm planning application on land in the rural zone for assessment by the responsible authority. Building a wind farm does not require any change in land use or planning zoning.

Q: Will the presence of the wind farm devalue surrounding land?
A: Acciona Energy understands there are concerns in the community about property values. As property values are affected by many different factors, a thorough methodology is needed to study the impact of wind farms on property values. While there have not yet been any Australian studies, the most comprehensive and recent research was by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) in the United States. The REPP reviewed data on more than 25,000 property sales in the vicinity of 10 wind farms and used statistical analysis to determine whether, and the extent to which, the presence of the wind farms had an influence on the prices at which properties had been sold. The results of this research showed that wind farms do not decrease property values.

US scientists are trying to harness the power of the ocean

Daily Advertiser
Saturday 16/12/2006 Page: 45

Turning the tide on energy consumption n the quest for oil-free power, a handful of small American companies are staking claims on the boundless energy of the rising and ebbing sea.

The technology that would draw energy from ocean tides to keep light bulbs and laptops aglow is largely untested, but several newly minted companies are reserving tracts of water from Alaska's Cook Inlet to Manhattan's East River in the belief that such sites could become profitable sources of electricity.

The trickle of interest began two years ago, said Celeste Miller, spokeswoman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency issues permits that give companies exclusive rights to study the tidal sites. Permit holders usually have first dibs on development licences.

Tidal power proponents liken the technology to little wind turbines on steroids, turning like windmills in the current. Water's greater density means fewer and smaller turbines are needed to produce the same amount of electricity as wind turbines.

After more than two decades of experimenting, the technology has advanced enough to make business sense, said Carolyn Elefant, co-founder of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, a marine energy lobbying group formed in May 2005.

In the past four years, the federal commission has approved nearly a dozen permits to study tidal sites. Applications for about 40 others, all filed in 2006, are under review No-one has applied for a development licence, Miller said.

The site that is furthest along in testing lies in New York's East River, between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, where Verdant Power is installing two underwater turbines as part of a small pilot project. Power from the turbines will be routed to a supermarket and parking garage on nearby Roosevelt Island.

Verdant co-founder and president Trey Taylor said the six-year-old company would spend 18 months studying the effects on fish before putting in another four turbines. The project will cost more than $U13 million, including $2.6 million on fish monitoring equipment, Taylor said.

"It's important to spend this much initially," Taylor said. "It's like our flight at Kitty Hawk. It puts us on a path to commercialisation and we think eventually costs will fall really fast." If all goes well, New York-based Verdant could have up to 300 turbines in the river by 2008, Taylor said. The turbines would produce as much as 10 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for 8000 homes, he said.

With 19,919km of coastline, the US may seem like a wide-open frontier for the fledgling industry, but experts believe only a few will prove profitable. The ideal sites are close to a power grid and have large amounts of fast-moving water with enough room to build on the sea floor while staying clear of boat traffic.

"There are thousands of sites, but only a handful of really, really good ones," said Roger Bedard of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-profit organisation in Palo Alto, California that researches energy and the environment.

"If you're sitting on top of the best scallop fishing in the world, you can't put these things down there," said Chris Sauer, president of Ocean Renewable Power Co in Miami. The two-year-old company is awaiting approval for federal study permits in Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay in Alaska, and Cobscook and the St Croix River in Maine. Other prime tidal energy sites lie beneath San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and in Knik Arm near Anchorage, Bedard said.

Government and the private sector in Europe, Canada and Asia have moved faster than their US counterparts to support tidal energy research. As of June 2006, there were small facilities in Russia, Canada and China, as well as a 30-year-old plant in France, according to a report by EPRI.

"I expect the first real big tidal plant in North America is going to be built in Nova Scotia," said Bedard, who led the study. "They have the mother of all tidal passages up there." The industry is coalescing over worries about dependence on foreign oil, volatile oil prices and global warming. Many US states have passed laws requiring a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources, and tidal entrepreneurs believe they will be looking to diversify beyond wind and solar power.

Elefant said the industry is still trying to figure out how much energy it will be able to supply from tides, as well as waves.

"While ocean energy may not power everything in the US, it will be functioning in tandem with other renewable resources and supplement other sea-based technologies," said Elefant, a lawyer in Washington DC. "The most important thing is for the nation to invest in a diverse energy supply." In the United States, wave A Verdant Power photo of a preproduction model of its electricity-generating water turbine, mounted above ground for testing, at an assembly facility in New York.

energy technology is less advanced than tidal and will need more government subsidies, Bedard said, however, the number of good wave sites far exceeds that of tidal. Wave power collection involves cork or serpent-like devices that absorb energy from swells on the ocean's surface, whereas tidal machines sit on the sea floor.

Tidal energy technology has been able to build on lessons learned from wind power development, while wave engineers have had to start virtually from scratch, Bedard said. But a few companies are working aggressively to usher wave power into the energy industry.

Aqua Energy could start building a wave energy plant at Makah Bay in Washington state within two years, said chief executive officer Alla Weinstein.

Energy survey produces surprise results

Sunday Telegraph
Sunday 17/12/2006 Page: 34

Easy to go green:
AN Australian-first study of clean energy products has found residential homes can switch to green power for little or no extra cost. Contrary to the view that renewable energy costs the earth, the Planet Ark survey found some energy retailers now offer green power products for no more than standard energy rates.

They provide 10 per cent of a home's energy from clean power sources for the same cost as a standard energy bill. Planet Ark founder Jon Dee hopes these surprising findings will empower thousands of people to make the switch to renewable energy in the coming year.

"At the end of the day, the single biggest thing people can do to reduce their impact on climate change is to switch to GreenPower," Mr Dee said. "And if all you can afford is nothing more than you pay now, you can at least make the switch to 10 per cent GreenPower for free." GreenPower is a State Government-accredited scheme that independently audits energy retailers to ensure their renewable energy products are sourced from the sun, wind, water or waste.

When a consumer buys a GreenPower product, the energy supplier commits to buying an equivalent amount of energy from renewable sources, avoiding coal-fired power. This renewable energy is then pooled into the national electricity grid.

Nearly 350,000 Australians have signed up to the scheme since it began in 2003, although NSW is lagging far behind other states. Almost three times more Victorians (137,000) and about 50 per cent more Queenslanders (83,000) have switched to Green- Power compared with the 53,000 in NSW.

A spokesman for Energy Minister Joe Tripodi said the scheme gave consumers an easy way to reduce greenhouse gases. "NSW has come a long way, but there is more to do - that's why we are actively promoting Green- Power," Mr Tripodi said.

The Planet Ark survey compared the cost of all the GreenPower products on the market based on the average annual energy consumption in NSW. The average customer spends about $1000 a year on energy. Switching to 100 per cent renewable energy would cost an average customer between $4 and $8 a week more. Over a year, it would cost between $229 and $433 extra.

One of the biggest suppliers, EnergyAustralia, last week launched a new GreenPower product offering 10 per cent for about $1 extra a week. Mr Dee said he hoped the release of the first price comparison of GreenPower products would spark a clean energy price war.

"If Integral Energy and Jackgreen Energy can supply 10 per cent of a home's usage as renewable energy for no extra cost, then why can't the rest of them? "It would be a huge boost to wind and solar farmers, and would carve a big slice out of Australia's greenhouse- gas emissions." Households generate about one-fifth of Australia's greenhouse pollution through energy supplied from burning coal.

Peter Jameson, of Sutherland, switched to 10 per cent GreenPower last week. "It didn't cost any extra, so we thought: `Why not?' "And I guess every little bit helps the environment," Mr Jameson said.

Clean and green Victoria leads way

Sunday Age
Sunday 17/12/2006 Page: 8

VICTORIANS are leading the nation in dumping conventional "dirty" coal-generated electricity in favour of renewable energy, new figures released exclusively to The Sunday Age reveal. As the Federal Government begins to grapple with the issue of a rapidly warming planet, more than 130,000 Victorian households have taken action of their own and opted for slightly more expensive green power.

The state now accounts for almost half of all Australian households buying their electricity from non-greenhouse emitting sources, such as wind, hydro and solar. Vikas Ahujo, Sustainability Victoria's renewable expert, said the rapid uptake of green power was due to people valuing the environment and being willing to pay a bit extra to protect it.

"People see green power is the best way to reduce their ecological footprint because electricity is our greatest impact on the environment," he said.

Electricity generation accounts for about 70 per cent of the state's emissions, double that from vehicles, and 90 per cent of it comes from brown coal, one of the worst emitters of global warming carbon gases.

In the three months to September, 22,000 Victorian households switched to government accredited renewable power. Nationally, green power sales soared 59 per cent over the year, Sustainability Victoria says. "Any electricity retailer would give both arms and legs to get that type of customer uptake," Mr Ahujo said.

The rise in Victoria is the equivalent of taking 9847 cars off the state's roads. In addition, Victorian families have spent $26 million since 2000 installing solar panels on their homes and another $35 million converting their hot water systems to solar.

The State Government has funded two campaigns encouraging Victorians to reduce household emissions. They were bookended by the publication of Tim Flannery's Weather Makers and the Stern Review by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern. The State Government's $1.5 million "black balloon" television advertisement screened this year has won international praise, with Britain and Canada considering adopting the campaign. Former US vice-president Al Gore was also planning to take it back to the United States.

State minister for Climate Change John Thwaites told The Sunday Age it was important for all Australians to consider taking up green power.

"This is an important way of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and complements Government initiatives such as the Victorian Renewable Energy Target scheme, which will require 10 per cent of Victoria's energy to come from renewable sources such as windfarms by 2016," Mr Thwaites said.

Steve Harris, manager, environment market, for Origin Energy, which has been offering green power for a couple of years, said electricity from renewable sources was being used to grab market share as retail competition intensified.

"Clearly others have seen the success we have had so they are offering green products as well," Mr Harris said. The cost of green energy ranges from $1 a week for 20 per cent of power from renewables to $5 for 100 per cent renewable energy.

How you can help:
  • Take reusable bags when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags.
  • Install or top up insulation in ceilings.
  • Start a compost heap.
  • Take shorter showers - keep it to under 5 minutes instead of the average 8 minutes.
  • Switch appliances off at the power point wherever possible.
  • Use your recycling bin and make sure you know what can be recycled.
  • Avoid plastic wrap by storing leftovers in the refrigerator in bowls covered with a saucer or a small plate.
  • Buy products with less packaging.
  • Install a AAA-rated shower-head and a dual-flush toilet.

Ten ways to live a greener life

Sun Herald
Sunday 17/12/2006 Page: 49
  1. Switch to renewable energy - available from your electricity provider.
  2. Install water-saving shower heads - they can save the average family up to $200 each year on gas/electricity bill.
  3. Install compact fluorescent light bulbs - they can save up to $50 over each bulb's lifetime.
  4. Compost your food scraps. For apartment dwellers, try a worm farm or a Bokashi bucket. Composting saves on transporting waste and means less methane is released from landfill.,
  5. Offset your carbon emissions. Donations to Greenfleet pay for native tree planting, which neutralises greenhouse emissions for car, house and air travel.
  6. Heat the space you're in, not the whole house. Close doors and use wheat bags as personal heating systems.
  7. Insulate your home to retain heat and save on heating costs.
  8. Buy recycled - from toilet paper to clothing and building materials. Buy organic - it's good for you and the planet.
  9. Consider buying a hybrid Toyota Prius, which is fuelled by petrol and electricity. Or check fuel consumption ratings before buying a new car.
  10. Refill recycled water bottles from the tap instead of buying bottled water.

Can the planet sustain your lifestyle?

Sun Herald
Sunday 17/12/2006 Page: 49

WORKING out your eco-footprint is easy. It's also the best way to identify how sustainable your lifestyle is, and how to cut back on excess. Various online calculators identify energy-efficiency and sustainability.

Sydneysiders need an average of 6.18 global hectares (about 12 soccer fields) to sustain their lifestyle. In reality each person has just 1.8 hectares available to them, while the global average footprint is 2.2 hectares. In other words, we are collectively living beyond our means.

Many people think reducing their ecological footprint requires significant lifestyle compromises. In fact, small day-to-day changes can make significant footprint savings. They can also improve health and quality of life.

Consider rethinking your diet and select foods that require fewer resources. Fly less or offset your flights by contributing to carbon-neutralising companies that use donations to plant trees. Leave the car behind and choose public transport. Take your own bags when you go shopping and buy local fruit in season to reduce the transport distance of your food.

The questions below are taken from the Victorian Government's Environment Protection Authority website. Check out their ecological footprint calculators for individual, office, school and home at to see how many worlds are needed to support your lifestyle.
  • Which capital city do you live in or nearest to?
  • How often do you eat animal-based products? (Never, occasionally, often, almost always)
  • How much of the food you eat is either processed, packaged or imported? (Most,three-quarters, half, one-quarter, very little)
  • How much waste do you generate? (Less than one bin bag each week, one bin bag, more than one bin bag)
  • How many people live in your household?
  • What is the size of your home? (Large, average, small, apartment, studio)
  • Which housing type best describes your home? (Freestanding, apartment building, terrace, town house)
  • Do you use electricity from renewable sources?
  • How far do you travel on public transport each week? (100 kilometres or more, 25 to 100 kilometres,10 to 25 kilometres, one to 10 kilometres.)
  • Do you have a motorbike?
  • Do you travel by car?
  • How far do you travel by car each week? (500 kilometres or more, 300-500 kilometres,150-300 kilometres, 50-150 kilometres, 15-50 kilometres, fewer than 15 kilometres?)
  • How much fuel does your car consume? (Hybrid, small car, family sized car, 4WD?)
  • How often do you travel alone by car, rather than with a passenger? (Never, occasionally, often, very often, almost always?)
  • How many hours do you spend flying each year? (100 hours or more, 25 to 100,10 to 25, three to 10, fewer than three?

Clean energy sector unites on greenhouse plan

Monday 18 December 2006:

Following the announcement of the Emissions Trading Task Group and its Terms of Reference by the Prime Minister, Australia’s clean energy sector has come together to outline a pathway to tackle Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions.

For the first time the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE), the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind) and Renewable Energy Generators Australia (REGA) have combined to outline a strategy which enables Australia’s growing power needs to be met without increasing greenhouse levels.

In a joint statement they said: “This initiative concentrates on the twin aims of cleaning up existing power generation and use and meeting the growth in energy demand with clean energy technologies.”

“Using a market-based mechanism, electricity suppliers would be required to source power from low and zero emission providers. This system would enable the most cost-effective clean energy technologies to compete, ensuring that the growth in demand is met by clean energy sources.

At the same time an incentive framework needs to be established that provides long-term funding to develop new clean energy technologies, supporting existing electricity producers to reduce emission levels, and reducing electricity demand wherever possible.

Australia’s demand for electricity is expected to rise by 40% over the next 15 years. To meet this demand more than 1100 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity will need to be built each year.

Existing clean energy technologies can provide this power. The Australian Government’s now exhausted Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), which delivered 2000MW of renewable energy output, demonstrated the ability of the clean energy sector to respond when the right policies are in place.

To prepare Australia’s economy for a global carbon trading system, carbon emissions from the energy sector must be reduced. The most cost effective way to achieve this is to establish a regulatory framework that enables clean energy technologies to compete.

Australia’s trading partners have a head start in developing their clean energy sectors and working with emissions trading. Australia must expand its clean energy sector to develop the necessary skills and industry capacity to catch up with the rest of the world.

An effective global emissions trading scheme that includes the world’s major greenhouse emitters is a crucial goal to aspire to in the long term – however it will be some time in the future before this comes into effect.

Action is required now for Australia’s energy sector to make the transition.

To ensure that this demand growth is provided by clean energy sources and that energy efficiencies are implemented where possible, Australia must change its business as usual approach to energy policy.

“The way Australia responds to the challenges of climate change will have an enormous bearing on the nation’s economic and environmental health in the years to come.”

With the Prime Ministerial Task Group on emissions trading set to meet before Christmas and provide its recommendations within six months, it is crucial that options which promote clean energy production are also on the table.

Media contacts:
Mr Ric Brazzale, Managing Director, BCSE, 03 9349 3077 or 0419 522 659
Ms Dominique La Fontaine, CEO, Auswind, 03 9670 2033 or 0428 455 005
Ms Susan Jeanes, CEO, REGA, 08 8270 7227 or 0419 833 556

Monday 18 December 2006

The eco-warrior comes to town

Sun Herald Sunday
17/12/2006 Page: 49

Global warming has brought once marginalised environmental activists in from the cold, and they're heating up the debate, Erin O'Dwyer reports.

LONG before green was cool, a young scientist in suburban Brisbane sold the family car. For years, his family got around on bikes. And bewildered laughter followed them everywhere. Two decades later, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe is one of Australia's leading experts on environmental sustainability and climate change.

He sat on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and attended watershed conferences in Geneva and Kyoto. It goes without saying that no one is laughing any more. Nor is Lowe holding tight to the hard line anymore. "Doing simple things is far better than doing nothing," he now enthuses. "Green electricity costs about $4 a week so, for the price of a beer, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

"Once people have done something simple, they are far more likely to do something that requires more difficulty." It seems that the eco-warrior has finally come in from the cold. No longer reviled as hairy-legged hippies living on the fringe, the green brigade is now emerging as the most credible voice in a debate that has become the most pressing on the planet.

It is none too soon. Globally, the hottest 10 years on record have occurred in the past 12 years. Australia's spring was the hottest ever and 93 per cent of NSW is in drought. Bushfires rage in Tasmania and Victoria, while extreme weather patterns are hitting northern hemisphere countries with increasing regularity.

It is a desperate image of a dying planet brought home most graphically by former US vice-president Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth'. And it is to the high-profile presidential wannabe that commentators are attributing the groundswell of environmental support.

Among Gore's supporters is Senator Bob Brown - the granddaddy of Australia's green movement. He also offers up the influential climate change report from respected British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, not to mention the weirding outside our own doors.

"The hotter weather, the drought, the disappearing ski season, coastal erosion and the parlous state of the rivers... people see this happening and they are taking the predictions seriously," Brown says.

"The whole environmental movement has been reviled but now when Greenpeace goes protecting whales or sneaks into Kirribilli and puts solar panels on the Prime Minister's roof, people applaud and the membership goes up". Brown is Australia's original eco-warrior. He helped found the Australian Greens on the back of the Franklin Dam protests in the 1970s. A Launceston doctor-turned-activist, he subsequently joined the Tasmanian Parliament and in 1996 was elected Australia's first Green senator. Other Greens have followed in his lead, and in 2004 the party's primary vote soared from 2.3 per cent to 7.2 per cent.

Brown has been an enduring voice of reason in Canberra but his message is only just starting to cut through. "In late 1996, when I warned of a five-metre sea level rise if the Antarctic ice-cap melted due to climate change, the Government benches broke out laughing," Brown says, from his Hobart office. "Now scientists are openly talking about it. And they are talking about a five- to 17-metre sea-level rise, which means Sydney and Parramatta are very much in line."

For many, it's poetic justice to see a former environmental activist fronting up - in a suit and tie or hosiery and heels - to accept an award, launch an initiative or deliver an important paper. Most compelling is Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai - the colourfully dressed, corn-rowed Kenyan woman whose years of environmental activism brought her into repeated conflict with authorities.

Then there is Peter Singer, the Australian animals rights liberationist known for his staunch opposition to the ingestion of meat and the use of leather, who became a Princeton professor and an international humanist laureate.

Closer to home there is anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott and former environmental activist Nicola Pain. Ten years ago Caldicott was shouted down at a protest meeting in suburban Sydney. Now her longheld opposition to nuclear energy is informing the current debate. Justice Pain, a former environmental defender recently made headlines with a decision in the Land and Environment Court that stymied plans for a coalmine in the Hunter Valley.

Guru status must of course go to Peter Garrett - the shaved skull rock star who recreated himself first as an environmental activist, then as head of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Now he has planted himself firmly in the mainstream as the Australian Labor Party's new shadow environment minister.

"Clearly [I'm] being apart of the decision making policy and the political process," Garrett says. "But I've never seen it as coming in from the fringes into the mainstream because I've always believed that environment issues in the broad sense were embedded in the community.

The increasing urgency has just meant they have come up in the consciousness and become more visible in the political debate" Interestingly, Garrett's pole vault into the popular has been viewed with most scepticism by those within the green movement. Brickbats have come from Brown and Caldicott - both experts at manipulating the mainstream while not moving from their own line.

Caldicott for one prays daily that Garrett will not buckle. "He's in the perfect position to stop any uranium mines but my reading is that he won't do that, which is a tragedy," she says. There is a risk that he will [sell out] and if he does he has lost his credibility" Anger flickers in Garrett's voice as he dismisses the criticism.

"I don't see it in anyway as selling out," he says. "I see it as a continuation of the work that I've always done. My convictions whether they are about uranium mining or the environment or indigenous issues. .. I feel them as strongly as I ever had and I see them being put into effect, albeit in a different forum." What Garrett, Caldicott and Brown all agree on is that the mainstreaming of green is largely thanks to Gore's film and Stern's report.

"[Environmentalists] have always been totally on board but the body politic was not ready to hear them," Caldicott says. "You can talk about climate change and extinction of species but it's not until an economist says the economy will go to hell in a handbasket that people take note."

But Caldicott warns that activists must always stay true to their beliefs, even while they lap up the prodigal son perks. If not they will lose credibility among a generation of young people eager to join the cause.

"Young people are getting it with a passion that they didn't have before. Underneath they are angry because of what it means for their future" Among the next gen is eco-pin-up girl Tanya Ha, a former model whose practical handbook Greeniology has been selling like organic hotcakes. The 34-year-old science graduate served an apprenticeship with lobby group Planet Ark, before remaking herself as an eco-consultant, TV presenter, author and serious campaigner.

Described as the Nigella Lawson of the greens, Ha says the tag irks her. But she admits she has made the most of her image to communicate with the mainstream. "If you rewind 10 years, my image was used to sell mobile phones and soft drinks and stretch denim jeans. So why can't we use the same marketing principals to promote something worthwhile?" she says.

Catch Ha at home with her two children and you'll find her dressed in recycled clothes, hair scraped back, doing the laundry in an efficient washer and driving a Toyota Prius hybrid. There is no doubt that she's the real deal. She just goes softer on the sell. "We greenies have changed ourselves," she says. "We are all so passionate that we can come across as a bit strong. But if I push it too far I can sense when a person disengages and I've lost them. "The movement has realised that you have to meet them at a place where they are ready to be met."

Millionaire financier Peter Hall is another who lives by that principle. The 45-year-old head of Australia's largest ethical investment fund, Hall wears Prada shoes, Zegna suits and has homes in Sydney and London. He has amassed a personal fortune of $ 70 million, and loves the finest food and wine.

But Hall says he is still a hippie at heart. As part of its ethical charter, Hunter Hall donates 5 per cent of pre-tax profits to charity. And in the past year, Hunter Hall's charitable giving program has given away almost $1 million to organisations such as the Asian Rhino Project, Australian Orangutan Project, Australian Conservation Foundation, Save Australia and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Despite this, Hall admits he has never considered some of the most basic things on the sustainability checklist. He has never calculated his ecological footprint, he does not carbon neutralise and acknowledges his lifestyle is lavish.

"It's pretty hard," he admits. "But I don't spend money on motor cruisers and huge limousines. The net effect of the way I live is on the whole very positive. I try not to have lavish toys and I try to balance my consumption by doing things like donating to green groups." It hardly seems right to criticise a man who gives one-quarter of his income away.

But is being green just the new black? And are there opportunists just jumping on the bandwagon? Sydney businessman Pierce Cody has certainly copped that criticism. The millionaire bought the iconic Bondi Junction organic store Macro Wholefoods three years after selling his lucrative billboard advertising company Cody Outdoor.

There are now eight Macros, and a chain of cafes are on the way. The business is worth $40 million, and Cody has groomed himself as a mung bean-eating, Birkenstock-wearing hippie. But is he just a wolf in sheep's clothing? "When I got involved I was accused of being a Johnny-come-lately," he says. "There was major integrity questioning and there was some element of anger from the existing devotees.

But overtime it changes." Cody, 45, says the business gives him enormous pride and he is gradually creating a greener lifestyle for his family. They eat local and organic, are buying a hybrid car, and have an in-home composter.

"I would say I'm an enlightened corporate, a recently enlightened corporate," Cody says. "I don't like the tag of warrior. .. I'm not trying to force people to make a change, what I'm trying to do is give them a very soft transition." At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter.

There will always be people who capitalise on a crisis, but the fact that the mainstreaming of green is here to stay is not important, Brown says "The environment has come in from the wilderness; it's mainstream and it's always going to be that way" he says. "It's never ever again going to be a situation where people thought exploiting the environment was endless."

Plans for turbines on show

Warrnambool Standard
Monday 18/12/2006 Page: 11

PLANS for a 31-turbine wind farm at Hawkesdale have gone on display for community comment.

The company proposing the project, Gamesa Australia, has announced the planning permit application has been accepted by the Department of Sustainability and Environment as complete and suitable for public exhibition.

Some turbines will be within 3km of homes of the township of Hawkesdale and visible from the Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road, Camerons Road and Warrnambool Road. The documents will be displayed for seven weeks and people have until February 3 to make a submission to the planning minister.

A planning panel is still to be appointed to consider objections and comments from the public, DSE and other stakeholders from a hearing expected next year. The panel will prepare a report for Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden to determine the project's fate.

The company is also proposing a wind farm development near Port Fairy at Ryans Corner and is waiting for the minister to approve the Environment Effects Statement it submitted in November.

The company is hopeful the Ryans Corner plans will be exhibited early next year.

Should nuclear be feared...... or is it nuclear power's hour?

Waste Management & Environment
December, 2006 Page: 28

Nuclear power is not as clean, green or cheap as its proponents would like us to think, writes Dr Mark Diesendorf.

With growing international and national concern about global climate change from human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, the nuclear power industry has attempted to change the image of its product into that of an energy source that is 'clean, green and cheap'. In reality, all the serious problems that worried us about the nuclear industry in the 1970s and 1980s are either unchanged or have become worse.

Nuclear wastes and economics

Not a single country has built a facility for the long-term management of high-level nuclear wastes. The US, said to be the most advanced in this regard, is building a waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. So far, costs have amounted to US$8-10 billion ($10.2-12.7 billion) and the estimated complete life-cycle cost is $72 billion in today's prices. In July 2004, the US Court of Appeals rejected the EPA's radiation release regulations for Yucca Mountain, ruling that public health protections extending out 10,000 years post-burial are insufficient and ordering that regulations must extend hundreds of thousands of years into the future. In 2005, a scandal emerged about the falsification of safety data in relation to groundwater modelling. This is as good as it gets.

Now that several countries have created competitive markets for electricity, it is clear that the cost of nuclear electricity is even higher than previously estimated. In the UK, nuclear power was propped up through the 1990s by the Fossil Fuel Levy, which reached £1.3 billion ($3.2 billion) per year. In the US, not a single new nuclear power station has been built since the 1970s, despite accumulated subsidies estimated at about $126 billion throughout the past 50 years. An expert multidisciplinary pro-nuclear group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that electricity from a new nuclear power station would cost US6.7-7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (9-10 c/kWh), not counting subsidies. That is more expensive than wind power at 7.5-8.5 c/kWh.

CO2 and the alternatives

Every step (except reactor operation) in the nuclear fuel chain burns fossil fuels and hence emits CO2. When high-grade uranium ore is used, total CO2 emissions are quite small, but there are only a few decades of high-grade uranium left. With low-grade ore, at least 10 tonnes have to be mined and milled, using fossil fuels, to produce just 1 kg of uranium oxide (yellowcake). Then CO2 emissions If carbon pricing were introduced... most of these genuinely clean technologies would romp in ahead of nuclear power and so-called 'clean coal: 77 become significant. In response, the nuclear industry cites a report by Swedish utility, Vattenfall, which has not been published and is not available on the internet. Only a summary, that does not reveal most of the assumptions, is accessible. It is poor science to cite a report that is unavailable to the public.

Clearly, nuclear power is not clean, green or cheap and is not an answer to the problem of human-induced climate change. We already have a large portfolio of technologies for cutting CO2 emissions: efficient energy use, solar hot water, natural gas, wind power and bioenergy.

More expensive, but developing rapidly, are solar electricity and hot dry rock geothermal. If carbon pricing were introduced - together with high standards of energy efficiency in buildings, equipment and appliances - most of these genuinely clean technologies would romp in ahead of nuclear power and so-called 'clean coal'.

Dr Mark Diesendorf is from the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales.

and now for the other side of the debate...

Nuclear power could be the answer to Australia's dependence on coal, writes Associate Professor Martin Sevior

The current best estimate of the science tracking human induced global warming is that global CO2 emissions must be reduced to 60 per cent of their 1990 levels by 2050 in order to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C.

Australia has the OECD's highest emissions of CO2 per capita, largely because of our reliance on coal to provide cheap and reliable electricity. Indeed, electricity demand has been growing annually at 3.7 per cent during the past five years. Our challenge is to find ways to grow economically while reducing CO2 emissions, which is particularly daunting when faced with the expected decrease in world supplies of oil and natural gas during the next 50 years.

We need essentially zero emission large scale energy generation technology. One option is to use nuclear power to provide baseload electricity. Unlike renewable energy sources, nuclear power is a `drop in' replacement for coal-supplied electricity, as it does not fluctuate on a daily or a seasonal basis. Modern life-cycle analyses show that, when used at world's best practice, the energy investment required to build a nuclear power station is typically repaid in a couple of months' operation. The backend of waste disposal and decommissioning is repaid in a similar period.

The fuel is abundant and contributes less than 10 per cent of the cost of power produced from nuclear reactors. While there are some CO2 emissions associated with uranium mining, the lowest grade mine currently in operation, Rossing in Nambia, produces uranium that provides about 400 times more energy than the energy cost of mining, with a commensurately small contribution to CO2 outputs.

All up, these life-cycle analyses show nuclear power has similar emissions to wind power and less than one per cent of those of fossil fuel generators.

What does it cost?

The cost of generating nuclear power can be separated into the costs of construction, operation, waste disposal and plant decommissioning. Construction costs are difficult to quantify but dominate the equation. The problem is that proposed third generation power plants are claimed to be both substantially cheaper and faster to build than current plants. Westinghouse claims its Advanced PWR reactor, the AP1000, will cost US$1,800 ($2,320) per kW for the first reactor and fall to $1,545 per kW for subsequent builds.

It also claims these will be ready to switch on three years after first pouring concrete. Compare this to second generation plants in the US, which had construction costs up to $6,420 per kW and generally took more than five years to complete.

The reasons for the high costs in the 1980s are well understood: design changes after the Three Mile Island accident; duplicate licensing for both plant building and operation; and lack of economies of volume.

Operating costs are much easier to quantify and are independently verified. Since 1987, the cost of producing electricity has decreased from 3.63 cents per kilowatt-hour (c/kWh) to 1.68 c/kWh in 2004, with plant availability increasing from 67 per cent to more than 90 per cent. This includes a charge of 0.15 cents per kW/hr to fund the disposal of radioactive waste and for decommissioning the reactor.

If we assume a seven per cent interest rate and four-year construction period, the cost of electricity production for plants that cost respectively $1.26 billion, $1.8 billion and $2.5 billion would be US2.8 c/kWh, 3.1c and 3.9c. Electricity from eastern Australian coal costs US2-4 c/kWh and wind power about US5.5-7 c/kWh. There is a credible case for nuclear power in Australia. We should build up the intellectual infrastructure needed to deploy it while closely watching the new wave of building elsewhere in the world.

Martin Sevior is Associate Professor at the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne. His complete study is at