Thursday 8 February 2007

Snowtown Wind Farm - community meeting

Yorke Peninsula Country Times - Kadina
Tuesday 6/2/2007 Page: 9

There will be a community information meeting for the Snowtown Wind Farm project, on Thursday, February 15, 6.30pm, at the Snowtown Bowling Club, Centenary Park.

TrustPower has recently contracted Suzlon Energy Australia Pty Ltd to design and construct the Snowtown Wind Farm, and is keen to keep the local community "up to speed" with the project's progress. The wind farm is to consist of forty-two 2.1 megawatt wind turbines and will be located on the Hummocks and Barunga Ranges.

"We're committed to keeping everyone informed of the activities that will take place during both the initial construction phase and the future operation of the wind farm", says Andrew Dickson, on behalf of proponent Wind Prospect Pty Ltd.

"The first of these information sessions is on February 15, and we invite all interested people to meet senior members of the project team, including TrustPower and Suzlon Project Managers", Andrew said.

Deion Campbell and Peter Reed, TrustPower's site representatives, Andrew Dickson from Wind Prospect, together with project personnel from ElectraNet (contracted to construct the high voltage substation and transmission line, which will connect the new wind farm into the existing ElectraNet State power grid) will attend the meeting, as will the major civil and electrical subcontractors who will be involved in the project, Built Environs and Downer Engineering.

Suzlon's Peter Reed will lead the information session, introduce the other parties and outline the overall project activities and scheduled start and completion dates. "More importantly though, he is there to answer any questions you may have and is particularly interested in hearing from people who may want to become involved in the project," Andrew said. "We look forward to this opportunity to meet with the community informally and share information over a drink and a snack."

For more advance information, contact Andrew Dickson on 0418 866 470 or Peter Reed on 0439 344 462.

GLOBAL climate change is now obvious.

Augusta Margaret River Mail
Wednesday 7/2/2007 Page: 6

A special report by Dr Bill Castleden, Chair of "Doctors for the Environment, Australia" (DEA)

Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" focuses on melting glaciers, collapsing icecaps, hurricanes, droughts, floods and ever-escalating insurance payouts for weather-related disasters; and yet the rate at which human-produced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are entering the atmosphere is accelerating.

The Australian media awareness of the threat of climate change has increased markedly over the last few months and it is now likely that most of us would like Australia to fully become part of the global effort to solve the problem and to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol.

The effects of Australia's exclusiveness are being felt:
  • On a per capita basis, Australians are very nearly the worst greenhouse polluters on earth; worse even than the much-vilified Americans.
  • Member States of the European Union are required to submit targets for the proportion of power they propose to generate from renewable energy. Most are aiming for 20% by 2020, 30% by 2030 and on to 60% by 2060.
  • When the Australian Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 3% is achieved in 2010 Australia will have no renewable energy target.
  • Wind power installation globally is expanding at about 25% a year.
  • Siemens is setting up a turbine manufacturing plant in the US, meanwhile Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, is closing its Tasmanian plant; hardly a ringing endorsement of Australia's commitment to wind power.
  • California has legislated the Million Solar Roofs Bill mandating that a million Californian homes be equipped with solar panels over the next 10 years. This will have enormous `spin-off' in that a million Californian homes will have to be built to take advantage of 'passive-solar' orientation. Compare this to Margaret River's new developments with their curving roads and cul-de-sacs in which about one in five houses can be aligned to take advantage of the optimum solar orientation and everyone is very car-dependent.
  • To a large extent Australian councils, developers, planners and builders have chosen to close their eyes and ears to what is going on elsewhere to create more climate-friendly housing. We seem actively to resist change, saying "it can't be done," "it will be too expensive", and yet these changes are occurring all over the rest of the world. Australia's poor beleaguered house-buyers have no choice; they have to become high-carbon emitters dependent upon air conditioned houses and high car-utilisation.
  • SunTech Power, a Chinese company which manufactures solar panels and equipment, originally based on Australian solar hot water heating technology, is quoted on the New York Stock Exchange, tripled its 2006 revenue from $41.9 million to $128.2million (the year before it was about $15m) and none of this profit is coining to Australia.
  • Australian renewable energy company Novera Energy has delisted from the Australian stock exchange and moved to London.
  • Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd is now substantially European based because it can more easily raise capital there.
  • Solco Ltd, an Australian manufacturer of solar hot water systems, has been in financial difficulty; others have gone bankrupt. All this while the Federal and State Governments assure us they are pursuing robust investments in renewable energy.
  • In July 2006 Tesla Motors Inc unveiled an all electric car with sports car acceleration and a range of 400kms per 2-hour charge.
Prompted by rising petrol prices, the Prime Minister promised Australian motorists $1.6 billion to help them install gas conversions to their cars.

Would a $1.6 billion fund to encourage the Australian car industry to improve on Tesla's emission free car have been more long-sighted? Focussing on renewable energy in Australia, the sunniest and one of the windiest continents on earth, would not be the end of our economic prosperity. Up to $US63 billion will be invested by Northern Hemisphere venture capitalists in 2007 in a whole suite of renewable energy initiatives.

Sadly, this investment opportunity continues to pass Australia by while we focus on further developing out-dated, eventually-exhaustible, ultimately polluting, extractive (coal, gas and uranium) energy sources. Meanwhile our renewable energy inventors cannot even raise enough capital to patent their inventions.

Individuals, businesses and politicians alike have to fully recognise the problems we face and to work together, as if facing a wartime reality, to reduce the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse pollutants we all emit.

With a change in awareness it can be done. This is the point of the Margaret River Community Forum on Climate Change in the Cultural Centre on Friday 9th February at 7pm. Be there to find out more!

Dr Bill Castleden is Chair of "Doctors for the Environment, Australia" (DEA), a medical organisation which seeks to educate the public and politicians about the health-damaging effects of global warming. Its Energy Policy and much more information about how we can reduce our carbon footprint is available on the website

The material in this article is that of the author and not necessarily the views of DEA.

Wind farm wait

Warrnambool Standard
Thursday 8/2/2007 Page: 7

A $660 million wind farm in Macarthur - the biggest in the southern hemisphere - is yet to receive the company's go-ahead. The Victorian Government gave planning approval in October to the wind farm, which will have up to 183 turbines with a total capacity of 329 megawatts.

But AGL Energy, the company behind the project, confirmed yesterday it was in talks with another energy giant, Origin Energy. A company spokesman said the planning approval was an important step in the development phase of the project.

"There are still a number of steps to be taken before AGL will be in a position to make a final investment decision," he said. "At the time of planning approval AGL Energy advised that it expected to announce a final decision on the Macarthur Wind Farm project within 12 months."

Electricity industry in the dark

Thursday 8/2/2007 Page: 3

THE power industry has welcomed the release of the Prime Minister's issues paper on carbon trading, even though the sector stands to bear the heaviest burden from the introduction of a price on carbon.

The Federal Government's Task Group said the size of Australia's greenhouse gas abatement task was "significant" in large part because the economy was increasingly dependent on electricity-powered technologies, a trend that will double power demand by 2050 on present trends.

Companies in the electricity sector, which counts $110 billion in assets of plants and distribution networks, say they need a clearer signal about the potential risk they face in the form of costs for carbon emissions if new investments are to proceed.

"The sooner we get a comfort about medium to long-term carbon abatement measures, especially for our sector, the more rational investment decisions will become," said Brad Page, chief executive of industry group Energy Supply Association of Australia.

Origin Energy, for instance, is considering whether to invest about $1 billion in a new gasfired power station in Mortlake, in Victoria's west, the first baseload plant not to burn more emissions -intensive coal.

"It's absolutely the sort of investment impacted by this process," said Tony Wood, general manager for public and government affairs at Origin. "Unless we start to put a price on carbon, we're not going to get the investment we need in lower emissions technology." ESAA estimates at least $35 billion of new investment will be needed in electricity by 2030 - even without any new so-called carbon constraint.

The Task Group will be looking at how Australia can make substantive reductions in emissions while maintaining the country's economic comparative advantages, some of which was derived from cheap power.

Ric Brazzale, executive director of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, says Australia's abundance of low-carbon natural gas, and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, means embracing climate change will entrench its advantages. "Show me any other country, developed or otherwise, that's got the clean energy resources that we have," he said, adding that Australia also has 40 per cent of the world's uranium.

The Task Group will consider whether setting up an emissions trading system may be needed as a precursor to establishing a "workable" global scheme. The Task Group will take sub - missions until March 7, and report to Prime Minister John Howard by May 31. It is a timetable Andrew Petersen, climate change services leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, describes as "aggressive" and one likely to jolt many companies to review their carbon risk.

Key Points:
  • Power companies want some idea of the risks before investing in new equipment.
  • At least $35 billion of new investment will be needed in power generation by 2030.

Wind Power - A Modern Clean Energy Solution

February 2007 6:05:50 PM

Alan Wood may have doubts about the ability of wind energy to provide power to modern Western economies but only several days ago, the Global Wind Energy Council released figures showing that the total value of new (wind energy) generating equipment installed in 2006 reached €18 billion, or US$23 billion. This growth is led by Europe but is now closely followed by Asia, with China and India seeing the strongest market growth. In the US, wind energy developments are second only to gas in terms of new developments and Canada too doubled the number of wind farms in the past year alone.

At least, finally, the more sceptical commentators accept that Australia has to find cleaner ways of making electricity. The next truism for them to accept is that any energy technology that is cleaner than electricity from conventional fossil fuel plant is going to be more expensive. What is silly is the assertion that capturing carbon and burying it under the ground or the generation of nuclear power will be cheaper than making energy from the wind. This implies that wind energy is not part of a cost competitive clean energy solution.

The wind energy industry around the world is growing in response to clean energy targets put in place by progressive Governments precisely because it is one of the cheapest clean energy sources available today. It has a number of other factors going for it – the technology is tried and tested, the manufacturing required to build wind farms is in place; there is a good supply of people with the expertise and skills to build and operate wind farms; the wind resource is indigenous and not subject to safety fears and the size characteristics of wind farms means that they can respond in a more agile way to growth in energy demand.

Alan is however, spot on with his call for the creation of an open market which allows all cost competitive clean energy sources to compete and establishing a market will require the setting of targets and benchmarks. Wind energy is ready to participate in this market as is evidenced by the global growth experienced so far.

BTW - The so called baseload issue is a non issue. It is the responsibility of the electricity market manager NEMMCO and other relevant regulators to ensure a reliable electricity supply. Electricity networks around the world are right now successfully integrating large amounts of wind energy.

Dominique La Fontaine

Tel: +61 3 9670 2033, Fax: +61 3 9602 3055

Global wind energy markets continue to boom – 2006 another record year

Global wind energy
Press Release, 5th Feb, 2007

Industry delivered 32% of annual market growth despite supply chain difficulties.

Brussels, 2 February 2007. The booming wind energy markets around the world exceeded expectations in 2006, with the sector experiencing yet another record year. On the day of the publication of the 4th Assessment Report on Climate Change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) released its annual figures for 2006. These figures, which include wind energy developments in more than 70 countries around the world, show that the year saw the installation of 15,197 megawatts (MW), taking the total installed wind energy capacity to 74,223 MW, up from 59,091 MW in 2005.

Despite constraints facing supply chains for wind turbines, the annual market for wind continued to increase at the staggering rate of 32% following the 2005 record year, in which the market grew by 41%. This development shows that the global wind energy industry is responding fast to the challenge of manufacturing at the required level, and manages to deliver sustained growth.

In terms of economic value, the wind energy sector has now become firmly installed as one of the important players in the energy markets, with the total value of new generating equipment installed in 2006 reaching €18 billion, or US$23 billion.

The countries with the highest total installed capacity are Germany (20,621 MW), Spain (11,615 MW), the USA (11,603 MW), India (6,270 MW) and Denmark (3,136). Thirteen countries around the world can now be counted among those with over 1000 MW of wind capacity, with France and Canada reaching this threshold in 2006.

In terms of new installed capacity in 2006, the US continued to lead with 2,454 MW, followed by Germany (2,233 MW), India (1,840 MW), Spain (1,587 MW), China (1,347 MW) and France (810 MW). This development shows that new players such as France and China are gaining ground.

"The tremendous growth in 2006 shows that decision makers are starting to take seriously the benefits that wind energy development can bring. However, we must not forget that wind energy is a new technology that needs robust policy frameworks and political commitment to fulfil its full potential," said Arthouros Zervos, Chairman of GWEC.

Europe is still leading the market with 48,545 MW of installed capacity at the end of 2006, representing 65% of the global total. In 2006, the European wind capacity grew by 19%, producing approximately 100 TWh of electricity, equal to 3.3% of total EU electricity consumption in an average wind year.

"While Germany and Spain still represent 50% of the EU market, we are seeing a healthy trend towards less reliance on these two countries. In the EU, 3,755 MW were installed outside of Germany, Spain and Denmark in 2006. In 2002, this figure still stood at only 680 MW," said Christian Kjaer, the European Wind Energy Association's (EWEA) CEO. "The figures clearly confirm that a second wave of European countries is investing in wind power."

Despite the continuing growth in Europe, the general trend shows that the sector is gradually becoming less reliant on a few key markets, and other regions are starting to catch up with Europe. The growth in the European market in 2006 accounted for about half of the total new capacity, down from nearly three quarters in 2004.

Asia has experienced the strongest increase in installed capacity outside of Europe, with an addition of 3,679 MW, taking the continent over 10,600 MW. In 2006, the continent grew by 53% and accounted for 24% of new installations. The strongest market here remains India with over 1,840 MW of new installed capacity, which takes its total figure up to 6,270 MW.

China more than doubled its total installed capacity by installing 1,347 MW of wind energy in 2006, a 70% increase from last year's figure. This brings China up to 2,604 MW of capacity, making it the sixth largest market world wide. The Chinese market was boosted by the country's new Renewable Energy Law, which entered into force on 1 January 2006.

"Thanks to the Renewable Energy law, the Chinese market has grown substantially in 2006, and this growth is expected to continue and speed up. According to the list of approved projects and those under construction, more than 1,500 MW will be installed in 2007. The goal for wind power in China by the end of 2010 is 5,000 MW, which according to our estimations will already be reached well ahead of time," said Li Junfeng of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).

22% of the world's new wind capacity was installed in North America, where the annual market increased by a third in 2005, gaining momentum in both the US and Canada. For the second year running, the US wind energy industry installed nearly 2,500 MW, making it the country with the most new wind power.

"Strong growth figures in the US prove that wind is now a mainstream option for new power generation," said Randy Swisher, President of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). "Wind's exponential growth reflects the nation's increasing demand for clean, safe and domestic energy, and continues to attract both private and public sources of capital. New generating capacity worth US$4 billion was installed in 2006, billing wind as one of the largest sources of new power generation in the country – second only to natural gas – for the second year in a row."

Canada also had a record year, with the installed capacity more than doubling from 683 MW in 2005 to 1459 MW at the end of 2006. "Wind energy is an emerging Canadian success story and 2006 will be remembered as the year that our country first began to seriously capture its economic and environmental benefits," said Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA). "Canada's is on the cusp of a wind energy boom as provincial governments are now targeting to have a minimum of 10,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity in place by 2015."

Growth in the relatively young African and Middle Eastern market picked up considerably in 2006, with 172 MW of new installed capacity, bringing the total up to 441 MW. This represents a 63% growth, and should be seen as a promising signs for future developments. The main countries experiencing growth are Egypt (230 MW, up from 145 MW), Morocco (124 MW, up from 64 MW) and Iran (48 MW, up from 23 MW).

Compared to previous years, the Australian market only experienced slow growth in 2006. "While 2006 saw only 109 MW installed bring total capacity to 817 MW, the Australian market has been given a new lease of life with the introduction of state based renewable energy targets providing a more positive outlook for 2007," said Dominique La Fontaine, CEO of the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind).

"As security of energy supply and climate change are ranging high on the political agendas of the world's governments, wind energy has already become a mainstream energy source in many countries around the world. Wind energy is clean and fuel-free, which makes it the most attractive solution to the world's energy challenges," said Arthouros Zervos, Chairman of GWEC.

For more information on the press release please contact:
Angelika Pullen, Tel: +32 2 502 55 02, Mob: +32 473 947 966
Or visit the GWEC website :

Tuesday 6 February 2007

Leaders still avoiding the big issue

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 6/2/2007 Page: 11

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leads to the inevitable conclusion that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are needed urgently, before 2020. While individuals can make a contribution, their potential falls far short of what is needed: targets, new policies, strategies and actions from all levels of government, especially federal and state.

It is governments that control taxation and funding, choose new infrastructure, and establish regulations and standards.

Unfortunately summits and further inquiries often delay real action. The Federal Government has been delaying greenhouse action for 10 years. Its principal strategy is to support coal-fired electricity with capture and burial of carbon dioxide. With a big subsidy, a pilot plant could be built within a decade. But this is a long way from a mass-produced, commercially available technology, which would take at least 20 years to roll out.

Knowing this, the Government is promoting nuclear power to divert attention from the clean energy technologies that are ready for implementation, given appropriate carbon pricing, regulations and standards: efficient energy use, solar hot water, solar space heating, wind power and bioenergy from crop residues, organic wastes and landfills.

Nowadays, nuclear power entails even greater risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. And there is still no long-term nuclear waste dump operating anywhere. High-grade uranium ore is scarce, while mining and milling low-grade creates big carbon dioxide emissions. The nuclear industry promotes a new generation of nuclear power stations that might be slightly safer and cheaper, but these will take at least 15 to 20 years to mass produce.

Clearly, the Government is attempting to delay efficient energy use and renewable energy for 15-20 years until its chosen technologies may become available. It combines token support for renewable energy with false claims that it cannot substitute for coal.

The federal Mandatory Renewable Energy Target for 2010 was so small it was reached last year. Several years ago the Government ceased to fund the Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy, but it still funds three research centres for fossil fuels. Even efficient energy use, the cheapest and fastest set of technologies and measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, has received little support from the Government.

To give the right message to energy consumers, it is essential to expand and extend the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target and to introduce carbon pricing, either as a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme. An effective scheme must have a strong cap on emissions, must include all the energy intensive industries and must distribute at least half the emission permits by auction. This will allow cleaner energy technologies to enter the market in competition with the existing fossil fuel technologies. As with water permits, emission permits should be temporary licences, not property rights.

The Federal Opposition promises to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, expand the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target and introduce an emissions trading scheme, without specifying its key features. Useful first steps, but not sufficiently specific to give us confidence that they will achieve big reductions in emissions by 2020.

The best action NSW has taken is to follow Victoria in establishing a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. However, the modest emission reductions from this will be swamped if NSW permits a conventional coal-fired power station to be built. At least three such proposals are on the table. The NSW Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, has indicated he favours a coal station. The Premier, Morris lemma, has avoided committing himself and has attempted to reassure the public by pointing to the Government's recent approval of a gas-fired power station.

However, this is merely a peak-load station and is not relevant to the choice of the next base-load station. The program to upgrade the state's 12 coalfired generators from 660 to 750 megawatts each will produce equivalent emissions to a new coal-fired station.

Under pressure from the property and housing industries, NSW has weakened the BASIX scheme for energy-efficient homes. On transport, it reneged on a promise to extend Sydney's light rail system, cancelled the Parramatta-Epping heavy rail link, failed to introduce an integrated ticketing system for public transport and has made negligible investment in a bicycle highway network - all indicators that it is ill-prepared for greenhouse response and for the imminent peak in global oil production.

Perhaps local climate action groups will exert sufficient political pressure to move contenders in the coming elections to adopt effective policies instead of diversions and delaying tactics.

Dr Mark Diesendorf researches and teaches sustainable development and greenhouse response strategies at the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales.

Llewellyn hopeful of Chinese power deal

Launceston Examiner
Tuesday 6/2/2007 Page: 8

ENERGY Minister David Llewellyn will fly later this week to Beijing, where he is expected to secure a lucrative deal with China's largest power generator, China Datang Corporation. Details of an impending announcement are being kept tightly under wraps, but the trade mission follows a successful visit by Chinese executives to Tasmania last week.

The delegation toured Hydro Tasmania's Lake Gordon power station and Roaring 40s operations at Woolnorth on the West Coast.

The Beijing-based company has assets of more than $12 billion and a total generation capacity of more than 50,000 MW - more than the total for the whole of Australia. It plans to build 1700 MW in renewable wind assets by 2010 and is already working with Roaring 40s on the 58-turbine Shuangliao Wind Farm in the Jilin Province.

Mr Llewellyn said ahead of last week's visit that the project represented only the "tip of the iceberg" for Tasmania's involvement in China.

Principles trampled underfoot

Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 6/2/2007 Page: 63

When it comes to the environment and carbon trading, politicians are simply doing what they have always done by saying one thing and doing another. Carbon taxes and trading emissions are effective tools because they get to the heart of the problem, namely CO2 emission, they do away with the messy requirements of government intervention, and minimise the chances for corruption. Or so you would think.

The problem is that all of the weak, half-hearted ad hoc measures that have gone before the scheme are still in place, and any time the prospect of a carbon trading scheme gets in the way of polluting businesses, they just ask for an exemption and they get it. BlueScope Steel does not have to worry about the possibility of carbon taxes or carbon trading at its $1 billion Port Kembla steel plant, because the NSW government gave it exemptions for both. The same goes for Alcoa's smelter expansions in Victoria. So, because large developments with lots of potential jobs manage to win, smaller developments and the environment, and the rest of us, all lose.

Investing in energy

Tuesday 6/2/2007 Page: 18

GERMANY'S second-biggest power supplier will invest billions of euros in major gas and wind power projects, including a gas power station in Britain and a gas pipeline between the Czech Republic and Belgium.

Monday 5 February 2007

The dragging of dusty feet

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 3/2/2007 Page: 31

The water shortages have stirred the Government into action, writes Ian Lowe, but the cause is still neglected.

AUSTRALIA: There are no real surprises in the Paris report. With each report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the evidence gets stronger that the climate is being changed by human activity, mainly our burning of fossil fuels.

We are already paying the costs of climate change in reduced farm production, increased costs of water supply and rising bills for extreme weather events. As the new report confirms, more change is inevitable because of the long time fossil-carbon stays in the air. But we can avert the more gloomy possible outcomes by rapidly reducing our release of greenhouse gases.

It is important to understand the scale of the change needed. Biologists argue we should keep the increase in average global temperatures within two degrees to prevent dangerous changes to ecological systems.

Climate models suggest we need to cut global emissions of carbon dioxide to less than half the present level. To allow improved living standards in the poorest countries we will have to reduce our greenhouse pollution dramatically, probably to something like 10 to 20 per cent of the present level over the next 50 years or so.

We urgently need to reshape our energy supply and use. We need a cleaner energy supply and improved efficiency to reconcile the demand for energy services with our global responsibility. Time is not on our side. Any decision to build another coal-fired power station would commit us to releasing extra carbon dioxide until about 2050, and on average that carbon dioxide would stay in the atmosphere well into next century.

Business and the community are way ahead of the Government in recognising the problem and working toward solutions. Last year, the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change called for a concerted policy response, with a real price on releasing carbon dioxide and binding reduction targets.

Last week the US Climate Action Partnership, also an alliance of some of the largest corporations with non-government organisations, called for "a policy framework for mandatory reductions" based on a "cap and trade" approach. The idea is that national targets are set, giving steady reductions over time. The fuel industries then trade for the permits to release their share of the national quota. That is the economically efficient way to achieve the cuts we need.

The Australian Government has accepted that water shortage is a problem, but is still doing nothing substantial about the underlying cause: climate change.

The Australian Conservation Foundation estimates Australia still spends more than $5 billion of public money every year subsidising supply and use of fossil fuels, while the costs of climate change this financial year will probably exceed $1 billion.

By contrast, we are spending very little on responses. Government attention and funds have been wasted on diversions like the Switkowski task force, which confirmed what we knew: nuclear power is too expensive, too slow and too limited a response, and creates serious environmental risks for the future.

More public funds are going into research aimed at prolonging use of coal-fired power than the clean alternatives. A Federal Government report published 15 years ago found we could get 30 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020 at no more than 10 per cent extra cost. The Government has given us the extra cost, through its GST, but renewables account for a smaller fraction of our power today than when John Howard was first elected.

The Government has finally accepted we need an emissions trading system to drive change, but has stacked its task force with the big polluters. So it is very unlikely we will see the sort of change now being proposed in the US by such companies as General Electric, Alcoa, BP America and Pacific Gas and Energy.

The local mind-set is clear. The Electricity Supply Association of Australia even produced a report this week claiming nuclear and more coal power will be needed. This week we also saw another local renewable Ref: energy group give up and move overseas, despairing of the prospect of serious action from the Australian Government.

We urgently need a concerted response to climate change. We must prepare for the changes that are inevitable, but at the same time we must reduce our assault on the Earth's weather system. We need a different economic framework as well as appropriate regulation. That is our responsibility to the millions of other species that share this planet with us, and to the future generations for whom we hold it in trust.

Ian Lowe is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University, and the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Something in the wind

Sunday Tasmanian
Sunday 4/2/2007 Page: 5

CHINA'S largest power company toured Tasmania's Woolnorth wind farm yesterday. Executives from China Datang Corporation were shown around the wind farm in far North-West Tasmania by Roaring 40s chief executive Mark Kelleher. The Datang visit was part of a three-day tour of Hydro Tasmania energy assets led by Energy Minister David Llewellyn.

"To put how important this visit is into perspective, Datang has a total controlled installed capacity of over 50,000MW which is more than Australia's entire generating capacity," Mr Llewellyn said.

Datang is one of five massive power generation firms created by the communist People's Republic of China. In 2002 the Chinese State Power Corporation was broken into five companies which were authorised by the government to seek investment and shareholding enterprises.

A vast majority of China's power plants rely on dirty coal. But Datang and other rival power generators in China are being instructed to switch to cleaner fuels and renewable energy. Datang aims to expand capacity 60 per cent in the next six years. It has plans to spend $580 million this year and between $414 million and $497 million next year, mainly on capacity expansion.

Roaring 40s which owns and operates the Woolnorth wind farm, is a joint venture between Hydro Tasmania and Hong Kong firm China Light and Power. The state-owned Hydro Tasmania, joint owner of Roaring 40s, has borrowed to the hilt and owes more than $1 billion to the Tasmanian Government's lending arm TasCorp. The Hydro has asked the Tasmanian Government for a $300 million equity injection.

`Act now' on warming Push to tackle effects before they become catastrophic

Sunday Mail Brisbane
Sunday 4/2/2007 Page: 7
By Daryl Passmore

SCIENTISTS and environmentalists yesterday sent a clear message to the country's politicians on climate change - it's time for action. A UN report released this weekend (3/2/07) warned temperatures will rise up to 6C by 2100, with catastrophic effects on weather. It said greenhouse gases were "very likely" responsible.

Australian Conservation Foundation climate change campaigner Monica Richter said the situation was urgent: "We need to be thinking in terms of the effort that was generated by the country when we went into the Second World War." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report tips average temperatures to rise 1.8C-4C by 2100 and sea levels up to 79cm if polar ice keeps melting at the present rate.

Griffith University's Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, a leading climate change expert, said Queensland would be particularly hard hit. The situation this weekend, with large areas of north Queensland flooded while southeast dam levels falling, was a sign of things to come.
  • Rainfall from storms in the north would rise by up to 30 per cent with a temperature rise of under 3C, bringing more flooding, with long dry periods in the south.
  • Cyclones would become more frequent and intense, and extend to the southeast.
  • Developments along estuaries and canal estates would be at risk of flooding.
  • Tropical diseases such as dengue and Ross River fevers would become more common and spread south to Brisbane.
  • The number of people dying from heat stress in Australia would rise from 1100 a year to up to 16,000.
  • More than 90 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef would suffer bleaching each year, destroying it.
"The scientific debate is over. We really need a concerted response from all levels of government," Prof Lowe said.

Green groups urged Peter Beattie and other premiers to follow South Australia leader Mike Rann in introducing laws to curb greenhouse gases and use more clean energy sources.

Scientists say some climate change is inevitable, even with such measures, but there is still time to avoid the worst effects - just.

"It might only be five to 10 years to really dramatically cut greenhouse pollution and avoid the worst," said Australian Conservation Foundation executive director Don Henry.

"We've still got a chance to do something about it but we've got to get cracking." The Federal Government is facing calls to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050, boost investment in renewable energy sources, to sign the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse emissions and to cut or end the $5.5 billion annual subsidies for the supply and use of fossil fuels.

Prime Minister John Howard used the UN report to further his nuclear push: "And as time goes by and we make the fossil fuels cleaner, that will make them dearer to operate, and therefore there'll be a greater opportunity and competitive situation for nuclear power."

Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the consequences of climate change were a reality but global warming could not explain all severe weather. "We have always been the land of droughts and flooding rains."

Beating the carbon trap

Canberra Times
Monday 5/2/2007 Page: 6

Ben Selinger weighs up the tough options as we begin to look seriously for a quick exit from our slow freeway cruise into the greenhouse.

THE DEBATE over climate change and our energy future must take place within a framework set by the natural laws of the physical world.

There are only three main sources of energy on earth. There is solar energy captured by plants in earlier eons and now stored as coal, oil and gas. There are radioactive elements, like uranium and thorium, from which energy can be extracted. Nuclear also includes "hot rocks" that derive heat from underground nuclear energy, and nuclear fusion - mimicking the sun, both of which might some day provide high-density, relatively clean energy. And there is an unlimited supply of low-density solar energy which continually downloads on to earth.

The most relevant natural law by which we are bound is the second law of thermodynamics. In its simplest form it says,"There are no free lunches." When we burn fossil fuel, carbon and hydrogen in the fuel react with the oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide, water and heat. This process is not easily or quickly reversed. Carbon dioxide and water are very stable. The bonds between the atones are very strong, so to split CO, back into carbon and oxygen, or water back into hydrogen and oxygen, requires more energy than was released by the original burning.

Using fossil fuels to power such a step would be self-defeating, so we need to think about other sources of energy. As this process takes lots of energy, and solar is really diffuse, perhaps what we need is a factory that's really spread out. Hey, let's design a forest. Up till now we have relied on plants to break down carbon dioxide and water, but we have been overloading the system ever since we invented the steam engine. So what are the options for continued use of fossil fuel?
  1. Invent solar reversers that are better and faster than plants. Plants have had the odd billion years start but we might improve marginally through genetic engineering. We would need to do this on a huge scale, which would require a lot of agricultural land.
  2. Collect CO, from burning fossil fuels, compress it and store it forever. I doubt if anyone sees this as a realistic solution that will make a difference globally. Mega-quantities of stored CO, represent a lethal hazard if ever released by accident or intent. And compression of a gas - as anyone who has pumped up a bike tyre knows - requires a lot of energy that is wasted as heat. Piping away excess carbon dioxide is a pipe dream aimed at sustaining an unsustainable industry.
  3. We can use solar energy directly via solar water heating, solar thermal, photoelectric, wind, tide energy, and bio-fuels. Although fossil energy is needed to produce and maintain the mechanics for these energy options, solar provides by far the best answer, for relatively low-intensity domestic use.
Because solar energy is low intensity and widely dispersed it is secure from natural and unnatural disasters, and contiguity of supply and use means low transmission losses. How about hydrogen? What holds for carbon, holds equally for hydrogen. There are no free lunches, just bludging off the sun. Some exotic plant species night allow its to tame them into using solar reversal to convert water to hydrogen. Chemists have devised synthetic water-splitting solar cells that show promise.

But it is all very small bickies. Say someone invents a brilliant hydrogen fuel-cell. This still needs a supply of hydrogen.

Another finds a good solvent for CO, but then still needs to do something with this greenhouse gas. Emperor Coal's new cleaner clothes can't disguise the fact that the Emperor is mainly carbon and still ends up as carbon dioxide. He will need to be taxed on the damage he does.

To sustainably counter global warming we need a solar process for either energy generation or fuel regeneration. It can be natural plants or synthetic plants which split CO, into carbon and oxygen or water into hydrogen and oxygen. There is no sustainability without the sun.

The apparent exception to the thermodynamic rule is the one energy source that most are prejudiced against - nuclear. It's not a free lunch but a significant packed lunch provided when the earth was formed and as it matured. We can draw down on it without affecting the overall equations that keep us in compliance with the physical laws. The lunch menu - nuclear fuel - is "eat once and throw away".

Nuclear reactions are not recyclable. Nuclear energy is high intensity and generates about 16 per cent of the world's electricity. Its efficiency is increasing and fuels like thorium make it safer and weapon-free. There is no doubt that it is a necessary technology, at least in intermediate timeframes. It requires fossil fuel energy to make its hardware, dismantle it safely, and deal with the waste.

Solar also requires hardware built using fossil fuel energy. While the energy payback for wind energy is very good, for silicon photovoltaics it is very poor, and this may not change much. A significant investment in solar photo-voltaic energy would require huge amounts of silicon. Remember the idea of a charcoal factory on the South Coast to be used to produce silicon from sand near Lithgow? Charcoal becomes CO, as sand - silica - becomes silicon.

Further necessary purification of silicon is also energy intensive and, ironically, the service of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor is required to neutron-dope silicon for photovoltaics, iPod memory chips and the like.

Large ingots, each a single crystal of silicon, are exposed to a neutron beam which causes one in every billion silicon atoms to gain a proton and an electron and thus turn into a phosphorus atom. This irradiated silicon is sliced into chips and used for a wide variety of applications. The sun runs a series of nuclear energy reactions and will maintain its enormous energy output for a few more billion years.

Except for our minute solar lunch, it all appears to be "wasted". To enjoy a bigger lunch - not to mention breakfast, dinner and heavy snacking between meals - we need only pay for the energy cost of the hardware needed to collect and use it. And that energy might eventually be solar as well.

So the long-term outlook for sustainable energy points to solar. Significant investment should flow that way, but the pressing question is "what is the best intermediate strategy?" Nuclear investment does make sense. And on-going scare campaigns about nuclear power-plant placement provide a market mechanism for bringing down seaside property prices to more realistic levels.

Ben Selinger is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the Australian National University.

Bosses heed climate warning

Monday 5/2/2007 Page: 29

AUSTRALIAN business leaders have heeded the blunt warning in the latest intergovernmental report on climate change which predicts that temperatures could rise by up to 4C by 2100 and sea levels by up to 29cm.

The report, six years in the making and drawing on research from 2500 scientists from more than 130 countries, says the evidence for global warming is now "unequivocal". Its thrust is that "business-as-usual" will lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

Origin Energy's managing director, Grant King, said the report added further weight to the scientific argument for urgent action to address climate change.

"Last year, based on similar scientific work by CSIRO and economic analysis by Aliens Consulting, the Business Roundtable on Climate Change recommended early action to adopt a comprehensive domestic climate change policy, complementing the inevitable emergence of global action. The report reinforces that recommendation," he said.

Paul Anthony, chief executive of AGL Energy, said the company took the consequences of climate change extremely seriously. "In almost every part of business the impact of climate change is absorbed."AGL Energy is one of the premier investors in renewable technology in Australasia with one the largest suites of renewable, carbon emissions generation assets while it has also a significant investment program for the future in renewable energy."

Mr Anthony said an example of AGL Energy's acceptance of the climate change argument was its $660 million investment in the 95 megawatt, $660 million Macarthur wind farm in western Victoria which is planned to begin generating from 183 turbines later this year.

The oil and gas sector's peak lobby, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, described the IPCC report as a "sober, careful and comprehensive overview" of the status of climate change science. APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said national and international policy responses must be similarly considered, measured and multifaceted.

"Just as the IPCC avoids hysteria, so should our responses. The report leaves little doubt in my, and judging by a range of polls, most people's minds that climate change is very, very serious," she said. "But in tackling it there is absolutely no room for knee-jerk, ill-informed approaches that have more to do with political optics than a genuine desire to understand the complexities in settling on a suite of policies that serve the best long-term interests of Australia and the world."

Ms Robinson warned that until commercial, environmental and technological drivers combined to dictate Australia's future energy profile, the emphasis must be on keeping all gas, clean coal, renewable, nuclear and a variety of other energy options open, as well as well others not yet dreamt of. "We must not be seduced by an arrogant attraction to a simple answer that may reflect the energy fashion of the moment but unlikely to deliver us the solution," she said.

Business Council for Sustainable Energy executive director Ric Brazzale said the report would remove any of the lingering doubts over climate change and enable business and government to get on with the job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Last December's announcement that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions were projected to exceed the Kyoto Protocol target an increase of 9 per cent on 1990 levels shows Australia's policy priorities must change.

Key climate report sparks global call to action news service
18:02 02 February 2007

Governments and environmental groups the world over have greeted the new UN report on the science of climate change with words of praise – and determination. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was released on Friday in Paris, France.

"It is another nail in the coffin of the climate change deniers and represents the most authoritative picture to date, showing that the debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over," said David Miliband, UK environment minister.

The report considered all the research since the last IPCC assessment in 2001 and the 21-page summary (pdf) of its findings – approved by officials from 113 countries – says that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal". 21-page summary (pdf) "The IPCC report embodies an extraordinary scientific consensus that climate change is already upon us, and that human activities are the cause," says James Leape, director general of WWF International.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations' Environment Programme (one of the governing bodies of the IPCC), said the new report "gives us a stark warning that the potential impact will be more dramatic, faster and more drastic in terms of consequences" than previously thought. The impacts will change the way some people live in fundamental ways, he added.

Calls for action

Despite past scepticism by the US administration, the White House backed the report. "It is a comprehensive and accurate reflection of the current state of climate change science," said Sharon Hays, associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Hays led the US delegation to the IPCC, which was praised by many for their constructive contribution to the final vetting of the report summary.

With the report being acknowledged as having clearly demonstrated the link between human activities and climate change, it has prompted strong calls for action. The Democrat chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, Bart Gordon said: "Expert scientists have provided us with a diagnosis of the problem and a prognosis for our planet's health. Now, it's time for us - the policymakers - to do our jobs."

"The clock is ticking and time is running out for us to avoid major climate change, with the real and serious threats to our economies and peoples' livelihoods it carries," said Marthinus van Schalwyk, South African minister for environment and tourism.

"Faced with this emergency, now is not the time for half measures. It is the time for a revolution, in the true sense of the term," said French president Jacques Chirac. "We are in truth on the doorstep of the irreversible."

Post Kyoto

There was a hopeful feeling in Paris that the new report would pave the way for an agreement that would go beyond the Kyoto Protocol targets for 2012.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the European Commission's calls for industrialised nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels) were "exactly in line with what scientists say we need". The question now, he said,"is how do we convince other industrialised countries to sign up to the European rallying call?"

Others echoed the idea that developed nations must take the lead. Kenneth Denman, a Canadian climatologist who led the work on one of the report's chapters, told New Scientist that developed countries would be "moral hypocrites if we ask developing countries to reduce their emissions when they're trying to catch up with the standard of living we've had for the past 50 years".

"North America has 5% of the global population," Denman pointed out,"yet we produce 25% of the fossil fuel emissions." Developed nations must "clean up their act" first, he said.

It's almost certain: humans caused planet to heat up

The Australian
February 03, 2007

SCIENTISTS are now almost certain temperature increases over the last half of the 20th century were caused by human activity, and have warned of ominous further increases up to 4C by 2100.

The world's most significant weather forecast, released last night in Paris, revealed growing confidence in climate modelling that suggests greenhouse gases are reaching dangerous levels and need to be reduced. The first volume of the fourth assessment report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported similar warming projections to its previous report six years ago.

The new report is based on the results of 23 climate models, a three-fold increase from the seven models used in 2001 to deliver best estimates of temperature increases ranging from 1.8C to 4C. The increased number of models has widened the likely temperature ranges from 1.1C to 6.4C, compared with from 1.4C to 5.8C six years ago.

Significantly, the report finds man-made release of greenhouse gases is more than 90 per cent likely to have caused most of the observable increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century, about 0.65C. The range of projected rises in global sea levels is from 0.18m to 0.59m by 2100, driven largely by their expansion from rising water temperatures.

The IPCC also reports greater confidence in the projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including contracting snow cover, shrinking sea ice on the poles and the high likelihood of more frequent hot extremes, heatwaves and heavy rainfall patterns.

The Antarctic ice sheets are predicted to remain too cold for widespread surface melting and are expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall. While the Greenland ice sheet is projected to contribute to sea-level rises after 2100, the report says this will need to be sustained for millenniums to result in its complete elimination and a resulting sea-level rise of about 7m.

The report predicts the emission of carbon dioxide this century will contribute to global warming and sea-level rises for the next millennium. The report predicts increasing intensity in cyclones, including higher peak wind speeds and more heavy rain patterns, but with the possibility of a reduction in their frequency.

Other storms are likely to track towards the poles as the world's weather systems adapt to changes in heat in the atmosphere and deep oceans. Rainfall will shift from the subtropical regions towards the poles. Australian Academy of Science president Kurt Lambeck praised the quality of the report by Working Group I of the IPCC.

He urged governments and industries to take swift action to reduce the pace of change to give "societies and ecosystems" time to adapt to a warmer and more unstable world. "Climate change is here to stay," said Professor Lambeck. "We must open our eyes to what may be the most significant issue facing not only Australia but the planet."

In Britain, Royal Society president Martin Rees agreed, saying the report was a "comprehensive picture" of the latest scientific understanding of the nature, processes and likely outcomes of climate change. But he correctly predicted a "vocal minority" would raise objections to the findings.

In Melbourne, former head of the weather bureau's National Climate Centre William Kininmonth was among the sceptics. "My feeling is that the report is more alarmist than the evidence suggests," he said.

He was particularly critical of the IPCC's interpretation of the data and of the separate computer modelling systems used to predict future climate changes. He added that, along with Canadian climate-change sceptic Ross McKitrick, he had contributed to an "independent summary for policymakers", to be released in London next Monday.

The current head of the NCC, Michael Coughlan, disputed Mr Kininmonth's objections. He said the latest report built on past work and reflected continuing refinement in the understanding of the complex processes of the climate system. Dr Coughlan said the new report fitted neatly with continuing observations of climate and ocean systems.

"Globally, we're seeing the trends (noted in the report) being laid down now: warming nights and fewer colder days and more heatwaves and heavy precipitation events," he said. "These global trends are consistent with what we've been seeing in Australia over the past 50 to 100 years."

The head of the UN's Environment Program said last night the IPCC report had rendered "almost redundant" a European Union goal of limiting global warming to 2C. Achim Steiner said the new report "gives us a stark warning that the potential impact will be more dramatic, faster and more drastic in terms of consequences" than previously thought.

2500 scientists, 1200 pages, and one quibble

February 3, 2007

AFTER years of research and a marathon week of intense secret debate, scientists from around the world last night signed off on a bleak assessment of a devastated planet: Earth.

A turbulent future of violent storms, devastating drought, increasing temperatures and rising sea levels is inevitable, according to a United Nations report released in Paris last night. The report, the work of 2500 scientists over six years, is considered the most authoritative evaluation of climate change ever produced.

It anticipates temperatures will rise by at least 1.1 degrees by the end of the century, with the high-end estimate at 6.4 degrees.

While scientific dissent continues to divide experts on some core questions — like the rate at which seas will rise, and the ferocity of cyclones fed by warmer waters — the Paris statement is most notable for its consensus on the issue of what, or who, is to blame. Humanity.

The final text of the report says it is "very likely" that human activities led by burning fossil fuels account for most of the warming in the past 50 years. This represents a significant ramping up of the language of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2001, which said the link was "likely".

Scientists going into the final four-day workshop to craft a summary of the fourth assessment of the IPCC said this was the most important paragraph of the 1200-page report. Many were seeking an emphatic, unequivocal assessment of the severity and cause of climate change to help draw a line under scientific debate about what was occurring, and shift political momentum to the issue of what to do.

Their efforts nearly faltered with a last-ditch bid to water down the statement from two nations — Saudi Arabia and one other unnamed country (not the United States or Australia) among the 130 countries represented at the Paris plenary.

The statement eventually passed intact after the meeting accepted a suggestion — initiated by Australia — to deal with the dissenting country's concerns in a footnote. It states that there are remaining uncertainties over climate change "based on current methodologies".

Debate on this issue bogged down talks for many hours. Other key areas of disagreement were over sea levels and cyclones, said Dr Geoff Love, the head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and a member of the Australian team at the talks.

En route from Paris to Melbourne yesterday, Dr Love said the debate was not so much about the science as about the semantics in the summary, which will provide a framework for policymakers around the world.

As the forum broke up, The Guardian broke a story claiming that scientists and economists had been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies — ExxonMobil — to undermine efforts to gain a consensus on the report.

Dr Love said the atmosphere inside the closed talks was intense and exhausting,"but generally a co-operative one, with the scientists often having the deciding say in issues of nuance".

It had been anticipated that debate over the rate and extent of sea-level rises predicted in the report might have been particularly fierce. Scientists going into the discussions wanted the language sharpened, citing concerns that the figures — which retreated on the gloomier 2001 predictions to put the rise at a maximum 59 centimetres by the end of this century — did not take into account recent melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. Another report published in Science this month puts the upper range at 140 centimetres.

Dr Love, a former secretary of the IPCC, said debate on sea levels was anti-climactic. It appeared many scientists were satisfied that the statement recognised that uncertainties about ice-sheet melt could add another 25 per cent to those figures.

He said discussion over cyclones was intense, coloured by US sensitivities in the wake of hurricane Katrina and a finding that increased cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since 1970 correlated with global warming. The statement has huge implications for insurance. "America was very particular about the words (on cyclones) but I think the words are very consistent with the science," Dr Love said.

The line-by-line editing of the final summary had been a long-winded and difficult process, Dr Love said. Final submissions from policymakers and governments had resulted in the draft report being substantially rewritten even as it was going before the Paris conference.

Dr Graeme Pearman, one of Australia's leading experts on climate change, said the IPCC report represented a monumental effort to find consensus that would allow the world to respond to climate change. "It really is a social process which is designed to bring together the science and to present it in a way that policymakers think they need to know," Dr Pearman said. "It is an enormous human experiment, and thank goodness we are doing it."