Friday 23 March 2007

The Politics Of Drought

Big Issue Australia
Monday 12/3/2007 Page: 14

Jake Avila asks: who stands to gain from John Howard's fossil-fuelled approach to climate change?

Welcome to John Howard's sunburnt country: a land of black-roofed houses sucking in heat like sponges while millions of air-conditioners fight to cool them down. A land with vast reserves of planet-warming coal funnelled into the gaping maw of obsolete power stations and shipped off to fuel the world's addiction to dirty cheap energy. A land of ever-increasing drought where the ludicrous contention that climate is somehow divorced from rainfall is promoted as 'realism.' A land blessed with the most abundant renewable energy resources on earth shunned in favour of big energy corporations making billions out of greenhouse-polluting fuels.

It may appear naive, some might say fanatical, to blame this situation on one man elected by the people. But the Prime Minister's indifferent response to reports by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, confirming global warming is man-made and worsening, proves beyond all doubt just how shackled his government is to the dogma of economy before environment - as if the two could possibly be inimical.

Forget Howard's recent climate-change `conversion,' his diversionary and far-off promise of "clean, green" nuclear and carbon sequestration schemes, and his belated acceptance of a national carbon-trading system. For the last 10 years, the PM has systematically betrayed the real Australian national interest - our future on this planet - and he shows no sign of stopping.

It's a weighty charge, but consider the mountain of historical evidence. Months into its first term - amid growing global disquiet on climate change leading up to the 1997 Kyoto summit - his government abolished the Energy Research and Development Corporation (the major funding body for renewable energy research). Many of Australia's top climate scientists went overseas or left the field altogether. There was to be no holding back from Australia's reserves of cheap coal. As the then Environment Minister, Robert Hill, acknowledged in April 2000: "One of our competitive advantages is the cost of coal. We are very reluctant to sacrifice that."

What Senator Hill was prepared to sacrifice at Kyoto was Australia's reputation as a good global citizen. While the PM sowed discord at home (spreading the essential contradiction that the national interest lay in "protecting Australian jobs and industry while ensuring that Australia plays her part in the worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"), Hill won an eleventh-hour concession for Australia to actually increase emissions by promising to decrease land clearing.

It was later revealed the `Australia clause' was granted out of fear that this country would jeopardise the entire Protocol. In hindsight, such a fear was justified. Over the next three years, the Howard Government opposed caps on carbon-dioxide sink credits (the Kyoto Protocol allows the use of CO2 reservoirs such as oceans and forests as a form of carbon offset) and pushed for ridiculous definitions to further widen loopholes. At one stage, Australia even tried to classify any plant over one metre tall as a tree. The shenanigans continued until 2002, when the Prime Minister refused to ratify the treaty on the grounds that it was flawed, unfair and would never work.

What Howard has consistently failed to acknowledge is that the Kyoto Protocol was never meant to be a final solution to climate change. It was conceived as a vital first step - putting the onus on developed countries to reduce emissions and develop new technologies so the developing world could avoid making the same mistakes for the good of everyone.

So much for common sense and humanity. In the wasted years since then, the developing world has embraced dirty cheap fuel just like the West did during the Industrial Revolution. Of course, we all share the one atmosphere: while the need for emission reductions grows all the more pressing, booming superpower China is constructing traditional coal-fired power plants at the rate of one a month.

By not ratifying Kyoto, the Howard Government and its big energy mates have effectively had their cake and gobbled it all up - using the Protocol to claim Australia's greenhouse targets are still being met while simultaneously disavowing responsibility for this course of action because other countries will not sign.

It's a well-known fact the Prime Minister keeps a finger on the pulse of public opinion. Early policy initiatives such as the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) were trotted out to ease public disquiet over Kyoto. Designed to encourage voluntary greenhouse gas emissions from the Government's industry mates, the AGO is a white elephant, relegated to a section of the Department of the Environment and Water Resources (formerly Department of Environment and Heritage). In the eight years since it was established, the AGO has under-spent its budget by $362 million and, in 2004, the Australian National Audit Office concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the AGO was meeting targets to reduce emissions.

In the same vein, the 1997 Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRT) - committing electricity retailers to source 2% of their electricity from the renewable energy sector - has become a pathetic joke. As a result of rapid growth in demand, the proportion of electricity supplied by renewable generators has fallen and, in the absence of a change in the policy, is expected to fall further by 2020. Meanwhile, the Federal Government's oft-repeated claim that renewables can't provide `base load power' (ie, they can't meet steady year-round electricity demand) is patently false. Just ask Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has welcomed the Australian company Solar Heat and Power with open arms. This is the same company that has developed solar thermal technology that could power the nation.

The Government's latest PR stunt is the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) - a loose association of the world's worst greenhouse gas emitters. Its charter seems to be: `Bugger Kyoto, let's create our own rubber stamp.' US Senator John McCain has described the partnership as "nothing more than a nice little public-relations ploy...

It has almost no meaning. They aren't even committing money to the effort, much less enacting rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Sweep aside the smoke and mirrors and it is clear that Howard's dogmatic dismissal of climate science and the concerns of the Australian public has allowed the fossil-fuel industry to rampage unchecked.

In 2004, ABC TV's Four Corners programme revealed how the self-titled `Greenhouse Mafia' - a cabal of 12 companies including Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Origin Energy - not only briefed Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane, but actually helped write the Government's 2004 Energy White Paper, downplaying the effects of climate change and the potential of renewable energy. Four Corners also revealed that high-profile CSIRO climate director Dr Graeme Pearman had been muzzled and ultimately dismissed for publicly contradicting Howard Government policy.

Underlining the Federal Government's stance is the fact that it has spent far more on political advertising than climate change over its tenure, and that it has allocated just $500 million over 15 years to develop low greenhouse gas emission technology (while every year spending $790 million on aviation fuel concessions and $1 billion on fringe-benefit tax concessions for company cars).

Howard's mantra that he takes climate change "seriously" - almost as seriously as Australian coalmining jobs - has little to do with what he plans do about it. His entrenched intransigence on climate change is best summed up by Barry Naughten, a former economist at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Writing in New Matilda, Naughten offered this damning appraisal of the Howard Government's methods: "A combination of demonising the notion of a 'carbon tax'; vague gestures toward pricing carbon (and only if carbon capture and storage is proved viable); vague talk of how technology will save the day; pro-nuclear rhetoric ignoring risks and the fact it is only a minor part of greenhouse gas mitigation; and refusal to accept binding targets on emissions until developing economies (with much lower per-capita incomes and emission levels) do so too."

According to the recent, much-publicised Stern report (the British Government's 2006 findings on climate change), each tonne of CO2 emitted causes damage worth at least $110 per tonne. Australia exports 230 million tonnes of coal that produces almost 600 million tonnes of CO2, which damages the global economy by $65 billion. black coal is Australia's largest commodity export, worth $24.5 billion in 2005-06, which pales into insignificance when compared with its true cost.

According to Naughten, this is the real reason John Howard ignores the world's scientists and the will of the people. "Australia's policy under the Howard Government has been to attempt sabotage, not just of Kyoto, but of any international climate change treaty or protocol that `works' - to the extent that such an arrangement adopted globally would reduce the profits of Australia's export coal industry," Naughten says.

Clearly, Howard has put the fossil-fuel industry before all else.

Yet, as `Greenhouse Mafia' whistleblower Guy Pearse told Four Corners: "I can't understand why an industry that generates 2% of our employment has got the keys to the greenhouse policy car." It's a good point. But will it be enough to see Howard removed from office in the coming election? Last October, 60% of Coalition voters rated the Government's efforts on climate change as insufficient; we can only hope they now rate climate change more seriously than they did in 2004.

1996 Howard Government elected.

1997 The launch of Safeguarding Australia's Future package, Australian Greenhouse Office and Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets. Australia signs Kyoto Protocol in exchange for being allowed to boost greenhouse emissions.

1998 It's revealed that the Australian Cabinet secretly decided not to sign Kyoto unless the US did so.

2000 A Senate inquiry report estimates direct fossil-fuel subsidies to be $2 billion per year, but with an extra $4 billion in "tax incentives, start-up grants, preferential purchasing agreements for oil, and biased market structures."

2001 The US refuses to agree to binding greenhouse emission cuts by failing to ratify Kyoto Protocol.

2002 On World Environment Day, John Howard announces Australia will join the US in refusing to ratify Kyoto Protocol.

2004 A Freedom of Information request reveals the Howard Government offered Southern Pacific Petroleum $36 million in subsidies if the mining company sued Greenpeace for hindering a proposed Queensland oil venture.

Securing Australia's Energy Future White Paper is released, including a $500-million fund for low emissions (not renewable) technology. Four Corners reveals the `Greenhouse Mafia' - a cabal of fossil-fuel industry lobby groups - helped to write it.

Greenhouse emissions rise 25% between 1990 and 2004 (land-use changes excluded). Australia still has world's highest per-capita greenhouse emissions.

2005 The Kyoto Protocol ratified as Russia signs agreement.

2006 Australia, US, China, India, South Korea and Japan launch Asia-Pacific climate pact. The Howard Government is found to have spent $1.5 billion on advertising, but only $670 million on climate change programmes.

Britain's Stern report on climate change is released.

Howard tells his party not to be "mesmerised by one report." Lowy Institute poll finds 68% of Australians believe climate change is a "critical threat."

2007 Howard labels ALP "climate change fanatics." Within a week, it's revealed that Treasury has made no detailed assessment of the economic impact of climate change, believing there is no urgent need to do so.

Target is the target for energy

Cooma Monaro Express
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 3

Cooma mayor Tony Kaltoum says he would welcome a target for the use of renewable energies in the Shire, providing that energy was available. The statement followed attendees at the clean energy community forum held in Jindabyne deciding on a target that they would like the Snowy River Council to meet.

Snowy River Mayor Richard Wallace has supported the target, which would see a 50 per cent reduction of energy use and 50 per cent renewable energy use by 2020. Cr Kaltoum said he would also agree with the concept if the resources were available.

"All we have in the region (for renewable energy) is Snowy Hydro electricity and that's only supplied in peak, so it's really about what energy is available," said Cr Kaltoum. "I'd like to meet with Dr Matthew Nott and invite him and Australian National University to Cooma to get their view and see what they have to say about renewable energy and how to go about it. "It would be great to have more people involved to make a constructive decision about our future - it's their country, their future and their kids' future," he said.

Snowy River Mayor Richard Wallace said he supported the renewable energy and reduction targets all the way, and hoped his shire could lead the way in tackling climate change. "The Snowy River Shire is taking an active role at reducing emissions and utilising renewable energy;' said Cr Wallace.

"This includes looking at all the latest up-to-date renewable energy for the council building additions, retrofitting the original building, using more fuel economic vehicles, solar town lights and we've approved wind farm policies as well. "We use too much energy and Australia is living above its means. If we start doing little things around the home, like turning lights off, there could be huge amounts of energy and economical savings," he said.

Spelling it out: Shire makes its Clean Energy message crystal clear

Bay Post
Wednesday 21/3/2007 Page: 1

DISMAL weather couldn't stop a thousand people become a human billboard on Saturday. It looked like a shamble of bodies from eye-level, but the sight from the air was crystal clear; planes overhead South Broulee Beach could hardly miss the message - LIFESAVING ENERGY.

The human sign was organised by Clean Energy for Eternity's Leslie Braman and Matthew Nott, who admitted they considered cancelling the gargantuan effort the night before. "I lay awake listening to the constant rain," Dr Nott said.

Both were on the beach at 7am to prepare for the crowds, and by 7.10am they were drenched to the bone. "The rain was heavy but people were so happy to be there," Ms Braman said. "It demonstrates people really are prepared to come out on a rainy day to make a statement about climate change," Dr Nott said- The human sign marked the launch of Clean Energy's campaign to have all local surf clubs equipped with solar panels and wind turbines.

Surf clubs will need $8000 each, but the environment will be spared three tonnes of carbon dioxide, per club, per year from then on. Eurobodalla Shire Council announced on Saturday that it would fund the campaign dollar for dollar at Narooma, Moruya, Broulee and Batemans Bay surf clubs.

Dr Nott was thrilled by council's positive attitude, and said that clean energy was an issue full of potential, not problems. "If we're pro-active, it's actually going to provide us with huge opportunities. It's a terrific solution to the dual problem of climate change and oil depletion," he said. Dr Nott said another human sign was planned in Melbourne in April and two simultaneous signs were scheduled in May on Bondi and Manly beaches.

Concerns raised at meeting

Ballarat Courier
Friday 23/3/2007 Page: 5

ABOUT 100 people attended a community meeting about proposed windfarms at Elaine and Lal Lal Estate last night. WestWind Energy plans to build about 70 turbines across two windfarms at Elaine and Lal Lal Estate. The turbines would be 140m tall.

Representatives of WestWind fielded questions from the crowd which packed the Lal Lal Community Hall. Some residents were concerned the development was a foregone conclusion. Others raised issues such as property values and visual impact.

Neighbouring resident David Turley, who is a landscape engineer, addressed the crowd about impact on the landscape. He encouraged people to have input on the project from the start. "It's very difficult to stop a windfarm proposal, but it's possible to have some positive input on its outcome," he said.

Moorabool Shire councillor Tom Sullivan, who chaired the meeting, said the planning application would be lodged with the State Government. However, he said the council would be involved in the project. The Yendon windfarm would have about 40 turbines, while there would be about 30 at Elaine. They would be 100m towers with 40m blades.

WestWind Energy spokesman Grant Flynn said it was early in the planning process, but hoped the community would be supportive. Lal Lal resident Engels Leoncini said he had no complaints. "My view will be obstructed by it. .. but it doesn't concern me at all because I think you've got to be looking after the planet."

Appeal lodged against farm

Ballarat Courier
Friday 23/3/2007 Page: 4

AN appeal against the Hepburn Shire Council decision to approve the Leonards Hill wind farm has been lodged at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. On February 20 Hepburn Mayor David Smith used his casting vote to approve a building permit for the two-turbine wind farm along the Ballan-Daylesford Rd.

The wind farm, proposed for a site about 10km south of Daylesford, is a project instigated by the community-based Hepburn Renewable Energy Association. The council received 18 objections to the wind farm which mentioned issues including noise pollution, visual impact, a reduction in land values, close proximity to houses, problems with shadow flicker and glint and possible effects on flora and fauna.

Council also received 325 submissions supporting the proposal.

Thursday 22 March 2007

Council in `change' first

Yarra Ranges Journal
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 11

ADDRESSING climate change will cost Yarra Ranges ratepayers less than the price of a "six pack of stubbies", Cr Len Cox says. In an Australian first, Yarra Ranges Council will make itself carbon neutral. At a cost of $790,000 a year, the council will plant 60,000 trees and buy renewable energy credits to offset the amount of carbon emissions produced by council buildings and vehicles.

Fed up with waiting for higher levels of government to seriously tackle climate change, Cr Cox proposed the radical move which gained unanimous support at last Tuesday's council meeting. "[Climate change] is standing there with big flashing lights saying do something about it. "There's no government at any of the three levels of government in Australia that's doing this," Cr Cox said.

The cost of becoming carbon neutral will account for less than 1 per cent of the council's annual budget and increase rates by an average $10. Cr Cox ranked the landmark declaration, alongside the Lillydale Lake development, as the council's greatest achievement.

While it will make a relatively small difference given the global scale of climate change, the council emphasised its strength as setting an example for other councils and governments. Cr Cox said the declaration would be publicised to other Australian councils and urged them to follow in their environmentally friendly footsteps.

Warburton residents, dressed in radiation protective suits, kicked off the climate change discussion at the meeting, calling on the council to declare the region nuclear-free. An expert panel will also be set up to advise the council on climate change issues.

Panel hearing on $145m Hawkesdale wind farm

Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 5

AN independent planning panel hearing into the proposed $145 million wind farm near Hawkesdale will be held mid-April. But Gamesa, the major partner in developing both the 31-turbine Hawkesdale wind farm and the Ryan Corner wind farm near Port Fairy. will no longer be involved in the project.

A panel hearing for the Hawkesdale project has been set down for April 11-12 and April 17-18. A Victorian Planning Department spokeswoman said a venue hadn't been decided but it was likely to be either Hawkesdale or Port Fairy. The dates for the panel hearing were set at a direction hearing in Port Fairy last Thursday.

Gamesa had an 80 per stake in the two wind farms but has been bought out by its minor partner, TME Australia, which like Gamesa has its home base in Spain. Gamesa's outgoing project manager. Neil Weston, said that as part of the sale Gamesa would continue to provide technical and engineering support to TME Australia for the Hawkesdale and Ryan Corner wind farms. The new project manager will be Adam Proctor from TME Australia.

Once the planning panel produces a report, a decision on the Hawkesdale wind farm will be made Victorian Planning Minister, Justin Madden. The 31 turbines will be set on seven properties across 2280 hectares. They are primarily along the Penshurst- Warrnambool Rd four kilometres south of Hawkesdale, and along the Woolsthorpe-Heywood Rd.

Moyne Shire's January meeting backed the $145 million wind farm - but wanted a 500-metre setback from two objectors' properties rather than the 150-metre setback originally proposed. A 500-metre setback would affect six of the 31 turbines. Gamesa had planned to talk to the two neighbouring objectors to see whether the six turbines could be sited elsewhere on the wind farm, but this will now be the task of TME Australia.

Windfarm Monitors

Crows Nest Advertiser
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 1

A committee has been formed to monitor and review the proposed wind farm development in Crows Nest and Rosalie Shires. Crows Nest representatives are mayor Geoff Patch, council CEO David McEvoy, Greg Suhr (participating landholder) and Gregory Fisher (nonparticipating landholder). Corresponding Rosalie Shire representatives are Cr Noel Strohfeld, Clinton Weber, Desmond Brown and Wendy MacDonald. Wind farm company Allco is represented by Angus Holcombe and Richard Finlay-Jones.

The committee held its first meeting at the Crows Nest council chambers on Friday afternoon. Cr Patch was elected chairman. Angus Holcombe (Allco) said since the issuing of the development consent order on December 18, the company had concentrated on achieving a power purchase agreement with a retailer in Queensland.

"As far as the operational parts of the development are concerned, we haven't completed anything else since that time," Mr Holcombe said. "The next stage of the process is a detailed engineering study to be conducted over the next three to six months." He said Allco was happy that the monitoring and review committee had been formed, as it would help to keep open the communication lines between stakeholders in the project.

No concerns had been expressed by landholder representatives.

Clean Energy report launched

Bega District News
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 2

THE Bega Valley Shire could become a leader in Australia on clean energy action with bright employment and tourism prospects, according to Derek Povel. Mr Povel was one of four speakers at the meeting at the Bega RSL Club on Thursday night to present the Clean Energy Action Plan for achieving 50/50 by 2020 in the shire which was prepared by the Clean Energy Working Group.

He said a small Austrian town of Guessing, with a population of 4,000, was an exciting example for the Bega Valley Shire. In 1989 Guessing began its bid to be the renewable energy capital of the European Union, hosting a series of renewable energy pilot projects.

Today, it is home to the European Centre of Renewable Energy and several major EU and nationally-funded research projects on energy conservation and renewable energy. Its objective is to become a model region that is self-sufficient in terms of heat, electricity and fuel supply and it is half-way there. Mr Poval said there had been 1,000 new jobs created in Guessing in 15 years.

The mayor of the Bega Valley Shire, Cr Tony Allen, chaired the meeting and speakers where Philippa Rowland, Bill Caldicott, Matthew Nott and Mr Povel. The working party report states that the goal is for all electrical power used in the Bega Valley Shire to be greenhouse gas neutral.

"There is no simple single solution to climate change. "Luckily there is a range of renewable technologies that can contribute rapidly to reducing our global greenhouse emissions. "It is predicted that in time solar power will be cheaper than coal power." The working party report says there is a need to take a long-term decision to invest in local generation and start the process to find a way to make that happen.

"The Bega Valley Shire already has an existing renewable energy industry. "Aside from the Eraring Hydro station, a series of businesses provide renewable energy installations, both stand-alone and grid interactive. "The renewable energy sector can incorporate a wide range of enterprises, from energy auditors through to providers of insulation, double-glazing, energy efficient building products, green design, etc.

"Opportunities exist for this industry to collectively or individually market themselves and firmly increase the status of their products or services to a higher end." The speakers encouraged political action to assist in the move towards a more sustainable future and clean energy. They said the most important thing is to be informed and to start acting now.

"The challenge of facing the future and working towards the best outcomes is energising and engaging. "You won't be bored and you won't be lonely, there are many people already doing what they can to turn the situation around, so join in and think creatively. "One of the major problems is the lack of leadership by our governments making it much harder for individuals to have an effect.

"Tim Flannery wrote that he would never cast a vote without first talking to the politician to find out what they think, what they are doing in their personal life and what their party policy is on climate change." The report exhorts people to put pressure on politicians, local, State and Federal, to take the lead with good policies.

For more information or to obtain copies of the action plan, write to:
Clean Energy for Eternity Working Group, c/- PO Box 874, Bega, 2550,
email or
visit the website

Clean Energy for Eternity also held a very successful screening of Al Gore's film `An Inconvenient Truth' on Saturday night.

Wind beats coal, nukes

MX (Melbourne)
Wednesday 21/3/2007 Page: 11

Taking advantage of a particularly gusty period, Spain's wind generators this week reached an all-time high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by all other means. Wind power generation yesterday rose to contribute 27 per cent of the country's total power requirement, the nation's electricity network authority. Red Electrica, said.

At that moment wind power contributed 8375 megawatts to the nation's power consumption of 31,033. Nuclear power added 6797 megawatts, while coal-fired power added 5081. National broadcaster TVE believed it may have been the first time wind power exceeded nuclear power's contribution to the power grid.

Synergy names renewable short list

Business News
Thursday 22/3/2007 Page: 23

STATE-OWNED energy retailer Synergy has named a short-list of five renewable energy tenderers to compete for the final supply contract or contracts for capacity totalling approximately 50MW. Synergy estimates a renewable generation project could potentially supply environmentally friendly power for more than 65,000 homes, the equivalent of keeping about 100,000 cars off the road each year.

The short-list is:
  • SpiritWest Bioenergy Pty Ltd (biomass - plantation waste);
  • Stanwell Corporation and Griffin Energy (wind farm);
  • Verve Energy (windfarm and/or biomass);
  • Waste Gas Resources Pty Ltd (land fill gas); and
  • Western Australia Biomass Pty Ltd (biomass - plantation waste).

Spain gets wind up

Thursday 22/3/2007 Page: 9

MADRID: Spain's wind energy generators this week reached an all-time high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by all other means, including nuclear, the nation's electricity network authority said. Wind power generation contributed 27 per cent, 8375 megawatts, of the country's total power requirement as of yesterday, Red Electrica said.

Nuclear power, the second largest contributor, added 6797mW and coal-fired electric generation 5081mW.

Winds of change hit Spain

Thursday 22/3/2007 Page: 14

TAKING advantage of a particularly gusty period, Spain's wind energy generators this week reached a record high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by all other means. At 5.40pm on Tuesday, wind power generation rose to contribute 27 per cent of the country's total power requirement, said Spanish company Red Electrica.

At that moment wind power contributed 8375 megawatts to the nation's power consumption of 31,033. Nuclear power, the second largest contributor, added 6797 megawatts, while coal-fired electric generation was next with 5081. National broadcaster TVE said it believed this may have been the first time wind power exceeded nuclear power's contribution to the power grid.

Over the course of last year wind power contributed 9 per cent of the nation's requirements while coal-fired power stations put in 24 per cent and nuclear power was responsible for 22 per cent. Spain has in recent years turned to harnessing wind power through the use of tall, slender electricity generating turbines located on remote hillsides.

Wednesday 21 March 2007

Nod on local wind power

Weekly Times
Wednesday 21/3/2007 Page: 27

VICTORIA'S first community-run wind farm has gained local council approval. Hepburn Shire has approved the Hepburn Renewable Energy Association's proposal to build two wind turbines on private land, at a cost of $8 million, within the shire.

What is different about this wind farm is that the initiative came from within the local community rather than a large company. HREA president Per Bernard said he was thrilled with the outcome, after two years' work. "There is real excitement in the local community. it is very empowering," Mr Bernard said. Extensive community consultation led to the formation of the HREA in 2005, which now has more than 400 members.

In partnership with renewable energy developer Future Energy, the community group put forward a detailed application after finding a site and planning the project. The two turbines are expected to provide enough power to supply up to 2500 homes when they are completed at the end of next year. HREA also won a $975,000 Victorian Government grant.

"We expect the remainder ($7 million) will be raised by investors: we will set up a co-op and issue a prospectus and shares," Mr Bernard said. "We are aiming for 50 per cent local ownership at the very minimum."

Future Energy's David Shapero said this was an example of a fantastic community effort. "This is exactly why (we established Future Energy), to get these community-owned projects off the ground," Mr Shapero said.

In contrast, some members of the local community of Smeaton, near Ballarat are upset Wind Power Pty Ltd is looking into building a 19-turbine wind farm. Leighton Evans, a farmer close to the proposed site at Stony Rises, was upset at the lack of community consultation. "It's not that we are against wind energy - we just don't want it here," Mr Evans said.

However, Wind Power Pty Ltd director Andrew Newbold said it was only "the first step in a detailed community consultation process".

Support for wind farm but more details sought

Warrnambool Standard
Wednesday 21/3/2007 Page: 7

BUFFER zones and studies into traffic and the environment have been requested by Moyne Shire before it throws its support behind a proposed wind farm near Port Fairy. Despite Mayor Gerald Madden's fears that farmland was being industrialised by turbines, he and six other councillors voted to support the project and `green' energy.

The $300 million project proposed by TME Australia on the Port Fairy- Hamilton Road spans 3600ha of grazing land. Planning and environment director Greg Anders told a special council meeting yesterday that the council officers supported the 68-turbine farm at Ryans Corner and requested detailed traffic and environment plans.

Mr Anders said the council suggested a 365m buffer zone, three times the turbines' height, to adjoining property boundaries and, where landowners agreed, to shorten the setback to 134m. He said a study into the brolga population and the impact a windfarm may have on the birds was hard to gauge because of the dry conditions.

Cr Ros Stewart said it sent a strong message to the Government and other councils that Moyne was fair dinkum about wind energy and making a better future. She said she was satisfied with the buffer zones and despite increased fire risks due to the project the CFA would be able to work effectively in the area. The council vote was 7-1 with Cr Jim Doukas voting against the project.

Climate change messenger

Adelaide Review
Friday 16/3/2007 Page: 34

Andrew Dickson only became a convert a few years ago, yet was chosen by Al Gore to be part of his hand-picked Australian team who are spreading The Climate Project word. The wind farm developer is one of nine South Australians, out of 84 messengers nationwide, who did three days of training with Al Gore in Sydney in November last year. Like the others, Dickson must give at least 10 presentations this year to organisations such as Lions Clubs, church groups and school groups or whoever else will listen.

Dickson is the development manager of the $250million Snowtown Wind Farm which has just started construction and, according to Dickson, will probably be the last project that will be built in Australia under the current federal government renewable energy target program, until new incentives or new government regulation is introduced. Construction by Indian company Suzlon Energy starts next month on the 42 turbines.

The wind farm was one of the catalysts which inspired Dickson's transformation into a climate change messenger from a person who, only a few years ago, admits he was unaware of envioronmental issues. Today, he speaks eloquently on the topic and is eager to learn more. "The more I learn about renewable energy and about climate change, the more I'm convinced that people need to change, society needs to change," he says.

"I'm no different to anyone else, you know. I just live a western consumerist lifestyle but I did it ignorant of the damage that lifestyle causes. Now I'm aware of it, I'm trying to change my own life and I'm trying to share the message with other people." However, it was the Al Gore documentary movie An Inconvenient Truth that made a critical impact on Dickson. "I'm very interested in sustainability and the environment in general - that's why I answered the call to become a climate change messenger. I saw the movie, I was very touched by it. I have an impulse to try and change my life. How can I do that? So I went there to learn more about it," he says.

As part of his own lifestyle change Dickson now cycles to work whenever possible and has switched to compact flouros for lighting in his home wherever it can be done, and has switched to green power. These simple changes are part of the climate change messenger's dictum.

Dickson sees the best case scenario for the planet as a stabilisation of increases in global temperatures to about two degrees above the historical average. The worst case will be rapidly increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, health impacts and extreme weather events.

So from the point of view of a renewable energy developer what needs to be done? Dickson says building standards have to be changed to provide homes that are more energy and water efficient. "The market itself will not necessarily change unless it's forced to. There is a role for government to do that." Climate messengers are a project by former American vice president Al Gore whose goal is to force America's hand on the issue of signing the Kyoto Protocol by changing Australia's stand on the agreement. Australia and America both have refused to sign the protocol which sets binding greenhouse gas emissions targets for countries that sign and ratify the agreement. Gore is training around 1000 people in the USA to be climate change messengers.

Energy giant heads overseas to trade carbon

Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 3

THE energy giant AGL has said it will become the first big Australian company to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, a move that may embarrass the Federal Government as it wrangles over climate change. The move will allow the company to profit from cutting greenhouse gas pollution in Australia, which it cannot do at home.

This will help AGL expand its renewable energy operations, including plans to build the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere at Macarthur in Victoria which will power about 190,000 homes.

AGLs managing director, Paul Anthony, told the Herald the company had invested almost $2 billion in renewable energy in the past 12 months. Mr Anthony said he hoped the board would soon agree to the big investment needed for the Macarthur wind farm. It has also just bought three "bio-mass" power stations in Queensland fired by, among other things, macadamia nuts.

By joining the Chicago Climate Exchange, AGL can market the cuts it makes to its emissions in Australia to less efficient companies around the world. "We see the landscape changing massively," Mr Anthony said.

"This gives us some opportunity to reap the reward of our investments to date in the absence of a scheme in Australia." For the past 10 years, the Howard Government has stalled on setting up a carbon trading scheme in Australia or ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which would allow companies to trade in the European carbon market.

Now Australian companies have no real way to measure the cost of greenhouse gas pollution caused by carbon intensive energy sources such as coal, oil and gas, except for the Chicago Climate Exchange, which puts the price at $US5 a tonne. As a result, if Australian companies make cuts in their emissions and invest in renewable energy they can find it difficult to reap an immediate reward for their efforts while polluting competitors who stick to coalfired power are not penalised.

Last year, the Prime Minister, John Howard, set up a taskforce to examine a carbon emissions trading scheme here. But while the taskforce is due to report in May, a fully operational scheme is likely to be years away.

AGL, the largest investor in renewable energy in Australasia, is putting big resources into cleaner gas generation. For the company, Canberra is moving too slowly. When Mr Anthony joined AGL from Britain last year, he was surprised how far behind Australia was in putting a cost on greenhouse gas pollution. But he thinks the world will soon force Australia to recognise the cost.

While AGL's signing up with the Chicago Climate Exchange will not have an impact on the cost of gas and electricity for its 4 million consumers, ultimately world markets such Chicago and the European carbon trading schemes are likely to push up the price of fossil fuel energy. "In any exchange worldwide there will be a cost of carbon and if you are a user of fundamental energy that uses carbon you can expect that to flow through," Mr Anthony said.

Last week, European leaders agreed to new targets by 2020. They include cutting carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels and boosting renewable energy use by 20 per cent, which Mr Anthony endorsed. "It's a very positive step," said Mr Anthony, who believes Australia needs a strong national target for renewable energy as an immediate priority. "That's usually the first building block in trying to reduce emissions." he said.

Renewable energy demand powers growth

Courier Mail
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 26

RPG Australia is on an aggressive growth path as it cements its position as a major steel processor making water pipes and now wind farm towers. The Wacol-based private company with 250 staff and $100 million plus turnover has just won a $20 million contract to manufacture 42 wind towers for a wind farm in Snowtown, South Australia.

The company has invested $20 million to acquire a manufacturing facility in Adelaide, plus a spiral mill, and both plants will be involved in the manufacture of the wind towers. These massive steel structures are 80m tall, as high as the Gabba light towers, and the company can build two of them in a week. All up the company is building 90 towers to meet its various orders, with current work in the pipeline until March 2008.

Barry Cox, managing director of RPG Australia, says this is a first for Queensland. "Part of our business makes large diameter steel pipes, which is the water infrastructure and we've just committed to a big spiral steel mill to position our self to be able to offer a similar product to Tyco," he says.

RPG Australia is one of the largest integrated steel processing companies in the country supplying steel infrastructure components for the water, road, rail, mining, defence, agriculture and general fabrication markets across Australia.

"Wind farming is here to stay and we took the strategic decision to position ourselves for growth in the renewable energy sector some time ago we're looking forward to manufacturing the first wind towers in Queensland.

"Adding wind tower manufacturing capability to our business has paid off earlier than we expected," Mr Cox says. "The infrastructure boom has brought record demand for steel products, and being able to offer an integrated service has been, and continues to be, a strong competitive advantage. "There is unprecedented demand from the infrastructure and mining sectors, and we need extra capacity to keep up with demand.

"We're building coal truck bodies for the mines in Western Australia and we've just finished a massive dam pipe project for NSW - the demand is coming from all over Australia." RPG has provided steel components for major projects including the Comalco Alumina Refinery, Dalrymple Bay piles for its expansion, Gladstone piling and head stocks, bridge construction for the Alice Springs to Darwin rail line, the Melbourne Cricket Ground upgrade and the Port Kembla Wharf expansion project.

Allco in $250m wind flutter Investments

Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 22

Allco Finance Group has agreed to buy $US200 million ($250 million) worth of wind energy assets in Germany and France as part of a plan to start a new investment fund. The wind farms would have a capacity of 112 megawatts, Sydney-based Allco said in a statement yesterday.

The firm entered partnerships with closely held German developers WPD and JUWI to purchase wind farms and energy projects. Executive chairman David Coe has eight wind projects under construction or operating in the US and Europe.

Allco is buying energy assets, aircraft and property to boost management fees and earn more from leasing. In December, the firm unveiled plans to build a $US2.5 billion wind energy project in California to take advantage of rising institutional demand for wind investments.

Allco had a global pipeline of development projects with capacity of more than 2000MW, said Steen Stavnsbo, head of the firm's wind energy business. The European purchases include three wind farms in Germany, with a capacity of 60MW, according to the statement. The agreement also covers eight wind energy projects in Germany and France totalling
48.5MW. Allco's shares closed down 3c yesterday at $11.05.

Assets under management held in investment funds rose 36 per cent to $6 billion in the six months to December 31. The California project, the largest wind farm in the US, will be 75 per cent funded by debt. Allco is in the process of inviting partners to join the venture. Edison International's Southern California Edison unit will buy the power produced by the plant.

The project is in Tehachapi, a rural region northeast of Los Angeles which has had wind turbines since the 1980s. In December, the global head of Allco's infrastructure business, Nick Bain, indicated that North American and Australian institutions would probably invest in a fund to develop the project with Allco.

The $US200 million investment announced yesterday includes construction costs for a 24MW wind farm in Tehachapi that will be operational by October. Wind power is gaining in popularity among utilities as the most cost-competitive form of renewable energy.

US power producers will spend more than $US4 billion this year to construct a record 3000MW of wind turbine generators, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The installations will top last year's 2454MW of wind turbines and bring the US total to almost 15,000MW. Allco is part of a Macquarie Bank-led consortium bidding $11.1 billion for Qantas Airways.

Energy giant to join US emission trading fund - Move may embarrass Canberra

Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 8

ENERGY giant AGL, has announced it will become the first big Australian company to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, a move that may embarrass the Federal Government as it procrastinates over climate change.

It will allow the company to agree to the big investment needed for the Macarthur wind farm. It has also just bought three "bio-mass" power stations in Queensland fired by, among other things, macadamia nuts.

By joining the Chicago Climate Exchange, AGL can market the cuts it makes to its emissions in Australia to less-efficient companies around the world.

Meanwhile, a report on the profit from its efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution in Australia, something it cannot do at home. The move will help AGL expand its renewable energy operations, including plans to build the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, at Macarthur in Victoria, which will power about 190,000 homes.

AGL managing, director Paul Anthony said the company had invested almost $2 billion in renewable energy over the past year and hoped the board would future of coal has urged US President George Bush to impose a "significant" charge on carbon dioxide emissions to encourage the development of "clean" coal technology and pressure India and China to slash pollution.

A new study by the respected Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America concludes that the risks of global warming are real. It urges US policymakers to take action to restrict carbon dioxide emissions. The study concludes that coal use is likely to increase and says governments need to develop commercial-scale clean coal technology as a priority.

For the past decade, the Howard Government has stalled on setting up a carbon trading scheme or ratifying the Kyoto agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, which would allow Australian companies to trade in the European carbon market.

The result is that Australian companies have no real way to measure the cost of greenhouse gas pollution, caused by- carbon intensive energy sources such as coal, oil and gas, except for the Chicago Climate Exchange, which puts the price at $US5 ($A6.25) a tonne.

If Australian companies make big cuts in emissions and invest in renewable energy, they can find it difficult to reap an immediate reward, while heavily polluting competitors are not penalised, Late last year, Prime Minister John Howard announced he was setting up a special task force to examine a carbon emissions trading scheme here. But a fully operational scheme is likely to be years away.

For AGL, the largest investor in renewable energy in Australasia, Canberra is moving too slowly. When Mr Anthony joined AGL last year from Britain, he was surprised at how far behind Australia was in putting a cost on greenhouse gas pollution. But he believes the rest of the world will soon force Australia to recognise that cost.

While AGL's move won't have an impact on the cost of gas and electricity for its 4 million consumers, ultimately, world markets and the European carbon trading schemes are likely to push up the price of fossil fuel energy.

Mr Anthony believes the Federal Government needs to set a strong national target for renewable energy as an immediate priority. "That's usually the first building block in trying to reduce emissions," he said. Currently, Canberra's renewable energy target sits at just 2 per cent.

Allco joining Europe's wind-farm market

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 20/3/2007 Page: 43

Allco Finance Group is increasing its investment in wind energy, making several new investments to secure a foothold in the European renewable energy market. The company has purchased four German wind farms from developer WPD AG for an undisclosed sum. Allco will take ownership of all but one of the farms immediately, with the final one to change hands later in the year.

When the deal is completed, Allco's wind energy division will have 64 megawatts (MW) to feed into the European market.

Hot on the heels of that deal is an in-principle agreement with JUWI GmbH to buy another eight wind farms in Germany and France, adding a further 48.5MW. Allco said it had eight wind projects under construction or in operation in the U.S. and Europe, plus a pipeline of developments in excess of 2000 MW.

Origin provides the way for Australian businesses to reduce their carbon footprint

Origin Energy
20 Mar 2007

Origin Energy (Origin), one of Australia’s leading energy companies, has launched a new Carbon Reduction Scheme offering Australian businesses an effective, efficient and flexible approach to reduce their carbon footprint.

Origin, one of the founding members of the Business Roundtable on Climate Change, sees this scheme as a proactive way of helping companies to focus on and effectively manage the reduction and offset of greenhouse gas emissions.

Origin’s Managing Director Mr Grant King said, “There is a heightened awareness that companies need to take action now to universally reduce our greenhouse gas impact. Origin has the expertise, experience and products to enable us to advise companies on improving energy efficiency, the effective use of lower emission energy and the management of offsets.

“The Carbon Reduction Scheme design is based on five key principles; credibility, transparency, affordability, flexibility and effectiveness. It draws on and extends existing mandatory and voluntary frameworks to ensure that participants can use one framework and apply it to national and international operations. Importantly, the scheme is cost effective, transparent and externally verified.

“This scheme also allows business to purchase carbon offsets that are sourced from abatement activities overseas. This is particularly attractive to companies with international operations.”

In developing the Carbon Reduction Scheme, Origin sought advice from the Australian Conservation Foundation, St James Ethics Centre and Energetics Pty Ltd.

The range of companies already supporting Origin’s Carbon Reduction Scheme demonstrates its flexibility and appeal. These companies include the National Australia Bank, Transurban, Lend Lease, Insurance Australian Group, Australian Football League, STA Travel and Intrepid Travel.

Mr King said: “Our foundation partners have committed to significantly reducing their carbon impact. I commend them for their action and commitment and we encourage other companies to consider how they can similarly reduce their carbon impact. Together, Australian business can make a truly significant contribution to our nation’s carbon reduction targets.”

The Carbon Reduction Scheme specifically allows for:
  • verification of voluntary carbon offset products and credits, allowing businesses to participate on both sides of the carbon market;
  • the offset of emissions from electricity, natural gas and LPG consumption, fleet emissions and air travel;
  • businesses to monetise their carbon reductions;
  • businesses to create innovative products and services by developing and delivering a wide range of “carbon offset” products for their customers; and
  • extending the reach and impact of reduction opportunities by providing products and services for participating businesses’ staff.
Origin’s Carbon Reduction Scheme can recognise a range of carbon reduction activities such as energy efficiency projects, renewable energy or low-emission generation, carbon sequestration and industrial abatement like fuel substitution.

It also provides customers with the certainty that all products on offer meet published and verified standards, particularly in ensuring that carbon credits are retired and cannot be used again.

Origin’s Chief Operating Officer, Mrs Karen Moses said: “We can offer Australian business advice, products and services complemented by our expertise in managing the trading, accreditation and compliance aspects of mandatory carbon schemes. We see this as a significant step in encouraging Australian business towards broad-based voluntary carbon reduction.”

“We encourage all organisations and individuals to think about what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint. As Australia’s leading green energy provider, we are always looking for new ways to work together for a sustainable future.” Mrs Moses said.

Media contact:
Tony Wood
General Manager Public and Government Affairs
Telephone: 03 9652 5506
Mobile 0419 642 098

Monday 19 March 2007

Wind gossip not the whole story

Great Southern Star
Tuesday 13/3/2007 Page: 8

INTERNET news and gossip site last week published a comment stating the Wonthaggi wind farm consumed more power than it produced 16 per cent of the time in June 2006.

"That may or may not be correct, but it's certainly not the whole story, Wind Power Pty Ltd spokesperson, Vaughan Hulme said. "When the winds are not blowing the facility consumes a small amount of energy. However in June 2006, the figure for the consumption of electricity was 0.132 per cent of generation.

"This electricity is required to run auxiliary services during periods when the wind is below the minimum cut-in speed of three metres a second." Mr Hulme said on average the facility used electricity that could have powered 12 homes, and generated enough electricity for 6400 homes per year.

Wind farm may ease water worries: Turbines could power desalination

Times Victor Harbor
Thursday 15/3/2007 Page: 7

A wind farm development near Myponga may help to ease the state's water worries. Both the state government and opposition are currently investigating the viability of developing a desalination plant to sustain Adelaide's water supplies, and decrease the city's reliance on the River Murray. The former oil refinery at Port Stanvac has been earmarked as a potential site, and the New Zealand developers of a wind farm near Myponga are putting up their hands to power up such a plant.

New Zealand company TrustPower's proposal to build a $60 million, 20-turbine wind farm on the hills in and around Mount Terrible, Mount Jeffcott and south of Sellicks Hill, was approved by the state government in November of 2003. It would be capable of producing about 60 megawatts of power, more than enough to power a nearby desalination plant.

However, since its approval the wind farm project has been in hiatus because the Federal Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target has not been extended, making it financially difficult for the wind farm to compete commercially with conventionally- produced electricity, according to TrustPower.

The government currently has a desalination plant in Western Australia under the microscope to see if the project could be replicated in South Australia. The Perth Seawater reverse-osmosis Plant, located in Kwinana (25km south of Perth) was opened November 2006. It supplies 17 per cent of Perth's water needs, and draws power from the new Emu Downs Wind Farm.

It is TrustPower's wish to similarly provide power to a desalination plant at Port Stanvac or at some location further south. The water produced could be pumped to the Myponga Reservoir, where it could enter the reticulation system. It would take about 29 months to build a desalination plant matching Perth's in South Australia, and 20 months to build a wind faun, if both projects were to go ahead. The wind farm would employ up to 30 people during the construction stage on the site, and once completed, would employ up to 12 people on an ongoing basis up to 12 people.

TrustPower is New Zealand's fourth largest electricity retailer, and in April will begin development of a $200 million wind farm near Snowtown. It also owns and operates the Tararua wind farm in New Zealand, one of the largest wind farms in the Southern Hemisphere.

A sensational rise...

Castlemaine Mail
Friday 16/3/2007 Page: 7

Climbing a 114m-high wind turbine accompanied by a helper who speaks no English may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Neil Barrett, Chairman of the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG), did just that on a recent trip to Europe to study renewable energy. He spent most of his time in Germany, a world leader in renewables, and said the German Government had been instrumental in kickstarting the sector.

"Through the 1990s the government made laws to favour renewable energy," he said. "The most significant was the so-called 'feed in law' which forces the big four energy utilities to buy renewable energy from householders or companies at a price much higher than they have to pay the coal-fired and nuclear producers.

"So for example, while wind power producers receive 14c per kwh, solar producers receive 85c and biomass producers up to 36c. "As a result of the feed-in law, there has been a boom in all three energy sources. Germany now has 30 per cent of world wind capacity, almost 60 per cent of world solar capacity and a significant proportion of biomass.

"It's an incredible performance for a country that has much less sunshine than ours and about the same wind and biomass potential." Neil spent time in four small towns, all of which were producing much more renewable energy than they needed and exporting the excess to the grid.

In many cases, he said farmers were building wind turbines on their land, putting solar photovoltaics on their barn roofs and using their crops to produce energy in methane generators. At the town of Dardesheim in the former East Germany he was fortunate enough to be asked to go to the top of a 114m turbine. "The first 100 metres was in a tiny lift but the last 14 metres was via a narrow ladder, to which I was tied by a sliding climber's lock," he said.


"When I finally popped my head out of the door at the top and stopped shaking, it was a sensational sight." He said the wind industry has been embraced in this town for the jobs, tourists and income it brings, which is spent on infrastructure and associations in the town.

"The Mayor is extremely proud that the town orchestra, which is supported by the wind farm, won a national award in 2006," he said. The real highlight of his trip was visiting Juhnde, a village of 700 people, heated by a biogas plant.

"Residents own the plant and local farmers supply silage and manure," he said. "In summer when heat is not needed the methane gas produces electricity which gives them a tidy income. The mayor described the building of the biogass plant as the greatest achievement of his life.

"The town is now independent of oil, farmers have another source of income and cooperative members are receiving an income from it. And around 4000 visitors are coming to this once sleepy village every year. "There's no question we can do similar things in our shire, and for much the same reasons as they're doing it in Germany. All we lack is a commitment from government. Something like Germany's feed-in law is essential if we are to achieve very much.

"When we feed solar-produced electricity back into the grid we are paid 14c by the retailer, compared to 85c in Germany. This is despite the energy retailers paying high prices per kwh to the coal producers to supply peak power in summer." He said MASG had plans to install a major renewable energy facility in or near the shire within the next three years, with much public involvement, financially and otherwise.

Taxing issue: time to legislate on emissions

Newcastle Herald
Saturday 17/3/2007 Page: 19

THE Australian Government says it will mandate the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents. This is just a small beginning. To reduce man-made carbon dioxide emissions there will need to be much more where this comes from.

Most political discussion about carbon dioxide emission reduction has been about carbon trading. The main argument for carbon trading is that it is economically efficient and it underpins the Kyoto Protocol. Trading is part of Kyoto because of a successful scheme in North America that reduces sulphur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain.

In carbon trading, a total carbon dioxide emission target is set for a power generator and over time this target is reduced. To meet emission targets a generator introduces lower emitting technologies (for example gas, wind, solar). If it subsequently emits less carbon dioxide than it is allowed it can sell this excess emission capacity to other generators.

But trading is not perfect. Every "exhaust pipe" has to be monitored to stop cheating so only the stacks of large emitters can be monitored. Trading also controls the total amount of emissions, but not the price of the emissions. Trading's explicit targets (for example, 10 per cent reduction) are superficially appealing. However, the price then depends on the scarcity of "excess emissions" from other emitters. And it's not just about emitters. The government regulator of the trading scheme sets the total emissions.

A carbon trading scheme in Europe has virtually collapsed this year after just three years because Eastern European members of the European Union increased their country's allowable emissions to attract industry. Europe now has more emission capacity than there are industry emissions. A carbon trading scheme in Australia run by the states - and under the constitution the states have the power, not the Australian Government - could easily suffer the same fate.

Even a federal scheme would be subject to industry lobbying for relief. Australia already runs a simple trading scheme called Renewable Energy Certificates. Electricity retailers are required to buy certificates generated by low emission household technologies.

Certificates work well for solar hot water systems. However, the recent compact fluorescent light give-away (when paying your electricity bill) collapsed because most people were not installing them, so there was no carbon dioxide saving to be traded.

Trading doesn't guarantee use of renewable energy sources. Until carbon reductions of more than 30 per cent are mandated, gas turbines are the most cost-effective alternative to coal. Only deeper cuts will force the use of more efficient but more expensive technologies.

A carbon tax might be better.

Emitters are charged a set rate for the carbon (that is, coal, oil, gas) they use. There is no guarantee how much emissions will be reduced but industry has certainty about their costs. There is also no need to monitor emissions so all emitters can be included, such as cars. We need only decide a price.

The recent nuclear energy review suggested a tax of about $40 per tonne of coal would make all electricity options (coal, gas, nuclear, wind and geosequestration) comparable. This would double electricity generation costs from three cents per kilowatt hour to six cents. Household consumers would pay about 30 per cent more. Power generators would contribute about $1 billion per year in NSW alone.

Some may see this as a tax grab by the states, but carbon income could offset tax reductions in other areas. Or it could subsidise installation of renewable energy, solar hot water, and home insulation. However, if consumers decide to pay the increased price, there may be no emission reductions at all.

The Greens suggest we should ban coal exports. This is silly. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning exported coal fall under the importer's Kyoto emissions targets, not ours. The proposed export ban also presumes that the coal will be burnt so that the carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. While largely true today, this may not always be the case, with geosequestration likely in the future.

How coal exports are used is not our decision. A decision on carbon abatement needs to be made soon or we might end up like Texas. Texas is facing an electricity shortage. Its power industry expects some form of emission controls but won't commit to new power stations until it knows what the controls will be. To avoid this fate it's time for either the Australian or state governments to take the initiative.

Using wind to get water

Canberra Times
Monday 19/3/2007 Page: 6

A WIND-DRIVEN device could provide an unlimited water supply by harvesting water from the air, says its Australian inventor. But critics are asking if it's too good to be true. Dr Max Whisson, a retired medical specialist turned inventor, says he has designed a highly efficient wind turbine that can run a refrigeration system to cool air and condense moisture from it.

The wind carries in the water and [provides] the power required to separate that water from the wind," Whisson, who is based in Perth, says. He says there is a huge amount of water in the atmosphere that is replaced every few hours. This means the whole world could just use water from the air without disrupting the environment. Whisson says the system would even harvest significant amounts of water in areas with low humidity. He says a 4sqm device could extract an average 75001 of water a day.

In his design, moisture laden air enters the system and is cooled by a drop in pressure behind the wind turbine blades, says Whisson. The air then flows into a chamber containing refrigerated metal plates covered by a non-wettable surface that causes water droplets to run off immediately into a collection point. Full technical details of the design are not available but at least one mechanical engineer is sceptical.

"I have found in general that inventors tend to enormously overstate the capacities of their devices. They just have a very rosy outlook on what their devices will do," mechanical engineer Professor John Reizes, an adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales, says. "It's not until you've made one that you discover all the problems." Reizes, who specialises in heat transfer, says he is sceptical because of the huge amount of energy that is needed to condense water.

Whisson says he is well aware that a large amount of energy is required to do the job. "It's like boiling a kettle in reverse." But he is confident his wind turbine, still subject to patent applications and yet to be independently tested, is efficient enough. The wind turbine is a surprisingly good development. I'm surprised because it performs so well," Whisson says. And he says the power generating part of the wind turbine can simply be increased to collect the wind power required for the condensation process.


Bats on the radar

Canberra Times
Monday 19/3/2007 Page: 5

Bats at risk of being killed by wind farms could be saved by the use of radars. Scientists at Aberdeen University studied the behaviour of bats at radar installations and found they didn't forage where electromagnetic radiation could be measured. "We think the bats either feel the heat of the radiation or can actually hear it," a researcher said. "This raises the possibility that radar could be used to deter bats from approaching wind turbines.

And so far this would appear to be the only real possibility of preventing bats colliding with turbine blades worldwide." Three years ago nearly 3000 bats were killed in a six-week period at a wind farm in the United States. A chance remark led scientists to explore radars as a potential deterrent to bats. A student said when driving to Aberdeen he would wedge his bat detector in the window of his car and listen for bats. He noticed every time he passed the Aberdeen Airport radar he could never hear any.