Friday 13 April 2007

Power glitches beaten

North Queensland Register
Thursday 12/4/2007 Page: 33

Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution (PTD) has signed a multi-year distribution deal with Australian company Powercorp to distribute its new power quality solution, PowerStore .

Developed and manufactured entirely in Australia by Northern Territory innovators, the PowerStore solution is the first technology of its kind in the world. Designed to absorb and source energy at exceptionally high speed, the product works to smooth all generation fluctuations to maintain utility quality electrical supply.

Steve Robinson, Siemens executive general manager power transmission and distribution, said the new product was a breakthrough for the wind generation and mining industries.

"PowerStore is a true power quality device and the first commercial solution on the market capable of large output." PowerStore addresses the problem of power fluctuation in grids, which is common, and most acute in soft grids, such as remote area isolated networks, mine site electrical distribution and community power supply. The problem also exists in large networks at the end of long distribution lines, at the interconnection point of wind farms and other critical nodes.

Link: PowerStore

Farmers to receive windfall

Bendigo Advertiser
Friday 13/4/2007 Page: 8

A $250 million wind farm planned for rural Victoria will help drought-proof struggling farms, the company behind the project says. The Victorian Government yesterday signed off West- Wind Energy's plan to build a 160-megawatt wind farm at Mt Mercer, 30 km south of Ballarat.

WestWind Energy plans to build 64 turbines on 2600 hectares of land, which crosses several farm properties. The firm's planning and business development manager, Tobias Geiger, said the project would help droughtproof farms for another two to three generations because of the extra income it would bring the farmers.

Each of the seven landowners will be paid up to $7000 per turbine built on their properties. "Obviously, for the landholders it's a great relief now that it has been approved because it will help them really drought-proof their activities," Mr Geiger said.

Farmer Ian Wylie, who will have 18 turbines built on his property, said the income would help him survive the drought. "It will just mean now being able to get through the drought without having to sell breeding stock, we will be able to buy more feed and keep things going along until the drought breaks," he said. "When the drought does break we'll be able to put in infrastructure so if it does happen again we won't be in strife."

Mt Mercer wind farm OK

Ballarat Courier
Friday 13/4/2007 Page: 2

The State Government approved the 64-turbine wind farm on the recommendation of an independent panel. The 160-megawatt facility, to be built on 2600 hectares of land at Mt Mercer, about 30km south of Ballarat, is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 73,000 hones. The site will also house a major service and maintenance centre for wind turbines in the region creating 12 permanent positions.

Planning Minister Justin Madden said the development, the 11th wind farm approved for Victoria, was an economic and environmental boon. The Mt Mercer wind farm will be a win for the environment, a win for jobs and a win for sustainable development in rural and regional Victoria," Mr Madden said.

"We expect this project alone to save more than 390,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year - that's 11.7 million 'black balloons' that would otherwise be floating up into the atmosphere." Mr Madden said the wind farm was expected to take between 12 to 18 months to install and create up to 120 construction jobs and 12 permanent positions.

The company behind the development, Westwind Energy, said it was "very pleased" with the approval. Business development manager Tobias Geiger said Westwind Energy was an Australian company but part of the German-based Westwind group of companies.

Mr Geiger said Westwind Energy had "generally" received strong support from the local community. He said the company would work to earn the trust of community members who still had reservations.

The Mt Mercer site is 8km of the Enfield State Park and 15km of Meredith, Rokewood, Dereel, Corindhap and Grenville.

Sustainable energy has powerful future

Friday 13/4/2007 Page: 8

Political clout, not technology, is hindering renewable energy systems, writes Mark Diesendorf.

OPPONENTS of renewable energy from the coal and nuclear industries, and their political supporters, are disseminating the fallacy that renewable energy cannot provide base-load power to substitute for coal-fired electricity. If this becomes widely accepted, renewable energy will remain a niche market rather than achieve its potential of being part of mainstream energy supply technologies.

Electricity grids are designed to handle variability in demand and supply and have different types of power stations - baseload, intermediate-load, peakload and reserve. A base-load station is, in theory, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and operates most of the time at full power.

In mainland Australia, baseload power stations are mostly coal-fired while a few are gasfired. Coal-fired stations are by far the most polluting of all power stations, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. Overseas, some base-load power stations are nuclear-powered.

An electricity supply system cannot be built out of base-load power stations alone. These stations take all day to start up and, in general, their output cannot be changed quickly enough to handle peaks and other variations in demand. They also break down from time to time.

A faster, cheaper, more flexible power station is used to complement base-load, handle the peaks and handle quickly unpredictable fluctuations in supply and demand. These peak-load stations are designed to be run for short periods each day. They can be started rapidly from cold and their output can be changed rapidly. Some peak-load stations are gas turbines (like jet engines) fuelled by natural gas.

Hydro-electricity with dams is also used to provide peak-load power. Some renewable electricity sources have identical variability to coal-fired power stations and so they are base-load. They can be integrated into the electricity supply system without any additional back-up. Examples include:
  • Bio-energy, based on the combustion of crops and crop residues, or their gasification followed by combustion of the gas.
  • Hot rock geothermal power, which is being developed in South Australia and Queensland.
  • Solar thermal electricity, with overnight heat storage in water or rocks, or a thermochemical store.
  • Large-scale, distributed wind energy, with a small amount of occasional back-up from a peak-load plant.
Moreover, energy efficiency and conservation measures can reliably reduce demand for base-load and peak-load electricity.

The inclusion of large-scale wind energy in the list may be a surprise to some people, because wind energy is often described as an "intermittent" source, that is, one that switches on and off frequently.

While a single wind turbine is certainly intermittent, a system of several geographically separated wind farms is not. Total wind energy output of the system generally varies smoothly and rarely falls to zero. Nevertheless, it may require some back-up, for example, from gas turbines.

When wind energy supplies up to 20 per cent of electricity generation, the additional costs of reserve plant are relatively small. For widely dispersed wind farms, the back-up capacity only has to be one-fifth to one-third of the wind capacity. Since it has low capital cost and is operated infrequently, it plays the role of reliability insurance with a low premium.

Of course, if a national electricity grid is connected by transmission line to another country (for example, as western Denmark is connected to Norway), it does not need to install any back-up for wind, because it buys supplementary power from its neighbours when required.

By 2040, renewable energy could supply more than half Australia's electricity, reducing greenhouse emissions from electricity generation by nearly 80 per cent. In the longer term, when solar electricity is less expensive, there is no technical reason to stop renewable energy from supplying 100 per cent of grid electricity. The system could be just as reliable as the dirty, fossil-fuelled system that it replaces.

The barriers to a sustainable energy future are neither technological nor economic, but the immense political power of the big greenhouse gas polluting industries - coal, aluminium, iron and steel, cement, motor vehicles and part of the oil industry.

Dr Mark Diesendorf is the director of Sustainability Centre, senior lecturer in environmental studies at the University of New South Wales, and a member of the Energy- Science Coalition. His new book, Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, will be published by UNSW Press next month.

Extreme heat and cold could spark blackouts

Friday 13/4/2007 Page: 7

VICTORIA faces the prospect of power shortfalls next summer if winter proves unusually dry and cold and the coming summer unusually hot. Industry insiders warn that booming demand and a lack of hydro power has left the state vulnerable to power station shutdowns and heat waves.

The National Electricity Market Management Company, which controls the power grid, predicts there would not be enough energy to cope with a one-in-10-year heatwave combined with a major plant failure next summer. The Age understands that NEMMCO raised the issue in a private briefing to electricity generators this month.

Projections posted on the company's website show Victoria will be short of reserve capacity - needed to prevent blackouts during an extreme summer demand surge - by up to 230 megawatts in February and March 2008. NEMMCO chief executive Les Hosking said the prediction was a "first step in a lengthy planning cycle", with a number of options to generate more power before the summer.

But Melbourne-based electricity expert Michael Zammit, whose company runs multimillion dollar demand management programs for the NSW Government, warned that a cold, dry winter leading into a hot, dry summer could have a "devastating" impact on Victoria, NSW and Queensland.

"There would be absolutely no doubt in my mind that there would be rolling blackouts," Mr Zammit said. "We just haven't had enough generation capacity built to keep up with demand." Industry Minister Peter Batchelor said there had been huge investment to increase the state's power supply. "The Government is confident that electricity demand can be met this summer," Mr Batchelor said.

He said that since Labor came to office, Victoria's power capacity had increased by 2000 megawatts, with the upgrade and completion of several power stations, wind farms and the Basslink cable connecting Tasmania with the mainland.

Far from supplying Victoria with cheap hydro power as promised, drought-stricken Tasmania is now using the Basslink cable to import coalfired electricity from the mainland to avoid power rationing over winter. That means one of Victoria's key power transmission safety valves is effectively not operating.

Concern about the power supply follows revelations in The Age yesterday that hefty increases to household power bills are near certain, with wholesale prices up by more than 70 per cent during the past 12 months.

Ballarat wind farm approved

Friday 13/4/2007 Page: 2

THE State Government has approved another wind farm for Victoria - this time on a sheep fans near Ballarat. The 64-turbine facility will be built by WestWind Energy on a 2600-hectare property at Mt Mercer and is expected to generate power for more than 70,000 homes.

Planning Minister Justin Madden said the $250 million project would provide substantial economic benefits and slash 390,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Mt Mercer is the 11th Victorian site approved for wind fauns, with four now operating.

German-owned WestWind Energy has a proposal for a second wind farm north-east of Mt Mercer, which is still waiting for planning approval. The new wind farm is expected to play a key role in meeting the Government's Victorian Renewable Energy Target which requires energy retailers such as Origin Energy and TRUEnergy to purchase 10 per cent of power from renewable sources by 2016.

But the Government's "obsession" with wind farm technology has been criticised by Landscape Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy, who said Victoria should be investing in geothermal energy.

A day after the Government announces a huge hike in electricity costs, they throw more of Victoria's money through the $2 billion wind subsidy program at an energy source that is proven to be unreliable and more expensive," Mr Le Roy said. About 30 houses are within a three-kilometre radius of the proposed wind farm and residents argue the sight and sound of the 100-metre-high turbines will significantly reduce their land values.

Thursday 12 April 2007

70% Of Navarra's Power Comes From Wind, Solar

The region of Navarra, in Northeastern Spain, better known in the U.S. for the “running of the bulls” in Pamplona. But in this region, approximately 70% of the electricity comes from the wind and the sun. With no coal, oil or gas of its own, this mountainous region deliberately went for renewable energy in the late 1980s.

The first wind farm was built in full view of the regional capital Pamplona, so that people could get used to it. Now, with some 1,100 windmills dotted all over Navarra, this tiny region is capable of generating more electricity from renewable sources than big EU countries like France or Poland. Navarra plans to reach 100% renewable energy generation by 2010.

Quoting Oana Lungescu (BBC News): “In a growing trend in Spain, the solar park is a co-operative, with 750 individual owners. The cost of a panel starts at 50,000 euros, but with a tax break from the regional government and a guaranteed annual income there is a long waiting list of willing buyers”.

Natural N power `just 3 years away'

West Australian
Thursday 12/4/2007 Page: 12

People could be using "green nuclear" energy in their homes within three years as entrepreneurs rush to produce zero-emissions electricity. Geodynamics Ltd told the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday it had sped up plans to harness the heat generated by natural nuclear activity deep beneath the country's central desert.

The company plans to pipe high-pressure hot water from the granite bedrock 4km beneath the Queensland-South Australia border, where the slow decay of potassium, thorium and uranium generates temperatures as high as 3000.

"The granite is hot because of the natural nuclear activity in there," chief executive Adrian Williams said. "It's green nuclear." Dr Williams expects the Geodynamics to send electricity to the national power grid by 2010 and later directly to western Sydney. By 2015 it could produce as much power as the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme.

Some scientists say hot-rocks technology could deliver huge volumes of economically viable power, thanks to the continent having the hottest and most geologically favourable granite deposits on Earth. "There's enough energy to run the country for thousands of years," said Prame Chopra, a scientist who sits on the Geodynamics board.

According to a conservative estimate by the Centre for International Economics, Australia has enough geothermal energy to meet electricity consumption for 450 years. The industry has strong backing in Canberra. "I've been a fan for a long time," Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane said yesterday.

The granite in South Australia's Cooper basin contains "fractures" that hold super-hot, high-pressure water. It could power a steam turbine then recycle water back into the bedrock for reheating. The hotter the water, the more efficiently it can be converted into electricity.

Australia is home to the world's six listed hot fractured rock geothermal energy companies. One, Petratherm, recently signed a memorandum of understanding to supply geothermal electricity to SA's Beverley uranium mine by late 2009. Torrens Energy, which listed on the stock exchange three weeks ago, is exploring hot sites near Adelaide.

The main impediment to the renewable energy industry is that the nation's electricity is among the cheapest in the world, thanks to huge deposits of coal. But geothermal energy is set to be economically viable after a moderate cost is imposed on greenhouse gas emissions.

Geodynamic, aided by $11.8 million in Federal grants, said it would produce one megawatt of electricity for about $45 an hour compared with coal power of about $35. Prime Minister John Howard's task force on nuclear energy estimated the cost of nuclear energy at $40-$65,"clean coal" at $50- $100 and photovoltaic solar energy as high as $120.

Wind turbines `will not change' Moyne

Warrnambool Standard
Thursday 12/4/2007 Page: 10

WIND turbines being proposed for a development near Hawkesdale will be invisible from the Tower Hill lookout and a landscape expert believes the 31-tower project won't change the character of Moyne Shire.

Landscape architect Allan Wyatt told a panel hearing yesterday that strategic tree plantings would reduce the visibility of turbines from most neighbouring houses. Mr Wyatt, an expert called by TME Australia, the company proposing the $145 million project, said surveys conducted around the world found about 70 per cent of people were in favour of wind farms. He said the acceptance by neighbours rose once construction was completed.

Mr Wyatt said when ranking the visual impact turbines would have on an area flat rural landscapes rated low because such land was so abundant. Also, because the wind farm would not be visible from any highways in the region it was not considered to be a significant change to its characteristics, he said.

The turbines will be twice the size of existing 65m transmission towers and the closest turbine will be only 2.6km from Hawkesdale. Despite the town's proximity to the farm the turbines will barely be seen because of trees screening the towers, he said.

However, Mr Wyatt conceded most homes built outside of town and positioned to the south of the wind farm had few trees screening the development and the turbines were highly visible. Plantings to screen properties south side may reduce natural light, he noted.

Mr Wyatt told the expert panel he did not believe 1000-metre setbacks between turbines and properties were necessary. He said that from his experience strategic tree plantings could minimise views of the farm.

The expert panel will sit at the Port Fairy Yacht Club today from 10am to continue hearing the company's submission. The three-member panel will prepare a report and a recommendation, both of which will be considered by Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden later this year.

Councillor issues carbon challenge

Border Watch
Thursday 12/4/2007 Page: 7

COUNCILLOR Michael McCourt has issued a challenge to Wattle Range Council to go green. In a move that could put Wattle Range Council at the forefront of utilising renewable energy sources, Cr McCourt urged council to source ways for the ballot to become carbon free.

Included in discussions at council's Tuesday night meeting was the option of using bio-diesel in waste management vehicles. "It is very much a current issue at the moment," Cr McCourt told council. "I think there is an opportunity for council to look at the challenge of becoming a zero carbon ballot." Cr McCourt acknowledged the high costs involved, but urged council to seek other ways to improve carbon within the council's borders.

Mayor Mark Braes supported the challenge, but said council would not jump into any transformation that would cause costs to rise dramatically. "I don't think council, while I have been involved, has really looked at that in detail." Mr Braes said. "We are not going to jump into anything that will cause a dramatic rise in costs." The challenge to go green also drew personal comment from Mr Braes about an alternative power source, nuclear power, in which he clearly stated his position on the nuclear debate.

Mr Braes said he would only consider nuclear energy as a last resort and would prefer money to be spent seeking greener avenues. "I have said publicly that nuclear energy should be a last resort," Mr Braes said. "I think nuclear energy is a long way off and I would rather money was invested in renewable energy."

Australia must take carbon lead, says HK utility

Thursday 12/4/2007 Page: 23
Andrew Trounson

ONE of Asia's biggest power utilities has urged Australia to take a regional lead in putting a price on carbon emissions, ahead of major emitters China and India.

Hong Kong-based China Light and Power head of environmental affairs Gail Kendall said Australia, as a key developed country, had a responsibility to drive efforts to cut emissions in Asia. But she said that in the longer term moving early would give the country a competitive edge, as the world inevitably moved to a low-carbon economy.

In Australia to promote CLP's expanding portfolio of renewable energies, such as wind power, Dr Kendall said coal would remain a major energy source into the future and that the commercialisation of so-called clean coal technologies was "critical" to cutting global emissions.

CLP has also identified natural gas, which emits half the greenhouse emissions of coal, as a key transition fuel, and the utility is now planning to build a liquefied natural gas receiving terminal in Hong Kong which could be in production soon after 2010. That could provide yet another opportunity for Australian gas producers. "Australia is in a position to move ahead of developing countries like China and India, and it is the responsible thing to do," Dr Kendall said.

For CLP, which supplies energy to 1.1 million Australians through its TRUEnergy business as well as owning power plants and wind farms, Australia also presents an early opportunity for it to adapt its own business to a low-carbon economy.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, most of Asia was excluded from targets to cut emissions, and the region's problems in having to tackle poverty and drive economic development mean much of the burden to cut emissions and develop new technologies will fall on developed countries. "Australia's economy needs to be competitive on a low-carbon basis and that also will be true of our business in the long run, so we can definitely learn from our experience here," Dr Kendall said.

In its submission to the Prime Minister's task force on emissions trading, CLP's TRUEnergy said inaction on cutting emissions was now "simply untenable" for governments and urged the creation of a domestic trading scheme irrespective of efforts to create a centralised system.

Dr Kendall said the Government needed to start putting a price on carbon to provide certainty for power companies to go ahead with new investment in generation capacity. She said industries that might be seriously disadvantaged could be compensated to maintain their competitiveness with Australia's Asian neighbours. "In Australia an emissions trading scheme could be very effective in promoting the dramatic reduction in emissions that are needed over the long term," she said.

CLP currently sources about 2.6 per cent of its power from renewable energy, excluding its major hydro projects in China, and is aiming to raise that to 5 per cent by 2010. More than half its renewable portfolio is weighted to wind power, and in Australia it has an equal stake with Hydro Tasmania in the Roaring 40s wind power business.

But Dr Kendall said government subsidies were key to the development of otherwise high-cost renewable energies, and that the failure of the federal Government to expand its so-called Mandatory Renewable Energy Target had forced Roaring 40s to shelve two projects. Dr Kendall said strong growth in renewables would be needed to combat emissions, but she said significant coal and natural gas would also still be needed to supply the world's rising power demand, with nuclear also set to play a role.

According to a scenario study by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, if the world is to cut emissions back to 2000 levels by 2050, as advocated by the consensus of scientific opinion, the uptake of renewable energies will have to grow by 11 per cent a year. But that scenario also assumes coal use rising 50 per cent during the period to 2050, with half that coal capacity using technologies to capture and store carbon emissions.

Over the same period, the use of gas is assumed to triple to overtake coal as the largest fossil fuel powering electricity generation, while the size of the world's nuclear industry is assumed to also triple.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

Support for wind farm

Albany & Great Southern Weekender
Thursday 5/4/2007 Page: 4

Plantagenet ratepayers have thrown their support behind a proposal to establish a wind farm near Mt Barker. All of the 48 submissions to Shire of Plantagenet on the rezoning of farmland north of Mt Barker for the windfarm supported the project.

Shire CEO Rob Stewart said SkyFarming Pty Ltd's proposed three turbines would generate an equivalent amount of electricity to that used by the town. The rezoning amendment has been forwarded to the Western Australian Planning Commission for approval.

Greener energy on way

Melville Times
Tuesday 10/4/2007 Page: 12

Synergy has announced a shortlist of five tenderers to compete for the final supply contract or contracts. Synergy managing director Jim Mitchell said a new generating plant using renewable energy sources would need to be built in WA by the successful tenderers and be connected to the southwestgrid.

"This project could potentially supply environmentally-friendly power for more than 65,000 homes and will reduce the overall greenhouse gas intensity of our power supplies," Mr Mitchell said. "It is the equivalent of keeping about 340,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions out of the environment each year, or the equivalent of keeping about 100,000 cars off the road each year.

"The construction and operation of one or more renewable energy generation plants will provide ongoing skilled employment opportunities." The short-listed tenderers are SpiritWest bioenergy Pty Ltd (biomass - plantation waste), Stanwell Corporation and Griffin Energy (wind farm), Verve Energy (wind farm and-or biomass), Waste Gas Resources Pty Ltd (land fill gas) and Western Australia Biomass Pty Ltd (biomass - plantation waste).

Lai Lai turbine plans sent out

Ballarat Courier
Wednesday 11/4/2007 Page: 3

MAPS showing the first released layout of a Lal Lal windfarm have been sent out to about 300 landowners. West Wind Energy has finished preliminary planning for the windfarm and is now working on detailed environmental and technical studies.

A planning permit application is expected to be submitted to the State Government within six months. The proposed Lal Lal windfarm will be split into two sections, one north of Elaine and the other east of Yendon and include between 70 and 80 wind turbines.

Landholders and people who have expressed an interest in the proposal will receive the neaps of the first release of the windfarm's layout and a newsletter providing updates on the project in the mail this week.

A community open day will also be held later this month at the Lal Lal Community Hall. WindWest business development manager Tobias Geiger said the meeting was a chance for people to get first-hand information about the windfarm and identify important viewpoints in the area.

The visual impact is something we address normally by showing photo montages from a number of viewpoints," he said. It gives people a better impression of what it's going to look like and how it's going to affect the landscape in general." Mr Geiger said the visual impact of wind turbines was in the eye of the beholder.

For everyone who doesn't like the look, there's seven or eight who like the look of them," he said. A monitoring mast will be installed on the site in the next couple of weeks to calculate noise and shadow flicker. Mr Geiger said the windfarni was not a "foregone conclusion".

If there is a good reason why we can't meet the local planning scheme or a serious environmental concern or a problem with a guideline, then the project won't be approved," he said. At this stage, we couldn't identify any issue that might be called a 'show stopper'."

The community open day will be held at the Lal Lal Community Hall, Clarendon Rd, Lal Lal on Wednesday, April 18 from 2pm to 8pm.

Tuesday 10 April 2007

Local solutions for global issues

Great Southern Star
Tuesday 3/4/2007 Page: 4

MORE than 60 people gathered at Inverloch's Angling Club Hall to watch a presentation of Al Gore's climate change message recently. This was delivered as part of the South Gippsland Conservation Society's AGM. Attended by society members from throughout the region, together with interested visitors, the meeting addressed issues that are fast-becoming mainstream in our society.

For most of us, the unprecedented water restrictions currently in place in South Gippsland have prompted new approaches to living in a sustainable way, such as installing rainwater tanks and recycling water. It is possible that the increased public discussion about energy options for the future, could have the same effect.

Addressing issues such as these is not new for members of the South Gippsland Conservation Society. Particularly John Gunson, the society's vice president, has been an active member for almost 20 years. He says that while he was not always involved in conservation, activism has always been a central focus of his life.

"We cannot fight every issue, because there's so much going on in the world, but I've always done what I can at the time for whatever issues were surrounding me," John said. Conservation became his focus when, with wife Shirley, John moved to South Gippsland in 1989.

"We started out as members of the Foster branch where, after about five years I became president;' John said. "During the Kennett years, as the leader of the branch, I played a major role in struggles such as Hands off the Prom, and Pacific Oyster Aquaculture in Corner Inlet.

"Winning the Hands off the Prom battle was quite unusual because we were up against the premier of Victoria, who was dedicated to major tourism, and establishing a hotel at Tidal River. "Such a development at Wilsons Promontory would have spoiled a lot of vegetation" John says that this period of time offered him a great deal of experience in conservation. "During the Hands off the Prom issue I was involved in countless radio and television interviews;' John said.

"Even though I was new to conservation at that time, I'd already had a lifetime of activism during my many years living in Melbourne." John says he has always believed in support to local issues as heavily as global issues. "I believe in the saying 'think globally, act locally'," John said.

"Whether it's an issue relating to whaling, or even old growth forests, there's only so much we can do locally, so I've always paid my membership fees for the international societies, knowing that every little bit helps." John and his wife Shirley are long-time members of the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Victorian National Parks Association, Environment Victoria, and supporters of groups such as Trust for Nature, Greenpeace, Bush Heritage Fund, Wilderness Society and the National Trust.

In a world he describes as being driven 'largely by economics and advertising at every level', John says he can understand why people have difficulty being motivated by conservation. In recent years, the society has held two public climate change forums, with about 200 people attending its most recent forum in June last year.

"I think this tells us that people are interested in finding out about what's happening and how they can help, take this year's unprecedented water restrictions for example, people will readily change their actions if directed to do so. "For this reason, I think we lack leadership from our politicians in this area" John said he felt that while the Federal Government had 'finally, and reluctantly' acknowledged climate change as a real issue, in his opinion, 'they're not doing much about it.

"People just assume that the way they're living is the best way to live because no higher regulations, in terms of energy usage, for example, exist. "I think this could be changed quite easily with a little more leadership" John says that, as far as energy is concerned, the coming 10 years are critical'.

"Clean coal will take 10 years, as will nuclear energy, and the truth is, we don't have 10 years to act, it's all about what we do now" John said. "I believe that renewable energy is the partial answer right now; while there's arguments about it being subsidised and therefore more costly, this is nonsense. "All energy is subsidised and anyway, this is beside the point if the world is going to be in trouble."

The South Gippsland Conservation Society and that most people still hope someone else will take action, but there's definitely change taking place.

"It's rarely simple and straightforward;' John said. "For example, with the Bald Hills wind farm issue, we were in favour of renewable energy, however we proposed that the towers not be placed too close to the Bald Hills Wetland Reserve"

As population levels in the coastal towns of South Gippsland slowly rise, John says, membership of the society too remains steady. "I don't think the conservation movement is mainstream yet, there's no flood of people joining the movement;' John said.

"For example, every local government office now has environment workers and within the government there's a sustainability department, both of which were not in place a few decades ago" A clean-up Wonthaggi day, being organised by the secondary college's conservation group, will take place next Tuesday, April 10.

Those wishing to join students on the day should meet at the Guide Park at 10.30am, and bring plastic bags for rubbish. For more details about joining the society, call the Bunurong Environment Centre, Inverloch. on 5674 3738.

Skills sought

Hamilton Spectator
Thursday 5/4/2007 Page: 18

THE developer of the Oaklands Hill wind farm has urged Glenthompson and district residents to register for employment during construction of the facility. The developers, Investec Bank and Windlab Systems. expect more than 60 jobs to he created during the 12-18 month design and construction phase.

The joint venture spokesman, Mark Headland, urged anyone with skills that might he useful during the construction phase such as with earthmoving equipment and gravel to register with the company at

"The names and skill base will be included in a database provided to the company that will eventually be selected to design and construct the wind farm." He said the $180 million wind farm, incorporating 43 turbines, would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 364,000 tonnes annually.

The developers hope construction of the turbines will begin in 2008 and the wind farm commissioned in the first quarter of 2009.

Verve Energy meeting challenges

Weekend Courier - Rockingham
Friday 6/4/2007 Page: 27

PLANT reliability, financial performance and climate change are some of the biggest challenges facing Verve Energy, according to acting chief executive Ken Bowron. Speaking on Verve Energy's first anniversary Mr Bowron said community attitudes and expectations were changing, and that Verve, which ran Cockburn and Kwinana Power Stations in Kwinana, would change with them.

"Verve Energy will improve its environmental performance and work towards carbon neutrality," he said. "While our commitment is genuine, our strategies to improve our environmental performance will take time to show results.

"With our diversity of generation options - coal, gas, liquids and renewable energy Verve Energy is better placed than many other generating utilities to move with the times." Mr Bowron said Verve Energy was shutting down old, inefficient generators; improving efficiency of its power stations; pursuing renewable electricity projects such as wind farms, wind, diesel and biomass; supporting the introduction of a carbon trading regime and sponsoring clean coal technology research.

He said while Verve Energy welcomed the competition of the electricity market and the freedom to concentrate on getting its generation right, the first 12 months as a stand-alone electricity generation business had been challenging. While plant reliability was poor for the first eight months, Verve passed with flying colours during the summer, Mr Bowron said.

Power of good at Scarsdale

Ballarat Courier
Saturday 7/4/2007 Page: 6

NOT only are Peter and Stephanie Bell doing their bit for the environment, but they also never have to worry about electricity bills. With so much talk of climate change, everyone is thinking about their ecological footprint. The Scarsdale two are determined to make theirs as small as possible.

A small wind turbine on top of their house combined with solar panels is enough to keep their house going almost all year routed. A back-up generator means they are not even connected to the electricity grid.

"We run the generator probably twice a year in winter," he said. "We've got enough power in the batteries to probably do without sunshine for about seven days." The Bells moved to their Scarsdale property about 20 years ago.

They raised four children using the power from four small solar panels. About three years ago they added another six panels and the turbine. Our initial system got us enough power to keep the house going,"

Peter said. If the kids wanted to run the computer to do their homework they had to turn the television off- which wasn't a bad thing. "Now that we've upgraded the system we can run anything off it - I even run power tools in the shed."

Anyone thinking of installing a turbine should contact their council, however. A Golden Plains Shire spokeswoman said some homes needed a permit, depending on a variety of factors.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bells' turbine is smaller than their aerial and creates very little noise. Peter said most of his neighbours were also using alternative energy and hopes the idea catches on. "We're not doing anything special, but we think it's the way to go," he said.

Climate: the peril we face

The Australian
April 07, 2007
Leigh Dayton, Science writer

NEARLY a third of the world's plants and animals face extinction, billions of people will be affected by water shortages, and countries across Asia and Africa will be racked by disease and starvation under alarming global warming forecasts made last night by the world's leading climate experts.

The assessment, made by the 2500 scientists who comprise the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, paints the most disturbing picture yet of the damage the world can expect from global warming. Depending on how quickly the planet heats up, vulnerable species could begin disappearing as early as 2030. Australian biodiversity is projected to decline by 2020 at sites such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and sub-Antarctic regions including Macquarie Island.

Draft versions of the summary of the IPCC report, which contains the dire predictions, were fiercely disputed during a week of tense negotiations, ending with a marathon 24-hour session. Publication was delayed after the US, China and Saudi Arabia objected to the toughly worded text, delegates said.

The Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, released last night in Brussels, sets out scientists' predictions for the impact on the planet, its plants and animals if the IPCC's earlier forecast of a 1.1C-6.4C rise in global temperatures by 2100 proves correct.

It predicts that millions of people -- mostly in the poorest regions of the world -- would suffer malnutrition, disease, and increased untimely death rates because of heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts. The productivity of the world's oceans is likely to plunge, as seas become acidic, with today's coastlines vanishing as sea levels rise and increasingly fierce storms lash the shores.

Agricultural systems are expected to change dramatically, as parts of the planet become too hot or too cold for traditional crops. And glaciers providing fresh drinking water to people in the most populated parts of the world, such as Bangladesh, would disappear, leaving nothing but thirst.

"Roughly 20-30 per cent. .. of species assessed so far are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction if global mean temperatures exceed 2-3C above pre-industrial levels," a draft of the report says. "By 2080, it is likely that 1.1 (billion) to 3.2 billion people will be experiencing water scarcity."

The push to extinction -- caused if global average temperatures rise as little as 1.5C above 1990 levels -- would come in response to the reduction or loss of habitat critical to species which can survive only in specific environments.

In Australia, highly adaptable species such as cane toads, cockroaches and some kangaroo species would probably cope, said Andy Pitman, a climate scientist with the University of New South Wales. "But species that lack tolerance to climate like some small possums and koalas -- the cute ones -- would not (survive)." By 2050, flows into the Murray-Darling Basin could fall by 10 per cent to 25 per cent and coastal sea levels could rise by 18-59cm. Even the Australian ski season would be shortened.

However, it is the poorer tropical countries -- the least to blame for the fossil-fuel pollution that scientists say drives global warming -- that will be worst hit. The report is the second of four volumes that comprise the panel's fourth assessment of global warming. Its review of the science of climate change was released in February, with a report on mitigation options and a synthesis report due in coming months.

More than 2500 scientists contributed to the fourth assessment, among them 15 Australian lead authors of the new report. This week, as a working group meeting in Brussels thrashed out the final wording of the summary for policy-makers, extinction became a topic of heated debate between government officials and scientists such as Australian David Karoly, now with the University of Oklahoma.

Dr Karoly -- who will move to University of Melbourne later this year -- and other lead authors claimed diplomats attempted to water down their warnings. They said officials, presumably from the US, forced last-minute changes. US officials were reported to have argued to reduce "quantification", while the Europeans sought to send a strong message about the impacts of climate change.

A final draft, obtained by The Australian, showed the phrase stating that 20-30 per cent of species "will be committed to extinction" had been softened by inserting a reference to species "assessed so far". Retired scientist Ian Burton -- attending the meeting on behalf of the Stockholm Environment Institute -- said the section had been "diluted".

But Australian lead author CSIRO scientist Kevin Hennessy disagreed with Dr Burton's claim. "In any process there will be differing opinions," he said. "(US officials) simply wanted to ensure the report conveyed the most robust science, if it needed to be defensible." Dr Hennessy added that comments from officials regarding the section on Australia and New Zealand toughened, rather than softened, the final wording.

Differences between the final draft and the official document support Dr Hennessy's view. Warnings regarding the loss of regional biodiversity by 2030 were strengthened, for instance, by bringing forward the date to 2020. However, it is clear delegates from China and Saudi Arabia pushed strongly to tone down the degree of certainty of sections covering global natural systems.

They pushed to have statements made with "very high confidence" pulled back to "high confidence", which means more than 80 per cent accuracy as opposed to 90 per cent or near certainty.


Sceptics forced to contain hot air on gases

The Australian
April 10, 2007

Mounting evidence of global warming is leaving climate-change deniers in the cold, writes Bradford Plumer

RED Smith isn't exactly known for his timidity on the subject of climate change. The president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank based in Washington, has derided concern over global warming and has gone on television to rail against Al Gore's "evil consumptive ways". But in February, when Smith was called to testify before the Senate Committee on environment and public works, he sounded like a cornered man. "I am aware," he began somewhat cautiously, "that CEI is regarded as a contrarian voice on the science of climate change."

Senate Republicans had invited him to comment on an emissions-reduction plan put forward by a group of green-minded companies, including General Electric and Duke Energy. But with the balance of power having shifted from the climate naysayers, Smith couldn't just launch into his usual tirade against global warming.

Like a boy forced to apologise for pulling his sister's hair, he ceded grudgingly: "I am happy, for the purposes of this discussion, to accept all the scientific arguments behind their proposals." Hence, he sniffed, "attempts to allege climate denialism in response to my points are ad hominem attacks not worthy of consideration". It's getting hard out there for a global-warming sceptic.

Former US vice-president Al Gore has an Oscar. The latest assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has declared with 90 per cent certainty that greenhouse gases are largely responsible for heating the planet, a conclusion even the White House now accepts.

Capitol Hill - where groups like CEI could once count on a friendly hearing from congressional Republicans, 84 per cent of whom are still unconvinced climate change is caused by humans - is now controlled by the Democrats.

And ExxonMobil, which has donated more than $US2million to CEI since 1998, recently announced it would no longer fund the organisation. Mocked by enemies, abandoned by erstwhile friends, what's a global-warming sceptic to do? It wasn't long ago that CEI was revelling in its role as the country's most notorious sceptic group. In 1997, it helped to form the Cooler Heads Coalition to "dispel the myths of global warming" by, among other things, sending pseudo-experts to testify before the Congress and appear on TV.

The group's energy and global warming policy director, Myron Ebell, played a key role in convincing President George W.Bush to reverse his campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the utilities industry. The Clean Air Trust named Ebell its "clean air villain of the month" in March 2001 for his lobbying.

In a bid to pre-empt the release of Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, CEI aired two schmaltzy 60-second spots in 14 cities last year, singing the praises of carbon dioxide. Both ended with the tagline: "They call it pollution ... we call it life."

That sort of misinformation has long been the group's metier. CEI was following a strategy such as the one outlined in a memo from the American Petroleum Institute, which The New York Times obtained in 1998: "Victory will be achieved when ... recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the conventional wisdom."

So long as people were forced to spend their waking hours debating whether climate change was really happening, they wouldn't have time to discuss what to do about it. Unfortunately for CEI, that debate is over. Now it finds itself beleaguered in Washington, not to mention vilified in the media.

Ellen Goodman of The Boston Globe wrote recently that climate-change doubters are "on a par with Holocaust deniers". At the end of an interview, CEI's in-house lawyer, Chris Horner, told me with a sigh: "Look, don't write the standard story here, making us out to be the bad guys."

So with their careers in peril, the CEI types are adapting. There are still plenty of global-warming deniers out there, but many sceptics now coalesce around a more moderate-sounding approach. Ebell insists that neither he nor his colleagues dispute the fact of global warming as they once did. "We try to react to the scientific research that comes out -- and we've adjusted our political rhetoric as well," he says.

The new line goes something like this: sure, we'll accept that global warming is occurring and humans bear some responsibility, but it's hard to predict exactly how bad a warmer world will be. And the proposals for reducing emissions in the US are all costly and rife with problems. And even if they could work, we can't stop climate change because it's impossible to convince India and China to curb their rapidly growing emissions. And so on.

One tactic that lately seems to give deniers special pleasure is mounting their case against the global-warming consensus from the Left. So you get the odd spectacle of Smith going before the Senate to denounce cap-and-trade - the widely endorsed idea that the Government should set a national ceiling on carbon emissions and then allow companies to buy and sell pollution credits -- on populist grounds.

"The corporations we see baying for a cap-and-trade program are out to enrich themselves without thought for the poor," he told Congress. He even pointed out that -- horror -- Enron had once supported the idea.

Or Paul Driessen, the author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, saying things like: "It's incredibly patronising and colonialistic to tell Africa that you can't develop because we're concerned about global warming" -- while arguing that funding the fight against global warming "takes money away from spending on malaria". However, even as they claim to be on board with the latest science, some deniers have continued peddling half-truths. This became clear during my conversation with Ebell.

"We've had a flat global mean temperature since 1998," he notes. "So what are we worried about?" Ebell is cherry-picking here -- 1998 was an exceptionally hot year, thanks to El Nino, but global average temperatures have risen steadily since 1900.

Meanwhile, many global-warming sceptics are suffering the indignity of having to deny they were ever deniers in the first place. Take Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute. In 2004, Green wrote a paper with notorious climate-change denier Timothy Ball arguing that the scientific models used to predict global warming were "of dubious merit".

Now he insists he accepts the IPCC's baseline conclusions and says of his relationship with Ball: "The fact we haven't worked together since then suggests we don't agree." Sounds like the heat is getting to him.

Bradford Plumer is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic