Friday 1 June 2007

The greenhouse mafia

Fairfax Business Media
Australian Financial Review

The Howard government emerged from the Kyoto negotiations of 1997 with two victories. Firstly, in the face of opposition from green groups and European governments, the Kyoto Protocol ended up relying mainly on the market-based, US-devised concept of emissions trading, rather than the direct control over emissions favoured by many in the green movement.

Secondly, Australia secured the most generous emissions target of any developed country, allowed an increase of 8 percent over 1990 levels where most countries committed to reductions of 6 to 8 percent. The agreement also allowed Australia meet the target entirely through land clearing restrictions that were on the way anyway. Yet, 10 years later, the government has yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and did an about-face on emissions trading, rejecting it for years before returning to its original position under pressure from Labor, the states and business leaders.

This situation can in large part be explained by the presence of an influential group in the Australian policy elite, made up of politicians, business leaders, think tanks and commentators bent on preventing any significant emission-cutting activity. Clive Hamilton, in his new book Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, calls the group the 'greenhouse mafia'. The most prominent group in the greenhouse mafia is the Lavoisier Group, one of a series of similar organisations starting with the HR Nicholls Society, which was founded by Western Mining Corp chief executive Hugh Morgan.

Level playing field

Coffs Coast Advocate
01/06/2007 Page: 6

HIGHER power and transport charges to combat climate change would not be the end of the world for average consumers, Australian of the Year Tim Flannery says. Prof Flannery predicted a carbon price of $50 a tonne would help level the playing field for renewable energy providers, which would see a doubling of the wholesale price of electricity, which worked out to a 30 per cent increase in the retail price.

The winds of change blowing at Smeaton

Ballarat Courier
01/06/2007 Page: 4

Smeaton residents share a Friday night drink with deputy editor NICK HIGGINS while they discuss their thoughts about a proposed wind farm for their town.

IT'S claimed a proposed wind farm has divided the people of Smeaton, but at 6 o'clock on a Friday night the atmosphere at the town's pub could not be more convivial. Then again, it is the start of happy hour. Publican Helen Dillon says the hotel is "Switzerland" - neutral territory for the punters - and she doesn't venture an opinion on the plan by Melbourne-based company Wind Power to build 19 turbines on ridges north of Smeaton. Others have not been so reticent. The opposition to the turbines has been vocal and organised. Protest signs are everywhere close to the turbine site and a Spa Country branch of the anti-wind farm organisation, Landscape Guardians, has been established.

Will a Friday night at the hotel shed any light on whether Smeaton is a community divided or untroubled by the planned wind farm? It is certainly a talking point. Among the arrivals at the pub is Mark Doherty. He runs a quarry, Creswick Quartz, and has lived in Smeaton for four months. The consensus at work is that technologically, we must proceed," he says.

One of his workers, who wants to be known only as A.J., is in no doubt the turbines will be of value. "I reckon it's a good idea for the community and the power situation. It's going to help everybody down the line. Bring them on," the Allendale resident says. "It's naturally free power." Troy Fordham, who lives at Chines, well away from the turbine sites, says he doesn't care whether the plan goes ahead. If they make money off of then, good luck to them." Smeaton's Mark Lovett believes the turbines will be "good for business".

Debbie Arnold lived on New Zealand's North Island at Wairarapa before moving to Blampied a year ago. "These (turbines) have been going up in New Zealand for quite some time and we have some overlooking our property there and there's been no hoo-ha over it there, so I can't understand why there is any division," she said. Mrs Arnold said the turbines had increased property values. We see them on the horizon, the power that's generated is a good thing."

What emerges during talk at the pub is that the locals haven't confined their thinking on the energy issue to wind turbines. Many talk about a bigger picture and discuss the merits and risks of nuclear and coal-fired power. On the question of aesthetics, several mention a scoria pit at the edge of town as being a greater eyesore than the proposed turbines. There is a brief pause during happy hour while Mrs Dillon tells patrons that local couple Shane and Krisi Pedretti have bought into the pub as new partners.

Away from the bar and in a room with a pool table John Toose and Daryl McLeod are enjoying a quiet smoke. Mr Toose, an engineer and former farmer, has lived in Smeaton all his 63 years. "I think they (the turbines) are probably the best thing besides nuclear we can have," he says. Mr Toose says the protest signs are unattractive and a distraction for motorists. He says Victoria and Tasmania missed out on a huge power opportunity when a plan to dam the Franklin River in Tasmania was defeated.

Mr McLeod says he has no objection to the wind farm. "I've been over 75 per cent of Australia and those ones they first put up at Blayney, even to this day there are still people taking photos of them. 'They're a tourist attraction, they're still something new to Australia," Mr McLeod said. The Snowy hydro-electric scheme is stuffed. We cannot rely on back-tip of hydro in a country which is known as the driest on the whole planet."

Also enjoying a drink and a chat are Jim and Will Elsworth. The father and son object to the turbines which they say will be a scar on the landscape. "I think the main thing to come out of the whole issue is the social cohesion and the secrecy that goes into this proposal and how communities are kept in the dark," Will Elsworth says. He says it's shattering for farmers to learn turbines are going to be installed on neighbouring properties. At the end of the day there is no money in it for the community," he said.

Bruce Richardson knows the details of the plan perhaps better than most. If it goes ahead some turbines will be on his mother's property, which he farms along with his brother, Stuart. "It's a rough block and you can't make a living off it anyway," he says. "I am all for them, 85 to 90 per cent of the community is for them or couldn't care less." He says objectors have made tip the claim that communities are breaking down as "part of their attack" on the wind farm.

Smeaton resident Ken Vallance says those who object to the sight of the turbines should also be making an effort to stop operations at the scoria pit. If the turbines are built Dean Taylor, a 21-year-old shearer, will probably be living with them for longer than most of those around him near the bar. "I think it's progress and progress is good for the community," he says. "Nuclear is not the answer, there is a cleaner, cheaper, way and we can't burn coal forever. "I really think people are only making their own problems. It's only going to benefit the community. It's jealousy. People don't want to listen to the facts."

Thursday 31 May 2007

U.S. Senate Pushes Utilities on 'Green' Sources: Proposal to Require Significant Increase Has Broad Support

Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- The campaign to get more energy from renewable sources has moved to the U.S. energy grid, part of a broader effort aimed at weaning the nation off fossil fuels.

A bill about to be introduced in the Senate would push utilities to generate drastically more of their power -- 15%, compared with the current 2% -- from sources such as wind or the sun by 2020. While three similar measures have died after passing the Senate, this one has powerful bipartisan support.

Environmental groups have long sought a federal law requiring utilities to use a variety of cleaner natural resources. Several states already direct utilities to meet minimum standards; a federal benchmark could give utilities a uniform interstate market and make compliance easier.

The drive is complicated by feasibility questions, though, and by splits among supporters over which alternatives are desirable. Coal-state lawmakers, for one, argue that the focus on renewable fuels is misplaced. They say carbon-dioxide emissions, which scientists believe accelerate climate change, could be reduced more effectively by getting more power from nuclear plants and coal-fired plants that bury their carbon-dioxide emissions.


Grants help schools go solar

Hepburn Shire Advocate
Wednesday 30/5/2007 Page: 11

BALLARAT East MLA Geoff Howard has urged schools and community organisations to take advantage of grants of up to $15,000 from the Bracks Government to become solar powered. Mr Howard said the grants would be provided to fit solar roof panels on 500 government and private schools and high-profile community buildings.

Applications can be made for funding from Victoria's new $5 million Solar in Schools program through Sustainability Victoria with grants to be awarded from early July.

Mr Howard said educational materials and a monitoring system would also be provided to help teachers incorporate sustainability and energy use into the curriculum. "Through the monitoring system students will, for example, be able at any time to see via the web how much power the photovoltaic panels are generating.

"So this initiative is not just about putting solar panels on rooftops - it's also educating children about renewable energy sources and tackling climate change. "This may also lead to more families considering buying green power, which is generated from nongreenhouse emitting energy sources such as solar and wind energy," he said.

For more information contact Richard Jennings at Sustainability Victoria. on 8626 8751.

Wednesday 30 May 2007

Wind farm `looks a goer'

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 30/5/2007 Page: 10

THE State Government believes the $230 million Musselroe Bay wind farm can be built if Tasmania becomes part of a New South Wales emissions trading scheme. Primary Industries and Water Minister David Llewellyn said NSW had announced the introduction of a scheme prior to its recent election.

"I have been to NSW to talk to the Premier [Morris Iemma] and also to the Minister for Energy and they are happy with Tasmania accessing the scheme." he said. "It is a national scheme they are going to put in place and new projects that start at the first of January this year will be eligible, and the scheme will come into place on January 1.2008." "We are working to try and get the Musselroe project up for later this year.

"The Australian Government's decision to can the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target Scheme set a terrible precedent for what we can expect from the report to be provided to the PM [John Howard] later this week," he said. "In that case the Prime Minister' own experts recommended the extension of the MRET scheme - but the Prime Minister ignored the evidence to protect the vested interests of heavy greenhouse polluters."

Declaration signed but no emissions targets

Daily Advertiser
Wednesday 30/5/2007 Page: 12

ENERGY ministers from the Asia-Pacific region have signed a declaration confirming their commitment to improving energy efficiency, the security of oil supplies and cross-border trade. But the measures in the Darwin Declaration are voluntary and do not include a region-wide carbon trading emissions scheme or targets.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) meeting in the Northern Territory capital yesterday, federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the ministers - from 21 countries - had agreed on a peer review scheme for energy efficiency.

There was also widespread support for information sharing, renewable energy and a broader acceptance of nuclear power. `A number of countries that have been traditionally opposed to nuclear energy are now investigating its potential in a future energy mix," Mr Macfarlane said.

Nuclear power was part of a region-wide attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing energy production, the minister said, adding that billions of dollars would be required to develop clean energy technology.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Govt funding for renewable energy

Mining Chronicle
May, 2007 Page: 128

Five projects have received Australian Government funding to trial and demonstrate more efficient ways of storing electricity from renewable energy sources. The $17.6m in funding, provided under the Advanced Electricity Storage Technologies programme, was announced by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane.

Mr Turnbull said that more renewable energy could be used if the electricity generated from renewable sources was available continuously, day and night, and that better ways of storing the electricity when it is generated would help expand opportunities for its effective use. 'Demonstrating new renewable energy storage technologies in grid connected and remote area power supply applications will give Australia a strong base on which to grow its own industry and expand opportunities overseas," Mr Tumbull said.

Electricity storage is an issue faced by all renewable energy generators worldwide. Australian experience in - and demonstration of - these technologies will have widespread benefits in both developing and developed countries. Mr Macfarlane said the projects would help develop new ways of meeting Australia's growing demand for electricity, while also helping to reduce the effects of the environmental challenges we face today such as climate change and air quality.

"The renewable energy industry understands the strategic importance of improving electricity storage technologies. They are prepared to take action and the programme will see a total of more than $36m invested," Mr Macfarlane said. The AEST is part of the Australian Government's more than $2bn strategy to address climate change. The five projects awarded funding under the AEST are:
  • Wizard Power (South Australia) $7.4m to demonstrate a solar energy storage system based on ammonia dissociation into hydrogen and nitrogen. Four 400sq m solar dishes will be installed near Whyalla to concentrate sunlight and provide the heat required to split ammonia into nitrogen and hydrogen for storage. When power is required, the gases are recombined, which gives off heat to boil water and generate electricity through a steam turbine.
  • Lloyd Energy Systems (New South Wales) $5m to demonstrate a solar energy storage system using graphite blocks. A high concentration tower solar array will be installed at their factory site in Cooma and, once proven, a 16-tower solar array system will be built at Lake Cargelligo in western New South Wales providing valuable network support for this regional area.
  • ZBB Technologies (New South Wales) $3.1m to demonstrate an integrated 500 kilowatt/hours zinc-bromine battery at CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre at Newcastle.
  • Pinnacle VRB (Western Australia) $1.8m for demonstration of vanadium-redox batteries with photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines at the remote fishing community of Windy Harbour in Western Australia.
  • V-Fuel (New South Wales) $0.26 million for demonstrating innovative vanadium-flow batteries with photovoltaic solar panels and a wind turbine on Cockatoo Island and the Environmental Research Institute for Art at Homebush in Sydney.
The Australian Government's Advanced Electricity Storage Technologies programme identifies and promotes strategically important, innovative, advanced energy storage technologies that will increase the ability of renewable generation to contribute to Australia's electricity supply system.

NSW's largest approved farm

Goulburn Post
28/05/2007 Page: 5

THE proposed Taralga Windfarm as ratified earlier this year by the Land and Environment Court makes it by far the largest approved development of its type in NSW. With its generation capacity of 105MW, modifications to the proposal as outlined by the developers, RES Southern Cross, to residents and council last week have the potential to generate up to 186MW.

According to an industry website that supplies data from all windfarm projects across the nation, just two projects in NSW currently seeking approval would be larger that the original Taralga project. They are a 106MW farm being championed by AlIco Wind Energy Management at Ben Lomond in the state's north, and a 126MW farm being put forward by Renewable Power at Bungendore (between Goulburn and Canberra). Additionally, a 120MW farm is in the feasibility stage at Molonglo near Queanbeyan. But NSW windfarms pale into insignificance when compared to action interstate.

Perusal of the Victorian statistics show there has been planning approval for a 329MW facility at Macarthur and a 232MW farm at Mount Gellibrand. A useful comparison for Southern Tablelands residents is the data that describes the original Crookwell Windfarm and the revised Taralga facility. Crookwell has eight turbines atop 45 metre towers producing 5MW of power. The revised Taralga Windfarm will boast 62 towers of 80-85 metres generating up to 186MW.

Climate Institute urges early start to emissions trade

AAP Newswire

CANBERRA, May 28 AAP - Setting a low carbon price and delaying an emissions trading scheme will hurt Australia's economy more than taking early decisive action, the Climate Institute Australia warns. The independent group released economic modelling today on the electricity sector's future, ahead of a report by Prime Minister John Howard's task group on carbon emissions trading due on Thursday.

The study shows electricity prices soaring by 75 per cent by the 2020s under the scenario of a soft start to emissions trading, compared with 10 per cent if early action is taken. "This research highlights that it would be reckless to delay action or only take half measures because of the risk it would pose to the Australian economy," institute chief executive John Connor said. The modelling by McLennan Magasanik Associates charts four different scenarios for achieving a target of cutting emissions by 80 per cent in 2050. It shows immediate action on emissions trading and a mix of clean energy and efficiency policies is the most cost-effective policy.

Such an approach would see emissions cut by about 20 million tonnes per year by 2020 and moderate the carbon price through to 2050. Under a "wait-and-see" model of a $10-per-tonne starting carbon price and full trading delayed to 2020, emissions would rise by about 20 million tonnes by that year. That scenario would force up the price in later years to a peak of $86 per tonne in the 2031-40 period and stay high at $78 in the following decade.

Under the institute's preferred model, carbon emissions would start at $29 per tonne, peak at $54 per tonne in 2021-2030 and decline to $42 by 2041-50. The other two scenarios chart a middle ground, with higher starting prices which peak around $50-60 a tonne in the middle decades. "Making significant cuts to greenhouse gases from our electricity sector is affordable and achievable if we act now with a realistic carbon emissions trading scheme, a market-based clean energy target and comprehensive energy efficiency policies," Mr Connor said.

"Accounting for 30 per cent of Australia's overall greenhouse pollution, our electricity sector needs to make a decisive switch to clean energy but it should be backed up with an economy-wide approach that links into international carbon markets." Wholesale electricity prices under the wait-and-see approach would rise from $38 per megawatt-hour in 2008 to only $46 from 2010-2020 but nearly double to $87 in 2031-40.

Under the mixed scenario, the price would initially soar to $63/MWh in 2010-20 and reach $73 in 2031-40. The report says the inclusion of even a moderate energy efficiency program with a trading scheme would reduce the electricity sector's cost of achieving the reduction target by near 50 per cent, or about $12 billion. It also says introducing nuclear power would make only a modest contribution to reducing emissions by 2050 because of the time it would take to establish the new power source.

The institute's policy and research director, Erwin Jackson, said nuclear power generation would reduce the production share of coal rather than cut into renewable energy contributions. He played down the effects on employment of a shift to cleaner energy sources in Australia. "Renewable technologies in particular are more job intensive than the more traditional energy sources," he said. "The impact of domestic policies on our coal mining industry will be next to nothing because most of our coal's for export. "It's what actually happens in other countries that matters."

The answer is blowing in the wind

Sydney Morning Herald
29/05/2007 Page: 13

You can install your own wind farm but its effectiveness will depend on where it is and even the time of the year.

Locals in Camden have dubbed it the twin toilet roll but it is more properly known as the vertical axis wind turbine. And those involved in the trials of the device perched atop a tower at Camden High School are hoping it will revolutionise wind energy. The school's principal, John Jarvis, says locating the turbine at his school was a happy accident.

He had introduced solar energy at his previous school and, because of Camden's windy location, was hoping to install wind energy there. After a few letters and phone calls Jarvis linked up with a local company that had been asked to make an "unusual-looking wind generator" from fibreglass.

The company, Dynamic Systems Australia, was looking for a location nearby to test the new wind turbine and it ended up being the high school. Early results have been exciting, Jarvis says. "When we originally put in to Camden Council, [the tower] was going to be 20 metres or 22 metres," he says, "but when it was that high they found it was so effective that they have actually reduced it to about half that height. So you could quite easily site it somewhere and put trees around it, although you'd have to be careful about the trees affecting the wind catchment. But it could be disguised totally. "The remarkable thing about this is that it is actually designed so you can winch it up, and if anything goes wrong with it you can just winch it down and fix the blades and so on. It would also be a relatively inexpensive thing to put into a village in a Third World country or a farm in outback Australia."

Tony Wright, a consultant project manager for Dynamic Systems Australia, says that full-scale tests assessing the power capacity of the vertical axis wind turbine are expected to begin soon. He believes the turbine has "the capacity to produce 80 kilowatts to 100 kilowatts at very low wind speeds - at six metres per second, whereas a traditional turbine would require probably twice that [speed]". (The turbine's capacity is not a rating in kilowatts per hour. This is what the testing will accomplish, taking into account the variations in the wind.)

Small wind turbines have been attracting a lot of attention recently, especially overseas. In Britain, the Conservative Party Leader, David Cameron, famously attached a micro wind turbine to the chimney of his London home, provoking a furious debate there about whether domestic turbines were of any real value. There are plenty of turbine kits for sale in Australia. However, Dr Mark Diesendorf, a senior lecturer from the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, says wind turbines such as Cameron's would be "almost useless" because they are situated in suburban areas where much of the wind is screened by houses, trees or other obstacles.

"There is a fashion in Britain for people to buy these things and stick them on their chimneys, and in most cases it's a complete waste of money," Diesendorf says. "They would get the same amount of energy [savings] by replacing an incandescent lamp with a fluorescent bulb." However, he says large wind turbines are extremely efficient. They are able to convert more than 45 per cent of the wind that passes through the circle of the blades into energy. He regards the Southern Tablelands, Southern Highlands and parts of the Northern Tablelands as areas with "a lot of potential" for wind farms. But the smaller turbines that would be used in domestic settings are less efficient and, Diesendorf believes, not especially practical. "There will be exceptional cases, usually in places on the coast with a lot of sea breeze exposure, but generally speaking there are much more cost effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the home," he says.

On the far South Coast of NSW - where, happily, it often gets very windy - Steve Garrett, the owner of Pyramid Power, has been installing domestic-sized wind turbines for 21 years. He agrees they are not for everyone but says that during the windier months in his area the small 400-watt wind generators he installs are able to provide about two kilowatt hours a day. He estimates this is equivalent to one-sixth of the power used by a reasonably energy-efficient house and 7 per cent of the power in a non energy- efficient house. Of course. in some months there is little or no wind, so no energy is provided. In addition, Garrett says, most domestic turbines are inefficient because they are not placed at a sufficient height above the building.

"You need to get clear air," he says,"so it's more an energy-efficiency flag than an energy-efficiency doer." Garrett has to prepare a council development application for every wind turbine tower over a certain height, so he recommends that people thinking about installing a wind generator at home check their council's regulations regarding height limits. `And it's a really good idea to talk to your neighbours as well".

Premiers call for emissions trading by 2010

AAP Newswire
Sunday 27/5/2007

CANBERRA, May 27 AAP - State and territory leaders today urged Prime Minister John Howard to launch an emissions trading scheme by 2010 with an environmentally credible target to cut greenhouse gases. All eight Labor premiers and chief ministers signed the open letter to Mr Howard ahead of his emissions trading task force reporting on Thursday. They reminded the prime minister their governments had already committed to a national emissions trading scheme by 2010.

"We see such a scheme as an indispensable step in tackling climate change and ensuring Australia reduces its greenhouse gas emissions at least cost," the letter said. "Any scheme must have an environmentally credible, long-term target for emissions reduction, helping to ensure investment certainty while also including measures to protect our energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries." The eight leaders also called for renewable energy targets and research and development of clean coal, carbon capture and renewable energy technologies. "By working together with states and territories you will help ensure a comprehensive approach to climate change action in Australia." Meanwhile, 75 professors of economics today called on the federal government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Australia and the United States are the only developed nations not to have signed the environmental blueprint. The economists signed a statement saying Australia would suffer economic damage by failing to reduce emissions. "Policy measures are available that would greatly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at modest economic cost," the statement said. "Credible estimates suggest that a 50 per cent emissions reduction is achievable for less than one year's economic growth."

Green power surge: NSW heads national trend

Sunday Telegraph
27/05/2007 Page: 35

ALMOST 700 households a day in NSW are choosing to pay extra to have their homes powered from solar, wind or water energy sources. Compared with other states and territories, NSW is now leading the nation in the number of residents requesting that energy companies supply their electricity from a renewable source.

Figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show the volume of green power purchased by NSW residents this year alone is enough to light the Sydney Harbour Bridge continuously for 55 years. The trend is expected to encourage the development of additional wind farms and suppliers of solar energy. Must of Australia's electricity comes from burning coal, with around eight per cent from a renewable source.

Under the national GreenPower scheme, companies can be directed by the customer to purchase energy sourced from the sun, the wind, water or waste. Energy suppliers who sell accredited Green Power products buy electricity generated from accredited renewable energy generators and then feed it into the national electricity grid. Customers choosing the GreenPower option pay between $15 and $100 extra on their quarterly energy bill.

Figures supplied to the NSW Government by the State's energy companies show a record 62,000 households in NSW chose the GreenPower option in the first quarter of this year. The number of customers requesting that EnergyAustralia sources renewable power has doubled in the past year. NSW Energy Minister Ian Macdonald said a total of 130,000 households and businesses in NSW had signed up to a GreenPower scheme.

He attributed the trend to increasing community awareness about global warming and new laws introduced in January that require retailers to offer at least 10 per cent of GreenPower energy to new residential customers or those relocating.

GreenPower was launched in NSW in 1997. Nationally, more than 500,000 residents have signed up to the scheme.

Vestas workers back on the job

Hobart Mercury
Saturday 26/5/2007 Page: 12

A NEW company has been formed in Tasmania's North- West to re-employ workers of former wind-turbine maker Vestas. The new company, Southern Prospect, was established by former Vestas managing director Lee Whiteley. He has already employed 12 workers and aims to have employed 30 by the end of the year, endeavouring to give former Vestas employees the chance to keep using their skills and training.

"We're still servicing the wind-power industry but we're not going to be assembling turbines, which is what Vestas did," Mr Whiteley said. "We will be doing maintenance, component rebuilding, refurbishment, fabricating, and attracting new manufacturing opportunities to the region." Mr Whiteley said Southern Prospect would be more diverse than Vestas, in order to remain sustainable in the future.

Danish-owned Vestas Nacelles Tasmania pulled its wind-power parts and service plant out of Wynyard last year, resulting in the loss of 55 jobs. The plant's closure was attributed to falling demand for the components being produced and maintained. In 2005 Vestas decided against building a blade plant at Wynyard that could have employed another 200 people. Following the closure, the Federal Government announced a $700,000 funding package intended to resurrect the industry at Wynyard, but the funding has not yet been used.

Mr Whiteley said Southern Prospect was entirely privately funded, but he would be talking to Braddon Liberal MHR Mark Baker about trying to secure some of the federal funding to help strengthen and expand the business, which employs a significant number of former Vestas workers and is operating out of the old Vestas building. "We purchased all of Vestas' old assets, including the building, equipment and tools," Mi Whiteley said. "We've been operating for two or three months now, but we've been taking it slowly."

Price hikes to combat climate change "not end of the world"

AAP Newswire,
Friday, 25 May 2007

Australian of the Year Tim Flannery says higher power and transport charges to combat climate change wouldn’t be the end of the world for average consumers. The government is set to receive a report from a taskforce into emissions trading next week. Prime Minister John Howard has already flagged the government has no intention of introducing any schemes which could damage Australia ’s coal industry .. which provides the bulk of the nation ’s energy.

Professor Flannery has told ABC TV in order to begin reducing Australia ’s greenhouse gas emissions .. the country needs to think seriously about non-polluting sources of energy. He ’s predicted a carbon price of 50 dollars a tonne will help level the playing field for renewable energy providers .. saying at that price .. all of the renewables become fairly competitive. He says this would equate to about a 30 per cent increase in the retail price .. but there would be something wrong if people couldn’t make efficiency gains in their homes .. as everyone wastes electricity.

Experts cool on UK nuclear plan

Australian Financial Review,
Page: 56 Friday, 25 May 2007

UK Secretary of Industry Alistair Darling has come under fire for his plans to ensure Britain's energy future as North Sea oil and gas supplies dwindle. He wants private energy firms to have the option of investing in new nuclear projects but opponents say he's missed the boat as they take too long to build. He also wants to see more renewable energy sources but points out that 170 applications for renewable energy projects have been delayed due to public objections.

Capitalising on skills

Burnie Advocate, Page: 9
Friday, 25 May 2007

FORMER Vestas managing director Lee Whiteley is capitalising on the valuable resource of trained and experienced staff in the windturbine industry. In the wake of last year ’s closure of Vestas ’ windturbine assembly plant at Wynyard, Mr Whiteley is now heading a new company, Southern Prospects. And by the end of next week Southern Prospects plans to employ 27 per cent of the ex-Vestas staff.

"Vestas spent a lot of money on training their employees," he said. "We had a work force that travelled extensively and being able to get that group of people back together and being able to capitalise on a investment that was made by Vestas in those people, we see this is a significant advantage to Southern Prospects." Mr Whiteley said Southern Prospects was a much more diverse business than Vestas, which manufactured and assembled components for wind farms.

Locally, the new company is providing support services to the wind farm at Woolnorth. and other fabrication work. Having worked inter nationally in the industry, Mr Whiteley has a strong interest in attracting new opportunities from outside the region. "I think if we ’re prepared to attract the right expertise and look further afield, than Tasmania and probably even Australia, then we’ll find new opportunities." Mr Whiteley said the company had already sent consultants to Denmark and China.

B&B windy

Herald Sun,
Page: 44 Friday, 25 May 2007

WIND energy investor Babcock and Brown Wind Partners has completed a $1.68 billion refinancing of its global wind farm portfolio.

The refinancing will combine its project, asset and corporate level debt across three continents and five countries and nine wind regions into an efficient single corporate facility. The new multi-currency structure will have a single borrower for each region (Australia, Europe and USA), where it should be refinanced every two to three years.

Exxon director wakes up to a hostile shareholder climate

Australian, Page: 24
Friday, 25 May 2007

Houston US and European institutional investors worth $US700 billion ($854 billion) led a charge on Wednesday to oust an Exxon-Mobil board member for "inaction" on climate change. F&C Management, which manages $US2O1 billion in assets and owns 2.6 million Exxon shares, and two dozen other leading institutional investors said they were withholding support for Michael Boskin because of his repeated refusals to meet them over its controversial climate strategy.

Professor Boskin chairs the public issues committee of the world ’s biggest listed oil company and is up for reappointment at its annual meeting at the end of this month. "Professor Boskin appears to have misread the mood of the shareholder base," said Karma Litvack, director of governance and sustainable investment at F&C. "A substantial proportion think climate change is vitally important for Exxon." Exxon has long been a target of environmentalists on climate change.

Under Lee Raymond, Exxon ’s previous chief executive, environmentalists criticised the company for comments by its executives, and over groups that it has supported financially, expressing scepticism about the evidence on climate change. Yet it has been far more responsive to the issue under Rex Tillerson, Mr Raymond ’s successor. Henry Hubble, Exxon vice-president of investor relations, said in an interview that Professor Boskin had responded to the group four times in writing and had set up a full day with several corporate vice-presidents to address the company ’s position on climate change with the investors last July.

He was also in the process of setting up another such meeting. Professor Boskin does not meet individually on the issue because Exxon has designated Mr Tillerson as its board spokesman on climate change. The investors said they would support shareholder resolutions requesting Exxon to set specific greenhouse gas reduction goals and boost its spending on renewable energy resources.

It's easy being green: big profits for GE

Australian, Page: 24
Friday, 25 May 2007

General Electric has doubled sales from environmentally friendly products to $US12 billion ($14.58 billion) over the past two years, in the strongest sign yet that corporate America ’s drive to respond to climate change is beginning to pay off Jeffrey Immelt, GE ’s chief executive, is expected to announce that the company has $US5O billion of projects in the pipeline and is on track to meet its target of $US2O billion in "green" sales by 2010.

According to GE, sales of environmentally friendly products such as wind turbines, water purification systems and energy efficient appliances rose from $US6 billion in 2004 to $US1O billion in 2005 and $US12 billion last year. Over the same period, overall sales at GE grew just more than 20 per cent to $US163 billion.

News of the sharp rise in revenues from "ecoimagination" the marketing campaign launched in 2005 to highlight GE ’s focus on green issues comes as US companies are scrambling to take advantage of opportunities presented by climate change. In recent weeks, News Corp, IBM and Citigroup announced plans to invest billions of dollars on environmental projects to gain a leading position in areas such as alternative energy, carbon emission trading and energy efficiency.

Executives at GE say its "ecoimagination" sales show that, far from being a drag on earnings, such strategies can benefit the bottom line. "I think the idea has traction now. As a business, you have got to be willing to have your own strategy (on the climate change)," Mr Immelt told the FT this week. The focus on driving revenues from greener products is a priority in Mr Immelt ’s plan to reduce GE ’s exposure to low-growth industries and reshape its portfolio towards more profitable sectors. GE will also reveal that last year it invested $US900 million of its $US3.7 billion annual research and development budget on green projects.

Mr Immelt has pledged to raise R&D spending on eco-projects to $US1.5 billion by the end of the decade. It also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 4 per cent in 2006, ahead of its target of lowering them by 1 per cent before 2012. The company was expected overnight to showcase forthcoming products including a prototype for the world ’s first diesel-electric hybrid locomotive. The locomotive saves fuel by storing up energy when it brakes.

The choice of product is significant because GE, which dominates the US market for locomotives, has been attacked by environmental groups for opposing plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to slash smog emissions from locomotives. GE has defended its position but the criticisms highlight the reputational risk it faces as it strives to ditch its traditional image of an old-style industrial conglomerate.

Super risk in climate change

Geelong Advertiser
Page: 27 Friday, 25 May 2007

CLIMATE change is a huge risk not only to the environment but also to superannuation, say industry players. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and its role in climate change have not been more topical, nor more alarming.

Catholic Super chief investment officer Tim Hughes said climate change was the "biggest long-term risk we face", but also presents great possibilities to capture opportunities. Firms want to see a price put on carbon to mitigate some of the risks they are taking. "Climate change is a huge risk to the superannuation industry," Mr Hughes said at a climate change forum in Sydney yesterday.

He said there were weather related risks such as increasing cyclone or hail storms that could affect business productivity. And as most super funds had a large proportion of their savings invested in Australian and international companies, the returns of fund members were linked directly to the long-term financial performance of those investments.

Another major risk was that the government was likely to impose limits on the amount of greenhouse gases companies were allowed to emit. Companies that exceed these limits may pay penalties that could affect their bottom line. These types of risks also posed a threat to superannuation because they could affect a company ’s longterm profitability and, therefore, its share price, which, in turn, had an affect on fund members ’ returns.

Mr Hughes said it was important for superannuation funds to engage corporate Australia to find out their carbon risks and that businesses should be aware of their carbon risk. "Its simple really, ... super funds want to see change," Mr Hughes said. "We don ’t want to wake up one day and see that our portfolios are invalid because (the businesses in which they invest are) so far behind the rest of the world ’s policies. "We want to see a price put on carbon."

The rest of the panel included ABN AMRO ’s director financial markets Craig McBurnie, lAG ’s sustainability research manager Elayne Grace, AMP Capital senior analyst Ian Woods and Origin Energy communications and government relations manager Tony Wood. Origin Energy’s Mr Wood said emissions trading produced a least cost pathway for business to reduce their greenhouse output.

Mr Wood presented a package of proposed action that included a long-term emissions target in line with global action, market-based carbon pricing scheme introduced from 2010, funding for research and development of low and zero emission technologies and more focused support for renewable energy projects. AMP ’s Dr Woods said there was already a significant market for carbon trading, with 374 million tonnes of Co2 traded in 2005 under the Kyoto Protocol.

Bus trip to answer turbine troubles

Cooma Monaro Express
Thursday 24/5/2007 Page: 3

MEMBERS of the local community will travel to Ararat this weekend to find out more about how wind turbines have affected the community there. The 33 people will leave Cooma on Friday and visit the Challicum Hills windfarm in the Ararat Shire in Victoria. Friends of Renewable Energy spokesperson, Bev Allen, said people would get a better understanding of windfarms on the trip because the Ararat region had a similar - and comparable - landscape to the Monaro. "The Ararat Shire is very like our broadacre farming country here, therefore we should get a good idea of what windfarms look like here," said Mrs Allen. "This will also give people an understanding of the technology behind windfarms," she said.

Cooma Monaro Council representative Cr Roger Norton will talk to windfarm owners, residents with property adjacent to windfarms, councillors of the Ararat Shire and other members of the local community to get a greater understanding of how they have all reacted to the installation of the Challicum Hills windfarm. "I would like to get a clear view of why the community accepted the installation of the windfarms and see if anyone raises any issues as well," said Councillor Norton. "It's such an important topic and it's very important we have all the information available, so we can hopefully make the best decision in the interest of our community," he said.

UK decision earns praise

Jimboomba Times
23/05/2007 Page: 69

BY 2016, all new homes built in the United Kingdom will be zero emission on heating and cooling. The UK Government's Code for Sustainable Homes legislates binding regulations for energy reduction with staggered targets. These are 20 per cent more efficient by 2010, 44 per cent by 2013, and 100 per cent, or zero emissions by 2016. Now passed into law, the code sets minimum standards for energy and water efficiency.

In addition, the UK government has agreed that any home achieving Level Six sustainability rating will be exempt from stamp duty. "The UK government has made a groundbreaking decision," said Matthew Wright, spokesman for Beyond Zero Emissions. "By 2050, 70 per cent of homes in the UK will be zero emissions. "Here is a government with a vision for the future, willing to take rapid and affirmative actions to combat climate change. "The Australian government is ignoring its responsibility to safeguard our country."

Companies from the UK and abroad are already building homes compliant with the 2016 code, some with cost increases of only two per cent more than similar traditionally built homes. Stuart Milne runs the largest housing company in Scotland and is offering for sale a zero emissions home available off plan. He has released a house autonomously warmed and cooled with the assistance of a substance called Energain. Installed on the interior walls and ceilings of the home, coated panels absorb and release heat depending on the temperature, reducing any need for energy intensive air conditioning or heating.

"These are homes that need no heating whatsoever, even through extreme UK winters;" Mr Wright said. "Using intelligent and natural design, homes are prefabricated with insulation, economically creating a more comfortable and liveable environment. "The increase in cost is marginal, which is comprehensively offset through massive savings in energy bills." A home constructed by the company Osborne has virtually no energy consumption requirements.

The house contains a mechanical heat recovery system which removes moist, stale air from rooms and passes it over cool, fresh air from outside to regulate constant comfortable air temperatures. "With the addition of solar panels and wind turbines, homes in the near future will be entirely self-sufficient, generating electricity on-site," said Mr. Wright. "Australians now need to put pressure on our federal government to adopt these simple conservative measures in line with what one of the leading economies in the world is doing. As a country and as a planet, we need to become zero emissions across all sectors as soon as possible."

The latest report (commissioned by the Victorian Government) from the CSIRO warns of blackouts by 2030 caused by increased use of air conditioning and climate related infrastructure failure. If all houses by 2016 are built to zero emission standards, not requiring air conditioning, then this will lessen the effects of more severe weather that is forecast from human forced global warming.