Friday 13 July 2007

National Code for windfarms

Crookwell Gazette
Tuesday 10/7/2007 Page: 3

UPPER Lachlan Shire Council has received a reply to a letter asking the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, to continue the push for a National Code for winfarms. In his letter Mr Turnbull has stated that after careful consideration he has decided to proceed in developing a national code through a ministerial working group and will announce details of its membership and the process to be followed after he has finished arrangements.

Mr Turnbull stated: "The code will seek to provide a better framework, including for consultation with communities by wind project developers, which will help individuals, communities and stakeholder groups contribute in a well informed and meaningful way to decisions about siting and development of windfarms across Australia."

Narelle Davis to chair August renewable energy meeting

Cooma Monaro Express
Tuesday 10/7/2007 Page: 3

NARELLE Davis will take her `councillor' hat off when she chairs a meeting on renewable energy targets and climate change next month. Clean Energy for Eternity approached Cr Davis after Cooma Monaro Shire Mayor Tony Kaltoum declined to chair the meeting when some councillors voiced their opposition. The basis of their opinion was that the community could think council supported renewable energy targets if Cr Kaltoum chaired the meeting.

"It's a shame the Cooma Monaro Shire refuses to take leadership on the matter, but not all councillors hold the collective view (that chairing this meeting means we support the renewable energy target)," said Mrs Davis. "I'm chairing this meeting because I believe we all have a responsibility for how much energy and emissions we put into our environment. "My opinions don't reflect council's collective view. The community has power and doesn't need council to show leadership in this area of change," she said.

Clean Energy for Eternity Founder Doctor Matthew Nott said it was a pity council decided not to support the targets. "I'm disappointed and surprised, but accept the council's decision, but it means this is now purely a community target," said Dr Nott. The meeting, which will focus on renewable energy targets and green energy investment opportunities in southeast NSW will be held at Monaro High School on the evening of Wednesday August 8.

Thursday 12 July 2007

More trouble with turbines

South Gippsland Sentinel Times
Tuesday 10/7/2007 Page: 9

WIND turbines have not had a happy time at South Gippsland Shire Council meetings in the past and so it turned out to be when the latest planning application, involving 'wind turbines' came before the council last week. On this occasion however, they were not 70 metre high towers but a maximum of 13 metres high and were to be used for domestic purposes. But they were still a sticking point for the council and in the end forced the deferral of a new home application at Toora North.

The applicant, Andrew Macaulay of Toora North, took the opportunity to attend the council meeting last Wednesday to boost his claims, promising to find a model of wind generator that didn't require the 100 metre setback being proposed by the shire. But despite a call by Cr Bob Newton not to hold up the home application any longer (first lodged back in December 2006), the council did defer it pending a review of the turbine designs and setbacks.

Two local objections have been received, raising concerns about the height of the turbines and possible noise but the shire report on the application did not support the concerns. " is considered that the domestic wind generators will not have a negative effect on the visual amenity of the area."

Mr Macaulay did score some points, though, when asked by Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks why he needed two wind generators when the power lines ran right past the site. "It's going to be a sustainable development and both the State and Local Government supports sustainable development. "There's no transformer on the power pole and with the price for connecting power roughly equivalent, we thought why not go for the most sustainable outcome," Mr Macaulay said.

Green focus in retail revival

Business News
Thursday 12/7/2007 Page: 25

ROOFTOP water tanks, wind turbines, solar panels and even waterless woks in food courts are some of the initiatives shopping centre owners are implementing to reduce their environmental footprint. Launched in August 2006, the Green Building Council of Australia's `green star shopping centre design' pilot program has been providing rating tools for stakeholders to assess the environmental impact of new shopping centres, centre additions and major refurbishments.

Centres are awarded ratings from four-star `best practice' through to six-star `world leadership' based on performance across eight categories, from indoor environmental quality to energy, transport and emissions. Shopping Centre Council of Australia executive director Milton Cockburn said shopping centres were redeveloped on average every 10 years, which gave owners the opportunity to reassess water and energy usage and adopt green designs.

"It's become so big now that new centres on greenfields sites can't be built without being five-star. Owners of existing centres are saying `we're big gas guzzlers and how can we change this?"' he told WA Business News. "I think corporate social image is driving it to a large extent, but owners are discovering that the sustainability measures will make commercial sense in many ways down the track."

In Western Australia, GE Capital is seeking one of the first six-star green ratings in the country for the redevelopment of its Beldon Shopping Centre on Marmion Avenue. The 20-year-old centre is undergoing a minor expansion, from 3,360 square metres to 4,107sq m net lettable area this year. Among its green credentials, the refurbished centre will have a 35- metre high wind turbine installed at its entrance and a small roof top turbine placed on its roof alongside photovoltaic solar panels.

It is anticipated the combined power of the free standing and roof top turbines and roof top solar cells will generate enough power to supply the shopping centre, with the exception of anchor tenant Woolworths, and supply power back to the grid. Designed by architects Cameron Chisholm Nicol, the centre will also comprise above- and below-ground water tanks, and an angled roof structures to capture rainwater.

Green Building Council of Australia spokesperson Emma Piper said a significant number of developers were trialling the pilot tools, and once feedback was collated, the council would formalise the tools in September and start accepting registrations. "A lot of the big players have come to us and we have created the tools to meet that demand. Given the huge uptake of our commercial office tools, we're expecting a significant number of registrations," Ms Piper said.

Mr Cockburn said he was not surprised that shopping centre owners such as GE Capital were taking the cause to a new level, with players including Mirvac, Westfield and The GPT Group already aiming for fivestar projects across Australia. "Owners are getting serious to the point of bringing tenants on board to cut their energy and water use, particularly food court tenants. The Chinese outlets use incredible amounts of water to keep their woks cool and owners are now pushing for them to use waterless woks instead," he said. Ms Piper said the council was considering developing a set of rating tools to address retail tenancy fitouts, however no commitment to introduce these had been made to date.

Solar bid stays in limbo

Bendigo Advertiser
Thursday 12/7/2007 Page: 7

CENTRAL Victoria's solar cities bid remained in limbo yesterday after the Prime Minister failed to commit to funding the project despite strong advocacy from local politicians and councils. The Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance bid for $17 million in Federal Government support - under its $75 million Solar Cities program - after 18 months of uncertainty was anticipated to be a strong contender for funding in an election year, but yesterday the Prime Minister would do no more than say a decision would be made before the election.

Advocates of renewable energy would have been disappointed the Prime Minister used his visit again to advocate the need for the inclusion of nuclear and coal to meet future power needs. Mount Alexander Shire mayor Jim Norris said the Prime Minister's visit to Bendigo was an opportunity missed. "We live in hope, but as a community I would have to say we are disappointed he didn't take this opportunity," Cr Norris said.

"Today was the ideal chance, with the focus of the national media and a proposal that will set the model for all the states, and at the end of the day this is a swinging seat." Liberal candidate for Bendigo Peter Kennedy said he and Senator Michael Ronaldson were strong advocates for the project and would continue to push for the funding. "A week doesn't go by when I am not in the ear of someone about the importance of this project," Mr Kennedy said.

"It is a fantastic model because it can be picked up and placed anywhere." Senator Ronaldson added: "It won't fail due to any lack of support and lobbying on our part." City of Greater Bendigo mayor Julie Rivendell, who also met the Prime Minister for a half-hour private meeting, said water education and sustainability were high on the agenda. "We think the solar cities initiative is really important for Bendigo and the region and is the major renewable project that will set the model for elsewhere," she said Mr Howard maintained his approach to future energy needs was based on a balanced economy.

"If we really want to have energy sources that do not pollute the atmosphere as much, we cannot realistically exclude uranium and nuclear power in that mix and as one of the sources of energy as we go forward," he said. "It is very important we have a balanced approach. "Yes, we deal with the greenhouse emissions and an emission trading system, we provide incentives for solar panels and the like, but we don't introduce measures that damage important export industries like the coal industry."

Links: Greenhouse regional partnerships

Benefits aplenty in building for energy efficiency

Australian Financial Review
Thursday 12/7/2007 Page: 3

Corporates are starting to understand that making a building environmentally friendly not only gives them a tick in current trend to get green-cred, but will also pay-off in the long run thanks to lower running costs generated by energy efficiency. The Green Building Council of Australia (GCBA) has so far only handed out two perfect 6-star ratings, although Australian and New Zealand Banking Group plan to reach that status with their new Collins Street building in Melbourne.

With new buildings, sustainability can be built in from inception, however, converting older buildings to become green friendly is a little more challenging according to John Goddard of building consultancy CB Richard Ellis. Two examples of refitting older buildings are 39 Hunter Street, Sydney, formerly home to Perpetual, and the Castlereagh Street home of property group Stockland.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Shooting for zero

Maroondah Leader
Tuesday 10/7/2007 Page: 72

GREATER use of airconditioning will cause blackouts by 2030, warns the latest report commissioned by the State Government from the CSIRO. If all Australian houses are built to zero emission standards-not requiring airconditioning - by 2016, this will lessen the effects of more severe weather forecast from human forced global warming.

Companies from Britain and elsewhere are already building houses compliant with the 2016 code, some with cost increases of only 2 per cent more than similar traditionally built houses. Now passed into law, the code sets minimum standards for both energy and water efficiency. In addition, the British government has agreed that any home achieving Level 6 sustainability rating will be exempt from stamp duty.

One type of zero emissions house is warmed and cooled with the help of Energain coated panels installed on interior walls and ceilings that absorb and release heat depending on the temperature. Another type contains a mechanical heat recovery system that 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 (pictured) and wind turbines, houses will soon be entirely self sufficient, generating electricity on-site, says Matthew Wright, spokesman for Beyond Zero Emissions, based in Brunswick St, Fitzroy.


Turbines for wind farm being secured

North Eastern Advertiser
Wednesday 4/7/2007 Page: 3

THE Minister for Energy, David Llewellyn has announced that the Musselroe Wind Farm is again heading in the right direction. Mr Llewellyn said all project rights, including the land agreement, for the project were secured last week. "Of course, the project would almost certainly be commission by now had the Federal Government accepted the findings of its own expert report and supported the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. "Nevertheless the project is proceeding well, with strong support from the local council and community. "Currently, preconstruction activities are progressing well, including environmental surveys and transmission line mapping," Mr Llewellyn said.

Roaring 40s is now presently in negotiations for the remaining two key elements of the project, including: securing the turbine supply contract for the project; and securing suitable off-take arrangements for the project under the proposed New South Wales Renewable Energy Target. It is hoped that construction will commence in late 2007. The State Opposition welcomed the news.

Shadow Minister for Energy, Peter Gutwein, said the project has strong support from the local community and council. "It is good to see the $230 million project proceeding, with construction set to commence later this year," Mr Gutwein said. "At a time when there is uncertainty surrounding other investments in the State this project will boost investor confidence and provide economic benefits to the region. "It will also further develop Tasmania's renewable energy output," he said.

Tassie contract blowing in wind

Hobart Mercury
Wednesday 11/7/2007 Page: 9

A NEW contract for a Launceston-based firm was a taste of the opportunities a pulp mill could bring Tasmanian manufacturing, Premier Paul Lennon said yesterday. Haywards Engineering has secured a deal with Spanish company Acciona Energy to supply 31 wind turbine towers for the Waubra Wind Farm near Ballarat in Victoria.

Mr Lennon said the $13 million contract was another coup for the leading steel fabrication and construction firm. "Haywards is a great Tasmanian success story and another example of a company expanding and thriving in our growing, modern economy." Mr Lennon said. "It's innovative companies like this that stand to benefit from the increased business activity construction of the proposed Bell Bay pulp mill would create.

"Local firms will be in line for contracts that will enable them to expand, reinvest in their businesses, employ more people and upskill their workforces." The company could earn an additional $12 million though the deal by securing the supply of towers for the second stage of the wind farm.

Clean power get a second wind

Ethical Investor
July, 2007 Page: 24

In 2006, new wind farms generated over AUS$27 billion globally. In Asia, wind energy will treble between now and 2010 with China installing ten times the wind energy of Australia. By the same token, we are likely to more than double our capacity over the same 3 year period. Australia's stationary energy sector is responsible for half of all our dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. So the wind energy industry owes its kick start to the Federal Government's early climate change policy.

The MRET scheme (Mandatory Renewable Energy Target), required electricity retailers to buy up to 9500 Megawatt hours of new, zero emission electricity from 2001. It was a nice touch, announced just before Kyoto, but by 2004 the MRET was met and a thriving industry began to wane. Three years on, thanks to state governments introducing their own clean energy targets, large scale wind energy projects are back on the agenda coast to coast.

With clean energy targets to meet, investors get the signal they need to drive the capacity building in the sector. And together with energy efficiency measures, clean energy infrastructure will help our economy evolve for a carbon conscious future. A clean energy market is essential until there's a fair price on carbon emissions, otherwise fossil fuel power will always be cheaper than renewables, making significant investment unlikely.

Australia is the lucky country when it comes to clean power. Our wind resource is often four times the strength of Europe's leading wind energy nations. Along with the intensity of wind, the size of our continent means we can easily accommodate a thriving, clean, safe energy industry that saves over 11,600 megalitres of drinking water and around 8,000 tonnes of climate changing greenhouse gas for every single operating turbine. Last month, the Victorian Government announced its new water desalination plant's emissions would be offset by adding new wind farms to the state's grid.

Many of us are already indirect investors in green power. A few years ago a group of industry super funds purchased an international wind and hydro developer. Other super funds are also looking for clean energy investments as a way of securing long term returns and a healthy environment for members. For super funds, looking after millions of 'mum & dad' retirement earnings, the balance is tipping towards sustainable, clean energy investments, particularly with the impending price on carbon.

It may take decades for the carbon price alone to bring parity to the energy market, making clean energy projects more attractive. The Federal Government is promising an emissions trading scheme (ETS) in 2012, the Opposition in 2011, while the States will be ready to go in 2010. However an ETS alone will not provide the incentive investors need to choose zero-emission projects today. Only the combination of a clean energy market and an emissions market will change our investment and consumption behaviour now and into the future.

Council Gives Green Light for Wind Farm in Buloke

Sealake & Whycheproof Times Ensign
Thursday 5/7/2007 Page: 1

Buloke Shire Council unanimously agree to approve an application from Acciona Energy for a wind farm to be established in Buloke. Acciona Energy approached Council seeking planning approval to establish a $45 million wind farm consisting of 12 to 16 wind turbines, sub-station, access tracks and underground cabling connecting each turbine at Berrimal on private land, 19 kilometres south of Charlton.

The capacity of the project is about 24 megawatts and the wind farm is expected to contribute to the Victorian Government's Renewable Energy Target (VRET) through the generation of approximately 73.000 MWh of renewable electricity per year and displacement of an estimated 95.000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (greenhouse gasses) per year. This is enough power to provide green electricity to about 13.600 households.

Added to these benefits the project will contribute rates of over $61,000 per year to Council and Acciona Energy will also establish a Sustainable Community Fund to support local community initiatives in areas surrounding the wind farm and the towns of Charlton and Wedderburn. In the construction phase up to 40 jobs will be generated and one or two permanent jobs will be required during the operating life of the wind farm.

Community Consultation Acciona Energy has held discussions widely within the community as part of the community consultation process for the proposed Berrimal wind farm. This process involved a residential dwelling survey to identify all houses and people living within ten kilometres of the proposed wind farm site. Meetings have been held with many of these residents and the response to the proposal has been very positive.

At the June Council meeting it was resolved that the Council:
  1. Approve the application for a wind energy facility (wind farm) consisting of 12 to 16 wind turbines at The Gap Road, Berrimal:
  2. Approve the application for the associated removal or lopping of native vegetation along the road reserves to provide access to the proposed site: and
  3. Grant permission for the issue of a planning permit subject to the 20 conditions listed.

Wind Power: No appeal despite initial objections

Hamilton Spectator
Saturday 7/7/2007 Page: 1

A WIND farm developer of 30 turbines at Woodhouse and Woorndoo has breathed a sigh of relief that objectors didn't take their fight to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). "It's a relief rather than a surprise not to go to VCAT - I don't think anyone who lodges a planning permit wants to go to VCAT," NewEn project manager, Grant Flynn, said on Tuesday.

The $50 million Woodhouse wind farm especially evoked strong passions with 10 families in the area opposing it when it was presented to Southern Grampians and Moyne Shire for a decision on a planning permit. Both councils agreed to approve a permit - but included 48 conditions. They have now issued planning permits for the Woodhouse development after the time allowed for a VCAT appeal expired. Southern Grampians and Moyne shires were both involved because Morton's Lane is the shire boundary.

Southern Grampians Shire's physical services director, Jim Nolan, said it had been a surprise there hadn't been an appeal, given the number of people previously opposed. However, he believed one mitigating factor against a VCAT appeal had been the extremely detailed report by consultant Chris Harty, which might have lessened some of the concern held by objectors. Mr Harty concluded the Woodhouse wind farm provided a net benefit. He said it helped address the threat of fundamental environmental changes to habitat and long-term species survival associated with climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions.

However, Mr Harty conceded there were problems with equity and fairness with large wind projects - the economic benefits went to some landowners but not others. It's likely to be close to two years before the first towers are erected on Yamba or North Gums properties in the Morton's Lane, Woodhouse. The wind farm will cover 1100 ha over both farms. The towers will be 103 metres tall and the blades 45 metres long. Mr Flynn said it would take until spring next year to comply with all the permit conditions.

"We will actually install the turbines in autumn (2009). Lifting such large things into the air when they are designed to catch the wind is not something crane drivers get excited by. They like it to be calm weather for the installation - and autumn is when the calm weather is." New En Australia is building another $50 million wind farm on the Woorndoo-Hexham Rd, 1.5 kms south of Woorndoo. Although there were three objections initially to Moyne Shire granting a planning permit, again there was no appeal to VCAT and a permit has been issued.

Mr Flynn said work would now concentrate on getting the finance arranged for the two projects, finding a customer for the energy and carrying out a detailed design. "While they (council) have issued a planning permit, there are 48 conditions that go with it. They are fairly substantial conditions that require further review by council - it requires the endorsement by council before we can start the development.

"There's a fair bit of work in preparing an environmental management plan." Mr Flynn said there was still no final decision whether there would be 13 or 15 turbines at either the Woodhouse and Woorndoo sites - but both would generate less than 30 MW. "We have 15 dots on the map at the moment but if we end up building the larger-capacity machines, then two will disappear." The two wind farms are the first for the north German company in Australia.

Powerful results at forum

Manjimup Bridgetown Times
Wednesday 11/7/2007 Page: 6

WALPOLE'S power to the people forum has been declared a success with many positive outcomes reached at the meeting. More than 30 people attended the forum organised by the Walpole and Nornalup Districts Community Development Group. Attendees included members of Western Power, Manjmup shire councillor David Tapley and Stirling MLA Terry Redman.

Donna Selby from the development group said the meeting was an excellent starting point for discussing the town's options following several power outages, including one over the Easter long weekend, Walpole's busiest tourism period. "It definitely showed there is a high level of concern over the topic of power and it was great to see what's going to happen to hopefully improve the situation," Ms Selby said.

"Western Power is coordinating a working group on the matter and we were able to form a sub-committee that will feed into the Western Power group process." Ms Selby said the meeting reiterated the unique situation of Walpole in which it is landlocked by forest and water. "We are in a good place to seek alternative sources and we will definitely be looking at these options as a high priority," Ms Selby said.

"Wind power was discussed in detail, as was diesel - these are the first options that will be looked at." Representatives from the Denmark Community Wind Farm spoke at the meeting while options such as biomass, hydro and solar were also looked at. "The other option we looked at was people reducing the amounts of power being used," Ms Selby said.

"This will also have an impact in terms of how much power is available from the grid." Ms Selby said this meeting was just a starting point and a lot of work still needed to be done. "It's a burgeoning campaign, it is just commencing, but the feeling is the sooner this happens the better," Ms Selby said. "The people of Walpole are quite sick of living in the dark. "Just because we are a small isolated community we shouldn't have to live in the dark ages."

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Geopark experts visit area

South Eastern Times
Thursday 5/7/2007 Page: 3

TWO geological experts have toured Millicent and districts as part of an application for the region to gain global status as a Geopark. The UNESCO Global Geopark experts were visiting as part of a larger regional tour to assess an application submitted by the cross border Volcanoes Discovery Trail Committee.

The application seeks Geopark status for a 26,910 square kilometre area spanning both South Australia and Victoria, covering the region from Millicent in the west, up to Hamilton in the north, across to Camperdown in the east and down to Warrnambool in the south. If successful, the region, known as Kanawinka which means `Land of Tomorrow' will become Australia's first Global Geopark and will join a network of thirty five other UNESCO endorsed Geoparks, mainly located in Europe and China.

The German inspectors, Dr Jutta Weber and Frau Dr Marie-Luise Frey toured the entire region for nine days.

During their two days in the Wattle Range region, the inspectors visited Lake Leake, Lake Edward, the Mount Burr Range, Mount McIntyre, Mount Muirhead, the Tantanoola Cave, KCA's limestone sculptures, Woakwine Range Windfarm, Penola and the Coonawarra. The inspectors will present their findings to UNESCO, in order to make a final decision on the application, which is expected to take several months.

Wattle Range Council Manager Libraries, Information and Tourism Services Janice Nitschke, said the application for Geopark status was vital to the development of tourism within the region. "It gives us an opportunity to showcae Lake Leake and Lake Edward, in the Glencoe area, which are not often highlighted," she said. "At Lake Edward, Forestry SA have made bird hides and bird walks, which are great. "It's also an opportunity to showcase the Tantanoola Cave, and the Windfarm toursit drive. "There is huge potential to build on tourists who are coming through from Melbourne. "Tourism numbers in Millicent have gone up 25 per cent from picking up the Melbourne to Adelaide tourist route, and a lot of them are going on the tourist drive, now that it is bitumenised."

Monday 9 July 2007

Time And Energy: It's more than ticking the boxes

Braidwood Times
Wednesday 4/7/2007 Page: 7

Energy use in the global sense, the cause of our atmospheric woes, is the number one priority for remedial action by all developed and developing countries. The time we have available to find solutions is the subject of a debate which, like the planet, is also getting warmer. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the solutions on offer have been drawn up by the current suppliers of energy - the coal and oil industries.

We have, as a nation, been lulled into comfortably dozy state with a high standard of living and proud of, our freedom and democracy. The danger is that our democracy has become just an exercise in ticking the boxes when the options are presented.

But who is selecting the options from which we choose? What possibilities don't ever make on to the questionnaire? The energy options for Australia, as provided by the government go something like this:
  • Do you enjoy having access to abundant cheap. electricity?
  • Are you happy to use `filthy coal' until we figure out if 'clean coal' is just a figment of someone's imagination?
  • Could we build a nuclear power station somewhere, not near you of course, and then can we carry on as usual?
  • Do you agree that making any changes to our staggering energy consumption would be futile because those greedy bastards overseas will jump in and do our polluting for us?
And that's about it. Wind farms, geo-thermal, solar arrays and other `alternative' energy sources are rarely mentioned at all, unless it's a small grant somewhere for more research.

The decision by the State Government to approve the Anvil Hill coalmine was a decision, in the words of the Planning Minister, Frank Sartor,"not taken lightly''. Well he's got that right. It's a very heavy decision for the water supply in the Hunter Valley, local wine growers, everyone who lives there, the environment at large and the ever-warming planet.

If you look at Minister Sartor's rationale for giving the mine its green light, you will see that he's cut and pasted the whole lot from Federal Minister, Malcolm Turnbull's website. We're at risk of being caught between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

There are windfarms working in Australia. There are hundreds of thousands of people who use solar hot water, many people who use only electricity made from the sun's energy, and many, many more who would do so if the governments would get off their backsides, get out from under the fossil lobby's thumb and get on with promoting a sustainable energy future.

All it takes is time and energy.

Bad boy goes green

Australia’s Mining Monthly
June, 2007 Page: 14

Rio Tinto Aluminium is looking to shed its greenhouse mafia tag and make an environmental difference.
Aluminium is seen as one of the bad guys of the greenhouse debate, a member of the so-called greenhouse mafia that has lobbied long and loud against aggressive action to combat global warming. Rio Tinto Aluminium (previously Comalco) is looking to radically alter that image.

In 2004, it opposed a national renewable energy target, telling a Senate committee that under the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target of 2% of 2001 demand levels (9500 gigawatt hours), its "direct liability... over the 20 years of operation is expected to be nearly $200 million". Three years later, Rio Tinto has just joined the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and in recent its aluminium business has been spruiking its climate change strategy.

Its first heresy: global warming is real and immediate. Its second: an emissions trading scheme in Australia is essential. Best of course would be an international cap-and-trade scheme roping in the US, Japan, China and the rest of the developing world, however, Rio Tinto Aluminium (RTA) has accepted the need for a domestic scheme in the short term.

RTA climate change manager Rick Humphries: "Seeking a carbon haven is not an intelligent view of the world because the price on carbon will catch up with you. We believe there will be a price everywhere in time." The company already puts an internal price on carbon, with all projects required to account for potential carbon-tax costs of their CO2 emissions as a part of financial forecasting. Humphries would not reveal this internal "guesstimate", but the BCSE annual conference in May heard a realistic trading figure was $7-8.50 per tonne of carbon. This will depend on the reduction target set next year by whoever is in power. Humphries shied away from naming a target, but told the BCSE audience it would have to balance the need for action with the economy's ability to absorb the cost and develop low emissions technology.

An instructive way to look behind a firm's rhetoric to gauge its perspective on an issue is to check its company structure. Humphries, a former lobbyist, strategic director with the Wilderness Society and sustainability consultant, is in an unusual position. "You don't meet many [dedicated climate change managers] around," he told LTO. "I work under the chief financial officer, which is symptomatic of how we see this. It is core business, it is risk management. We don't see it as an environmental issue and so we sought very actively to bring it into the centre." RTA has the largest carbon footprint in the Rio Tinto Group, last year emitting 12 million tonnes of CO2 from its sites and purchased electricity in Queensland, Tasmania, New Zealand and Wales. To put that in perspective, total emissions from the Australian aluminium sector in 2006 were 48Mt, while the national account stood at 560Mt.

The company has adopted a portfolio approach to tackling carbon and Humphries' job is to operationalise this five-pronged climate change strategy, which consists of onsite efficiencies, input into public policy, developing zero and low emission technologies, engaging staff and carbon offsets. In fact, RTA has just unveiled Australia's largest purchase of certified carbon credits from avoided deforestation, a 1Mt deal with southeast Queensland farmers.

The technology pathway
Making primary aluminium is inherently resource- and energy-intensive, and mining, refining and smelting produce large quantities of greenhouse gases. Most are attributable to the final process, with electricity accounting for about 40% of the total smelting cost. Smelting technology has changed little over the past 100 years and Humphries said there was only perhaps 5% extra efficiency from fine-tuning. A step change is needed.

The company has just created a chief technologist position to coordinate research and development, with a particular focus on smelting and renewable energy. One of the most promising technologies under development at the RTA Technology unit in Melbourne is called drained cathode cell smelting. By reducing the distance between the anode and cathode in the electrolytic cell, it hopes to lower the electrical resistance of the electrolyte. A demonstration project is underway at the Bell Bay smelter in Tasmania "This could improve energy efficiency by 10-15%," said Humphries.

Another area of interest is in developing an inert anode rather than a carbon-based one, which could potentially knock 60-70% of carbon out of the cycle. At base, Humphries is "agnostic" about what technologies to pursue, but argues on a national scale any comprehensive response to climate change must including the development of a "technology pathway".

"[RTA supports] increased R&D for new technologies and a technology commercialisation and deployment strategy coupled with an emissions trading scheme or some other market mechanism that determines a price on carbon," he told the BCSE crowd.

Efficiency gains
RTA's climate change unit has one other full-time employee, who works directly with operations staff to improve energy and greenhouse performance at each of the company's sites. Energy audits were conducted on three facilities last year and climate change teams were in place at all operations, with the exception of the Yarwun refinery at Gladstone.

The teams develop and drive operational improvements and eliminate waste using the Lean Six Sigma business improvement program. For example, last year its Weipa bauxite mine identified opportunities to reduce energy consumption by 5%, which is expected to reduce the electrical output of the power station in 2007 and save 2,520 tonnes of CO2- Next year, it plans to commission a specialist to retrofit homes in the far north Queensland town to install renewable energy and demand management technologies.

It's also partnering New Zealand's Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority on a similar scheme in the town of Bluff, near its New Zealand Aluminium Smelters operation. Such efficiency gains since 2002 have seen the energy used in smelting a tonne of aluminium fall from 73.2 gigajoules to 72.4GJ, though net use has climbed 16% on the back of output almost doubling.

Commercial realities and the limits on energy efficiency opportunities mean CO2 cannot be fully eliminated and carbon offsets are required. This prompted RTA to pursue what it calls "Minding the Carbon Store", a project with offset specialist The Carbon Pool to pay Queensland landholders not to clear - and to protect - native vegetation on their properties for at least 120 years.

"Given that RTA's smelter at Boyne Island is the group's single largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions and Boyne is locked in to a longer term contract for power from the coal-fired Gladstone Power Station, offsets such as those offered by the Minding the Carbon Store project will be important in managing the emissions," Humphries said.

The scheme is based on Queensland law to control large scale land clearing by allocating a limited number of permits to clear. The Carbon Pool purchased a bundle of permits to aggregate into a single offset scheme and approached RTA. It had not been done before but the company bought in as a foundation member after detailed study and certification of the credits under the Australian Greenhouse Office's Greenhouse Friendly scheme.

"Other schemes fell down on two grounds: certainty and risk management," said Humphries, who hopes the project could set a precedent for other minerals industries. "We have an appetite for more of these sorts of things. We have to be innovative, we have to start building partnerships with other players, with all parts of society as we talk about reinventing the economy" LZO