Friday 10 August 2007

Clean Energy group meets with Peter Garrett and Mike Kelly

Narooma News
08/08/2007 Page: 7

Clean Energy for Eternity groups from the Shoalhaven to the Snowy River had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Shadow Minister for the Environment and the Arts, Peter Garrett and ALP candidate for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly. It was a timely meeting, as CEFE is in the final stages of preparing a hard-hitting questionnaire for all candidates, seeking concise information on promises, policies and personal views related to their response to climate change.

CEFE is very clearly a non-aligned community group with no affiliation with any political party. However, it is part of our community responsibility to engage political representatives and learn how they can assist us in meeting our collective targets of 50/50 by 2020. We will value the opportunity to talk with Malcolm Turnbull whenever possible and will be making further contact with his office.

We were glad to quiz Peter Garrett on what he'd do if in Government. Garrett mentioned the proposed revolving fund of $10,000 for greenhouse retrofitting of existing homes, but stated the ALP will reveal more detail on its climate policies in the lead up to the election. The lack of detail particularly on the MRET target is delaying investment in the renewable energy industry. The sooner these national targets are in the public domain, the quicker industry can activate millions of dollars worth of investment in tangible solutions to climate change.

Peter Garrett and Mike Kelly showed interest in the concept of CEFE setting up a `centre of excellence' in climate change, though Garrett pointed out that while we are `ahead of the game' there are several regions moving fast on climate change.

Garrett left the meeting inspired by the passionate response our community has had to climate change and encouraging us to continue our efforts to engage practical action at the grass roots. He was impressed by CEFE's ability to take our positive message on climate action out to a wide audience, empowering ordinary people to participate in developing solutions to this global crisis.

CEFE will continue to engage in open dialogue with politicians in the lead-up to the Federal election and push for genuine leadership and a comprehensive national strategy on climate change.

Clean energy revamp

08/08/2007 Page: 31
Matthew Warren: Environment writer

Clean energy sector shake-out separates gas and wind from solar and geothermal. Preparations are under way for a national price regime on greenhouse emissions.

AUSTRALIA'S $5 billion clean energy industry has completed a major strategic shake-out that will largely separate gas and wind energy interests from proponents of solar and geothermal energy. The shake-out is seen as readying the clean energy sector for expected substantial growth when a national price on greenhouse emissions kicks in from as early as 2010.

A new clean energy organisation is to be launched on Friday, following six months of protracted negotiations between the industry's three representative bodies. In the new deal, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) will merge with the Australian Wind Energy Association (Auswind), while the Renewable Energy Generators Forum (REGA) will continue to operate until the federal election, expected in November.

A consolidation has been looming for the fledgling industry, unable to justify three rival organisations competing for membership and representation, with most major clean energy companies in Australia represented on two or more of the former industry groups. The shake-out is expected to evolve into two broad alliances of interests with the new BCSE and Auswind merger campaigning for policies such as Mandatory Renewable Energy Targets to drive immediate investment and installation of low-emissions technologies such as gas and wind.

A second breakaway group likely to emerge from the REGA group is expected to seek greater government investment in accelerating development of emerging technologies such as geothermal energy and large-scale solar. Chief executive of gas giant AGL, Paul Anthony, will chair the new lead organisation, which will be run by former Auswind chief executive Dominique La Fontaine.

BCSE executive director Ric Brazzale resigned last week after founding the organisation's predecessor 10 years ago with a membership that included Origin Energy, Pacific Hydro, BP Solar and Energetics. BCSE was formed in late 2002 with a merger of the Australian EcoGeneration Association (AEA) and the Sustainable Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

REGA chief executive Susan Jeanes has also resigned but will stay on to manage the organisation until the end of the year and is expected to be involved with the development of a geothermal industry group currently under investigation by the industry. REGA's membership also includes AGL, Pacific Hydro and BP Solar as well as geothermal developer Petratherm and Solar Systems, which received a $75 million grant last year to develop its concentrated solar technology near Mildura.

Ms La Fontaine yesterday said it was important that the industry spoke with one voice to deliver the energy solutions needed by the economy in a carbon constrained future. "There is huge growth in electricity generation so we need all the technologies that we have to be able to meet the economic growth. It's not about one technology over another," she said.

Ms La Fontaine said the split between current and emerging clean energy technologies reflected a more natural policy division for the industry rather than one based on the old sections of technology or renewable status: "I think it's a much better position to be in that we can resolve policy and outcomes around that." Energetics managing director Tony Cooper said the new organisation would be more efficient and effective for the industry: "Anything that can provide a focus and a strong voice is welcomed." Australia's infant hot rocks companies already have an informal Australian Geothermal Energy Group, which is investigating whether to expand into a fullblown industry group that may emerge if REGA wraps up at the end of the year.

Petratherm managing director Terry Kallis said the industry, hoping to generate electricity from hot rocks kilometres deep in the earth, wanted to engage all sides of politics: "We will wait and see after (the election) where we head with that."

Renewable energy industry neglected

Adelaide Advertiser
08/08/2007 Page: 16

THE Rann Government has a two-faced approach to the environment and renewable energy. On the one hand, it is attempting to take credit for a small boom in sustainable energy projects now happening in South Australia (various hot-rocks developments in the Far North and new wind farms at Hallett, Snowtown, Lake Bonney and, possibly soon, Crystal Brook and Waterloo). On the other hand, it refuses to mandate a renewable energy target.

In fact, the growth in wind-farm construction in SA is being pushed by the New South Wales Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. SA is fortunate in having naturally good wind resources, while NSW is less well endowed. The industry is expecting NSW to buy SA wind electricity to fulfil NSW targets. The Rann Government is spending money on symbolic gestures, such as mini wind turbines and small solar panels on public buildings, while neglecting the potentially huge, but less visible, renewable energy industry.

Win for wind farm

Weekly Times
08/08/2007 Page: 2

VICTORIA'S first community-owned wind farm, the Leonards Hill project, has been given the green light by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The project was approved by the Hepburn Shire Council in February but local opponents took their objections to VCAT. The wind farm will consist of two 70-metre wind turbines 10km south of Daylesford, which will generate enough energy to supply 2000 homes.

Wind turbines are go

Hepburn Shire Advocate
08/08/2007 Page: 2

THE controversial Leonards Hill wind farm will go ahead after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal last week gave it the green light after a two-month hearing in Melbourne. Hepburn Shire Council approved Australia's first community wind farm in February despite 18 objections. The objectors took the case to VCAT. The $8 million project also received more than 300 positive submissions.

The VCAT report said there would be a significant impact on people involved no matter which outcome was reached and found the proposal had caused community divisions. Melbourne-based company Future Energy is developing the project in partnership with Hepburn Renewable Energy Association. The project will consist of two two-megawatt 68-metre turbines built on a farm on the Ballan-Daylesford Rd that the company said would produce enough energy for more than 2000 homes. Noise from the wind farm will comply with prescribed standards.

HREA committee president Per Bernard said: "It's clear from the VCAT decision that Future Energy prepared a very comprehensive application covering all the environmental and amenity issues. "It gives us a lot of confidence that we can continue working together to complete this great community project," he said. Future Energy's managing director David Shapero was delighted with the decision. "We'd like to thank everyone who supported the application. "This project is already an inspiration to communities across Australia and we think it will prove to be the first of many community-owned renewable energy projects.".

Mayor David Smith said, while the council understood the objectors' views, under the planning and environment act planning applications had to be determined on their planning merits. "VCAT has confirmed that council's decision to grant a permit was correct," he said. Mr Shapero couldn't put a date on when construction would start. He said: "This is a magnificent milestone but there's a lot of work still to be done before we start the fund raising process." Sustainability Victoria has allocated $975,000 for the wind farm.

Demand to increase

Hepburn Shire Advocate
08/08/2007 Page: 2

THE Victorian Government's energy planning body VENCorp predicts wind energy will provide 23 per cent of its installed generating capacity and that wind energy will provide 88 megawatts of power in summer periods of high electricity demand, with the figure increasing to 285 megawatts in 2009-2010. The State Government wants renewable energy to meet 10 percent of Victoria's annual electricity consumption by 2010, according to VENCorp.

Tapping the ocean to quench a thirst

Australian Financial Review
09/08/2007 Page: 16

Perth's first desalination plant opened in April this year, and now contributes 17 percent of the city's water supply, at a time when water supplies were being squeezed by long-term drought and below average rainfall, pushing metropolitan dams to historically low levels. Encouraged by the success of the first desalination plant in Kwinana, the WA government recently announced plans to build a second plant at Binningup.

This sparked protests from local residents, who called for the plant to be built at Kemerton, inland from Binningup, but Water Corporation chairman Jim Gill says studies showed that putting the plant at the Kemerton Industrial Park was not feasible. Gill says it was vital to move away from reliance on dams, given it was uncertain when or if the fall in inflows to dams would end.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

E.ON to invest €3 billion in renewables
Updated 03 August 2007

London, 2 August: E.On is to expand its renewable energy activities, investing €3 billion ($4.1 billion) by 2010, mainly in offshore wind, it announced on Tuesday. This is up from €1 billion ($1.4 billion) in last year's investment plan. By 2010, the Germany-based utility company aims to commission more than 500MW of new capacity, more than doubling its existing installed capacity of approximately 400MW. A new business will be established to manage all of its renewable energy activities, as well as E.On's long-term sourcing of carbon credits to help it meet its targets under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The future renewables and climate protection unit will be headed by Frank Mastiaux, who is currently responsible for BP's global liquefied petroleum gas business in London. "We believe that by bringing the group's expertise together in one unit, we can execute this investment plan more swiftly and effectively by making more efficient use of the resources we have in the E.On Group," said Sabine Hower, spokeswoman for E.On. She did not specify in which countries E.On plans to build renewable capacity, except that it would target markets with "significant growth potential" and an "attractive and stable incentive system".

One of the offshore wind energy projects planned by E.On will be among the largest wind farms in the world – the London Array in the Thames estuary – with a capacity of about 1,000 MW and which E.On is developing with Shell WindEnergy and Denmark's DONG Energy. The new unit, which is expected to be operational by the beginning of 2008, will play a key role in achieving E.On's target of halving its carbon dioxide emissions from 1990 levels by 2030, reducing the carbon intensity of its power generation portfolio to 0.36 tonnes/MWh.

US groups fight government funding of coal power plants
27 July 2007

New York, 26 July: US environmental groups are suing the government over plans to finance coal-fired power plants, accusing it of failing to account for future greenhouse gas emissions.

The US Department of Agriculture provides low-interest loans to utility cooperatives through its Rural Utilities Service (RUS). But the Sierra Club, Citizens for Clean Energy and the Montana Environmental Information Centre stated in a 20 July suit that this makes no sense, since President Bush has recognised the climate issue, both parties in Congress are working on global warming legislation, and the Supreme Court declared in April that "the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognised".

Those groups filed a complaint against the RUS in federal court, seeking to stop funding of a 250MW coal-fired plant in Montana. That plant would be constructed by Southwestern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative, which supplies local co-ops. The Highwood Generating Station would emit 2.8 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, the plaintiffs say. According to the suit, the RUS violated the National Environmental Policy Act because it decided to fund the plant without assessing environmental impacts and without considering alternatives.

The cooperative does not plan to include carbon capture, but said it would add controls when required, noted Abigail Dillen, attorney with Earthjustice, which is representing the groups. But that could add $33 per megawatt hour (MWh) to the $57/MWh expected cost of power from the $720 million plant, she said, citing a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study on carbon capture. It could also reduce plant output by 40%.

"The whole point [of the RUS] is to benefit customers with low rates," said Dillen, in Earthjustice's Bozeman, Montana, office. But she pointed out that utility Northwestern Energy recently signed a contract to buy Montana wind energy for $31/MWh, or $42/MWh with "firming" power to augment wind's variable production.

Earthjustice and Sierra Club oppose RUS plans to fund at least seven other coal plants across the US, representing more than 3,400MW. DoA spokesman Jay Fletcher said the department has not yet responded to the suit and would not comment. Southwestern Montana EG&T did not respond to request for comment.

Monday 6 August 2007

US Congress backs wind, solar power

Canberra Times
Monday 6/8/2007 Page: 8

Washington The US House of Representatives has made an unprecedented step toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions as it passed a sweeping energy Bill that requires utilities to produce 15 per cent of their electricity from wind and solar power. The Bill sailed through the House on Saturday on a 241-172 vote, despite fervent opposition from big oil, gas companies and the White House, which has threatened to veto the measure. Remarkably, 26 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the initiative.

The Bill will have to be reconciled with a Senate version, which passed last June, but is more restrained and emphasises slightly different priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "Today, the House propelled America's energy policy into the future. This planet is God's creation; we have a moral responsibility to protect it." Ms Pelosi, a Democrat, said it was essential to commit to renewable energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Doing so would help address global warming and snake the country more energy-independent. "It's about our children, about our future, the world in which they live," she said.

A provision in the Bill calls for gradual steps to reduce the role of fossil fuels in generating energy, imposing for the first time a federal standard, tinder which utilities will have to provide 15 per cent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2020. This standard, according to congressional officials, will likely result in a reduction carbon dioxide emissions - a significant contributor to global warming - by 500 million tonnes. The utilities and business interests had argued aggressively against the federal renewables mandate, saying it would raise electricity prices in regions of the country that do not have abundant wind energy.

But environmentalists said the requirement would spur investments in renewable fuels and help address global warming as utilities use less coal. Democratic representative Tom Udall, the provision's co-sponsor, said,"This will save consumers money," maintaining utilities would have to use less high-priced natural gas. He noted that nearly half the states already had a renewable energy mandate for utilities, and if utilities could find enough renewable they could meet part of the requirement through power conservation measures. Power plants account for about a third of US carbon dioxide emissions.

If the best provision of both the Senate and House versions of the Bill are combined, US greenhouse gas emissions would drop a total of 18 per cent by 2030, according to an analysis issued by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Senate energy efficiency package, which includes new car efficiency standards, is also projected to reduce US demand for oil by 5.3 million barrels a day in 2030, which is 32 per cent of oil and other liquid fuel imports projected for that year.

Seeds of doubt cast over offset planting

Monday 6/8/2007 Page: 5

TREE-PLANTING schemes promoted by businesses and rock bands alike to offset carbon emissions do little to combat climate change, according to a think tank. A paper by The Australia Institute released yesterday accuses governments and businesses of exploiting such "fads" to avoid the need for real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. "By diverting people's funds and attention to projects that are unlikely to reduce emissions significantly in the long term, some offset schemes could ultimately do more harm than good," Christian Downie, the author of the report, said. "Tree-planting is the most popular type of carbon offset promoted in Australia but it is, in fact, the least effective for dealing with climate change.

"The evidence indicates that offsets from renewable energy are the most effective, followed by those from energy efficiency projects, with forestry projects ranked last." The comments are a blow to companies that have supported tree-planting to offset their carbon footprints, including BP, Sainsbury's, British Telecom, Orange, Avis and MTV.

British rock band Coldplay bought 10,000 mango trees for villagers in Karnataka, in India, to offset the greenhouse gases released as a result of the production of their album A Rush of Blood to the Head. Dido, Atomic Kitten, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kylie Minogue, Kevin Keegan and the Rolling Stones have also promoted tree planting schemes. Mr Downie said Australia needed a compulsory accreditation scheme for carbon offset projects. He said there were strong grounds for excluding forestry based offsets from an emissions trading system in Australia, or at least restricting their use.

"Tree-planting, or forestry, cannot secure real, measurable and permanent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions because sooner or later the forest will be felled, burned or destroyed," Mr Downie said. "When (people) buy offsets from a forestry project with their airline ticket, for example, they are actually buying a promise that the immediate emissions from their flight will be gradually offset over the next 100 years. "There can be very little, if any, guarantee that this will actually happen."

Turning on to turbines

Echo - Bellarine edition
Thursday 2/8/2007 Page: 3

A COMMUNITY-OWNED wind farm could form part of the Bellarine's answer to climate change, according to a Melbourne-based renewable energy company. Future Energy, in association with a local community group, plans to build a community owned wind farm 10km south of Daylesford, after the Hepburn Shire Council approved the proposal earlier this year. The proposal is awaiting a VCAT hearing but director David Shapiro said a similar project could operate on the Bellarine Peninsula. The Hepburn farm will consist of two turbines, each with a 2 megawatt capacity, and will produce enough energy for more than 2000 homes.

"The community then have the opportunity to invest directly in the project by buying shares," Mr Shapiro said. "The energy produced by wind turbines is supplied to the grid and sold to energy retailers and the profit from these energy sales is then distributed to the wind farm owners." Mr Shapiro said members of the public could invest in local wind turbine projects and reap long-term secure returns previously available only to large institutions. "You can also help produce clean energy and reduce pollution by lowering the amount of greenhouse gases," he said.

Mr Shapiro said any new wind turbines on the Bellarine would be about three times the size of the one at Breamlea. "You don't have to put them on the beach, you can put them inland," he said. Mr Shapiro said the local community association was a major driver for the Hepburn project. "They have over 400 members, which is a substantial part of the local population," Mr Shapiro said. "These people got together and decided they wanted to take responsibility for their own energy needs." Community-owned wind farms are popular in Europe and have been in operation since the 1980s.

Mr Shapiro said the company's co-operative model could work for other alternative energy projects, including solar, biofuel and biomass. City of Greater Geelong councillor Jan Farrell said she believed the community wind farm had merit. "Something like that could work out here," Cr Farrell said. "The council doesn't supply electricity but we do act as an advocate on these issues and I think it is worth investigation."

Road donation

Port Lincoln Times
Thursday 2/8/2007 Page: 6

Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm has donated $2000 to Lower Eyre Peninsula District Council to assist with maintenance and upkeep of the Fishery Bay Road. Facilities manager John Fannin said the money had been allocated through the wind farm's community relations budget, and it was hoped it would become a regular contribution. The dirt road requires frequent grading and maintenance to ensure safe driving conditions.

"We saw the opportunity to help the district council maintain the road and keep it in good order for the general public, local landowners and employees of the wind farm," Mr Fannin said. "It's a way of helping everyone out." Council mayor Max Hill accepted the donation, thanking Mr Fannin for the contribution on behalf of the ratepayers and the council. "(The money) is greatly appreciated and will assist with extra grading during the year," said Mr Hill.

Europe watches which way the wind blows

Australian Financial Review
Saturday 4/8/2007 Page: 32

Back in the 1880s George Westinghouse argued that alternating current (AC) lost less power over short distances and thus became the industry standard. Today there is serious argument for building long distance high-voltage direct current (DC) lines as DC has lower losses than AC over distance. A DC grid could cover all of Europe, and ultimately the world, making it possible for the vagaries of wind energy to become part of the base-load and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

Such a system is already being built between Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany for Norway to sell some of its abundant hydro-electricity to the more heavily populated parts of Europe. Ireland's Airtricity has similar plans to transport its North Sea wind energy to customers throughout northern Europe. Perhaps the Organisation of Electricity Exporting Countries will one day take over from OPEC.

Congress approves taxes on oil firms

Monday 6/8/2007 Page: 11

WASHINGTON: Declaring a new direction in energy policy, the US House of Representatives approved $US16 billion ($18.6 billion) in taxes on oil companies, while providing billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives for renewable energy and conservation efforts. Republican opponents said the legislation ignored the need to produce more domestic oil, natural gas and coal. One Republican bemoaned "the pure venom... against the oil and gas industry".

The house passed the tax provisions by a vote of 221-189 late on Saturday. Earlier, it had approved, 241-172, a companion energy package aimed at boosting energy efficiency and expanding use of biofuels, wind energy and other renewable energy sources. "We are turning to the future," said the house's Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The two bills, passed as legislators prepared to leave town for their summer recess, will be merged with legislation passed by the Senate in June.

On one of the most contentious and heavily lobbied issues, the house voted to require investor-owned electric utilities nationwide to generate at least 15 per cent of their electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind or biofuels. The utilities and business interests had argued against the federal renewables mandate, saying it would raise electricity prices in regions of the country that do not have abundant wind energy. But environmentalists said the requirement would spur investments in renewable fuels and help address global warming as utilities use less coal.

"This will save consumers money," said Democrat Tom Udall, the provision's cosponsor, maintaining that utilities would have to use less highpriced natural gas. He noted that nearly half the states already had a renewable energy mandate for utilities, and if utilities could not find enough renewable they could meet part of the requirement through power conservation measures.

The bill also calls for more stringent energy efficiency standards for appliances and lighting and incentives for building more energy-efficient "green" buildings. It would authorise special bonds for cities and counties to reduce energy demand. Ms Pelosi said it was essential to commit to renewable energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Doing so would help address global warming and make the US more energy independent: "It's about our children, about our future, the world in which they live." Democrats avoided a nasty fight by ignoring at least for the time being calls for car manufacturers to make vehicles more fuel-efficient.

Cars, four-wheel-drives and small trucks use most of the country's oil and produce almost one-third of carbon dioxide emissions. That issue, as well as whether to require huge increases in the use of corn-based ethanol as a substitute for petrol, were left to be thrashed out when the house bill is merged with energy legislation the Senate passed in June. But the legislation does end a tax break for buying large 4WDs, known as the "Hummer tax loophole" because it allows people who buy some of the most expensive big cars to write off much of the cost.

Republicans said the house bill did nothing to increase domestic oil and natural gas production or take further advantage of coal, the country's most abundant energy resource. "There's a war going on against energy from fossil fuels," said Republican Ralph Halt, who is from oil-rich Texas. "I can't understand the pure venom felt against the oil and gas industry." Another Texan Republican, Joe Barton, said the bill was "a political exercise" to promote "pet projects (and) pet ideas". The White House indicated that Mr Bush might veto the bill, saying it made "no serious attempts to increase our energy security or address high energy costs" and would harm domestic oil and gas production.