Thursday 30 August 2007

La Fontaine goes into battle on behalf of sustainable energy

Herald Sun
August 18, 2007 12:00am

THE renewable energy sector has united behind a "Joan of Arc" it hopes will lead its charge through the corridors of parliament ahead of the federal election. Just as the French saint fought to reclaim territory from those who invaded her homeland, Dominique La Fontaine, the leader of the newly formed Clean Energy Council, aims to snatch ground for her members in the carbon-literate government policies that will shape Australia's power infrastructure.

Ms La Fontaine has headed the Australian Wind Energy Association for more than two years following previous stints in forestry jobs. "I haven't been a greenie but I have always had a strong appreciation of sustainability," she said. She will become chief executive of a new peak body that is essentially a merger between the 300-member Business Council for Sustainable Energy and her own Auswind group. "It will be a one-stop shop for policy and our members, which in the past were affiliated with two or more bodies, will now be able to see more efficient use of their lobbying funds through a single channel," she said.

Ms La Fontaine will not meet the same fiery fate as the French crusader burnt at the stake for heresy, even though some climate change sceptics have described wind turbines as totems to pagan gods. But there is a chance, she believes, that the efforts of businesses that now produce sustainable energy will go up in smoke unless politicians can be convinced that carbon needs to be priced now, not later. "Our membership covers a quarter of Australia's total electricity production, including gas, wind, hydro and bioenergy," Ms La Fontaine said.

In addition to representing energy titans such as Babcock and Brown, AGL, TRUEnergy, Origin Energy and BPSolar, the Clean Energy Council will also be the new voice of businesses operating in the geothermal, cogeneration, biomass, and solar technology fields.

"If Australia seriously wants to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, we need to use electricity smarter," she said. "We need to reduce its use, but the electricity we do use needs to be cleaner. "Our sector can make that clean electricity and help Australia's economic growth at the same time. "Ours is the sector that has the products and services that can achieve this today, without having to wait for new technologies to be developed."

Ms La Fontaine says the Federal Government's claim that measures to reduce emissions will be expensive is making people fear change. "The government also likes to point out it thinks it unfair that Australia should have to move swiftly on climate change, when big polluting nations such as India and China are continuing to build coal-fired power stations at a fast rate. "But the fact is that China and India treat renewable energy more seriously than Australia does at the moment. "China sees renewable energy as vital to producing power for its modern economy and plans to have 30,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2020."

Currently, China's wind farm sector produces about 5000 megawatts of electricity, she said, while Australia only has enough wind turbines to generate less than 900 megawatts. She argues there are too many policymakers that consider wind and other renewable energies as "alternative and hippie" when there is evidence these mainstream technologies provide consistent power and underpin economic growth, not detract from it. Unless governments continue to require electricity retailers to source some of their power from the renewables sector, Ms La Fontaine warns that companies such as Roaring 40s and Pacific Hydro will move their operations overseas to markets that encourage renewables.

Already, the Australian economy and private investors have lost the opportunity to take advantage of cutting-edge solar technologies that are making bucketloads of money for investors in China, the US and Germany. Many of these technologies were discovered by Australian researchers but faced with a lack of investment interest from a business community that could not see profits in the technologies, their developers took their zero-emission innovations overseas.

The Clean Energy Council's main worry now is the political inertia over setting carbon emission targets and prices. It is a frustration shared with business interests in the coal-fired electricity sector who say that without a price signal soon, urgent upgrades to the power grid and the construction of further power plants to cope with forecast energy needs are being hamstrung. The uncertainty is hampering the inability to plan capital works and cost carbon onto balance sheets and consequently putting billions of dollars of infrastructure investment at risk, the major energy players have told the government.

Ms La Fontaine believes both political parties are "playing chess" on carbon policy. "Each wants to see what move the other one makes first before committing," she says. "Our concern is that the government seems to believe that just having an emissions trading regime will solve the carbon issue. It won't. "We believe that by 2020 at least 20 per cent of the nation's electricity needs must come from clean energy, otherwise emissions will keep going up. "Our message right now is don't expect emissions trading to fill that void, because it won't for quite some time."

Ms La Fontaine said the same could be said of the as yet unproven and so-called "clean" coal technologies and carbon sequestration. "I don't have a problem with cleaning up coal," she said. "But while we are busy beavering away in laboratories trying to clean up coal, let us not allow what is under our noses, the technologies that we already know work, slip from our fingers."

And unlike the as-yet-untested "clean" coal technologies, carbon sequestration and even nuclear energy, Ms La Fontaine said that renewables do not need government hand-outs for research and development or the underwriting of insurance by the taxpayer. In particular, she said the community needed to be aware that the report on geosequestration technology tabled in parliament on Monday recommended that the government should carry risks associated with burying carbon dioxide.

The report supports full financial liability and responsibility for site safety and monitoring should be transferred to government in perpetuity after an unspecified period. "The report demonstrates the complexity and potential risks of geosequestration, however, we don't need to wait until these things are resolved to act," Ms La Fontaine said. "Our industry has energy solutions that are ready right now to immediately, positively impact climate change."

Go Solar, Wind Or Geothermal If You Want Renewable Energy With Life-cycle Efficiency
August 18, 2007

Science Daily — Do the overall efficiencies of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal add up in terms of their complete life cycle from materials sourcing, manufacture, running, and decommissioning" Researchers in Greece have carried out a life cycle assessment to find the answer.

Increasing energy consumption and a growing world population implies shrinking reserves of fossil fuels. While the use of fossil fuels brings with it the problem of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. Our continued dependence on fossil fuels coupled with the pressing global issue of climate change has pushed the concept of renewable energy sources to the top of the agenda.

In looking for alternative energy supplies, there is more to simply adding up the outputs, according to Christopher Koroneos and Yanni Koroneos of the Laboratory of Heat Transfer and Environmental Engineering, at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. They argue that a whole life cycle assessment of any environmentally friendly energy supply must be carried out to ensure its green credentials are valid.

Writing in Inderscience's International Journal of Global Energy Issues, the researchers point out that land use and materials employed are just two aspects of renewable energy development that can have an adverse impact on the otherwise positive environmental picture.

There are three viable renewable energy resources, say the researchers - solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy. They have applied the techniques of life cycle assessment (LCA) to each in order to determine the total environmental impact and to compare this with the effects of equivalent energy release from fossil fuels.

The LCA approach allows an assessment to be made of the flow of material and energy used in the construction, operation and ultimate decommissioning of a renewable energy supply. It also takes into account the manufacturing of components, the possible extraction and supply of fuels as well as waste generated in these processes.

The researchers demonstrate that some renewable energy systems based on wind energy and geothermal energy do have valid green credentials in electricity production. The efficiency of these systems is comparable over the complete life cycle than the equivalent fossil fuel system. However, the conversion of solar energy to electricity using photovoltaic solar cells is less efficient in terms of materials production, running, and recycling than non-renewable energy. However, economies of scale come into play with solar power and a large enough area of solar cells would outstrip the fossil fuel system. The team also points out that the life cycle pollution of solar systems is much, much lower than any conventional system although thermodynamic efficiency is lower.

"A significant advantage of the use of renewable energy systems," say the researchers,"is that they are environmentally friendly because overall they result in lower dangerous pollutant emissions, this and one other major factor, they are essentially inexhaustible."

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Inderscience Publishers.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

It's time to focus our energy

Daily Telegraph
Tuesday 28/8/2007 Page: 2

Every morning of every day, we all start by using electricity. We boil the kettle for a cup of coffee or tea, make toast, and then jump into the shower and head to work. Electricity makes our lives so easy but the fossil fuels we rely on to produce it and to drive our cars are making our country sick. More than a century ago, when we first started using coal and oil, we didn't know the greenhouse gases they produced would heat the Earth dangerously. But we do now and we all must act to make sure future generations of Australians do not inherit a world damaged by climate change.

There is another incentive for us to find and use non-polluting sources of energy and electricity: fossil fuels are running out. While there are still more than 200 years of coal reserves left, less than 45 years of oil supplies exist. Australia's contribution to this global problem is significant. The value of our exports of energy resources in 2006-07 is about $45 billion. Australia is the fifth largest exporter of liquid natural gas; we will likely be the third largest by 2010. We are the world's largest coal exporter and the second-largest uranium producer.

The Australian Government's decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which involves targets to reduce greenhouse emissions, was based on a fear that taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions would harm our economy by exposing businesses to costs not faced by their international competitors.

But there is growing evidence that taking action has potential to provide substantial economic growth through new technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Billions of taxpayers' dollars go to fossil fuel-burning industries each year in Australia, increasing the amount of emissions. As much as $10 billion in government subsidies went to coal, oil and gas companies in 2005-06, representing 96 per cent of all financial support given last year by our governments in the energy and transport sectors.

Research by The Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, found government handouts to polluting industries also prevent new economic/job opportunities in the renewable energy sector, such as wind (above) and solar, which received only four per cent or about $330m in support. The energy and transport sectors are responsible for up to 70 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

It is in these sectors that action to combat the impact of climate change is most urgently needed. One obvious response is to shift government funding from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources that don't make greenhouse gas; wind energy, bioenergy and solar. By removing subsidies for fossil fuels and instead supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency we could level the playing field and reduce our greenhouse pollution. We would also help save our Earth.

Fund breezes into the black

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 28/8/2007 Page: 39

THE owner of the Lake Bonney wind farms in the South-East, Babcock and Brown Wind Partners Group, has made a comeback from the red to post an annual profit. The wind-power investment fund made a net profit of $13.8 million in 2006- 07 compared to a loss of $16.2 million in the previous year.

It said it was well placed to benefit from acquisitions this year. "Babcock and Brown Wind Partners remains well placed to further build and consolidate its position as a leading global wind energy business," chief executive Miles George said yesterday. "Babcock and Brown Wind Partners has access to a quality acquisition pipeline which we expect will deliver opportunities for continued growth on an accretive basis." The fund said participation in Babcock and Brown and Singapore Power International consortium to acquire energy group Alinta also had enhanced its acquisition capacity.

In 2006-07, the group snapped up wind farms across the world, including in Spain and Germany. It is building a wind farm in France and is adding to its U.S. operations. It declared a final distribution of 6.25c per stapled security, taking the total for the year to June 30 to 12.5c.

Teaming up for desal contracts

Saturday 25/8/2007 Page: 84

Two world-leading water companies have formed a partnership to bid for major seawater desalination contracts in Australia. Spanish-based Acciona Agua will team with United Utilities Australia (UUA) to bid for the proposed Melbourne desalination project, the planned second seawater desalination plant for Perth and other largescale seawater desalination projects around Australia. The partnership provides a powerful combination of leading edge technology from Acciona Agua, a company with more than 30 years experience in seawater desalination globally, being teamed with the high-level operations skill and local water industry experience of UUA.

Acciona Agua has built or has under construction more than 70 desalination plants in Spain and internationally with a total capacity of more than 1.6 million megalitres per day (1.6 million tonnes). Earlier this year, Acciona Agua was selected as preferred bidder to build and operate the Carlsbad seawater desalination project in San Diego, California. At 204 ML/d capacity, this will be the largest desalination plant in the United States.

Also in the United States, Acciona Agua is currently carrying out the upgrade of the 109 ML/d Tampa Bay seawater desalination plant in Florida. The company is also building the first large-scale municipal desalination plant in the UK, the 150ML/d Thames Gateway Project. And at Torrevieja (Allicante) in Spain, Acciona Agua is building the largest desalination plant in Europe with a capacity of 240 megalitres per day.

Highlighting Acciona Agua's success on the world desalination stage, earlier this year the business was nominated Desalination Company of the Year, one of the Global Water Awards promoted by the publishers of Global Water Intelligence and Water Desalination Report in association With the International Desalination Association. The Award made special mention of Acciona Agua's belief in sustainability and its deep commitment to excellence in engineering as demonstrated by the its work on the Thames Gateway Project, Tampa Bay and the New Canal de Cartagena facility in Spain.

The Acciona Group is already involved in the Australian utilities and infrastructure sector through Acciona Energy, the world's leading developer, owner and operator of renewable power facilities. Acciona Energy has developed a portfolio of green power projects in Australia and is currently constructing a 192 megawatt wind farm in Victoria.

Acciona Energy's renewable energy portfolio will enable the Acciona Agua and UUA partnership to offer zero carbon electricity to Melbourne Water. United Utilities, through its wholly owned subsidiary, UUA, has been involved in Australia for more than 15 years. It owns and operates water and wastewater infrastructure through Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) contracts with public sector utilities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

Activity for local government includes the operation and management of wastewater networks and the treatment of effluent to a stage enabling its reuse in the irrigation of vineyards and other crops that generate economic growth.

For further information, contact:
Acciona Agua:,
United Utilities Australia: Stan Boath (08) 8408 6528,

Carbon neutral bid a bold plan

Port Macquarie News
Monday 27/8/2007 Page: 9

COUNCILLORS will be asked to support a move to make Port Macquarie-Hastings Council carbon neutral by 2010. This would involve purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro and solar and converting the council's fleet of cars to hybrid electric cars and using bio-diesel in heavy vehicles. "I think it's realistic but it will need the support of the councillors," Cr Cameron Price said. "I'll put forward the motion that a report come back from council staff on the feasibility and mechanisms of becoming carbon neutral. "Having achieved most and exceeded some of the goals in the old Greenhouse Abatement Strategy, it is time to move to the next level," he said.

The council already had reduced carbon emissions from electricity by 79 per cent, Cr Price said. Cr Price launched his vision for a carbon neutral council at the Climate Change Australia Hastings Branch annual general meeting at Sea Acres on Saturday. "I'll be talking in detail about my vision at the meeting before putting it to the council," Cr Price said last week. "We can capture carbon from the atmosphere by revegetating cleared areas such as the banks of all waterways and increase the capacity of the Cairncross Waste treatment facility to compost food scraps and garden waste to reduce methane gas." The proposal will go to the vote today.

Rudd challenges APEC on climate

Tuesday 28/8/2007 Page: 2

KEVIN Rudd says next week's APEC leaders' meeting in Sydney will be a failure unless the 21 participating nations take concrete action toward a global approach to climate change. And the Opposition Leader has demanded John Howard reverse his refusal to set targets for reductions in carbon emissions and seek commitments from other nations to follow suit. But the Prime Minister yesterday set a different standard for success of APEC the adoption of "aspirational targets" that leave room for developing nations to pursue further development.

Next week's meeting gives APEC an opportunity to take a position on climate change before a US-convened meeting of major carbon emitters next month and UN ministerial-level climate negotiations in Bali in December. Mr Howard and Mr Rudd both addressed luncheons in Sydney on the issue yesterday, each reflecting the climate change policies they will take to the approaching federal election.

Mr Rudd, who favours reducing Australia's carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, said Mr Howard must be a leader on the problem, not a follower. "Put simply, if APEC can't get its act together on one of the biggest challenges of our day in climate change, then it has no future," he told the Australian Institute of International Affairs. "Australia's core problem in hosting next week's APEC summit is that we come to the table with little credibility on climate change." Mr Rudd said Mr Howard was a climate change sceptic whose refusal to agree on the need for emissions reduction targets left him isolated, with business and green groups agreeing on the need for action.

"America has moved, the rest of the developed world has moved, much of the developing world is moving," Mr Rudd said. "But our Prime Minister, the chair of next week's APEC summit, remains unmoved." Australia must convince all APEC members to endorse the Kyoto Protocol and embrace a target of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions against 2000 levels by

Mr Howard, who has refused to set an emissions target pending economic evaluations by Treasury but favours a carbon-trading system, told the Lowy Institute he would use APEC to promote 'aspirational" targets. "I would like to see APEC leaders agree for the first time that a new international agreement should include an agreed longterm aspirational goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Howard said. "The key task in Sydney is to give political direction to the shape of a future framework for climate change that is truly global." Mr Howard said it would be wrong to deny developing APEC economies their aspirations for continued growth. "Indeed, economic growth and prosperity is the best means of tackling the very environmental issues that rich, industrialised nations are also tackling," he said.

He wanted APEC to act on the need for a comprehensive agreement that involved flexibility and respect for different national circumstances. Member nations should also embrace the importance of creating carbon sinks through forestry and build deeper co-operation on technologies that reduce emissions. "This should take account of the reality of continued use of fossil fuels, as well as the potential of renewable energy sources and the proven contribution that can be made by nuclear power," he said. "A new APEC consensus would provide political momentum to both the US-led initiative to bring together major economies later in September and the UN conference in Bali in December."

Monday 27 August 2007

Software to map a wind of change

Canberra Times
Monday 27/8/2007 Page: 11

As the climate change debate heats up there is no better time than now to be a software company that develops award-wining renewable energy technology. Formed in 2003 thanks to funding from the CSIRO and Epicorp, Canberra-based Windlab Systems has created software tools to improve the efficiency of wind farms.

Tools that find windy areas and then discover the windiest parts of those areas may not sound like much, but they play a crucial role in developing ideal wind-generation sites across the globe. They also enable users to calculate energy yields and turbine layouts, and assess how wind farms will appear in the environment, before full-scale planning begins.

Chief executive Mark Sinclair said Windlab's work was important because it enabled wind energy to better compete with more traditional forms of energy. "We aim to find the best wind resource site in conjunction with all the other constraints that go around building wind farms,'' Mr Sinclair said. "By reducing the risk and getting a better wind resource, we're in effect reducing the cost of that project and increasing the energy that comes out of it at the end of the day."

He said that reduced the time it takes to get such projects to market. "Ultimately, that increases the opportunity to get renewable energy into the system earlier, which has environmental benefits.'' As a renewable source of energy, wind energy enabled electricity to be generated without carbon dioxide emissions. It was the fastest growing energy technology globally and had rapidly expanded in Australia over the last few years.

But Mr Sinclair said compared with the rest of the world, Australia did not have a particularly vibrant renewable energy industry. "Nonetheless, there are some great ideas in Australia and the technology that came out of CSIRO and formed Windlab was one that has been successfully commercialised,'' he said.

Windlab Systems raised $5 million from venture capital last week to expand internationally. It has projects secured in Canada as well as partnerships in South Africa and China. The company is also planning to move into the rapidly growing Indian and South American renewable energy markets. Windlab had a turnover of about $2 million last year. Mr Sinclair said the company planned to increase that by 50 per cent a year.

Winds of climate change blow in many directions

Monday 27/8/2007 Page: 36

For six years there has been much prevarication in NSW on the future supply of electricity. ON Friday the NSW Government is expected to receive Professor Tony Owen's report on the future of electricity supply in the state. How quickly the report is made public and what the Government does with it will be critical indicators of the direction of energy and climate change politics in Australia.

Underpinned by a suite of state-owned coal-fired power stations, NSW enjoys some of the cheapest electricity in the world. Both the Carr and lemma governments have been prevaricating since 2001 on the future of electricity supply in the state. Back then, the Ministry of Energy and Utilities issued its Statement of System Opportunities, which dealt with most of the same questions put to Professor Owen. And in six years of indecision, the state's capacity surplus has been eaten up by growing demand on the back of continued economic growth.

As the National Generators Forum flagged last week, the removal of this buffer in the national electricity market has increased price volatility and amplified exposure of generators to short-term events such as water shortages in a drought. Solid rains have brought wholesale prices almost back to normal after they skyrocketed in June, but the warning is clear: the good times of stable, cheap electricity prices are over.

Former premier Bob Carr came very close to announcing a ban on new coal-fired power at the ALP's 2005 state conference. Morris lemma is more equivocal, but the politics and economics only get harder over time. In a speech this month, he said the Government faced the choice between new coal or gas base-load investment to avoid future supply shortages.

New coal-fired power will keep a lid on prices but could seriously undermine Labor's image as being more trusted to deal with climate change. Backing gas will push up wholesale prices by almost 30 per cent, well in advance of any future price on greenhouse emissions, make business hostile and send them looking elsewhere. Results from government-owned generators Delta and Macquarie Generation, via Professor Owen, have told Mr lemma to stop being a wimp and build a new coal-fired power station. They argue new coal will be more efficient and cheap enough to cope with a price on emissions. New coal generation can also be air-cooled, reducing its exposure to water shortages but also reducing its efficiency.

Gas will be better placed to handle a rising price on greenhouse emissions because it generates them at about half the rate of coal, but as base-load it will significantly drive up the dispatch price for all electricity. With the imminent decline of the Moomba gas fields, there are questions about supply that may be allayed by exploiting coal seam methane reserves in Queensland, linked by a $140 million pipeline being built by AGL and Epic Energy. Mr lemma said the choice between coal and gas would depend on a future price of greenhouse emissions, which would be determined by the scale of short-term emissions targets to 2020, set in a national emissions-trading scheme.

Although Mr lemma took a swipe at the federal Government for failing to set these targets, he knows a Labor government has promised the same process and timetable. The spin of climate change becomes more brazen every day. Base-load power may be the star of the Owen Review, but NSW Treasurer Michael Costa will not be surprised to discover the review has triggered heated debate about market privatisation and deregulation. The energy industry and its customers have vented more than a little spleen over the unworkability of existing constraints on electricity markets across Australia.

Retail prices are still fixed by governments, and governments still own almost all generating capacity in NSW and Queensland, and much of it in Western Australia. Already one small electricity retailer has hit the wall, squeezed between hot wholesale and fixed retail prices. At one stage, government-owned retailer EnergyAustralia was losing $10 million a week. Hedging should minimise the problem, but the industry believes the risks are unnecessary and act as a disincentive to new entrants in the retail sector and new private investment in generation.

The introduction and gradual increase of a price on greenhouse emissions will make life tough for renewable generators early on, and tough for coal later. The lowest risk and lowest cost solution is to allow energy companies to manage the transition by owning a portfolio of generation assets (some coal, some gas, some renewables) and adjusting its investment over time

Although untenable on principle to the unions, this would mean selling remaining government-owned power utilities and allowing the market to do what it does best: sort out the detail. This would serve also to reduce unhelpful and increasingly devious policy competition between energy sectors, and accelerate the eventual clean-out of different renewable-energy targets and other schemes that have flourished in the political vacuum of a national strategy on energy and climate change.

Projects to create jobs

Ballarat Courier
Saturday 25/8/2007 Page: 4

CONSTRUCTING wind farms in Lal Lal and Mt Mercer would create more than 200 new jobs, according to WestWind Energy. WestWind manager Grant Flynn said yesterday 100 fulltime jobs would be created during the two year construction phase for each project, with another 12 to 15 permanent operation and maintenance positions.

Mr Flynn said construction of the Mt Mercer wind farm project was expected to take place between 2009 to 2010 and construction of the proposed Lal Lal wind farm from 2011 to 2012. "We'll endeavour to use local contractors as much as we can throughout that work," he said. "Long terns positions are those of the employees required to do the operation and maintenance of the turbines themselves." WestWind decided to postpone lodging a planning application for the Lal Lal wind farm until December. Mr Flynn said the company would have preferred to submit an application by October, but was still working on layouts and plans for the Mt Mercer wind farm at the same time. "We'd prefer to get things right than stick to an airtight schedule," he said.

Mr Flynn said the recent closure of Portland's Vestas, which manufactured blades for wind turbines, would not impact on plans for WestWind's plans in the region. "We're looking at using Enercon turbines for the Mt Mercer wind farm." He said the generator components and blades were manufactured in Germany, but the towers would be made in Australia. WestWind is working on a revised layout for the proposed Lal Lal wind farm, which is expected to be ready for a community information session next month.