Friday 9 November 2007

Loyalty to coal takes wind out of clean energy advocates' sails

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 3/11/2007 Page: 30

In April last year the future of wind energy in Australia was in doubt after the Coalition Government blocked a Victorian wind farm project to protect the endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot, a bird so rare it appeared never to have flown near the site. The decision to overturn state approval for the project ostensibly on environmental grounds sparked outrage from green groups and prompted a string of Pythonesque jokes about dead parrots.

The Labor Party made much mileage from the drama but it refused to say how much renewable energy it would aim for if it won government. Meanwhile, both parties continued to support the country's dirtiest industry, assigning millions of dollars to an elusive technology they said would clean the carbon out of coal. The renewable energy industry watched in despair. Wind turbine manufacturers threatened to quit the country and solar power researchers headed overseas.

Things look very different 18 months later. The two main parties are locked in a battle to prove their green credentials. Opinion polls show voters respond enthusiastically to renewable energy, and to wind and solar power in particular. Ever conscious of the public mood, the Prime Minister, John Howard, in September announced a 15 per cent "clean energy target." That was pipped this week by the 20 per cent target announced by the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd.

But this is no climate change epiphany, environmentalists warn. They say claims by the Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, that Australia is "leading the world on climate change" ring hollow in light of the latest World Bank figures showing the country's emissions rose 38 per cent between 1994 and 2004, more than the combined increase in emissions from Britain, France and Germany, which have 10 times Australia's population.

Just how little progress Australia has made is clear when the parties' renewable energy commitments are compared with growth in coal-fired power. In the next seven years, coal-fired electricity generation is expected to rise almost as much as the renewable electricity promised by Howard over the next 12 years, according to Greenpeace calculations. "If we simply have a renewables sector growing alongside an ever-expanding coal sector, we will not stop climate change," said the head of Greenpeace Australia, Steven Campbell.

An analysis by the Climate Institute Australia shows that, under Labor policies, by 2020 greenhouse pollution would still have increased 15.1 per cent from 1990. Under the Coalition, it would have risen 20.8 per cent. That said, the renewable energy targets fill the gap between now and when emissions trading begins within four years, giving industry the kick it needs to invest in the sector, said the institute's director of policy and research, Erwin Jackson. "Once they start to run these operations, they get manufacturing scale, they find the best sites, they get better at financing the deals, they find better ways to integrate renewable electricity into the grid; it's `learning by doing'," Mr Jackson said.

The Government this week attacked Labor's 20 per cent target because it excluded so-called clean coal technology, claiming electricity prices would rise and coalmining jobs would be lost. "He's [Rudd] said to the coal industry, your means of remaining viable in a carbon constrained world is now going to be denied to you," Turnbull said on Wednesday. Energy experts point out that any switch to less polluting forms of electricity is going to cost money. The emissions trading scheme is intended to make fossil fuelss more expensive by putting a price on carbon.

A University of New South Wales energy expert, Mark Diesendorf, said job losses could be absorbed by not replacing a small fraction of the workers who retired annually from the industry. With 80 per cent of coal shipped overseas, only 20 per cent of the industry would be affected by a domestic target, or about 44 jobs a year over 12 years, Dr Diesendorf calculated. "On average, the number of annual retirements would be at least 600. This is more than 13 times the estimated annual job losses from renewable energy. And that totally ignores the job gains from renewable energy, which would be several times the job losses," he said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union boss Tony Maher says no net jobs would be lost to growth in renewables because of the projected increase in energy demands. "It is impossible for there to be any jobs lost," he said. Not everyone is so sanguine. The chief executive of the Energy Supply Association of Australia, Brad Page, is worried that the renewable energy industry will not cope with the pace of construction. He says it is likely most of the power would come from wind, which could mean building as many as 4500 wind turbines. "This is a challenging construction task in itself, complicated by the maze of local, state and federal planning and permitting laws and community consultation processes," Mr Page said.

The thought of 4500 turbines is nowhere near as daunting as the 25 nuclear energy plants proposed by the Government's nuclear taskforce, said the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Dominique La Fontaine. "The industry is very confident we can deliver enough capacity," she said, citing overseas precedents. Where does this leave clean coal? Both parties have committed heavily to its development: $500 million from Labor and the bulk of a $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund set up by the Government.

But Carbon Capture and Storage technology remains commercially unproven and needs suitable underground repositories near coal-fired power stations. The challenges are so great that the project hailed as Australia's most advanced, ZeroGen in Queensland, failed to receive federal funding because it could not attract commercial backing. It will be at least 20 years before the technology is ready for commercial use, said the president of the Academy of Science, Professor Kurt Lambeck. Even then, it would have limitations in curbing carbon emissions. In an address to the National Press Club in Canberra in September, the Australian National University geophysicist said clean coal could be construed as an oxymoron. "The sequestration has its limitations; the capture of the CO2 has limitations, and it's never totally clean anyway," he said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said most of the deployment of such technology would not happen until after 2050. That is too long to wait, say scientists and environmentalists. On top of that,"clean coal" is based on the assumption our energy profligacy can continue, passing up the opportunity to save money and energy by curbing demand and improving energy efficiency. In contrast, emission cuts achieved with renewable energy will be more significant in an environment where less electricity is consumed.

Labor did not get enough praise for its policy of phasing out off-peak electric hot water, said the Greenpeace energy campaigner Ben Pearson. "It will have a much bigger impact than phasing out incandescent light bulbs," Mr Pearson said. "It is an attack on baseload power that really strips back demand for electricity." Both the main parties have offered rebates to encourage homeowners to install solar or gas hot water, water tanks and insulation, but Mr Pearson said that lets government off the hook.

"Rebates are climate change for rich people. I don't have a couple of spare thousand dollars in my pocket to fund solar hot water on my roof while I wait to get the rebate back," he said. `And it is still based on a philosophy that people must take individual action on climate change. No. The Government must say, `Off-peak electricity is a crime against the planet and we are going to ban it'."

Sun town planning its switch to solar

Monday 5/11/2007 Page: 10

CLONCURRY in northwest Queensland will become the state's first town to be powered entirely by solar energy. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the town would be the site for a $7 million, 10 megawatt solar thermal power station. 'It's a real breakthrough for energy generation," said Ms Bligh, who visited the town for her first community cabinet meeting as Premier.

The technology we're going to use in Cloncurry will ensure the power station keeps generating electricity even when the sun is not shining." Luckily, a lack of sunlight is not a problem that faces Cloncurry about 800km west of Townsville Ms Bligh said yesterday. "The town of Cloncurry has long claimed the title of having recorded Australia's hottest day 53 degrees in the shade in 1889, so I reckon we're on a winner," she said.

The solar thermal power station will be built and running by the summer of 2009. A similar, although much larger, solar power station will be built near Mildura in northern Victoria in a project jointly funded by the Victorian and federal governments. Plans for the plant, which will be one of the world's largest, were announced last year and the station is expected to be fully operational by 2013.

The $420 million "super plant" will aim to provide green energy to 45,000 homes and will create 1000 jobs. At the Cloncurry plant, 8000 mirrors will be erected to reflect sunlight on to graphite blocks. Water will then be pumped through the graphite to create steam, used to power a conventional steam turbine electricity generator. The graphite is designed to remain hot even during the night or in overcast weather. Ms Bligh said this would ensure Cloncurry would have "continuous 24-hour electricity."

Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said the power station would provide enough energy about 30 million kilowatt hours each year to power the entire community. It will cut greenhouse gas emissions with clean energy powered by the sun, and it will save money in the long term with less money being spent on upgrades to the local network," he said.

Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Andrew McNamara said renewable energy sources, such as solar power, would be vital to meet the challenges of climate change. One thing Australia has more of than any other country is sunshine, and the tremendous potential for solar energy hasn't begun to be tapped yet," Mr McNamara said. Ergon Energy will develop the $7 million project.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Invest with conscience and reap the rewards

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 5/11/2007 Page: 33

INVESTORS who take a socially responsible view of where their money goes are doing better financially than those who focus purely on profits, new research has found. Returns from socially responsible investment funds have outperformed the broader market in both Australia and offshore. According to separate studies by AMP Capital Investors and the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.

SRI funds typically screen out sectors such as tobacco, alcohol, gambling, weapons and in some cases uranium mining. Some give a heavier weighting to sectors such as wind farms, solar energy and waste management. AMP's study found the median SRI fund had climbed 28.3 per cent annually over the past two years, compared with 26.3 per cent for the ASX200 index. Over a five year period, SRI funds slightly outperformed the ASX200, up 19.3 per cent compared with 19.2 per cent. "There is an ever-growing body of evidence that if a company manages its social and environmental issues well, it will also be more likely to deliver better financial performance," AMP said.

The RIAA study, released late last month, reported similar results in Australia and found the difference between SRI funds and the broader market was even greater overseas. The average responsible investment fund achieved almost double the returns of standard international funds over the year to June 30. This came in at 20.2 per cent compared with 10.8 per cent. Over five years, international SRI funds averaged 15.8 per cent annually while regular funds averaged 6.3 per cent.

RIAA executive director Louise O'Halloran said the performance of responsible investment this year had been "outstanding." "The truly transformational growth in recent years has come from institutional investors, particularly those in the superannuation sector," she said. "Analysis of environmental, social and governance issues helps them to fulfil their fiduciary duty as long term investors, because its over the long term that these issues really start to impact portfolio value." The RIAA, which has changed its name from the Ethical Investment Association, said the nation's fastest growing and largest responsible investment fund manager was AMP Capital Investors, whose responsible investment assets under management grew from $1.55 billion to $2.89 billion last financial year.

A recent report by AMP Capital Investors says issues driving the international SRI sector included cleaner energy, environmental services and water. "While there are a range of factors at play here, one of the drivers in this area has been the formalisation of carbon markets," the report says. "In Europe after establishment in 2005, the carbon market has grown rapidly, with $US24 billion of trades occurring in 2006. "It will be interesting to see the impact of a carbon trading regime in Australia on local securities. This trading regime is mooted for 2012, regardless of which political party is in power."

Sci-fi world draws a familiar picture

Ballarat Courier
Monday 5/11/2007 Page: 10

THE revelation at the heart of Hollywood's The Matrix was that "ordinary life" was in fact a vast computer simulation, keeping humanity in a state of denial. In the film the human race was a vast supply of energy cocoons, pumping out the electricity humans naturally create to feed the insatiable power requirements of a malign machine based empire.

Far fetched sci-fi? Perhaps it's a metaphor of our current world, where humans have become blissfully dependent on the machines we have created and the vast amounts of power to run then. In The Matrix as in our real world, energy is the key currency and the key question is: "What should be its source?" Nearly all forms of energy on earth that we use - wind, petroleum or the energy it takes to floss your teeth, ultimately cone from the sun.

The earth receives 342 watts per square metre a year, while the world's energy consumption is 0.03 watts. Clearly, there are several Himalayas' worth of natural energy we're not using. Humans, however, have become fixated on one form of the sun's energy: fossilised sunlight in the form of coal. It's cheap, easy to find and plentiful. Which is important, because we are using a whole truckload more of the stuff. The average rate of energy use per person in hunter-gatherer society was two units. Joe Contemporary uses 100 units.

Unfortunately, coal is not very efficient. Transmission line and heat losses mean we only use 29 per cent of the original energy in a lump of coal. The other 71 per cent of "dead energy" is heading out past Venus right now. Gee. And to think I was smacked for wasting my veggies. The energy within coal is released when burnt, but it's not the only thing released. Lurking in every lump of coal is carbon. We are releasing quantities of CO2 that took millions of years to sequester. Outcome: hotter.

But do the alternatives to fossil fuelss stack up? Wind doesn't always blow on turbines and the sun doesn't always shine on solar collectors. Is renewable energy too unreliable to supply power to the electricity grid? Not according to Dr Mark Diesendorf, senior lecturer at UNSW. He's a man with a plan, and he's shown how a mix of energy efficiency, renewable energy and gas-fired turbines (gas contains far fewer emissions than coal) can bring home the electricity bacon.

And it's no lab coated boffin fantasy, either. Denmark will produce 25 per cent of electrical consumption from wind in 2008, with half of these turbines owned by local cooperatives. In Australia, we have 563 wind turbines. Germany, (roughly Tasmania's size), has 19,024 installed turbines, reducing CO2 by over 24 million tonnes.

Dr Mark Diesendorf will be speaking at 6pm on Thursday at the University of Ballarat.
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Power Corp. delay could end our wind farm plans

Tennant & District Times
Friday 26/10/2007 Page: 3

Tennant Creek may miss out on a wind energy plant because Power and Water Corporation is taking too long to decide, Darwin-based company Powercorp has said. Power and Water Corporation says it has still not called for tenders to build a wind farm at Tennant Creek more than a year after applications closed. Submissions closed in September 2006 for expressions of interest to build the turbines. Power and Water Corporation sustainable energy manager Trevor Horman told Business Week in May that a decision could be expected by June. But no decision has been announced. Powercorp was one of three companies that were shortlisted.

Company founder and owner Alan LanGWorthy said it is getting harder to access the kind of turbines needed for a mid-sized station at Tennant Creek. "The technology is changing and bigger machines are the focus of the world industry," he said. Mr LanGWorthy said Tennant Creek would need about four 600 kW turbines but those types of machines were now scarce.

He said even large wind farm projects are waiting up to 24 months for delivery because demand is causing supply to tighten. "The longer they [Power and Water] leave it, the harder it's getting - it may even be that problematic that it can no longer be done." Power and Water Corporation sustainable energy manager Trevor Horman said the company was not aware the turbines were in short supply. He said the delay in decision making was caused by "a range of operational and practical reasons."

Are we really doing our bit?

Milton Ulladulla Times
Wednesday 31/10/2007 Page: 16

STORY: Matthew Nott*
CLIMATE Change is such an urgent issue that it demands changes to individual behaviour. Solutions will be found as communities get together to come up with strategic action plans. However, climate change will not be beaten without government action. The hole in the ozone layer is a case in point. We did not fix the problem by asking people to stop using chloroflurocarbons (CFC). We did it through _government legislation. People were forced to stop using CFCs.

When it comes to climate change, we need targets; incentives to reach targets; the big polluters to show leadership; and we need those who can afford it to get the ball rolling. It was this approach that was discussed in Kyoto in 1997, an international meeting convened by the United Nations. The delegates to Kyoto declared that industrial nations should reduce their CO2 emissions by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels - by 2012. Developing countries would be obligated to cut their emissions in the subsequent round of the treaty in 2012.

Australia negotiated hard for lenient targets, and were successful. Under Kyoto, Australia was allowed to increase its emissions by 108 per cent compared with 1990 levels. On Environment Day 2002, John Howard announced that Australia would not ratify the Kyoto agreement. Why did our Prime Minister object?Firstly, the Prime Minister tells us that joining Kyoto will damage the economy and cost jobs? On the other hand, we are told that we are meeting our Kyoto targets, and the economy is booming. Unemployment is at a 30 year low. It's hard to put that together.

Secondly, Australia will not join Kyoto until developing countries like India and China show leadership. Currently Chinas renewable energy target is much higher than Australia's and increasing. China is already showing leadership.

There are 400 million people in India and China who are without electricity but can we expect them to reduce their emissions before we do? We are told that Kyoto is Euro-centric. Did you know that Austria's national emissions are lower than the state of Victoria's? Finally, we are told that Kyoto is ineffective, and deeply flawed. Tim Flannery would certainly agree that Kyoto is not without fault, but states that we do not have the time to wait for a new Kyoto in 2012. We need targets.

Australia is set to come close to meeting its Kyoto obligation. That strikes me as strange. Over the last 10 years, Australia has increased its emissions by 25 per cent. Australia's emissions are set to continue rising. Australia's emissions as a nation (20 million) exceed Indonesia's emissions (200 million). We are a high polluting nation. Are we REALLY meeting our international obligations?

* Matthew Nott is the founder of Clean Energy for Eternity

Greenhouse hopes

The Land
Thursday 1/11/2007 Page: 56

A REPORT by Dr Mark Diesendorf, from the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, shows that, given the political will, Australia can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below the 1990 level by 2020 using existing technologies. He said the main reductions in emissions would come from more efficient energy use, solar hot water, wind energy, bioelectricity, reductions in land clearing, and cuts in fugitive emissions from coal and gas facilities. Bioelectricity development would create additional employment in rural areas.

Visit or contact (02) 9385 5687.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Clean coal a furphy: Dr Karl

Bendigo Advertiser
Friday 2/11/2007 Page: 13

Science broadcaster and NSW Senate candidate Karl Kruszelnicki has likened talk of clean coal to Nazi propaganda, describing it as a "complete furphy." The celebrity science commentator and Climate Change Coalition candidate yesterday said the major political parties were lying when spruiking the benefits of clean coal technology.

Claims carbon dioxide could be removed from burning coal and stored underground or underwater were a lie, he said. "It is simply a furphy, it's a porky pie to cover up the fact there is no such thing as clean coal. It was the kind of lie a Nazi propagandist would conceive," he said.

Dr Kruszelnicki's running mate, Patrice Newell, challenged suggestions the coal industry would suffer major job losses if Australia made a dramatic switch to renewable energy sources. "I know that for a fact that they would be quite happy to have a job in the renewable industry," said Ms Newell, a resident of the Hunter coal mining region.

Field narrows in Qld energy sell-off

Australian Financial Review
Friday 2/11/2007 Page: 65

As the latest stage of the Queensland's government's multi-billion-dollar sell-off of its energy assets unfolds, sources said Babcock and Brown had not made a formal bid for the $200 million-plus business by Monday's deadline. That leaves only Arrow Energy and Suncorp Metway in contention for acquiring a gas trading business and a Moranbah-Townsville pipeline. The Moranbah oil field that supplies the pipeline is owned jointly by Arrow Energy and AGL Energy, and the two are not believed to be keen on owning the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Babcock and Brown is understood to be eyeing wind farm assets that the state government is also due to put on the block in a few weeks' time. However, there are several other parties interested in the wind assets, including TRUEnergy (on its own and jointly with Hydro Tasmania), Origin Energy, Viridis Clean Energy Group, parts of Allco Group, International Power and Conergy. Also likely to bid, but somewhat less interested than the others, are AGL and Transfield Services Infrastructure Fund. The two might bid in partnership and individually.

Clean coal a furphy: Dr Karl

Canberra Times
Friday 2/11/2007 Page: 4

Science broadcaster and NSW Senate candidate Karl Kruszelnicki has likened talk of clean coal to Nazi propaganda, describing it as a "complete furphy." The celebrity science commentator and Climate Change Coalition candidate said yesterday the major political parties were lying when spruiking the benefits of clean-coal technology. Claims that carbon dioxide could be removed from burning coal and stored underground or underwater were a lie.

Such technology would require one cubic kilometre of compressed carbon dioxide to be stored every day, which was "physically impossible." "That is the volume of compressed carbon dioxide that we have to get rid of - not every 10 years, not every year, but every single day," he said. "It is simply a furphy, it's a porky pie to cover up the fact that there is no such thing as clean coal." It was the kind of lie a Nazi propagandist would conceive, Dr Kruszelnicki said. "Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, said if you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one, and this is a beauty." He also said political policies such as a $20 million plan for the exploration of underground storage caverns would be a waste of money.

Any storage facility would eventually wear down and would release the stored carbon dioxide back into the environment. "We've got two choices in 15 to 20 years from now - either to make money, we sell dirt overseas - coal - or we sell the (renewable energy) technology without burning dirt." Underground thermal energy accessed in South Australia could provide 100 per cent of Australia's base-load electricity for the next 75 years and then be supplemented by other renewables, he said.

"If we tried really hard we could have all of the electricity in Australia made without carbon by 2020 using a mixture of renewable energies including hot rocks and the wind and the waves and the sun." Dr Kruszelnicki's running mate, Patrice Newell, challenged suggestions the coal industry would suffer significant job losses if Australia made a dramatic switch to renewable energy sources. "It's not that it's a commitment to a coal job, they want a commitment to a job," she said.

Australia is not a climate change leader. Here are the facts

Friday 2/11/2007 Page: 15

THE debate over climate change in Australia could be seen as evidence of the existence of parallel universes. It is as if Australia and 191 other countries, including China and India, never signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, as if the new Howard Government never signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. In this universe, Australia is a leader on climate change.

Basic facts seem to have gone down the memory hole. Indeed, John Howard is asked: "Why won't you sign?" The reason he gives for not ratifying the protocol, unlike 175 other parties to the convention, is that it does not commit developing nations to targets, an exemption established under the convention. The real reason is that the US withdrew and Australia followed.

The debates in Australia are those the world's nations thought they had settled 15 years ago. Australia led the way at the Rio Earth Conference in signing the convention. Because the rise of industrialised nations created the problem, all signatories, including Australia, accepted that, "developed country parties should take the lead in combating climate change."

All parties agreed to take mitigating action and co-operate in the development and transfer "of technologies, practices and processes that control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases." All agreed that, "the extent to which developing country parties will effectively implement their commitments under the convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country parties of their commitments."

The convention came into force in 1994 and the agreement reached in Kyoto in 1997 was a protocol to the convention. Australia secured special treatment: it could increase greenhouse emissions to 108 per cent of 1990 levels. Howard hailed this as a "splendid result." The average commitment was to a 5 per cent cut by the time the protocol expired, which is 2012. After that, the convention expected developing nations to commit to emission controls alongside developed nations, albeit with different targets, a point Howard conceded just this week.

The US and Australia held out the prospect of some alternative path until very recently. They hit a dead end.

The convention still provides the framework for next month's negotiations in Bali. When Howard calls for a "new international agreement ... with all the major emitters" that has always been the next step under the convention. But it was the US among major emitters that first dropped the ball as Bill Clinton buckled under the weight of domestic political resistance. By April 2001, President George Bush had announced the US would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

At first, the then environment minister, Robert Hill, insisted Australia would ratify, saying: "We've signed the Kyoto agreement and we've accepted what we believe to be a fair target." Within a month, Howard supported Bush and ever since has argued that Kyoto was a bad deal that would put Australia's economy at risk. Why then did his Government sign it? To put it bluntly, until its position became untenable, the Bush Administration was never interested in responding to climate change. The limitations of the Kyoto Protocol were not of concern. It simply didn't believe there was a problem. Even this week, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile voiced doubts, but at least he has the integrity to say so. Everyone is entitled to have doubts and it is infinitely preferable that these be voiced, and respected, rather than have politicians misrepresent their positions and records.

Labor environment spokesman Peter Garrett's convictions are not in doubt, but he has been pilloried for his political clumsiness. His difficulty with one question - would Australia sign the next climate change agreement if developing nations are not included? - led Kevin Rudd to step in with a firm "no", which Howard said meant Rudd now agreed with him on climate change, an "unbelievable capitulation." Not nearly as unbelievable as Howard's shift within a year from open scepticism about climate change to the embrace of mandatory emission and renewable energy targets, and carbon trading - after a decade of resistance.

These are all provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, leaving just one objection to it: its lack of firm targets for developing nations, including big emitters such as China and India (both ratified it in 2002). These nations have been portrayed as recalcitrants that need to be brought into the fold. In fact, they have been on board since 1992 - it is the US and Australia that jumped ship.

The question that tripped up Garrett misses the point. The key issue is whether all nations can adopt a mix of binding measures that ensures climate change remains manageable. A post-Kyoto deal must include developing nations; the framework convention is predicated on this. If not, the whole process faces collapse. There are parallels with global trade talks; no nation can afford to be sidelined.

The question the world is asking Australia, is whether it will finally choose to be again at the heart of the process. The US is likely to come in from the cold once the Bush presidency ends in January 2009, the year in which negotiations are to be finalised. If Australia does not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, this country is excluded from its provisions for carbon trading and the clean development mechanism, by which emissions are offset by investing in reduction programs in developing countries.

Crucially, unless it ratifies, Australia lacks full voting rights and has a restricted role in shaping the next global agreement. Until then, claims to be showing leadership on climate change cannot be taken seriously.

Crusader's cup always half full

Northside Chronicle
Wednesday 31/10/2007 Page: 35

HAPPY by name and nature is an apt description for Dr Mal Happy, the jovial co-founder of the Brisbane North Climate and Water Action Group. Yet the Kedron neurophysiologist turned climate crusader is serious about climate change, dedicating much of his energy to projects such as designing a powerplant/desalination plant powered by wave motion and a film series aimed at getting people motivated about climate change.

Dr Happy said his interest in such topics as renewable energy had its roots growing up in the US. "When I was a kid I built a hydrogen generator," he said. "I was about nine or 10 at the time." "It was just so clean because the only waste product was water and I though this really has potential." "I was always working on something (as a child) and there would be explosions quite often all around the house, which did worry my parents a little bit."

Dr Happy said his focus at the moment was trying to create a film or television series that would encourage people to make worthwhile differences in the effort to combat climate change. "I worry that people will see how bad things are and just give up," he said. "You have to make these things interesting so that people will want to see them."

Blackout-free summer

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 2/11/2007 Page: 31

POWER blackouts in South Australia because of lack of supply are unlikely this summer, a new report says. The National Electricity Market Management Company report, however, warns that unless the state has found extra generating capacity by 2010-11, there will be problems. A similar time-frame is forecast for Victoria which shares a major power interconnector with SA.

NEMMCO managing director Les Hosking said: "Our forecasts show that the NEM (national electricity market) has sufficient capacity to deliver reliable supply during the coming summer." The warning about future supplies is contained in the company's annual statement of opportunities released yesterday, in which it sets out the predicted reliability of electricity supplies over the coming summer.

The report is based on supply and demand and the perceived reliability of each state's electricity system. The power system is deemed reliable if, over the long term, at least 99.9 per cent of consumer energy demand can be met. "The 2007 statement of opportunities shows this level of reliability can be met in all regions for the summer of 2007-08 even if extreme temperatures and demand conditions occur," the report says.

On SA, the report says the state will need additional generating capacity to provide 49 megawatts by 2010-11. It says this is only enough to meet the state's local minimum reserve level requirement. "An additional 56 megawatts of capacity is required for the combined Victorian and SA network to meet the combined minimum reserve level requirement," the report says. It says the commissioning of new generators at Hallett, Lake Bonney Stage II and Snowtown wind farms will increase the available capacity in SA before the summer of 2008-09. The report says Queensland will face supply problems in 2009-10 while NSW is not in any danger until 2013-14.

Walk to sound alert on climate warming

Ballarat Courier
Thursday 1/11/2007 Page: 18

PEOPLE concerned about climate change are being encouraged to take part in the Walk Against Warming on Sunday week. The walk around part of Lake Wendouree will be hosted by the Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions group. "Walk Against Warming is the opportunity for people of Ballarat to send a strong message to our governments," BREAZE president Nick Lanyon said. "The big solutions to climate change are politically based solutions. "If we don't do something to stop climate change now, it will be too late for our kids. "We are already seeing the effects of climate change on our community now.

Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. We are hoping that local residents will walk at our local event, and join the hundreds of thousands of other people expected to turn out across the country. "We also invite participants to stay and listen to our engaging guest speakers and sign the Walk Against Warming banner."

Walk organiser and Nature Conservation Council director Cate Faehrmann said without community pressure political parties would not act "to make real cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions." "Already, many people across Australia have shown how committed they are by changing to low energy light globes, signing up for Green Power and reducing their energy use in the home. "Walk Against Warming provides a platform for all Australians to be united in calling for greater government action on climate change. The community of Ballarat wants to add to the voice for greater action." The Walk Against Warming is on Sunday, November 11. Participants should meet at the Ballarat Grammar and High School boatsheds, Lake Wendouree Lake, at noon.

For more information, visit

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Future black for coal: Renewable energy call

Illawarra Mercury
Thursday 1/11/2007 Page: 4

INTERNATIONAL business and energy expert Ian Dunlop has added his voice to the chorus calling for the coal industry to be phased out, describing it as "more dangerous than nuclear energy". Mr Dunlop last night presented his seminar "Climate Change, Peak Oil and Sustainability - key drivers for the 21st century" at Wollongong's Futureworld. Mr Dunlop's work in the oil, gas and coal industries and in long-term energy planning has fostered a specific focus on the interaction between sustainability and corporate governance.

"We are certainly facing a fundamental change in the way society is going to operate," Mr Dunlop said. "The world's population can't move from 6 billion to 9 billion if current levels of consumption remain intact." He said the coal industry's future would depend on how quickly it could clean up its act through carbon-trapping technology. "The world is not going to want coal unless we can sequester that carbon," he said. "The future of the coal industry is going to depend very much on how successful that technology is. "In my view, coal is now more dangerous than nuclear.

At least with nuclear energy you know where that waste is and you have the ability to contain that waste." Mr Dunlop acknowledged that the shift from traditional energy sources to renewables would not be painless, with cities built around those industries - like Wollongong - set to be acutely affected. "Coal is not going to disappear tomorrow morning - it's a fact of life at the present time, but we are going to have to wean ourselves off it," he said.

"We can't keep building more coal stations and keep pushing that carbon into the atmosphere. We have got to halt the expansion of the coal industry." Mr Dunlop urged greater investment in renewables, an area he argued Australia was lagging behind other countries. "If you look around the world at what's happening in other countries, they're moving far, far quicker than we are," he said. "We have three times as much sunshine as Germany, who are the leaders in solar power, but their government has accepted that it's serious and has made the investment."

Australia scores badly on global emissions growth report

Thursday 1/11/2007 Page: 1

AUSTRALIA is the ninth biggest contributor to increased global carbon emissions, a new World Bank report has found. The bank report shows that between 1994 and 2004, Australia's annual emissions of carbon dioxide (the world's main greenhouse gas) increased by 107 million tonnes, or 38 per cent. Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared yesterday that Australia was "leading the world on climate change". Australia's emissions grew by more than the combined increase in emissions by Britain, France and Germany,which have 10 times our population. In Denmark, which has become the world leader in wind energy, carbon dioxide emissions fell by 9 million tonnes, or 13 per cent.

The report, Growth and CO2, Emissions: How do different countries fare', released in October, examined the trends among the world's 70 biggest producers of greenhouse gases. Australia was almost unique in being a developed country whose emissions are not only very high but growing rapidly. It said that on a population basis, Australia had the sixth highest emissions of carbon dioxide - 19.36 tonnes per head in 2004, roughly three times that of Sweden and Switzerland, more than five times that of China, 19 times that of India and 72 times that of Bangladesh.

The figures undermine the Government's efforts to present Australia as a world leader in tackling climate change. Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd this week pledged not to sign any new agreement on climate change that does not include developing countries, but the figures show why developing countries will not agree to cut their emissions.

For Australia, there was some good news in the report. First, the bank found the rate of Australia's emissions growth fell sharply in the second half of the decade, suggesting that government, business and households' efforts to slow the pace had some effect. Second, the figures show no strict correlation between emissions and incomes. Switzerland, Sweden and France, which are as rich as Australia or richer, all produce only a third as much carbon dioxide per head as Australia. All rely heavily on nuclear and hydro power for their electricity.

Australia's emissions are high largely because it relies on heavily polluting coal for electricity; specialises in energy-intensive industries such as aluminium; has a large car fleet with poor fuel efficiency; and lags behind Europe in energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances. Mr Turnbull said the post-Kyoto agreement was now the main issue in the climate change debate, and he accused Labor of again adopting a Coalition policy. "Climate change is the biggest economic challenge the world faces," Mr Turnbull said.

"You have to ask yourself whether a team which was wrong all year, and then in the space of a few hours does a complete backflip, has either the commitment, the capacity or the competence to get the job done." Australia is leading the world on climate change. We are going to meet our Kyoto target. We are leading the world to reduced deforestation, the second largest source of emissions. Who is leading the world in clean coal research? Australia. Who is slapping the coal industry in the face? Labor."

But Mr Rudd denied that Labor's post-Kyoto policy was a copy of the Government's. "Mr Howard, as a climate change sceptic, has never embraced a carbon target for Australia in the existing commitment period," he said. His historical scepticism, rejection entirely of the Kyoto framework, stands on the record." Mr Rudd's plan for Labor to lift its target for "new'' renewable energy to 20 per cent of electricity demand by 2020 left the Coalition having a bet both ways yesterday.

While Mr Turnbull and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce criticised Labor's target for shutting the door on future coal-fired power stations, Mr Howard said he was considering adopting it as Government policy. The coal miners' union, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said employers were relaxed about it. "That's what they tell us privately, they're relaxed about emissions trading. Really, it's political scare campaigning by the Government," the union's Tony Maher told the ABC. "You've got to bear in mind the energy growth between now and 2020 will be between 30 and 40 per cent, so there's plenty of room for various energy sources." Opposition resources spokesman Chris Evans said the renewable energy target would deliver only half the new capacity needed to meet future energy demands.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Government said that proposed legislation creating renewable energy targets, introduced in State Parliament yesterday, would be the first in Australia to cut greenhouse emissions. Under the targets, which would see 10 per cent of electricity come from renewables by 2016, retailers will be obliged to provide incentives to householders to install measures such as energy- efficient lighting and ceiling insulation. Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said the scheme aimed to cut the average household power bill by about $45 a year.

Monday 5 November 2007

Renewable energy companies ready for big break

Courier Mail
Wednesday 31/10/2007 Page: 42

A HOT rock geothermal business could become viable as early as late 2009 under the Opposition's requirement that electricity retailers buy 20 per cent of power from renewable resources by 2020. Hot rocks company Petratherm's managing director Terry Kallis said the company had four hot rock sites in South Australia, with the one at Paralana being the closest to commercialisation. Wind farms also would benefit from the policy. Pacific Hydro would be able to increase its energy output sixfold.

But the peak body representing mainstream electricity and gas suppliers said it hoped Labor would wind back its renewable energy target once carbon emissions trading got under way. Energy Supply Association of Australia said: "We encourage the ALP to review the level of its renewable target once the outcomes of the Ross Garnaut report are known, consistent with yesterday's announcements that a renewable energy target is a transitional measure to be superseded by emissions trading." Climate Institute Australia chief John Connor, however, gave the target "a big thumbs up" for smart economics.

"Our modelling shows that these sorts of targets can help to keep electricity prices down." Pacific Hydro, which has 100 megawatts of installed generation, said the incentive would provide certainty for a further 600MW of wind energy projects worth $1.5 billion. Deputy chairman of the Clean Energy Council Peter Szental said the policy was "a wonderful commitment to delivering a sustainable energy infrastructure". "We are also calling for a $2 billion sustainable energy innovation fund to assist research in solar, geothermal and bioenergy power," Mr Szental said. The Renewable Energy Generators Australia said the target would help technologies such as geothermal and solar to prove electricity could be produced more cheaply than coalfired electricity by 2020.

Polar station a world first

Bendigo Advertiser
Wednesday 31/10/2007 Page: 25

BELGIUM is building the first ever zero-emission polar station in the Antarctic, powered by solar panels and wind turbines and designed to have minimal impact on the climate change its scientists are studying. All waste from the Princess Elisabeth station, housing up to 20 researchers, will be recycled. fossil fuels will only be used for back-up systems. "Polar stations really have an impact on the environment because most of them run on fossil fuelss. There is a huge cost to buy the fuel, a huge cost to transport the fuel and a huge impact on the environment," said Maaike Vancauwenberghe, head of the research program.

On display in Brussels, the station will be transported later this year to a ridge in the Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, where temperatures drop to minus 50 degrees Celsius and winds reach up to 250 kmh. Belgian scientists first sailed out to the Antarctic on the ship Belgica more than a century ago, the world's first expedition there during the southern hemisphere winter. But while renowned for research, including a recent excursion to measure snow thickness in the Arctic, they have not had their own station since 1967, when their existing site became engulfed in snow and unsafe.

The station, named after the king's granddaughter, and with an interior of 700 square metres, should be operational for at least 25 years. With a stainless steel shell, a 40-centimetre layer of polystyrene charged with graphite and sandwiched between wood panels, the walls will be well insulated against the cold. Heat from computers will help keep the inside habitable.

Project manager Johan Berte said he had high hopes that the station would be used as a prototype by other nations. "I hope, and I really believe it will have a big influence on future stations in the Antarctic," he said. Britain and Germany also have plans to rebuild their stations during International Polar Year, which extends extends over two years from March, 2007, to March, 2009. The cost so far for building the station is 10 million euros ($A15.83 million). The Belgian government, which commissioned the project, will contribute 2 million euros ($A3.17 million) per year to the research project, starting in 2009.

Answer's in the wind

Courier Mail
Tuesday 30/10/2007 Page: 59

Babcock and Brown Wind Partners reached the second stage of a state government process to sell operating and planned wind farms. Final bids for the assets, which have a capacity of 177MW, are due by November 19 and the company is obtaining regulatory approvals before submitting an unconditional offer.

The State Government is selling assets including the 70MW Mount Millar Wind Farm and 50 per cent of the 79MW Emu Downs Wind Farm. TRUEnergy and a venture between it and Roaring 40s Renewable Energy have also applied for clearance to buy the assets, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says. Other potential bidders are tipped to be AGL Energy, Origin Energy and Transfield Services.