Friday 14 March 2008

Construction to Start in 2009 on World's Largest Solar Station

North West Express
Thursday 28/2/2008 Page: 8

The Premier John Brumby announced this week that a Victorian Government seed grant of $50 million will help deliver the world's largest photovoltaic (PV) solar power station to be built in northern Victoria. He said it is a win for the state's environment, innovation and economy. Mr Brumby welcomed the decision by TRUEnergy to invest $290 million in renewable energy company Solar Systems to build the 154 MW solar power station, with construction due to begin in 2009, once the site has been finalised.

"This investment by TRUEnergy follows on from the $50 million contribution by the Victorian Government and $79.5 million from the Commonwealth in 2006 towards this leading edge solar power station," Mr Brumby said. "Climate Change is our biggest challenge for the future. It is also an opportunity. Climate change demands investment in new power technology, like this state-of-the-art solar power station.

"This project is a win-win-win. It's a win for the environment - set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 396,000 tonnes a year. It's a win for innovation with the most efficient PV modules in the world to be built in Victoria. And a win for the economy, delivering new investment and jobs." Welcoming the announcement with Commonwealth Climate Change Minister Senator Penny Wong and Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor, Mr Brumby said the project delivered investment across the state - with PV modules made in Melbourne, a pilot stage in Bendigo and the large-scale power station in the state's north west. "This entire project to build and operate the world's largest PV solar power station will lead to 950 jobs during construction and 44 ongoing roles," Mr Brumby said.

Mr Brumby said the interim Garnaut Review, which he received on behalf of the Council for the Australian Federation last week, further emphasised the need to take practical and decisive action now to address climate change for the future. "Interim findings from Professor Garnaut show that we must act now to address Climate Change," Mr Brumby said. "This work on our new low carbon economy has been driven by the States and Territories.

Thankfully we now have the will in Canberra to address this issue so critical to our future." Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor said the Abbotsford manufacturing plant was capable of producing more than 50 megawatts of PV modules each year - the highest capacity in the southern hemisphere - with the possibility to expand in the future. Mr Batchelor said construction of the full sized power station in 2009 will follow the completion of the demonstration plant currently being built at Bridgewater, near Bendigo.

"The investment potential for Victoria is clearly attractive, as this week's announcement by TRUEnergy shows." Mr Batchelor said. "In the areas of solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy - as well as clean coal technology - Victoria has huge Potential for investment and advancement, with room for new players to bring development proposals to the table." He said the State Government's Victorian Renewable Energy Target (VRET) scheme played a crucial role in attracting the Solar Systems project.

The VRET facilitates a market in renewable energy by ensuring retailers buy 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2016. "Through the VRET and the Energy Technology and Innovation Strategy, Victoria is attracting key investments that will deliver for the environment and the economy now and into the future," Mr Batchelor said.

More local firms taking green path

Denmark Bulletin
Thursday 6/3/2008 Page: 12

THE corporate sector is pulling its weight when it comes to signing up for green energy. At the end of 2007 the number of businesses in Denmark on 100 per cent green energy was two but this has now increased to eight. There are another 22 business accounts which have taken the 25 per cent option and these are mostly, if not all, due to the Denmark Shire Council having taken this option on all of its many accounts.

Seven more households have signed on for NaturalPower since December 31 bringing the total to 71, most of which have taken 100 per cent. A leaflet was inserted in the January 10 Denmark Bulletin by Climate Action Denmark suggesting this option as a way to reduce energy produced from fossil fuels. There are also eight other households in Denmark who have opted to add an extra payment on each bill using the EasyGreen option.

Most pay $10 but one pays $80 extra. While these numbers show an encouraging trend, they still represent just 3.3 per cent of the 2131 active household accounts in Denmark. However, it is well ahead of the State uptake of less than one per cent. Members of Climate Action Denmark congratulate householders, businesses and councillors for taking steps to reduce our carbon emissions.

Those households and businesses that would like the satisfaction of knowing that they are contributing to the use and development of the solar and wind power sourced by Synergy, can contact Synergy on 131353 and join a green scheme. Unfortunately the EasyGreen option is not available to businesses.

Allco attempts to hold the line

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 11/3/2008 Page: 52

Allco Finance Group is being forced to sell assets and reduce debt by its bankers in order to extend a loan facility until June 2009. Allco is selling off non-core assets such as its wind farms and is trying not to break up its leasing portfolio, telling prospective bidders like Macquarie Bank, Babcock and Brown, TPG and General Electric that they will only consider a bid for the entire leasing book, including staff.

Allco leases 41 aircraft to Qantas Airways, British Airways and Emirates. Founder John Kinghorn has amassed a near 10 percent holding and is said to be buying himself a seat at the table.

Attitudes are changing

Bendigo Advertiser
Tuesday 11/3/2008 Page: 3

A SURVEY of more than 2000 households in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and South Australia has revealed that more than 75 per cent of Australians want to reduce energy consumption in the home and implement a rapid response to climate change. CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship has released a report looking at attitudes to household electricity consumption. The report considers people's willingness to accept alternative approaches to reducing domestic energy.

CSIRO social scientist Dr John Gardner said the survey showed most Australians would like to find ways to curb electricity use in the home. "The majority of people surveyed - women in particular - indicated a strong desire to try to reduce the amount of electricity they are using," he said. Younger, more educated, higher income householders were willing to integrate technology into their home to manage their own household energy requirements. And Australians interested in generating their own household electricity prefer renewable energy favouring solar and wind.

Most `want more climate-change action'

Tuesday 11/3/2008 Page: 6

AUSTRALIANS overwhelmingly support the ratification of Kyoto due to formally take effect today and most want the Government to show international leadership on reducing greenhouse emissions. Climate Institute Australia research to be released today has found that Australians support the introduction of stronger policies to reduce greenhouse pollution.

Polling commissioned by the institute found that only 7 per cent of Australians aged 18 and over oppose the ratification of Kyoto, with 64 per cent in support. Seventy-three per cent of those polled said that Australia should lead the world by introducing stronger policies to help reduce greenhouse pollution here.

Ninety per cent said the Government should "make homes more energy-efficient", 88 per cent said the Government should "ensure that new electricity generation comes from clean or renewable energy" and 87 per cent support government measures to reduce "emissions from cars." "The polling is emphatic," said institute chief executive John Connor. "Opposition to Kyoto ratification has withered away." Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol as the first official act of his Government last December.

The Government has committed to meeting its Kyoto target of emissions 8 per cent higher than 1990 levels, and has set a target to reduce them by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050. Mr Connor said Australians strongly support the measures the Government had taken on climate change and wanted to see further action so Australia was viewed as a world leader in tackling the issue.

"The Rudd Government should treat these findings as an invitation to push forward with decisive policies and ambitious targets on reducing greenhouse pollution," he said. "To avoid dangerous climate change that will impact Australia more than almost any other developed country, we need reductions of 70 to 90 per cent from developed countries as a whole.

"Other countries are realising this. The UK is now in a formal public consultation process about whether to change its 60 per cent by 2050 target up to 80 per cent. "You've got both the Democratic presidential contenders in the United States at 80 per cent by 2050 and even Republican John McCain at 55 per cent." Mr Connor called for the Government to review its 2020 targets. "Short-term targets will reflect the level of urgency and priority given to tackling the problem of climate change," he said.

The research was done online by Auspoll as part of its monthly omnibus survey. The company surveyed a representative sample of 1215 Australians aged 18 years and over from March 4 to March 6.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Climate war alert: Fears over national security as global warming hits

Sunday Mail Adelaide
Sunday 9/3/2008 Page: 38

TWO months ago British Foreign Secretary David Miliband spoke with his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith via telephone. The call coincided with the release of a report by the Oxford Research Group in the UK that showed climate change will lead to wars with scarcity of water, displacement of large populations and general mayhem. It was a short but pointed call. "Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue but a security threat that has to be addressed by all," Miliband told Smith, who readily agreed.

And so he should with the Australian Government and the Federal Police tasked with dealing with national threats already talking contingencies. So too have all police chiefs in the Pacific region with many concluding the threat was now no longer an if but a when. Hollywood loves a good global threat from the world freezing over in The Day after Tomorrow four years ago to the likes of Kevin Costner's Weterworld and Mel Gibson's Mad Max trilogy.

But for the more than seven million people in the Pacific Ocean, the threat was already materialising and is literally swamping their livelihoods. Nations like Tuvalu, a string of tiny atolls 26km square, are like the early warning system for the rest of the world as rising oceans have already washed over roads and rendered crop lands unsuitable due to salt. It is already assumed within the next 50 years the 12,000-strong population will have to be moved. Tuvalu is expected to be the first country to be wiped off the map by global warming.

According to the prestigious Oxford Research Group, climate change will have serious environmental, socio-economic and security consequences for developed and developing nations. Among its listed risks are an increase on border security demands, changes in rates and types of crimes and demanding response to natural disasters. There are also operational concerns such as difficulty maintaining military capability, loss of strategic defence assets, mass peacetime military deployments and regional instability.

The report concludes governments need to act now with five key policies: defending essential supply network infrastructure, more funding for research and development into renewable energy resources, national and international consensus on the management of mass environmental refugees and aid programs with an adaptable measure to take in at-risk nations or regions.

Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Drennan, the national manager of counterterrorism, said this week climate and security now went hand in hand. "It's not about agreeing or disagreeing (with perceived threat), this is just what the facts tell us," he said. "Climate change has an impact and that impact can manifest itself in a number of ways. If you look at, say, an example what climate change will do to the displacement of people then that's only going to manifest itself as a security issue." He said it was "certainly something we need to deal with with our eyes open."

Drennan's boss, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, has given the issue priority status in budgeting and developing contingency plans for the future. Such is the issue emerging, the UN Security Council as recently as last April convened its first discussion on climatic security. It found if the world's temperatures were to rise, as predicted, by between 2C and 4C (some scientists believe it could be higher) the heat would raise sea levels and threaten numerous nations.

Bangladesh has a population of 17 million but is not even lm above sea level. Miliband said it was not only the Pacific that was already feeling the effects of change. He compared the humanitarian crisis in Darfur - where up to 200,000 people have died as a result of drought, desertification and overpopulation leading to tribal tensions - as an example of what could happen globally.

"You can make the argument that Darfur is a resource war," he said, adding a similar issue could be seen in Australia with severe climate patterns. He said the British Government hoped to speak more with Asia Pacific nations like Australia in a bi-partisan or multi-partisan approach. "Australia is a key player on the climate change issue because you have changed your position," he said. "Obviously there's a new government with a great sense of energy and drive which from our spectrum is nice."

Going underground for energy efficient heating

Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser
Wednesday 27/2/2008 Page: 23

An Australian heating company is tapping into the temperatures below the earth's surface and using up to 75% less energy than conventional heating and cooling systems.

Energycore, which installs earth-linked Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHP) in Victoria, is one of the many energy efficient and environmentally sustainable companies to demonstrate its products at Wonthaggi's Energy Innovation Festival this weekend. The refrigerant-based, closed-loop pumps use the earth rather than ambient air as a heat source and sink.

Ground temperatures are cooler than the ambient air in the summer and warmer during winter, so the geothermal pumps benefit from pumping heat over smaller temperature difference, and therefore more efficiently, year round. copper loops in the deep bores, up to 30 metres, harness a unique resource; the heat of the earth itself. It is a constantly available, clean, renewable energy source with environmental benefits and cost savings. "Nature's got it all worked out," said Energycore project leader Donald Payne.

"Another way to access this would be to all live in our basements and not have any view." "This is a way of still being above ground but having the benefits." The company has successfully operated projects at Point Lonsdale, Cranbourne, Surrey Hills and Narre Warren. The innovation is also destined for the local region. Newhaven College is applying for Government funding through the Four Seasons Pilot Program to install the geothermal pumps at its Year 9 Environmental Centre and further new buildings.

A new industry
Donald Payne, believes the Geothermal Heat Pumps will define a new industry over the next decade. "As chair of the Australian Geothermal Energy Association sub-committee for Geothermal Heat Pumps, I am presenting the position paper for GHPs to the Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson next week." "There will be much activity in the geothermal space as the government rolls out its climate-change policy commitments." A rebate scheme is proposed for the energy saving technology.

Donald Payne said smaller holes and drilling costs have made the geothermal pumps economically accessible to the residential market for the first time in Australia. Homeowners, builders, engineers and architects can use Energycore's GHPs for radiant hydronic floor heating, hydronic radiant panel heating, chilled water cooling, forced air central heating and cooling, heating for swimming pools and spas and domestic or commercial hot water Energycore representatives will be on hand to answer any questions, and to demonstrate case studies, at the Wonthaggi Innovation Festival Friday, February 29 and Saturday, March 1.

Tipping Point: Climate change threatens to overwhelm the industry's fundamental financial models

Insurance & Risk Professional
Saturday 1/3/2008 Page: 68

The insurance industry has been an effective advocate for action on climate change over the past two decades. After all, there's no substitute for self-interest when it comes to promoting progressive policies. And the effect on insurers' hip pocket nerves of events like Hurricane Katrina, with its insured loss of $US66 billion, is certainly a powerful aid to concentrated thinking on the subject. Whatever the motivation, insurers and reinsurers such as Allianz. Munich Re and Swiss Re have led the way in developing models for assessing risk, formulating opportunities to benefit from climate change and generally acting as the canary in the cage.

But with the argument pretty much won and only a few renegade climate change sceptics ploughing an increasingly lonely furrow, the insurance industry needs to look beyond its advocacy role to start developing new policies and models for tackling the urgent challenges ahead. Allianz global board member Clement Booth says the emissions curve is trending upwards at such an alarming rate that the very financial fabric of underwriting risk is being called into question. "We are starting to get to a level where the ability to insure comes into question." Mr Booth's warning is echoed in an F&C: Asset Management report, which calls on insurers to more effectively factor the probability of future catastrophes into their risk pricing.

F&C Associate Director of Governance and Sustainable Investment Vicki Bakhshi says insurers face a stark choice. "Insurers are standing at a crossroads. If they don't act they are in real danger of becoming the victims of climate change, subject to ever-increasing risks in their investment portfolios and claims that exceed their projections." Mr Booth says there is no credible scientific evidence that climate change is not caused by human activity.

The Allianz research report "Hedging Climate Change" highlights the 15-fold increase in weather-related events over the past three decades. Looking at the 40 greatest catastrophes in recorded history in terms of insured losses, 85% occurred between 1988 and 2006, and 15% happened after the turn of the century. After 1989, annual damage has been less than $US10 billion only four times, and more than $US15 billion no fewer than 10 times. Of course, much of this is due to changing demographics. Improved living standards inevitably increase insured losses.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the otherwise welcome lift in Chinese and Indian living standards is the potential for the total damage bill to surge off the graph in those countries. The Allianz prediction of average annual total damages between $US80 billion and $US120 billion from 2010 to 2019 is based on a relatively conservative total loss to insured loss ratio of 2:1 or 3:1, which holds only for developed countries. As China rapidly industrialises and Chinese gross domestic product increases, the insured loss will skyrocket.

For example, in 1996 floods in China caused $US24 billion of damage, of which only $US500 million was covered by insurance - a ratio of 48:1. Fast forward only two years to 1998, and more flooding caused total losses of $US30 billion with insured losses of $US1 billion - a startling increase in insured losses to a ratio of 30:1. At the moment Beijing has a $2 billion exposure to earthquake risk. In Europe this would be $US20 billion and in Australia $US85 billion to $US100 billion, Mr Booth says.

Even in Australia, changing demographics have led to soaring exposure, says Marcus Winter, General Manager Non-Life at Munich Re Group in Australasia. "A hundred years ago hardly anybody would have noticed if a major storm hit the Gold Coast," Dr Winter told last October's NIBA Convention. The "sea change" trend has led to 700,000 exposed properties located within three kilometres of the coast and with an elevation of less than six metres. Small events such as the $100 million loss from hailstorms in Canberra last February barely cause a blip on the media radar. But if Sydney were inundated with a similar hailstorm featuring 14cm hail, the insured loss could reach $10 billion.

Allianz estimates annual global total losses of $US400 billion are not merely possible but probable. And the problem is data reliability, which insurers and reinsurers rely on to price risk appropriately and diversify their risks. The change in weather patterns means previous modelling is increasingly unreliable. "It is becoming more difficult to achieve diversification because we are dealing with a changing climate and historical data is less significant," Mr Booth said. "You don't know whether you are diversifying or accumulating risks." Drilling down into specific policies, climate change carries clear risks for liability insurance lines, including directors' and officers', environmental liability and professional indemnity, Dr Winter says.

"Failure to address climate change could lead to action against directors and officers." Perhaps this is why insurers are scrambling to prove their environmental credentials. IAG has produced a comprehensive 25-page sustainability report, Allianz is trumpeting its carbon offset policy discounts and its "most sustainable insurer" title on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the second year in a row, and Munich Re's Kyoto Multi Risk policy taps into the growing Clean Development Mechanism market resulting from the Kyoto Protocol.

And British insurer BGL Group has launched what it claims is Australia's first climate- friendly car insurance policy - carbon neutral car insurance via subsidiary Ibuyeco, underwritten by Auto & General Insurance. IAG and Suncorp are reportedly watching how well the product is received before launching competing insurance policies. Insurers are scrambling to get on board the post-Kyoto bandwagon by offering their risk and underwriting expertise for new technologies and frameworks such as emissions trading and wind power.

In the United Kingdom, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has launched ClimateWise to provide a framework for global insurance companies to build climate change into their business operations. Insurers, brokers and reinsurers of the calibre of Lloyd's, QBE, Munich Re, Ace and Hiscox have come on board. Although financial instruments such as catastrophe bonds can help diversify risk, public-private partnerships are also vital to ensure future natural catastrophes can be covered.

But solutions shouldn't incorporate what Allianz calls "ex-post help" - a classic example of the "bolting horse" mentality in which governments fail to deal with mitigation and end up bailing out stricken citizens for problems largely of their own making. In its report, Allianz is mindful that state assistance involves considerable fiscal and political risks. It is unfair, as it is financed by taxation, and inefficient, as it provides a disincentive for citizens to obtain insurance. "It leads to a variation of the 'Samaritan dilemma' - state support after a disaster undermines the motivation of people who are potentially affected to carry out risk-reducing measures in advance of a possible catastrophe," the report said.

Flooding in the UK, despite ongoing arguments, provides a test case in how government can work with the private sector to ensure the continuity of insurance cover. "The example of Britain shows that flood risks are in fact insurable on the free market." Mr Booth says governments should be taking their responsibilities seriously. A large number of uninsureds and underinsureds constitutes a political issue. Late in 2005, the UK Government and the ABI agreed to extend their partnership whereby private insurers will continue offering insurance protection in areas with a probability of flood damage no greater than 1.3%.

In return, the Government agreed to five proposals:
  • Reduce risks for 100,000 buildings over five years in endangered areas;
  • Establish investment programs against climate change;
  • Restrict new building in flood-prone areas;
  • Make more accurate flooding information available;
  • Minimise the risk of drain flooding and flash floods.
Although the ABI has called on the UK Government to increase its investment in flood risk areas - a total of £2.15 billion ($4.8 billion) had been proposed for 2008-11 - the compact holds, for the moment. There's little sign of such an agreement in Australia. The development of standardised flood policy wording is in limbo after a bout of finger-pointing between the Insurance Council of Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over the competition implications. The even more pressing national floodmapping tool looks even further off. Zurich Financial Services Australia Chief Executive David Smith spoke for many in the industry at the NIBA Convention.

"I don't know why we have not tackled the issue of flood in this country, and why we continually allow our reputation to be dragged through the mud by the press when we have a large weather event." Mr Smith has put his money where his mouth is. Zurich promises to include flood cover automatically in commercial policies this year as part of its corporate responsibility program.

The emerging technology of carbon capture could do with a similar commitment from governments, says Head of Swiss Re's emerging risk management division No Menzinger. The urgency of the need to reduce emissions means governments cannot simply sit back and let the market come up with solutions. Without clear definitions and parameters from government, insurers cannot accurately calculate the risk involved.

"It means nothing short of having to change the entire energy mix," he said. "For example, there is no insurance cover for carbon capture storage. There's only a handful of pilot programs. This is still to be resolved on a global level." The Labor Government has adopted a wait-and-see approach to climate change. Its immediate adoption of the Kyoto Protocol was hailed as a new dawn in Australian policy at December's United Nations Climate Change Summit in Bali.

But the Government stared down the European Union over a draft proposal for short-term emissions reduction targets of 25-40% by 2020, compared with 1990. It preferred to wait for economist Ross Garnault to issue his report in June. Most analysts have hailed the Rudd Government's pragmatic approach as being in Australia's best interests, but the insurance industry needs to see substance on such pressing issues as flood mapping, building standards and sea defences. As Mr Booth says, climate change should outweigh all other considerations. "Climate change is the most important risk that we will ever have to manage in our business... it will be on the agenda for a long, long time."

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Time for Australia to embrace renewable energy in the winery

Grapegrowers & Vignerons
March, 2008 Page: 95

Grant Taresch saves more than 400 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually by hooking his 600 tonne winery and cellar door to electricity produced via a wind turbine. The co-owner of Elgo Estate in the Strathbogie Ranges spent five years of his own time and money investigating, researching and installing the $300,000 turbine, a feat he proudly regards as a triumph of renewable energy.

His Australian winemaking colleagues, far from curious about Taresch's pioneering work, apparently regard him and his turbine merely as publicity seekers. The wine producer has received just one positive inquiry from a winemaking colleague wanting to know more about the turbine's power output - 1000 kilowatts a day - since his story made news in July last year. The rest have been less than enthusiastic or polite. "The response from talking with other wineries is that they believe we're using it as a PR exercise and that it is not sustainable," Taresch said.

The general mood among Australian wine companies when it comes to renewable energy and self-sustainability appears to be caution edged with a dose of cynicism. Taresch and others like David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate who heads a new Mornington Peninsula pilot carbon footprint group, have found producers tend to worry more about the cost of implementing change to combat carbon emissions than the need for change itself.

"Our mission statement tries to convey the message that it's not only great for the environment but it will also save you money," stresses Lloyd. "There are direct commercial benefits." Lloyd's group, which includes well-known peninsula producers like Yabby Lake and Paradigm Hill, is carrying out a carbon audit of members' wineries while also getting straight to the heart of reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions. Lloyd says much of what he has learnt so far is simply commonsense. There should be no debate, for example, when it comes to choosing a 500 gram wine bottle over a heavier 750g bottle or sending the winter prunings to the mulching heap instead of setting them alight.

For power, Lloyd and his group favour solar power in the form of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells over wind-derived energy. Solar PV cells convert light energy into electrical energy. In their smallest form they power tiny electronic calculators. They're also pretty handy in remote regions where access to power is unavailable. "photovoltaics have much less embodied energy than wind generators hence our push towards this," Lloyd said. Translation: the cells have no moving parts that can break down and need servicing.

Paradigm Hill, a member of the peninsula pilot group, recently installed a 10 megawatt solar panel system to fuel its house, 20 tonne winery and cellar door at Merricks. The system comprises 54 panels each producing up to a possible 175 watts generating a total of 14 megawatt hours each year. Owners George and Ruth Mihaly spent six months last year researching their energy needs and ways to reduce their carbon footprint before installing the solar panels in June.

The couple is confident the $100,000 unit will meet their needs, even at the height of the 2008 vintage, but they can tap into additional energy from the grid if required. "The power we generate goes straight into the grid and we draw from the grid our needs," Ruth Mihaly said. Meters have only just been installed so the Mihalys aren't sure how much energy they are producing or using but Mihaly says it's not uppermost on their minds. "First of all, ethically it was the right thing to do," she said.

In the Australian wine industry, it appears to be determined individuals like Grant Taresch and the Mihalys who are driving the early adoption of different forms of renewable energy. This perhaps helps explain why uptake has been slow. There's no critical mass forcing change. Taresch, in particular, has been frustrated by the lack of support from government agencies and privatised electricity retailers, even the so-called green energy providers. "There is no incentive to do this unless you are a high power user," he said.

"We're just a small, family-owned business." To Taresch, it's been nothing short of a bureaucratic nightmare. No such nightmare seems to exist in Europe where it is governments that are driving change through generous incentive schemes. Wind turbines dot the winemaking landscape noticeably across Portugal, Austria and Germany.

Each vintage in the northern hemisphere sees Yarra Valley winemaker Mac Forbes working against a backdrop of rhythmic sweeps of giant turbine rotors in Carnumtum, 35 kilometres east of Austria's capital, Vienna, He consults to 38 winemakers in the region and has come to all but ignore the now commonplace wine turbines. In Carnumtum local winemakers receive a government grant to provide land for the wind turbines as well as a rebate once they're installed. Any excess energy produced by the machines can be sold to the electricity supplier, often at more than three times its original cost.

"It is all driven by financial considerations," Forbes said. "The only reason it has progressed as much as it has is because it's great for the bottom line." That "bottom line" also extends to receiving a warm reception in one of the world's biggest wine markets, the United Kingdom. Consumer demand for information on carbon footprints is growing in the UK, so much so that the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs is reported to be developing a system for measuring the carbon footprint of a range of products, including wine, in preparation for the day when, or if, the information is required on labels. Countries like Austria can expect more favourable consideration from the UK's powerful supermarket chains, leaving Australian wine producers wondering why they have been so slow to adapt.

Even a go-getter like Yalumba which recently worked with the Australian Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) on the creation of an international protocol for the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions, admits it has yet to invest any major funding into renewable energy. But it is working on it. "We have done a bit of joint research with a university on the concept of passive refrigeration, taking heat energy and turning it into cold energy," Yalumba's director of winemaking Brian Walsh said. "It's little things at the moment. We're still just nibbling at the edges." Sounds like a fitting analogy for the Australian wine industry.

Charcoal may hold key to boosting soil and output

Thursday 6/3/2008 Page: 48

Want to grow more wheat with less fertiliser, in a drier climate and get a bonus for carbon credits at the same time? It seems like pie-in-the sky, but it may be on the cards if trials using charcoal as a soil amendment fulfill their early promise. Biochar is fine-grained porous charcoal, made from wood or any biological material (even manure) that has been pyrolised (heated without oxygen to about 450 degrees C) so that mainly carbon is left.

Pyrolysis produces a net surplus of energy that can be used to generate electricity as at the Verve integrated wood processing demonstration plant at Narrogin. Biomass growth followed by Pyrolysis it is one of the few energy production systems that are carbon negative (they extract CO2 from the air). Others such as wind power or solar energy are carbon neutral at best. *

Biochar has some interesting attributes: it lasts a long time in the soil, it absorbs and slowly releases water and nutrients to plants, reduces soil acidity and provides a safe home for beneficial soil organisms. What is more, it is relatively cheap to produce. Biochar is also very stable in the soil. Researchers think biochar contributed many years ago to the dark fertile terra preta soils of the Amazon basin and the chernozems of Russia and the Ukraine. Chernozems are a very black topsoil, rich in humus, typical of cool to temperate semiarid regions, such as the grasslands of European Russia.

If you grow oil mallees, harvest them, extract the valuable cineol-rich oil by steam distillation and pyrolyse the residue you get biochar. Biochar contains around half of the biomass carbon in the oil mallees. The net result is you have removed large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. When carbon trading arrives in Australia, biochar is worth money because businesses that emit excess carbon dioxide will have to purchase carbon credits to make up the difference.

Biochar effectively sequesters large amounts of atmospheric carbon, creating carbon credits. WA has the capacity to produce more than nine million tonnes of biochar a year. Once the biochar has been produced you could store it as sequestered carbon and make money from the carbon credits, or you could use it as a soil amendment.

Dr BlackWell, soil research officer with the WADAF, said trials at Pindar and Kalannie had shown increased returns from wheat of up to $96/ha, especially when biochar was applied with mineral fertilisers and inoculated with beneficial soil micro-organisms. "The results were mainly driven by water supply," he said. "The wheat was planted on 60cm wide rows. It is very early days to make predictions about the effect of soil charcoal on yield." In the trial the DAF applied 2-3 tonnes/ha of biochar deep banded in an acid sandy clay loam through an airseeder, before break of season.

When wheat was sown using the same tramlines, arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM) tripled their colonisation of wheat roots. In infertile soils AM live symbiotically with plant roots, harvesting nutrients such as phosphorus and zinc. In return they receive carbohydrate from the host plant. However, in fertile soils AM may tend to act parasitically. Charcoal also appeared to make wheat more drought-tolerant, possibly because the AM reduced drought stress.

Mr Kerkman's autosteer system allows him to place his wheat seeds within two centimetres of the biochar. "It will give rise to a new sustainable farming industry," he said. "Charcoal increases yields 5-10 per cent and reduces fertiliser needs by 40 per cent." "You need charcoal to tame the vicious soils of Australia, and if we can use charcoal we could be paid to do it," said Mike.

The problem is getting the initial investment to build a carboniser. Mr Kerkmans estimated a capital cost of $6.5m for the plant. "We also need a carbon-emitting company to pay farmers for carbon credits," he said. Dr BlackWell said much more research was needed on the long-term effects of incorporating biochar as a soil amendment in different soils and climates. Moreover, costs of manufacturing and applying charcoal and any carbon credit benefits were at present unknown. "I don't want people to get excited about the results and then be disappointed," he said.

* This is incorrect. Once a solar panel or wind turbine has produced energy exceeding the amount used in its construction, it is clearly carbon negative. Blair.

Ben Lomond wind project "not affected" by woes of developer

Glen Innes Examiner
Thursday 6/3/2008 Page: 6

THE company behind a $300 million windfarm development at Ben Lomond insists plans for the project will proceed, despite troubles which has seen its share price plummet and the resignation on Monday of its founder as chairman and two other directors.

Allco Finance Group, which manages infrastructure including rail, aircraft and power, is intending to lodge a development application for the windfarm, which will have up to 100 towers standing 124m high, to State Planning Minister Frank Sartor by the end of next week "at the latest", according to Allco Wind Energy technical director Bernhard Voll.

However investor nervousness about its ability to manager debt - estimated to be more than Million - has forced Allco founder David Coe to seek a `white knight' to save the company. "For us it is business as usual," Mr Voll said. "Allco has announced that it may be divesting its infrastructure division.

If there is a change of ownership in the project we will advise at the time, but this will not affect the project," he said. Mr Voll said two community consultation days - at Ben Lomond in December and Glencoe in February - showed there was "overwhelming support" for the project, though he acknowledged concerns were expressed at the Glencoe meeting about the visual and noise impact of the turbines. "These concerns have been reflected in the development application, along with the strong support from the Ben Lomond community," he said.

The Ben Lomond project covers an area around 15sqkm and involves 12 landholders. The turbines will run along several ridges from Ben Lomond, as far north as Grahams Valley and east of the New England Highway. If it proceeds it will be the second largest cluster of wind turbines in the state. Mr Voll said he assumed it would take three to six months for Minister Sartor to approve the project. "We hope it will be quicker, and will push for it to be approved as soon as possible," he said.

According to an analysis of Allco's accounts by the Sydney Morning Herald and published at the weekend, the company's listed funds hold more than $7.8billion in debts, including $1.5billion that must be refinanced this year. Much of this current debt must be refinanced by June 30.

It has also been reported that a deal by Allco and superannuation fund Industry Funds Manager to buy 29 power stations in the United States is also threatened by the state of Allco's finances. The company's share price has down another 13c to 52c yesterday, after tumbling from a high of more than $10.00 less than a year ago.

Wind farm talks on site

Barrier Daily Truth
Friday 7/3/2008 Page: 1

Four graziers are hoping Minister for Lands Tony Kelly will, after visiting their properties on the weekend, be convinced they deserve to negotiate their own compensation deal with wind farm developer Epuron. Minister for Lands Tony Kelly will on Saturday visit at least one of the four properties his government is seeking to partly withdraw in order to secure tenure of land for a proposed $2 billion wind farm.

Affected leaseholder Nigel Lawrence said Mr Kelly agreed to do this after meeting with himself and the graziers' representatives at a meeting in Sydney on Wednesday. "Hopefully he'll have a heart when he sees us on Saturday, and take on board our concerns," Mr Lawrence told BDT yesterday. Mr Lawrence said the government still want to withdraw the land and pay compensation accordingly.

The government has argued it must withdraw the land and negotiate directly with Epuron to provide ongoing secure title because the leases don't allow "State significant" projects of this type. The graziers claim they can negotiate separately with Epuron under their Western Lands leases. "We gave reasons why they should not withdraw the land and how a precedent would be set, how it would affect people's equity in the western division," said Mr Lawrence.

He said Mr Kelly agreed to accept a formal submission from the graziers. "We're putting that together as we speak" Mr Lawrence said he hoped the "character" of the properties at Silverton would be evident to the Minister during his tour. "We want to show him the character of the hills, what is going to be transformed by the turbines and how they are going to bisect the properties and affect our operations." Also highlighted will be infrastructure installed over the years, and how the wind farm could mean a loss in revenue.

Mr Lawrence said they want to impress on the Minister that adequate compensation would make the wind farm acceptable. He said the government's initial compensation offer was "inadequate." More importantly, the leaseholders want to keep tenure of land. "We can lease the land to Epuron, rather than the government. They can change that in the Act and we don't think they can legitimately withdraw the land under Section 34B for public purposes." Mr Lawrence said he would be extremely disappointed if the Minister rejected their claim.

"If that happens, we'll take appropriate action." Mr Lawrence said the graziers have also suggested a "Sustainability Fund" be set up for the Western Division based on revenue from the wind farm. "They've done that for two wind farms in Victoria, where funds from them are distributed to organisations in the community. "If the government is set on compensation from the wind farm, we won't see it once Treasury gets its hands on it." Mr Lawrence suggested groups like Penrose Park or the SES could benefit from such funds.

"The Minister took on board that suggestion. We don't have any problems relinquishing money from this project, as long as it stays in the west. "We don't want to see it go to tunnels or freeways:" Mr Lawrence said the Sustainability Fund could be set up with a portion of the compensation or from the wind farm owner directly.

The Minister's spokesman yesterday confirmed a submission from the graziers would be looked at by Mr Kelly. "We look forward to their submission," he said. The Minister, however, had "no comment" on the Shires Association of NSW's claim technical wording in the Western Lands Act should be changed to allow the leaseholders to directly negotiate with Epuron.

The Association supports the graziers over their right to adequate compensation for the wind farm. The Minister expected to meet formally with Association's President, Bruce Miller, about the issue. "The Association is obviously representing their stakeholders and it is an ongoing dialogue...they will be listened to," said Mr Kelly's spokesperson.

He also wished to emphasise the wind farm proposal was in its "very early stages." "We are so far away from anything happening, nothing is going to happen until development application approval." He said the Minister and his Department have always been listening to those involved. "There will be adequate compensation to leaseholders for leases affected by the proposed wind farm."

Cut emissions by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020: green groups

AAP Newswire
Thursday 6/3/2008

CANBERRA, March 6 AAP - Green groups have released a paper setting out their key tests for a future Australian carbon emissions trading scheme. In a joint paper to be released today Greenpeace, the Total Environment Centre and the Climate Action Network say they will support the introduction of a trading scheme only if it is designed to effectively, efficiently and equitably achieve significant emissions reductions.

The paper says Australia should aim to reduce its carbon emissions by 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. The federal government intends to cut emissions by 60 per cent from 2000 levels by 2050. However, it has delayed setting a 2020 target until later this year, after it receives Treasury modelling and the final climate change report of economist Ross Garnaut. Permits should be auctioned from the outset, no permits should be given away free, and revenue from permit sales should be used to support climate change solutions, the paper says.

A suite of complementary measures, including a strong renewable energy target, energy efficiency measures and deployment at a commercial scale of low emission technologies, are also necessary, it says. Total Environment Centre Executive Director Jeff Angel said the paper signalled the beginning of a year long campaign to get an effective trading scheme up and running. "The scale of threat from global warming requires an ambitious response from the economy that is linked to strong 2020 and 2050 targets," Mr Angel said.

Monday 10 March 2008

Australia’s 20% clean energy commitment applauded at global summit

Clean Energy Council
Fri, 7 Mar 08

NATIONAL: Coming on the heels of today's COAG announcement reaffirming a national approach to renewable energy, Australian clean energy investors received another much-needed boost from the Federal Government – A public pledge to provide 20 per cent of Australia's electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 at the 3rd International Renewable Energy Conference being held in Washington DC (WIREC 2008).

The pledge sets forth the Rudd Government's election policy announcement and puts Australian climate change policy alongside the European Union, China, California and other nations at the forefront of action. "This pledge, together with the COAG Working Group's announcement sends a strong signal to Australia's growing clean energy investment sector: Australia remains fully committed to fighting climate change with effective national policies," said Clean Energy Council CEO, Dominique La Fontaine.

The commitment was made at midday yesterday as part of an official Australian side event hosted by The Asia-Pacific Partnership (APP) Renewable Energy & Distributed Generation Task Force (REDGTF). This pledge will sit alongside official climate change pledges from other participating countries including the USA.

"It's vital for business to know that the key policy framework is secure; notwithstanding the Wilkins inquiry into rationalising climate change policies. An integrated set of measures, including an emissions trading scheme and energy efficiency targets, are essential for transitioning the stationary energy sector and substantially lowering Australia's dangerous greenhouse gas emissions," Ms La Fontaine said.

The consolidation of state schemes into a single target, and expansion of the national renewable energy target will begin by 2009. The target guarantees production of 45,000 gigawatt hours of clean, zero-emission energy from sources like wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal – enough to power 6.25 million households or avoid 60 million tonnes of CO2 gas from coal-fired electricity.

The Clean Energy Council is working with industry and regulators to deliver a suite of sustainable energy policies that will effectively cut greenhouse gas emissions at least cost to the economy. These policies form the Council's five point plan.

Proposal to buy up solar power from homeowners

Courier Mail
Friday 7/3/2008 Page: 9

STATES are being pressured by the Rudd Government to pay homeowners with solar power for their excess electricity. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday met with state and territory representatives to discuss the plan, which will set renewable energy targets while mitigating concerns about rising electricity costs.

The State Government is considering implementing the program with details such as the level of household rebates tipped to be revealed in the June 3 Budget. Under Senator Wong's blueprint, homeowners would be paid for feeding unused electricity from solar panels into the electricity grid. Senator Wong said she did not want to legislate or regulate the measures hut wanted the states to develop "nationally consistent principles for feed-in tariffs. A feed-in tariff is a rate, usually at a premium above the normal retail rate for wholesale electricity, that is paid to a renewable electricity generator.

Senator Wong said the working group would present a paper on a national approach by the end of June Economists have predicted Queensland's electricity bills could increase by $200 a year as retailers pass on the cost of carbon.

However forecasters say the extra cost to he passed on within two years would be less than the increase in real wages. The Courier-Mail reported yesterday that households would be offered heavily discounted solar power systems to help cut the cost of electricity bills. The State Government will bulk-buy at least 1000 solar systems and sell them back to Queenslanders.

It comes as Senator Wong again reinforced the need for nationally consistent renewable-energy targets. "Bringing existing state-based targets into one national target provides consistency for investors looking to support Australia's renewable energy industry," Senator Wong said, Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said: "The parameters of Queensland's feed-in tariff' are being finalised."

Mending the damage done

Ballarat Courier
Wednesday 5/3/2008 Page: 31

Churchhill Fellow, Lismore farmer, farm forester and Victorian AFG 2006 tree farmer of the year, and member of SMARTimbers Cooperative, Andrew Lang, calls for a long-term strategy for Australia's rural sustainability. ONE new rural industry - a greatly expanded farm forestry sector- stands out for its potential for improving the sustainability of rural communities and industry, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for improving Australia's longterm balance of trade and resource security.

This would consist of planting up to 10 per cent of most farms as dispersed, well-sited strip woodlots of sawlog species. For Victoria, this means we would establish at least 500,000 ha of integrated farm forestry over the next 30 years. For Australia it means about 5 million hectares over this period. This amount of planting would replace only a small fraction of the tree cover cleared since first settlement.

In some countries, farm forestry on this scale or greater is a major source of timber to industry. It provides the feedstock for production of a significant fraction of those nation's energy, and it is a source of ongoing significant jobs and substantial export income. As well as for sustainable timber production, family forest is managed for habitat, biodiversity, cultural heritage, for recreation and to protect water quality.

The lessons from countries like Finland, Austria, Sweden and Denmark are what they call family forestry and can be beneficial for the growers, the environment and local communities, and produce significant export income. In Victoria, and Australia generally, farmland has been overcleared. Remaining remnant native vegetation on farms is inexorably dying off. We have an urgent need for plantings for environmental repair- for combating the spread of dryland salinity, for stopping erosion of stream banks, for intercepting nutrient run-off from paddocks and milking sheds.

This can be provided by well-designed well-sited woodlots of suitable species being managed for timber production and other purposes. Crucially this scale of planting will remove millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, significantly reducing Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions.

Planting up to 10 per cent of any farm, as well-sited strip woodlots, improves farm productivity by improving shelter and reducing surface evaporation. These plantings can also soak up winter water-logging and attract birds and beneficial insects. Birds help control insect pests, while beneficial insects such as bees help pollinate many crop species, resulting in higher yields. Shelter and improved productivity are indirect forms of income. The production of quality timber as poles and as logs will add a useful income stream to farmers' books. Sale of carbon credits and environmental benefits will be another potential regular income stream. And these woodlots will lift farm value.

In Scandinavia and elsewhere woody biomass -the otherwise valueless by-products from family forestry- replaces fossil fuels to produce carbon-neutral, baseload energy. The ash is recycled as fertiliser. In Finland, up to 22 per cent of all energy in the country is produced from small and large plants, close to most towns and cities and many industries. In Australia we have an increasing commitment to renewable energy. Here woody biomass can provide half our renewable energy. It is cheaper than either solar and wind energy, is able to be decentralised and can be cofired with municipal flammable waste or coal. Industrial volumes of gaseous and liquid biofuels will be produced from woody biomass.

Ongoing employment is a key benefit of an expanded farm forestry sector. Site preparation, fencing, nursery production, planting, management, harvest and processing all add to regional employment. Bioenergy plants, and manufacturing timber products will employ additional large numbers. There is employment generation of about 1.3 jobs per 100 ha of forestry. For 500,000 ha of farm forestry (in addition to native and plantation forestry) there will be direct creation of at least 6500 new jobs scattered mainly through rural Victoria. Or about 65,000 jobs across Australia.

Farm forestry on this scale is a self-funding profitable industry, requiring only initial government support and stimulus, and more importantly, clear legislation. Once the initial scale of plantings is established it is sustainable indefinitely, along with benefits and jobs. Farmers already own the land and are open to a new enterprise that will earn money, reduce climate risks and provide carbon offsets.

Our international commitments require massive carbon sequestration and substantial renewable energy production, including biofuels. Timber produced replaces current imports. The environment needs the extra trees. And at this sort of planting and dispersed siting there is no significant effect on catchment stream flows, and no displacement of communities.

Unification of targets is closer

Bendigo Advertiser
Friday 7/3/2008 Page: 6

Canberra - The Federal and State governments have taken another step towards unifying renewable energy targets, Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says. After a meeting of climate change ministers in Sydney yesterday, Senator Wong said the governments would next consider a plan to implement the Renewable Energy Target by next year. The national scheme is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases by ensuring 20 per cent of electricity is generated by renewable energy sources by 2020. It will include a legislated target of 45,000 gigawatthours being produced by renewable energy in 2020.

Senator Wong said a nationally consistent target would stimulate much needed investment in the clean energy industry. "Bringing existing state based targets into one national target provides consistency for investors looking to support Australia's renewable energy industry," she said in a statement. Senator Wong said the working group of ministers would also recommend reviewing climate change measures in the states and territories in light of the Federal Government's emissions trading system plan. Energy efficiency measures in all jurisdictions will also be examined.

Bendigo set to power down

Bendigo Advertiser
Friday 7/3/2008 Page: 1

Bendigo will embrace a global initiative designed to empower the community in the vital battle against climate change later this month. City of Greater Bendigo residents will be encouraged to turn off lights and other non-essential electrical appliances as part of Earth Hour on March 29. Cities in Australia, Fiji, Israel, Denmark, Thailand, Ireland, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the Philippines will unite in darkness from 8pm for one hour to raise awareness of the difference each individual can potentially make to reduce global warming.

Mayor David Jones said Bendigonians could expect some of the city's most famous landmarks to have their lights dimmed on March 29. Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Alexandra Fountain and the Town Hall may all be shrouded in shadow as part of Earth Hour. "Most of our lights in council offices go out at night anyway," Cr Jones said. "The public recognition of these sort of initiatives has really grown and the way Earth Hour has spread in popularity and is recognised around the world really magnifies that.

"The whole sustainable energy issue now is at the forefront of council's thinking and occasions like Earth Hour help to further promote that." Cr Jones praised Greater Bendigo for its current efforts in reducing their carbon emissions, but said the war against global warming was far from being won. "My main message is that it's great to see these awareness raising events to keep this issue in the spotlight," he said.

"This is not just for the one hour, this will give people the chance to really think about things we do in the community for the future." Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance executive officer Bronwen Machin said she believed that while Earth Hour was an important event, it shouldn't take the focus from more vital climate change initiatives.

"I think that our region as a whole is already very much aware of climate change and we are already very active," Ms Machin said. ''There are higher priorities at the moment, such as getting our renewable energy potential taken seriously. "Individuals can do it themselves, they don't have to wait for council leadership and it's a good reminder for people to realise how much they rely on electricity.

"But our focus should be on how to make that jump to renewable energy." Other Victorian regions supporting Earth Hour include Greater Shepparton City Council and Surf Coast Shire, while local businesses including Bendigo Bank and Solahart Bendigo will also flick the switch. "We're definitely going to be turning off all our nonessential lights, and we're going to put out a letter challenging other businesses to do the same," Bendigo Bank spokesperson Sharon Kemp said.

Shires back local Braziers

Barrier Daily Truth
Wednesday 5/3/2008 Page: 1

The Shires Association of NSW has come out in support of four local graziers over their right to adequate compensation for allowing a wind farm on their properties. The Association's annual conference yesterday passed a motion to seek a change in wording of the Western Lands Act that would allow the leaseholders at Silverton to directly negotiate with wind farm developer Epuron.

The conference was told the leaseholders had originally negotiated directly with Epuron but the State Government had declared the project to be one of "State significance." "The State Government plans to take control of the project, and we understand will offer leaseholders significantly less compensation than they were originally going to get from the company," said President of the Shires Association of NSW, Bruce Miller.

"It is all to do with the technical meaning of `agriculture' in the Act," said Mr Miller. "The State Government will collect the compensation from the company, possibly hand over a portion to leaseholders, and keep the rest. "We are disappointed that the Government is hiding behind a technicality to make a profit at the expense of leaseholders." A motion by Bourke Shire Council calling on the Government to change the wording of the Western Lands Act to allow leaseholders to directly negotiate with the company was unanimously supported.

"We are calling on the Government to redefine the term 'intensive agriculture' to `intensive industries' in the Act, which would allow these leaseholders to negotiate directly with the company," said Bourke Mayor Wayne O'Mally. "These leaseholders will lose the part use of their land and as such have a right to adequate compensation." Representatives of the landowners are scheduled to meet NSW Minister for Lands, Tony Kelly, in Sydney today to discuss the matter.