Friday 12 September 2008

Clean Loy Yang costs huge

Herald Sun
Wednesday 27/8/2008 Page: 62

THE boss of one of Victoria's biggest power plants says it will be "very, very tough" for the state's brown coal-fired electricity generators to cut carbon output by 20 per cent by 2020 to meet Rudd Government targets. And he warns that the public will ultimately foot the $40 billion spend on Australia's energy sector needed to reduce carbon emissions in line with the target.

Ian Nethercote, head of the Loy Yang A power plant in the Latrobe Valley, said yesterday it would take at least 15 years for high-emission, brown coal-fired plants to transition into the new regulatory regime. "Some of the technologies required to meet the 20 per cent reduction targets by 2020 require a large change in the base plate that produces energy for Victoria and Australia," he said during a speech at the Victoria Resources Conference in Melbourne.

"Some of the technology is not there at the moment and I think it would take another five or seven years before it's at the commercial stage. "At that point, we know that a base plate plant takes around seven years to construct and become operational." Mr Nethercote estimated that it would cost $35 billion to install carbon-capture, sequestration and coal-drying technologies in Australia's existing brown coal-fired electricity assets.

He said a further $5 billion was needed to build new transmission networks connecting planned wind and solar energy sources to the national grid. "While the industry is embracing clean coal technology, the amount of money required is much, much greater than what we've already seen," he said. "It will be one that government have got to dig hard to put into - and that means that you and I as the general public are going to have to make a fair contribution to that as well. "It's not one that's going to be borne by a few."

Business Council wish list is a plan to do nothing

Clean Energy Council
29 Aug 2008

NATIONAL: The Clean Energy Council, the national peak body representing several hundred large and local Australian companies, today added its voice to growing criticism of the recent Business Council of Australia/Port Jackson Partners emissions trading paper.

"The BCA plan for emissions trading is essentially a plan to do nothing," said Clean Energy Council's General Manager-Policy, Rob Jackson, "We have always said that the sooner we introduce these policies the sooner we will see increased local and international investment and competition in Australia," said Mr Jackson, "all we need now is the market". The Clean Energy Council collects information from hundreds of businesses preparing to invest billions into the Australian economy, job creation and infrastructure capacity; as a result of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and complementary policies including the 20% Renewable Energy Target.

"Our members are ready and the international business community is also telling us they are ready to set up shop in Australia. The longer we stall, the greater the danger of Australia missing the boat on climate change and economic growth," he said. The Council also stressed that the complementary policies the federal government is looking to introduce – particularly the renewable energy target and energy efficiency measures – will cushion the transition to a low carbon economy and provide the investor stimulus to capacity build for the future.

These policies, along with R&D funding, are world's best practice to driving down emissions while keeping an economy strong. They have been successfully introduced in Europe, parts of Asia and the US. "Australia's energy demand is increasing, and with at least $60 billion of new investment already deemed necessary to meet energy infrastructure and transmission growth demand, only a strong signal will ensure this investment will prioritise clean energy and energy efficiency," Mr Jackson said.

Solar industry endorses Senate solar inquiry

Clean Energy Council
29 Aug 2008

NATIONAL: The solar industry endorsed the recommendations of the 'Save our Solar' Senate inquiry at a national meeting of the Clean Energy Council's Solar photovoltaic Directorate on Wednesday. The industry strongly supported the Committee's recommendations to maintain funding for the Solar Homes and Communities Plan, to adopt measures which will encourage investment in larger systems and to provide industry security while transitioning to a national gross feed-in tariff system – a policy that has been proven to deliver long-term industry sustainability worldwide.

Clean Energy Council solar industry spokesperson, Andrea Gaffney said: "Gross feed-in tariffs will provide stability for the industry to invest in Australia's clean energy future. Despite frequent changes to the rebate scheme over recent years, the solar industry has survived and, with the right policy, will grow substantially." Ms Gaffney noted that the variations in current state feed-in tariff policies had created unnecessary complexities for business and consumers: "We look forward to a nationally consistent feed-in tariff approach, as promised by the Rudd Government during the election and due for discussion at the next COAG meeting".

The Clean Energy Council stressed that any solar policy should not set artificially low caps on system size and encouraged the installation of large domestic and commercial solar energy systems. The Council will detail the solar industry's position in a submission for the Senate's National feed-in tariff enquiry. The Clean Energy Council coordinates several clean energy and energy efficiency industry directorates to determine industry policy and provide real-time intelligence. The Council's PV Directorate includes the major Australian manufacturing, distribution, retail and installation businesses from around Australia.

Solar rises in the West - national scheme logical next step

Clean Energy Council
26 Aug 2008

NATIONAL: Australia's peak renewable energy body, the Clean Energy Council, welcomed the WA government's announcement of a solar energy gross feed-in tariff – a plan to pay households a premium for all the solar energy they produce. Premier Carpenter announced this policy as part of the WA government's election commitment and it follows on from the ACT's gross feed-in legislation. Gross feed-in tariffs (GFITs) are recognised world wide as key to driving industry maturity.

With the majority of Australian states and territories supporting the policy and the federal government's election commitment to ensuring a nationally consistent approach, the Clean Energy Council sees a national gross feed-in tariff as the logical next step. This policy will deliver industry certainty, reduce policy complexity and encourage wide-scale adoption of solar PV and other renewables. GFITs also received support in the Save Our Solar Senate committee's report released yesterday.

Clean Energy Council spokeswoman, Irena Bukhshtaber said "The WA announcement and the Committee's report are timely given the Council of Australian Governments are meeting in Perth on October 2nd and are widely expected to discuss a national feed-in tariff policy." "Today's report from the Senate committee acknowledged that a gross feed-in tariff was supported by the Australian solar industry to encourage uptake of solar energy systems and help develop a viable industry." "Rather than a range of inconsistent policies, a national gross feed-in tariff will mean every Australian can access the same benefits for acting on climate change."

"Now is the time for a long-term industry policy, which will transition the industry from rebates. Gross feed-in tariffs set high enough and for long enough will deliver long term investor certainty, energy security and most importantly reductions in greenhouse gas emissions." Stationary energy is responsible for half of Australia's emissions, so any climate change solution needs to target the energy sector first. Feed-in tariff schemes are already running successfully overseas, resulting in the rapid adoption of clean energy and displacing the use of fossil fuels.

MT survey kicks off in Victoria

Mining Chronicle
August, 2008 Page: 103

Hot Rock has commenced a 250-station magnetotelluric (MT) survey at its geothermal permits in Victoria. These comprise four tenements covering 18,294sq km over the most prospective areas of the Otway Basin for commercial development of hot sedimentary rock geothermal resources. They are close to electricity transmission lines, population centres, infrastructure and industry.

Previous oil and gas drilling in the Otway Basin to depths of up to 3500m has recorded temperatures as high as 143C. "Temperatures of more than 120C can be commercially viable for geothermal electricity generation, depending on well productivity, drilling depths and production pumping requirements," says managing director Dr Mark Elliott.

"We are seeking HSR geothermal resources that can be developed at lower cost than hot dry rock or enhanced geothermal systems, as HSR resources contain extensive in-situ reservoir water, are naturally permeable and are exploitable at shallower drilling depths." Over the past decade MT surveys have become the standard method for the exploration of high-temperature geothermal systems.

The method involves the measurement of naturally occurring variations in the magnetic field and concurrent electric field induced in the Earth's shallow crust through atmospheric effects. This allows for ground resistivity to be determined and, by applying calculations at different frequencies, the technique can measure the resistivity of rock units down to depths of 5km or more.

The resistivity of rocks in geothermal systems varies depending on porosity, the level of mineralisation of hot geothermal fluids contained in pores and fractures in the host rocks, and the extent and type of clay alteration produced by the interaction of the geothermal fluids with the surrounding reservoir rocks. Resistivity values determined by the MT method can therefore be used to locate and delineate geothermal systems.

The results of a MT trial carried out by Hot Rock last December in the Koroit area in the vicinity of the Killara 1 and Taralea 1 oil and gas wells showed a good correlation with measured data from these wells and interpretation of geological and seismic data with regards to the distribution and hydrology of geothermal waters at depth.

Based on the encouraging results obtained from the MT trial. HRL has now commenced a 200-station MT survey to be carried out over 250sq km of the Koroit project in GEP-8. The operations plan has been approved by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries allowing the survey to proceed. Quantec Geoscience of Canada is carrying out the survey, using its Spartan MT deep resistivity sounding equipment, which collects data over a large frequency range and long recording periods, providing accurate imaging at depths up to 4-5km.

The objective of the detailed MT survey is to provide specific information on the subsurface hydrology of the geothermal fluids. This will be combined with the results of the seismic and structural geological re-evaluation work to develop an optimum location for the drilling of the test production appraisal well. A preliminary estimation of the geothermal resources potential for Hot Rock's HSR targets in the Otway Basin has been given by the company's geothermal consultant, Sinclair Knight Merz, as 1750 megawatts of electricity over a power plant life of 25 years.

This estimation is based on the assumptions that geothermal fluid is produced to a binary cycle power plant with an average inlet temperature of 140C and an exit temperature of 70C, for a production zone thickness of 100m (within a clean sandstone rock unit known as the Crayfish Subgroup) using a recovery factor of 35 per cent and a plant availability of 90 per cent.

The significance of this preliminary estimate is better appreciated when compared to the installed geothermal power plant capacity in the US of 2544MWe (2005), the largest geothermal power user in the world - about 35 per cent of Victoria's current baseload power demand.

Investors fill Victoria's power vacuum

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 25/8/2008 Page: 8

The Federal Government's much-touted emissions trading scheme has sparked a investment boom amongst Victoria's energy industry players, with surging demand, escalating prices and environmental concerns about brown-coal generators providing fresh opportunities for the state's alternative producers. Santos CEO David Knox described the gas explorer's foray into power generation as having 'high growth potential,' while Origin Energy revealed plans for a $640 million natural gas power station, and BHP Billiton and Exxon-Mobil announced plans to spend $1.4 billion on an oil and gas venture in the Gippsland Basin. In five years alone, median energy pool prices climbed from about $23 per megawatt hour to $60 MWH, according to National Electricity Market data.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Greenbird flies in for land record

Canberra Times
Tuesday 26/8/2008 Page: 6

Two British alternative energy enthusiasts are waiting for a West Australian lake bed to dry out as they prepare for an attempt on the world speed record for a wind-powered vehicle. Company director Dale Vince and engineer Richard Jenkins hope to beat the record of 187.77km/h with their craft, Greenbird, on the salt flats of Western Australia's Lake Lefroy, about 50km south of Kalgoorlie.

The record has stood since March 1999, when Bob Schumacher reached the 116.71km/h (186.7km/h) mark on a dry desert lakebed at Prim, Nevada, in a creation called the Iron Duck. Mr Jenkins said the Greenbird was named after Donald Campbell's famous world water speed record holder Bluebird, which recorded a speed of 444.71km/h at Western Australia's Dumbleyung Lake in 1964.

The result of 10 years of design and development, including five prototypes, Mr Jenkins said the Greenbird used technology from Formula One Grand Prix motor racing cars and advanced aircraft. Mr Jenkins described it as a purely technical solution, delivering ultimate performance for a free and available resource. "After 10 years, I now have the right vehicle, in the right part of the world with the right team in support," Mr Jenkins said. "We now just need the weather to cooperate." Mr Vince, managing director of environmental energy firm Ecotricity, became involved in the Greenbird project through his Gloucestershire based company.

The company builds wind turbines and has sold "green" electricity across Britain since 1996. He said the Greenbird symbolised the historical watershed of the end of the age of fossil fuels and the dawn of the age of renewables. Mr Vince and Mr Jenkins arrived with other members of their team earlier this month.

But the weather and wet conditions on the lakebed have delayed their preparation for the attempt. Conditions have been steadily improving. They hope to attempt the record before the end of September. The Greenbird project involves two vehicles: a land craft and an ice craft. The latter is also powered only by the wind. The world speed record project promotes a vision of the future where no forms of transport produce carbon emissions.

Coastal wind storms

Herald Sun
Tuesday 26/8/2008 Page: 4

A $50 MILLION wind farm will be built near Victoria's top coastal attractions, despite State Government promises to keep turbines away from the Great Ocean Rd. The Government says the Newfield Wind Farm, about 12km from the Twelve Apostles in the southwest, will bring jobs to Victoria and boost renewable energy. But residents say it could be the start of a flood of wind turbines near environmentally sensitive coast land. The Acciona Energy wind farm will include 15 turbines that are 110m tall.

It was approved by the state planning tribunal with strict environmental and noise management conditions. The turbines will be seen on the road between the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, which was one of the reasons Corangamite Shire dumped the plans in 2006. Residents now have no endangered species' get-out clause after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal said the threat to the endangered grey goshawk and Wedge-Tailed Eagles in the area was small.

VCAT members Margaret Baird and Cindy Wilson said the road was "one of our nation's most precious and treasured assets", but that was not enough to stop the wind farm. "We do not consider the minor visual incursion of the wind farm in this context to unreasonably detract from the experience of the Great Ocean Rd," the VCAT members' report says. Corangamite Mayor Ruth Gstrein said renewable energy should be supported but not so close to the Twelve Apostles. "I don't think there's any doubt this is a world recognised attraction," Cr Gstrein said.

Newfield resident Philip van Rijthoven has a cattle farm bordering the wind farm, one of 69 properties within 3km. He said people in Victoria's west were nervous about being overrun by wind farms. Monash University energy expert Patrick Moriarty said building wind farms in environmentally sensitive areas should be avoided but a change might be forced in the future. "If we have to move to 100 per cent renewable energy, it's not going to be easy," Dr Moriarty said.

There are 37 wind farm projects on the state Department of Primary Industries' website, but only five are operating. In 2006, then Victorian energy minister Theo Theophanous said planning processes ensured wind farms were only built in appropriate areas. "Sensitive areas such as national parks and the Great Ocean Rd have been protected," Mr Theophanous said.

Dan Ward, spokesman for Energy Minister Peter Batchelor, said wind farms were still subject to stringent planning controls and each project was assessed on its merits. Mr Ward said Newfield would help ensure 10 per cent of Victoria's electricity consumption came from renewable energy by 2016. Acciona Energy Asia Pacific group managing director Brett Thomas said building would begin late next year and should be finished in 2010. Mr Thomas said 100 jobs could be created through the building process, as well as seven permanent jobs.

Solar solution to offset energy rises

West Australian
Saturday 23/8/2008 Page: 25

Predictions the Federal Government's recently announced climate change Green Paper could increase the price of energy after 2010 have prompted calls for solar hot water to be more widely used. Romano Bolzon, national business manager for EcoSmart Hot Water, said the Government's green paper into carbon-pollution reduction had forecast a 16 per cent increase in electricity costs and a 9 per cent increase in gas. "The estimated soaring costs of utilities, combined with petrol and interest rate rises, are hitting families hard in the hip pocket," he said.

"All utilities prices in Australia are going to rise, therefore it will be important that more sensible energy use in the home can offset rate rises in gas or electricity." Mr Bolzon said traditional electric hot-water systems were widely considered the highest household emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and consumed up to 35 per cent of domestic household energy use.

By using a solar hot-water system, households could drastically reduce energy bills while producing 75 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions a year than traditional electric water heaters. This was an overall saving of three tonnes of carbon. "Investing in a solar hot-water heater is a cost effective and realistic way to help homeowners reduce or zero out their immediate energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and future-proof themselves against further utility rate increases," he said.

Mr Bolzon said various State and Federal Government rebates available made the upfront cost of switching to a solar hot-water system easier to afford. "With energy bills set to rise, this means the return on investment on solar water heaters is even better, and homeowners will ultimately have energy-saving dollars put back into their pockets," he said.

The increase in gas and electricity prices was proposed in the Green Paper to encourage consumers to phase out the use of carbon-producing goods and services. "Fears of global warming and utility rate rises, combined with government rebates on environmental products, should be enough to encourage and change the behaviour of households towards their energy use," Mr Bolzon said.

Geothermal energy needs to clear cost hurdles for viability

Courier Mail
Tuesday 26/8/2008 Page: 66

Geothermal energy could supply as much as 5 per cent of Australia's electricity needs by 2020 if development and cost hurdles can be overcome, a new study says. The report commissioned by the Australian geothermal Energy Association found producing power from underground heat could provide up to 2200 megawatts of continuous generating capacity by 2020. That would be up to 40 per cent of the nation's 2020 target for renewable energy use.

"This report highlights that the Australian geothermal energy industry has a potentially significant contribution to solving Australia's long-term climate change challenges," AGEA chairman Gerry Grove White said. However, the study found while the different elements of the technology such as drilling, fracturing, pumping, generating and reinjecting were all proven, the combination had not yet been demonstrated commercially in Australia.

"The inherently base-load nature of geothermal is a major advantage, but it needs to overcome developmental and cost-reduction barriers to realise its potential to become a major contributor to zero emissions generation," it said. Of the more than 30 companies actively involved in geothermal development, the reports said "even the most advanced ... (are) only now about to conduct closed loop circulation tests to reach the proof of concept stage".

However, Mr Grove White said the cost of generating electricity from geothermal resources was expected to fall rapidly as the sector progressed through pilot, demonstration and commercialisation stages to reach economies of scale by 2020. The cost would fall from $90 to $135 a megawatt hour (MWh) for small-scale demonstration plants of 10MW to 50MW down to $80/MWh to $110/MWh for large-scale plants of 300MW or greater. "The upper cost boundary will decline over time because the level of uncertainty is expected to narrow as the industry grows," he said.

ETS to make coal plant `white elephant'

Tuesday 26/8/2008 Page: 4

THE proposed federal emissions trading scheme would turn a $750 million Chinese-backed Victorian power station into a taxpayer-funded white elephant, according to legal advice. Lawyers acting for a coalition of environment groups have told the state and federal governments that the HRL-Harbin plant would not be eligible for assistance under the ETS, costing its backers $50 million a year in pollution charges.

The two governments have pledged $150 million for the Latrobe Valley plant in the hope it can eventually be configured for carbon capture and storage. The 400 MW plant was approved by the Brumby Government on the eve of the release of the Garnaut report into climate change, but legal advice says it has missed the deadline for compensation.

Lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office found that under the Rudd Government's proposal for an ETS, only existing coal-fired plants would win compensation, with the cut-off date set at June 3 last year. "The HRL proposal will not meet the eligibility criteria for compensation as a strongly affected industry' even on the most generous assumption as to the cut-off date," their advice says. Mark Wakeham, the campaign director of Environment Victoria, which commissioned the advice, said the lost compensation rendered the plant uneconomic.

If the carbon price is just $20 a tonne, which is at the lower end of what is likely, HRL would have to buy $50 million worth of carbon pollution permits a year just to operate," he said. "This is likely to make the project uncompetitive against renewable energy and gas-fired electricity generation." Amid the warnings over the HRL plant's future, gas giant Santos has announced a 500 MW, $800 million power plant in Victoria, which could be doubled in capacity by 2020.

Environment Victoria is sending the legal advice to potential financiers of the HRL-Harbin plant. The plant uses gasification and drying technology to reduce CO2, emissions by about 30 per cent compared with a conventional brown coal station. Even accounting for this, Environment Victoria said it would produce up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year. It would have to buy permits for this output unless geosequestration emerges as a viable option by its 2012 completion date.

Premier John Brumby conceded in an interview with The Australian this month that Victoria, and the rest of the world, faced some major problems if geosequestration did not work. It is believed trials of the technology in natural gas cavities in the state's west are showing promising results, but commercial application is some time away.

HRL, a Victorian company that was formed out of the remnants of the former State Electricity Commission, would not comment except to say: The rules for and the level of assistance under the draft Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are not yet finalised." Harbin is a massive Chinese based manufacturer and operator of coal-fired power stations.

Plant's carbon bill 'too high'

Tuesday 26/8/2008 Page: 2

A LEGAL analysis throws into doubt the economic viability of a planned coal-fired power station in Victoria, finding the proposed emissions trading scheme will offer it no compensation for an estimated annual carbon bill of $50 million.

The $750 million power plant - signed off last month by the State Government, but without finalisation of its funding - does not qualify for either of the industry compensation schemes outlined in the Federal Government's emissions trading blueprint, according to analysis by community legal centre the Environment Defenders Office.

As the station is a local electricity supplier, it cannot be argued that it is trade-exposed, and it was commissioned too recently - after the June 3, 2007 cut-off - to qualify for the compensation available to shareholders of existing brown coal power stations. "Even if you are quite generous about it, I don't think you will find this is a case where compensation is available. This is still a twinkle in someone's eye," Environment Defenders Office principal solicitor Brendan Sydes said.

A joint venture between coal technology specialist HRL and Chinese giant Harbin Power, the station will trial a drying and gasification process estimated to cut greenhouse emissions from brown coal by 30%. HRL spokeswoman Maria Brejcha declined to comment beyond saying the Government's emissions trading scheme was not yet finalised. The HRL plant has been pushed back four years to 2012 due to delays in securing a suitable site.

Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham, who commissioned the legal advice, said without compensation the plant was unlikely to compete with new renewable energy projects and gas-fired electricity generation. Assuming a carbon price of $20 a tonne - the scenario used in the Government's emissions trading green paper - HRL would have to buy at least $50 million worth of carbon permits to cover its annual emissions of more than 2.5 million tonnes, he said.

State Energy Minister Peter Batchelor's spokesman, Dan Ward, said emissions trading would make technology that cut emissions from coal-fired stations more attractive, not less. "Eligibility for compensation under (emissions trading) is not the sole determining factor in whether the plant is financially competitive."

Council lower on gas

Hobart Mercury
Monday 25/8/2008 Page: 11

NEW greenhouse gas emission targets have been set by Hobart City Council. Hobart Lord Mayor Rob Valentine said the council had reduced its emissions by more than 75 per cent since 1996, mainly achieved by collecting gases from landfill and wastewater treatment plants to generate electricity. He said additional cuts would be more difficult and costly, but the council had agreed in principle to measures to achieve a further cut in its carbon footprint and energy consumption, including setting a target of a 30 per cent cut in its remaining greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Ald Valentine said the council would consider carbon offsets as an option to achieve a possible zero carbon footprint by that year.

One in 10 are doing their bit

Adelaide Advertiser
Monday 25/8/2008 Page: 12

ONE in 10 South Australian electricity customers are now buying GreenPower, double the number of two years ago. Statistics for the 2008 April/May/ June quarter show 74,684 households and businesses bought renewable energy from their electricity provider. It compared to 36,095 GreenPower customers in the same quarter in 2006. GreenPower is the name given to Federal Government accredited renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and usually costs homeowners about 5c per kilowatt hour more.

Greenhouse gas emissions are not produced when GreenPower is generated, unlike traditional electricity sources such as coal and gas. The increase in the past two years has meant 10 per cent of SA's 793,000 electricity customers are now sourcing part or all of their electricity from GreenPower. In 2006, only 5 per cent of SA customers bought GreenPower. Holden Hill businesswoman Liz Davies said she subscribed to GreenPower through retail company Origin Energy to help the environment.

The founder and chief executive of StorPac said buying green energy had added an extra $12 to each quarterly bill. "I thought it would be a lot more but it's only a couple of coffees each week," she said. "Anything we do to reduce the carbon footprint of our lifestyle is something we are prepared to do." University of Adelaide Climate Change Professor Barry Brook said it was great to see a dramatic increase in GreenPower usage in the community. But he said Governments needed to do more to resolve bureaucratic issues to ensure more people bought emission free energy in years to come.

How It Works
  • GreenPower is renewable energy sourced from the sun, wind, water and waste.
  • It is accredited by an independent authority.
  • The equivalent amount of new renewable energy which is bought is added to the electricity grid every year.
  • A percentage of GreenPower, such as 10, 20, 25, 50 or 75 percent, can be bought from electricity retailers instead of 100 per cent GreenPower.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Thinking outside the square finds light in the oven

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 20/8/2008 Page: 5

FOR her 10th birthday, Nicole Kuepper received an inspirational present from her parents - her first solar energy kit. It sparked a fascination with solar technology that last night led to Ms Kuepper, 23, winning two Australian Museum Eureka Prizes for her scientific research. She has developed a simple, cheap way of producing solar cells in a pizza oven that could eventually bring power and light to the 2 billion people in the world who lack electricity.

Ms Kuepper is a PhD student and lecturer in the school of photovoltaic" target="_blank">photovoltaic and renewable energy engineering at the University of New South Wales. "I love working with passionate people who want to help address climate change and poverty by thinking and experimenting outside the square," she said. Today's photovoltaic" target="_blank">photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight to electricity are expensive and need sophisticated, "clean" manufacturing plants.

Ms Kuepper realised a new approach would be needed if affordable cells were to be made on site in poorer countries: "What started off as a brainstorming session has resulted in the iJET cell concept that uses low-cost and low temperature processes, such as ink-jet printing and pizza ovens, to manufacture solar cells." While it could take five years to commercialise the patented technology, providing renewable energy to homes in some of the least developed countries would enable people to "read at night, keep informed about the world through radio and television and refrigerate life-saving vaccines". And it would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms Kuepper said that the solar cells should be of high enough quality to be used anywhere in the world, including Australia. An advocate of green technology, she gives talks about solar energy to the public, has held miniature solar car races to teach indigenous children about renewable energy, and was a delegate at the 2020 Youth Summit in Canberra in April. Ms Kuepper was awarded the British Council Eureka Prize for Young Leaders in Environmental Issues and Climate Change and a $10,000 study tour to Britain.

She also won the People's Choice Award, in which almost 16,000 members of the public voted for their favourite scientist out of six finalists. Twenty Eureka Prizes worth $200,000 were awarded last night at a ceremony at Royal Randwick Racecourse. Other winners included Professor Robert Clark, of the University of New South Wales, for quantum computer research, Professor Stephen Simpson of the Sydney University, for studies of locusts and human obesity, and Professor Matthew England and his University of New South Wales team for discoveries linking ocean temperature and rainfall.

Solar rebate is too popular

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 2

REBATES for solar panels will continue to be paid to householders by the Federal Government even though the original allocation for this year is likely to be exhausted next month. The decision to drop the eligible income level for the $8000 rebate has not had the desired effect. Instead of slowing the number of applications, the rate has increased to up to 700 a week. If the present rate continues, the cap of 6000 will be reached next month.

Rather than take away an attractive incentive for households to install the rooftop systems, the Government has decided to keep paying the rebate, potentially blowing out the cost of the program, which was given $25.6 million for this year. But the long-term future of the rebate is not guaranteed as the Government examines the best way to help households get set for the expected price rises for energy when the emissions trading scheme begins in 2010.

"This is a critical process we are undertaking in the months ahead and throughout this consultation process we will continue to meet demand for those Australians who most need assistance to put solar panels on their roof," the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, told industry representatives this month.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett said yesterday the future of schemes designed to encourage people to invest in renewable energy would be discussed at a meeting with the industry in Sydney tomorrow. In the May budget, the Government reduced the income threshold for the rebate from $150,000 per household to $100,000. It was also capped at 6000 households.

The solar industry was furious, predicting it would go under because the cost of solar panels meant wealthier households were more likely to be interested in installing the environmentally friendly energy systems. Instead, applications have continued to pour in, but for much smaller systems which cannot generate the same power. Although people are still applying to install solar panel systems, the industry is pushing the Government for a decision on the long-term future of the rebates.

It argues the rebate system is inefficient because the numbers of rebates funded by the Government are constantly fluctuating, making it difficult to plan. "We're very busy now but what about the next six months? Do we hire or fire?" one industry member told the Herald yesterday. "The rebate has already changed a few times so people feel it can change again." Industry wants the rebate scrapped and replaced with a national feed-in tariff law which would pay those with solar panels for the electricity they generate.

Greens Senator Christine Milne said interest in environmentally friendly power would mean widespread support for feed-in laws which are in place in some of the states and territories. 'A feed-in tariff gives longterm market guarantees separate from government subsidies and relieves governments from having to find new cash each budget," Senator Milne said. "The best way to sustainably support the growth of renewables is to give investors certainty by putting in place a mechanism like a feed-in tariff, such as the one I have introduced into the Senate."

BCA carbon plea risky business: BP

Weekend Australian
Saturday 23/8/2008 Page: 6

THE Business Council of Australia's plea for extra assistance for trade-exposed industries under the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme could put extra burdens on the rest of the economy, other business leaders have warned. The chairman of BP, Gerry Hueston, has expressed deep frustration that the increasingly bitter debate over compensation for trade-exposed industries is obscuring the broader arguments about the need for Australia to quickly introduce an ETS.

As reported in The Australian yesterday, the BCA has proposed the Government fix a carbon price at between $10 and $20 a tonne and provide more generous compensation to trade-exposed businesses unable to pass on extra costs, warning that the Government's plan would force companies to close and move offshore.

Peter Anderson, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, whose membership includes many small- and medium-sized businesses, appealed to the Government to remember that extra compensation for big trade-exposed companies meant a higher burden for the rest of the economy.

"The design of a scheme must recognise that compensation in one sector could transfer costs to another sector," Mr Anderson said. "The Government has to make sure its analysis of economic impacts covers the economy as a whole, and that includes the direct and indirect costs on small and medium businesses." Origin Energy executive general manager Carl McCamish said a carbon price of between $10 and $15 "won't drive much change in the power sector".

Origin Energy believed the Government should aim for an early price of $20 or more to drive the switch from coal-fired power to cleaner gas. Mr Hueston appealed to business and environmental groups not to get bogged down in a fight over the ETS's short term economic risks and lose sight of the economic and environmental benefits of early action and the fact that the basis of the Government's proposed scheme was "sound".

The absence of a long-term international climate change agreement "should not deter Australia from starting now", he said. "There is no doubt that the only way to effect any change is to set an example.

We won't be able to move on to a focused and fruitful discussion of the policy details that can lead to effective change both at home and abroad until we acknowledge that the broad principles in the (Government's) green paper are sound." Wayne Swan said the Government would "take on board and seriously study" the BCA report but warned that it had "no bottomless pit of permits" to hand out. "We recognised very clearly in the green paper these energy-intensive trade-exposed industries were at risk," the Treasurer said.

Brendan Nelson said the BCA report proved the Government's proposed ETS would lead to job losses. "If you want to talk about job losses, if Mr Rudd keeps on the train that he's currently on for his emissions trading scheme in 2010, we tragically will have even more, because he does not think things through," the Opposition Leader said.

Wind farms to add jobs

Saturday 23/8/2008 Page: 8

TWO wind farms given planning approval by the Government are expected to inject $1.5 million annually into the economy and create nearly 200 jobs. Ryan Corner will have 68 wind turbines, and 31 are planned for a site near Hawkesdale. Both are in the Moyne Shire in western Victoria. Planning Minister Justin Madden said the farms would contribute 15% towards Victoria's Renewable Energy Target and generate almost 200 megawatts of electricity.

BCA view on climate under fire

Saturday 23/8/2008 Page: 4

ENVIRONMENTALISTS, welfare groups and unions have called for business leaders to condemn their peak lobby group, the Business Council of Australia, after it urged the Government to water down its climate change policy. "We're calling on responsible businesses who do their fair share to speak up against this," ACTU president Sharan Burrow, said yesterday. "To the BCA we say, this is not acceptable." The Climate Institute Australia's John Connor said this week's report by the BCA on the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme was disappointing.

The Government has promised compensation for affected businesses. But the BCA report calls for greater protection for heavily polluting industries, lower targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and slashing of the planned target for increased renewable energy. Mr Connor said: "Taking this approach would strangle Australia's shift to a low-carbon economy, strangle our attempts to grow cleaner and greener jobs." BCA president Greig Gailey said that the organisation supported the Government's pollution-reduction scheme, but a proposal that made businesses unviable would mean vital industries moved to other countries.

Coal-fired stations too risky, says AGL

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 4

ONE OF the country's largest electricity suppliers has said buying the state's coal-fired stations ranks as a low priority because of the financial risks of carbon emissions trading. The managing director of AGL Energy, Michael Fraser, said the company was unlikely to buy the NSW generation assets because their carbon emissions will cost the future operator. This made them an uncertain and vulnerable investment. "At the moment it's extremely difficult to work out how you would put a value on [the generation assets], it's not a preference for the company," he said.

The comments come as the NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, is due to present a report today on the sale process of the electricity assets. The Premier, Morris Iemma, has said he will review the privatisation plans if the report is critical of them. AGL had previously said it was considering its involvement in the privatisation as it rearranged its finances. The involvement of several other potential bidders in the sale is also under a cloud, which could drive down the price the assets fetch at auction.

Babcock and Brown Power has financial woes and is no longer a contender. Origin Energy, once considered a front runner, is defending a takeover bid from the British company BG, which restricts its involvement. An energy analyst at UBS, David Leitch, said: "Why would AGL buy a bunch of coal-fired generators in NSW if they are going to have a carbon liability that just goes up and up?" Mr Leitch said the assets would ultimately find buyers, but their value had gone down since the move towards carbon trading.

Mr Fraser said contracts to supply the plant's coal were due to expire in the next few years, and this would raise costs further for a potential buyer. Coal prices would probably rise sharply in the renegotiations in line with booming export price for coal. AGL is interested the NSW assets' retail side, which includes EnergyAustralia - estimated to be worth about $1.9 billion. But it could face a battle gaining the competition regulator's approval.

Monday 8 September 2008

Solar plant will power Windorah

Courier Mail
Wednesday 20/8/2008 Page: 17

THE power of the sun's rays may soon meet the entire daytime electricity needs of the southwest Queensland town of Windorah. Ergon Energy is spending $2.5 million on a solar farm on the outskirts of town, which has about 100 residents. It says the new facility will generate about 360,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year and save about 100,000 litres of diesel fuel, which would otherwise be used to power the town's energy requirements.

But an Ergon spokeswoman emphasised yesterday that the project was a trial and there were a "lot of questions to be answered" after it was up and running at the end of this year. The company spent $3 million four years ago building Windorah's existing power plant, which will still be needed at night even if the new facility proves successful. The solar plant will consist of five mirrored dishes about 14.5m high and 13.7m across, which will reflect and concentrate sunlight on to high capacity solar cells.

Some Aboriginal communities in remote South Australia and the Northern Territory are powered by similar solar energy plants. If the new plant was a success Ergon would look at similar plants in other remote parts of western Queensland, the spokeswoman said. She said the advantage of using solar concentrator dishes over conventional rooftop solar panels was that they gave a "high output of electricity for a relatively small piece of real estate". It took about 6.8sqm of conventional panels to produce 1kW but a concentrator dish would take up 14sqm to produce a minimum of 26kW.

AGL coming clean sans Loy Yang

Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 22

AGL Energy, focused on growing its clean energy business, will look at selling its stake in Victoria's Loy Yang brown-coal power station stake after the federal Government hands down its new carbon trading regime and gives a more certain view of its value. AGL, which said the emission trading scheme could boost the value of its assets by $220 million, is still deciding whether to sell its $900 million stake in Queensland Gas Co, with chief executive Michael Fraser saying those funds could be deployed into assets that directly deliver gas.

The comments were made after AGL reported a 7.6 per cent gain in underlying full-year net profit to $355.5 million, which was at the higher end of guidance of between $330 million and $360 million. AGL said it still planned to report underlying profit of between $460 million and $390 million this year. Attributable net profit fell by 44 per cent to $229 million because of changes in the value of electricity, foreign exchange and oil hedges.

Mr Fraser, who replaced sacked chief executive Paul Anthony in October, said he was pleased with what had been accomplished since he had taken the helm at AGL, and that the company had been able to meet is issued guidance. The core businesses have really done well, which is something we focused on improving," Mr Fraser told The Australian yesterday , adding that a drop in profits from Loy Yang was the only blemish. Earnings before interest and tax from the Loy Yang investment fell to $12.4 million, down from $46.6 million a year earlier, because of lower Victorian electricity pool prices, higher maintenance costs and increased interest rates.

AGL has positioned itself well "for the carbon future we're all facing", Mr Fraser said, with its renewable portfolio and development opportunities giving it first mover advantage. The company said its generation portfolio could increase by about $220 million on a net present value basis because of the emissions trading scheme. Analysts reacted positively to the report, and the stock rose 3.5 per cent.

It was a good effort, given we weren't expecting the poor result from Loy Yang," ABN AMRO analyst Jason Mabee said. "If Loy Yang had had a normal year, they would have blown away their guidance." Speaking after the results, Mr Fraser said AGL's 24.9 per cent QGC stake was not seen as a core long-term asset, and while a decision had not been made to sell, it gave the group options to invest in direct gas access if the opportunity arose.

He said the company would look at its stake in Loy Yang after the Rudd Government released its white paper on carbon trading in December and the extent of any assistance the plant would get was known. Mr Fraser said the sale of the company's stake in the Papua New Guinea gas project was on track for completion by the end of the year, with final bids due September 15.

But he said it might be October before the bids which analysts say could be up to $900 million are presented to the other project partners to see whether they would exercise their preemptive rights. About $US150 million ($172 million) of the cash from the sale would need to be used to pay off associated hedging costs, the company said.

Environmental study gives desal plant green light

Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 4

MORE than 1.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas will be pumped out during the construction of Victoria's proposed desalination plant, and another 1.2 million tonnes emitted each year once it starts boosting Melbourne's water supply. The figures were released yesterday in the Government's 1600-page environmental effects study report on the $3.1 billion project, which said the plant planned for the Bass Coast between Wonthaggi and Kilcunda would do no long-term or irreversible damage to the environment.

But confusion emerged over a Government pledge to offset the plant's annual greenhouse footprint - roughly 1% of the state's yearly emissions - after Water Minister Tim Holding said it could be achieved by using clean energy generated interstate. The report says the plant's operators must buy extra renewable energy, generated in addition to the state's target of 10% of electricity coming from clean sources - mainly wind farms - by 2016. This would guarantee additional clean energy is introduced specifically to meet the plant's needs.

But Mr Holding said yesterday the plant's power did not have to come from locally based new clean energy projects, but could come from interstate. It prompted concern from Environment Victoria, the state's peak conservation body, that the plant's emissions could be offset by projects that are counted towards meeting the clean energy target nationally or in another state. If that is the way it pans out, there is no way you could say it was offset and powered by renewable energy," Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said.

Greenhouse emissions during the construction of the plant, and about 70,000 tonnes from waste decomposition and transport during its operation, will not be offset. Planned to be operational by 2011, it would initially supply 150 billion litres of water, later increasing to 200 billion litres. The report said several protected species could be affected by the plant's construction and operation - including the Orange-Bellied Parrot, the Growling Grass Frog and the Giant Gippsland Earthworm but none would be left significantly worse off.

"There has been a lot said about the potential impact on whale colonies, on penguins, on other marine life," Mr Holding said. The report shows those concerns are unfounded." Parts of the project listed as high-risk included potential damage to the rocky reef habitat directly off the proposed plant site; the destruction of Aboriginal artefacts during earthworks; and loss of access to agricultural land while the pipeline is laid and power lines connected.

Using a two-headed marine structure extending up to two kilometres offshore, the plant will take in 480 billion litres of seawater and pump back 280 billion litres of saline concentration each year. About 85 kilometres of pipeline will link it to Melbourne's water supply. The Government has not nominated a preferred option for powering the plant, but the report suggests mostly overland power lines joining to the grid. Opposition planning spokesman Matthew Guy said the report was a whitewash. Interested parties have five weeks to prepare submissions on the environmental study.
  • Report says plant will cause no long-term damage.
  • Greenhouse emissions during construction and about 70,000 tonnes during operation will not be offset.

$50m Government lift to geothermal projects

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 74

Geothermal energy projects will be eligible for Federal Government funding of up to $7 million, under guidelines announced by Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson yesterday. Mr Ferguson launched the government's $50 million geothermal drilling program, which was first announced in June. He said geothermal energy had "truly staggering" potential for Australia, as the world faced up to climate change.

"Geothermal energy provides clean base-load power and is potentially a very important contributor to Australia's energy mix," he said, as he launched the fund in Melbourne yesterday. "We could now see Australia's first commercially viable geothermal power plants in place within four to five years." Mr Ferguson said that just 1 per cent of Australia's geothermal energy would provide enough electricity to meet the country's power needs - 26,000 times over.

Clean up to save power

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 21/8/2008 Page: 28

POWER bills can be reduced with a little spring cleaning, residents will learn tonight. Adelaide Solar City, a Federal Government initiative involving Salisbury, Tea Tree Gully, Playford and Adelaide councils, will host a free information session at Mawson Lakes. Host Big Switch Projects' Aubrey Thomas said: "Spring is a great reminder for households to clean their appliances and to check they aren't in need of repairs.

Maintaining electrical appliances helps them to operate most efficiently, which means they consume less energy." Ms Thomas said other things which could be done around the home to improve energy efficiency and reduce power bills include:
  • Checking seals on fridges and freezers to ensure they fit tightly.
  • Ensuring fridges and freezers are set properly so ice build-up is minimised.
  • Using the power of the sun to dry clothes.
  • Using pots and pans with bases that closely match hot-plate size to ensure heat is not lost.
Ms Thomas said people needing to replace appliances should use energy rating labels to help select efficient brands and models. Tonight's session is at the Mawson Centre.

State delays may hurt firms seeking $50m hot rocks grants

West Australian
Wednesday 20/8/2008 Page: 12

Companies wanting to search for so called hot rocks fear they could miss out on their share of $50 million in Federal funding because of State Government delays in issuing exploration licences. Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson yesterday launched a program aimed at boosting the Australian geothermal industry, a business some say could one day provide a big percentage of the nation's energy needs.

Geothermal producers pump water kilometres below ground where it is heated by thermal rocks, with the resulting steam used to generate electricity. The method is relatively environmentally friendly and new data from the Government's geological advisory body, Geoscience Australia, says that if just one per cent of the nation's geothermal energy was extracted it would equate to 26,000 times Australia's total annual energy consumption.

Mr Ferguson said the Government was offering $50 million to geothermal groups in a bid to kick-start the industry, with companies eligible for grants of up to $7 million each. But Alan Knights, executive director of geothermal company Green Rock Energy, said companies wanting to explore WA for geothermal energy might not get their slice of the millions on offer because the State Government was taking, so long to issue exploration licences.

He said South Australia had been issuing geothermal exploration licences for almost five years, yet WA had yet to issue any. The State Government's first geothermal acreage program has received 64 bids from nine parties. Winning bidders were to have been announced this month but it is thought the calling of the State election delayed the process.

Mr Knights said it would likely take companies another two years to figure out whether the acreage they had been allotted had any potential, in which time the lion's share of the Federal money might have gone to Eastern States projects." A spokesman for WA Resources Minister Francis Logan said Government assessments of acreage bids had been completed and notification of successful bids could be made within a week.

The Rudd Government has set a target for 20 per cent of Australia's electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2020. Details of the geothermal assistance program came on the same day Opposition trade spokesman Ian Macfarlane reopened the debate on nuclear energy, saying the nation must embrace uranium to get serious about reducing carbon emissions. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson attacked Labor for refusing to allow the nation to capitalise on high uranium prices by blocking its sale to countries such as India. Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the Liberals' nuclear energy policy was a mess.

Nuclear power on Nelson's agenda

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 20/8/2008 Page: 5

THE Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, has shifted gear over nuclear energy by urging the Government to work with the Coalition to make the power source part of Australia's clean energy future. Only six months after the Coalition apparently dropped its support for nuclear energy following its election defeat, Dr Nelson said there was a need for nuclear energy but it would require bipartisan political support. "There needs to be consideration in Australia given to the development of a nuclear energy industry to a complement the clean energy future," he said.

"But it is not likely to be developed until we have the major political parties ... supportive of it. "We remain open to having discussions with the Government if it chooses to change its position on nuclear energy. But until such time as it does, I don't see that it's likely to happen" Dr Nelson was an early advocate of nuclear energy in the Howard government. After the last election, support for the energy source was quietly dropped as Coalition policy and, in February, Dr Nelson said "we cannot envisage any circumstances under which Australia will have a nuclear energy industry".

Three weeks ago, his deputy leader, Julie Bishop, raised it in the context of tackling climate change and yesterday, the Liberal frontbencher and the former resources minister Ian Macfarlane said Australia could not cut carbon emissions and still provide baseload power without nuclear energy. The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said Dr Nelson should come clean about whether he still harboured secret plans to build nuclear reactors. 'Australia has an abundance of renewable energy sources. We have a lot of solar, we have a lot of wind, we have geothermal resources," she said. "We don't believe it's appropriate for Australia to go down the nuclear path."