Friday 24 October 2008

Queanbeyan firm opens solar plant

Canberra Times
Wednesday 8/10/2008 Page: 13

solar plantQueanbeyan solar technology company Dyesol has opened a manufacturing plant to capture a slice of the solar photovoltaic market said to be potentially worth billions of dollars. The technology, which has been adopted in parts of Europe and Asia, stems from a Swiss-Australian research program into third generation solar technology. That research program has been under way since 1995.

The $2.4 million Queanbeyan factory will employ 50 people and will have the capacity to manufacture $20 million worth of dye annually. Founder Gavin Tulloch said the plant's opening was the culmination of 15 years of commitment to science, technology and engineering. Dyesol's Dye Solar Cell technology is sometimes called artificial photosynthesis because it uses a dye such as chlorophyll to capture energy from light, releasing electrons which are conducted as electricity.

The technology can be directly incorporated into buildings as active electricity-generating glass facades or steel roofs. Dyesol is collaborating with Corns, the world's fifth largest steel producer, to use the solar cell technology in the manufacture of steel sheeting. Other Dyesol partners are Italian utilities giant ERG Rebnew and leading facade company, Permasteelisa, which will develop and market next-generation solar panels to be installed on buildings.

Dr Tulloch said solar cell technology differed from all other forms of solar energy. It performed all day, every day, at any angle, in shade or in sun. Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson, who opened the plant and corporate facilities, said Dyesol had received $4.3 million in government grants since the company's formative years.

The Government recognised the potential for growth in the solar technology sector and would continue supporting research and development through a $500 million renewable energy fund as well as a $150 million energy innovation fund, the minister said. Dyesol also has premises in North Wales, enabling it to service joint venture partners and subsidiary companies in Europe and Asia.

Set emissions target higher: Origin

Thursday 9/10/2008 Page: 3

GAS-FOCUSED Origin Energy has called on the Federal Government to reject the greenhouse advice of Ross Garnaut and set a comparatively ambitious target, even if global climate negotiations collapse. In a tack that puts it at odds with industry groups and other electricity generators, Origin Energy has called for Australia to cut emissions by between 10% and 20% below 2000 levels by 2020 regardless of commitments elsewhere.

Professor Garnaut last month recommended Australia cut emissions by 10% as part of an initial global deal and 5% under an ad hoc agreement involving a few countries. Under the worst-case scenario, with no ad hoc deal, Australia would not set a target. Origin Energy, in its submission to the Government's emissions trading scheme proposal, says Australia should show leadership in the shift to a lowemissions economy and cut emissions by at least 10% whatever the outcome of the UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen next year.

"We feel that Garnaut's 0%, 5% and 10% reduction targets are unnecessarily conservative and should each be set at higher levels," the submission says. It cites Energy Supply Association of Australia modelling that found the electricity sector could deliver a 10% to 20% cut by the end of next decade. Origin Energy has $2.3 billion of gas-fired generation projects being built. Last month, it announced a $9.6 billion liquefied natural gas venture with US giant ConocoPhillips, sinking a takeover bid by Britain's BG Group.

The Origin Energy submission also:
  • Says Professor Garnaut's proposed starting price of $20 a tonne is not high enough to encourage a shift from black and brown coal to gas, a comparatively clean energy source.
  • Wants a national energy efficiency strategy and to retain the renewable energy target - 20%, of energy coming from clean sources until 2020.

Electricity futures jolted into life as ETS looms

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 8/10/2008 Page: 37

Options on electricity futures on the Australian Stock Exchange have soared to record volumes on the back of the global financial crisis and a proposed emissions trading scheme. Analysts say trading is now more than the total electricity supply in the National Electricity Market and suggest the industry believes carbon emissions costs could cause a 40 percent increase in the cost at the wholesale level of a megawatt hour.

The Victorian electricity futures contract implies a base load price for 2011 of $67.50 a megawatt hour, compared with $48.75 in the coming year, according to figures from d-cypha Trade, the market development company for the d-cypha SFE Electricity Futures market. Dean Price of d-cypha Trade said a strong premium was evident in the futures market based on estimates of the effect emissions trading will have on electricity prices. He said there was a trend to higher prices in the Eastern Power Index for 2010, which can be traded on the Sydney Futures Exchange.

Gas cuts are a lot of hot air

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 8/10/2008 Page: 4

This year's Carbon Disclosure Project (CDS) survey has received responses from 72 percent of companies on the S&P/ASX 100 index, up from 58 percent last year, as the Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) fuels corporate interest in the issue. However, just 41 percent of S&P/ASX 100 respondents said they had made 'specific investments' to reduce carbon emissions.

The report lists BlueScope Steel, OneSteel, Qantas Airways, Boral, Orica and Rio Tinto as companies with high ETS exposure, but highlights sugar and building materials group CSR as being the only emissions-intensive company who failed to supply data to the CDP. Goldman Sachs JBWere's Andrew Gray noted that the possible impact of the ETS on listed companies was still uncertain, while Federal Climate Minister Penny Wong urged the business community to take into account the 'many opportunities that will flow from the introduction' of such a scheme, instead of just focusing on the risks involved.

Meanwhile, a survey by marketing research outfit Ipsos-Eureka had found that climate change is no longer considered the most pressing environmental concern for Australians, with only 46 percent of respondents nominating it as their greatest worry, compared to 55 percent in 2007.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Garnaut falls short

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 7/10/2008 Page: 25

Drought effects THE world financial meltdown is a short-term crisis, but a failure to fix our climate problems will haunt humanity until the end of time. This was Ross Garnaut's stark warning to Australia on the day George Bush's financial rescue package was voted down by Congress. He had that right, at least. And he had a lot more right in his undeniably valuable analysis of how we can address the physical and economic impact of climate change. But his final report is also a classic illustration of the way reality can be warped by politics.

Prof Garnaut is acutely aware that the impact of global warming on Australia will be worse than the world average, with hotter, drier conditions making life increasingly hard to sustain - on top of global instability that will make today's economic melt-down seen trivial. He is aware that his option of a low 10 per cent target for 2020 emission reduction will for the Rudd Government be like a carrot to a hungry donkey, and is also aware that such a target adopted globally would consign the world to truly desperate times.

He says he wants Australia to push internationally for 2020 cuts as high as 25 per cent, but as that's unlikely to succeed he doesn't want Australia out on a limb - precisely where Europe has been for the several years. Prof Garnaut warned previously of the extreme danger of ignoring scientists' warnings, but at the final hurdle he decided it's not feasible to do what's really necessary.

Though it's not his call, he's making a politician's judgement that the world won't agree to really serious emission cuts - even when civilisation's survival is at stake. This is not what we need to hear, and emphatically not what our governments need to hear. Politicians dealing with climate change must redefine what's possible so that it encompasses tough action on emissions.

Climate change is threatening to blow our collective house in, but understanding his political employers as he does, Prof Garnaut is offering them the option of a few paltry props - including the chimera of "clean coal" - in the hope that something better will materialise sometime in the future. All the tinge, our house's walls are shaking and the roofs lifting. Somehow we must help our politicians understand that Prof Garnaut's tougher 2020 target of 25 per cent is the very least we should aim for, and give them the spine to act, using direct methods as well as, and ahead of, an emissions trading scheme. This is not going to be easy.

There's an interesting side-issue in the Garnaut report with potentially important ramifications for Tasmania. Noting the inadequacy of Kyoto rules in measuring land use emissions, Prof Garnaut advocates adopting new accounting procedures next year in Copenhagen to more accurately measure emissions from forestry.

In a new section headed "conservation forests", he refers to the recent ANU assessment of the carbon stock of intact natural forests and notes the high storage value of mature forests in South- East Australia, including Tasmania, and their continuing capacity to remove greenhouse gases over the crucial decades to come. Keeping such forests intact as carbon stores, Garnaut says, could provide "a substantial new source of revenue". This might just turn out to be a welcome shot in the arm in a general atmosphere of uncertainty for Tasmanian forestry.

PROF Garnaut's "politically realistic" higher-emission path, involving a global stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations at 550 parts per million and a likely warming of 3C above preindustrial levels, has some very sobering implications:
  • The Great Barrier Reef will effectively die, losing first its colours and ultimately its structure and biodiversity. Queensland's coast will become bland and barren.
  • Severe weather events will become much more frequent, with cyclones occurring further from the equator and sometimes rising above today's top category five level In Tasmania, wildfire will be a year-round threat.
  • Lower rainfall and higher evaporation will reduce food production, notably in the vast Murray-Darling Basin. Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne will be struggling with severely diminished water supplies, and even SydneyBrisbane may be under water stress.
  • In Tasmania, most populated centres and especially the central North. Midlands and East Coast will be suffering decreased rainfall and diminished agricultural production.
  • Northern, eastern and southeastern river flows will be reduced. Launceston's water supply is especially vulnerable.
  • World food production will drop well below today's critical level as chronic drought hits southern Australia, western China, India and Pakistan, Africa's southern half, southern Europe, western United States, Central America and regions south of the Amazon basin.
  • Starvation will drive people to desperate measures, with likely conflict on most continents over water and territory. Physical barriers along borders, including armed guards and land mines, are a likely reaction to massive movements of people in search of sustenance.
  • With Arctic sea ice virtually gone, the reduction of Greenland's land-based ice sheet will become irreversible, resulting eventually in a sea level rise of seven metres.
  • The West Antarctic ice sheet will also be destabilised, adding more metres to sea level rise.
Peter Boyer is a Hobart-based science writer and a presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project.

Climate experts' hard line

Wednesday 8/10/2008 Page: 24

THE severest of the greenhouse pollution reduction targets proposed by Rudd government adviser Ross Garnaut are the minimum requirement for effective action, the country's leading climate scientists have told the Prime Minister. The scientists include Australian Research Council Federation Fellows David Karoly and Amanda Lynch, as well as Andy Pitman, all of them associated as authors and editors with the UN's 2007 Nobel Peace Prizewinning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In his final report, released last week, Professor Garnaut proposed a 25 per cent reduction in emissions on 2000 levels by 2020 to stabilise CO2, at 450 parts per million as Australia's contribution to any global agreement. However he also proposed a 10 per cent reduction target under a 550ppm scenario, and a 5 per cent reduction target if there is no global agreement.

In an open letter to Kevin Rudd last week, 16 of the country's leading climate scientists described Garnaut's most severe target the 25 per cent option as the minimum requirement for Australia's contribution to an effective global agreement. Based on present scientific understanding, any global agreement must reduce emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, including stabilising carbon dioxide well below 450 ppm, the 16 mainly university-based scientists said.

The UNSW's Professor Pitman, who was lead author for the IPCC group on the physical science basis of climate change, told the HES, "There's no question whatsoever that people like IPCC lead authors who do the research in the area would suggest that 450ppm is too high a value to stabilise at.

"You don't want Greenland to melt, you don't want the Antarctic ice sheet to destabilise, and you don't want the global ecosystems to fail. To avoid those things you need to stabilise at or below 400ppm." Professor Pitman said at the 450ppm level Australia would sacrifice the Murray Darling and the Great Barrier Reef.

The University of Melbourne's Professor Karoly, one of a select group of IPCC scientists asked to write a synthesis of its latest assessment report, said a stabilisation level of 550 ppm was roughly double the CO2, in the atmosphere. If this target were to be adopted it would be committing "to substantial levels of climate change including warming of the order of 2.5C to 3C above pre-industrial levels and 6m of sea level rise over a number of centuries," he said.

Professor Karoly has welcomed the priority Professor Garnaut has given to the 25 per cent target as a ''substantial change" from his interim report of a few weeks ago.

Monash's Professor Lynch, IPCC contributing author to the regional climate chapters in the past two assessment reports, told the HES the scientists believed Professor Garnaut had done "an excellent job" over the past year of characterising the issues and stimulating debate. "While he is right that Australia on its own can't achieve the mitigation required, I think that waiting for international agreement is the wrong strategy," Professor Lynch said.

Given that commercial-scale carbon capture was at least a decade away, Professor Lynch said the only immediately available approach to buy time on emissions reductions was biosequestration combined with substantial efficiency measures. She said the Co-operative Research Centre for clean power from lignite had calculated that greenhouse emissions from brown coal power stations in the Latrobe Valley are about 60 million tonnes a year and growing.

Australia could reasonably aim to offset at least 30 per cent of brown coal emissions immediately from preferably native plantations, and this should begin with funding from the auction of emissions permits under the Government's planned emissions trading scheme. Professor Lynch said the 30 per cent reduction for Latrobe Valley would require plantations equivalent to 10,000sq km.

Google leads fuel ventures

Tuesday 7/10/2008 Page: 30

Google and RockPort Capital Partners has led a quarterly record $US2.6 billion ($3.36 billion) investment by developers of solar energy, grid efficiency, and algae-based energy technology, according to Cleantech Group. Venture capital firms invested in 158 start-ups in the third quarter, including a record $US95 million for Sapphire Energy and Solazyme, which are developing fuel from algae ponds that could replace diesel and gasoline. Total investments in clean technology and renewable energy in 2008 have surged to $US6.6 billion, already above the $US6 billion for all of 2007, Cleantech Group said.

Most investments were in solar technologies such as thin film panels that improve efficiency. "This year, Google has invested more than $US45 million in start-ups with breakthrough wind, solar and geothermal technology," Google climate change director Dan Reicher said last week. "We need to unleash massive private investment in clean energy." RockPort Capital Partners invested in six companies and Google invested in five, making them the most active venture capital firms.

Other top investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures. "Cleantech Group venture investing has continued to show strong growth despite the unprecedented turmoil in the credit markets," said Michael Goguen, managing partner at Sequoia Capital and co-chair of Cleantech's advisory board. San Francisco-based Cleantech Group, formerly called Cleantech Venture Network, is an investor group that conducts industry research.

Companies in the US received $US1.75 billion, or about two thirds of the global total for the quarter, while those in Europe and Israel got $US742 million, mostly for thin-film solar and wind technology. China and India raised $US111 million and $US6.3 million respectively. Investments in companies developing thin-film solar, which is lighter and cheaper to install than traditional silicon-based photovoltaic panels, totaled $US620 million in the quarter.

"We have seen the arms race in thin-firm solar reach new heights, and now we are seeing it in the algae sector," Cleantech research director Brian Fan said. Investors were tunneling growing amounts of capital to companies that have not yet successfully scaled up commercial production". Sapphire Energy has raised more than $US100 million from investors such as Bill Gates' Cascade Investment, Chicago's Arch Venture Partners, and London's Wellcome Trust Finance.

Dutch city taps disused coalmines for clean, green heat

Tuesday 7/10/2008 Page: 8

IN an age of rapidly rising fuel bills, the discovery of vast supplies of free hot water sounds too good to be true. But that is exactly what one Dutch city has found to run the radiators of hundreds of homes, shops and offices.

Heerlen, in the southern province of Limburg, has created the first geothermal power station in the world using water naturally heated in the deep shafts of old coalmines which once provided the southern Netherlands with thousands of jobs but have been dormant since the 1970s.

Tapping "free energy" marks a breakthrough in green technology by exploiting the legacy of the coalmines that emitted so much pollution and helped create the climate change emergency faced by the planet. "With the threat of global warming and soaring energy prices, nobody can afford to sit back," Heerlen councillor Riet de Wit said. We have proved that a local initiative can provide a local solution for sustainable energy. Moreover, our concept can be adapted by former mining regions all over the world." The concept sounds simple.

The abandoned mine shafts were seen as a blight on an area that has struggled to recover economically from the mass redundancies of miners in the 1970s. But after the mine works were demolished, new homes were built and linked to a geothermal power station pumping water up from the mines at a depth of 800m, where it reaches temperatures of 35C. The water is used to provide heating for 350 homes and then pumped back into the pit after use, where it heats up again for the cycle to continue. The water circulates two or three times a year.

The only drawback is that the homes need to be close enough to the old mines to make use of the heat, which is boosted by domestic boilers when greater temperatures are needed. Scientists estimate the project will produce at least 55 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than a traditional coal-fired power station and are now working on a carbon capture system to liquefy the CO2 and pump it back into other disused shafts rather than release it into the atmosphere.

The goal is emission-free heating, and the system could revitalise other former mining areas as sources of cheap, renewable energy. "For wind energy, you need wind. If there is no wind, there is no power. But with geothermal energy, you have a constant level of simple heat without any need for conversion," said Karl-Heinz Wolf, professor of coal and geothermal energy at the Technical University of Delft.

"You have it all year round and if you don't need it, you close the tap until you need it again. You have heat at a certain level and you only have to top it up if you want it at a higher level." And during summer, the water can be taken from near the top of the shaft, where it is cold enough to cool the city's buildings.

Dutch city taps disused coalmines for clean, green heat

Tuesday 7/10/2008 Page: 8

IN an age of rapidly rising fuel bills, the discovery of vast supplies of free hot water sounds too good to be true. But that is exactly what one Dutch city has found to run the radiators of hundreds of homes, shops and offices.

Heerlen, in the southern province of Limburg, has created the first geothermal power station in the world using water naturally heated in the deep shafts of old coalmines which once provided the southern Netherlands with thousands of jobs but have been dormant since the 1970s.

Tapping "free energy" marks a breakthrough in green technology by exploiting the legacy of the coalmines that emitted so much pollution and helped create the climate change emergency faced by the planet. "With the threat of global warming and soaring energy prices, nobody can afford to sit back," Heerlen councillor Riet de Wit said. We have proved that a local initiative can provide a local solution for sustainable energy. Moreover, our concept can be adapted by former mining regions all over the world." The concept sounds simple.

The abandoned mine shafts were seen as a blight on an area that has struggled to recover economically from the mass redundancies of miners in the 1970s. But after the mine works were demolished, new homes were built and linked to a geothermal power station pumping water up from the mines at a depth of 800m, where it reaches temperatures of 35C. The water is used to provide heating for 350 homes and then pumped back into the pit after use, where it heats up again for the cycle to continue. The water circulates two or three times a year.

The only drawback is that the homes need to be close enough to the old mines to make use of the heat, which is boosted by domestic boilers when greater temperatures are needed. Scientists estimate the project will produce at least 55 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than a traditional coal-fired power station and are now working on a carbon capture system to liquefy the CO2 and pump it back into other disused shafts rather than release it into the atmosphere.

The goal is emission-free heating, and the system could revitalise other former mining areas as sources of cheap, renewable energy. "For wind energy, you need wind. If there is no wind, there is no power. But with geothermal energy, you have a constant level of simple heat without any need for conversion," said Karl-Heinz Wolf, professor of coal and geothermal energy at the Technical University of Delft.

"You have it all year round and if you don't need it, you close the tap until you need it again. You have heat at a certain level and you only have to top it up if you want it at a higher level." And during summer, the water can be taken from near the top of the shaft, where it is cold enough to cool the city's buildings.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

New wave of power in energy market

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 7/10/2008 Page: 10

Wave energySOUTH Australia's coastline has the potential to supply the state with its base-load power, a report says. The independent report, commissioned by clean power developer Carnegie Corporation, has found at least 35 per cent of Australia's, and 170 per cent of SA's, current base-load power needs could be generated through a new wave power technology known as CETO.

Australia has a potential near-shore wave energy resource of about 171,000 megawatts, four times the country's installed power generation capacity. Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano said the report supported Carnegie Corporation's view "that Australia has the world's best wave energy resource". Energy would be generated through the CETO technology that uses submerged units on the sea floor.

Carnegie Corporation is looking at 17 sites, including the Limestone Coast, for potential wave farm developments. Carnegie Corporation chief executive officer Greg Allen was in Adelaide last week to discuss the potential for this new technology with the Transport, Energy and Infrastructure Department. "This is the first step in the process to get to work on the project - to give meaningful basis for funding," Mr Allen said. 'There is a phenomenal wave energy resource in SA.

"Wave energy will be an important part of the mix of renewable energy. An important part of this resource and technology is that it has zero (carbon) emissions." Carnegie Corporation is aiming for commercial project work to start by 2010 and for full operation by 2020.

Wind farm a world-beater - Higher than the Harbour Bridge

Sunday Telegraph
Sunday 5/10/2008 Page: 29

ALMOST 600 wind turbines as tall as the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be built in the State's far west as part of a plan to develop the world's biggest wind farm. The State Government has released the first detailed plans of the proposed Silverton Wind Farm, which is expected to produce enough energy to supply almost half a million homes. The joint venture by Epuron and Macquarie Capital Group is expected to cost around $2.2 billion to develop. Work may begin as early as next year.

Under the plan, 598 turbines as high as 155m will be constructed across 32,000ha. They will be almost 20m taller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge at its highest point. The farm will also involve the construction of seven substations and transmission lines to Broken Hill and Victoria as part of its connection to the national electricity grid. The Government expects the development to inject as much as $700 million into the NSW economy, as well as providing a tourism opportunity.

The proposal has split the Silverton community, with those opposing the farm concerned about its visual and noise impacts. The turbines are so tall that red obstacle beacons will be placed around them to warn approaching aircraft. Naomi Schmidt, who with her husband Stephen operates a farm stay on their property, is worried that the giant structures will drive tourists away. The Schmidts' property, Eldee Station, is just 2km from the site. "If you look straight out my front door, you'll see them," Ms Schmidt said.

The people that come here are drawn to the wide open spaces, not a built environment - they come out here looking for peace and quiet. The comments we have got from them so far have not been very promising." A meeting has been planned next week with several landholders to discuss possible compensation claims. Nigel Lawrence, whose property is 12km from the site, said the wind farm would be good for the local community. We are negotiating compensation packages, and we'll hopefully end up with a good result," Mr Lawrence said.

The Silverton Wind Farm environmental assessment report says the operation's generating capacity is estimated at more than 3.5 million megawatts - about 4.5 per cent of NSW's total energy consumption. That will not be enough, however, to warrant shutting down any of the State's 2640 megawatt, coal-fired power stations. The additional energy produced could help avoid power outages and blackouts during periods of peak demand. Planning Minister Kristina Keneally said the State Government would take into account the concerns of the community when making its final assessment on the project.

Solar hopes up in smoke

Sunday Age
Sunday 5/10/2008 Page: 25

The State Government's half-baked solar energy plan will be of no benefit to households, industry or the environment.

JOHN POPPINS has many investments, but his proudest sits on his roof. The retired engineer has $30,000 worth of solar panels on his Mount Waverley home, a personal power station that covers all his home energy needs and then some. He's not, he says, a guy who likes to "put his hand out". But it's people like Poppins who, you might think, deserve some payment for the excess clean electricity they feed back into the community.

Sadly, under the State Government's new solar plan, coming soon to Parliament, Poppins will get zip. The half-baked incentive will give nothing to people who have more than two kilowatts on their roof. This is an odd cut-off when you realise that it takes 2.5 to three kilowatts to cover the basic needs of an energy-efficient home.

Earlier this year, a group of 40 community and green groups, businesses, unions and councils thought they were on the brink of something special. They were lobbying Spring Street for a scheme under which people world be paid for the power produced by their solar panels. This happens in more than 40 nations and some Australian states, and it is called a feed-in tariff.

The basic premise is that, despite rebates and growing concern over global warming, solar panels largely remain the roof furnishings of the wealthy and extremely motivated planet-savers. For the industry to flourish, solar panels need to be an attractive long-term investment, not just a feel-good purchase.

If people were offered a guaranteed payment for their solar electricity locked in, say, for 15 years - the numbers would start to look better. As more people buy solar panels, the price would come down, and more people would put them on their roofs. A vibrant solar industry in Victoria world start to take shape. The upside doesn't end there.

Victoria's electricity system is centralised. The brown-coal generators chug away in Gippsland and we get power in Melbourne through a series of expensive and inefficient poles and wires. Producing power closer to where it is used saves on structural costs and eases demand for more power stations. But one of the most attractive benefits of solar is that it produces the most electricity in the same period the state's energy supply is pushed to the brink: on hot stunner days.

The group lobbying for a feed in tariff argued that it should be a gross model: people would be paid for the spare power they exported to the grid and what they used in the home. The reason is that most systems are not big enough to cover the energy needs of the home and export to the grid, so just paying for the excess energy would provide little extra incentive. The gross model is also the most successful and common tariff paid internationally.

The lobbyists were getting good signals from the Government and thought their preferred version was over the line. What they didn't count on was State Energy Minister Peter Batchelor, who thought the scheme too generous and costly. In cabinet, Batchelor went head to head with Environment Minister Gavin Jennings and won.

Batchelor's version goes something like this: householders get 60 cents a kilowatt hour - which is generous compared with the 17 cents we pay on electricity bills - but only for the energy exported to the grid. This is called a net feed-in tariff. Batchelor also excluded community groups and businesses from the scheme and limited it to 2 kilowatts.

The Government argues this is "green and fair'. They reject the gross model as too expensive for households because, and heres the big catch, other electricity users must pay more on their bills. One of Batchelor's advisers produced a spreadsheet of rough calculations that claimed the scheme would add $100 a year to the average bill.

But the Government failed to point out that the $100 figure, if true, would be at the height of the scheme - in 10 to 13 years' time - and is meaningless unless you also factor in the rise in average incomes over that time. The cost was also inflated because Batchelor's people exaggerated the solar capacity in Victoria and included none of the other benefits to the power system (admittedly these are difficult to calculate) or the retail value of the solar electricity itself.

The group lobbying for a gross feed-in tariff calculated that an ambitious scheme aiming for 250 megawatts of solar in 15 years' time - the Government's plan aims for 100 megawatts, Victoria now has 2.5 megawatts - would cost an average $9.43 a year (low income families would be excluded). Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. The reality is that any bill increase from a solar tariff will continue to be dwarfed by energy price hikes: partly because of an emissions trading scheme and partly because of drought, peak capacity problems and planned infrastructure upgrades.

Another reason the Government rejects the gross model is because it believes paying people for their electricity use in the home will encourage them to use more power and not export it to the grid. But who would bother buying solar panels so they can run around their home guzzling energy with gay abandon? The Government also points to its renewable energy target as a better way to deliver cuts in greenhouse emissions, even though it knows solar competes poorly with wind energy under the scheme.

The basic problem with the Government's plan is that you'll only make money on solar panels if you pack up the kids and go on holiday. A net feed-in tariff discriminates against those who use energy throughout the day: stay at- home parents, the sick and the elderly. And the decision not to include business and community groups is bizarre. A net tariff world favour community buildings - surf clubs, scout groups - which are unoccupied for large periods of time. Why not share the love? Also, under a net scheme, the person selling you solar panels cannot tell you how many years it will take to pay them off: it depends on when you are home, its efficiency and your energy use. Under a gross model, the calculation is supple.

This is a great chance for a much-needed boost to John Brumby's green credentials. It wasn't his fault that the status quo-loving pointy heads in Batchelor's office and department provided him with advice that was overblown at best and dishonest at worst. With a truly generous and ambitious incentive, Victoria world be the solar hub of Australia within 15 years. Thousands of green jobs would be created. Our energy system would be less strained, more devolved, more secure. And, importantly, cleaner. Now that would be a shining legacy.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

German plant could point to `clean coal' future

Saturday 4/10/2008 Page: 9

clean coalON A wide, flat plain in Germany's depressed north-east, one of the keys to our future has begun turning. Beside a giant power station known as Schwarze Pumpe (Black Pump), a small plant has begun to capture the carbon released when brown coal is turned into electricity, ultimately to store it underground. In Australia, the world's biggest coal exporter, carbon capture and storage is endlessly debated, praised and condemned.

In Germany, in a modest way, it has begun. Swedish power giant Vattenfall has invested $120 million to build the world's first pilot plant to capture and store the carbon dioxide from burning coal. The project, just three weeks old, has huge implications for the future of Victoria's brown coal industry - and its electricity prices. Unless carbon capture and storage can work at reasonable cost, the experts say, Victoria's heavily polluting power stations will gradually shut and not be replaced.

The world has other projects that capture and store carbon dioxide, including a small one in the Otways. What makes Schwarze Pumpe unique is that it is the first to trap the emissions from a power station boiler, separate the carbon dioxide and - ultimately - bury it in a depleted gas field. If it works, says Vattenfall's president and chief executive Lars Josefsson, one of its existing generators will be converted into a much larger demonstration plant by 2015, with the first full-scale "clean coal" power station operating by 2020.

"Coal has a future - but not the carbon dioxide emissions from it," says the chief executive of its European division, Tuomo Hatakka.. carbon capture and storage has divided environmentalists here, as in Australia. Germany's Greens argue that projects such as Schwarze Pumpe breed false hopes that coal can be made clean, and divert funds from the urgent need to speed up development of cost-effective renewable energy, such as solar.

But others warn that the fight against global warming will be so hard that the world will need to use every option. In a recent landmark report, the International Energy Agency estimated that to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while developing countries are growing rapidly, the world will need to open a full-scale carbon capture and storage project every fortnight.

Even Schwarze Pumpe's existing power station is a stylish, state-of-the-art plant producing far less greenhouse gas than its Victorian counterparts. Vattenfall's goal is to use brown coal to produce "almost emission-free electricity" that will be commercial from 2020, as carbon prices force generators to shut down traditional coal-fired plants.

The pilot plant at full operation produces nine tonnes of carbon dioxide an hour. For now it is being sold for commercial use, but from early next year it will be trucked across Germany to be buried in the almost depleted Altmark gas field - an operation that parallels the goal of burying carbon dioxide from the Latrobe Valley plants in Esso-BHP's emptying gas fields in Bass Strait. Many will be watching its progress with fingers crossed. If it works, it could make the world's - and Victories - road to stop global warming much easier.

AGL sells Elgas stake

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 3/10/2008 Page: 53

AGL Energy has sold its 50 percent interest in Elgas liquefied petroleum gas for $221 million to its partner in the joint venture, The Linde Group. AGL's Michael Fraser said a program of asset sales would provide balance sheet flexibility. The sale follows AGL's recent sale of it Hallett Wind Farm in South Australia and the sale of its 50 percent share in the North Queensland gas pipeline. AGL is also looking to sell its 3.6 percent share in the Exxon-Mobil-controlled Papua New Guinea LNG operation. Goldman Sachs analyst Roy Gilmore expects the market to continue to support AGL in the short term.

Appliances will conform to national standards

Friday 3/10/2008 Page: 2

THE nation's governments will produce national standards for energy efficiency of household appliances to help tackle climate change. The Council of Australian Governments yesterday set itself a deadline of the end of the year to finalise a national energy efficiency strategy to help the nation prepare for the transition to its emissions reading scheme, due to take effect in 2010. As a first step towards establishing a truly national approach, COAG agreed to develop, subject to a regulation impact statement, national legislation for appliance energy performance standards and labelling, the COAG communique released yesterday said.

It would "simplify enforcement and ensure consistency" and also reduce transaction costs for business and accelerate the rollout of new standards and labels for products. Kevin Rudd described improved energy efficiency as the low-hanging fruit of the climate change debate. "It's the best way and the most effective way and the earliest way of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions and we intend to do so," the Prime Minister said.

"Our objective is to have the national energy efficiency strategy agreed to by year's end." The states also agreed to work with the commonwealth to finalise the design of the Global Carbon Capture Storage Institute, to be set up by Mr Rudd to provide leadership in the development of carbon sequestration technologies, which would allow carbon to be captured from coal-fired power station emissions and stored underground.

"COAG has also agreed today that jurisdictions will expedite the introduction of nationally consistent regulation of carbon capture storage, including the geological storage of carbon dioxide," the communique said.

Compo offer for coal plants

Friday 3/10/2008 Page: 8

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong has reassured coal-fired power generators they will be compensated under emissions trading. This is despite climate adviser Ross Garnaut finding that most will remain profitable until at least 2020, without help. Senator Wong said she had heard the electricity industry's case and was aware it needed help to adjust as Australia cut greenhouse pollution.

The Government planned to set up a fund to help coal-fired power adjust, and give out free carbon permits, she said. "One of the sectors which will undergo most change in the years to come as a result of movement to a low-carbon future is the energy sector, and governments will need to work with that sector to enable that transition," Senator Wong said.

Professor Garnaut's final report reinforces his view that electricity generators do not warrant free permits. He would offer $1 billion in help but restrict it to matching investment in clean coal technology by power plants in coal-reliant communities such as the Latrobe Valley or assisting the re-education of workers.

The Garnaut review found a 10% emissions cut below 2000 levels by 2020 - the best short-term target - would result in 93% of brown coal capacity still being viable at the end of next decade. Under a more ambitious 25% target, about two-thirds of brown coal and three-quarters of black coal capacity would remain profitable. Professor Garnaut expects most new energy generation in the medium term to come from gas, which is cleaner than coal.

His modelling is at odds with work on behalf of the coal power industry. National Generators Forum chief executive John Boshier said its preliminary assessment was a potentially substantial loss of value before 2020. International Power Australia estimates even a low carbon price of $5 a tonne would affect the viability of generators such as the Latrobe Valley's Hazelwood station. "Our modelling is showing a different result to Professor Garnaut. The only way to be definitive is once we see the Treasury modelling later this month." Mr Boshier said.

Monday 20 October 2008

Power supply solution New generator ready to fire up

Northern Territory News
Friday 3/10/2008 Page: 4

Prodigal ray of sunshineTHE second generator at the new Weddell power station is about to be turned on, ensuring the future of the Territory's power supply. Essential Services Minister Rob Knight said the second of three generators at Weddell would be in operation within eight weeks. The project is slightly behind schedule, but when up and running it will add an extra 80 megawatts of power to the capacity in the Darwin and Katherine region.

The Territory Government expects a third generator to be operational by 2011. adding a total of 120 megawatts. "That's enough to power 100,000 homes in Darwin," Mr Knight said. The extra power will arrive just in time to ease concerns about the strain on Darwin's already stretched power system. A report on the Territory's power system released in December 2006 said without the second Weddell generator power supply would be "critically tight" in 2007-08 and short in 2008-09.

The Weddell station is being powered by gas piped from Alice Springs. But Mr Knight said gas from the Blacktip project in the Boneparte Basin would be powering the site by the start of next year. "It's scheduled to be here in January," he said. "We are still getting gas from Alice Springs and supplementing with diesel as has been publicly stated." Mr Knight said the new generators would also ensure there was adequate capacity for construction of the Inpex gas plant, which is expected to start in 2010. "We anticipate that Inpex will ask us for construction power which will be 10 to 15 megawatts," Mr Knight said.

Prodigal ray of sunshine

Herald Sun
Thursday 2/10/2008 Page: 71

FINALLY, Australian venture capital has seen the (sun) light and invested in Ausra's solar energy plan. Melbourne-based Starfish Ventures yesterday joined a handful of major offshore investors to deliver a combined $76.7 million into Ausra's coffers. With $385 million under management, mostly superannuation funds, Starfish Ventures is possibly the nation's largest venture capital firm. But it had to wait until this second private capital raising by Ausra to get a piece of its homegrown, but now expatriate, technology.

About a year ago Ausra secured more than $US40 million from Silicon Valley heavyweights Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Ausra's founder, the former NSW academic David Mills, had to travel to the US to find investors who shared his vision for large-scale, cost-competitive solar thermal power plants after being spurned by local financiers.

Like the prodigal son, he returned Down Under recently as Ausra chairman to hawk a "Big Solar" project to eastern seaboard politicians, and perhaps shore up Starfish Ventures support. Starfish Ventures investor director Aaron Fyke told BNW yesterday that this time he was not going to let Dr Mills walk away without tipping some loot into his pockets. "We approached Ausra before they went looking for US funds, but at that stage we didn't have the mandate to invest in clean technology, even though we were interested," Mr Fyke said.

Starfish Ventures finally got the mandate, through a $20 million injection from VicSuper, but it was too late. Just months earlier Ausra had already done a seed funding deal with Vinod Khosla, founding chief executive of Sun Microsystems. Starfish Ventures had to wait more than a year before another opportunity to buy into Ausra. The latest raising was led by Canadian company KERN Energy Partners and includes Britain's Generation Investment as well as the Khosla and Kleiner outfits.

Mr Fyke would not reveal Starfish Ventures stake, for which it has secured equity in Ausra, but it is believed to be about $10 million. Ironically, Dr Mills would have needed just half that amount a couple of years ago to set up shop in Australia. But California called and now Ausra has begun building a small solar thermal installation there. It will be the blueprint for a larger 177-megawatt plant Ausra has already been commissioned to install for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, also in California. But the end-game is much vaster than that.

Ausra is believed to have briefed our politicians on a proposal to supply three states with peak solar energy from an installation at Moree in northern NSW. The plan to supply reliable annual power for Victoria, NSW and Queensland would become feasible with the development of storage technology in the not-too-distant future. But for the present, Dr Mills' technology is ready to replace diesel fuelled power plants at remote mining sites and he is expected to sign numerous deals to this effect with resources companies in coming weeks.

BNW has also learned that Ausra has received lead inquiries for about 4500 megawatts worth of other projects, some of which are in advanced talks. But the potential that has captured Starfish Ventures interest the most is based on an existing Ausra plant that is piggybacking on capital already invested in the Liddell coal-fired generator in NSW. The solar plant preheats water used by the generator's boilers, reducing the amount of coal that needs to be burnt to produce electricity.

$76m lights up Ausra's solar lens generator plans

Thursday 2/10/2008 Page: 21

THE Australian-founded solar energy technology company Ausra has scored a $US60.6 million ($76 million) funding package from venture capitalists including the local Starfish Ventures to help ramp up the production of its Fresnel lens-based power generators. Ausra develops solar energy plants using relatively inexpensive Fresnel lens technology that can stand alone or be grafted on to dirty coal-fired plants and reduce their carbon footprints.

Fresnel lenses are less efficient, but much cheaper, than conventional lenses and have traditionally been used in lighthouses. The powerplants work by focusing sunlight on water and generating steam that drives an electricity-producing turbine. The Ausra investment is the first renewable energy investment for Starfish Ventures.

Ausra investment director Aaron Fyke said Ausra's longterm goal was to build solar plants at near the costs of coalfired plants. Ausra is close to completing a 5-megawatt solar thermal plant near Bakersfield, California, and proposes to build a 177MW plant for Pacific Gas and Electric in California.

It has also built a solar augmentation plant for a coal-fired power station in NSW. "Ausra is geared towards generating large amounts of utility scale power economically. Energy is a commodity and the cheapest source generally wins," Mr Fyke said. Ausra "can get to a fairly significant business on their own merits", he added. The company, based in California, was co-founded by Australian solar energy pioneer David Mills.

It takes a town like Alice to shine light on power

Thursday 2/10/2008 Page: 7

Alice Springs's largest hotel is set to erect the biggest solar panel installation in Australia, which will provide between 40 and 80 per cent of the hotel's power requirements. The Crowne Plaza, overlooking the MacDonnell Ranges, has joined in the Alice Solar City project and will erect a $3 million photovoltaic installation on its roof as part of a push by the central Australian town to reduce its carbon footprint.

The installation will be made up of 13 solar arrays, comprising over 1300 individual solar modules, and will generate 530,000 kilowatts of power each year the equivalent energy required to power 60 households for a year. The solar installation is expected to reduce the hotel's carbon footprint by 420 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The hotel will also link a television channel to each guest's room that provides real-time explanations of energy savings. Together with an LCD display in the hotel foyer, the channel will display data from the rooftop solar arrays to demonstrate power output, total energy generated and equivalent greenhouse gas emissions saved. Alice Springs Australia's sunniest city is one of seven cities selected for funding under the federal Government's $94 million Solar Cities program. The town is aiming to reduce its overall carbon footprint by 5 per cent each year.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett visited Alice Springs yesterday and announced the solar installation. He also unveiled a world-first interactive website at the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre that will monitor 15 solar installations and provide real-time scientific and technical data to the solar industry.

The Alice Solar City project is being led by the Alice Springs town council and also includes consortium members, the Northern Territory Government, Northern Territory Power and Water Corporation, Tangentyere Council, Northern Territory Chamber of Commerce, the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre and the Arid Lands Environment Centre.

Under the project, several more largescale solar energy installations are planned, and 1000 households will be offered discounted domestic solar hot water systems. The consortium is also carrying out energy audits of homes. Perth, Adelaide, Townsville, towns of central Victoria, Blacktown, in western Sydney, and Coburg, in Melbourne's north, have also been selected as solar cities.

The chairman of the Alice Solar City Consortium, Grant Behrendorff, said: "For years and years, everybody has been saying that Alice Springs is such a logical place to have a solar project, but for years it hasn't happened," Mr Behrendorff said. "It's part of the great awareness of climate change. It still takes somebody or something to make it happen."

China is open to renewable power

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 1/10/2008 Page: 7

THE solar energy magnate and Chinese-Australian billionaire Zhengrong Shi has not made his fortune by being pessimistic. While China's attitude to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions loomed large over Ross Garnaut's climate change report, Dr Shi believes China is well on the road to becoming a renewable energy superpower.

Dr Shi, an Australian citizen, last night returned to the University of New South Wales, where he used to teach, to address graduating students. He said he would not be surprised if China did commit to binding targets for reducing its soaring emissions at the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen next year. "I think China will be heavily involved. It is already very high on the Government agenda," he said.

Dr Shi said China's President, Hu Jintao, personally intervened in his nation's climate change debate. "He has called for action from every company, he said every family should act. So I think there is substantial discussion and understanding of the issue in China," he said. "I think Australia is actually very powerful on this, because China relies on the export of iron ore and coal. I think these things can perhaps help convince China to move forward." Dr Shi called for the Federal Government to heed Professor Garnaut's suggestion that a national feed-in tariff be introduced to encourage people to adopt renewable energy.

The tariff works by paying people with rooftop solar panels more than the market rate to feed electricity back into the power grid. Similar schemes in several European nations have fuelled a boom in renewable power. Dr Shi's solar panel manufacturing empire, SunTech Power, could benefit handsomely from a tariff, but he insists any government subsidy would only need to last a few years because solar costs will soon be competitive with coal.

All isn't lost: a small sacrifice can save the planet

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 1/10/2008 Page: 1

AUSTRALIANS will be driving clean electric cars, giving up their lamb roast and rump steaks for chicken and pork, living in higher-density cities and swapping cheap air flights for interstate trains. In the outback, millions of beef cattle and sheep will disappear from the marginal rangelands, farmers will grow grasses and eucalypts for carbon trading and kangaroos will dominate the bush, potentially becoming one of the nation's biggest export meats.

This image of a sustainable future for Australia has now become a mainstream view with the release of Professor Ross Garnaut's final sweeping report on how the nation can take up the fight against climate change. It can be achieved for a modest increase in our electricity bills - but the overall cost will be less than the impact of the GST.

Delivering his 652-page study on the cost of climate change to the Federal Government, Professor Garnaut said the effort required by Australians to get a global climate agreement that could save the Great Barrier Reef, the food bowl of the Murray-Darling Basin and the wetlands of Kakadu National Park would be far less than the sacrifices of earlier generations. "This problem is very small compared to the resources we mobilised for the Second World War," Professor Garnaut said. At most, the nation would need to invest 2 per cent of its gross domestic product per year in 2020 to meet the report's most ambitious target.

Even so, Australia will need to undergo huge change by mid century if it wants to cut its emissions deeply enough to help achieve a global agreement that will avoid dangerous climate change and keep greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere from rising above 450 parts per million. And the success of this will depend on achieving a convincing global agreement at next year's UN climate talks.

Professor Garnaut warns that the profitable coal industry that also provides cheap electricity must clean up its act or disappear. "If the coal industry is to have a long-term future in a lowemissions economy then it will have to be transformed into near zero emissions, from source to end use, by mid-century," he finds. "Priority should be given to the resolution of whether a near zero coal future is even feasible, either partially or in total. If it is not, then Australia needs to know as soon as possible so that all who depend on the coal industry can begin the process of adjustment, and so that adequate and timely investments are made in other industries."

By as early as 2010, Australia should be paying $20 a tonne for carbon emissions which will lift electricity prices by a few dollars a week. New power stations are unlikely to burn coal and Australia will rely at first on more gas and diesel to power homes and cars. But by 2050, solar, geothermal, solar thermal and wind energy will challenge the cost of coal and gas power unless "clean coal" technology becomes a reality.

"If carbon capture and storage and commercial-scale biosequestration of carbon wastes fail, so that fossil fuels become unimportant in the global energy equation, Australia may still be a country of relatively low energy costs," Professor Garnaut writes. "We seem to have exceptionally low-cost resources, in abundance compared with population, for most renewable energy: deep hot rocks (geothermal), solar, wind, wave, biomass and second-generation biofuels." If the power generation sector can be transformed by phasing out reliance on coal, other sectors will quickly follow.

Four decades from now, half the adult population will be driving electric cars, the report predicts. The first glimpse of the appeal of electric vehicles can already be seen, with sales of hybrids rising from 0.2 to 0.78 per cent just between January and July. In the years leading up to 2050, car trips are likely to be shorter because more people will live within walking distance of public transport. Blocks of flats clustered around almost every Sydney railway station, the scenario despised by some advocates of the traditional Australian backyard, is implied by the report.

Private cars and motorbikes account for just over half of all the greenhouse emissions from the transport sector, and the combined impact of putting a price on carbon and rising petrol prices will make electric vehicles more attractive. biofuels and diesel will become more popular over the next two to three decades, before declining as plug-in electric vehicles take over.

By 2050, Australia's heavily emitting cattle and sheep farms will likely be brought into an emissions trading scheme. As farmers pay for the methane their animals produce, beef and lamb prices will rise and Australians are expected to turn to far more greenhouse-friendly chicken and pork.

One study cited by Professor Garnaut finds that "by 2020 beef cattle and sheep numbers in the rangelands could be reduced by 7 million and 36 million respectively and that this would create the opportunity for an increase in kangaroo numbers from 34 million today to 240 million by 2020". With kangaroos producing almost zero emissions, kangaroo meat could compete with beef exports as the carbon price rises.