Friday 7 November 2008

Australian shines in `solar explosion'

Canberra Times
Saturday 25/10/2008 Page: 4

solar explosionNew-generation solar technology created in Australia will drive "a solar explosion" across California, the state's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says. "Today, we celebrate clean energy and new jobs," Mr Schwarzenegger told a crowd at this week's launch of the biggest solar thermal energy plant built in the United States.

The 5-megawatt plant, which will power more than 3500 homes, was built by Ausra, a company established last year by former Sydney University solar research pioneer Professor David Mills. "I love days like this because we are celebrating something great. I love to see good up-beat stories," Mr Schwarzenegger said, before officially launching the solar energy station by flicking a switch to turn a row of mirrors towards the sun.

The launch has been a vindication of optimists and innovation for Professor Mills, who left Australia in February last year after failing to attract support from the Howard government for his world-first solar thermal technology. Californian venture capitalist Vinod Khosla-who trade his fortune in the IT industry - saw the technology's potential to provide lowcost green energy and provided backing to commercialise it. The Kimberlina solar thermal energy plant, built in Bakersfield - California's third-largest inland city uses 300-metre rows of mirrors to track the sun, reflecting solar heat on to boiler tubes to produce steam which powers a turbine.

Mr Schwarzenegger wants solar energy to provide at least 20 per cent of the state's power by 2010 and has created a $US2.9 billion incentive plan for homes and business to go solar. "Solar, solar, solar - that's my goal," he said, adding Ausra's new power plant was further evidence that reliable, renewable and pollution-free technology is here to stay.

The Kimberlina power plant was built in only seven months, with the steel-backed mirrors mass-produced by a factory in Las Vegas. Ausra has also signed a purchase deal with power utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company for a 177 megawatt solar thermal power plant that will generate enough electricity to power more than 120.000 homes. "Our technology is real, it works, and it's ready to power businesses," Ausra's chief executive and chairman Bob Fishman said.

"There is a reason why people across the energy industry are talking about what we're doing here today ... We're proving that solar thermal power at utility scale is cost-effective. It works." Professor Mills spent 30 years trying to establish a solar energy industry in Australia. During a visit to Australia in August, he said Australia should begin replacing older coldfired power stations with solar thermal technology. He urged the Rudd Government to (:0! II nit to big, inspirational renewable energy projects that would make Australia a global centre of clean energy expertise.

"solar thermal can provide electricity on a large scale. It can carry the power needs of our entire society, and once the investment is there, we have the resources and expertise to build solar energy plants within months." Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently announced plans for a $100 million clean coal research institute aimed at making Australia a world hub for carbon capture and storage technology.

In a research paper published this year, Professor Mills argued solar thermal could supply more than 90 per cent of power for the US electricity grid, and also meet a 70 per cent growth in national demand as plug-in electric hybrid vehicles came on to the market. "The US could nearly eliminate our dependence on coal, oil and gas for electricity and transportation, drastically slashing global warming pollution without increasing costs for energy," he said. "solar thermal's been proved for many years, but nobody has successfully proven a coal sequestration plant."

BG still angling for a deal in Queensland

Saturday 25/10/2008 Page: 4

WEEKS after abandoning a $13.8 billion hostile bid for Origin Energy, Britain's BG Group has returned to Australia to claim a consolation prize: its joint-venture partner, Queensland Gas. QGC and its largest shareholder, AGL Energy, entered simultaneous trading halts yesterday morning. BusinessDay believes BG Group has approached the pair about a friendly, $3 billion plus bid for QGC. A deal is expected to be announced to the market as early as Monday, but the terms were still being negotiated yesterday.

QGC shares last traded at $3.20, down from a peak of $6.39 in May. The highest broker price target on the stock is $6.40. The deal would involve AGL agreeing to sell its 25% stake in QGC to BG Group. QGC and BG Group are partners in a proposed $8 billion liquefied natural gas project at Gladstone. That deal would immediately boost BG Group's stake in QGC from 10% to 35% and serve as a strong platform from which to launch its friendly takeover. In return, AGL would be granted the right to coal seam gas resources, possibly through a direct equity ownership in permits.

AGL has been considering options for its valuable stake in QGC for months. In August, AGL's managing director, Michael Fraser, said the holding could be leveraged in return for access to more direct control over gas resources. "In the longer term, one of our aspirations is to have our foot on our own equity gas production at the asset level, rather than through a company," Mr Fraser said.

AGL at present sells more gas through its retail business than it has in reserve, forcing it to buy additional gas from other suppliers. Carbon trading is expected to raise the value of gas on domestic markets, as gas-fired power plants emit up to 70% less carbon than do brown coalfired plants. But increased demand for gas around the world is increasing the value of controlling gas assets directly.

The rush of projects to convert Queensland's coal seam gas reserves into exportable LNG has ratcheted up the benchmark value of gas reserves. Santos has signed an LNG alliance with Malaysia's Petronas, while Origin Energy thwarted BG Group's hostile bid by agreeing to a partnership with US oil giant ConocoPhillips. Both of those deals attracted record prices of $1.65 a gigajoule for the possible reserves to be used in the first two trains of the LNG projects.

QGC, which has extensive coal seam gas acreage in Queensland, has recently moved to extend its holdings through takeovers of Sunshine Gas and Roma Petroleum. It cited the need to bulk up and become an "Australian champion" in the sector. In the past, QGC managing director Richard Cottee had striven to maintain his company's independence. Shares in rival coal seam gas producer Arrow Energy, which has an alliance with Royal Dutch Shell, rose 24(, or 12%, to $2.23 on the news yesterday. Santos shares closed 67g, or 6%, higher at $11.56.

Cold beer thanks to the hot rocks

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 25/10/2008 Page: 81

THE small Outback town of Innamincka is re-energising itself this weekend with some hot rocks-chilled beer. Residents will be celebrating a lifetime's supply of free power thanks to geothermal energy explorer GeoDynamics. In a deal - first reported by The Advertiser in May this year - the company has offered the 12 residents of Innamincka free geothermal power from early next year while it puts its technology to the test.

GeoDynamics executive director Dr Doone Wyborn will be officiating at the opening of Innamincka Hotel's redeveloped Outamincka Bar and Grill, which will serve beer chilled using hot rocks energy. "We don't have really a market for our power and we need to run our small pilot power station as much as we can so that we can make sure these sort of systems work properly," he said. Hot rock geothermal energy is produced by continuously cycling water through naturally hot rocks 3-5km underground. The water is heated to around 300C, generating steam to drive an electricity turbine.

Thursday 6 November 2008

A bright future making pay while the sun shines

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/10/2008 Page: 14

solar panelNATHAN BROWN and his wife, Arnie, run a solar panel installation business in Richmond, which they founded eight years ago. They were slightly ahead of their time but Brown says the business has grown steadily. He did an apprenticeship as an electrician before crossing to solar. "It's a big advantage to have an electrical background," Brown says.

Another advantage is to have no fear of heights, because Brown often has to clamber over rooftops, affixing silicon panels and inverters. Unlike solar hot water systems, the solar electricity panels work on UV radiation and are more efficient in cooler weather. "It's like you can get sunburnt on an overcast cold day - same thing with solar panels," Brown says. He prefers to install Australian made solar panels, although cheaper Chinese ones are available.

Before government rebates, an average grid-connected system might cost about $12,000. Customers with grid connected systems feed any excess solar-generated electricity back into the grid, and draw off the grid at night. In countries that have forged ahead with solar energy, there is usually a feed-in tariff, where excess solar energy is bought from solar households at a higher rate than electricity is sold off the grid. "In the ACT it has gone through Parliament. It stimulates investment in solar energy. That's what the industry is hoping for."

Embrace wind farms, Garrett tells NIMBYs

Friday 24/10/2008 Page: 8

Peter Garrett has called on Australians to "learn to love" wind farms, warning that too many alternative energy proposals have been rejected because of opposition from not in my back yard" activists. The Environment Minister has foreshadowed major changes in conservation spending, accusing the Howard government of using its multi-billion-dollar National Heritage Trust program for pork barreling, and vowing to deliver better and more co-ordinated environmental outcomes.

In an interview with The Australian in Canberra yesterday, Mr Garrett said he was worried by the number of wind farm proposals that had been refused because of community objections. "Australians have got to realise the time has come to embrace wind and wind farms in appropriate locations, bearing in mind they are going to be visible on the landscape that a not in my back yard' kind of mentality won't see us rolling out the deployment of wind that we need," Mr Garrett said.

Labor came to power last year promising to increase the use of renewable power sources to 20 per cent by 2020. It hopes to achieve the target through greater use of solar energy and emerging technologies such as wind and geothermal power. Australia has 45 wind farms generating 894 megawatts of power a year. But many proposals for wind farms have faced stiff local opposition in the rural communities in which they have been proposed. Mr Garrett said he had seen large arrays of wind farms in Europe and did not find them unattractive. "If we're going to be serious about lowering our emissions and producing energy in a cleaner way, then wind has a real role to play," he said.

"I think this is part of the modern landscape in the climate change age." Mr Garrett said proposals for wind farms had to be carefully considered and properly located, including paying heed to the flight paths of birds, scenic tourism value and the integrity of national parks. "But the fact is that for some people in the community, the thought of anything being on a hill or in an area which is considered unsightly can often slow down a process or see frustrating delays happen, or the power companies don't pursue it," he said. "We've got to learn to love wind and the look of wind farms.

It will be one of the primary technologies that fulfills the buy that generators and retailers will be looking for." Asked if the Rudd Government was prepared to offer locals a subsidy or incentive to make construction of wind farms more attractive, Mr Garrett said there was no need, because the introduction of mandatory renewable energy targets would boost the amount companies would pay landholders for their land.

The comments come before a meeting next month between Mr Garrett and state and territory environment ministers to discuss a proposal for national guidelines for wind farms, including best practice in site selection and community engagement for such projects. Mr Garrett said the Howard government had used its heritage trust program for pork-barreling in key electorates. He said Labor's new $2.25 billion, five-year Caring for our Country scheme would be much better targeted, and that councils, community conservation groups and universities would be encouraged to create partnerships to help protect and conserve large areas of land.

Companies warned on carbon capture

Thursday 23/10/2008 Page: 2

THE International Energy Agency has told governments and resource companies to put their money where their mouth is on carbon capture and storage, warning that unless activity accelerates rapidly, it might not be a commercial option until after 2030. In a 266-page report released in Paris, the agency says carbon capture and storage (CCS) was the only technology available to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from large-scale fossil fuel usage", with the potential to deliver 20% of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to halve global emissions by 2050.

Yet despite bold statements such as G8 leaders recently proposing to build 20 CCS largescale demonstration projects by 2010, it concludes "current spending and activity levels are nowhere near enough to achieve these deployment goals". Costs of projects have risen significantly in recent years, and instead of stepping up their efforts, public and private investors have pulled back, while no country has produced the comprehensive legal and regulatory framework needed to make carbon capture and storage commercially viable.

The window of opportunity is closing for the global community to cost-effectively address climate change", said the agency's executive director Nobuo Tanaka. "CCS technologies must play a key role, but first they must be proven in the next decade.

"If we do not successfully demonstrate CCS soon, it will raise costs for other climate mitigation options." The IEA is the energy counterpart of the OECD, set up jointly by Western governments as a source of expert advice on energy issues. In a recent report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2008, it urged the world to invest $US30 trillion ($A43.4 trillion) in a combination of CCS, renewable energy, nuclear energy and energy efficiency to meet the target of halving emissions by

Its new report argues that 20 to 30 full-scale CCS demonstration projects were needed to bring down costs and find a commercially viable technology. On current technology, it warns, the cost of using CCS for a coalfired plant is about $US60 to $US75 per tonne of emissions saved, putting it way behind wind or nuclear energy as an option. Australia, as the world's biggest coal exporter, has a vital stake in developing the technology But while several small pilot projects are under way, and some larger ones are being planned, no demonstration-size coal projects are planned in Australia until after 2015.

Wanted: wind farm bladerunners

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/10/2008 Page: 14

SHAUN BLACKIE manages three wind farms in Victoria. A former electricity linesman, he oversees the maintenance of Pacific Hydro's huge windmills on their wind farms at Yambuk, Codrington and Challicum Hills. Together, the three sites have 69 huge wind-powered generators - 70-metre towers with 30-metre blades - and supply enough electricity to power 53,000 homes annually. "I find it a fantastic company to work for," Blackie says. "I do love the feel-good factor of knowing you're making renewable energy and the impact that has on the environment. I won't say I was a diehard greenie, but obviously it was on my mind.

Now it's on everyone's mind; a lot of people are curious about how it works and what I do out there." Pacific Hydro leases farmland from farmers, paying them rent for the right to install the towers. They can graze their sheep and cattle around our machines without a hassle," Blackie says. if they get enough machines on their property they can drought-proof their farm because it's a constant income." As part of safety requirements, Blackie and the maintenance workers have to practise abseiling the side of the towers in case of an accident while they are up there. Under normal operating procedure, ladders are used.

"We hope we never have to use it, but we refresh our training every year to keep our skills intact." Blackie says there are many jobs in wind farms. "A lot of people think it's really high-tech but there's a lot of trade jobs there as well ... We've got guys who are ex-mechanics, and we had some [aircraft mechanics] when Ansett went bust come down as service technicians. We have electricians and linesmen and anyone with an electrical background."

Doubts cast over solar rebate

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 22/10/2008 Page: 5

A REBATE for solar panels is proving so popular there are concerns it could be axed or cut back. Households earning less than $100,000 qualify for an $8000 rebate from the Federal Government if they install roof-top solar panels to generate electricity. But an extraordinary surge in applications has led to the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, refusing to guarantee that the rebate has a future. She also refused to say if the rebate would be offered in three months' time.

The Government is receiving 30 times as many applications for the rebate as it budgeted for, a estimates hearing was told yesterday. Cheaper panels, special deals and concern about climate change have resulted in more than 1000 applications lodged each week. The Government only budgeted for 6000 installations for the financial year. In a controversial budget move, the Government opted to means-test the rebate to reduce demand. The Liberal senator Simon Birmingham told yesterday's hearing he was concerned the Government would take further steps to restrict the rebate as the applications flooded in.

Ross Carter, of the Government's renewable energy efficiency division, said the Government would meet demand - for now. "Future support for the solar industry will be considered in the context of the national energy efficiency strategy, and the Government's response to the [emissions trading] green paper," he said. Senator Wong repeatedly batted away questions about how long the rebate would continue for. Senator Birmingham said the hedging was concerning. "It's irresponsible," he said. "It is creating a lot of uncertainty in the [solar] industry." He said there was a rush for solar panels because people were worried about the rebate's future.

Senator Birmingham said he feared the Government would axe the rebate, reduce its value, or drop the income threshold for the means test. Government officials told the hearing they received just over 1000 applications for the rebate each week, and about 200 to 300 installation reports. They said the bottleneck could be caused by the solar industry and the Government struggling to keep up with demand.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

ETS threat to gas projects

Courier Mail
Tuesday 21/10/2008 Page: 55

gas projectsOIL major Chevron Corp says Australia's proposed emissions trading scheme (ETS) could jeopardise the development of the multibillion dollar Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas projects in Western Australia. Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said that in its existing format, the ETS could significantly increase the operating costs of the two projects and put the viability of the investments in danger. "This result could very well increase the operating costs of the Chevron-operated Gorgon and Wheatstone projects by $100 million to $200 million each per year," Mr Krzywosinski said.

"This is an additional cost that could put the viability of these massive investments in jeopardy." Mr Krzywosinski's comments echoed those of Woodside Petroleum chief executive Don Voelte, who has been critical of the scheme and warned that the company might cut spending on its key LNG projects if the ETS went ahead in its current form. Economist Ross Garnaut, who is advising state and federal governments on climate, recommended emissions trading start in 2010.

Premier urges gas-fired power to curb emissions

West Australian
Tuesday 21/10/2008 Page: 7

Colin Barnett called on other States to use more natural gas for Australia's energy needs as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and proposed building a pipeline from the Kimberley to South Australia. The Premier yesterday told a petroleum engineers' conference that Australia's emissions could be cut 5 per cent, and probably more, if the nation set a target to use natural gas for half its energy by 2030 and reduce reliance on coal, which accounts for 85 per cent of electricity production.

"Gas is a far cleaner fuel than coal," he said. "(Modern gas power stations) produce probably a third of the greenhouse emissions of coal." Mr Barnett said a policy of using more natural gas in power generation was a practical and cost-free alternative to the more complex emissions trading scheme being touted by the Rudd Government to start in 2010.

"It's far better to use science and engineering and get more certain outcomes than hope a complex trading scheme is going to reduce emissions," he said. "What the Federal Government is proposing is extraordinarily complicated. It's not understood by the community let alone industry and the biggest loser out of that scheme looks like being WA, because we have energy intensive industries." Mr Barnett said that to achieve more gas use it would be necessary to build a pipeline from the Kimberley to at least the Cooper Basin in central Australia, where existing pipelines would connect it to the East Coast. An energy mandate from State governments would ensure that it was viable for the private sector to build the pipeline without public funding.

Woodside Petroleum chief executive Don Voelte said shipping LNG from WA to "re-gassification" plants on the east coast would likely be more viable. Mr Barnett's proposal would face other hurdles, notably from the Federal Government and Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who on Friday flagged a strategic assessment of the Kimberley region would recommend putting an LNG hub in the Pilbara if the environmental impacts of a hub in the far north were deemed too great.

Industry winded by energy target delays

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 21/10/2008 Page: 10

The Federal Government is behind schedule to reach its 20 percent renewable energy target, while treasury modelling on the economic impact of emissions trading is scheduled for release by the end of the month. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan had promised the modelling four months earlier. In July, the Council of Australian Governments released a consultation paper on the 20 percent renewable energy target [RET] setting out two alternate options for the roll-out of an emissions scheme. Pacific Hydro's executive manager of corporate affairs, Andrew Richards, said in the past month industry activity had eased off as companies wait to see the legislation that will govern the RET.

Rich polluters stand to rake in $3b

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 20/10/2008 Page: 2

A NEW report estimates the Rudd Government could hand almost $3 billion to some of the richest companies in Australia in free carbon pollution permits when its scheme to cut greenhouse gases begins in 2010. The report released by the Australian Conservation Foundation found much of the assistance, an estimated $825 million, would go to big aluminium producers, including Rio Tinto in Australia and Britain, the American company Alcoa, the Norwegian company Norsk Hydro and the Australian company Alumina Ltd.

Other beneficiaries would be the Chinese trading company CITIC, says the report, which was produced by the financial advisory company, Innovest. If the Government also agrees to protect the export coal industry, almost half the assistance could go to foreign companies including the Swiss giant Xstrata, the Japanese Mitsubishi company and the British Anglo American coal company. BHP Billiton, could also be given up to $340 million worth of permits, the report finds.

The value of the permits is based on production figures from the companies and on the proposals in the Government's green paper on its carbon pollution reduction scheme, which was released by the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, this year. Under the plan, the Government will require most businesses producing greenhouse gases to obtain permits to pollute. The Government plans to limit the number of permits, forcing companies to cut back greenhouse gas emissions. The initial cost of permits is expected to be about $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas.

Companies with permits will be allowed to freely trade them on a carbon market. But the Government has promised to protect key industries, such as aluminium, steel and cement, by giving them 30 per cent of permits free. These are industries facing competition from countries that do not have similar schemes to cut greenhouse gases. The industries have argued they could be forced to close or cut operations and investments if they are not compensated.

In its submission to the green paper last month, Rio Tinto argued Australia's major competitors in the supply of aluminium, coal and iron ore are from countries that "are unlikely to introduce comparable climate change policies in the medium term". It said the scheme risked disadvantaging key export industries and delivering "no net gain to the environment".

But environmentalists argue these "trade-exposed industries" are owned by highly profitable companies who could receive windfall profits from the free permits. They want the Government to carefully assess requests for free permits to determine whether they are justified. The Australian Conservation Foundation is the first group to try to quantify the value of free permits to industries.

"This analysis shows the compensation arrangements proposed in the green paper are far too generous to big polluters and overseas interests," said the foundation's climate change manager, Tony Mohr. "The amount being given away to the big polluters is more than the total federal budget spend on climate change and the environment." The Government is also proposing compensating the domestic coal-fired power generators under the scheme, which could cost another $900 million.

Data from The Climate Group also shows greenhouse gas emissions from power stations and transport in NSW are less than last year's figures.

Free kick for worst polluters to cost $3b

Canberra Times
Monday 20/10/2008 Page: 3

Free carbon permits for big polluters will cost Australian taxpayers $3 billion in the first year of the Rudd Government's carbon trading scheme, a new report says. The coal industry will receive the lion's share, with $1.5 billion in free permits, based on a carbon price of $20 a tonne. Under its proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme, the Rudd Government has outlined two industry assistance packages offering free permits - to coal-fired power stations and high-emission industries - to soften the impact of a carbon price.

An analysis by global financial investment advisers Innovest estimates $825 million will go to aluminium smelting industries, $227 million to alumina refiners, $l46 million to cement manufacturers and $124 million to steel makers. The biggest recipients of Government assistance are expected to be Rio Tinto ($489 million), BHP Billiton ($340 million) Xstrata ($234 million), Mitsubishi ($200 trillion) and mining company Anglo American ($185 million).

The report, commissioned from Innovest by the Australian Conservation Foundation, estimates 47 per cent of federal assistance to emissions-intensive industries will go offshore, chiefly to Japan. Australian Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne has called for the Government to abandon plans to allocate free permits to the country's biggest polluters. "Why is the Government determined to make ordinary Australians bear the burden of greater energy costs while giving polluters a windfall?" Senator Milne asked.

"The Rudd Government should immediately abandon their plans to reward the big polluters in favour of auctioning all permits, which would raise the cash the Government needs to invest in clean energy solutions and to drive equitable outcomes." The Innovest report estimates coal-fired electricity generators will receive $900 trillion in free permits under the Government's electricity sector adjustment scheme. The NSW, Queensland and West Australian governments will be the biggest beneficiaries. The biggest non-government recipients are expected to be power companies in Britain, Hong Kong and Japan.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Tony Mohr said the report showed compensation arrangements proposed in the carbon pollution reduction scheme were " far too generous to big polluters and overseas interests". "Under the current plans for emissions trading, the amount being given away to the big polluters is more than the total federal budget spend on climate change and the environment," Mr Mohr said.

A spokeswoman for federal Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong said the Rudd Government welcomed all contributions to discussions regarding the best design for its carbon pollution reduction scheme. "This is a complex economic reform, and we are determined to get it right," she said.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Youthful energy adds to winning formula

Weekend Australian
Saturday 18/10/2008 Page: 5

Origin EnergyImpeccable green credentials are helping one company attract Australia's best and brightest.

Origin Energy is growing in energy exploration, production, retailing and renewables. As one of the leading providers of energy electricity, LPG, natural gas and appliances - to households and businesses throughout Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific - it needs recruits in almost every area of its activities: technical, operational, administrative and retail. Its general manager for oil and gas production, Paul Zealand, says the company's growth is very strong. This was increased with the recent 50 per cent joint venture with ConocoPhillips in an LNG project. ConocoPhillips is the third largest energy company in the US and the fifth largest refiner in the world.

Mr Zealand, who has been with Origin Energy for three years after 25 years with Shell, says the company would keep growing for the next five years at least. It has nearly 4000 employees in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. It has more than three million customer accounts in Australia and the Pacific and more than 105,000 shareholders. He says that many graduates and non graduates are attracted to the company because of its attitude to sustainability. "Our 100 per cent wind and 100 per cent solar government accredited Green Power products are rated Australia's best in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by Green Electricity Watch, the independent review by leading Australian environmental groups," he says.

The company likes to point out that collecting solar energy is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to produce clean electricity and heat the household boiler. The selling point is that, by choosing solar energy, consumers are not only helping the environment but also saving on their energy costs. It stresses that solar energy systems are now more affordable than ever. It is this environmentally responsible culture that makes Origin Energy attractive to many young recruits, according to Mr Zealand. In South Australia, the company is working on revolutionary Sliver technology to create innovative and cost-effective systems.

It says its Adelaide Solar Cities project, which it is leading, will deliver significant benefits to the South Australian community. "Origin Energy's rapid and sustained growth is the element that gives a youthful feel to the company," Mr Zealand says. "People joining us find that their values are our values. They find themselves aligned with what we are doing. It's our character, that's who we are." The company is moving ahead with a range of new projects across the supply chain from coal seam gas and offshore exploration and production projects to the expansion of its generating and retailing capabilities. It takes pride in being one of Australia's 25 leading listed companies. Its expansion is across Australia and internationally.

It is an equal opportunity employer and Mr Zealand stresses that it aims to provide a safe environment for people to work. It wants it people to be motivated to achieve. Origin Energy also helps guide people to study further in order to enhance their employment prospects. It provides mentoring and encourages the professional and personal development of each individual it employs. "We are committed to the continuous improvement in the sustainability of the environment, and in social and economic activities, and offer great career opportunities and attractive benefits," Mr Zealand adds.

Graduates across a variety of disciplines work within the company because of the varied nature of its business in Australia and New Zealand. Origin Energy also promotes vacation and work experience opportunities. Mr Zealand says that one of the attributes of a young expanding company was that new recruits achieved positions of responsibility very quickly after they joined the organisation. "We have a strong graduate development program and our people soon reach positions of responsibility giving a great sense of worth," he says.

Origin Energy came about in February, 2000, when shareholders of Boral approved a de-merger of its energy business from its building and construction materials business. In the next couple of years, it increased its customer base and electricity retailing with the acquisition of the Powercor and Citipower electricity retail business in Victoria. It has Otway Basin investments and substantial interests in Queensland, especially around Roma. It was responsible for the construction and commissioning of the SEA Gas pipeline linking Victoria and South Australia's gas markets. It crossed the Tasman in 2004 when it acquired a 50 per cent interest in the Kupe gas field and acquired Edison Mission's 51.4 per cent interest in Contact Energy.

Solar rebates go sky high - Government hands out $150m

Sun Herald
Sunday 19/10/2008 Page: 3

THE national solar panel rebate for Australian homes is so popular that the Federal Government has handed out $150 million - the equivalent of three years' funding - in 16 months. Only four months into this financial year, the bucket of money put aside to subsidise solar panels is empty. However, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the Government would continue to fund the initiative out of next year's budget. High demand has meant that approval for rebates takes two months as bureaucrats in the Environment Department find themselves swamped by applications.

Householders can claim rebates of up to $8000 to install solar panels. But the solar industry is claiming millions of dollars in investment are at risk because the future of solar rebates and alternative methods of subsidising solar panels are unclear. The industry is pushing the Government to scrap the rebate in favour of a feed-in tariff based on the generous German model. A feed-in tariff is a payment people receive for the electricity generated by their solar panels.

The solar industry no longer prefers a rebate because it is a measure that is subject to government whim and will become increasingly unnecessary as the upfront price of panels starts to fall, which is expected in the next two years. The Clean Energy Council, speaking on behalf of the solar industry, said a feed-in tariff would provide a locked-in return for purchasers of solar panels and better underpin the industry. The Government is looking at a national feed-in tariff but already the states are moving on different models.

No progress was made on the issue at a recent meeting of State and Federal governments. "We are a company that is growing around the country," Richard Turner, chief executive of Zen Home Energy Systems, said. "We have $60 million of investment subject to some sort of rebate or tariff. We can't understand why the Government has not come up with some sort of announcement about the next step. "Are they prepared to let the solar industry in Australia collapse?" Shadow minister for climate change Greg Hunt said the Government had stalled on its promise of a national feed-in tariff and should guarantee that the rebate scheme will not be abolished. "The Government's solar policy is in disarray and the industry had been left in financial limbo," he said.

But Mr Garrett said the popularity of the solar rebate had proven wrong Mr Hunt's claim that a means-tested rebate would kill the solar industry. In this year's budget, the Government changed the rules to prevent households with incomes above $100,000 from receiving the rebate. Mr Garrett said the Government's next move to support solar would be part of a "comprehensive approach" to tackling climate change. He said he was working through stakeholder responses and considering solar in the context of the national energy efficiency strategy and the Government's response to the Green Paper on emissions trading.

Mr Garrett said there were plenty of opportunities for the solar industry, including 2500 applications to put solar panels in schools. Under the new means test, solar panels have continued to sell well but anecdotal reports from suppliers indicate that people can afford only to buy smaller systems. Mr Garrett said the popularity of solar panels was being driven by an increasing awareness of climate change in the community and a greater interest in renewable energy.

Green energy map is `a cracker'

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 19/10/2008 Page: 19

Green energy map is `a cracker'AUSTRALIA'S fight against climate change now has directions to the battlefield, thanks to a green energy treasure map. The new online Renewable Energy Atlas identifies the nation's green power goldmines - and the results seem promising. geothermal, wind, solar, wave and tidal power hotspots abound, mapped out in vivid colours on the federal Environment Department's website.

At the launch on Friday, Environment Minister Peter Garrett described the atlas as an "absolute cracker". "The fact is that renewable energy resources have hugely untapped potential for Australia, Mr Garrett said. Emissions-conscious Australians can use the program to figure out if a solar panel or wind turbine would be an eco-friendly investment. For governments and developers, it's a map to the most viable green energy sources. The atlas is the brainchild of scientists from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology and received funding of $770,000 from the Environment Department.

Mr Garrett said it would benefit governments, businesses and the public, thanks to a user-friendly design. "[The atlas is] a great example of how Australian innovation is providing renewable solutions for the future." Strictly speaking, the atlas isn't an Australian innovation: areas of Britain and the United States have experimented with similar systems. Nevertheless, Mr Garrett was confident the atlas would become "one of the most powerful and important tools for liberating the Australian economy" from carbon-emitting energy.

The minister said the atlas would be vital in helping meet the Government's "crystal-clear" commitment to renewable energy. The Rudd Government has pledged that green power will provide 20 per cent of electricity needs by 2020. That would be met despite the current financial turmoil, Mr Garrett said, reiterating Thursday's pledges from Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.

The Government has vet to set the 20 per cent target into legislation, but the minister was adamant it would be met. 'We'll have more to say about that further down the track but the Government is profoundly committed to ensuring that we (10 have a 20 per cent renewable energy target, and that will be delivered." he said.

Britain leads with vow to cut carbon emissions by 80pc

Canberra Times
Saturday 18/10/2008 Page: 15

Britain will introduce a legally binding pledge to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, the minister for the newly created Department for Energy and Climate Change said yesterday. The promise, which involves amending soon-to-be approved legislation that requires Britain to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050, came after a recommendation to do so from a government-appointed committee.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said in a statement to the House of Commons, "We will amend the Climate Change Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and that target will be binding in law." British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is determined to lead the way in tackling climate change. He hinted the Government would accept the new emissions target in a Labour Party conference speech last month. The cuts will cover all industries, including shipping and aviation.

The committee that made the initial recommendations said it would cost 1-2 per cent of gross domestic product in 2050 and was feasible. Mr Miliband said other laws would be amended to encourage smallscale energy generation through the use of home-based wind turbines or solar panels. He called on European countries to follow suit. Campaigners welcomed the pledge, but said Britain should lower carbon emissions locally, and not rely on the use of carbon offsetting, whereby individuals or companies can pay for green projects elsewhere to "offset" their own emissions.

Britain's World Wildlife Fund chief executive David Nussbaum said, "The key issue now is to ensure that we move swiftly to a low-carbon economy which creates new jobs here in the UK... rather than relying excessively on imported carbon credits." Britain became the first country in the world to introduce legally binding cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide when the Climate Change Bill completed its passage through Parliament in March. It is awaiting Royal Assent, effectively a rubber stamp that shows the monarch has approved it.

Italy's climate threat

Herald Sun
Friday 17/10/2008 Page: 42

BRUSSELS - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has threatened to torpedo the European Union's climate change plans, branding them too big a burden for business amid the global financial crisis. His announcement, at an EU summit in Brussels, came despite pleas from fellow leaders not to abandon the targets in the face of growing financial pressure, although Poland also appeared ready to vote parts of it down. "I have announced my intention to exercise my veto," the Italian leader told a press conference yesterday on the sidelines of the summit. "Our businesses are in absolutely no position at the moment to absorb the costs of the regulations that have been proposed," he said.

Last year, EU leaders vowed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, and also pledged to have renewable energies make up 20 per cent of all energy sources. But many EU nations have begun to baulk at the costs involved and the consequences to industry of the climate change goals. The call for special attention to be paid to economic concerns in finalising the climate package is just what Brussels and other EU member states had feared as the financial crisis takes hold.

"This is not the time to abandon a climate change agenda which is important for the future," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned ahead of the summit. European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso also urged the leaders to press ahead and not abandon Europe's leadership role. In London, Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said now was as good a time as any to introduce tougher greenhouse gas targets. Ms Wong said the risks of delaying outweighed the risks of acting on climate change.

Monday 3 November 2008

Consumers face higher bills as AGL feels pinch

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 16/10/2008 Page: 31

AGLTHE country's largest gas and electricity retailer yesterday warned consumers that energy prices would have to rise in the face of increasing costs caused by climate change and higher financing charges. AGL, which is also a major energy producer, is to press regulators to allow it to charge more for the currently price-capped sources of power it supplies as it prepares to deal with the Federal Government's planned carbon pollution reduction scheme due to start in 2010.

The emissions trading plan which is the central plank of the Rudd Government's environmental agenda, will have a "material impact" on AGLs cost structure and those of other energy suppliers, the company's chairman Mark Johnson warned shareholders yesterday. Speaking at AGL's annual meeting, Mr Johnson said the regulatory risks facing the group were more significant than ever before even when taking into consideration the existing price controls that limit what the company can charge its customers.

The bill that AGL faces for implementing the new carbon reduction measures will only add to the costs to business caused by the global credit crunch that will push up the interest charge on the debt it is looking to refinance over the coming year. "It is crucial that governments [federal and state] and regulators recognise this," said Mr Johnson.

"It is imperative that the regulators allow increases in the regulated prices of gas and electricity in line with the increased costs energy retailers will continue to face." Underlining the argument that the energy industry needs to take long-term investment decisions - such as AGL's plan to source 20 per cent of its electricity need from renewable energy such as wind by 2020 - Mr Johnson said governments had signalled that these were best done by the private sector.

"But the private sector can only invest if it has the confidence that governments and regulators will make decisions on a consistent and transparent basis... None of us like the prospect of paying more for our energy but short term decisions to keep prices artificially low will prove to be more disruptive and more expensive over the long term." Mr Johnson's comments came as AGL confirmed it was on target to meet its existing profit guidance for its 2009 financial year of net earnings of between $360 million and $390 million.

That compares to the net profit of $355 million it declared for the year to June 30, which itself was 8 per cent up on the previous 12 months. Michael Fraser, AGL's chief executive who replaced his controversial predecessor, Paul Anthony, exactly a year ago, said the company had enjoyed a "solid" first quarter, a period that covers most of the winter months. Mr Anthony's 17-month reign saw him earn $17 million before he left the company. AGL's shares rose 16c yesterday to $13.60.

Canada’s vote dims hopes on climate change
15 October, 2008

Canada's Conservative Party, which has consistently received low marks on environmental issues, expanded its position as the ruling party after securing more than a third of the popular vote in Tuesday's federal election. The Liberal Party suffered a disappointing second place finish after weeks of being attacked by Conservative Party leaders on its proposed federal carbon tax.

But the Conservatives did not receive enough support to form the majority government it was seeking, meaning it must still work with other parties to pass legislation. A return of the Liberals to power either independently or as part of a governing coalition with other opposition parties would have provided a major boost to climate change initiatives such as the party's proposed carbon tax.

Liberal Party leader St├ęphane Dion introduced the party's Green Shift plan in June, which included a carbon tax that would immediately price greenhouse gas emissions at C$10 (US$8.47) per tonne, reaching C$40 per tonne within four years. The Conservative Party has resisted efforts to impose a carbon levy or hard emissions cap, proposing an intensity-based approach to emissions criticised by opposition parties as insufficient.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a new carbon tax would hurt jobs and damage Canada's economy. His government also abandoned Canadian efforts to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. A Sierra Club of Canada analysis ranked the Green Party as having the best plan to address environmental issues, but the party did not gain a single seat in the election.

The NDP and Liberals tied for second place while the Bloc came in third. The Conservative Party received the worst scores on environmental issues in the environmental group's analysis. The Conservative Party won a total of 143 seats in Parliament, picking up 19 seats from the 2006 elections by garnering 37.6% of the popular vote. In contrast, the Liberal Party secured only 76 seats, losing 27 seats from its 2006 tally after receiving just 26.2% of the vote.

Battery powers ahead

Canberra Times
Friday 17/10/2008 Page: 21

A CSIRO-invented battery is doing its bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making hybrid electric vehicles more efficient and affordable. The UltraBattery has four times the life cycle of conventional energy storage systems, produces 50 per cent more power and is 70 per cent cheaper than the batteries now used in hybrid electric vehicles. The battery will now be distributed internationally under a deal with Japan's Furukawa Battery Company and US manufacturer East Penn. The Japanese company has already begun production of the technologically advanced battery.

The UltraBattery combines an enhanced-power negative electrode and a lead acid battery in a single unit and has applications for lowemissions transport and renewable energy storage. The exclusive sub-licence agreement will see the UltraBattery distributed by East Penn throughout North America while Furukawa will release the technology in Japan and Thailand. CSIRO director Dr John Wright says he is delighted to see an Australian-developed technology gain attention on a world stage.

"This technology could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by lowering the cost of hybrid electric vehicles and increasing their uptake, meaning that we could be looking at success on both commercial and environmental fronts," Wright says. The UltraBattery was not yet licensed in Australia for automotive applications. CSIRO was accepting expressions of interest for manufacture and distribution of the technology in this region. The UltraBattery technology also had applications for renewable energy storage from wind and solar.

New clean energy projects, jobs and investments are on the map

Clean Energy Council
17 October 2008

Clean Energy CouncilNATIONAL: The Clean Energy Council today congratulated the federal government on launching the national renewable energy atlas ahead of increasing the renewable energy target to 20% by 2020. The online tool provides comprehensive information on Australia's plentiful renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and biomass; as well as a map of transmission infrastructure and other geographic elements.

The Clean Energy Council CEO, Matthew Warren said: "This map is a fantastic resource that will assist both the industry for locating projects and communities seeking to make the most of zero-emission, natural energy sources in their area." Mr Warren said the atlas shows what this industry has been saying for years – Australia has some of the world's best and most diverse clean energy reserves, giving it real potential to become a global clean energy Silicon Valley.

"The clean energy industry is ready to commit billions of dollars of new investment into regional communities, we are just waiting for the federal government to flick the switch," Mr Warren said. "Given the emerging scarcity of global capital, the government will need to move swiftly to drive key infrastructure projects, or risk losing investment offshore. "The rules have changed in the past weeks," he said, "it's crucial we don't allow global credit scarcity to impede Australia assuming its rightful status as a clean energy superpower."

The Clean Energy Council will include the atlas as part of its program at the National Conference and Exhibition on the Gold Coast, 24-26 November 2008.

Masdar takes 20% stake in London Array
London, 16 October:

Masdar has taken a 20% stake in the London Array, the UK's flagship offshore wind farm that is due to begin operating in 2012. The Abu Dhabi government-backed clean energy investment company's involvement follows the withdrawal earlier this year of Royal Dutch/Shell from the project, leaving the London Array in the hands of two shareholders, power utilities E.ON and Denmark's DONG Energy.

Shell's decision cast doubts over whether the £2.4 billion ($4.1 billion), 1,000MW project would actually be built. The London Array is set to be the largest offshore wind farm in the world and represents a significant step towards the UK meeting its target of producing 20% of its electricity from offshore wind by 2020. Masdar paid an undisclosed sum to buy a 20% stake in the project from E.ON, leaving the German utility holding 30% and Dong the remaining 50%.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "I very much welcome Masdar's decision to invest in renewable energy in the UK. This is an excellent example of the partnership we need between oil-producing and oil-consuming countries to develop new energy sources and technologies, diversifying their economies and reducing our dependence on carbon." Masdar and E.ON "will also extend their relationship further and intend to work together across a range of potential projects that will complement their existing renewable energy strategies", according to the German firm.

The initial focus will be on wind energy and the London Array project, but this will broaden out into other renewable energies and carbon emission reduction projects such as those under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation scheme.

A spokesman for E.ON said the firms were looking to develop projects "with similar scale and scope as the London Array". The Abu Dhabi government has invested $15 billion in Masdar, which in May committed $2 billion to start production on thin-film solar photovoltaic cells, and last month made a €120 million ($177 million) investment in Finnish wind turbine manufacturer WinWinD.

ASX to launch renewables, carbon products
London, 16 October:

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is planning to list futures and options contracts for renewable energy certificates and carbon pollution permits and also has ambitions to service New Zealand's emissions trading scheme. The exchange will be ready to offer futures and options contracts on carbon pollution permits as soon as "we see the ink dry" on the legislation establishing the Australian scheme, emerging markets general manager Anthony Collins told Environmental Finance.

In the interim, the exchange aims to "give everybody a sense of what the product specifications will look like so they can start getting their houses in order and thinking about how they can use it", he said. The futures contracts would settle on the first business day in November each year, mirroring the limited number of trades in the over-the-counter market that have occurred to date. Options contracts would expire on the first business day in October.

The ASX plans to launch its futures and options contracts for renewable energy certificates (RECs) sometime between February and May, Collins said. At a carbon price of US$14 per tonne, the carbon market will be worth about US$5.6 billion a year, while the RECs market is likely to be worth roughly US$1.4 billion a year in 2020, Collins said. The Australian government is due to issue a white paper on emissions trading legislation by the end of the year, with a scheme expected to start in 2010. The ASX is also to launch futures and options contracts for New Zealand electricity, and Collins said it is keen to service New Zealand's emissions trading scheme.

Collins says this would be a "natural extension" of the ASX's activities in New Zealand, given that it has operated the country's only futures and options market since 1993. "Most of the banks and financial firms that have an interest in servicing the scheme in New Zealand actually reside in Australia," he added. However, any ASX moves in New Zealand would await the outcome of the 8 November general election, he said.

The opposition National Party, which is favourite to win the election, has pledged to introduce a series of changes to the trading scheme. Passage of New Zealand's emissions trading legislation meant there was now regulatory certainty, but there is still "a lot of political uncertainty", he said. The New Zealand scheme began operating this year, but will cap energy sector emissions from 2010. ASX briefing details are available online.