Thursday 27 November 2008

Maldives sends mayday signal as seas rise - The lowest nation on earth is saving to buy a new home

Sunday Age
Sunday 16/11/2008 Page: 17

MaldivesSO WHAT do you do if you are the newly elected president of a small, relatively impoverished country whose greatest claim to fame, besides arguably the finest beaches hi the world, is the fact that it is slowly sinking into the sea? You lose no time reminding the world of that fact. And to underline tine urgency of the problem, you reveal the startling news that you are seriously thinking about moving the whole nation elsewhere.

That is what Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, did last week. He aims to start setting aside some of his country's sizeable tourist revenue to set up a land-purchase fund. "We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own so we have to buy land elsewhere," he said on the eve of his inauguration. "We do not want to leave the Maldives but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades."

It is an intriguing, if deeply depressing idea: the first nation on earth to be forced to abandon its homeland because of of global warming and rising sea levels. Mr Nasheed is talking about relocating the Maldives' 300,000-strong population to nearby India, or Sri Lanka or possibly Australia. But would it be feasible? The current consensus seems to be that it is not.

"It would be very difficult for a state, as such, to move," says Dr Graham Price, head of tine Asia program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. "There can be ad hoc migration, of course, even of quite large numbers. But there are big jurisdictional issues here, issues of sovereignty. That said, it is a real problem, and one we're going to have to get used to.

Nasheed is saying to the world, we really have to think about this. We want to stay together, we don't want to lose our culture, and this isn't our fault." No one doubts the Maldives' crisis is real. Made up of nearly 1200 islands and atolls -200 of them inhabited - in the Indian Ocean, it holds the record for the country with the lowest high point on earth: nowhere does the natural ground level exceed 2.3 metres.

Most of its land mass is a great deal lower than that, averaging around 1.5 metres. Climate change will affect the Maldives more than most places. Sea levels in the area have risen by about 20 centimetres in the past century and the UN estimates they will rise 58 centimetres more by 2100. The country and its capital, Male, were inundated by unusually high tides in 1987 that caused millions of dollars worth of damage. The Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, was even more devastating. The wave that struck the Maldives was barely a metre high but it killed 82 people, displaced 12,000 and inflicted $US375 million of damage (including $100 million to the exclusive beachside resorts).

Tourists may be vital to the Maldives' economy but they are all but ignorant of its problems. The country is one of the world's most up market destinations, its luxurious beachside bungalows particularly popular with honeymooning couples. Nearly 90 otherwise uninhabited islands have been turned into resorts that pull in more than 600,000 mostly European visitors each year.

But while the average visitor apparently spends about $300 a day, they will rarely come into contact with local Maldivians, transported to their atoll by speedboat or small plane, and never stepping off it except for the odd day cruise. This industry, though, accounts for maybe one-third of the Maldives' GDP and at least 60% of its foreign exchange. Import duties and tourism-related taxes generate more than 90% of the government's income; there is little other economic activity on the islands except for fishing.

Few of those visitors are going to keep coming once their accommodation risks slipping beneath the waves at any moment. The Maldives has been working for some time on one possible solution: constricting a new island, Hulu Male, or New Male, to which it hopes to be able to transfer the populations of some of its lowest lying atolls and, eventually, the capital, one of the most densely populated towns in the world.

"They've. been dredging the waters around the existing island to raise it to above the 2.1-metre mark," says Saleemul Huq, head of the climate-change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development. Some of the smallest inhabited atolls, Mr Huq says, "are thinking in terms of relocation', but only, at this stage, within the archipelago.

Longer term, though, "if the measures we are taking to counter global warming do not prove sufficient, then it may well be that people will have to be moved further afield." Such eventualities are being discussed already, Mr Huq says, with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change providing an initial forum to talk through the "adaptation' of the most vulnerable countries. The island of Tuvalu, for example, is in talks with Australia about much the same kind of idea.

Cultural differences would be minimal if Maldivians moved to Sri Lanka or India (many already work there, and wealthy Maldivians have, been buying homes in Sri Lanka for years). Amid India's 1.13 billion people, 300,000 Maldivians is not be a lot. But apart from the human cost of uprooting them, the international legal system is not up to the job.

"There isn't really a big plot of land in either country which you could say is available," says Dr Price. "There's a possible parallel with the case of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal - the US has volunteered to take 60,000 of them. But that is a group of people, not a nation.... If they have money I suppose somewhere in Africa might volunteer - maybe a place like the Zanzibar could work? A state cannot play host to another state. In Sri Lanka at least, the whole cause of its civil war is precisely this kind of federal issue."

The inventory of conflict and environment at the American University in Washington, DC, foresees potential for conflict beyond the Maldives as sea levels rise. "It is possible that the Maldives would seek to be compensated by polluting countries for the loss of their islands," it suggests in an advisory paper.

Fridges disappear

Sun Herald
Sunday 16/11/2008 Page: 36

THE 5000th fridge has been collected as part of the NSW Government-backed Fridge Buyback program. Climate Change Minister Carmel Tebbutt said the households that sold their second fridge to the scheme for $35 would save a total of almost $1 million on energy bills this year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5000 tonnes "Every fridge taken out of circulation saves one tonne of greenhouse gas emissions a year and an average of $190 on electricity bills," she said.

The collected fridges under the scheme were professionally degassed and the metals recycled. Fridges account for about 13 per cent of a household's electricity use and older fridges can use up to three times the energy of new fridges. Almost a third of Sydney households have a second fridge. To be eligible for the buyback, the fridge must be a working second fridge that is at least 10 years old and with a capacity of at least 250 litres.

To book, see or call 1800 708401.

Basslink 2 on drawing board, Transend looks to secure energy future

Hobart Mercury
Friday 14/11/2008 Page: 13

Transend is considering a second Basslink connection with Victoria, as concerns about Tasmania's future energy security grow. The transmission company's annual report says Tasmania is at risk of energy constraints because of its heavy reliance on hydro-electricity. "This means that even with sufficient installed capacity to sleet peak demand, the Tasmanian power system may not be able to meet energy needs due to the unavailability of water," it says.

Energy Minister David Llewellyn said a second cable may be needed, not for energy security, but to export energy interstate. "We are aware that, as part of their long-term strategic planning, Transend has considered the potential impact of an expanded mandatory renewable energy target and the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme on new energy investment in Tasmania," Mr Llewellyn said.

"It's entirely reasonable that in the longer tern, new investment in renewables could warrant serious consideration of a second cable to transport Tasmania's abundant renewable energy to the National Electricity Market. "That said, the project is not currently under active consideration by the Government." Transend has warned its capacity to transfer more equity to Hydro Tasmania is limited.

In the past financial year, the company has injected $50 million into Hydro Tasmania and taken on $220 million in debt. Aurora Energy has posted an after-tax profit of $27.2 million. The profit came as the energy retailer acknowledged the hardship caused by power price hikes last financial year. Prices rose by 15.7 per cent in January, with an additional 4 per cent rise in July and another 4 per cent increase mid-2009.

Aurora chief executive Peter Davis said the pricing determination had allowed the company to start a $588 million capital investment program to cater for customer demand. However, he acknowledged the increases across the business and residential sectors had placed extra pressure on Tasmanian families.

"We are committed to working with community groups and our customers to ease the impact of the price increases through initiatives such as our Hardship Program and energy efficiency awareness campaigns," Dr Davis said. During 2007-08 more than 1069 customers were assisted with hardship payments totalling $92,541, an increase on the previous year when 930 customers received payments totalling $88,119.

Alert over 6C global warm up

Courier Mail
Friday 14/11/2008 Page: 26

GREENHOUSE gas emissions will push up global temperatures by as much as 6C in the long term, warns the International Energy Agency. In a report out yesterday the IEA says preventing catastrophic and irreversible damage needs a major decarbonisation of world energy sources. The agency is an adviser on oil supply, energy prices and greenhouse gases to 28 countries, including Australia.

Agency executive director Nobuo Tanaka said the financial crisis could not be used as an excuse to delay urgent action needed to ensure secure supplies and cut rising greenhouse gas emissions. "We must usher in a global energy revolution by improving energy efficiency and increasing the deployment of lowcarbon energy," he said. The report said energy demand, although still growing at 1.6 per cent a year, had eased due to the economic slowdown.

It expects demand for coal to rise more than any other fuel, accounting for more than a third of the increase in energy use. Modern renewables such as solar and wind energy will grow most rapidly, overtaking gas to become the second largest source of electricity soon after 2010. China and India account for more than half of incremental energy demand to 2030, while the Middle East has emerged as a major new demand centre.

Mr Tanaka said trends in energy supply and consumption were unsustainable environmentally, economically and socially. He warned: "They can and must be altered." Oil would remain the world's main source of energy but the sources of oil, the cost of producing it and prices that we will have to pay are uncertain. "One thing is certain. While market imbalances will feed volatility, the era of cheap oil is over," he said.

WWF-Australia spokesman Paul Toni said that because the IEA accepted that temperatures could rise by as much as 6C, it reinforced the urgent needed to set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels. "Such a massive temperature rise would have devastating and irreversible impacts on our economy and environment," Mr Toni said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is not expected to finalise climate change policies until after talks in Poznan, Poland, and will want to see the position of US president-elect Barack Obama.

Nuclear power `a must'

Courier Mail
Friday 14/11/2008 Page: 26

AUSTRALIA has no choice but to consider nuclear energy in its future energy mix, leading nuclear industry advocate Ziggy Switkowski says. Even with development of renewable energy and the rollout of carbon capture technology, nuclear energy had to be included if Australia was to meet its carbon reduction targets, he said. Dr Switkowski, the chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, yesterday presented the 34th annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture.

"I am concerned that the exclusion of nuclear energy from our national conversation and energy debate represents a triumph of political pragmatism over good policy," he said. "When it comes to the generation of base-load electricity - the 80 per cent of electricity that must be available round the clock to power our refrigerators, washing machines, plasma TVs, traffic lights, air conditioners - the options in front of us include the use of coal, gas, oil, hydro-electricity and nuclear energy.

"If fossil fuels are excluded because they are dirty and the risks to hydro-electricity from water scarcity are considered, the only presently available clean option for base-load electricity is nuclear energy." Dr Switkowski said significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would be beyond the capability of existing technologies, while renewable energy platforms would fail to deliver the cuts in the time allowed.

EU supergrid to cut Russia's grip on energy

Friday 14/11/2008 Page: 8

EUROPE is set to embark upon a supergrid of power supplies to protect its energy from the threat of a Russian stranglehold. The building blocks of the proposed supergrid would be new cables linking North Sea wind farms, and a network patching together the disparate electricity grids of the Baltic region and the countries bordering the Mediterranean, according to a blueprint drawn up by the European Commission.

EU states will also be asked to pay for at least two ambitious gas pipelines to bring in supplies from Central Asia and Africa. The plans also call for a Community Gas Ring, a network allowing EU countries to share supplies if Russia turns off the taps. Analysts estimate the two projects will cost billions of dollars. The EU Energy Security Plan notes that Europe imports 61 per cent of its gas, a figure projected to rise to 73 per cent by 2020. Russia sells about two-fifths of the total, including the entire supply of several countries.

The proposals come a day before an EU summit meeting with Russia in France, which is designed to reopen talks on a pact covering economic and energy links after the crisis in relations caused by the war in Georgia in August. Europe must take "the first steps to break the cycle of increasing energy consumption, increasing imports, and increasing outflow of wealth created in the EU to pay energy producers", according to the European Commission document.

Without referring specifically to Russia, it adds: "Remaining reserves and spare production capacity are becoming increasingly concentrated in a few hands. "With respect to the EU, this is of most concern with respect to gas, where a number of member states are overwhelmingly dependent on one single supplier.

"Political incidents in supplier or transit countries, accidents or natural disasters ... remind the EU of the vulnerability of its immediate energy supply." Britain supports the first step of the supergrid scheme to connect all the wind farms in the North Sea, which will channel electricity into a central hub from the waters of several countries including The Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Britain. Supporters argue that a shared system will make each country less reliant on local weather conditions for renewable energy in the drive to replace Russian hydrocarbons.

Nick Medic, of the British Wind Energy Association, said: "This follows an agreement between Norway and Holland to connect the two countries with an undersea cable. The logic is that hydropower (in Norway) can offset the variability of wind energy (from Holland). If the wind energy goes up, you can switch off the hydro. It is something that Denmark and Norway have also done for years. "The proposed North Sea grid means that if you have less wind in the British sector, you can access wind blowing off the German coast." An EU-wide network will mean that wind energy becomes even more reliable.

The British Government supports the plans. "We have been calling for the EU to do more on energy security. The idea of a supergrid could support the Government's aim of developing offshore wind energy and other renewables and implementing more interconnection between European electricity markets," a spokeswoman said. Similar link-ups were to be outlined overnight for the Baltic region and the Mediterranean, with the long-term goal of a single European grid.

The common EU gas ring will require construction of the southern corridor pipeline to bring gas supplies from Azerbaijan and a trans-Saharan pipe for gas from Nigeria. The EU faces tough competition, however, from Gazprom, the huge gas company in Russia, which is already negotiating to buy supplies from both countries for rival projects.

All of these measures will run alongside the EU goal of a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency by 2020, as well as a 20 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions and 20 per cent of energy to come from renewable sources, the so-called 20-20-20 targets. The EC will spell out the urgency of making progress with energy security, because of the dominance of Russia and because of the economic uncertainties surrounding imports.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Garrett praises new centre

NT Business Review
November, 2008 Page: 4

solar centreA MULTI-million dollar solar centre in Alice Springs is set to become one of the world's top 10 sources of solar data. The town is now the heart of Australia's solar industry, and the new centre is the nation's largest and most diverse, with more than 15 solar technology installations. The installations were officially unveiled by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett at the Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre.

He joined DKA chief executive John Huigen, Territory Minister for Central Australia, Alison Anderson, project partners, industry experts and residents at the launch. "While solar technology research was big in the 1970s and eighties, this is the renaissance of solar, and in Australia this centre is the place where the research becomes a reality," Mr Garrett said. Senior project manager Lyndon Frearson said the solar centre aimed to provide technical information as a technology testing ground.

But it has also been designed as a tourist attraction and educational facility for students and the public. "This will have the ability to capture people's attention - I've already heard people saying that it's 'really cool'," he said. "That's what we want, but I think the big thing is that this is an Alice Springs initiative. The idea was conceived, designed, engineered and built by locals.

"This is Alice Springs really making it happen." A unique aspect of the centre is that it will constantly collect and collate data from the technology, building up a public internet database over time. "When it is all finished, this will be in the top 10 of data collecting centres in the world," Mr Frearson said. "I think the data we collect will, of course, inform the public and large companies about the best options. "But also I think it will inform policy-making and its direction into the future."

Recycling fear on emissions trading

Friday 14/11/2008 Page: 5

THE recycling industry has warned it could become a perverse victim of emissions trading, with plants that help cut Australia's carbon footprint risk being forced to close and hundreds of jobs lost. Industry body the Australian Council of Recyclers says that while some recycling companies will have to bear the full cost of buying greenhouse permits and higher electricity costs, big emitters using virgin materials will qualify for free permits.

In a submission to the Government, the council's chief executive Anne Prince said jobs would be lost and the industry scaled back as recycling - and its carbon emissions - was exported to more viable countries, such as China. "Nearly all the recycling industry is likely to be adversely affected by this policy including paper, glass, metals, plastics, tyres, motor vehicles and electronic waste reprocessing," she said.

The council backs emissions trading, but calls for a complementary scheme that rewards industries that recover energy and stop degradable organic carbon going to landfill. Recycling giant Visy has warned that the Government's emissions trading proposal would force it to close recycling and paper mills in Melbourne and Sydney, at a cost of 160 jobs.

It estimates a carbon price of $20 a tonne will mean it costs $18.80 more to produce a tonne of recycled cardboard than the cost for a company that uses non-recycled material. Amcor Australasia sustainability and recycling general manager Andrew Vanstone said emissions trading alone did not reflect the host of ways in which recycling helped the environment.

"It becomes more viable for recycling to be shipped overseas, converted into paper and brought back," be said. "There isn't recognition that recycling a tonne of paper means you avoid about 2.1 tonnes of carbon from landfill." The recycling industry has an annual turnover of nearly $12 billion, and in 2006 directly employed nearly 11,000 people.

The Boomerang Alliance estimates recovering all recyclable material that goes to landfill could cut Australia's emissions by 7%. Under the Government's emissions green paper, the most carbon intensive emitters will receive either 90% or 60% of carbon permits free. There is no compensation for industries that have already taken steps to cut emissions.

"It is really tipping the scales against those who have been doing the right thing for a long time," Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham said. The world's biggest zinc producer Nyrstar, which does not qualify for free permits, said this week that emissions trading would lead to it closing its smelters in Tasmania and South Australia, costing thousands of jobs. The final design of the Government's emissions scheme is due to be released before the end of the year.

Greener means cheaper

Courier Mail
Thursday 13/11/2008 Page: 19

recyclingTIMES are tight in the business world but more small firms are discovering going green can help cut costs. From abattoirs and hotels to office towers and care homes, Queensland companies have been making big cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions. Karin Dawson, of the Manly Hotel, in Brisbane's bayside, said it had cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 17 tonnes with some simple and cheap changes.

"We've got recycling programs for pretty much every sort of waste we slued the office paper and give that to a local pet store," she said. "We upgraded the airconditioners to more efficient models, we turn lights off and we cut the temperature of the hot water'." As part of The Courier-Mail's One Degree Challenge, we are are looking for a small business to join four households in cutting greenhouse emissions.

Each group will be audited by energy company Origin Energy and will complete our One Degree Carbon Calculator. The Manly Hotel was among 17 smaller companies recognised in the State Government's ecoBiz program yesterday. Another was Queensland Complete Printing Services (QPrint) at Nambour, which is switching all its power to renewable energy from Origin Energy after saving 30 per cent on electricity.

QPrint planning manager Don Parry said: "Because we reinvested our savings to buy green electricity, we can cut our greenhouse emissions from energy to virtually zero without it increasing our cost of production." Among QPrint's measures were installing more efficient airconditioners and lighting, and turning off machinery not being used.

"All these things can be simple and easy," Mr Parry said. "When the benefits are both financial and environmental. the idea has got real legs to it." Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara said: "These companies are reducing water and energy consumption, waste and greenhouse gases, and their carbon footprint. "At the same time, they are spending less on their operating costs, gaining a competitive advantage, and placing Queensland businesses at the forefront of eco-efficient practices."

Hotel spends millions to tap solar energy

NT Business Review
November, 2008 Page: 4

THE largest building-mounted solar panel system in Australia is being installed at an Alice Springs hotel. More than 1300 photovoltaic cells, worth $3 million, will reduce the Crowne Plaza Hotel's annual carbon dioxide emission load by 420 tonnes. The panels are being installed as part of the Alice Solar City commercial program, which encourages changes in commercial electricity consumption habits.

Alice Solar City general manger Brian Elmer said: For one business to contribute such a substantial reduction to Alice Springs' carbon footprint is an impressive achievement. And this is just the first of four projects, with the big one being a solar farm out at Ilparpa, as well as a major solar energy installation at the airport and solar air-conditioning at Araluen Arts Centre.

It is looking very positive for the future of solar energy in Alice Springs." Crowne Plaza general manager Adam Glass said: This is something the hotel owner is very passionate about. He has, for a long time, wanted to make the hotel more and more environmentally-friendly and conscious of energy consumption. "We've already put in place several initiatives, such as water-restricting shower heads and glass recycling.

The great thing about this is our roof line - it is almost all sloping and facing north, maximising our sunlight coverage Its almost perfect how the panels go on," Mr Glass said the hotel was also planning to create an in-house channel with regular updates on the project, information about solar technology and references to Alice Solar City and the new Centre at the Desert Knowledge Precinct. We also are just making final decisions about our interactive information display, which will be in the front lobby," she said.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Generator warns over merger

West Australian
Wednesday 12/11/2008 Page: 56

Verve EnergyThe chairman of WA's newest private power station has warned that Government proposals to reunite State-owned electricity generator Verve Energy with retailer Synergy Energy could threaten investment in the industry and result in higher electricity prices for households. Trevor St Baker urged the State Government to consider the benefits, such as competition, the split up of the old Western Power had brought. "Our investment in the State has been a direct result of the disaggregation of the State's electricity market," he said.

Premier Colin Barnett has suggested the Government may re-merge Synergy Energy and Verve Energy, believing vast administrative savings could be made to help offset the need to increase domestic power prices, which have not risen for more than a decade despite rising costs. But, speaking after the opening of NewGen Power's Kwinana plant on Friday, Mr St Baker said a reunion of the companies would mean private investors would again face a government monopoly in the electricity market which could see them take their investment elsewhere. "Competitive tension is the thing that produces ideas, innovation and enterprise and cheaper prices," he said.

NewGen's gas-fired plant is the State's most efficient power station and will produce a crucial 320MW of electricity around the clock, equal to about 10 per cent of the power needs in Perth and the South-West. It was beset by teething problems during its commissioning but opened ahead of schedule and under budget just in time for the peak summer period of electricity usage. The $400 million power station ran into difficulties because of a lack of gas for testing as a result of the Varanus Island gas explosion in June, which cut 30 per cent of the State's gas supplies.

Further delays followed when the plant's turbines broke down. Industry sources said the company had done a remarkable job to get the project back on schedule and budget before its December 1 deadline. Energy Minister Peter Collier said the project would ensure reliable power supplies to industry and underpin the State's growth.

"One of the State Government's primary objectives this year is to improve power reliability across the State," he said. "The Kwinana power station is an integral part of this initiative and will bring much-needed additional capacity to meet WA's electricity requirements." Mr St Baker said the power station was among the most efficient in the country and would help West Australians reduce their carbon footprint. "This is a combined cycle power station, which means that it produces electricity from two sources - gas and steam," he said.

"The plant harnesses and uses the steam produced from the waste heat in the exhaust of the gas turbine to run a steam turbine, which means we are able to produce more power using less fuel, and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the project." NewGen Power, a partnership of energy company ERM and international investment bank Babcock and Brown, is also building a $400 million, 330MW power station in Neerabup, north of Perth.

World on track for 6 degree warming, says report - Mercury rise to triple Bali goal

Thursday 13/11/2008 Page: 4

THE world is on track to increase average temperatures by six degrees above preindustrial levels by 2100 - three tines the target limit set by governments at last year's Bali summit, the International Energy Agency reports. In its annual World Energy Outlook 2008, released in London last night, the IEA warns that the world now faces an "immense" challenge to hold global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, the goal it set in Bali.

The pace of growth in China, India and other developing countries is set to increase energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions much faster than any action by Western countries could reduce them. The IEA is the energy counterpart of the OECD, a Paris-based think tank funded by Western governments, including Australia, to advise on energy demand, supply, technologies and policy issues. Its advice is seen as authoritative.

This year's report implies that it is now almost impossible for the world to limit greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million (ppm), the target set by ministers last year. To do so, the price of carbon emissions - from electricity, cars, factories and homes would have to rise as high as $US180 ($A270) a tonne by 2030, far above the $20 a tonne featured in Treasury modelling.

Even to hold greenhouse gas concentrations to 550 ppm - the interim target floated by the Garnaut report - would require carbon prices to climb to $US90 a tonne by 2030. In a politically charged finding, IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said its modelling shows it will be impossible to reach the Bali target by reducing emissions in rich countries alone, as was envisaged in Bali.

"We would need concerted action from all major emitters," Mr Tanaka said. "Our analysis shows that OECD countries alone cannot put the world onto a 450 ppm trajectory, even if they were to reduce their emissions to zero." The analysis finds that on current trends, only 3% of the increase in energy-related emissions by 2030 would occur in OECD countries. Instead, 97% of emissions growth would be in developing countries, and 75% in China, India and the Middle East.

Mr Tanaka said the era of cheap oil was over, and the world needed "a global energy revolution" based on lifting energy efficiency and the use of low-carbon energy sources, such as solar, wind, nuclear and carbon capture and storage. "We cannot let the financial crisis delay the policy action that is urgently needed to ensure secure energy supplies and to curtail rising emissions of greenhouse gases," he said.

"Current trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable - environmentally, economically and socially. They can and must be altered." The report says the key responsibility must be taken by the five major emitters: China, the United States, the European Union. India and Russia.

The report comes at a critical time, with environment ministers to meet at the start of December in the Polish city of Poznan to review progress - or lack of it - in negotiations since their Bali meeting. Their goal is to negotiate a post-Kyoto agreement to reduce global warming by the end of next year, when they meet in Copenhagen. But as yet there is no shared vision on the key issue of which countries are to reduce emissions, and by how much.

Green energy for decal plants

Adelaide Advertiser
Tuesday 11/11/2008 Page: 33

green energy turbinesAdelaide entrepreneur Barrie Harrop is planning to build a series of desalination plants and green energy turbines around the coast to help drought proof South Australia. Mr Harrop is hopeful of supplying all the towns that rely on the Murray River with desalinated water and green energy fuelled by biodiesel.

"We can supply any town of more than 1000 people with fresh water and green energy," he said. "Launching the technology from here could also establish the genesis of a new green industry in South Australia, serving the rest of the country and the Asia Pacific." He said that his system offers a major new industry for the state with employment for 250 people.

Since being nominated for a top 100 Green Companies list in the United States, Mr Harrop said he'd had phenomenal inquiries. His concept is for another company backed by superannuation funds to own the desalination plants and turbines with consumers buying water at commercial rates. "Pre-feasibility studies of the green technology, developed in Denmark are under way in South Australia in conjunction with South Australian government agencies," he said.

"Installation of the first plant is anticipated by the end of 2009." Windesal Australia, launched earlier this year by Mr Harrop and based in Adelaide, has 20-year exclusive Australian rights to the Windesal technology. It produces drinking water from either the sea or from brackish ground water, utilising up to 100 per cent renewable energy.

Mr Harrop also has options for worldwide rights to the technology, the first of which has been exercised for Turkey, where demand exists for up to 1000 systems. His company Windesal was a finalist in the 2008 Green awards.

Garrett snubs energy conference

Thursday 13/11/2008 Page: 8

ORGANISERS and participants of the Asia-Pacific region's leading conference on renewable energy have expressed exasperation at the Rudd Government's failure to support their interests while spending billions on the car and coal industries. There was also confusion about whether Environment Minister Peter Garrett or any other minister would open the International Solar Energy Society's 3rd Asia-Pacific conference or attend any of its sessions in Sydney this month.

A member of the organising committee, Dr Muriel Watt, said Mr Garrett had said he could not attend, even though the committee offered to move the opening to allow Mr Garrett to return to Canberra in time to attend parliament. "We beat our heads against a wall even to get a minister to talk with its while the car industry and the coal industry get as much attention as they want," Dr Watt, the Australian Photovoltaic Association chairwoman, said.

However, a spokesman for Mr Garrett said the organisers had been advised "that the minister's attendance is subject to being able to get leave from Parliament". About 300 scientists, manufacturers and renewable energy industry leaders from throughout Asia, Australia and New Zealand will attend the conference.

Dr Watt is to deliver a paper that argues that while the world market in photovoltaics - solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity - had grown at more than 35% a year for the past decade, generating $US17.2 billion last year, Australia's participation in the industry had become increasingly irrelevant, despite pioneering research and manufacturing.

Carbon trading slammed

Courier Mail
Wednesday 12/11/2008 Page: 76

OIL giant Exxon-MobilExxon-Mobil yesterday took a potshot at federal Treasury's view of the likely economic effects of emissions trading, saying it wanted no part of the carbon reduction scheme. The company also said policymakers were too ambitious in pinning their hopes on the yet unproven technology of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to buffer Australia's coal dependent economy from a low emission future.

"People talk about CCS fairly glibly, not understanding what it will cost to make it work and the costs if it doesn't," Exxon-MobilExxon-Mobil Australia and New Zealand refinery head Glenn Henson said. Mr Henson warned that the company would not be able to compete with cheaper, imported oil exempt from the carbon costs Australian refineries would have to pay once emissions trading began in 2010.

"Don't give me money just give me a level playing field," he said after addressing a business forum on Treasury's climate change modelling. None of Exxon-Mobil's local operations quality for transitional assistance under the revenue rules in Climate Change Minister Penny Wong's carbon reduction green paper.

Use the Earth's warmth for limitless clean energy

Canberra Times
Monday 10/11/2008 Page: 11

In their quest for energy security, Indonesia and the Philippines are planning to develop nuclear energy to buttress a key part of their electricity-generating systems. This provides the near constant, or baseload, power needed by industries and households.

However, the possibility of accidents and deadly radioactive releases from nuclear energy plants - particularly those in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines which are peppered with active volcanoes and subject to earthquakes and tsunamis - worries neighbouring nations, among them Australia and Singapore. Such plants would be sited on coastlines so they could draw water from the sea for cooling purposes. Yet the very basis for these safety concerns points to a solution.

Instead of going nuclear with its risks, Indonesia and the Philippines could expand what they are already doing: tapping the virtually limitless heat from deep underground to power their economies. The two South-East Asian countries are the world's biggest geothermal electricity producers, after the United States.

This form of renewable energy supplies just over 23 per cent of the electricity generated in the Philippines and 5 per cent in Indonesia. It has reliability advantages over solar and wind energy, mainly because geothermal fields do not stop producing energy after the sun sets, or when the wind ceases to blow or gusts too hard.

Coming from the earth's molten core and from the decay of naturally occurring elements such as uranium and thorium, the heat energy in the uppermost 10km of the planet's crust is vast - 50,000 times greater than the energy content of all known oil and natural gas resources.

Among countries with the richest geothermal resources are those that he atop the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a hot geological zone that encircles the Pacific Ocean. They include the western US, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Russia, Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand.

On a worldwide basis, hydro power is by far the most important renewable energy source, accounting for 19 per cent of global electricity production. Wind generates just 1 per cent of world power. While both geothermal and solar energy each provide well under 1 per cent, they have the potential to supply much more. Indonesia is the world's third biggest producer of geothermal electricity. Yet it supplies barely 1000 megawatts of an estimated 27,000 MW potential from its geothermal resources, one of the world's largest.

It plans to develop new capacity of nearly 7000 MW over the next decade, equivalent to ten nuclear energy plants and equal to nearly 30 per cent of its current electricity generating capacity from all sources. The Philippines, the number two producer after the US, aims to increase its installed geothermal capacity by 2013 by over 60 per cent, to just over 3100 MW.

But first impediments in both countries to expanded geothermal investment must be removed. A presidential decree in Indonesia last month offered tax incentives for expanded production from existing fields and development of new resources.

However, political bickering in the Philippines has blocked passage of a renewable energy Bill to provide greater incentives and clarity. In both countries, official red tape, difficulty in gaining access to public and private land for development projects, and disputes over the price offered for geothermal electricity going into state-owned power supply networks had slowed progress.

Now the global squeeze on credit and the recent fall in prices of competing fossil fuel energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas, are putting additional barriers in the way of geothermal expansion. Still, the potential for growth remains promising. According to a recent survey by the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, geothermal energy is being tapped in 24 countries, five of which used it to produce 15 per cent or more of their total electricity.

In the first half of this year, world installed geothermal power capacity passed 10,000 MW and now produces enough electricity to meet the needs of 60 million people, roughly the population of Britain. By 2010, capacity could increase to 13,500 MW in 46 countries.

Most geothermal plants in operation around the world tap into underground pockets of high temperature water or steam to drive steam turbines. These ventures need high capital investment for exploration, drilling and plant and pipeline construction, compared with coal or gas-fired electricity plants. However, operation and maintenance costs are relatively low.

New geothermal technologies enable electricity to be generated at much lower temperatures. They use liquids with lower boiling points than water in heat exchange systems, opening a vast new frontier for geothermal power.

Tide turns for power investors

Monday 10/11/2008 Page: 3

Tidal powerIT IS being backed by one of Wall Street's giant financial institutions and has links to the British royal family, but many Victorians would be forgiven for knowing nothing about it, let alone that it is being done in their own backyard.

Tidal power has always been a source of natural energy, clean and green, but relatively expensive in terns of being operated on a large, commercial scale. But as governments grapple with the reality of climate change and go hunting for less greenhouse-intensive ways of meeting energy needs, this daily occurrence is being closely examined again.

Tidal power makes use of the kinetic energy of moving water through turbines to generate power in a similar way to wind farms using moving air. In May this year Atlantis Resources Corporation successfully completed the installation and grid connection of a relatively small 150-kilowatt, $1 million turbine named Nereus at San Remo, near Phillip Island. Atlantis chief executive Tim Cornelius says he is keen to put $6 Million of turbines off Victoria's coastline and several more in Western Australia.

"There is so much resource," he said. "We're looking to install the world's largest tidal turbine in Western Australia next year, but there are also strong currents around the heads of Port Phillip Bay and off Queenscliff." Two months ago US investment bank Morgan Stanley became the company's biggest shareholder, taking a 49% stake following Atlantis' takeover of its tidal power project.

"Clean tech is a major bullish space even in spite of the prevailing economic conditions," Mr Cornelius said. "People see clean tech as the next big investment space. "Traditionally tidal would be the paradigm of the utilities space, but now you are looking at the major private equity houses, the oil and gas players.

All these guys are wanting to come on board and they are not talking in a small way, they want 200 to 300-megawatt projects." While the technology is still in development around the world, countries such as South Korea and China are involved in small-scale tidal projects. The technology is also expected to form part of US president-elect Barack Obama's $150 billion alternative energy fund.

Atlantis is also pushing ahead with opening a computer data centre in Scotland which could be powered by tidal energy. Discussions are under way for the excess energy to be used to warm Mey Selections' greenhouses, Prince Charles' organic food business. Mr Cornelius said he wanted to work with the federal and state governments in expanding tidal power in Australia.

Emma Tyner, a spokeswoman for Energy Minister Peter Batchelor, said funding under the Victorian Government's Energy Technology Innovation Strategy would soon be available. "Companies wanting to invest in tidal power will be entitled to apply for a grant," she said.


Clean Energy Council welcomes Senate report, calls for action on gross tariffs

Clean Energy Council
10 November 2008

NATIONAL: The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has welcomed a Senate Environment Committee's support for a national system of feed-in tariffs to support development of distributed renewable energy technologies like photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. In a report released today, the Senate Committee noted strong industry, consumer and government support for feed-in tariff schemes and recommended that the federal government work as quickly as possible towards agreement on a national feed-in tariff framework.

The CEC's solar industry spokesperson, Andrea Gaffney, said the report favoured the use of gross feed-in tariffs which would apply to all the energy generated by these technologies, paving the way for the federal government to adopt a national approach. "Gross feed-in tariffs will provide stability for the solar and other emerging renewable energy industries to invest in Australia's clean energy future", Ms Gaffney said.

"A nationally consistent gross feed-in tariff would reward investors for the savings they deliver to the electricity grid through avoided distribution losses and infrastructure costs. "A gross feed in tariff would formally recognise these benefits and help provide stability to the solar PV industry given the prevailing uncertainty surrounding the future of the federal government's solar rebate program."

Five state and territory governments have already announced a range of feed-in tariff schemes. While their support is welcome, there is wide variation in the design and operation of these schemes, creating inconsistencies for business and consumers which will increase costs and complexity, create market distortions and will ultimately not help the development of the renewable energy industry.

"The industry is keen to transition from rebates and the Council calls upon the federal government to act on the recommendations in this report and quickly adopt a nationally consistent gross feed-in tariff framework and sure up industry certainty."

Monday 24 November 2008

It was greenhouse gas, now it's diesel

Monday 10/11/2008 Page: 2

Hazelwood power stationIT'S a potential win-win situation: use a greenhouse gas to create an environmentally friendly biofuel and make money at the same time. That's the vision and Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley and Smorgon Fuels are working together to achieve it. Smorgon, through a partnership with US company Greenfield, is developing a technology to produce biodiesel from Hazelwood's carbon dioxide emissions.

The CO2 is siphoned from the power station and pumped into waste water channels where, through photosynthesis, micro-algae transforms the CO2 emissions into vegetal matter. About 30% of the organic matter extracted is expected to create the oil feedstock for biodiesel. "We have made biodiesel from this process, but not in great quantities, and we are very satisfied with the quality," Smorgon Fuels managing director Mile Soda said.

"We're now looking at the economics of it. Does it (the algae) stand up as a competitive second-generation feedstock that will allow us commercially to turn it into a fuel and sell it in the marketplace?" The Federal Government's proposed emissions trading scheme may also change the economics of the algae-sourced fuel. "It's unclear how the ETS will work. We would potentially help Hazelwood reduce the amount of emissions and the biofuel itself will have a further recycling value," Mr Soda said.

"Who ends up getting the (carbon) credits is yet to be determined. But clearly there will be a benefit at the power station and the CO2 will be turned into biodiesel." Hazelwood power station produces 16-17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from burning brown coal. "We will make a dent in that if or when we commercialise," Mr Soda said. It's possible the technology could he used at other Latrobe Valley stations.

Smorgon has been holding trials at Hazelwood for 18 months, but the program aims to extend the size of the micro-algae ponds to 1000 hectares and beyond, potentially taking millions of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere. Smorgon calculates this area would reduce CO2 emissions by about 555,000 tonnes.

The company became interested in algae because of the limited amount of feedstock available for biodiesel. At its Laverton North plant, Smorgon uses recycled cooking oil collected from restaurants, outlets such as McDonald's and fish and chip shops as its base biodiesel ingredient to blend with canola oil and animal tallow.

Canola, the best oil, is too expensive and competes with food. "Tallow is good and does not compete in the food market, but it has problems in winter when it can go solid," Mr Soda said. A blend of the two is also still vulnerable in winter if the ratios are not correct.

The Laverton North operation has the capacity to produce 100 million litres of biodiesel a year. "We're not running to full capacity," Mr Soda said. "We are a drop in the ocean in terns of petroleum diesel used." The pure B100, which can be blended with petroleum-diesel, is sold under the brand name BioMax to trucking companies, local councils and through Liberty service stations around Melbourne and Riordan Fuels' locations in rural Victoria.

World Bank issues first ‘green’ bond

London, 12 November:

The World Bank has issued its first bond where the proceeds will be directly invested in climate change-related projects. The bond is the first product of a wider Bank effort, in collaboration with large institutional investors, to direct large-scale institutional money to tackling climate change.

The Bank has raised around $300 million in Swedish krona-denominated six-year bonds, sold by Swedish bank SEB to Scandinavian institutional investors. The money raised will be invested exclusively in technologies that reduce greenhouse gases, energy efficiency projects, reforestation or avoided deforestation projects, or to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

"This was very much based on demand from key investors," Heike Reichelt, head of investor relations at the World Bank, told Environmental Finance. "SEB has had very positive feedback - we think there will be interest in other markets in Europe and maybe in the US." Doris Herrera-Pol, the global head of capital markets in the World Bank treasury department, added that about two thirds of the bonds were sold to life insurance companies, with the remainder going to pension funds, with some - but by no means all - bought by their dedicated socially responsible investment (SRI) portfolios.

Until now, the proceeds of all World Bank bonds - including a handful whose returns are linked to environmental equity indexes or carbon credits - went into a general pot. However, a spokesman said that SRI investors had wanted to ensure that their investments were directed towards climate change projects.

"This allows us to expand our financing for climate change" by tapping into a hitherto closed pool of capital, he added. Herrara-Pol said that, as well as the bond's environmental benefits, the bond investors were also looking for high-quality assets that paid commercial returns. The triple A-rated bonds will pay a coupon 0.25% above Swedish government bond rates.

Meanwhile, Reichelt confirmed that the World Bank is in "the very early stages" of exploring ways to develop products that allow institutional investors to provide large-scale financing to address climate change. Institutional investors have complained that, while there are opportunities to invest in solutions to climate change at the venture capital or private equity level, there is a dearth of products into which they can easily direct tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

Reichelt confirmed that Kenneth Lay, treasurer of the World Bank, has been in discussions with leading investors on the issue, but declined to name individual institutions. "We're hoping to get a discussion going with major investors that focuses on each asset class in their allocation to identify potential opportunities that would provide financing for climate change activities," she said.

Investors call for ‘strong and binding’ climate deal
London, 12 November:

International investors with assets of $6.4 trillion have sent a message to governments ahead of December's UN climate conference asking for a "strong and binding" agreement that will drive investments to address climate change. The financial crisis should not delay these efforts, they added.

"The climate crisis is a multi-generational challenge that requires strong national and international policies immediately. World leaders must shun the excuse that it is too expensive to act to curb global warming. It is too expensive not to act," said Mindy Lubber, director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR).

The December meeting, taking place in PoznaƄ, Poland, will continue talks on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol that are intended to culminate in December 2009 with a new international agreement on climate change. The investors said such an agreement should send clear and long-term policy signals to investors - if they are to allocate the huge amounts of private capital required to fund the transition to a low-carbon economy.

In particular, the investors are looking for:
  • A binding global target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, informed by the latest scientific advice, to 50-85% below 2000 levels by 2050;
  • Long- and medium-term emission reduction targets for developed countries;
  • 'Contributions from developing countries, initially on energy efficiency but with the ultimate aim of taking on absolute emission reduction targets;
  • Continuity of the carbon markets and provisions for an expanded global carbon market;
  • A review, reform and expansion of the Clean Development Mechanism;
  • Clear measures to reverse deforestation and value forests as carbon sinks; and
  • A commitment to adaptation, to prepare and respond to the physical impacts of climate change.
The statement was co-ordinated by the INCR, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change and the Investor Group on Climate Change Australia/New Zealand. Members of these groups include California state pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS, BlackRock, BNP Paribas Asset Management and Deutsche Asset Management.

IEA warns on climate change inaction
London, 12 November:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) today warned against letting the current global financial crisis overshadow efforts to tackle climate change, and cautioned that global temperatures could rise by 6°C if no new policies to tackle rising emissions are adopted.

At the launch of its World Energy Outlook 2008 report, Faith Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based agency, said: "Ignoring the climate change issue, or letting it slide down the list, may mean we have to deal with the climate change issue in the future in more difficult conditions." He added that delaying investments in energy infrastructure because of turmoil in the financial sector could lead to higher prices than seen this summer - when oil peaked at $147/barrel - in the long term. The agency projects that oil prices will average $100/bl over 2008-15 (in 2007 dollars), rising to over $120/bl by 2030 and could spike to $200/bl.

In its reference scenario, based on policies enacted by mid-2008, the IEA said that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could surge by 35% to 60 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (t CO2e) in 2030, from 44 billion t CO2e in 2006. Energy-related CO2 emissions would rise by 45% over the same period, to 41 billion t from 28 billion t, and three-quarters of this rise is projected to come from China, India and the Middle East.

But this scenario would also see renewables overtake gas to become the second-largest source of electricity, with wind and solar energy leading the way.

The IEA also modelled two additional scenarios for climate change: one in which the global temperature rise is held at 3°C, and GHG concentrations at 550 parts per million (ppm) CO2e; and a second scenario where the temperature rise is restricted to 2°C and GHG concentrations at 450ppm CO2e. Both scenarios assume that a new international climate change deal is agreed next year in Copenhagen, and the use of cap-and-trade as well as voluntary action is also envisaged.

Birol noted that, even if OECD countries were to eliminate all emissions-producing activities, this would still not be enough to achieve the 450ppm goal, which would see global energy-related GHG emissions drop to 25.7 billion tonnes CO2e by 2030.

"We have to have non-OECD countries on board to reach 450ppm, or any meaningful reductions," he said. "The biggest challenge we are facing is how to get developing countries on board." The IEA estimates the additional cost to reach the 550ppm goal, on top of reference scenario costs, is $4.1 trillion over 2010-30, equal to 0.24% of annual global GDP. For the 450ppm scenario, the costs equate to 0.55%.

"Is it high or not?" asked Birol, referring to the 450ppm GDP costs. "Depends on who you talk to. Compared to other expenditures, it may not seem such a big expense. "We all agree we need to tackle climate change - but what we don't agree on is who will do what."