Friday 9 January 2009

Solar firms optimistic

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 8/1/2009 Page: 31

THE solar energy industry is gearing up for a brighter future under proposed changes to the Federal Government's rebate scheme from July, Solar Shop Australia says. Business prospects are also bright with small businesses being eligible for a grid connection rebate for the first time since the scheme was introduced in 2000 and no means testing for householders.

The St Peters-based national company has put in place new strategies to capitalise on the changes and hopes to increase its market share to 50% in two years, managing director Adrian Ferraretto said. "The alternative was zero rebate. We were seriously considering a future without rebates, which would have been disastrous for the industry," Mr Ferraretto said.

ETS to cost coal exporters $5bn

Thursday 8/1/2009 Page: 1

THE export coal sector believes it will face a $5 billion carbon burden in the first five years of the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading scheme. The Minerals Council of Australia has stepped up its attack on the proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions as the Government revealed it was unaware which 1000 high carbon emitters would be forced to buy permits to cover their emissions. The council's deputy chief executive Brendan Pearson writes in The Australian today there is a misconception there will be "wheelbarrow loads" of free permits to protect the competitiveness of the export sector.

He argues that Australia is being put at a disadvantage in its coal production at a time when Britain is looking to expand coal production. "These policy developments are contributing to some perverse outcomes," Mr Pearson writes. "The Guardian reported last month on proposals to open 58 new coal mines in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, in Australia - the world's largest coal exporter - production in the coal sector is being scaled back."

Thursday 8 January 2009

Defence warns of climate conflict

Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday 7/1/2009 Page: 1

RISING sea levels could lead to failed states across the Pacific and require extra naval deployments to deal with increases in illegal migration and fishing, a Defence Force analysis says. "Environmental stress" has increased the risk of conflicts over resources and food and may demand greater involvement by the military in stabilisation, reconstruction and disaster relief, the analysis, prepared by Defence's strategic policy division, says. It warns there is a risk of a serious global conflict over the Arctic as melting ice caps allow easier access to undersea oil and gas deposits.

In Australia's northern waters, climate change is expected to change the location of south-east Asian fishing grounds, causing an increase in illegal fishing," says a summary of the analysis. This may raise demand for ADF patrols in these regions." The warnings emerged as a leading NASA scientist, James Hanson, used an open letter to the US president-elect, Barack Obama, to single out Australia's coal exports as a significant cause of climate change.

"Australia exports coal and sets atmospheric carbon dioxide goals so large as to guarantee destruction of much of the life on the planet," Dr Hanson said. The Defence analysis, titled Climate Change, The Environment, Resources And Conflict, was completed in November 2007 for the head of strategy, Michael Pezzullo, a deputy secretary who has since been appointed to oversee the preparation of the Defence White Paper. "Environmental changes will reinforce existing concerns regarding land availability, economic development and control over resources," it says. "Rising sea levels will affect states and islands with low-lying coastlines around the world ...

Food sources are also vulnerable to environmental changes." A summary, obtained by the Herald under freedom of information laws, says: "Environmental stress, caused by both climate change and a range of other factors, will act as a threat multiplier in fragile states around the world, increasing the chances of state failure. This is likely to increase demands for the ADF to be deployed on additional stabilisation, post-conflict reconstruction and disaster relief operations in the future." Defence refused to release the full 12-page analysis, saying its publication could damage Australia's defence capability and international relations.

The paper says climate change may lead to increases in refugees from Pacific Islands, but says few are likely to be able to reach Australia. From a defence planning perspective, we don't know how quickly these changes will occur, exactly what their impact will be, or how states and societies will react," it says. "Nevertheless, climate change may affect security by increasing stress on fragile states, state and societal competition for resources, environmental threats to ADF infrastructure and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

"Climate change is unlikely to increase the risk of major conflict, although there is one exception. The Arctic is melting, potentially making the extraction of undersea energy deposits commercially viable. ... Conflict is a remote possibility if these disputes are not resolved peacefully." The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, described climate change as a "fundamental" challenge last month when he released his national security statement.

Dr Hanson, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said Australia was making "honest efforts" to tackle climate change but failing. Carbon trading schemes such as that proposed by the Federal Government would slow the rate of greenhouse emissions too slowly, Dr Hanson said. "This approach is ineffectual and not commensurate with the climate threat," he said. "It could waste another decade, locking in disastrous consequences for our planet and humanity."

Australia is the world's largest exporter of black coal, shipping about 230 million tonnes a year to supply just over a quarter of world export demand, according to the Australian Coal Association. It is the nation's biggest export earner, but when burned overseas Australian coal generates more than half a billion tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year, or more than all emissions generated within Australia.

20pc say nuclear will carry the load

Wednesday 7/1/2009 Page: 4

ONE in five Australians believes nuclear energy will provide most of the nation's electricity in 20 years, according to the Labor Party's pollster. The findings from UMR Research, obtained by The Australian, will rekindle the nuclear energy debate as the Government aims to tackle climate change. Kevin Rudd has ruled out going down the nuclear road, yet the Prime Minister's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, declared last year that nuclear energy was an important part of the global response to a low emissions economy".

The UMR survey shows that 26% of Australians believe solar energy will supply most of Australia's power and electricity in 2028, while 23% believe it will still come from coal. 10% said most of it would come from wind, 9% favoured gas and 1% chose other sources. Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organisation chair Ziggy Switkowski who headed up an inquiry into the viability of a domestic nuclear energy industry for the Howard government in 2006 described the 20% finding for nuclear energy as "strikingly strong". "The acceptance of nuclear continues to lift," he said.

Dr Switkowski said growing constraints on fossil fuels as the world sought to cut greenhouse gas emissions meant Australia would be "pushed inexorably to introduce nuclear energy, especially for baseload electricity". He said the case for nuclear energy was being progressively understood. "Our goal at this stage is to have an informed public conversation on nuclear energy," he said. "Every result like this, which shows people thinking about the role of nuclear energy and community interest growing, is a positive.

Dr Switkowski said Australia was "between two and four years" away from a major change of attitudes towards nuclear energy. "I think the political tide will turn when two things happen," he said. "The first will be that reality of the emissions targets, particularly post-2020, reveals that we do not have the means to get the sort of reductions that are required without the introduction of nuclear energy.

The second key development will be that community interest in nuclear energy reflects a better understanding of the technology and will move to well beyond 50% in terms of overall support." Leslie Kemeny from the International Nuclear Energy Academy said climate change concerns were boosting support for nuclear energy. He described Australian uranium exports used in power generation as "a huge carbon offset".

Professor Kemeny said that nuclear energy was becoming more attractive for more than just environmental reasons. "The only baseload energy intensive power load source that will go down in price as the resources for gas and oil and even coal deplete all over the world is the nuclear fuel cycle," he said. "The capital costs may still be high, but if you take the US as an example, the capital costs are amortised and there is no competition.

"They produce energy at about 1.68 US cents per kW hours. There's nothing that can compete with that in the US." Opposition energy and resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane agreed that acceptance of nuclear energy was growing. "In the absence of a 24/7 renewable energy source and the presence of a carbon price, nuclear is really going to be the only answer in the medium term," he said. "The question is not if, but when, the ALP recognises nuclear is part of the solution. "In the inner sanctums they know renewables cannot make the advances in the next decade needed to provide 24/7 energy. "If the Prime Minister claims to be a national leader, he should acknowledge what he already knows."

EPA green light for $800m Devil Creek gas project

West Australian
Tuesday 6/1/2009 Page: 11

Apache Energy's $800 million Devil Creek gas project, which is tipped to become the State's next major source of domestic gas, has received conditional approval from the Environmental Protection Authority. The EPA released its evaluation yesterday, listing conditions on rehabilitation, fauna management, lighting design, lost habitat and greenhouse gas emissions. Perth-based Apache Energy government and public affairs manager David Parker welcomed the EPAs recommendations and recognised its timely response "in assessing the Devil Creek gas development project as an important WA energy project".

"Apache Energy is pleased to learn that the EPA report recommends approval for the Devil Creek project," he said. "The conditions recommended are acceptable. Today's report and recommendations by the EPA are an important milestone towards the project's approval." The project will see gas piped from the Reindeer field 110km off the coast to the onshore gas plant, where it will be pumped into the Dampier-to-Bunbury gas pipeline.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Cheap oil douses enthusiasm for renewables

Canberra Times
Saturday 3/1/2009 Page: 17

Cheap oilLow oil prices and the credit crunch are threatening to stall the green revolution. The value of crude has dropped from a summer high of nearly $US150 a barrel to below $US40, taking the wind out of the sails of turbine manufacturers and others trying to build low-carbon alternatives.

Founder and executive chairman of Solarcentury, Jeremy Leggett, said, "Talk of the death of renewables is premature but clearly big solar farms and wind projects are being cancelled. Everything is suffering in the current climate but it's my contention that the low oil price is a temporary thing and the growth of renewables will resume." The chief executive of information provider New Energy Finance, Michael Liebreich, said his leading index of clean-technology companies had fallen from a high of 450 points 12 months ago to 175 points, hit by a triple whammy of lower oil prices, higher costs of capital and fear of more speculative start-tip businesses.

But he, too, was confident that the sector could bounce back. "There was no doubt that there was a certain amount of irrational exuberance over the low-carbon economy. No industry in history has kept tip the kind of 40% compound growth rates being ascribed to clean tech so share prices had run tip too far and it was time for a correction."

Clean-tech and renewables stocks have been struggling with more than just sentiment. Indian-based wind turbine manufacturer Suzlon Energy, which has seen its share price plunge by 90% this year, has also been hit by malfunctions and the kind of teething problems it says is are inevitable with new types of technology. Wind developers in the US have been cutting back in the face of tough new conditions. FPL Group, the US's largest wind-power operator, is cutting its spending this year by nearly a quarter to $US5.3 billion ($A7.6 billion) and new wind-power generation from 1500 to 1100MW.

Confidence in the sector has also been rattled by T. Boone Pickens, a veteran oil man who delighted environmentalists with a very public conversion when he promised to build the world's largest wind farts in Texas. He slammed on the brakes in November on the basis that lower oil prices had changed the economics of a scheme that would have powered 1.3 million homes.

However, the US wind sector has generally been faring better than the British one, thanks to tax breaks. Shell and BP have made it clear they are no longer interested in pursuing British farms when the investment numbers stack tip match better across the Atlantic. The decision by Shell to pull out of the London Array wind farm was a particular blow to British confidence. The project has been billed as the biggest offshore scheme of its kind in the world but the oil company said the margins were too thin, leaving E.ON of Germany and DONG Energy of Denmark to go it alone.

The chief executive of Q-Cells, the world's largest manufacturer of solar cells, Anton Milner, cut earnings forecasts recently after being hit by what he described as a "flood" of cancellations from developers of solar energy projects struggling to raise finance. The US manufacturer Evergreen Solar has since delayed a $A1.15 billion new factory in Asia that would have manufactured enough solar cells to power a city of 500,000 people.

But most industry figures are convinced that though the threat of global recession is slowing down the industry, the future remains bright enough, especially with a new figure taking over the White House. Mr Liebreich said his clean-tech index had seen an "Obama bounce", rising from a low of 130 to 175 on the back of optimists about the incoming President's policies. A raft of radical political appointments such as Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu as energy secretary has convinced environmentalists that Mr Obama is serious about his stated aim of hastening progress towards a lowcarbon economy with a green New Deal that will reduce his country's dependence on imported oil.

A quarterly review of climate change-related business opportunities just published by analysts at HSBC said governments were increasingly active. "The engagement of governments has grown globally," it said. "Across the political spectrum there is now more recognition that climate change is a genuine long-term global issue with real growth potential." The managing director of Marine Current Turbines, Martin Wright, said no one should expect oil and gas prices to stay low. "Vladimir Putin has already said the era of cheap gas is over and no one knows when peak oil really will come about."

King Island seeks wave power

Hobart Mercury
Monday 5/1/2009 Page: 16

TWO ocean-wave sensors have been deployed off King Island to collect climate information over the next three months. King Island Mayor Charles Arnold said Sydney-based wave energy development company Oceanlinx deployed the sensors off the west coast of the Bass Strait island in mid-December. The sensor placement is another step in the island's push for alternative energy sources. "This development has been driven by King Island residents, local industries and the council, with financial support in place for the project," Cr Arnold said.

Oceanlinx has been developing its wave energy converter over 10 years with the first prototype launched at Port Kembla in 2003. The Hydro has recently completed a grid interconnection study. Earlier this year it was announced that BioPower Systems, also from Sydney, had secured a deal with the Hydro to harness the ocean's energy to generate enough electricity to supply about 500 homes on King and Flinders Islands. It is at the trial stage. Cr Arnold hoped that ocean power could be supplied at a cheaper rate than the 22.5c a kW residents currently pay for diesel power. He said the island wanted to reduce reliance on diesel generators from 50% to 10%.

Wind farm approved

Thursday 1/1/2009 Page: 21

CHINA. Datang Corp, the nation's second-biggest power producer, has received state permission to build a 4.5 billion yuan ($A956 million) wind farm and power plant in the north-eastern province of Jilin as the Government speeds project approvals to spur economic growth. The Government is accelerating project approvals in the energy sector to stimulate the economy, which expanded at the weakest pace in five years in the third quarter. China is also turning to alternative energy such as wind, solar and hydro power to reduce its reliance on polluting coal, which currently generates almost 80% of its electricity.

Solar car plan

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 2/1/2009 Page: 2

Toyota is secretly developing a solar energyed vehicle in an effort to turn around its struggling business, a top economic daily reported yesterday. The Nikkei newspaper, however, said it would be years before the planned vehicle was available on the market. According to The Nikkei, the Toyota electric vehicle will get some of its power from solar cells on the vehicle but could also be recharged from solar panels on the roofs of homes. Toyota later hopes to develop a model totally powered by solar cells on the vehicle.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Clean future starts now Australia has a choice: join the energy revolution or risk an environmental disaster.

Wednesday 31/12/2008 Page: 11

Clean futureCurrent global trends in energy supply and consumption are patently unsustainable - environmentally, economically, socially ... What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution." I have said similar things myself, but this quote is from a new "World Energy Outlook" by the International Energy Agency.

The change is as amazing as if the Pope were to support contraception or the Business Council to call for stabilising the population. Until last year, the energy agency was still deep in denial about the problems of climate change and peak oil, and was talking about world energy use doubling and an increasing use of coal. The agency's conversion is only the latest and most dramatic example of a new global attitude. The changes leave the Federal Government suddenly looking out of touch, its recent climate change announcements more like a white flag than a white paper.

The Government's weak emissions trading scheme design is not just a surrender to the big polluters, but appears to give up on saving precious national icons such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and the Murray-Darling river system. It is also bad news for the economy, as Professor Ross Garnaut wrote in these pages recently.

It is dishonest to claim that our per capita pollution reductions are comparable with those of Europe. Increasing population is not being forced on its by Martians, it results from 20th century policies to boost immigration and encourage larger families. The Earth's natural systems don't understand how many Australians there are, only our total impact. As global citizens, we should curb the growth in our numbers and set serious targets to cut pollution. The UN's 2007 Bali conference noted that countries such as Australia need to reduce greenhouse pollution by 25 to 40% to give the Earth a fighting chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

The latest science is more alarming. Until recently, methane levels in the air had been stable for a decade, but there has been a surge. Unpublished research shows the methane is coming from the Arctic. This is the sign climate scientists have been warning about, a possible tipping point. Temperatures have increased more at the poles than in the tropics. Warming is releasing methane from tundra, increasing warming and causing further methane releases, possibly setting in train an unstoppable surge in temperature. We need an urgent and concerted approach to cut greenhouse pollution.

Global changes have been striking. The World Economic Forum's Dubai summit on the global agenda concluded that responses to the financial crisis need to be integrated with policies that take into account climate change, energy security, food and water. Global think tank the Club of Rome has been warning for 35 years about the inevitable consequences of uncontrolled growth. It convened a conference last month that concluded the climate and financial problems interlock and demand an integrated approach. The IEA recognised the science when it called for an energy revolution.

Now US President-elect Barack Obama has named as his energy secretary a scientist who has called for a super-grid to harness solar and wind energy. This move to "green infrastructure" is at the heart of Obama's plan to repair the US economy. Diplomats are working on talks between Obama and Chinese leaders before the UN's 2009 Copenhagen conference, which must produce a framework to slow climate change. China has shown it is serious by closing 2300 small coalmines, improving energy efficiency by 7% and planning to expand solar and wind energy massively.

What should we be doing? We should join the energy revolution, rather than try to prop up old technologies. Kevin Rudd has set an inadequate target to cut emissions just 5% by 2020, offered billions in subsidies to overseas-owned big polluters and done little to encourage growth of local clean-energy technologies to power our future.

The plan has to go to the Senate, where it faces a rocky road. I expect the Greens to oppose it because it doesn't do enough. The Coalition is hopelessly divided between climate change deniers, Howard-era dinosaurs who don't get it, and a minority who understand the scale of the problem. They may also oppose the scheme. That would force the Government back to the drawing board.

If enough of us make clear to our MPs we want serious action, the Prime Minister could develop a stronger scheme. Next year will be critical. I am not exaggerating in saying the survival of civilisation is at stake. As a scientifically and technologically literate country, we must recognise that a green economy is vital. That makes economic sense as well as being environmentally responsible. We have to go green if we want to get out of the red.

Professor Ian Lowe is president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Keep to emission cuts, say economists

Saturday 3/1/2009 Page: 11

ECONOMISTS have given a lukewarm response to Kevin Rudd's carbon emission reduction targets, but have urged the Federal Government not to be spooked by the global economic downturn. Last month, the Government revealed it would be seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020 unless an international agreement on carbon trading could be reached. In that case, the reduction target rises to 15%. The 2050 target is a 60% reduction.

"There's never going to be a good time to introduce this, so the current crisis should not be used as an excuse to delay," said Chris Caton from BT Financial Group. So far, the timing of the carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) does not appear to have been affected, with the Government committed to a 2010 start date. University of Queensland academic John Quiggin argued that the pursuit of environmental policies could in fact bolster the economic recovery. "Use green jobs programs as a focus of expansionary policy," he said.

ANZ's Saul Eslake said he would have preferred less compensation for heavy emitters because it would result in clearer "price signals for households and businesses to modify their behaviour. Heather Ridout from the Australian Industry Group called for protection for trade exposed industries. "There should be strong measures for businesses that are exposed to competition from countries that do not impose additional costs similar to those imposed under the Australian CPRS," she said.

Monash University academic Jakob Madsen, said steep price increases on carbon were needed to encourage the development of alternative fuel sources. In Denmark, 40% of the energy will come from renewable resources by 2020. Australia should easily be able to meet that target." The Scandinavian social democracy will be in the spotlight in December when world leaders gather in Copenhagen in an attempt to nut out a global agreement on emission reductions beyond 2012. "The world is watching Australia and we can use this opportunity to help broker an international agreement," said Austrade's Tim Harcourt.

Some economists backed the Government's plan to make deeper emission cuts conditional on agreement at Copenhagen, including former government consultant John Edwards from HSBC, Paul Brennan from Citi and Brad Crofts from the Australian Workers Union. 'Australia should calibrate its response in line with what happens in other countries and in a manner that does not put at risk Australia's ongoing competitiveness and economic prosperity," Scott Thompson from the Business Council of Australia said.

Bill Evans, at Westpac, cautioned against ploughing ahead with pre-slowdown emission reduction plans, saying "disruption will be particularly risky at this stage of the cycle". Siwei Goo, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged the Government to go one step further. "The possibility of delaying the CPRS should be on the table and thorough cost-benefit analysis should be conducted to examine the effect of delaying CPRS for another 12 months."

Growing reasons for green optimism

Canberra Times
Wednesday 31/12/2008 Page: 17

What do you think about 2009? I asked a friend with whom I often share views on the environment and the meaning of life. "I am hopeful and optimistic," I replied. "Really? In the face of Kevin Rudd's abject failure on climate change?" she said. My friend and I agree that nothing short of a large change in human values and actions will preserve the planet as a home for Homo sapiens.

So why am I optimistic? Although he cannot possibly meet all our expectations, the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States is the most hopeful geopolitical event in many years. Obama has won office, arguing for genuine change, including a serious approach to climate change, and he seems to mean it. Once the US really tackles carbon emissions, the rest of the world will take the issue seriously.

So 2009 is shaping as the pivotal year for climate change, and by the time of the Copenhagen meeting in December we will know whether the countries of the world can get their act together before it is too late. The accelerated melting of Arctic sea ice now has many climate scientists believing that we are observing a phenomenon that could rapidly result in a catastrophic and irreversible flip in the climate system.

I am heartened by what is happening in the ACT as well as what could happen globally with the right leadership from Obama. The new ACT Environment Minister, Simon Corbell, is taking a different stance to his federal counterparts and has publicly repudiated their weak approach. I have read the agreement that Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has signed with the Greens and they have extracted some firm commitments on development of greenhouse gas targets and renewable energy.

Furthermore, our watchdog Commissioner for the Environment, Maxine Cooper, has the power to call the Government to account on agreements such as this, and she is flexing her muscles. Another reason for my optimism is the evidence that people in the ACT are awake to the carbon footprint challenge and are beginning to act on it. People movements are springing up all over the world.

In Canberra, we have been both surprised and delighted at the rapid success of the SEE-Change movement, and similar movements are taking off elsewhere under different names - ranging from Transition Towns to Sustainability Street. SEE-Change groups in four areas of Canberra are bringing people from the neighbourhood together to discuss a reduction in their footprint, through bulk purchases of solar panels, energy retrofits of their homes, modification of their food-purchasing behaviour and altered approaches to car use, car purchase and use of public transport.

A group of 22 Jamison SEE-Change members have been involved in a door-knocking approach - each to 10 randomly identified addresses - to seek from the residents, representative information on what people think and what they are doing about their ecological footprint. The evidence from this random sampling of householders is that 75% of people are convinced of the seriousness of the problem and that many are already taking action on issues, including solar panels, changes in their dietary practices and changing their light bulbs.

I also feel optimistic when I see and hear what is happening in our school system and as the new generation, which includes my own grandchildren, picks tip the sustainability challenge. Young people are becoming both literate about sustainability and ready to act.

Of course everything must come together and the Federal Government will have to change its white paper to enable the contributions of ordinary householders to do more than make up for the licences to pollute that the Federal Government is planning to issue to the coal and aluminium industries. That will happen if real movement comes from both outside and inside Australia.

So, I dare to hope that we are approaching a good tipping point, the point where a critical mass of people accept the need for a radical new approach and adopt it. Their new approach becomes the new received wisdom and a majority of the world follows. Climate change is the biggest challenge we have ever faced as a species. The problem is probably still soluble but the solution depends on a remarkable new political consensus. The good news is that when the people lead with vision, governments will follow.

Nuclear power has key role in fight against climate change

Wednesday 31/12/2008 Page: 11

THE Rudd Government's white paper on the final design of it's emissions trading scheme has triggered a vigorous debate that will certainly continue into the new year. In defending the 2020 emission reduction target range of 5-15%, Climate Minister Penny Wong said she was "acting in the national interest" and protecting jobs and reducing energy costs on behalf of Australian industry and all energy consumers.

It would appear that the recent Poznan negotiations have achieved very little to further the United Nations' climate change agenda, which is aimed at having developed countries cut their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Without a sensible energy policy in place, Australia will continue to be challenged by this. By contrast, the nuclear energyed European Union is laughing all the way to the global carbon bank. It is in Australia's national interest to follow the EU's example.

Professor Ross Garnaut's final report - released at the end of September - concedes that nuclear energy could supply more than a quarter of Australia's electricity by 2050 if a proposed policy based on "clean coal" and "renewables" fails. But he questions the technology on economic grounds and restates his earlier convictions that Australia is "not the logical first home of a new nuclear capacity".

In this, he and the Rudd Government are completely at odds with expert world opinion. Of all countries, Australia has the most to gain from domestic nuclear energy and a nuclear industry to serve the world. Last week in Canberra, Australian business leaders met Poland's new ambassador, Andrzej Jaroszynski, to discuss the former communist country's efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Unlike the Australian Government, which at times acts almost like the mouthpiece of the fossil fuel industry, Poland's Government proposes an energy policy revolution that will gradually reduce chemical combustion by introducing nuclear fission.

The Polish ambassador indicated that Poland would be following the example of the European Union and anticipated a significant nuclear energy component in the national energy program by 2025. This has been the strategy followed by many polluting nations - with the exception of Australia - over the past few decades. Indeed, nuclear energy has the pivotal role in any battle against climate change. The Poznan delegates have already had some reassurance from the United States, the world's No. 2 polluter.

President-elect Barack Obama has set a target of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by a further 80% by 2050, with nuclear energy playing the major role. In the US there are now 25 applications for new nuclear energy stations to add to the existing 104 that have been brought on line over the past 50 years. And many of these are licensed for another 30 years of operation and produce electricity at half the cost of fossil fuel generators.

In November, the chairman of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Ziggy Switkowski, gave the annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture in Adelaide and endorsed domestic nuclear energy for Australia. He said: "I and concerned that the exclusion of nuclear energy from our national conversation and energy debate represents a triumph of political pragmatism over good policy." The Rudd Government should heed the opinions of ambassador Jaroszynski and Dr Switkowski and incorporate them into Australian energy policy without delay.

At the December 2007 Bali climate conference, Yvo De Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "I have never seen a credible scenario for reducing emissions which did not include nuclear energy." Including nuclear energy into an Australian energy policy would transform the token political gesture of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol to the practical and ethical high ground of a real contribution to the global climate change problem.

Leslie Kemeny is the Australian foundation member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy.

Monday 5 January 2009

Science's star turn to fix energy shortage for all

West Australian
Monday 29/12/2008 Page: 14

Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryScientists believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the Sun. Next year, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny artificial star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction. Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion ($2.6 billion) experiment is due to be completed next year.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1000 times the electric generating power of the US into a billionth of a second. The result should be an explosion in the 10m-wide reaction chamber which produces at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

"We are creating the conditions that exist inside the Sun," Ed Moses, director of the facility, said. "It is like tapping into the real solar energy as fusion is the source of all energy in the world. It is really exciting physics, but beyond that there are huge social, economic and global problems that it can help to solve. " Inside a structure covering an area the size of three football fields, a single infrared laser will be sent through almost 1.6km of lenses, mirrors and amplifiers to create a beam more than 10 billion times more powerful than a household light bulb.

Housed within a hangar-sized room that has to be pumped clear of dust to prevent impurities getting into the beam, the laser will then be split into 192 separate beams, converted into ultraviolet light and focused into a capsule at the centre of an aluminium-and-concrete-coated target chamber. When the laser beams hit the inside of the capsule, they should generate high-energy X-rays that, within a few billionths of a second, compress the fuel pellet inside until its outer shell blows off. This explosion of the fuel pellet shell produces an equal and opposite reaction that compresses the fuel itself together until nuclear fusion begins, releasing vast energy.

Scientists have been attempting to harness nuclear fusion since Albert Einstein's equation E=Mc2, which he derived in 1905, raised the possibility that fusing atoms could release huge amounts of energy. Under Einstein's theory, the amount of energy locked up in one gram of matter is enough to power 28,500 100-watt lightbulbs for a year. Until now, such fusion has only been possible inside nuclear weapons and highly unstable plasmas created in incredibly strong magnetic fields. The work at Livermore could change all this.

Until now Livermore has had only the dubious honour of being home to the US Government's nuclear weapons research laboratories which are on the same site as the NIF Inside the facility, the scientists are impatient. After 11 years of development work, they want the last of the lenses and mirrors for the laser to be put in place and the tedious task of adjusting and aiming the laser to be over, a process they fear could take up to a year before they can successfully achieve fusion.

Jeff Wisoff, a former astronaut who is deputy principal associate director of science at the NIF, said: "Everyone is keen to get started, but we have to get the targeting right, otherwise it won't work. "We will be firing laser pulses that last just a few billionths of a second but we will be creating conditions that are found in the interior of stars or exploding nuclear weapons.

"I worked on the building of the International Space Station, but this is a far bigger challenge and the implications are huge. When we started the project, a lot of the technology we needed did not exist, so we have had to develop it ourselves," he said. "The next step is looking at how ignition can be used to deliver something of value to the world. It has the potential to be one of the biggest achievements mankind has made. " Although other experiments have attempted to create the conditions needed for nuclear fusion, lasers are seen as the most likely to be able to provide a viable electricity supply.

If all goes well, the NIF will be able to fire its laser and ignite a fusion reaction every five hours, but to create a reliable fusion power plant the laser will need to ignite fusion about 10 times a second. The scientists are already working with British counterparts on the next step towards a fusion power station. A project known as the High Powered Laser Research facility aims to create a laser-powered fusion reactor that can fire once every couple of minutes.

"The National Ignition Facility is going to finally prove fusion can be achieved with a laser," Professor Mike Dunne, director of the central laser facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, near Oxford, said. "It will start an exciting new period in physics as it will prove what we are trying to achieve is actually be possible."

Carbon policy pierces haze of bad news

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 30/12/2008 Page: 64

The Federal Government's moves to implement an emissions trading scheme is a necessary change of direction from the previous Government given the threat climate change poses not only to icons such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park, but to food production and water supplies.

Although the announced reduction targets have been criticised by environmental groups, and Citigroup has said the scheme will merely keep Australia on track to meet the targets Australia agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol, it is at least a start, and in keeping with an expected change of direction in the US under president Barack Obama. The trading of permits will occur through the Australian Securities Exchange as well as banks and other institutions and will be regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, providing new opportunities for the finance industry.

Elsewhere, campaigners in the US are urging the incoming US president to adopt Al Gore's proposal for a global carbon, which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would impose a tax of around $72 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared to the expected starting price of $23 to $32 a tonne under the Australian Government's scheme.

Natural Technology Systems is one company leading the way towards a greener South Australia

Sunday Mail Adelaide
Sunday 28/12/2008 Page: 8

Natural Technology SystemsThe highly sought after solar energy energiser kits not only provide pollution free electricity from the sun, but can help slash your power bills. Kim Atkinson of Natural Technology Systems recommends homeowners looking to install an energiser kit take advantage of the $8000 Federal Government rebate to install solar modules on your roof and connect to the grid.

And by designing a system that makes the process much faster, Natural Technology Systems are at the forefront in converting more homes to much-needed green power. "We are so busy installing systems that we really needed a rapid way of deploying systems to meet demand," Mr Atkinson says. "This is a great example of an Australian designed solution for Australian conditions." A solar energiser converts sunlight into standard household electricity. It uses BP Solar's newest, high-efficiency solar panels to collect the sunlight and specialised electronic devices to convert and control the flow of electricity.

When your solar energiser generates more power than your household uses, any excess electricity flows into the grid. The rate at which you are paid for electricity going back into the grid is at more than double of what you pay now. Recent reports released by a Senate Committee indicate that the way electricity is fed back through the meters may change so that all generated power will go directly into the grid.

This would result in an increase in the economic viability of a grid system resulting in further savings. A solar energiser helps the environment by producing pollution free electricity, quietly and efficiently on your very own roof top, year in year out. The most important aspect of a solar energiser is that it reduces electricity bills and protects homeowners against future electricity price increases, offering homeowners piece of mind and valuable savings.

Natural Technology Systems, 8344 7298.

It's power to the people as self help groups fight climate change

Sunday Age
Sunday 28/12/2008 Page: 8

BREAZETHE cracked bed of Ballarat's Lake Wendouree is a sorry place for the birth of one of Victoria's leading climate change groups. Tired boat ramps lead down to dusty dirt, weeds and straggly scrub sprouting through a few stagnant puddles. Years of drought and water restrictions have reduced this site of the Melbourne Olympics rowing and canoeing to a dried mud pit.

On these dry banks in late 2006, the climate change group Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions, or BREAZE, was formed with 40 members. Two years later, its membership has passed 1100. It has been given $152,000 by the State Government, to show Victoria's many budding climate change groups how to grow and prosper. Community action has been crucial to combating climate change along this stretch of central Victoria.

BREAZE's strength is in its numbers, which help it buy renewable energy systems in bulk at significant discounts. Members have already received solar hot water systems at no cost, plus $200 for the price of installation. Now, the group has installed more than 100 solar roof panel systems under a bulk discount.

Meredith Alexander had solar roof panels installed on her Ballarat house this month, saving more than $1000 on the estimated cost of about $12,500. Ms Alexander, who hopes to have solar hot water installed next year, said her one-kW system powered about one-third of her electricity needs. "I want my children to have a world to live in, and they wont if we keep squandering resources at this rate," she said.

"If you do it on your own, it can be difficult to afford, but when you've got this collective buying power, it is possible." A similar bulk-buy model in Castlemaine, run by the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group, has helped install more than 70 discounted solar roof panel systems. In Bendigo - where the office of Federal Labor MP Steve Gibbons was this month plastered with posters protesting against the size of the Government's 5% carbon emissions reduction target - the Stratlnfieldsaye & Districts Community Enterprise group has orders for about 200 systems.

BREAZE's acting executive officer, Lisa Kendal, said there was a wave of local interest in helping combat global climate change. "People are desperate to do something, and this is a very tangible thing they can do," she said. The group is already coaching other climate change groups in projects such as installing bulk buy solar roof panels at local schools. BREAZE is also developing a project for buying locally produced food in bulk, to help reduce prices and packaging, as well as carbon emissions created by shipping food long distances.

Ms Kendal criticised the Federal Government's recent decision to scrap the $8000 solar roof panel rebate, saying it penalised low and middle- income earners. Under the new "solar credits" scheme, householders installing solar panels will receive five renewable energy certificates, instead of one, for each MW hour of electricity they create. But in Victoria, where solar roof panels produce less energy than in northern Australia, the rebate on a 1.5-kW system could drop to about $5500.

"The Government's sending a message that it's not prepared to make that leap into the future of renewable energy in a big way. It's penalising people who are most committed to making a difference," Ms Kendal said. "We have quite a big untapped market in Ballarat, but this will hugely slow what we're doing. "We're going to straggle to promote the benefits financially to people."