Friday 16 January 2009

Carbon capture put to the test in NSW

Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 15/1/2009 Page: 9

NSW is about to find out whether it will be able to capture greenhouse gas emissions from its coal-fired power stations and store their underground. Drilling began on Monday to see if the rock 800 metres under the Central Coast can handle having thousands of tonnes of liquefied carbon dioxide pumped into it each week. It is yet to be proved that carbon capture and storage, in which carbon dioxide fumes from power stations are compressed and cooled on-site before being buried, will work on a large scale in Australia. Most environmental groups and some in the coal industry think it will not become effective in time to help slow climate change.

But the Government is optimistic that exploratory drilling close to Delta Energy's Munmorah coal-fired power station near Lake Macquarie, and at three other points in the state's north, will show results. By April we'll have an idea whether things are going well," the Minister for Energy, Ian Macdonald, said. We believe that it will work." Last July, a trial carbon capture project at the Munmorah power station was launched by Delta Energy using CSIRO technology. The next step is to bury the captured carbon.

The amount captured and stored at Munmorah is initially to be small - 3000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, a tiny fraction of the power station's emissions. It aims to capture 100,000 tonnes a year by 2013. If the chosen test site at Munmorah proves unsuitable for storing carbon, other sites - such as Mount Piper power station near Lithgow- would be immediately investigated, Mr Macdonald told the Herald.

If no geological sites can be found near existing power stations, the Government would consider contributing funds to build a vast network of pipelines Environmentalists say the expense of carbon capture and storage would take money away from the development of renewable energy. The coal industry is trying to create the appearance that it is doing something about climate change, but all they are really doing is fighting tooth and nail to keep themselves in business," a Greenpeace spokesman said.

Take time to get the climate right

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Thursday 15/1/2009 Page: 46

While the financial crisis will be the most important policy platform for the Rudd government this year, climate change will be the most important for the next 50 years. The government suggested in a white paper released before Christmas a 5 percent emissions target for 2020 and additional compensation for heavy emitters than recommend by Ross Garnaut. Reserve Bank of Australia board member Warwick McKibbin has argued that emissions trading scheme architecture can only work with significant changes, including a longer term policy. Access Economics co-founder and former Treasury officer Geoff Carmody has argued the focus on emissions permits for production is flawed.

Fridges store beer, milk ...and energy

Canberra Times
Wednesday 14/1/2009 Page: 3

For most people, talk of "green" fridges might conjure tip images of hygiene disasters in scungy student flats. But Australian researchers have come tip with a green fridge which is not on the nose. They have invented a device which allows household fridges to run more easily off solar or wind energy. This could slash their greenhouse gas emissions - and could make renewable energy more usable as well.

Fridges switch themselves on and off regularly as they keep their temperature between 2 and 4 degrees. The CSIRO invention hooks up all the fridges in an area electronically. They then "talk" to each other, and to renewable energy suppliers, about when is the best time to crank up the compressor and cool themselves down. So when there is plenty of solar energy available, the fridges switch themselves on. And when the clouds roll in, they switch themselves off.

Engineer Sara West, who helped develop the device at CSIRO's research centre in Newcastle, said using the humble fridge to store renewable energy was exciting. "A lot of people are surprised to hear that they can use [their fridge] for this kind of storage, usually they're pretty interested," Mr West said. One of the biggest obstacles to the widespread use of renewable energy is its reliability - it does not provide a baseload supply like coal-fired power stations. Finding ways to store renewable energy would help address the issue, Mr West said.

The "green fridge" was one way of doing it, in the form of thermal energy - or cold. The system was foolproof and would not lead to the milk going off. The CSIRO invention is a small box which can be attached to existing fridges. The organisation hopes to roll out a trial version of the system, and said it was possible that one day all fridges would come equipped with the device.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Time out as banks mull sell-off

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Tuesday 13/1/2009 Page: 38

A two week trading halt will be placed on Babcock and Brown (B&B) stocks as the company's bankers think about selling the company's assets, such as thermal, wind and solar developments, and winding up the business. If approved, the decision to sell assets will end chief executive officer Michael Larkin's plan to turn the finance house into a specialist infrastructure investment business and sell 'non-core assets' like rail and leases. Current management rather than a receiver appointed by the banks will supervise the asset sales.

B&B told the Australian Securities Exchange that it expects the trade suspension will be lifted once the company's lenders including Australia's four major banks - the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the National Australia Bank and Westpac - make their final responses. The majority of last week's trade was done via CommSec and ETrade indicating retail investors were confident in taking a chance that the company would survive until the February decision on a debt-for-equity swap.

Power demand steady despite global turmoil

Hobart Mercury
Tuesday 13/1/2009 Page: 8

THE factory lights are on and Tasmanian industry is still at home as the global economic crisis drives many overseas manufacturers to the wall. So far, there has been no mass shutdown of industry in Tasmania. But the company that supplies electricity to our big manufacturers is keeping tabs on the situation as it enters what analysts predict will be a tough year.

Hydro Tasmania acting chief executive Lance Balcombe said the electricity generator had not seen a reduction in demand for power. "We are, however, mindful of the situation of some energy users and the impact the downturn may have on those businesses - particularly those with exposure to global markets." Mr Balcombe said. "We'll continue to monitor the situation and keep in contact with our customers."

Mr Balcombe said there were upsides in the current business climate. "The reduction in interest rates is benefiting our business." he said. But there were also negatives. "The falling Australian dollar may have an impact on our capital works program," he said. The cost of imported components rises in line with a devaluation of Australia's currency and this could result in projects being deferred. "However, we consider this to be an unlikely situation." Mr Balcombe said.

State drops its power limits for desal plant - Madden vague on energy demand

Tuesday 13/1/2009 Page: 3

VICTORIA'S desalination plant has been given scope to consume more electricity, after the Brumby Government rewrote the energy efficiency limits on the controversial project. desalination requires significant energy to separate drinking water from salts and other wastes, and the composition of Bass Strait water will make Victoria's plant less energy efficient than plants in other Australian cities such as Perth.

Strict "performance requirements" for energy efficiency at the Wonthaggi plant were set in September's environmental effects statement. It said that annual power consumption at the plant should remain below an average 4.6 kWs for each kilolitre of drinking water produced. However, when approving the EES process on Friday, Planning Minister Justin Madden appeared to water down that requirement, saying the energy efficiency standard should be merely "as low as reasonably practicable and to the satisfaction of the Environment Protection Authority".

Mr Madden rejected suggestions he was relaxing the energy efficiency standards. "It's not a weakening of the standards at all. It's probably indicating a strong advocacy for reducing emissions as much as possible in any possible form," he said. But Environment Victoria director Mark Wakeham said it was concerning that Mr Madden had opted for the generic statement when a numerical limit would suffice. "It's a bit like writing a blank cheque on behalf of Victorian consumers by not requiring a minimum energy performance standard," he said.

The waters off Wonthaggi are colder and more saline than those off Perth, meaning more electricity will be needed to produce each litre of drinking water at the Victorian plant. In his report, Mr Madden conceded the plant would "entail significant greenhouse gas emissions". The Government has promised that plant operators will have to purchase renewable energy credits to offset the electricity used in operating the plant and pumping water 80 kilometres to Cardinia Reservoir.

But the 1.4 million tonnes of emissions produced during construction of the plant will not be offset, nor will the 70,000 tonnes of emissions produced each year by decomposing wastes and deliveries. Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Greg Meyer said the offsets for the desalination project would be in addition to Victoria's existing renewable energy targets. But it remains unclear whether the offsets will be in addition to all renewable energy targets across Australia.

A Government panel hired to review the EES process recently urged the Government to better clarify its offsets program for the project, and to ensure there was no double accounting. Environment Minister Gavin Jennings yesterday defended revelations that Victoria produced 2.2 tonnes more of greenhouse emissions in 2008 than in 2007. NSW reduced its emissions over the same period, according to a report by the climate group.

Despite the report being released annually, Mr Jennings urged Victorians to focus on a period stretching back to 2000, during which emissions growth in Victoria was slower than in NSW and Queensland. He said investment in renewable energy schemes in Victoria had slowed because investors were waiting for the introduction of federal schemes, such as emissions trading in 2010.

Opposition environment spokesman David Davis said the Government had failed to live up to its rhetoric on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

NSW bucks national trend for gas emissions

Sydney Morning Herald
Monday 12/1/2009 Page: 5

THE amount of greenhouse gases pumped out by energy generation and transport fell in NSW last year, bucking the national trend. High petrol prices and a move towards diesel helped the state lower its carbon dioxide emissions by about half a million tonnes in 2008 compared with 2007, although NSW became even more dependent on burning coal to generate electricity. Emissions from energy and transport in Queensland and Victoria, the two other states that make up the east coast electricity grid, still rose.

Last year the east coast released 19% more carbon dioxide - which traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change - than in 2000. NSW released just over 98 million tonnes of greenhouse gases. Compared with 1990, the year usually used to calculate emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions from NSW have risen 30%. Since 1990 Queensland is up 116% and Victoria 32%, according to The Climate Group, which collated weekly figures from its national greenhouse indicator, based on electricity market data and fuel sales.

The figures mean households, industry and governments have a huge job ahead of them just to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions over the next few years, before meeting even the modest 5% cuts now proposed for 2020. The reason there was a drop in NSW is that there were lower petroleum sales, so in that regard higher petrol prices may have played a small but useful role," said Rupert Posner, the nonprofit group's Australian director. "At the same time there was actually an increase in emissions from coal-fired power stations." In NSW, emissions from coalfired power stations - the backbone of the electricity grid - increased by 1.5 million tonnes on the previous year, a rise of 0.7%.

Electricity production went up by 1.3% in response to public demand and a rising population. Production rose more quickly in Queensland and Victoria, reflecting the higher population growth rates in those states. "We haven't started to see the turnaround we need yet," Mr Posner said. "What's clear from these figures is that Australia's dependence on coal is just not sustainable." Petrol sales fell 9% around the state last year, and sales of the less-polluting diesel fuel rose 2%.

On average, the energy and transport sectors in NSW put 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalent into the atmosphere each week last year. More energy was used during winter, as people turned on heating in their homes, and less power was used during the Christmas lull. The Federal Government plans to introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2010 to wind back emissions by making the nation's 1000 heaviest-polluting industries buy permits equivalent to the amount of greenhouse gas they release, and therefore paying for their emissions.

The Government is committed to reducing national emissions by at least 5% on 2000 levels over the next 12 years. It has said it will aim for deeper cuts if a binding global deal on carbon reduction is agreed to next year, although its proposed cuts for 2020 still fall short of the 25 to 40% recommended by most climate scientists.

Pollution skyrockets - Coal and gas for electricity blamed

Courier Mail
Monday 12/1/2009 Page: 11

GREENHOUSE gas emissions from fossil fuels for transport and electricity in Queensland rose by two million tonnes last year, a report has claimed. But last year's sharp spike in oil prices helped cut petroleum emissions across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Rupert Posner, Australian director of charity The Climate Group, which compiled the report, said the paper "clearly demonstrates that our reliance on coal for electricity is our biggest problem when it comes to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions".

On page 2 of The Courier- Mail every Monday readers can track emissions created by Queensland's coal and gas-fired electricity generators and from petroleum use. Published today, The Climate Group's annual report reveals that across Victoria, NSW and Queensland, annual emissions were 3.6 million tonnes higher last year than in 2007 a rise of 1.3% for the year. Compared with 2000 levels, the report said emissions from energy-use were significantly higher across all states, collectively up 19%.

But the increase above equivalent 1990 levels was even higher, with Queensland's emissions more than doubling compared with rises of 30% in NSW and 32% in Victoria. "Most of the increase in emissions in 2008 was from coal-fired generators in Queensland and Victoria, which both produced an extra 1.5 million tonnes each," Mr Posner said. He said Australia needed to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels if emissions were to be cut.

"The Greenhouse Indicator's 2008 results clearly show we all need to start taking action now if we want to reduce our greenhouse pollution," he said. "The window of opportunity open to us to prevent dangerous climate change is becoming smaller but there are lots of things that people can do immediately to start making a difference." Emissions from petroleum, calculated from sales figures in the three eastern states, actually fell by 0.6%. The Climate Group describes itself as an independent not-for- profit coalition of government and business leaders aiming to move to a low emission future.

Monday 12 January 2009

The clean, green potential sizzling far below

Saturday 10/1/2009 Page: 15

transmission towersWHEN explorer Major Thomas Mitchell meandered across western Victoria in 1836, so enraptured by the vast grasslands that he called the place Australia Felix, meaning lucky or blessed land, he could not have imagined that even greater fortune lay thousands of metres below his feet. Now, as the world grapples with the perplexity of how to produce energy without pouring greater amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, new explorers are about to try to tap that invisible power, as green as the pastures above.

It is in the form of vast aquifers of ancient brackish water heated up to 145 degrees lying beneath a blanket of sedimentary rock at depths between 2.4 kilometres and more than four kilometres. And as these new explorers have found, it is not limited to western Victoria. Two companies - Greenearth Energy and Hot Rock - are in a race to exploit this previously ignored resource, which is superheated by sitting atop deep beds of granite warmed by the Earth's mantle.

It is a race, however, given little impetus by the Rudd Government's recent decision to reduce carbon emissions by 5% to 15% by 2020. The policy continues to favour coal-fired power stations, which means the old polluting technology retains a significant price advantage - about half the MW price - over geothermal technology, which requires large amounts of start-up money, particularly for drilling.

Between them, Hot Rock and Greenearth Energy have been granted by the Victorian Government geothermal exploration permits covering more than 46,000 square kilometres stretching from the Latrobe Valley in Gippsland, across Geelong and along the entire stretch of the west Victorian coast and its hinterland. Deep beneath those great tracts of land, the companies have ascertained, lies the potential to make Victoria one of the world's greenest baseload energy suppliers - a goal neither wind nor solar energy can achieve.

Greenearth Energy's 18,795-square kilometre tenements are in the Latrobe Valley and the Bellarine Peninsula, Geelong and Daylesford areas. Early last month, it published Victoria's first "inferred geothermal resource", showing that beneath a large area between Geelong and Anglesea lies enough stored heat energy to provide 150 tunes Victoria's energy requirements.

This week it published another such report on discoveries beneath Gippsland, including the Latrobe Valley. The potential, according to Greenearth Energy managing director Mark Miller, is for these areas to produce many hundreds of MWs of "clean, safe, renewable energy at the doorstep of our two great Victorian cities, Melbourne and Geelong". Hot Rock's 27,000-square kilometre exploration area extends from Lorne for 270 kilometres to the South Australian border. Major centres covered by the company's permits include Colac, Terang, Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland.

While Victoria as a whole has long overlooked its ability to fire up its industries and cities using the free heat sizzling deep in the earth, the potential was hardly unknown. For more than 20 years, Portland was the only city in Australia that used geothermal power to heat many of its larger public buildings and its public swimming pool. Its ageing bore, sunk a relatively shallow 1400 metres beneath the city, produced water at 58 degrees but was dismantled two years ago. Gas is now used as an alternative heating source while the city fathers ponder whether to reopen the geothermal plant.

Hot Rock, basing its venture on an independent review and the discovery of great pools of hot water during previous drilling for oil and gas across western Victoria, believes there is enough geothermal power available within its tenements to generate up to 5000 MWs, or almost Victoria's entire electricity requirement. Essentially, the process involves drilling to the aquifers and pumping the water to a plant at the surface where the heat is extracted to drive turbines. The water is then returned to its aquifer through reinjection wells. There are no toxic emissions and there is no loss of water.

And unlike major geothermal schemes unfolding in South Australia's remote Cooper Basin, the Western District and Gippsland permits lie along major power transmission systems. In monetary terns, this is crucial - new electricity transmission lines cost between $1 million and $2 million a kilometre. In short, the power - in baseload form, which produces electricity 24 hours a day like power from coalfired plants - could be transmitted at minimal cost across a relatively small area populated by 5 million people.

"I have never been involved in an environmental project that ticks every conceivable box, but this one does everything - that is, except serious government support," says Hot Rock's managing director, Dr Mark Elliott. Greenearth Energy and Hot Rock plan to start work on their initial projects in the middle of this year. Hot Rock plans to begin proving its strategy by drilling and testing two wells north-west of the town of Koroit, near Warrnambool, and building a 50-MW power plant in about two years.

Eventually, assuming significant investor support, several other power plants producing about 200 MWs - more than all the wind farms now operating in Victoria - are to be built at the Koroit site. In the long term, Greenearth Energys Mark Miller sees his company moving beyond electricity production to helping the Latrobe Valley's coal-fired plants clean up their act. He believes that heat extracted from its Gippsland tenements could dry the wet sludge known as brown coal, reducing toxic emissions from existing power plants. Even the doughty Major Mitchell may have been impressed.

Profits before planet

Adelaide Advertiser
Friday 9/1/2009 Page: 11

Relaxing in a chairGOING green has been overtaken by economic concerns at several South Australian businesses. While a growing number of businesses are still inquiring about measuring their carbon footprint, many are deferring audits until they are free of financial constraints. Carbon Planet chairman and chief executive Jim Johnson says while workplaces have stepped up preparations for going green, the global economic downturn is resulting in a delay in action.

"It's a case of people saying, 'We know we have to do this, it's inevitable, but in the face of economic uncertainty most definitely due to the economic climate," Mr Johnson told The Advertiser. "They haven't exactly cut back, it's more a case of in the last three months there have been some deferrals." However, in the wake of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signing the Kyoto Protocol, Mr Johnson said regardless of cost-cutting, being green was coming back. "Now Australia's participation in climate is formal and inevitable - I call it the boy scout syndrome - people are getting prepared," he said.

However, full commitment from Australian businesses is still some time away with a recent survey by online career network revealing only 15.6% of companies have moved to measure the levels of greenhouse gases they emit. Mr Johnson said this level of awareness - including offsetting entire emissions and purchasing carbon credits - has only been adopted by a minority. "It's still a very low number. I think given the current economic condition ... there will be a delay in those sorts of decisions," he said.

However, one business not willing to put off such a decision is Adelaide-based Scan Conversion Services which has achieved carbon neutral status through implementing green policies and purchasing registered carbon offsets. SCS managing director Richard Bates says being green is not only a moral or economic concern, but steps like cutting paper use can also increase productivity in the workplace. "There is a strong, proven link between staff productivity and job satisfaction by reducing boring, repetitive chores like filing, photocopying, mailing and hunting for paper documents." Mr Bates said.

Honda stomps on gas

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 10/1/2009 Page: 3

Hybrid and fuel-cell cars are not the only thing Honda is doing to reduce CO2 emissions. The Japanese car maker is claiming an Australian media first with billboards, featuring the new Honda Accord Euro, lit by solar energy. Outdoor advertising company APN Outdoor has installed solar panels on several of the billboards around Australia. Honda subsidiary Soltec began production and sales of ultra-thin solar panels throughout Japan in October.

B&B Power organises a show and-tell tour for suitors

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 10/1/2009 Page: 31

POTENTIAL purchasers of parts or all of Babcock and Brown Power's business are to be given detailed briefings over the next three weeks of what they may end up buying as the group prepares for break-tip and even a full takeover. Having received a number of what the group described as "non-binding and "indicative" bids just before Christmas, BBP - which is having to consider a complete overhaul of its corporate structure because of a near $3 billion debt burden - will now test its suitors' actual appetite for its assets.

Interested parties - said to include the Australian power providers AGL and Origin Energy and a Bahrain-based energy investment group, Arcapita- are to be taken on site visits of all of BBP's 12 operating power stations and the former Alinta retailing assets. BBP has also opened a data room for purchasers to sift through the confidential management information about the earnings potential of each of its generating interests, which will have to be weighed up against the debt pressures the company is facing.

While BBP is intent on securing an offer for the entire company as opposed to further individual sales of power stations like the disposals it has recently completed, its problem remains the price tag that will be put on its equity if a normal takeover bid is to ensure. With its share price wallowing at just 10c after a dramatic fall in value over the last 12 months, the company is valued in sharemarket terms at just $73 million - well below the net asset value of its mainly gasfired generating plans around Australia and in New Zealand.

However, its hard-pressed security holders know that any offer based on its share price will have to take into account the need for buyers to take on huge chunks of its debt as part of the final transaction. The company was worth $2 billion a year ago but has been crippled by the size of its large borrowings and the cost of refinancing part of the debt. BBP is hoping to be able to make an announcement to its hard-pressed investors on its long-term future by the end of March but that timetable could slip depending on the complexity of the bids involved.

A spokeswoman described as "premature" the prospect of a swift conclusion to the review now being undertaken by BBP's board, saying that the bidding process was still at an early stage. The role of its one-time parent, the equally beleaguered Babcock and Brown, in managing the fund and the fees that it takes as a result would also only be resolved once BBP's directors had made a decision on the offers it had received. Babcock and Brown Wind Partners, which now runs its own operations independently of B&B and is in the process of changing its name, yesterday announced it had completed the $1 billion sale of its Spanish wind farm assets.

Carbon market value up 84% in 2008 – analyst
Clean Energy Council
London, 8 January:

The carbon market was worth $118 billion last year, up 84% year-on-year, according to a report by analysis firm New Carbon Finance (NCF). But the growth rate this year is set to be slower, with the London-based firm predicting that the market's value, based on transactions, will be $150 billion in 2009, up 27% on 2008. The growth in value last year was driven by a mixture of higher carbon prices and increased transactions, with an estimated 4 billion emissions permits changing hands - 42% more than in 2007.

Trade in EU allowances (EUAs) accounted for $94 billion, or about 80% of the overall total. EUA prices have been higher in Phase II of the EU emissions trading scheme, which began last year, compared with Phase I, as the 2005-07 period was plagued by an oversupply of allowances which led to the collapse of prices. By comparison, the 2008 EUA futures contract on the European Climate Exchange - the most liquid contract last year - peaked at nearly €30 ($40.75) in July, before recessionary pressure brought prices down to around €15 when the contract expired in December.

And, while secondary certified emission reduction (CER) deals grabbed an increasing share of trading, accounting for 13% of transactions, up from 8%, the value of primary CER deals - where the credits are bought directly from the Clean Development Mechanism project - dropped by 20%, said NCF, to $5.8 billion from $7.4 billion, with volumes down an estimated 30%.

This is partly due to a slowdown in the number of projects seeking registration, and partly because most of the projects going forward are small-scale ones, mainly focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency, said the firm. Growth this year will be driven by increased liquidity in the secondary CER market, NCF said, while the EUA market will post moderate growth.