Friday 13 February 2009

Exploring the waves' energy

Adelaide Advertiser
Thursday 12/2/2009 Page: 47

'OCEAN wave energy company Carnegie Corporation has been licensed by the State Government to explore the seabed off the South-East coast for South Australia's first wave farm. The company will spend up to $2 million on the assessment before committing to a $400m, 50MW, trial plant to come on line in 2011. Carnegie Corporation's trials in Albany and Garden Island in Western Australia are also in the running for the plant.

Managing director Michael Ottaviano said the granting of the licence moved the project to the forefront of renewable energy technology. "It allows us to fast track our feasibility study and by mid-year we will be looking at the result of the study and financing options to make a decision as to where that $300-$400m of investment will take place," he said.

"The SA coast receives a world class wave energy resource and further adds to SA's leadership in developing renewable energy including wind, solar and geothermal." The company will prefer equity funding due to the difficulty in finding debt finance but Dr Ottaviano said state governments also had a role to play "if they want to secure the first of these projects".

Premier Mike Rann welcomed the investment. "While SA is in a terrific position to be the national and international leader in wind energy, we're also in the fantastic position to be the leader in wave energy as well, tidal power," he said. "I think this is a very exciting opportunity for us for a new form of renewable base-load energy." Underwater buoys swing with the ocean swell to push water into on-shore turbines, which can also power a desalination plant.

The company expects to complete a small-scale (5-6MW) plant by 2011 with a view to linking up the 50MW plant to the national grid by 2013. Carnegie Corporation signed an agreement with WA energy retailer Synergy Energy last month to purchase electricity from the first stage of its Albany project.

Garnaut opposes high ETS compo

Thursday 12/2/2009 Page: 8

INCREASED industry compensation under the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme would undermine global climate change efforts and raise the costs for Australian households, the Rudd Government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has said. The Government is under intense pressure from industry to delay its emissions trading scheme or increase proposed compensation to trade-exposed industries in light of the worsening economic crisis and mounting job losses.

The board of the Australian Coal Association will meet in Canberra tomorrow to agree on a lobbying strategy to get coal included in the compensation arrangements for so-called trade-exposed emissions intensive industries, after the Government's white paper last December excluded the coal industry from the scheme. And other industries including aluminium, gas, cement and steel have argued that the compensation arrangements offering up to 90% of necessary emission permits for free will still leave them disadvantaged in comparison with international competitors who are not yet subject to a carbon price.

But Professor Garnaut argues that companies should be compensated only for the difference between the current global price for their commodity and the higher price they might expect if all countries had imposed a carbon price rather than the much more generous compensation scheme that has been proposed by the Government. And Professor Garnaut says the pressure for higher compensation risks corrupting the entire global emission reduction effort and will ultimately cause Australia far more economic pain.

"Behind the fog of differentiated arrangements for trade exposed industries will emerge a range of protectionist interventions that will be especially damaging to Australia ... (it) will be especially tempting and costly, albeit deeply counterproductive, as many countries seek to find their ways out of deep recession in the period ahead," he said in a speech yesterday.

He said trade-exposed compensation based on his principle would encourage international talks, but the approach adopted by the Australian Government and also by the European Union "invites competitive protectionist responses amongst countries that are likely to escalate over time". And he told the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society conference in Cairns that increasing compensation to industry would come at the expense of households, or else it would mean Australia would not meet its emissions reduction goals.

"No government is comfortable about subjecting its traded sector to an additional impost when its trade competitors are not willing to take comparable policy measures. '' However, to give way to the superficially attractive approach of compensating for the domestic imposts means either one of two things. It may mean heavily compromising a national commitment to reduce emissions.

Or it means increasing the burden on non-traded sectors of the economy most notably, and ultimately, domestic households," he said. The Government is currently drafting its emissions trading legislation, which it hopes to have through the parliament by June. The Coalition has expressed deep reservations about the Government's approach, and is also under pressure from industry groups to insist on amendments in the Senate that extend the present compensation arrangements.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Help with hard cell: plan to spark up

Canberra Times
Wednesday 11/2/2009 Page: 15

Help with hard cellA Canberra-based solar company has become the first to receive major project facilitation status from the Federal Government. The status, although not tied to funding, recognises Spark Solar Australia's plan to build a $60 million solar cell factory as being of "strategic significance to Australia". Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the facilitation program helped the private sector through the approval processes of federal, state and territory authorities. It also helped to identify early obstacles to greater private sector investment.

Spark Solar expected its factory to create about 115 new high-tech jobs and initially produce more than 10 million solar cells each year, or 40MW - enough to power about 9000 Australian homes. Spark Solar would produce screen printed solar cells on silicon wafers using equipment from Germany. solar cells convert sunlight to electricity and form the basic building blocks of solar panels.

The company would initially export its cells, generating an estimated $135 million in annual export revenue. It expected to inject $84 million into the local economy in its first five years. Spark Solar was considering building the factory in Canberra, Queanbeyan, Wollongong, Geelong or Adelaide. But the company's interim chief executive officer, Michelle McCann, who did a PhD in photovoltaics at the Australian National University, said it would prefer to be close to the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales for collaboration purposes.

Spark also had plans to develop its own high efficiency technology; the angled buried contact cell. The cell, developed by Dr McCann and colleagues at the University of Konstanz in Germany, is designed to save tip to 7% of energy usually lost as a result of shading at the front of the cell. It hides metal contacts, which create shade on the front of the cell, inside the cell.

Dr McCann said the market for solar cells was enormous and demand was "strong and growing". Growth in solar cell production averaged more than 40% over the past eight years. That was more than growth for digital cameras, laptops and mobile phones. "Even before the factory is built, we expect to pre-sell almost all of our output for the first few years of production," Dr McCann said.

"Australia is a world leader in solar technology. But sadly the small manufacturing base that exists here means that a lot of really excellent talent and research has gone overseas in the past. We want to change that." Its first investor was a Swiss investment fund called New Energies Invest and the company was looking for an Australian investor.

Power of good in solar energy tariff scheme - The ACT is positioned to become the solar capital of Australia.

Canberra Times
Wednesday 11/2/2009 Page: 8

Power of goodDuring a launch at the All Saints Anglican Church in Ainslie yesterday, Energy Minister Simon Corbell unveiled details of stage one of the ACT's Electricity feed-in tariff Scheme, which will allow households and commercial building owners to be paid for the solar energy they generate. According to Mr Corbell, the scheme is the most generous feed-in tariff in the country, paying households and small businesses for each unit of renewable energy they produce.

Other states merely plan to pay participants for surplus energy produced. Under the scheme, eligible parties with renewable energy generation of up to a 30 kW capacity will be eligible for the tariff. Systems up to 10kw will be paid 50.05c per kW hour, while systems between 10kw and 30kw will receive a rate of 40.04c per kwh. Powering up on March 1, Mr Corbell said the plan would place the ACT at the forefront of a new era solar generation.

"Last year the ACT Labor Government introduced the Electricity Feed-in Act, today I am announcing a series of amendments to the Act to clarify its operation and allow it to commence for households and commercial buildings," Mr Corbell said. "This will lead to a major uptake in the installation of renewable energy generation on households and commercial buildings. I am pleased to announce that renewable generators will be paid 50.05c per kW hour exclusive of GST.

"This is 3.88 times the calculated normal cost of electricity." Mr Corbell said electricity bills across the ACT would have a small amount added to them to cover the cost of the scheme. Households looking to take advantage of the project would be expected to enter a contract with their energy provider for a period of 20 years and it is estimated the cost to install solar systems could be recouped within 10 years.

Mr Corbell expected stage two of the scheme to be announced in June and said it would allow for the introduction of the tariff for larger scale generation. The Government would assess a number of issues, including the financial impact on ACT electrical consumers and the appropriate price to apply to different scales of generation.

More information from the ACT Department of Energy on 6207 5589.

Garnaut turns heat up on Rudd’s ETS

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Wednesday 11/2/2009 Page: 3

The Australian Aluminium Council, OneSteel, and the Cement Industry Federation have expressed concerns about the 20% renewable energy target that is part of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's proposed emissions trading scheme, to be introduced next year. Trade-exposed companies will receive 60% to 90% of their permits for free as part of a $2.9 billion assistance package. The Department of Climate Change's latest discussion paper indicates that the aluminium industry is likely to get the bulk of assistance. Economist Ross Garnaut has criticised this aspect of the scheme as it could appear protectionist and spark a global trade war.

Former prison to gain wind power

Wednesday 11/2/2009 Page: 5

Wind energy will be harnessed to generate electricity in a $114 million apartment tower Valad Property Group is building in the once-infamous Pentridge Prison complex. The 259-unit development, known as Air apartments, will house four turbines on the top level of the 16-storey building, which has been shaped to capture and funnel Coburg's prevailing winds.

The German-engineered system is expected to generate 17,500 kW hours of electricity a year, or about 40% of the energy needed to power Air's common areas (excluding the lifts). It is the first tittle in Australia wind will be used to directly power a high-rise residential development, says architectural firm Rothelowman. "Air is taking ecologically sustainable design to a new level, going beyond conservation to actually finding ways to generate at least some of the energy a building requires," said managing principal Kim Lowman.

"But it isn't just creating power from a renewable source, it's also reducing the need to rely on greenhouse-producing energy from the grid." The turbines, which could run an energy-efficient light globe for 1 million hours, or the equivalent of 2.6 Australian homes for a year, will reduce the building's carbon dioxide output by 23,000 kilograms a year.

That is about 460,000 of those black balloons from the State Government ads. Other ecologically sustainable development initiatives include seeking a four-star Green Star design rating, a five-star FirstRate energy rating, rainwater harvesting, and a gas-boosted solar hot water system. Thermal chimneys will also use cross-ventilation to draw air through the building's corridors, allowing the building to "breathe".

"These kinds of ESD features snake a development a much more marketable product," Mr Lowman said. "Developers now want them because occupants and councils want them. It's a win for everyone." Air will occupy a 4600 sqm site enclosed by Victorian bluestone walls on the south-east corner of the former HM Pentridge Prison in Coburg, near the intersection of Pentridge Boulevard and Stockdale Avenue. Heritage Victoria said the walled compound held a 1980s-era inmate hospital that has since been demolished.

The tower will comprise a mixture of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments of 30 to 80 sqm, with prices estimated to start at $210,000 to $550,000. Valad said sales would begin soon and construction would likely start later this year. Valad and joint-venture partner Abadeen Group bought a 6.5-hectare portion of the Pentridge site for $42.5 million in 2007. The Pentridge Piazza project is expected to take 10 years to complete and will include 1200 residences and a retail precinct.

An application to build another 18-level apartment complex near the former B Division cell block is before Heritage Victoria.


Tuesday 10 February 2009

LNG aid irks gas alliance

Monday 9/2/2009 Page: 25

DOMESTIC gas consumers in Western Australia have cried foul over the federal Government's decision to offer assistance to liquefied natural gas exporters under the emissions trading scheme, claiming the move penalises local users. The DomGas Alliance, whose membership includes companies such as Fortescue Metals, Alcoa, Alinta and Newmont, has warned that the failure of government to extend ETS assistance to domestic gas producers discourages local supply.

"This could lead to domestic gas shortages and higher gas and electricity prices, and could undermine Australia's energy security and efforts to cut greenhouse emissions," alliance chairman Stuart Hohnen said. LNG exporters were excluded in the ETS green paper from receiving ETS assistance but, over the past year, had successfully lobbied the Government and in the subsequent white paper were classified as an emissions intensive, trade exposed (EITE) industry eligible for 60% free permits.

LNG exporters argue they should receive assistance because gas is a low-emission fuel for energy-hungry nations and because they are price takers on the international market. Unlike domestic gas, gas for export must be supercooled until it forms a liquid in a process that is emissions intensive. Mr Hohnen said the lack of assistance for local production of gas would result in the full cost of the carbon tax affecting the price paid by local consumers. "Where gas producers are able to pass on carbon costs to the domestic market, this will further increase the cost of natural gas for downstream industry and households," he said.

From a greenhouse perspective, it is illogical to discourage natural gas supply by providing a financial incentive for gas producers to export LNG rather than supply the Australian market with clean energy. "This could increase Australia's greenhouse emissions and shift investment and energy use from gas to coal." Mr Hohnen said the exclusion of domestic gas from assistance pushed the power-hungry industries of the West back towards coal.

Rudd stamps solar project, ‘green jobs’

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Monday 9/2/2009 Page: 7

The Federal Government has granted Spark Solar's $60 million photovoltaic manufacturing plant major project facilitation status. The announcement comes three months after BP said it would close down its solar panel factory. According to Spark Solar's Michelle McCann, 'the most successful PV companies in the world are not large oil conglomerates that do solar on the side.' In announcing the project's status, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the Federal Government was supporting the move to a low-carbon economy.

Canberra gives solar cell factory thumbs up

Monday 9/2/2009 Page: 14

AS PRESSURE increases to boost renewable energy sources in the face of global warming, the Federal Government has declared that a company that wants to manufacture solar cells is of "strategic importance" to Australia. Considerable home-grown expertise on renewables has been lost to Australia in recent years, with local innovators unable to win financial backing.

Now a company called Spark Solar Australia has been awarded "major project facilitation status" by the Federal Government for its planned $60 million high-tech solar cell factory. Spark Solar's photovoltaic cells convert sunlight to electricity and are being used increasingly to provide safe and low-cost power.

The company is the first to be given such status by the government. Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said the factory would produce more than 10 million solar cells each year, generating an estimated $135 million in annual export revenue. No decision has been made on where the factory will be built, but Geelong, Canberra, Queanbeyan, Wollongong and Adelaide are all being considered. The company plans to start building late this year and produce the first cells in late 2010.

There is no funding tied to the major-product status but Mr Albanese said it would help private sector companies get through the approval processes of federal, state and territory governments and to head off problems that might arise. Spark Solar said 10 million solar cells would produce 40 MWs of electricity, enough to power about 9000 homes. That could soon expand to 30 million cells producing more than 120 MWs.

Gold rush for solar pay-out - Companies bid to be part of generous scheme

Sunday Canberra Times
Sunday 8/2/2009 Page: 3

ELECTRICITY generators are lining up wanting to take advantage of the new ACT solar feed-in rate, the ACT Greens say. Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said he had been approached by four companies wanting to become involved with solar generation in the territory as a new era of solar generation is set to start for ACT consumers on March 1. He would not name the companies but they are understood to include New Zealand Government-owned Meridian Energy, which specialises in hydro and wind turbine generation.

The ACT solar feed-in rate will be the most generous in Australia but is intended to be strictly limited to households and small commercial systems when the scheme starts on March 1. Under the scheme, householders that install solar panels will be able to sell surplus electricity back into the ACT grid at a price of up to 3.88 times the current rate. The precise rate is to be set later this month. ACT householders are expected to be able to lock in a feed-in tariff of about 50-60c a kW hour (with a likely maximum of 30kW hours per day) for 20 years.

Amended legislation for the solar feed-in tariff will pass the Assembly this week with the support of the Greens and is expected to include a cap so that only householders and small commercial systems will be eligible. The solar feed-in tariff will be paid by electricity retailers who will be reimbursed by ActewAGL; that, in turn, will spread the cost across all ACT electricity users. The system is designed to encourage householders to install solar systems by providing an opportunity to recoup installation costs in as little as 5-10 years.

The ACT Government is reluctant to make the system available to commercial users on similar terms because of its generosity. Mr Rattenbury said while the feed-in tariff would need to be adjusted for commercial users the establishment of a large-scale plant would establish the ACT as Australia's centre for solar research and would have tremendous spin-off benefits for the ACT.

"There should be a greater emphasis on industry support in this sector because it is the technology of the future and will have a large effect on greenhouse gas. In the ACT, 72% of [greenhouse] gases are generated by stationary sources such as buildings and this electricity can be replaced by renewable energy." He said the ACT Greens were working on developing a model that would make a large-scale project possible and he said a commitment to a large-scale project was part of the Government's agreement with the Greens.

As an interim measure the ACT could permit commercial projects up to 1 MW to take advantage of the feed-in tariff. A 1MW plant would provide electricity for up to 200 households at a cost of about $3 per ACT ratepayer. It could also be used as a pilot program for establishing the long-term benefits and costs of larger scale renewable technology.

Risk to climate-change projects seen

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 6/2/2009 Page: 17

A ruling by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which in effect suggests lowering the returns permitted to investors in electricity network distribution and transmission businesses, could reduce future investment in technology needed for climate change. The Energy Networks Australia, representing Grid Australia and the Australian Pipeline Industry Association, made a submission to the regulator that claimed the proposal would result in returns to investors that were too low to attract investment for new technologies to tackle climate change.

Boutique fund manager RARE Infrastructure said that the ability of the AER to raise new capital could be affected by the draft ruling. RARE Infrastructure said it had reduced its investment allocation for the Spanish gas company Enagas. Victorian Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said one of the key problems faced by the industry was to allow it to secure capital to implement the changes required under the Federal Government's climate-change policies.

Six-star energy rating proposed for homes

Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 7/2/2009 Page: 7

NEW homes across the country may be required to have a "six star" energy efficiency rating within two years. The premiers and the Prime Minister agreed to examine the proposal at their next meeting. The proposal comes from a report by the leaders' working group on climate change and water, aimed at improving the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings following lobbying by environment groups. Improving energy efficiency in buildings is one way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and energy bills.

Among the proposals on the table at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting will be increasing energy efficiency for all commercial buildings, phasing in compulsory disclosure of the energy efficiency, water use and greenhouse gas emissions of homes at the time of sale or rent, and increasing the energy efficiency of new homes to six stars nationally.

A "six-star" energy efficiency rating is heavily influenced by the efficient heating and cooling of buildings, including their use of insulation, air-conditioning and window placement. The move follows the Federal Government's decision to spend $3.9 billion of the economic stimulus package on home energy efficiency, including ceiling insulation and phasing in solar hot water systems. Yesterday the Greens pressured the Government to speed up its energy efficiency program.

Greens senator Christine Milne expressed concern that the Government was spending billions of dollars to insulate new homes without ensuring every new home built was insulated. ''It beggars belief that a Government could insulate existing homes with one hand, while building new uninsulated homes and schools with the other," she said. "Building energy-guzzling homes and school buildings now would mean a new cash injection will be necessary a few years down the track to bring them up to scratch. ''How much sense does it make to build the kind of energy guzzling homes for Australia's needy this year which will be against building regulations next year?"

Industry's shining light

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Saturday 7/2/2009 Page: 28

Australian companies such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers are examining using solar energy to power remote operations. WorleyParsons has conducted a study after being asked about renewable energy by Water Corporation and Western Power to operate a desalination plant in Western Australia. WorleyParsons says there is the potential for 34 solar thermal power plants in Australia by 2020.

Sweden ready to change course over nuclear power

Adelaide Advertiser
Saturday 7/2/2009 Page: 70

THE Swedish Government has agreed to scrap a three-decade ban on building nuclear reactors, saying it needs atomic power to avoid producing more greenhouse gases. Though Sweden is a leader on renewable energy, it is struggling to develop alternative sources, like hydropower and wind, to replace nuclear energy, which accounts for half of its electricity production.

If Parliament approves scrapping the ban Sweden would join a growing list of countries rethinking nuclear energy amid concerns over global warming and the reliability of energy suppliers such as Russia. Britain, France and Poland are planning new reactors and Finland is building Europe's first new atomic plant in over a decade. The agreement was made possible after a compromise by the Centre Party, a junior coalition member which has long held a sceptical stance towards nuclear energy.

"I'm doing this for the sake of my children and grandchildren," said party leader Maud Olofsson. "I can live with the fact that nuclear energy will be part of our electricity supply system in the foreseeable future." Lawmakers decided to phase out nuclear energy after a referendum in 1980 when concerns about nuclear safety were running high in the wake of a partial meltdown a year earlier at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.

Only two of Sweden's 12 reactors have been closed and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said he didn't feel bound by the referendum because it didn't specify how to replace nuclear energy. Swedish public opinion polls have shown growing support for nuclear energy in recent years because of the lack of alternatives. But anti-nuclear activists said reinvigorating nuclear energy would undermine the development of renewable alternatives. "To rely on nuclear energy to reduce CO2, emissions is like smoking to lose weight - it's not a good idea," said Greenpeace spokeswoman Martina Kruger.

Monday 9 February 2009

Insulation package: finally some green jobs for Australia

Clean Energy Council
3 February 2009

Clean Energy CouncilNATIONAL: The government's plan to insulate 2.7 million houses is a welcome step towards creating green jobs in Australia while helping to cut greenhouse emissions and household power bills. The Clean Energy Council is pleased the government has heeded its calls to direct spending towards smart energy solutions that help to stimulate domestic manufacturing while saving money, energy and the environment.

In December last year the industry sought government support for smart energy solutions like insulation or solar water heating to help protect thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs in these important green industries. These smart, simple energy solutions can also cut electricity bills by at least 15-20%.

CEO Matthew Warren said "The government is to be congratulated for taking a big first step towards delivering energy savings across Australian households. Insulation saves energy, money, jobs and the environment - so it's a win-win-win-win." "This increased insulation will also help ease demand during peak energy times like last week's heat wave, when air-conditioners were running flat out. Reducing demand and taking pressure off the electricity grid means less outages," he said. "These sorts of packages help every Australian by cushioning the cost of transition to a carbon constrained economy."

Most insulation and solar hot water systems sold in Australia are also made here meaning that any investment of this kind actually stays in Australia and helps protect Aussie jobs. The Clean Energy Council is working with all levels of government to deliver the right legislation and ensure energy efficiency and clean energy solutions are deployed nationally. "We still have more work ahead to deliver other practical and affordable energy efficiency measures across businesses as well as households", Mr Warren said.

Climate protestors threaten to shut down London’s carbon market
London, 5 February:

After attracting thousands of climate protestors to the Kingsnorth power station and Heathrow airport, the Camp for Climate Action has turned its sights on leading carbon trading platform, the European Climate Exchange (ECX).

The campaign group has called for action on 1 April, a day ahead of the G20 summit in London, and is promising to shut down ECX to "highlight the link between the financial crisis and the climate crisis". Its website urges protestors to meet outside ECX's London office and "bring a pop-up tent, sleeping bag, wind turbine, mobile cinema, action plans and ideas ... let's imagine another world."

Further details of the action - such as its duration and the practicalities of setting up camp in the middle of London's financial district - are not being revealed at this time, a spokesman said. The protestors would peacefully target ECX - which runs an electronic market in carbon allowances and credits - but he added there was "always the possibility of affiliated groups doing autonomous activities around the city".

The group argues that carbon trading makes no contribution to the reductions needed in greenhouse gas emissions. It states: "In 2009, the Camp for Climate Action has decided that it is time to camp against the over-arching problem: absolute faith in unfettered markets and endless economic growth." The camp spokesman told Environmental Finance: "We have already seen how the free market has failed so spectacularly. We are using that same set of ideologies to address climate change, and that's not going to work." ECX chief executive Patrick Birley declined to comment.

Co-op Bank rejects £1 billion on ethical grounds
London, 5 February:

The Co-operative Bank has turned down more than £1 billion ($1.5 billion) of "unethical" business since 1992, it announced this week, as it launched the fifth update of the standards organisations must meet to open accounts or receive loans and financing.

Over the years since its ethical policy was introduced, the UK bank has refused £465 million of business because it failed to meet its standards on ecological impacts, with involvement in the extraction and production of fossil fuels making up the largest portion of this figure, at £169 million. But the bank said its total commercial lending had grown to £4.4 billion in 2008, from £571 million in 1992.

Chief executive David Anderson said: "The bank's ethical policy has led to more than £1 billion in unethical business being declined, but it has also contributed to a massive £3.8 billion net growth in our corporate lending." The fifth iteration of the ethical policy expands the bank's screening to exclude firms involved in the distribution of fuels with a high global warming impact, such as those derived from tar sands, including tanker companies, terminals and distribution centres. It already excludes business in the extraction, production and refining of oil, natural gas and coal, as well as companies providing strategic services to these industries, such as upstream pipelines and refineries.

biofuels have also been included in the policy for the first time. The Co-operative Bank announced it will only do business with firms involved in biofuels production if they demonstrate their fuels have a greenhouse gas saving of at least 60% compared with mineral fuels and are sustainably sourced. This is a tougher limit than that imposed by the EU, which will require biofuels to demonstrate savings of 35% by 2013, rising by 2017 to 50% for existing refineries and 60% for new refineries.

The bank has also expanded its policy on animal rights, so it will not finance any activities connected with the exploitation of great apes. "They are human's closest living relatives, and have cognitive abilities and a degree of self-awareness not shown by other animals," the policy states. It also instituted for the first time a clause rejecting business from organisations that incite discrimination and hatred.

The policy is based on a survey of the bank's customers. Of the approximately 80,000 who responded, 23% said withholding finance from oppressive regimes was their top priority. Between 1992 and 2008, £104 million of business was turned down because of ties to such regimes.

Congressmen table US renewables target
New York, 5 February:

Clean energy advocates have renewed hopes that a US federal renewable electricity standard (RES Southern Cross) will be enacted with the introduction of a Congressional bill that matches the goals of President Barack Obama. The American Renewable Energy Act would require that 25% of electricity comes from clean energy sources by 2025. The bill was introduced today by Democrat Edward Markey, chair of the energy and environment subcommittee of the US House of Representatives, and Republican Todd Platts.

Beginning in 2012, the bill would mandate electric utilities to generate 6% of their power from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass or landfill gas, qualified hydropower, and marine and tidal renewable energy sources. The%age would increase to 8.5% in 2014 and would rise between 2% to 3.5% every year or two years until reaching 25% by 2025. "It certainly looks like a constructive step forward," said Gregory Wetstone, senior director of government and public affairs for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The Markey-Platts standard would boost renewable energy generation by 135% above current levels by 2025, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists' preliminary analysis of the legislation. "This electrifying standard would provide a smart, proven, cost-effective strategy to ramp up our clean energy use, create tens of thousands of jobs and lower consumer utility bills," Alan Nogee, clean energy programme director, said in a statement.

The momentum to implement RES Southern Cross requirements has occurred at the state level, where 28 states have standards while five states have renewable energy goals. Efforts to implement a federal RES Southern Cross have stalled despite having passed the US Senate three times since 2002 and the House in 2007, amid objections from members in certain regions, particularly the southeast, that their states did not have the clean energy resources to comply.

But Congressional leaders such as Markey, the newly elected chairman of the critical subcommittee, have promised quick action on environmental and energy issues. Real action toward passage of the bill is likely as it matches President Obama's "ambitious" goals, Wetstone said. "President Obama campaigned for this standard and now Congress should pass it," Nogee said.

In conjunction with the RES Southern Cross bill, Markey introduced the Save American Energy Act, which would institute an energy efficiency resource standard to reduce electricity demand by 15% by 2020, also consistent with Obama's goals. The bill would reduce peak electricity demand by 90,000MW by 2020, eliminating the need to build 300 medium-size power plants. If passed, the two bills would create more than 500,000 jobs and save more than $180 billion, according to the House members.

Sweden to replace old atomic reactors

Summaries - Australian Financial Review
Friday 6/2/2009

Yesterday, the government of Sweden announced that they would allow the construction of up to 10 new nuclear reactors on existing plant sites. Last year, the European Union said that Sweden would be required to generate 49% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Time to explore options for waste

Canberra Times
Friday 6/2/2009 Page: 11

Recycling must be a key element in the battle to avoid climate change.

When talk centres on combating climate change and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling household and industrial garbage often takes a back seat. But statements by the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, about the ACT's No Waste 2010 target have caused a stir in "waste land" and shone the light squarely back on to waste diversion from landfill and recycling.

Stanhope argues that the No Waste 2010 target was overly ambitious and would never be achieved. The Greens' Shane Rattenbury was concerned that the target not be dumped but replaced with a new goal for recycling. From an industry perspective both are right.

Then came comments on this page by Gerry Gillespie, president of Zero Waste Australia, who concluded that the Stanhope Government was heading in the opposite direction to a world moving progressively towards zero waste, and that Canberra was left to battle with climate change minus one of the fundamental platforms of public policy.

It is true that waste management and recycling must be a key part of the world's response to climate change. With the right government leadership the recycling and waste sector can reduce Australia's total emissions profile by 7%, or 35 million tonnes, equivalent to taking all cars off Australian roads. And this just by capturing emissions from current landfills, avoiding putting more organics into landfill and recovering materials for reuse.

No Waste 2010 was always an aspirational target but a very important one, setting the direction for government policy for a decade. That household recycling rates have risen from 22% 12 years ago to 73% now is testimony to the value of the target, resident action and industry investment. Jon Stanhope is right to reset a target which reflects advances in technology and the realities of the market.

New technologies can convert more than 70% of garbage bin waste to produce compost, recyclables and green energy. Taken with kerbside recycling and green waste services, households could recycle over 90% of their waste. That would be a reasonable goal based on current technology. But 100% defies the laws of diminishing returns and would cost too much. Commercial waste (from businesses and factories) can achieve similarly high rates.

The key is leadership - from government, from industry and from the community. The technology exists and can be readily implemented. More than $200 million of such infrastructure has been built in Sydney and Perth in the last year, creating hundreds of new and permanent (recession-proof) jobs.

The ACT has made great progress but there are also new opportunities. Advanced Waste Treatment options for household and commercial waste exist, organics processing solutions have been around for decades and green energy solutions are easily included. The No Waste team is well down the path of investigating these options. These technologies are available if the community is prepared to pay the premium over landfill, around $20-$50 per house per year, or less than $1 per week.

Ultimately it is our choice where we set the targets and how much we pay to achieve them. While there is a role for well managed landfills, with good methane gas capture systems, there is no question that a greater diversion of waste from landfill can only occur when recycling is more competitive. The full costs of landfilling, including the externalities - the net economic, environmental and social cost need to be taken into account, as Gillespie acknowledges.

Of the 20 million tonnes being landfilled across Australia each year, almost half is organic waste. Gillespie rightly points out that one of the regulator's main tasks in all jurisdictions should be to review the amount of degradable organic carbon disposed to landfill and to explore recycling options.

With the accent on the positive, we should explore available avenues to meet realistic new targets, such as 90% recovery of household and commercial waste by 2019. That gives its 10 years to get the systems and technologies in place.

The ACT Government's commitments to street-level recycling bins and an organic waste bin trial for high-level residential buildings in 2009-10 are great moves. But a serious look at new infrastructure to manage household organics, massively improve commercial recycling and waste-to-energy solutions must be the next priorities.

Mike Ritchie is general manager, marketing and communications, of waste management company SITA Environmental Solutions.